Statement by Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI on the status of Jerusalem / Al-Quods, by Mohammed VI of Morocco, Pope Francis

On the occasion of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Kingdom of Morocco, His Holiness and His Majesty King Mohammed VI, recognizing the unique and sacred character of Jerusalem / Al-Quds Acharif, and deeply concerned for its spiritual significance and its special vocation as a city of peace, join in making the following appeal: “We consider it important to preserve the Holy City of Jerusalem / Al-Quds Acharif as the common patrimony of humanity and especially the followers of (...)

Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses, by Donald Trump

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Purpose. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) has the potential to disrupt, degrade, and damage technology and critical infrastructure systems. Human-made or naturally occurring EMPs can affect large geographic areas, disrupting elements critical to the Nation's security and economic prosperity, and could adversely affect global commerce and (...)

Canada and 70th Anniversary of NATO

The first installment in this series discussed how NATO was set up partly to blunt the European Left. The other major factor driving the creation of NATO was a desire to bolster colonial authority and bring the world under a US geopolitical umbrella.

From the outset Canadian officials had an incredibly expansive definition of NATO’s supposed defensive character, which says an “attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” As part of the Parliamentary debate over NATO external minister Lester Pearson said: “There is no better way of ensuring the security of the Pacific Ocean at this particular moment than by working out, between the great democratic powers, a security arrangement the effects of which will be felt all over the world, including the Pacific area.” Two years later he said: “The defence of the Middle East is vital to the successful defence of Europe and north Atlantic area.” In 1953 Pearson went even further: “There is now only a relatively small [5000 kilometre] geographical gap between southeast Asia and the area covered by the North Atlantic treaty, which goes to the eastern boundaries of Turkey.”

In one sense the popular portrayal of NATO as a defensive arrangement was apt. After Europe’s second Great War the colonial powers were economically weak while anti-colonial movements could increasingly garner outside support. The Soviets and Mao’s China, for instance, aided the Vietnamese. Similarly, Egypt supported Algerian nationalists and Angola benefited from highly altruistic Cuban backing. The international balance of forces had swung away from the colonial powers.

To maintain their colonies European powers increasingly depended on North American diplomatic and financial assistance. NATO passed numerous resolutions supporting European colonial authority. In the fall of 1951 Pearson responded to moves in Iran and Egypt to weaken British influence by telling Parliament: “The Middle East is strategically far too important to the defence of the North Atlantic area to allow it to become a power vacuum or to pass into unfriendly hands.” The next year Ottawa recognized the colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as “associated states” of France, according to an internal report, “to assist a NATO colleague, sorely tried by foreign and domestic problems.” More significantly, Canada gave France hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment through NATO’s Mutual Assistance Program. These weapons were mostly used to suppress the Vietnamese and Algerian independence movements.

In 1953 Pearson told the House: “The assistance we have given to France as a member of the NATO association may have helped her recently in the discharge of some of her obligations in Indo-China.” Similarly, Canadian and US aid was used by the Dutch to maintain their dominance over Indonesia and West Papua New Guinea, by the Belgians in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, by the Portuguese in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau and by the British in numerous places. Between 1950 and 1958 Ottawa donated a whopping $1,526,956,000 ($8 billion today) in ammunition, fighter jets, military training, etc. to European countries through the NATO Mutual Assistance Program.

The role NATO played in North American/European subjugation of the Global South made Asians and Africans wary of the organization. The Nigerian Labour Party’s 1964 pamphlet The NATO Conspiracy in Africa documents that organization’s military involvement on the continent from bases to naval agreements. In 1956 NATO established a Committee for Africa and in June 1959 NATO’s North Atlantic Council, the organization’s main political decision-making body, warned that the communists would take advantage of African independence to the detriment of Western political and economic interests.

The north Atlantic alliance was designed to maintain unity among the historic colonial powers — and the US — in the midst of a de-colonizing world. It was also meant to strengthen US influence around the world. In a history of the 1950-53 US-led Korean war David Bercuson writes that Canada’s external minister “agreed with [President] Truman, [Secretary of State] Dean Acheson, and other American leaders that the Korean conflict was NATO’s first true test, even if it was taking place half a world away.”

Designed to maintain internal unity among the leading capitalist powers, NATO was the military alliance of the post-WWII US-centered multilateral order, which included the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, International Trade Organization (ITO) and the United Nations. (For its first two decades the UN was little more than an arm of the State Department.)

A growing capitalist power, Canada was well placed to benefit from US-centered multilateral imperialism. The Canadian elite’s business, cultural, familial and racial ties with their US counterparts meant their position and profits were likely to expand alongside Washington’s global position.

NATO bolstered colonial authority and helped bring the world under the US geopolitical umbrella, from which the Canadian elite hoped to benefit.

Neolibs and Neocons Declare All Options On the Table in Venezuela

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Even though we now know there is zero evidence Donald Trump colluded with the Russians, neocon talking heads are still babbling about the discredited conspiracy theory and working it into facile monologues. 

For instance, Samatha Vinograd, a “national security” analyst at Propaganda One, CNN. Ms. Vinograd is a former Obama NSC member and a former senior advisor to the president, a David E. Rockefeller Fellow at the Trilateral Commission, a Millennium Fellow at the Atlantic Council where the Russian collusion nonsense is kept alive, and also a facilitator of fascist relationships—public-private (see “Economic Fascism” by DiLorenzo)—in service to the vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, Goldman Sachs. 
There is very little the US can do about Russia in its “backyard”—and it has no internationally recognized right to do so unless Russia directly threatens the United States, which it has not (unless we consider delivering humanitarian aid to starving Venezuelans an act of war, as the neocons do). 

Vinograd is not simply another attractive young talking head selling the establishment line on foreign policy. As noted above, she is a Trilateralist and a member of The Atlantic Council. This means what she tells us during this interview will more than likely be adopted in some form or other by the Trump administration, now fully neo-conized at the highest levels. 

It is important to note Vinograd’s opening remark combines a criticism of the president’s performance and also the debunked and discredited Russian election collusion op engineered by a petulant Hillary Clinton and the DNC to take down the duly elected president of the United States. 

It’s not that Vinograd doesn’t know about the Mueller investigation summary admitting the special inquisitor doesn’t have a case against Trump. Rather it is an attempt to move away from that reality and continue to target the New Hitler, Vladimir Putin. This is the new meal ticket for the military-industrial-surveillance complex now that the artificially manufactured Islamic State is almost “defeated” in Syria. The government long ago stopped promoting peace dividends. 

Now we have the ever-pugnacious John Bolton, neocon foreign policy demagogue and special national security adviser to the president. Bolton told Russia the US government and its owners lay claim to the Western Hemisphere. 

“We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela,” said Bolton, “or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations… We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region.”

Neocon John can only get away with saying this due to the lamentable fact most Americans are almost entirely clueless on the history of US intervention in Central and South America. If they knew anything about the coups, election rigging, paramilitary death squads, and and massive corruption they might think twice about what Bolton said. 

Bolton’s threat came two days after Trump said, “all options are on the table” in regard to Russia’s presence in Venezuela. In typical Trumpian fashion—somewhere between a mob boss and a festooned carnival barker—the president demanded Russia “get out” of Caracas. He made the remark in Washington during a meeting with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Juan Guaido. 

Putin checkmated Trump and his neocons—for now. On March 25 Venezuela said, “self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido and other opposition leaders were involved in a plot to carry out acts of terrorism employing foreign paramilitaries trained in Colombia,” according to sources at Venezuelananlysis.com
According to [Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez], Venezuelan intelligence services uncovered plans to contract mercenaries from Colombia and Central America and bring them into Venezuela to execute targeted killings and acts of sabotage, adding that “at least half” of the armed groups managed to make their way into Venezuelan territory and are currently being sought.
If Venezuela’s intelligence is accurate, one the largest private banks in the country served as a paymaster for these mercenary terrorists. 
The [Whatsapp] screen captures [on the phone of Guaido’s arrested chief of staff, Roberto Marrero] also revealed details of alleged bank accounts through which payments to the paramilitary groups were supposed to be made. One of them was in Banesco’s Panama branch. Banesco is Venezuela’s largest private bank, and Rodriguez called on Banesco owner Ricardo Escotet to inform security services whether this account exists and what movements have been made.
President Trump is known for his impatience. He wants to do something now about Venezuela and its massive oil reserve, the largest in the world. Russia is in Caracas to foil any attempt to outright invade the country and provide assistance to track down mercenaries plotting to stage violence and terror attacks. 

The neoliberal masterminds with their neocon collaborators behind US foreign policy know going to war with Russia is not doable. They believe a “democratic revolution” in Venezuela from below—using the usual NED and subversion NGO partners—or short of that a violent coup attempt, are not possible if Russia stands in the way, as it did in Syria. 

For now, we will continue to hear neocons like Bolton and globalist insiders like Vinograd declaring Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine are still in force and represent the will of the American people, which is of course a wagonload of manure. 

Reprinted with permission from KurtNimmo.blog.

Guaido Set to Enact Uprising Rooted in US Regime-Change Operations Manual

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Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed “interim president of Venezuela” who is supported by the United States government, recently announced coming “tactical actions” that will be taken by his supporters starting April 6 as part of “Operation Freedom,” an alleged grassroots effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

That operation, according to Guaidó, will be led by “Freedom and Aid Committees” that in turn create “freedom cells” throughout the country — “cells” that will spring to action when Guaidó gives the signal on April 6 and launch large-scale community protests. Guaidó’s stated plan involves the Venezuelan military then taking his side, but his insistence that “all options are still on the table” (i.e., foreign military intervention) reveals his impatience with the military, which has continued to stay loyal to Maduro throughout Guaidó’s “interim presidency.”

However, a document released by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in February, and highlighted last month in a report by Devex, details the creation of networks of small teams, or cells, that would operate in a way very similar to what Guaidó describes in his plan for “Operation Freedom.”

Given that Guaidó was trained by a group funded by USAID’s sister organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — and is known to take his marching orders from Washington, including his self-proclamation as “interim president” and his return to Venezuela following the “humanitarian aid” showdown — it is worth considering that this USAID document may well serve as a roadmap to the upcoming and Guaidó-led “tactical actions” that will comprise “Operation Freedom.”

RED Teams

Titled “Rapid Expeditionary Development (RED) Teams: Demand and Feasibility Assessment,” the 75-page document was produced for the US Global Development Lab, a branch of USAID. It was written as part of an effort to the “widespread sentiment” among the many military, intelligence, and development officials the report’s authors interviewed “that the USG [US government] is woefully underperforming in non-permissive and denied environments,” including Venezuela. Notably, some of the military, intelligence and development officials interviewed by the report’s authors had experience working in a covert capacity in Venezuela.

The approach put forth in this report involves the creation of rapid expeditionary development (RED) teams, who would “be deployed as two-person teams and placed with ‘non-traditional’ USAID partners executing a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations in extremis conditions.” The report notes later on that these “non-traditional” partners are US Special Forces (SF) and the CIA.

The report goes on to state that “RED Team members would be catalytic actors, performing development activities alongside local communities while coordinating with interagency partners.” It further states that “[i]t is envisioned that the priority competency of proposed RED Team development officers would be social movement theory (SMT)” and that “RED Team members would be ‘super enablers,’ observing situations on the ground and responding immediately by designing, funding, and implementing small-scale activities.”

In other words, these teams of combined intelligence, military and/or “democracy promoting” personnel would work as “super enablers” of “small-scale activities” focused on “social movement theory” and community mobilizations, such as the mobilizations of protests.

The decentralized nature of RED teams and their focus on engineering “social movements” and “mobilizations” is very similar to Guaidó’s plan for “Operation Freedom.” Operation Freedom is set to begin through “Freedom and Aid committees” that cultivate decentralized “freedom cells” throughout the country and that create mass mobilizations when Guaidó gives the go ahead on April 6. The ultimate goal of Operation Freedom is to have those “freedom cell”-generated protests converge on Venezuela’s presidential palace, where Nicolás Maduro resides. Given Guaidó lack of momentum and popularity within Venezuela, it seems highly likely that US government “catalytic actors” may be a key part of his upcoming plan to topple Maduro in little over a week.

Furthermore, an appendix included in the report states that RED Team members, in addition to being trained in social movement theory and community mobilization techniques, would also be trained in “weapons handling and use,” suggesting that their role as “catalytic actors” could also involve Maidan-esque behavior. This is a distinct possibility raised by the report’s claim that RED Team members be trained in the use of both “offensive” and “defensive” weaponry.

In addition, another appendix states that RED Team members would help “identify allies and mobilize small amounts of cash to establish community buy-in/relationship” — i.e., bribes — and would particularly benefit the CIA by offering a way to “transition covert action into community engagement activities.”

Feeling Bolsonaro’s breath on its neck

Also raising the specter of a Venezuela link is the fact that the document suggests Brazil as a potential location for a RED Team pilot study. Several of those interviewed for the report asserted that “South American countries were ripe for pilots” of the RED Team program, adding that “These [countries were] under-reported, low-profile, idiot-proof locations, where USG civilian access is fairly unrestrained by DS [Diplomatic Security] and where there is a positive American relationship with the host government.”

This January, Brazil inaugurated Jair Bolsonaro as president, a fascist who has made his intention to align the country close to Washington’s interests no secret. During Bolsonaro’s recent visit to Washington, he became the first president of that country to visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. President Donald Trump said during his meeting with Bolsonaro that “We have a great alliance with Brazil — better than we’ve ever had before” and spoke in favor of Brazil joining NATO.

Though Bolsonaro’s government has claimed late in February that it would not allow the US to launch a military intervention from its territory, Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro — an adviser to his father and a Brazilian congressman — said last week that “use of force will be necessary” in Venezuela “at some point” and, echoing the Trump administration, added that “all options are on the table.” If Bolsonaro’s government does allow the “use of force,” but not a full-blown foreign military intervention per se, its closeness to the Trump administration and the CIA suggests that covert actions, such as those carried out by the proposed RED Teams, are a distinct possibility.

Frontier Design Group

The RED Team report was authored by members of Frontier Design Group (FDG) for USAID’s Global Development Lab. FDG is a national security contractor and its mission statement on its website is quite revealing:
Since our founding, Frontier has focused on the challenges and opportunities that concern the “3Ds” of Defense, Development and Diplomacy and critical intersections with the intelligence community. Our work has focused on the wicked and sometimes overlapping problem sets of fragility, violent extremism, terrorism, civil war, and insurgency. Our work on these complex issues has included projects with the US Departments of State and Defense, USAID, the National Counterterrorism Center and the US Institute of Peace.”
FDG also states on is website that it also regularly does work for the Council on Foreign Relations and the Omidyar Group — which is controlled by Pierre Omidyar, a billionaire with deep ties to the US national security establishment that were the subject of a recent MintPress series. According to journalist Tim Shorrock, who mentions the document in a recent investigation focusing on Pierre Omidyar for Washington Babylon, FDG was the “sole contractor” hired by USAID to create a “new counterinsurgency doctrine for the Trump administration” and the fruit of that effort is the “RED Team” document described above.

One of the co-authors of the document is Alexa Courtney, FDG founder and former USAID liaison officer with the Department of Defense; former manager of civilian counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan for USAID; and former counterinsurgency specialist for US intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

In addition, according to Shorrock, Courtney’s name has also been found “on several Caerus [Associates] contracts with USAID and US intelligence that were leaked to me on a thumb drive, including a $77 million USAID project to track ‘licit and illicit networks’ in Honduras.” Courtney, according to her LinkedIn account, was also recently honored by Chevron Corporation for her “demonstrated leadership and impact on development results.” MintPress recently reported on the role of Chevron in the current US-led effort to topple Maduro and replace him with Guaidó.

Send in the USAID

Though Devex was told last month that USAID was “still working on the details in formulating the Rapid Expeditionary Development (RED) Teams initiative,” Courtney stated that the report’s contents had been “received really favorably” by “very senior” and “influential” former and current government officials she had interviewed during the creation of the document.

For instance, one respondent asserted that the RED Team system would “restore the long-lost doing capacity of USAID.” Another USAID official with 15 years of experience, including in “extremely denied environments,” stated that:
We have to be involved in national security or USAID will not be relevant. Anybody who doesn’t think we need to be working in combat elements or working with SF [special forces] groups is just naïve. We are either going to be up front or irrelevant … USAID is going through a lot right now, but this is an area where we can be of utility. It must happen.”
Given that the document represents the efforts of the sole contractor tasked with developing the current administration’s new counterterrorism strategy, there is plenty of reason to believe that its contents — published for over a year — have been or are set to be put to use in Venezuela, potentially as part of the upcoming “Operation Freedom,” set to begin on April 6.

This is supported by the troubling correlation between a document produced by the NED-funded group CANVAS and the recent power outages that have taken place throughout Venezuela, which were described as US-led “sabotage” by the country’s government. A recent report by The Grayzone detailed how a September 2010 memo by CANVAS — which trained Juan Guaidó — described in detail how the potential collapse of the country’s electrical infrastructure, like that recently seen in Venezuela, would be “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

The document specifically named the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri Dam, which failed earlier this month as a result of what the Venezuelan government asserted was “sabotage” conducted by the US government. That claim was bolstered by US Senator Marco Rubio’s apparent foreknowledge of the power outage. Thus, there is a precedent of correlation between these types of documents and actions that occur in relation to the current US regime-change effort in Venezuela.

Furthermore, it would make sense for the Trump administration to attempt to enact such an initiative as that described in the document, given its apparent inability to launch a military intervention in Venezuela, despite its frequent claims that “all options are on the table.” Indeed, US allies — including those close to Venezuela, like Colombia — have rejected military intervention, given the US’ past role in bloody coups and civil wars throughout the region.

Thus, with its hands tied when it comes to military intervention, only covert actions — such as those described in the RED Team document — are likely to be enacted by the US government, at least at this stage of its ongoing “regime change” effort in Venezuela.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.

Disinfo Maginot Line: Protecting EU from ‘Russian Influence’ – by Manufacturing History

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It is now apparent with the release of the Mueller investigation findings, that the great storm that has embattled the US government and establishment since 2016 over supposed Russia-Trump collusion during the US elections, originates not from a genuine tangible source, but a constant stream of rhetoric driven by partisan corporate media. One certainty though is the Western narrative of Russia as a "malign influence" will not go away. 

While America’s liberal establishment continues to rage at Trump, Europe allies, under the influence of Washington, maintain their aggressive stance towards Russia following the catastrophic US meddling in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent reunification of Crimea with Russia

The question is how can the narrative of "malign Russian influence" be kept going? Mainstream media will continue its role in this, but Western governments are also pouring resources into promulgating certain narratives while containing others. 

This week, hackers released more documents from the UK government-funded project known as the Integrity Initiative, revealing British government plans to build an umbrella network of organisations across Europe to counter “Russian disinformation.” The following is a look at one of the EU projects already operating to ensure European populations do not stray from this constructed narrative that at times crosses over into real xenophobic racism, or Russophobia. While researching this phenomenon, it was impossible not to find some of the EU’s counter-propaganda material quite funny.

If we want to know the meaning of disinformation, the American think tank known as the National Endowment for Democracy which funds regime change in the service of US corporate interests, has its own definition, but it’s not important – so long as we believe Russia or the Nazis invented the problem. In fact, if we search the word “disinformation,” a good number of the results tell us it originated in Russia and is the baby of Stalin or the KGB. If we are not careful, we could end up thinking that dishonesty is an inherent characteristic of Russians, a view actually promoted by the former US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who, coincidentally was caught “wilfully” lying to Congress.

The view of Russians being hard-wired for corruption was also promoted by the New York Times in an article published in February, The Putin I knew; the Putin I know, written by Franz J Sedelmeyer, exposing deep prejudice behind the corporate media’s shallow identity politics.
But this narrative fails to credit the CIA, which has spent decades crafting skills carrying out the most grotesque deceptions in history targeted abroad and at home. To leave out the role of the CIA in disinformation must be the equivalent of writing an omelette recipe and leaving out the eggs. In fact, the CIA doesn’t just carry out disinformation campaigns, as Victor Marchetti, former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the CIA described it: the CIA manufactures history. Not to recognise American intelligence services or government in the history of disinformation while painting Russia as its mother is to deprive America of the recognition it deserves for one of its most notable institutions. Somewhat ironically, you can learn all about the history of disinformation from both Google and the National Endowment for Democracy which are two entities which have received financial support from the CIA.

What about the EU? Does Brussels think that Russia is an inherently dishonest nation? Are they aware that the CIA could be manufacturing Europe’s history this very moment? Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) so concerned about disinformation might want to study the documented atrocities of the CIA, some of which were carried out in Europe. Perhaps they are not aware of the US intelligence services’ role  in the history of subterfuge in Europe:
…memorandum, dated July 26, 1950, gives instructions for a campaign to promote a fully fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen William J Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA.
Paradoxically, given the probability rate of the CIA meddling in the EU, MEPs should consider putting out a public warning:
The CIA is the most likely source of disinformation in Europe today. It manufactures crises – and we’ve plenty of those.
But none of it. Instead, the European Parliament is fixated on ensuring its populations fear Russia and are accepting of the narratives pushed on them. The EU released a new report this month repeating the narratives it has been accumulating to justify increasing actions against Russia, particularly since 2014 following the reunification of Crimea. It has passed a resolution stating that Russia could no longer be considered a strategic partner of the EU:
While condemning the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, as well as Russia’s continued violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia and Moldova, Members stressed that the EU cannot envisage a gradual return to business as usual until Russia fully implements the Minsk Agreement and restores the territorial integrity of Ukraine…

Members condemned Russia’s involvement in the Skripal case, and in disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks carried out by the Russian intelligence services aimed at destabilising public and private communications infrastructure and at increasing tensions within the EU and its Member States…

They are concerned about the relations between the Russian government and the extreme right-wing and populist nationalist parties and governments in the EU, such as in Hungary. They also recalled that the interference of Russian state actors in the referendum campaign on Brexit is currently under investigation by the UK authorities…

As Russia can no longer be considered a strategic partner in the current circumstances, Members believe that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement should be reconsidered…
Ministry of Truth?
As well as the coordinated strategic isolation of Russia by the EU, members of the G7 have signed up to a Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) designed to:
see hostile states publicly “called out” for their egregious behaviour – with coordinated international attribution of cyber and other attacks.
The agreement involves sharing intelligence, attribution of hostile activity and forming a common narrative and response, effectively a military-like propaganda coordination between the countries that can be applied for a chosen agenda.

To protect its version of history the EU has created mechanisms to fight off alternative realities, narratives, or truths – which ever word fits – claiming any fact or opinion contrary to those of the stated EU decree must be condemned as pro-Kremlin, pro-Russian, or “Putinist,” a derogatory depiction presently supported by the corporate media. The EU claims these “alternative narratives” are the product of a Russian disinformation campaign and has developed resources to “disprove” that disinformation. These are the EU vanguards of truth set up and funded by the European Council in 2015: the European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force or unaffectionately known here as Team East Stratcom. A brief study of their work only leads to further concerns about who is manufacturing history, but also to the likely conclusion that Team East Stratcom is made up of media studies students who drink beer and watch RT all day.

Here’s how Team East Stratcom describes itself in a Q&A:
Does the team engage in counter-propaganda?

No. It …identifies and corrects disinformation
Counter-propaganda vs correct disinformation (you say tomatto, I say tomayto).

Julian King, the EU’s security commissioner, has described it as a counter-propaganda cell. Come on Brussels, make up your mind.

What does Team East StratCom do, and what is the role of its website EUVDisinfo?
The Task Force reports on and analyses disinformation trends, explains and exposes disinformation narratives, and raises awareness of disinformation coming from Russian State, Russian sources and spread in the Eastern neighbourhood media space
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RUSSIAN MEMES: Official EU conspiracy theory diagram explains how “Russian disinfo” permeates mainstream western discourse (EU External Action 2017)

Firstly, who defines what is disinformation? Is it just assumed that any information emanating from a Russian media outlet is automatically disinformation?

Narratives and sources. Does this mean that any narrative which matches a Russian one is then classed as Russian in origin? If a Western alternative media outlet publishes a narrative which happens to match that of a Russian media outlet, does this then mean that the said alternative media outlet is “under Russian influence,” or “in league with the Kremlin”? Could such a politicized method of labelling lead to potential McCarthyite targeting of independent journalists?

The Task Force does not target opinions and does not seek to “blacklist” anyone. It checks facts and identifies disinformation coming from Russian State, Russian language and Eastern Neighbourhood media. It focuses on the disinformation message, not the messenger.

Yet, individual journalists are identified in many of these so-called “disinformation cases” and described as supporters of one leader or other on the EU’s list of bogeymen. Team East StratCom – there is no need to be shy about McCarthyism. Certain mainstream media stalwarts of establishment narratives are more upfront about whom they do and do not want in the club, as Oliver Kamm of The Times has demonstrated:
For an agency already struggling with the concept of truth, Team East StratCom is not off to a great start.

So how does Team East StratCom protect EU narratives? The European Council made it clear in 2015 they wanted to counter narratives about regime change in Ukraine and its consequences. In fact, about half of its “disinformation cases” are about Ukraine:
Ukraine tops the EUvsDisinfo database as the most frequent target with 461 references among a total of 1,000 disinformation cases reported in the course of 2018.
So how does Team East StratCom counter propaganda… sorry… correct disinformation? The following are a few case samples that help to illuminate their methodologies (although with a budget increase from €1.1 million in 2018 to €3 million in 2019, it may find new and diverse ones):

Disinformation Example 1: Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe

Team East StratCom argues that undermining the credibility of Ukraine benefits Russia. It reports that RT Deutsch described Ukraine as the most corrupt country in Europe. It then tries to debunk this using Transparency International’s corruption perception index, a chart which is created and paid for by Western neoliberal governments – the same ones that help to keep corrupt governments in power so long as they provide opportunities to serve Western corporate interests.

Team East StratCom tries to disprove this case by drawing our attention away from corruption in Europe to corruption worldwide. This puts 60 countries ahead of Ukraine. That is sneaky Team East StratCom because, aside from Russia, which we must believe is the most corrupt country in Europe, Ukraine actually tops the list. So why does the EU want to hide the extent of corruption in Ukraine and is it the only thing being hidden about the country? According to Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova the West wants to stop the world from recognising Crimea as part of Russia’s territory. In order to do this it must maintain a manufactured reality; the narrative of Ukraine being a victim of Russian aggression and in no way a liability due, at least in part, to the West’s meddling. This approach also entails downplaying any suggestion that the West planned and orchestrated a coup d’etat in Kiev in February 2014.

Disinformation Example 2: Far-right groups in Ukraine

This extract by Team East StratCom criticises the reporting of far-right groups in Ukraine:
Dehumanise, demoralise, make Ukraine the guilty party

Pro-Kremlin disinformation about Ukraine targets audiences in Russia, in Ukraine and in third countries, including the West. Domestic audiences in Russia are e.g. faced with narratives which dehumanise Ukrainians and show the authorities in Kyiv as a cynical modern heir to 20th century Nazism. Such a strategy can turn Ukraine into an acceptable target of the Kremlin’s military aggression.
The involvement of far right groups in the run-up to and during 2014 Maidan events and since, has already been widely reported across much of the global mainstream media, for example, herehereherehere and here, as well as in alternate media. To suggest that this narrative is Russian disinformation is ludicrous. What’s more, the European Parliament have already recognised in 2012 the threat of the far-right parties like Svoboda and Pravi Sektor in Ukrainian politics:
Parliament goes on to express concern about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada. It recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.
Team East StratCom, you are implying the EU dehumanised Ukraine! But then the EU did later drop its objection as members of the same racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic party gained positions in Ukraine’s government, so perhaps you will be forgiven. Perhaps sowing a little confusion of its own, is Brussels.

Disinformation Example 3: Russia is depicted as a “defender” and a “peacekeeper” and the West – as the villain.

Team East Stratcom likes using Twitter graphics as evidence when “disproving pro-Kremlin disinformation.” Never mind history, reason and common sense – just bring out a nice Twitter graphic! According to disinfo mavens, any spike in Twitter activity with the words “Russia” “Moscow” or “Putin” in reference to Venezuela is proof of a “pro-Kremlin” disinformation campaign, says Team East StratCom. Here is their graphical chart of Twitter traffic:

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But Russia is an ally of Venezuela so why would this not be reflected on Twitter when there is a blatant attempt by a Western aggressor to impose its military and economic will on Venezuela? Such was the situation in February when the US tried to pressure the Venezuelan government into allowing in trucks, supposedly carrying humanitarian aid, into the country. Aid as a Trojan Horse for weapons has historical context, especially with regards to the US and its new special envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, a convicted war criminal who illicitly supplied weapons to death squads in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala on behalf of the Reagan presidency in the 1980s. Now that he is special envoy to Venezuela, it is common sense to suspect foul play. Can such people really be seen as peacekeepers, Team East Stratcom? And using a Twitter graphic to divert attention from a flagrant coup attempt by an aggressive power is more than a little contemptible. What’s more, a few days afterwards, one of those trucks carrying supplies was found to contain nails and other materials useful for making barricades:
And so to sum up the tactics used by Team East StratCom for “disproving pro-Kremlin disinformation,” based on the above cases alone, a list could include for starters:

- Categorical denial of any wrongdoing by Western powers or NATO members
- Label any information emanating from a Russia media outlet as “disinformation” or “Kremlin propaganda”
- Discredit alternate media journalists who stray from Official Washington/London/Brussels position
- Diversion and distraction – dazzle the public with colourful Twitter graphics
- Remove any key political, geopolitical context
- Obscure or erase history
- Use of online tools like the Corruption Index promoted by same Western governments that fund bloody imperialist wars
- Use emotive, jingoistic themes
- Associate perceived ideological opponents with leaders on Western bogeyman list
- Repetition of pejorative terms and ad hominem smears such as “pro-Kremlin” and “Putinist” to create division
- Infer that any dissenter in the West is a “traitor.”
But Team East StratCom can’t erase history or delete context or bore us half to death with those Twitter graphics and still expect to retain their credibility.

What’s more, given the Russia-Trump collusion narrative has been exposed as a hoax, Team East StratCom really ought to let that one go.

Anyone for a pint?

Reprinted with permission from 21st Century Wire.

The Coldest Spot on Earth, Melting

Global warming is a fact of life that haunts society with consequences that hit hard, exponentially, but where nobody lives. It is happening hyper fast, and it’s downright scary as major ecosystems of the planet turn upside down in nasty fashion.

But none of the ecosystems has the punch of East Antarctica. Its clout is humongous with a couple hundred feet of fresh water contained in ice. When it rumbles, scientists pay attention.

In that regard, as a potential savior in the face of irrefutable global warming dangers, America is fortunate to have a powerful fighting spirit in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She has strong instincts about the dangers of global warming. She is beating the drums for a Green New Deal, which cannot come soon enough and, in fact, may not come soon enough to save most life on the planet. Meanwhile, Republicans belittle her as foolhardy, not in the spirit of America’s capitalistic enterprise. A socialist?

But, brushing aside off-putting Republican obstructionism, the planet is endorsing AOC, as it sends clear signals of impending disaster straight out of East Antarctica. After all, no signal can be as strong as the melting of the coldest spot on the planet, which is comparable to knocking someone in the head with a ball-peen hammer as a wake up call.

(As an aside: Nicola Jones has an excellent article about East Antarctica entitled: “Polar Warning: Even Antarctica’s Coldest Region Is Starting to Melt”, YaleEnvironment360, March 28, 2019, which, in part, inspired this article.)

East Antarctica is the final frontier of global warming, but alas, overwhelmed by too much heat from ocean waters heating up way too soon. The evidence is compelling. AOC has got it right! Global warming is in full throttle, haunting 10,000 years of the Holocene Era’s Goldilocks “not too hot, not too cold” pitch perfect planet coming to an end much sooner than scientists ever realized. It’s happening that fast, and AOC knows it.

The scientific community has always maintained that East Antarctica was not a major concern. With ice up to three miles thick and temperatures on average running around -65° F, seemingly it was immune to the ravages of global warming. But, shocking new discoveries are turning heads in the scientific community.

For example, Eric Rignot (professor, University of California/Irvine and principal scientist for the Radar Science & Engineering Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory) gave a recent lecture “Sea Level Rise and What To Do About It” at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C. on March 27th. Dr. Rignot has been responsible for groundbreaking research on the melting of glacial ice due to global warming.

Rignot opened his lecture by saying that polar ice caps are changing fast as a result of global warming, which is intriguing from a scientific viewpoint, But, for society at large, the bearer of bad news, stating:  “I don’t think you need to run for the hills, but I would walk.” Which is a bold statement with grave undertones.

Rignot’s lecture was laced with risks of rapid acceleration of glacial flow into the seas. It’s the flow of glaciers that carries the biggest risks; for example, if glacier flow overall happens to accelerate six times, it would produce 12-13 feet of sea level rise per century. Fortunately, that’s mostly in the abstract as of today, but some exceptions are now showing major cause for alarm.

East Antarctica is sending discomforting signals, and year-over-year scientists’ opinions have been sideswiped by acceleration of climate change. It happens where nobody lives, until it hits home. Then, everybody will see what scientists see at the fringes of continents and on vast uninhabited plains of tundra. Global warming’s impact is happening faster than scientists’ models can compute. Hidden danger exists all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole. It’s happening remarkably fast.

Nothing on the planet is so deeply troubling as East Antarctica melting… period! In fact, one of the fastest moving glaciers, the Totten Glacier alone contains ice equivalent to 12 feet sea level rise.

Here’s the grisly truth about the consequences of global warming: The following statistics come from an article in The National Academy of Sciences1 :

The total mass loss from Antarctica increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/y in the 11-y time period 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/y in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/y in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/y in 2009–2017, that is, by a factor 6.

That’s acceleration-plus, to wit, ten year cycles, except for 2009-17 (8 yrs.), demonstrated increasingly rapid acceleration year-over-year, as follows: 40 Gt (1979-1990), 50 Gt (1989-2000), 166 Gt (1999-2009), 252 Gt (2009-2017) sure looks like rapid acceleration. Doesn’t it?

According to Rignot, acceleration of Antarctic glaciers of 5-to-8 times already happened with the Larsen B ice shelf collapse years ago. Significantly, ice shelves hold back glacial flow like a hockey goalie, when he leaves the game the net is open. Similarly when the ice shelf collapses, glacial flow rolls ahead faster and faster without the ice shelf to stop it. In Larsen B’s case, sure enough glacial flow sped up 5-to-8 times. That’s big acceleration for a glacier. What if all of Antarctica’s glaciers follow suit?

According to Rignot, “Theoretically, if that happens continent-wide, it would raise sea levels by 13 feet per century.”

The main issue is: As the oceans have absorbed 85%-90% of planetary warming, those warmer waters are now registering heavy-duty impact in Antarctica.

Keeping in mind, it’s the first few feet of sea level rise that takes down one city after another and then another,starting with Miami Beach where global warming has already forced the city to raise streets by 2 feet.

For a photo of raised streets in Miami Beach, Google: “Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas” or “Miami is Racing Against Time to Keep Up with Sea-Level Rise.”

Alas, the worst-case scenario is already in motion along shorelines around the world, including, the Trump Resort in Ireland permit application to “build a seawall because of climate change”.

  1. Eric Rignot, et al, “Four Decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet Mass Balance from 1979-2017”, January 22, 2019.

US-Canada and Venezuela’s Bay of Pigs

The Canadian government under Justin Trudeau is undermining not just Canada’s (ok, undeserved) reputation as an honest, fair mediator, but he has chosen 2019 to make Canada the enabler of the worst of US imperial policies.

Yes, the Huawei debacle is an embarrassment that will be remembered more as a joke, though possibly as the Suez Crisis of the US empire.1 Whatever. Canada to the rescue! And of course, Canada reviles Islamic Iran, while shedding crocodile tears for the 50 Muslims murdered last week in New Zealand.

But the far more despicable, downright ‘war-crime’ territory is Canada’s role in undermining the Venezuelan socialist government. The US war on Venezuela has been ongoing ever since Hugo Chavez miraculously survived a US-backed coup in 2002. Canada has been a minor irritant to the socialists, but not the villain. Until now.

The scenario is a variation on Eisenhower in Iran 1953 and from Reagan on, JFK in Cuba 1961, Nixon in Chile 1973 … Same use of an angry old elitist fury that the common people were finally getting some justice. The current attempt at overthrowing the socialists is in full swing: total boycott, a lying media shrilly howling for President Maduro’s resignation, sabotage.

Canadian computer villains

Cyber warfare is use of computers, which can be hacked and infected with viruses. US-Israel developed the Stuxnet virus as a cyber weapon to sabotage Iran’s nuclear power program in 2010. Iran miraculously survived this — and 40 years of nonstop subversion, but it is exhausting. Iran is no longer so vulnerable, alhamdulillah.

What was meant to be the crowning achievement of imperial subterfuge in Venezuela was to use a similar computer breakdown of the electrical system of virtually the entire country. (Bad move to put all your electricity in one basket.)

In a Telesur interview (sorry, it’s banned under Canadian democracy), Professor Adriansa dealt with possible causes of the blackout at the Guri Dam Hydroelectric Project, which provides 70% of Venezuela’s electricity.

The dam was built in 1963 and expanded in 1976. Since 2000, there is an ongoing refurbishment project to extend the operation of Guri Power Plant by 30 years.

The Guri computer system which broke down was bought from ABB Canada, a subsidiary of ABB Switzerland and Sweden, in 2005, to interface with an existing centralized control system that was installed by SNC Lavalin. (yes, the SNC Lavalin)

Adriansa concluded the Guri computer system may already have had a backdoor built into it that would allow it to be hacked. Software or viruses could have been added gradually over a period of months. This would have required internal or ABB Canada complicity. As with the Stuxnet virus, software can be designed so that something would happen on a particular date.

The purpose — to paralyze Venezuela at the perfect moment, to create the psychological conditions the US has been seeking, where they wouldn’t have to bomb Venezuela. The Venezuelan people would give up their socialist project, the scenario goes, President Maduro would be driven from power, and the Venezuelan constitution would be repealed. Happy (imperial) ending.

Right on cue, as the hysterical demonstrations and containers of toothpaste and pasta were being burned on the Colombian border, with US troops on alert nearby, egged on by Quisling Juan Guaido, the entire electrical network of Venezuela was destroyed. For 12 days now, Venezuelans have been living on life support. So far, the people are not buying into the US plan to overthrow Maduro.

Can the Venezuelans hold firm through this latest colour revolution? Will they surrender to US diktat? I know if I were there, I would only be more committed to defeat the gringos and their lackeys.

CIA gift to Siberia

This cyber warfare really is old hat. It began as soon as computers became integral to industry back in the 1980s. The most spectacular example of this was the CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union, which resulted in “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space”.

The CIA covertly transferred computer technology — again via a Canadian company — containing malfunctions, including software, that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline in mid-1982, former air force secretary Thomas Reed revealed in his memoirs At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War (2004).

The US was trying to stop western Europe from importing Soviet natural gas. (Hey, isn’t that what the US is still trying to do, even after it destroyed the Soviet Union?) A KGB insider gained access to Russian purchase orders and the CIA slipped in the flawed software.

I hope the Bolivarians have backbone. They have to crack down on the traitors. It’s Cuba post-Bay-of-Pigs time. The white elite vs the brown socialists. Fighting the empire is not for the weak at heart. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

  1. The decline of the British empire reached its end in the 1950s with the Suez crisis, Eisenhower stopped cold a UK-led invasion of Egypt by threatening to dump Washington’s huge holdings of pound-sterling bonds and cripple the British financial system. At the same time, Britain’s remaining colonies were achieving independence. The attempt by the U.S. to undo China’s Huawei communications giant in 2018 has been compared to this period in British decline. China could sell its hoard of US Treasurys, creating a dollar crisis.

To Brexit or Not to Brexit?



The main problem with the question of Leave or Remain is that it’s not the question most people in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland are really interested in.  It’s just a very fraught proxy for the real question.

Every week as I engage in the by-now comfortably familiar process of following global news developments, thinking about what I want to address in this week’s missive, recording the podcast version of it, etc., it is a new weekly opportunity when I must once again observe that the world appears to be going to hell just as fast this week as it was last week. Catastrophic flooding on several continents at the same time, with an unknown and possibly vast death toll in Africa, where it appears entire cities may have drowned. Israeli missiles are once again raining down on the besieged outdoor prison known as Gaza. Christchurch is burying its dead. Trump has located the Golan Heights on a map. His Attorney General says he’s not working for Putin. And many other developments.

Prominent among them, of course, is the increasingly chaotic state of the farcically-named country known as the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Soon perhaps to be known as the United Kingdom of England and Wales. The political class in the country is in the midst of a real meltdown, and life is uncertain for many millions of people within and outside of the UK right now.

The question of how people and politicians should react to this volatile situation is certainly an important one, and I personally don’t pretend to have any useful advice for anyone. For whatever little it may be worth, whether I’m stating the obvious or not, what I do have to offer is this: the main reason the whole question of Brexit is so incredibly fraught is that the question of whether or not to leave the European Union isn’t really the question most people were seeking to answer. I’m quite convinced from spending a whole lot of my life playing music with and for the English working class in places like Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham or Leicester that the struggling English working class that is mainly responsible for the success of the Leave campaign is not actually interested in whether they’re governed from London or from Brussels.

Most of the people voting for Brexit probably knew that this wasn’t the choice they wanted to be voting on. They would much have preferred a vote between socialism and neoliberalism — in which case socialism would have won. They want a return to pre-Thatcher Britain, when most of the people governing the country at least believed in everyone in the country having the ability to live a dignified life with decent housing, education and health care. Their impression that the lobbyists in Brussels don’t have their best interests in mind is correct. They also know most of the politicians in London don’t have their best interests in mind either. Which is why the choice is so fraught — it’s the wrong choice.

Many of my left-wing friends in all corners of the United Kingdom voted both for and against Brexit. The campaign to Leave the EU may have been largely led by an assortment of nationalists and xenophobes, but those who voted to Leave are far from a homogeneous group. The notion that more local control might have more potential to lead to more local democracy is a sensible one. Having alliances and agreements with other nations makes sense for any country for so many reasons, but the question always is, what kinds of agreements, and for whose benefit?

Opposition to power shifting from national governments to Brussels has been widespread in many corners of European society, since the beginning of the EU, though listening to just about any of the English-language media these days you would be forgiven for thinking that the idea of local democracy is a racist conspiracy of the far right, funded by the Kremlin.

The first time I traveled around Europe as an adult was in 1995. I spent most of that trip in Ireland, England and Denmark. The trip began in Copenhagen. I knew I wanted to visit England and Ireland, but the fact that the trip included Denmark was an accident of Air Hitch. You could choose five different major European cities where you might end up, and you were only guaranteed that you’d end up in one of them within five days of your desired date of arrival. Copenhagen was where I ended up.

It was the spring of 1995, but it was literally only a matter of hours before I met people who were telling me about what had happened there on the streets of the city almost exactly two years earlier.

In 1993 a bare majority of Danish voters approved the Maastricht Treaty, which gave greater powers within the European Union to Brussels. It had to be passed by all the EU member states at the time, and the year before, Denmark had been the hold-out, rejecting the treaty in a vote in 1992. With barely any changes made, it was again brought to a popular vote the following year.

When it passed the second time, this was mainly because of voters from outside the only major city, Copenhagen. Most people in Copenhagen voted against it. In the diverse, largely left-wing neighborhood of Norrebro, protests turned to riots, with such intensity and mass participation that the vastly outnumbered riot police deployed for the occasion fired live ammunition at the people for the first time since the end of the Second World War, injuring eleven. None of those shot were members of the Right.

A Privileged Education: The US College Admissions Scandal

The oldest idea of history; the perennial problem of station: education.  Get the child as far as possible so that he or she can be propelled, as if from a trebuchet across the ramparts of life.  Nasty obstacles – one being a lack of intellect – will be cleared, and the wretched genetic issue will find itself in sinecures, positions of influence and sat upon the comfortable chairs of the establishment.

Universities should be places of educational exultation.  In practice, they have become creatures of the state, friends of various industrial complexes, and complicit in some of the darker tendencies of society.  Go to university, and understand dankness and rot; go to university, and acquaint yourself with what foul pools of unrefined group-think looks like.  (The very idea of a “school” of thinking is disturbingly boxed in nature.)

It is also clear that any institution which hands caps out in hope of filling them is bound to be influenced by the heaviest contribution, though how that contribution is assessed can be a point of conjecture.  As the issue of Benjamin Franklin’s diamond snuffbox, a present from Louis XVI showed, a gift might be as troublingly influential as a bribe.

Cap filling, in other words, is beyond rebuttal as a university practice.  What is significant is the form it takes.  It can either be subtle, with the old blood and club ties playing a role, greased by donations and a designated background; or it can be more direct, with employees of the university taking a cut, an overt way of exploiting the process.

Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, for instance, was of the latter persuasion, supplying what were considered by the university “fraudulent athletic endorsements” for two applicants.  One failed to get in; another was admitted around January 2018, with parents paying Rick Singer, the grand poohbah of the operation, $1.2 million for the facilitation of acceptance.  A good slice of $400,000 went to Meredith.

The Boston US Attorney’s Office got wind of the matter.  A federal grand jury subpoenaed the Yale Office of the General Counsel on November 16, 2018 requesting information about Meredith.  Full details were revealed once the charges were unsealed on March 12 this year.

Singer has made a pretty sum from such transactions in what appears to be the largest, and longest running college admissions scandal in US history, his modus operandi being the counterfeit athletic and exam profile (doctored photos and exam results, bogus special needs certificates).  Other colleges, coaches and parents, have found themselves wading in the pool of accusation, though Southern California seems to be ground zero in that regard.  Half of the 32 parents who found their way into the FBI affidavit filed in the US District Court in Boston are linked to USC, accused of old fashioned bribery of college entrance exam administrators, varsity coaches and administrators responsible for athletics recruitment and using “the façade of a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments.”

This Monday, former coaches from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University, part of a select dozen, pleaded not guilty to charges that they had participated in the scheme.  The list reads like a thick who’s who of the establishment gone south: former USC women’s soccer coaches Ali Khoroshahin and Laura Janke; former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, and Gordon Ernst, Georgetown’s former head tennis coach.  They are said to be part of an enterprise of 50 individuals, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, part of a racketeering project worth $25 million.

As is the nature of such processes, universities retreat behind an assembled body of rules and spectral processes that are supposed to guarantee accountability.  Yale’s attempt to do so in this latest college admissions scandal fails to disappoint. “On the very rare occasion when Yale receives an allegation that a current student included false information in application,” explains the university in a statement, “Yale gives the student the opportunity to address the allegation.”  If the university deems the allegation true, “the student’s admission is rescinded, based on language in the application that requires applicants to affirm that everything in the application is true and complete.”

The university also denies, in an effort to ward off speculation on the subject, that there is “no evidence that a student admitted under this scheme has graduated.”  Traditional, indirect ways of influence tend to be then norm; the recent US college admissions scheme was simply more daring, and brazen, in its implementation.  It was daylight looting.

It all comes down to style and method.  Daniel Golden had already shown in his 2006 publication The Price of Admission, that the wealthy in the US purchase a pathway for under-achieving offspring into elite universities via enormous, tax-deductible donations and the exertion of influence on appropriate university committees.  Take a certain Charles Kushner, New Jersey real estate developer, who pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998.  Son Jared, hardly jaw dropping with his SAT or GPA scores, was duly admitted, the rate of acceptance then being one out of nine.

That decision was greeted with consternation at The Frisch School in Paramus, NJ, Jared’s boyhood stomping ground.  “There was,” opined a former official of the school, “no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard.”  The backfill response, often coming from a spokesperson for Kushner Companies, has always been consistent: there was no link between Charles Kushner’s gift, and his son’s admission.

Similar principles, at a stretch, apply to Oxbridge, but the British tend to prefer the subtlety that comes with hypocrisy and class impenetrability. As UK Professor David Andress wondered when looking at the US example, “Why these people didn’t just make strategic donations, perfectly legally, to achieve the same end…”  And so he tails off; thickness can only go so far. What is needed there is an additional good “blag” factor, a heftily billed private school education, and good family ties.  Exaggerated sporting achievement can help.

This is the issue of corruption in universities who, like any bureaucratic institution linked with establishment values, desire money and possess a self-subsisting interest in supporting its favourites.  Where education is not universally free, favours will be done, or at least be seen to be done.  Appropriate backs will be rubbed.  Regulations written in mosaic stone will be broken if needed. In some cases, no law need ever be broken; appearances will triumph.