Category Archives: President Emmanuel Macron

G7: The Cost of Uselessness

The G7 Summit is an obsolete, useless talking shop, as Finnian Cunningham so adroitly says. RT calls it The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, and the United States constitute the G7 gang. It should strike any logical thinker as extremely odd that the world’s largest economy (by purchasing parity-based GDP), China, is not part of the club. Why is that?  It’s clear.  The club is for western turbo-capitalist ideologues only; the self-proclaimed world hegemons.

Yes, the G7 are, no doubt, a useless talking shop – and much worse. These seven self-nominated leaders of the world are also among the greatest war criminals of the globe. They are involved in, and initiate, conflicts and wars that have in the last 20 years, roughly since 9/11 gave them a ‘free pass’ to raise in the name of fighting endless terrorism havoc around the globe, killed an estimated 15 to 20 million people, either directly or by proxy and mercenary armies.

That is, of course, much worse than uselessness.

Does anyone ever talk about the value and cost, of these ‘summits’?  The value; i.e., the output, is at best zero and in most cases negative. These conferences highlight conflicts, create new ones and add to the fire that was just smoldering. And I am not talking about the Brazilian Amazon fires. This was the case of the G7 in Biarritz. The high-ranking delegates were insulting each other, plus, as this was not enough, barbs were thrown back and forth across the Atlantic between Macron and Bolsonaro. That just shows about what level of human consciousness we are talking.

Trump was confusing the lot, or those who paid any attention to the outbursts of the creator of pure chaos, more tariffs on Chinese goods, then not, then again, levying tariffs for French wines, new sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, threats of new aggressions and even war with Iran; and surprise-surprise “Kim Jon-un, North Korea’s President, is a friend”. Peace talks were not even on the back-burner. So, it would be fair to say, the benefits or values of this summit were less than zilch, they were negative. It was a laughable propaganda stint, but an expensive one at that.

Defining the costs of the event is a rather complex algorithm. However, any cost for an event that produces a sum of negative values, is money thrown into a bottomless pit. The costs, of course, do not just amount to travel, lodging, good food and drink. They include for starters also the entire entourage of the megalo-politicians, police and military security. Biarritz alone was protected by about 20,000 police and military troops combined. They shielded the worldly leaders (sic) from anti-G7 / anti-establishment demonstrators.

Protests are widely justified against this clan of smiling tyrants and despots, with the audacity to appoint themselves to the world’s rulers. No UN or other international body has selected or ratified them. Their arrogance with impunity is meant to irradiate power around the globe. The smoke of grandeur emanating from their heads can most likely be seen from space. The sad story is that the vast majority of this world, especially the western world, takes them seriously. They bow to the G7 nonsense; they accept their often-criminal decisions for wars, conflicts and killer-sanctions, as God-given. The G7 decide over the fate of sovereign nations, like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Afghanistan – and who is next? If it wasn’t for Russia and China the damage they cause would indeed be unbearable.

They selected themselves as rulers of the universe. Unheard of, only half a century ago, that something so aberrant like the G7, the G20, the WEF (World Economic Forum that meets every January in lush Davos, Switzerland), are able to assemble many of the same rulers to hold the scepter of power over the planet. How come the peoples of this world allow their supremacy with impunity? One can but shake one’s head about this lunacy.  What has humanity become?

The Trump delegation usually travels with a flock of aids, journalists, advisors, let alone his bodyguards, and the blinding cars he brings from Washington by special air carriers. And all the others? Maybe slightly less, as they are, as vassals of the Great US Emperor, bound to be a bit more modest. Nevertheless, the total cost must be in the hundreds of millions – all counted, including shadow costs, environmental damage, CO2 emissions, and ‘externalities’ – which includes everything that establishment economists don’t want you to know, say, a total cost of 200 to 300 million dollars?

Maybe that’s an underestimate. The published figure on what Biarritz alone spent on this illustrious event is around US$ 41 million equivalent,15,000 police and about 5,000 troops, but not counting for the damage caused by the authorities fighting peaceful protesters. Add to this the cost of all the other attendants. Never mind the exact cost. The sheer fact that a grotesque amount of money in the range of 200 to 300 million dollars, is spent for nothing, zilch, for the bolstering of egos of some megalos, is an absurdity of our western civilization.

Hundreds of millions of dollars – a fiat currency produced at will and whim by the Federal reserve (The FED, the entirely privately owned US Central Bank) – nevertheless a currency that still drives much of the world, is used to pay for basics, like food, housing, clothing, health care and what’s left of education  – meaning what the world rulers are still allowing young people to be educated with.

Just think about it. Who pays for all these hundreds of millions of dollars, euros, yen, or whatever other fiat currency? You, the tax payer. So, you, the tax payer, have something to say about how your money is spent, don’t you think?

Therefore, we the people have to stop this arrogant nonsense that leads to less than zero, or worse, but costs hundreds of millions that could be spent on education and health services and other public services, including taking care of refugees in the G7 countries, or alternatively in countries to be rebuilt after the destruction by wars for greed and hegemony by the very G7.

So far – and every time more – the money spent on G7 and similar events, is like negative interest — destructive. You, the citizen and tax-payer, spend money for something that has a negative return. It is as nefarious as if you deposit your savings in a bank and the bank, instead of giving you an interest on your savings, charges you interest for keeping your money, then lends it to, say, a corporation, but the corporation has to pay back less than it borrowed. In other words, you the ‘small saver’ subsidize the big corporation, or anybody who can afford and is considered ‘eligible’ and solvent enough by the bank to borrow money.  It’s a new form of transferring resources from the bottom to the top.

The money spent on the G7 – or other comparable events – is similar. The event rulers take your money (taxes) and transfer it upstairs, where you will never see it again. Not only do you get nothing for it, but it costs you more, as the G7 foment wars and conflicts which kill millions, annihilate entire countries’ infrastructure, housing, schools, health facilities and generate an influx of refugees, for all of which you pay again.

Let’s see.  A year of primary education, say in Africa, costs about US$ 400 / per student, and about US$ 650 for high school education (2017). Providing decent health care, preventive and curative, per person in Bangladesh amounts to about US$ 650 per year. Assuming the money spent on the G7 Biarritz summit was about 250 to 300 million, you could provide education for a year to about 550,00 students in, say, Kenya, or provide a year of decent health care to about 430,000 Bangladeshi. Or the G7 funds could build drinking water and sanitation facilities for about 2.5 million people in developing countries. These figures may have a margin of error of plus or minus 20%. But you get the picture.

Or closer to home, how many refugees could xenophobic Europe, especially France and Italy,  take care of – refugees driven from their countries, precisely for wars started and sustained by the G7s, to line their weapons industries with huge profits, to dominate the world’s natural resources and eventually put all the people under one hegemonic, globalized roof — one culture, one currency, and only one kind of thinking and ideology allowed — their final goal.

Well, these refugees streaming to Europe, children without parents, divided families, sick people, people dying in the ditches, on the sides of roads in self-built camps, camps exposed to the climate elements, camps that are eventually erased by bulldozers – these human beings put into misery by the very G7 – why not use the money spent on such nefarious fora to impress the lot of the well-off populations on either side of the Atlantic, instead on a little humanitarian act, act of consciousness — what’s left of it — taking care of the trans-Mediterranean refugees?

Mr. Macron, you are besieged by the Yellow Vests, who will not go away. What do you think canceling the event and instead pledging the funds for humanitarian shelter for refugees, and lobbying with the remaining G6 to do the same would have done to your Presidency, to your ever-sinking popularity? Maybe some uplifting? You could badly need it. But the image – that’s what it is — the image of grandeur, rubbing elbows with the so-called “leaders” of the world, is of all-overarching importance, isn’t it?  Never mind the unbearable suffering of many of the people you claim to democratically represent.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Is a Rouhani-Trump Meeting Imminent?

PressTV Interview Transcript
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qsp1UcXqEo&feature=youtu.be

Peter Koenig
29 August 2019


Background

Tehran and Washington have been locked in a dispute since last year when the US unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear agreement and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. On Monday, President Donald Trump said he is ready to meet his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani within weeks after a G-7 leaders’ summit. The idea was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron who was hosting the summit. But Rouhani said Washington must first lift sanctions imposed since its withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

*****

PressTV: Could you comment on Mr. Rouhani’s conditions for talks with President Trump?

Peter Koenig: Mr. Rouhani is right asking for lifting of sanctions as a principle, because Iran has never bypassed or violated the rules of the Nuclear Deal. The sanctions are a groundless punishment by Washington because Iran wants – and should – remain a sovereign country, not bowing to Washington.

It’s sheer economic terrorism.

However, let’s be realistic. The US, especially Trump who is dancing to the tunes of Netanyahu, will not just lift the sanctions. It would, in my opinion, be more constructive if Mr. Rouhani would ask for lifting of the most hurting sanctions – for example, the ban on importing crucial medication and medical equipment and other vital goods.

We know the US will not change behavior, especially under Trump, as long as they still feel they are the exceptional Nation, the undisturbed Empire. Never mind that the empire is rapidly declining. As long as they have a stranglehold, literally, on the western monetary system, that will not change.

That’s why I keep suggesting that Iran gradually but firmly and ever faster detach from the western economy and financial system, western banks, the use of dollars and euros – and shift to the East, becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as quickly as possible, and trade in Chinese yuan.

Yes, Mr. Macron initiated the talks with Mr. Trump.

But, how shall I say this?  Macron is not trustworthy. He does what he thinks can serve himself, not even the French people, but him, his image as King Macron.

He wants to be the go-between, be friends with Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi, but also be friends with Trump. Whatever serves his megalo-image.

When something doesn’t go his way, doesn’t bolster his image, he will step back.

So better Iran goes her own way in direction East, where the future is.

And again with as little as possible dealing with the west.  As long as the US is in the driver’s seat, and as long as the US controls the western money flow, anybody not liked by the Master is vulnerable for sanctions. We see it all over the world.

Therefore, asking for partial lifting of sanctions, namely for vital goods, those that cause most harm to the Iranian people, like medical imports, may be a good initial strategy. Who knows, perhaps Trump goes along. And if not, Mr. Rouhani has at least tried, and a rejection by Trump would further tarnish his presidency.

Amazonia in Flames

On 28 October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil with 55.1% of the vote and with a gigantic help from Cambridge Analytica.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2019 in Davos Switzerland, Bolsonaro made a sumptuous presentation, “We Are Building a New Brazil”. He outlined a program that put literally Brazil up for sale, and especially the Brazilian part of Amazonia. He was talking particularly about Brazil’s water resources, the world’s largest, and the rain forest – offering a huge potential for agricultural development and mining.

None of the world leaders present at the WEF, precisely those that regularly meet pretending to save the planet, reacted to Bolsonaro’s statement on the Amazon region. They all knew who Bolsonaro was and is. They knew that the man had no scruples and would destroy – literally – the world’s lungs. They did nothing. They stayed silent in words and deeds, applauding the neonazi for his openness to international business and globalization.

Today, on the occasion of another similar world event, the meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France, French President Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying when he talked and pledged environmental consciousness after taking office, about protecting the Amazon area. Macron was joined by Germany in threatening Brazil with canceling the trade agreement with Mercosur, if he would not immediately undertake to stop the “wildfires”. They have most likely nothing to do with ‘wild’ as they, according to all circumstantial evidence, were planted in a concerted effort to rid the rich Amazon territory of the life-sustaining jungle, so as to make the newly gained flame-deforested land accessible for private agri-business and mining.

Mind you, the G7 is another self-appointed totally illegal group of industrialized, rich countries (similar to the G20); illegal, because they have been approved by nobody, not by the UN or any international body. They became rich mostly on the back of poor developing nations that were and are still colonized for hundreds of years. The G7 count today about 10% of the world population and are controlling 40% of the globe’s GDP.

Despite the fact that nobody, other than themselves, ratified their existence and their machinations, they believe they can call the shots of how the world should turn and function. They have no official backing by anybody, especially not the people across the globe, who, with a vast majority are fighting globalization. It’s a useless structure – RT refers to them as “The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7” – but their power lays in the rest of the world’s silence, their silent acceptance of the G7’s arrogant wielding of the scepter of power.

So, would Bolsonaro take them seriously, knowing that he is one of them and they are fully sharing his ideology of profit first, shoving environmental and social values down the muddy waters of the Amazon River? Hardly. He knows they are hypocrites. He knows that they make a bit of noise, because they have to. It makes for good public relation and propaganda – so people don’t go on the barricades. He knows that starting this coming Monday, 26 August, when the G7 summit will be history, that anything the Macrons of this world so impressively said, will fade away. The media will concentrate on other ‘news’ – and the forest fires will burn the life stream of Amazonia away – to make room for corporate profit-making by the elite few.

Never mind the Constitutional protection of indigenous people and their land. Bolsonaro backed by evangelists and his military junta will rapidly dismantle any remaining protection for the ecosystem and native communities. His argument goes that the native people’s land is sitting on huge reserves of natural resources that belong to Brazil and may be concessioned to private corporations for mining, exploitation of agriculture and lumber.

The indigenous folks are people who have for thousands of years made a peaceful living in the Amazon. They are the gatekeepers of Amazonia; they are the people who may carry our genes from the present killer civilization to the next, hopefully less of a killer one, when mankind has finally managed to destroy itself. It will not destroy the planet. Never. The planet will just get rid of the nefarious elements of annihilation – mankind – and renew itself. As has happened many times in the past – a new civilization will eventually be born – and, yes, the world’s indigenous people, the likely only survivors, may carry on our DNA, possibly to the next attempt at humanity.

The fires have so far in about 20 days since they were discovered, consumed at least 74,000 ha of tropical rain forest. The smoke is already trespassing the border to Argentina and affecting the provinces of Formosa, Jujuy, Corrientes, Catamarca, La Rioja, Santa Fe and may have already reached Buenos Aires. NASA reports that about 3.2 million square kilometers of South America are covered by smoke.

The flames are massive and are devastating the jungle at a rapid pace. Amazonia comprises one of the world’s largest rainforests, also known as Mother Earth’s lungs – without which humanity – and fauna and flora might not survive.

According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the fires increased by 83% – almost double – from what they were last year, and, not coincidentally, at least 68% of protected areas have been affected. The Brazilian Space Research spotted 72,000 fires, of which 9,000 last week alone. The Amazon is home to 34 million people, including over 350 indigenous groups.

At the onset of the G7 conference, Mr. Macron twittered:

“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

The destruction of the Amazon is indeed a crime of first degree. Accordingly, there are protests around the world against Bolsonaro’s “free for all” mining, lumbering, land and water grabbing policies. The eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion (XR) organize widespread protests, and in front of London’s Brazilian Embassy protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bolsonaro’s got to go!”.

While the Brazil fires catch world attention, there are jungle fires even larger than those in Amazonia burning down other parts of the world’s oxygen-generating lungs. Bloomberg cites NASA data, according to which last Thursday and Friday, 22 and 23 August – in two days alone – more than 6,900 fires were recorded in Angola and about 3,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 5 times as many as in the same two days in the Brazilian Amazon region. The destruction of the jungle in Africa progresses virtually unnoticed and is hardly reported in western media. Bloomberg is an exception. Why is that?

Could it be that the same globalized corporations interested in Brazil’s natural resources underlaying the Amazon forests are also interested in those enormous reserves of minerals and hydrocarbon resources of Central Africa? Have they – DRC, Angola and possibly others been encouraged tacitly or directly by Bolsonaro and his clan to let the jungle burn? There are plenty of Brazilian corporations which have a vivid interest in Angola, another former Portuguese colony.

Despite the G7 apparent concern to protect the world’s lungs in Amazonia, they seem to be oblivious about the Central African rain forest devastation. The massive African fires too advance rapidly and extinguish another part of the world’s lungs. But these fires are not on the G7 radar or agenda for discussion, and nobody is threatened with sanctioning if the respective governments remain hapless onlookers.

In 2008, a so-called Amazon Fund, the first UN REDD+ initiative for the protection, preservation and monitoring of the Amazon region was created (UN REDD+ = reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

Germany and Norway – and others – have accused Brazil for not having properly invested their contribution into the Fund. Norway has recently blocked a payment of US$ 30 million destined for the Fund. Germany had blocked already in early August the equivalent of US$ 39 million for different Amazon protection programs to be financed by the Fund. But Bolsonaro, in a nonchalant manner, dismissed the blocked payments, suggesting that Germany should use the funds for reforestation of Germany.

In the case of Brazil, the threats by the Macron-Merkel duo – and others – seem to have had at least at the outset the effect that Bolsonaro is mobilizing the military to help extinguish the fires. Will he succeed? Does he want to succeed? In any case will the media continue reporting on progress once the G7 have gone home?  Will the world’s outcry be loud enough to force a concerted effort, possibly UN led to fight and extinguish these fires that are menacing not only to destroy a key oxygen generator for life on mother earth, but also a UNESCO protected world heritage?

Canada’s PM Trudeau Supports Brazil’s Environmentally Criminal President not the Amazon Rain Forest

By now most environmentally conscious people understand that Jair Bolsonaro is a bad guy. Brazil’s president has scandalously blamed environmentalists for starting fires burning in the Amazon region, after having called for more “development” of the huge forests.

Canadians are lucky we have a prime minister who is not such an embarrassment and understands environmental issues, right?

While Justin Trudeau has called for better protection of the Amazon, his  government and Canadian corporations have contributed to the rise of a proto fascist Brazilian politician who has accelerated the destruction of the ‘planet’s lungs’.

In 2016 Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a “soft coup”. While Canadian officials have made dozens of statements criticizing Venezuela over the past three years, the Trudeau government remained silent on Rousseff’s ouster. The only comment I found was a Global Affairs official telling Sputnik that Canada would maintain relations with Brazil after Rousseff was impeached. In fact, the Trudeau government began negotiating — there have been seven rounds of talks — a free trade agreement with the Brazilian-led MERCOSUR trade block. They also held a Canada Brazil Strategic Dialogue Partnership and Trudeau warmly welcomed Bolsonaro at the G20 in June.

Bolsonaro won the 2018 presidential election largely because the front runner in the polls was in jail. Former Workers Party president Lula da Silva was blocked from running due to politically motivated corruption charges, but the Trudeau government seems to have remained silent on Lula’s imprisonment and other forms of persecution of the Brazilian left.

With over $10 billion invested in Brazil, corporate Canada appears excited by Bolsonaro. After his election CBC reported:

For Canadian business, a Bolsonaro presidency could open new investment opportunities, especially in the resource sector, finance and infrastructure, as he has pledged to slash environmental regulations in the Amazon rainforest and privatize some government-owned companies.

Canada’s support for right-wing, pro-US, forces in the region has also favored Bolsonaro. Since at least 2009 the Canadian government has been openly pushing back against the leftward shift in the region and strengthening ties with the most right-wing governments. That year Ottawa actively backed the Honduran military’s removal of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya. In 2011 Canada helped put far-right Michel Martelly into the president’s office in Haiti and Ottawa passively supported the ‘parliamentary coup’ against Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo in 2012. In recent years Canada has been central to building regional support for ousting Venezuela’s government. The destabilization efforts greatly benefited from the ouster of Rousseff and imprisonment of Lula. Brazil is now a member of the Canada/Peru instigated “Lima Group” of countries hostile to the Nicolás Maduro government.

Ottawa has long supported the overthrow of elected, left leaning governments in the hemisphere. Ottawa passively supported the military coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and played a slightly more active role in the removal of Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch in 1965 and Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. In Brazil Canada passively supported the military coup against President João Goulart in 1964. Prime Minister Lester Pearson failed to publicly condemn Goulart’s ouster and deepened relations with Brazil amidst a significant uptick in human rights violations. “The Canadian reaction to the military coup of 1964 was careful, polite and allied with American rhetoric,” notes Brazil and Canada in the Americas author Rosana Barbosa.

Along with following Washington’s lead, Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup was driven by Canadian corporate interests. Among the biggest firms in Latin America at the time, Toronto-based Brascan (or Brazilian Traction) was commonly known as “the Canadian octopus” since its tentacles reached into so many areas of Brazil’s economy. Putting a stop to the Goulart government, which made it more difficult for companies to export profits, was good business for a firm that had been operating in the country for half a century. After the 1964 coup the Financial Post noted “the price of Brazilian Traction common shares almost doubled overnight with the change of government from an April 1 low of $1.95 to an April 3 high of $3.06.”

The company was notorious for undermining Brazilian business initiatives, spying on its workers and leftist politicians and assisting the coup. The Dark side of “The light”: Brascan in Brazil notes, “[Brazilian Traction’s vice-president Antonio] Gallotti doesn’t hide his participation in the moves and operations that led to the coup d’état against Goulart in 1964.”

Gallotti, who was a top executive of Brascan’s Brazilian operations for a couple decades, was secretary for international affairs in the Brazilian fascist party, Acao Integralista. Gallotti quit the party in 1938, but began working as a lawyer for Brascan in 1932.

Historically, Canadian companies empowered fascists in Brazil. Today, corporate Canada appears happy to do business with a proto-fascist trampling on Indigenous rights and fuelling climate chaos. Ottawa has also enabled Bolsonaro. At a minimum the Trudeau government should be pressed to follow French President Emmanuel Macron’s call to suspend free-trade negotiations with MERCOSUR until Bolsonaro reverses his wonton destruction of the earth’s ‘lungs’.

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Fantasies of Humanity: The Christchurch Pledge and a Regulated Internet

It had to come.  A massacre, broadcast in real time and then shared with viral automatism; the inevitable shock, and the counter from the authorities.  The Christchurch shootings, inflicting fifty-one deaths upon worshippers at two mosques in quiet New Zealand on March 15 this year, have spurred Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  Laws have been passed regulating guns in her country.  Interest has increased in monitoring white nationalist groups.  But Ardern was never keen keeping the matter local.

In Paris, the NZ Prime Minister, meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, brought other leaders and US tech giants to make a global pledge to “eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.”  The cheer squad feel behind the “Christchurch Call to Action” was unmistakable.  Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the “deadly consequences” of “hateful content online” and his enthusiasm behind the project. “Together, we can create a world where all people – no matter their faith, where they live, or where they are from – are safe and secure both on and offline.”  Stirring stuff.

The opening of the pledge starts with a description: “On 15 March 2019, people looked on in horror as, for 17 minutes, a terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was live streamed.”  The emphasis is significant here: not merely the atrocity itself but the means of its dissemination.  Stress falls upon the fact that “the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed.”

The premise of the call is exaggerated and forced: that the events were caused by online content the way a child’s violence can be caused by gormless hours of glued-to-screen viewing. Ignore the tingling motivating factors of the shooter in question, a view that was nurtured in the atmosphere of acceptable intolerance.  Ignore, as well, the contested, troubled literature on the “contagion” thesis behind mass shootings and killings.  The shooter becomes less significant than the act of streaming his exploits, or sharing unsavoury matter with chatty dolts on certain chat forums. “The attack was livestreamed, went viral and remains available on the web despite the measures taken to remove it.”

The call is framed is a clunky exercise pillowed by the language of openness, only to then flatten it.  It articulates “the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society.  Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental.”  But there is an unqualified injunction: “no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.”

It seems fluffy, the stuff of head-in-the-cloud enthusiasm, but lodged in such calls is a desperate, confused message with sinister implications.  Commitments, outlined by Trudeau’s office, include “building more inclusive, resilient communities to counter violent radicalisation” and “enforcing rules laws that stop the production and dissemination of terrorist and extremist content online.” Media outlets would also be told “to apply rules when reporting on terrorist events” to avoid amplification of the content.  This is ignorance as antidote, not reason as solution.

Online providers, in turn, are urged to, “Take transparent, specific measures seeking to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content and to prevent its dissemination on social media and similar content-sharing services”.  The qualifying point is that such measures are “consistent with human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  Transparent processes would include “publishing the consequences of sharing terrorist and violent extremist content”.

Live streaming is the true bugbear here, with the need to implement “immediate, effective measures to mitigate the specific risk that terrorist and violent extremist content is disseminated”. Algorithms that might magnify the spread of material should also be reviewed.

A more “humane” internet is central to Ardern’s vision which, read another way, is one more regulated and policed of its content and uses.  This lies more in the realm of social engineering than it does in free self-correction, the call for presbyters of cyberspace to cull and remove what states, or the tech enforcers, deem inappropriate.  Given that “extremism” and “terrorism” remain very much in the eye of the censoring beholder, the dangers of this should be apparent.  Dissidents, contrarians and commentators are bound to fall foul of the project.

The regulatory attitude outlined in the pledge has been twinned with a business object.  Silicon Valley, to remain in clover, has been convinced to make overtures and moves dealing with the sharing of “terrorist” and “extremist” content.  Having become a punching bag for anxious regulators, Facebook announced that Facebook Live would be barred to those who, in the words of company official Guy Rosen, “have broken certain rules… including our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy”.  A “one strike” policy would be introduced.  Technical advances to combat “adversarial media manipulation” and improved “image and video analysis technology” were needed.

With such high minded calls for regulation and control from government voices, a seminal warning is necessary.  John Perry Barlow, in A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, began his call quite differently.  Traditional states were the problem.  “Governments of the Industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us.  You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

Such governments, with efforts to bring in the behemoths of Silicon Valley, have stated their clear purpose: to intrude upon Barlow’s world of the cyber mind and clip any sovereign pretext that might have ever existed.  The internet, for them, remains a vigilante playground, difficult to police with its bursts of anarchic sentiment and primeval insensibilities.  While Ardern’s sentiments are probably genuine enough, their authenticity hardly matters before the dangers such initiatives will create.  Symptoms have been confused, if not totally muddled, with causes; technology has been marked as the great threat.

Notre Dame: Glory or Shame?

Paris, 15 April 2019 — The heart of France is on fire. An inferno rocked France. Notre Dame, cultural icon of France and UNESCO declared World Heritage, was burning. The flames devastated the wooden roof and the spire. They caused, at first sight, only light damage on the 12th century cathedral’s structure and historic treasures, as most of the latter were either removed for the ongoing renovation, or were removed just in time by firefighters. Some damage to religious artifacts may have been caused by the enormous amounts of water used by the 500 firemen who dozed the blaze which took about 12 to extinguish. Given the circumstances – a bone-dry wooden roof and spire, largely unprotected from fire hazards – the 850-year-old gothic master piece was lucky for having been saved at all.

While it is not clear yet, at least not publicly, what caused the blaze, fire safety protection measures were insufficient. First, the burnability of hundreds of years old solid oak was underestimated. Second, according to Benjamin Mouton, the architect who oversaw the fire protections, and as reported by the NYT, “The system was based on the assumption that if the cathedral ever caught fire, the ancient oak timbers in the attic would burn slowly, leaving ample time to fight the flames.” He added, “The fire alarms in Notre-Dame did not notify fire dispatchers right away. Instead, a guard at the cathedral first had to climb a steep set of stairs to the attic — a trip that would take a “fit” person six minutes.” Therefore, there was already a built-in delay of about 20 minutes for the firemen starting to fight the flames, an important time span at the beginning of a fire.

This is an significant detail, considering the speed with which the flames spread through the wooden roof and the spire. Some islamophobes already point their fingers to a terror attack, especially on a Christian house of worship in the week before Easter, resurrection of Christ, the Christians holiest celebration.

The socially most disturbing factor is the speed with which the French billionaires – later they were joined by international oligarchs – pledged their (tax-deductible) donation to fix the cathedral. Within just a couple of days, more than a billion euros in donation were pledged by the richest of the rich French billionaires.

First estimates of damage came in as between € 500 and € 700 million. Once the pledges were in, nobody talked about cost estimates anymore. It will be interesting to see, who gets the excess money.  Maybe the poor Frenchmen, who have to survive on €500 a month, live in the street, or in tent cities on the periphery of Paris, and whose children go hungry to bed – if they have a bed – every night. Though, I don’t think it was the intention of the billionaires that ‘left-overs’ should go to the poor.

Macron, with gleaming eyes went on TV – his moment to detract from his fierce opponents, the Yellow Vests – promising that “we will rebuild this monument even more beautiful than it was before”. He called for an international bidding process to assure that the best architects will work on the reconstruction of this world renown icon.

Macron even postponed ‘indefinitely’ talking about the reform measures he was planning after the three months of ‘debate’ intended to end the weekly Yellow Vest protests. But he didn’t. And even if he would have made loads of concessions, the protests would not go away, short of Macron resigning. That’s the level of trust he has left. Protests are fiercer than ever, because people are to see that the rich have no problem donating hundreds of millions, in sort of a contest of one-upmanship, ‘I’ll outdo you’ type of corporate propaganda, while paying no or very little taxes.

If they were to pay their due in taxes, the Yellow Vests rightly argue, there would be no need for donations. The cultural restauration and rehabilitation fund would have plenty of money, and, in addition, there would be no justification for increasing taxes for the lower-earning echelons of society – exactly what Macron was doing and continues doing, taxing the poor into the ground. On Saturday 20 April, the day before Easter, 28,000 Yellow Vests rallied in Paris against the oligarchs spending generously and egocentrically for showmanship, but resist paying their taxes so that all of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen could live a decent life.

The Yellow Vest protesters passed by the blackened ruins of Notre Dame to pay their homage to the monument – showing that their demonstrations had nothing to do with rebuilding the church, but had much to do with how the impunity of shuffling money – and ever more money – from the lower strata of society to the billionaires, has reached a point of no-more-tolerance. It’s a catastrophe, and the Yellow Vests will not end their outcry for justice, unless Macron resigns and a direct democracy is installed. That’s what they are fighting for – and have been fighting precisely six months already. They are poised not to give up, no matter how Notre Dame is going to be rebuilt.

There is an even more nefarious angle to this – and other monuments. Hundreds of years of French exploitation of her colonies in Africa, of enslaving, raping, ravaging, killing and plundering Africa’s resources, has allowed France and many other European nations to amass insane amounts of stolen assets – with which they built and now boast about their monuments, castles, churches, with which they maintained their empires and today maintain their kingdoms. Theft and plunder are the basis for the rich culture and famous shrines the brave and wise Europeans conceived and built.

Notre Dame – a house of Christ – is one of those monuments that would possibly not exist, if France would not have had the illegally begotten resources from wars and pillaging the African Continent – something which France’s neocolonialism continues doing today, through the Banque de France’s controlled “former” West and Central African French colonies. Another shameful and ongoing occurrence, nobody dares talk about it – which allows France to rob untold billions from poor African countries – making sure that their development is stunted. It works, as long as they keep puppet dictators in power.

Today it’s NATO – with its swift wars and killing sprees that keeps colonialism alive, keeps the resources flowing from south to north, impoverishing the south, dividing the south by creating chaos for better control – and especially for guaranteeing the continuation of elite-enriching theft.  May Notre Dame – the House of God – her reconstruction, remind us that France’s oligarchs still benefit from the atrocious and illegal economic resources drain from Africa and the Middle East; that such injustice must to stop.

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Burning Gothic: Reflections on Notre-Dame de Paris

But no matter the destruction, the spirit of what it means to be a cathedral can and does survive such catastrophes.

— Becky Clark, Church of England director of cathedrals and church buildings, April 17, 2019

The destruction of the sacred will engender moving responses.  But the scope, and the particularity of that response varies.  The conflagration affecting Notre-Dame de Paris, located on the Île de la Cité, has become a twenty-four-hour saturation phenomenon.  Thirteen million annual visitors, a geographical pride of place at the centre of Paris, and vast repository of France in all matters religious, cultural and political, would have ensured that.

The attention given to other sites of sacred worth tends to be limited.  It is unlikely, for instance, that pledges of up to $113 million, promised by François-Henri Pinault to assist in the rebuilding project, are going to be heading the way of the more obscure sites of desecrated or damaged history.  A south Louisiana parish, for instance, is desperate for funding in rebuilding three Black churches of historic significance burned down in “suspicious’ circumstances. “There is clearly something happening in this community,” suggested State Fire Marshal H. Browning. The funding target for the GoFundMe campaign is $1.8 million.  To date, $1.5 million has been secured.

Notre-Dame will do that to the millionaire and billionaire set: draw attention from the well-heeled and a chance for celebrity posterity in the premier culture league.  (Even wineries such as the Château Mouton Rothschild are re-directing money from auctions to the cause.)  While the idea of purchasing a place of heaven is not as popular as it once was, it still exerts some hold in the secular world through the idea of enduring reputation.  Such gestures of financial promise have also stirred the pot of misplaced empathy for the cultural artefacts of a former colonial power.

People, in short, are not permitted their own singular ways of commemorating or grieving over a damaged or lost icon: they are to be scolded into appropriate acknowledgments and qualifications.  A fine, and slightly perverse example of this came in responses to a remark by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who was rebuked for suggesting that Notre-Dame might be considered in the same breath as “art and architecture”.  Former congressman Joe Walsh fulminated.  “It was a house of worship.  A Catholic Cathedral.  It wouldn’t have been difficult for you to acknowledge that.”

Looking at such structures are also exercises of mutual and mass deception.  Gothic architecture did not always share the enchanting mystery that has made structures such as Notre-Dame de Paris the subject of gooey adoration.  Having lapsed into a mysterious, almost barbaric prior life before the preferences towards Romanesque and the Classicist, such architecture was redeemed by the calls of Romanticism.  Victor Hugo’s pen praised the Gothic form for its freedom, its daring, “encouraging license and dissent from authority,” asserts John Sturrock in his introduction to the 1978 translation of Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), commonly known in Anglophone circles as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Hugo’s pen, in making the cathedral the protagonist, did the trick: interest in restoring the weathered, damaged structure was stimulated, halting the till then relentless drive towards tearing down Gothic Paris.

The fire that went through the Cathedral has been described variously as catastrophic and disastrous, but the nature of such creations is their permanent vulnerability and susceptibility to change.  A scene from Hugo’s own masterpiece is worth retelling, describing flames as the hunchbacked bellringer Quasimodo attacks the Truands in an effort to save Esmerelda.  “All eyes were raised to the top of the church.  They beheld there an extraordinary sight.  On the crest of the highest gallery, higher than the central rose window, there was a great flame rising between the two towers with whirlwinds of sparks, a vast, disordered, and furious flame, a tongue of which was borne into the smoke by the wind, from time to time.”

The building is all (well mostly, now) points, sharpness.  It is jagged, skyscraper coherence.  But to suggest that its body and shell was pure in its medieval form is to fall for a common deception perpetuated from the nineteenth century.  The Gothic restoration mania of the period had the effect of turning Notre-Dame into a modern mutilation.

Eugène Emmanuelle Viollet-le-Duc, aided by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus, tended towards heavy restoration between 1845 and 1864 on the grounds that the original Gothic idea of the cathedral needed fuller realisation.  They knew better.  Being somehow in touch with those spirits, they went to work, warned by archaeological preservationist Prosper Mérimée about the dangers of overly keen touching up.  “A restoration may be more disastrous for a monument than the ravages of centuries.”  Hugo, in the same spirit, observed “the countless defacements and mutilations to which men and time have subjected that venerable monument.”

The now destroyed barbed spire of wood and lead (la flèche) was itself was an addition. Viollet-le-Duc also added a new pulpit; original statues were removed from their resting places of centuries; spectacular gargoyles became a feature; and the south façade’s rose window received undue attention.  Paris-born photographer Danie Aubry aptly observed that the Gothic-mad restorer “should have worked for Disney.”  Ironically enough, Monday’s fire is being “potentially linked” to the $6.8 million renovation work that was already underway.

The visceral and rapid response from French President Emmanuel Macron was one of rebuilding.  Cathedral spokesman André Finot spoke of the structure having suffered “colossal damage”, with the frame obliterated.  Not so, countered an optimistic Macron, taking on board the inspirational guise of Viollet-le-Duc.  The rebuilding project would be grand and hurried.  Forget decades; the President wants the structure to be finished in time for re-opening for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.  “We will rebuild Notre-Dame even more beautifully, and I want it to be completed in five years.”  To that end, an international design competition to rebuild parts of the building has been announced.

The Gothic concept was itself an act of daring on the part of Abbot Suger, who embraced lightness and light in his 1137 design for Saint-Denis.  Platonism, Christianity and religious architecture were wed.  The reconstruction of Notre-Dame might dare to be something different, but many expect a simulacrum of the original.

China and Macron’s U-Turn

Less than a week ago, President Macron was lambasting Italy for signing agreements with China in the context of their New Silk Road, alias President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in the same breath he was criticizing China for attempting to undermine Europe with new trade individual country deals under the pretext of BRI. However, Italy, also scolded by Brussels for her single-handed deals with China, was, in fact, the first G7 country for signing a number of contracts with China to use Italian ports under the BRI, making Italy also the first official EU partner of China’s BRI.

In his zeal of becoming Europe’s new king, Macron also called on all EU members not to go their own way with China, but to jointly negotiate with China “new deals” under the BRI. A joint EU to be strong and equal to the economic and trade behemoth, China. Indeed, solidarity is always ‘good’, but Europe is the last bit of Mother Earth’s territory that has ever shown any solidarity and cohesion among her neighbors and co-members of this illustrious non-union club, called the European Union.

Yet, surprise-surprise! On President Xi’s next stop, Paris, coming from Italy, Macron rolled out the red carpet for the Chinese President and, according to RT, went on to sign billions worth of new contracts with the Asian leader. If this looked like a Macron U-turn, it was a Macron U-turn. As an afterthought he invited German Chancellor, Madame Merkel and EU President Junker to Paris for a photo-Op under the Arc de Triomphe just to make sure his about-face was not to be misinterpreted.

President Xi also signed a multi-billion-euro deal – may be as much as € 30billion – for some 300 passenger jets from Airbus. Though Airbus is a European venture, its main manufacturing plants are in France. This is an especially hard blow to Boeing, after the company’s 737 MAX disasters. Weakening Boeing is also weakening an important US military contractor.

As was to be expected, Washington didn’t like Italy’s moving closer to the East by signing several BRI contracts, and even less so, while the EU, represented by Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Germany and Emmanuel Macron, France, were welcoming President Xi today in Paris. Showing a little sympathy to friend Trump, Merkel observed to Reuters, “We, as Europeans, want to play an active part and that must lead to certain reciprocity and we are still wrangling over that a bit.”  Showing Washington that not all is lost will surely give the empire a grain of hope.

Exactly 6 years ago, President Xi Jinping launched the BRI, the most ambitious and largest economic development project in recent history. On President Xi’s second state visit to Germany in March 2014, he specifically offered Madame Merkel to become (at that time) the western most link for the BRI. But Madame Merkel just snubbed at the proposal and let it go. She was too close to Washington, and, who knows, maybe received marching orders from Obama and his handlers, to leave her fingers from tightening relations with China.

As the Chinese are not pushy, Mr. Xi went home and pursued this massive project further. Within the next 30 years at least, it will build multi-trillions of Chinese Yuans-worth of infrastructure, interconnected research and education centers, industrial development, facilitate cultural exchange – it will build bridges among people. The BRI is so important that the Chinese National Assembly decided in 2017 to incorporate it into the Chinese Constitution.

Today BRI spans the globe with some six land and maritime routes. More are under preparation. BRI is not to invade and take over the world, as the west would like you to believe. The New Silk Road is instead promoting a multi-polar world. It will pave the way towards a new world order, but not the one the Rothschilds and Co. are dreaming about, but one that promotes equal partnership and solidarity among countries.

It is amazing.  The west was a sleep for 6 years, or didn’t want to see. Maybe the Washington-driven war machine simply thought it will go away. But it didn’t and doesn’t. China has the world’s strongest economy according to Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) indicators (that’s all that really counts), surpassing the US in 2017. With the BRI, and an ever-stronger currency, the Yuan, due to a stable and steadily growing distributive economy, and in a military and strategic alliance with Russia, China is literally unbeatable. Hence, as basically a last-ditch effort, Washington’s multiple attempts at trade wars. It’s a publicity stunt, to make the world believe the US is still calling the shots. In reality, the New Silk Road is most likely the vehicle to drive the United States warrior arrogance into the ground. Good riddens!

And let’s not forget, BRI is intimately linked with Russia, not only physically as in transport infrastructure, but also strategically for purposes of economic development of henceforth forgotten and neglected countries and regions. So far the esperando west has not even reacted to this “imminent threat”, as perceived by Washington, the Russian haters. If they would add Russia and China together as the new Silk Road front, they would pee in their pants – as they may realize their days of never-ending treachery and lies would soon end. Therefore, better that the Ostrich pulls only one eye out of the sand, blinking at China. Lying to themselves, and, of course, to their people, is just one more nail in the coffin of the west.

We may not be there yet, as war threats, and attempts at regime change from the neofascist Trump team are still very much “on the table”. But with Russia’s far superiority in military power, and the Chinese economic masters, this table may soon be symbolically blown apart, meaning, will the commanding and reigning elite living a lush and ego-centric lifestyle really want to run the risk of being out-nuked?  Because a new war will not just be played out in Europe, like the last two WWs; nor will New Zealand offer a safe haven for those elite and super rich, who have already secured their properties in this far-away land.  Don’t think so. They, the dark state elite, who pull the strings, rather live in a safe world and enjoy their bounties stolen over hundreds of years, as long as they last, even under a Russia-China and multipolar SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) sponsorship.

When that recognition dawns on western minds, that all that counts is economics – economics that may bring more equality, a better life and harmony among nations, and more prosperity for more people on this planet earth.

Did Mr. Macron and his European counterparts just see the light? Did he realize that being the king of vassal Europe is really meaningless and that it’s high time to jump the sinking boat? Only the near future will tell.

Another scenario is that China has long realized the futurelessness of the EU, and instead of banking their trade agreements with a potentially dead body, they approach country by country, Greece, Italy, France, Germany – who is next? Because, even with the collapse of the European Union, the 28 countries must and will survive. So, trade agreements with each one of them individually have an infinitely higher value than signing up with a block of unsolidary, uncoordinated, even in some cases hostile-to-each-other nations with a fiat currency that is doomed, as it will never survive in such a non-union constellation without even a Constitution pointing to a common vision.

Why the Europeans can’t see that for themselves, and run away from this disaster called Brussels, is a miracle for me. If a Martian would watch the human behavior on our Mother Earth from outer space, he, she or it would laugh no end at our abject schizophrenic behavior but at the same time with tears of sadness, as humanity is hell-bent to self-destruct.

Well, Roi Macron will not let go, he is not (yet) allowed to let go. His paymasters, those that put him there, the Rothschild financial clan and Co. have not gotten enough out of him yet, in terms of milking Europe to the bones. How much more can Macron’s naïve pathological egocentricity still give? By launching the military, the first time since 1948, with live ammunition against harmless, unarmed protesters, the Yellow Vests, his French co-patriots (although he is an Über-French, he is a wannabe European king), is maybe the last nail in Macron’s coffin – figurately speaking.

As Tom Luongo so aptly describes:

There are few people in this world more odious than French President Emmanuel Macron after his behavior this week. I’m sure there are child molesters who are worse. But as a man who is pivotal in the future of hundreds of millions of people, his decision to order the French military to quell the Yellow Vests protests with live ammunition is simply vile. Macron outed himself as the very symbol of what animates the globalist elite he represents. Disdain.

Those black-hooded “protesters”, who plant the violence, burn down bank entrances, break windows and loot shops, are nothing less than paid agents-provocateur. You may have noticed, in the hundreds of demo-videos circulating on internet, the police leave them pretty much alone – orders from the Macron regime. Will the military be loyal to deceitful, despicable Macron, or to the nation; i.e. to the people? That remains the question, as fissures within the military are already noticeable.

So, Macron’s about-face, or U-Turn, after having scolded Italy for going it alone, instead of ’collectively’ with the EU, may be by orders of the financial monarchs who forced him with millions of false propaganda into the French Presidency and who may now also see the light: Europe is no longer a viable bet.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook NEO

Once Again, the UN has failed to Name Firms that Profit from Israel’s Illegal Settlements

The United Nations postponed last week for the third time the publication of a blacklist of Israeli and international firms that profit directly from Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

The international body had come under enormous pressure to keep the database under wraps after lobbying behind the scenes from Israel, the United States and many of the 200-plus companies that were about to be named.

UN officials have suggested they may go public with the list in a few months.

But with no progress since the UN’s Human Rights Council requested the database back in early 2016, Palestinian leaders are increasingly fearful that it has been permanently shelved.

That was exactly what Israel hoped for. When efforts were first made to publish the list in 2017, Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, warned: “We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day.”

He added that penalising the settlements was “an expression of modern antisemitism”.

Both Israel and the US pulled out of the Human Rights Council last year, claiming that Israel was being singled out.

Israel has good reason to fear greater transparency. Bad publicity would most likely drive many of these firms, a few of them household names, out of the settlements under threat of a consumer backlash and a withdrawal of investments by religious organisations and pension funds.

The UN has reportedly already warned Coca-Cola, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the defence electronics company Elbit Systems and Africa Israel Investments of their likely inclusion. Israeli telecoms and utility companies are particularly exposed because grids serving the settlements are integrated with those in Israel.

There is an added danger that the firms might be vulnerable to prosecutions, should the International Criminal Court at The Hague eventually open an investigation into whether the settlements constitute a war crime, as the Palestinian leadership has demanded.

The exodus of these firms from the West Bank would, in turn, make it much harder for Israel to sustain its colonies on stolen Palestinian land. As a result, efforts to advance a Palestinian state would be strengthened.

Many of the settlements – contrary to widely held impressions of them – have grown into large towns. Their inhabitants expect all the comforts of modern life, from local bank branches to fast-food restaurants and high-street clothing chains.

Nowadays, a significant proportion of Israel’s 750,000 settlers barely understand that their communities violate international law.

The settlements are also gradually being integrated into the global economy, as was highlighted by a row late last year when Airbnb, an accommodation-bookings website, announced a plan to de-list properties in West Bank settlements.

The company was possibly seeking to avoid inclusion on the database, but instead it faced a severe backlash from Israel’s supporters.

This month the US state of Texas approved a ban on all contracts with Airbnb, arguing that the online company’s action was “antisemitic”.

As both sides understand, a lot hangs on the blacklist being made public.

If Israel and the US succeed, and western corporations are left free to ignore the Palestinians’ dispossession and suffering, the settlements will sink their roots even deeper into the West Bank. Israel’s occupation will become ever more irreversible, and the prospect of a Palestinian state ever more distant.

A 2013 report on the ties between big business and the settlements noted the impact on the rights of Palestinians was “pervasive and devastating”.

Sadly, the UN leadership’s cowardice on what should be a straightforward matter – the settlements violate international law, and firms should not assist in such criminal enterprises – is part of a pattern.

Repeatedly, Israel has exerted great pressure on the UN to keep its army off a “shame list” of serious violators of children’s rights. Israel even avoided a listing in 2015 following its 50-day attack on Gaza the previous year, which left more than 500 Palestinian children dead. Dozens of armies and militias are named each year.

The Hague court has also been dragging its feet for years over whether to open a proper war crimes investigation into Israel’s actions in Gaza, as well as the settlements.

The battle to hold Israel to account is likely to rage again this year, after the publication last month of a damning report by UN legal experts into the killing of Palestinian protesters at Gaza’s perimeter fence by Israeli snipers.

Conditions for Gaza’s two million Palestinians have grown dire since Israel imposed a blockade, preventing movement of goods and people, more than a decade ago.

The UN report found that nearly all of those killed by the snipers – 154 out of 183 – were unarmed. Some 35 Palestinian children were among the dead, and of the 6,000 wounded more than 900 were minors. Other casualties included journalists, medical personnel and people with disabilities.

The legal experts concluded that there was evidence of war crimes. Any identifiable commanders and snipers, it added, should face arrest if they visited UN member states.

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, dismissed the report as “lies” born out of “an obsessive hatred of Israel”.

Certainly, it has caused few ripples in western capitals. Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was a lone voice in calling for an arms embargo on Israel in response.

It is this Israeli exceptionalism that is so striking. The more violent Israel becomes towards the Palestinians and the more intransigent in rejecting peace, the less pressure is exerted upon it.

Not only does Israel continue to enjoy generous financial, military and diplomatic support from the US and Europe, both are working ever harder to silence criticisms of its actions by their own citizens.

As the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement grows larger, western capitals have casually thrown aside commitments to free speech in a bid to crush it.

France has already criminalised support for a boycott of Israel, and its president Emmanuel Macron recently proposed making it illegal to criticise Zionism, the ideology that underpins Israel’s rule over Palestinians.

More than two dozen US states have passed anti-BDS legislation, denying companies and individual contractors dealing with the government of that particular state the right to boycott Israel. In every case, Israel is the only country protected by these laws. Last month, the US Senate passed a bill that adds federal weight to this state-level campaign of intimidation.

The hypocrisy of these states – urging peace in the region while doing their best to subvert it – is clear. Now the danger is that UN leaders will join them.

• First published in The National