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30 November, 2017

China ready to dominate the CryptoCurrency markets of the future using supercomputer power superiority

Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss China's superiority in supercomputer power field and the possible impact on China's domination in the CryptoCurrency markets of the future. As Herbert describes based on a related article from Technology Review:

If you want to crunch the world’s biggest problems, head east. According to a newly published ranking, not only is China home to the world’s two fastest supercomputers, it also has 202 of the world’s fastest 500 such devices—more than any other nation. Meanwhile, America’s fastest device limps into fifth place in the charts, and the nation occupies just 144 of the top 500 slots, making it second according to that metric.

The world’s fastest supercomputer is still TaihuLight, housed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, China. Capable of performing 93 quadrillion calculations per second, it’s almost three times faster than the second-place Tianhe-2. The Department of Energy’s fifth-placed Titan supercomputer, housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, performs 17.6 quadrillion calculations per second—making it less than a fifth as fast as TaihuLight.

The American government is painfully aware that it’s now a laggard, and a $258 million funding injection into the Department of Energy’s exascale computing project is supposed to ready a system capable of performing one quintillion operations per second—10 times the capacity of TaihuLight—by 2021. But, er, China reckons it will achieve the same feat as soon as 2020. Right now, then, China has America’s supercomputing industry beat.

As Keiser points out:

This is very important because competing power and speed are the defining characteristics of a superpower. It's not about weapons, it's not about infrastructure so much, it's not about having cultural soft power. It's about having really fast supercomputers.

One obvious application is that China will be in a position to dominate the CryptoCurrency market, and CryptoCurrency market is the de facto 21st century economy and finance and currency, so this is part of the Chinese 21st century program, China 2025.

The article from the Technology Review also describes a fierce competition between China and the United States in the supercomputer power field. However, concerning the CryptoCurrency markets, China has already a big disadvantage against the US, not only because of its current superiority in supercomputers, but mostly because of the different policies adopted. The United States insists on the obsolete system of the traditional US dollar as the global exchange currency, while struggles to maintain that system through wars and devastating interventions around the globe, exactly because the US foreign policy has been totally surrendered to the financial-military-industrial complex.

As has been described recently, Russia also made a first move to issue its own CryptoCurrency. While Vladimir Putin implied that CryptoRouble comes as a natural attempt by Russia to participate in rapid developments in the sector of monetary and commercial transactions, it is quite probable that there are other reasons too. At the time where Russia struggles to overcome continuous sanctions by the West and BRICS seek complete independence from the Western monetary monopoly, the move could contribute significantly towards the achievement of both of these goals.

Previously, we had the first serious attack against Bitcoin by the Western banking cartel through JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, which was a serious indication that Bitcoin and other CryptoCurrencies could become a real threat against cartel's monetary monopoly, which gives significant power to the mega-banks of the West, even up to the point to 'design' major financial crises.

Dimon's attack could be related to a recent statement made by the Head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev, that the BRICS are considering to create their own CryptoCurrency for the purposes of global commerce.

Such a move could help BRICS to decouple economies from the Western neoliberal monetary monopoly, even faster. With the technology of more powerful computers in close future that could 'mine' CryptoCurrencies at much faster rate, the number of people who will choose to abandon traditional currencies may rise rapidly. Those who will set-up such a de-centralized financial system, will gain a great advantage against the obsolete system of traditional currencies controlled by central banks.

Petrodollar already struggles to maintain its dominance as many countries have chosen to 'revolt' against it and proceed in major transactions with domestic currencies, or suggest such an alternative. Latest example, Venezuela.

As the BRICS bloc grows economically quite fast, the prospect of a BRICS CryptoCurrency will contribute to the quicker demolition of dollar domination. There is a deeper reason for which the US empire is terrified in such a case. Since the early 70s with the abolition of the gold standard, dollar became the dominant currency in global scale. This fact permitted the US financial-military-industrial complex, expressed by the neocon/neoliberal ideology, to design economic and military wars in every corner of the planet to maximize its power and profits. All it needed was just machines printing dollars. The rest was the easy part.

Therefore, the prospect of a global economy flooded with decentralized CryptoCurrencies and other CryptoCurrencies issued by a major rival bloc, will become the worst nightmare for the US empire and its Western allies.

As one can understand, the CryptoMarket anarchists have nothing to fear. A CryptoCurrency issued by BRICS, or some member-states, or even other countries separately, will not be a threat for the decentralized nature of the rest of CryptoCurrencies. On the contrary, it will give them a significantly wider field and greater opportunities for all kinds of transactions inside a dynamically growing economic bloc which, if nothing else, does not rely on wars and destruction to maintain its dominance.

UK police investigation of Snowden leak journalists enters fourth year

A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists who have worked with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents is still active more than four years after it was launched, The Intercept has learned.

The investigation – codenamed “Operation Curable” – is being led by a counterterrorism unit within London’s Metropolitan Police, under the direction of the force’s head of Specialist Operations, Mark Rowley. The Metropolitan Police confirmed the status of the investigation last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The disclosure that the probe remains active prompted criticism on Monday from the National Union of Journalists, the U.K.’s largest journalists’ organization. Sarah Kavanagh, a spokesperson for the group, said that news reports based on the Snowden documents had exposed unlawful covert surveillance activities in the public interest.

The media are often the only group in society able to reveal the intelligence and security forces have exceeded their legitimate powers and remit,” Kavanagh said. “The Met Police should be condemned for keeping journalists under investigation because they worked on the Snowden leaks. The investigation should be halted immediately. Journalism is not a crime.

The origins of the investigation can be traced back to May 2013, when Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, turned over a cache of classified documents about government surveillance to journalists, including Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald, who was at that time working for British news organization The Guardian. Among the documents were details about mass surveillance programs operated by the U.K.’s largest spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Full report:

Το Bitcoin καταναλώνει όσο ρεύμα χρειάζεται η Ελλάδα για έξι μήνες

Οι ηλεκτρονικοί υπολογιστές που χρησιμοποιούνται για την παραγωγή του κρυπτονομίσματος Bitcoin καταναλώνουν μέσα σε ένα χρόνο όση ενέργεια καταναλώνει ολόκληρη η Ελλάδα σε ένα εξάμηνο.

Συγκεκριμένα, σύμφωνα με έρευνα του Digiconomist, οι μηχανές του δικτύου του Bitcoin καταναλώνουν 30,14 TWh (Τεραβατώρες) ανά έτος, τη στιγμή που αντίστοιχη ποσότητα (περίπου 28,2 TWh ) χρειάζεται η Ελλάδα ανά εξάμηνο.

Η ιδιαίτερα μεγάλη κατανάλωση οφείλεται στο ότι στο δίκτυο του Bitcoin ιδιαίτερα ενεργοβόρες μηχανές λειτουργούν αδιάκοπα, προκειμένουν να επιβεβαιώσουν τις συναλλαγές που πραγματοποιούνται με το κρυπτονόμισμα. Καθώς η βάση της αξιοπιστίας του είναι ότι οι συναλλαγές επιβεβαιώνονται μέσω αλγορίθμων, η τεράστια κατανάλωση ενέργειας είναι το τίμημα που πρέπει να πληρωθεί για να αποφεύγονται οι απάτες. Για κάθε μία συναλλαγή με Bitcoin υπολογίζεται ότι απαιτούνται περίπου 300KWh.

Οι πληροφορίες αυτές κυκλοφορούν λίγες μέρες αφ’ότου η τιμή του Bitcoin έφτασε στα υψηλότερα επίπεδά της. Και όσο η τιμή του ανεβαίνει, τόσο θα αυξάνεται και η απαιτούμενη ενέργεια, καθώς όλο και περισσότεροι υπολογιστές θα λειτουργούν για το δίκτυο.


New evidence for the surprisingly significant propaganda role of the CIA and the DOD in the screen entertainment industry

This article reassesses the relationships of the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense with the American entertainment industry. Both governmental institutions present their relationships as modest in scale, benign in nature, passive, and concerned with historical and technical accuracy rather than politics. The limited extant commentary reflects this reassuring assessment. However, we build on a patchy reassessment begun at the turn of the 21st century, using a significant new set of documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. We identify three key facets of the state-entertainment relationship that are under-emphasized or absent from the existing commentary and historical record: 1. The withholding of available data from the public; 2. The scale of the work; and 3. The level of politicization. As such, the article emphasizes a need to pay closer attention to the deliberate propaganda role played by state agencies in promoting the US national security state through entertainment media in western societies.

Part 2 - The Withholding of Available Data from the Public

The largest library archive about the DOD’s influence on entertainment is held at Georgetown University and curated by Lawrence Suid. The authors and several colleagues of different ages, genders, and levels of academic experience requested access to these files. Suid rejected each request. In his clearest refusal to share material, Suid explained that, ‘I trust you will understand the difficulty I would have in opening my files while I am still using them’,1 though he has not generated any new analysis since 2005.

In 2004, Robb highlighted some egregious examples of the DOD exerting political influence over Hollywood scripts. Despite his extensive discussion of the archived documentation, Suid’s books have made no direct reference to the politically-motivated changes on numerous films, including: Clear and Present Danger (e.g. removal of racist language by the President); Tomorrow Never Dies (e.g. removal of a joke about the US losing the Vietnam War); Contact (e.g. changing a scene that makes the military appear paranoid); Thirteen Days (e.g. an attempt to convince the producers that the Joint Chiefs had behaved responsibly during the Cuban Missile Crisis); Windtalkers (e.g. a scene depicting a historically accurate Marine war crime was removed) – as discussed below – as well as Tears of the Sun (the military prevented the depiction of ‘nasty conspiracies’); The Green Berets (e.g. references to the illegal US bombing of Laos were removed); Rules of Engagement (e.g. the lead character is ‘toned down’); Black Hawk Down (e.g. a scene depicting the military machine gunning wild boar is removed); and Goldeneye (the nationality of a duped American Admiral is changed), as discussed in Alford and Secker’s 2017 book. Although Suid gives good coverage of film releases that have been denied cooperation, he chooses not to comment whatsoever on productions that were terminated due to the DOD’s refusal to cooperate, including Countermeasures, Top Gun II, and Fields of Fire.

Direct approaches to the DOD’s ELO have also proven to be of dubious utility. Strub claimed ‘I stopped keeping paper records long ago. I don’t maintain electronic ones, either’ and that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request could only disclose, at best, a ‘brief entry in an incomplete data base’. He suggested we contact Suid, which only serves to highlight how the presence of Suid has helped insulate the DOD from the FOIA (Strub, 2014).

Actually, although the ‘incomplete data base’ is mostly lacking information about the degree of political influence and script changes brought to bear by the DOD, it does contain some relevant new data and it helped clarify the scale of DOD support to entertainment products. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of the new data concerns what the military provided to the filmmakers in terms of access to people, locations and vehicles and does not record what the Pentagon asked for in return. Similarly, our request to the US Navy for copies of script notes on recently-supported productions resulted, after well over a year’s delay, in a response saying that they do not keep copies of script notes (2017). We appealed and provided them with a copy of their own notes on Lone Survivor, released to another requester, but no further information has so far been forthcoming.

The available CIA records regarding their involvement in and influence on entertainment products are even more scant. While hundreds of pages of emails and memos regarding Zero Dark Thirty were released in response to a FOIA lawsuit, the equivalent records regarding other CIA-supported productions have never been released. Secker and others have requested files on Argo and Top Chef – which unlike Zero Dark Thirty were even granted permission to film at CIA headquarters – but the CIA’s responses say they cannot find even a single document.

The same problem applies to the Chase Brandon era (1996–2006) in the CIA’s liaison office. According to his successor, Paul Barry, when Brandon left the Agency in late 2006 he took all his papers with him, and so ‘nothing remains from the past’ (quoted in Jenkins, 2009). Tricia Jenkins’ work suggests two alternative reactions to this hole in the CIA’s records: (1) that it does not make much difference because, as producer Michael Beckner put it, ‘everything he did with the CIA was done on a handshake and a phone call’ (Jenkins, 2016: 69) and so Brandon’s paper-trail was probably minimal anyway; and (2) that it might matter enormously because extensive memos show that Chase Brandon was responsible for essentially ghost-writing the film The Recruit and so, presumably, he used this written method for a considerable body of material. The 2016 edition of Jenkins’ book The CIA in Hollywood cites documents from an unspecified court case proving how:

[Brandon’s] role far exceeded the one that even an aggressive studio executive or producer would play in the development of the film … one can’t help but wonder why [writer Roger] Towne and [producer Jeff] Apple allowed Brandon to have so much creative control over the original script unless it was always understood to be a CIA written film disguised as an independent production. (p. 87)

Jenkins concludes that ‘it is clear that Brandon was far more involved in some films’ actual development than anyone outside of the industry previously imagined’ (p. 87).

Overall, then, institutional secrecy makes it impossible to assess the true scale and nature of the political influence wielded on Hollywood by these two institutions, especially the CIA. We only know that in some well-documented instances it is fundamental to the politics of these entertainment products (we discuss some examples below). The CIA seems to have taken its popular refrains like ‘the secret of our success is the secret of our success’ and applied them to its work on entertainment productions. In the wake of Robb’s criticism, the DOD further limited public access to source materials that reveal script changes by replacing the twentieth century style of paper trail with more circumspect and anodyne diary-style activities reports. This lack of transparency could presumably be quickly reversed, were it not for a mindset that does not want the public to know.

Source, links, references:

[1] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Read also:

21st-century industrial revolution: Will robots steal your job?

Part 3

The idea of a universal basic income for all citizens, regardless of employment status, is an attractive one. Few would disagree with the idea of creating a safety net to ensure that someone who is down on their luck or unemployed could afford food, shelter and clothing at a minimum.

However, extending universal basic income to the entire working population of a large country could be less feasible than introducing it in certain cities or for select populations. For example, there are presently around 32 million employed adults in the UK plus almost another nine million economically inactive individuals aged 16-64. If each of these roughly 40 million people received, say, £500 each month, this would equate to almost £20 billion a month or £240 billion a year – approximately double the annual NHS budget. It’s difficult to imagine this occurring at a time when governments across Europe are taking every opportunity to implement austerity.

Billionaire Elon Musk, a proponent of universal basic income, feels that in the face of increased automation “People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things… Certainly more leisure time.” Some individuals who find their jobs taken over by robots might seize the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends or relish the chance to pursue a favorite hobby or study a topic of interest, whilst receiving a modest allowance.

However, some people might find themselves struggling to cope with the lack of a daily routine alongside social isolation and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, all of which are to some degree tempered by having a job, especially one involving physical labor.

The socioeconomic paradigm shift resulting from the combination of automation and a universal basic income would be unprecedented as relationships between workers, bosses, society and the government would be drastically affected. It might even be more profitable for owners of large industries to pay their workers a subsistence wage to stay at home, whilst outsourcing their jobs to robots and computers who don’t require breaks, sick pay or pensions, won’t go on strike on account of poor working conditions or inadequate health and safety standards, and won’t raise thorny issues such as asking for a share of company profits in exchange for labor performed or suggesting factories be run as workers’ cooperatives.

Maintaining a high profit margin without having to deal with trade unions, strikes or irate workers: a capitalist’s dream. Meanwhile, the workers can stay at home, isolated from each other, as they enjoy the latest soap opera and read juicy tabloid gossip. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: society, work and our daily lives are set to see radical change over the coming decades.


Source, links:

[1] [2]

How Social Media is leveling the playing field between governments, militants, and ordinary people

Part 4

In a 2007 paper titled “Of Networks and Nations,” John Arquilla, an expert of new patterns of warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School, argued that loosely knit sets of global and regional networks, enabled by the internet, had begun to challenge the authority of nation-states in the same way that nation-states had challenged the authority of empires a century earlier.

In recent years, transnational militant groups, civil society activists, and hackers have all been able to inflict defeats on lumbering state adversaries, in part by leveraging the speed of connectivity and communication afforded by the internet. “The networks came to push, to prod, and to confront. They came to solve the supranational problems of injustice, inequity and environmental degradation that a nation-based capitalist system could never, in their view, deal with adequately,” wrote Arquilla. “In short, the networks came to change things, and they came not in peace but with swords.

The 21st century has seen the rise of “gray-zone conflicts,” where armed force, politics, and media increasingly blur together, such as the 2014 war between Israel and the Palestinians. Gray-zone conflicts are seldom interstate wars but are more likely to be civil uprisings, conflicts between states and militant groups, and domestic insurgences. As scholars David Barno and Nora Bensahel have written, these conflicts “involve some aggression or use of force, but in many ways their defining characteristic is ambiguity — about the ultimate objectives, the participants, whether international treaties and norms have been violated, and the role that military forces should play in response.

It is within this ambiguous environment that information warfare waged online by activist groups and individuals is playing a critical, at times even definitive role. As the dominance over information flows held by nation-states evaporates, their ability to control the trajectory of conflicts by managing international opinion and maintaining domestic authority is eroding as well.

The threat of this change, as well as the political impact of viral misinformation, has led to calls from some corners for greater regulation and involvement by tech companies in putting curbs on online speech. Although improved media education for the general public is likely necessary, any nostalgia for an earlier era when information was controlled by a few hegemonic media institutions is wildly misplaced.

If we allow the problems that exist with social media and new technologies to be used as a pretext to roll things back, it would be the ultimate crime,” says Sienkiewicz. “The old media environment in which billions of people had little access to getting their stories told – in which entire classes of people were effectively deemed by media institutions as not worth reporting on – is not something that we should want to return to. We should address the problems that exist with new media, not try to turn back the clock and deem this all a failed experiment.

For better or worse, thanks to social media and smartphones, a version of the “guerilla world war” predicted by Marshall McLuhan – a war over information drawing in states, militaries, activists, and ordinary people in equal measure – has come into existence. The consequences are likely to transform politics, conflict, and daily life for generations to come. McLuhan himself suggested that surviving in this new world would be possible only through a conscious embrace of change, rather than a retreat into reactionary policies.

The new technological environments generate the most pain among those least prepared to alter their old value structures,” he said, in a 1969 interview with Playboy Magazine. “When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury.

But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place.


Source, links:

[1] [2] [3]

Read also:

29 November, 2017

The death of Net Neutrality: How corporate monopolies will sabotage independent information

Kit Walsh, a staff attorney at EFF, working on free speech, net neutrality, copyright, coders' rights, and other issues, spoke to Aaron Mate and The Real News about the latest developments on Trump administration's attempt to kill Net Neutrality.

Walsh gave an example of how the corporate cartel on the Internet field will attempt to sabotage independent websites that are not aligned with the mainstream media narratives, in case that the plan of the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, will pass through Congress.

Walsh also revealed that there is a continuous fierce fight between the public who overwhelmingly supports free Internet and the corporate monopolies who seek to impose a covert censorship through a new McCarthyism in order to silent the truly independent information inside the Web.

Walsh describes the kind of blackmail and sabotage against an independent news website like the Real News:

For instance, Comcast owns a share in Universal Media Company. AT&T has its own streaming media platform. Verizon briefly had a news platform where they said that people were not to discuss net neutrality or mass surveillance, because that was contrary to their corporate interests.

So, what companies can do if this proposed order goes through is they'll be able to threaten to block access to your website. So they'll say, "Hey Real News, it would be a shame if you could no longer reach Verizon customers. Why don't you pay us an extra fee?" And short of that, they can say, "We're going to speed up our own news content. It's gonna be a better experience for people. And your connection is going to be degraded."

That connection, that internet subscribers are already paying for, they're gonna put road bumps in the way so, when they go to watch the Real News, they're not able to get a high quality stream. They have to make do with less bandwidth or it's less reliable.

In the previous cycle, back in 2015. We broke records for comments to the FCC. And the overwhelming majority were in favor of protecting net neutrality with legally enforceable rules, which ultimately it did. This cycle, there were a lot of comments from both sides. There were some form letters, many of which are people legitimately agreeing with the content of those form letters, some maybe not. And under any measure, the FCC has acknowledged that the majority favored net neutrality and keeping the existing scheme. And an analysis that was done by the ISPs themselves, which you would expect to favor their side, actually found that of all the people who went to the FCC website, who bothered to type in their own unique comments, 98 percent favored net neutrality. So, it's very clear that public sentiment is on the side of keeping these rules. People are not interested in handing over control of what they're able to read and do online to their internet service providers.

Yesterday was the day that Ajit Pai announced his intentions clearly. And just that day alone, our coalition drove 175,000 calls to Congress. Congress is the place where the FCC vote can be stopped right now. So the today's announcement is just a proposed order. They're going to vote December 14th. FCC votes have been stopped in the past. And if we keep melting down the phone lines at Congress, that's our best shot.

Therefore, what we will see in case that the new plan will pass through Congress, is a further, official step by the establishment to silence independent information sources.

Τι σημαίνει η ένταξη της Ελλάδας στον άξονα ΗΠΑ-Ισραήλ-Σαουδικής Αραβίας

του Αρη Χατζηστεφάνου

Η δήλωση του υπουργού Άμυνας ότι η Ελλάδα ανήκει «στον ίδιο άξονα με τη Σαουδική Αραβία» αποτελεί τη δημόσια παραδοχή μιας πολιτικής που οικοδομείται στην Αθήνα από την πρώτη στιγμή της διακυβέρνησης ΣΥΡΙΖΑΝΕΛ. Τώρα, με δεδομένες τις εκρηκτικές εξελίξεις που πυροδοτεί η κατάρρευση του μετώπου του ISIS στη Μέση Ανατολή, αυτή η σύμπραξη απειλεί να σύρει τη χώρα σε εξαιρετικά επικίνδυνα μονοπάτια τόσο για την εξωτερική όσο και την εσωτερική της ασφάλεια.

Τις τελευταίες δεκαετίες η Ουάσινγκτον αποτελούσε ταυτόχρονα σύμμαχο του Ισραήλ και της Σαουδικής Αραβίας – δυο χωρών που θεωρητικά τουλάχιστον βρίσκονταν σε ανειρήνευτη αντιπαράθεση από τις αρχές της δεκαετίας του ’70 με τον πόλεμο του Γιομ Κιπούρ και τον πετρελαϊκό αποκλεισμό που αποφάσισε ο ΟΠΕΚ.

Όπως έχουμε εξηγήσει όμως πολλές φορές στο παρελθόν το Ριάντ και το Τελ Αβίβ αποφάσισαν εδώ και χρόνια να ενώσουν τις δυνάμεις τους απέναντι στον βασικό τους εχθρό, το Ιράν. Οι πρώτες επαφές ξεκίνησαν σε επίπεδο μυστικών υπηρεσιών και συνεχίστηκαν με υποσχέσεις εμπορικής συνεργασίας αλλά και την πρόθεση του Ριάντ να ανοίξει τον εναέριο χώρου του σε ισραηλινά μαχητικά για ασκήσεις (ακριβώς δηλαδή ότι έκανε και η κυβέρνηση ΣΥΡΙΖΑΝΕΛ).

Η πρωτοφανής διπλωματική επίθεση του Ριάντ εναντίον του Κατάρ επιτάχυνε τον γάμο ευκαιρίας καθώς το Ισραήλ κατηγορούσε για χρόνια το εμιράτο ότι στηρίζει οικονομικά την οργάνωση Χαμάς.

Ο πραγματικός συνδετικός κρίκος, όμως, μεταξύ των ΗΠΑ, του Ισραήλ και της Σαουδικής Αραβίας ήταν η προσπάθειά τους να διεμβολίσουν το στρατηγικό τόξο που επιχειρούσε να στήσει η Τεχεράνη με τη Συρία και την οργάνωση Χεζμπολάχ του Λιβάνου. Για αυτό το λόγο και οι τρεις χώρες είτε ενίσχυσαν έμπρακτα ή ανέχτηκαν την γιγάντωση του Ισλαμικού Κράτους, το οποίο μάχονταν όλου τους συμμάχους της Τεχεράνης (την σιιτική κυβέρνηση του Ιράκ, το καθεστώς Ασαντ στη Συρία και την Χεζμπολάχ στο Λίβανο).

Ο ρόλος των ΗΠΑ, στην χρηματοδότηση, την εκπαίδευση και τον εξοπλισμό εξτρεμιστών ισλαμιστών οι οποίοι συνενώθηκαν υπό την ομπρέλα του Ισλαμικού Κράτους, είναι γνωστός και πολύ καλά τεκμηριωμένος εδώ και χρόνια.

Η διαδικασία αυτή γινόταν με τη χρηματοδότηση της Σαουδικής Αραβίας (όπως ακριβώς δημιουργήθηκε δηλαδή και το κίνημα των Μουτζαχεντίν στο Αφγανιστάν τη δεκαετία του 80) και άλλων αραβικών καθεστώτων. Όπως είχαν αποκαλύψει οι Financial Times ο πρίγκηπας Σαούντ, της Σαουδικής Αραβίας είχε δηλώσει στον τότε υπουργό Εξωτερικών των ΗΠΑ, Τζον Κέρι, ότι «o ISIS είναι η (σουνιτική) απάντησή μας στην υποστήριξη που παρέχετε στο Dawa (σιιτικό κόμμα στο Ιράκ)».

Να θυμίσουμε για άλλη μια φορά ότι σε εμπιστευτικό μήνυμά της, που διέρρευσε στο Wikileaks, η Αμερικανίδα πρώην υπουργός Εξωτερικών Χίλαρι Κλίντον ανέφερε ότι η Σαουδική Αραβία «προσφέρει μυστική οικονομική και επιμελητειακή υποστήριξη στον ISIS και σε άλλες εξτρεμιστικές ομάδες σουνιτών στην περιοχή».

To Ισραήλ, από την πλευρά του, εκτός από το να βομβαρδίζει τις συριακές δυνάμεις που μάχονταν τον ISIS, προσέφερε και απευθείας οικονομική βοήθεια, μαζί με καύσιμα και τρόφιμα, σε ισλαμιστές μαχητές στο εσωτερικό της Συρίας, όπως είχε αποκαλύψει η εφημερίδα Wall Street Journal.

Άλλωστε σειρά Ισραηλινών αξιωματούχων είχε αναφερθεί στη σημασία που έχουν οι δυνάμεις του ISIS για τα συμφέροντα του Ισραηλινού κράτους. Το κορυφαίο ισραηλινό ίδρυμα ερευνών BESA, γνωστό στην Ελλάδα και από τις στενές σχέσεις που διατηρεί με το υπουργείο Άμυνας επί κυβερνήσεως ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, χαρακτήριζε «στρατηγικό λάθος» το ενδεχόμενο διάλυσης του ISIS επισημαίνοντας ότι «η διατήρηση της παρουσίας του ISIS εξυπηρετεί στρατηγικούς στόχους (του Ισραήλ)».

Άλλοι αξιωματούχοι του στρατού εξηγούσαν σε απεσταλμένο του Politico ότι το Ιράν αποτελεί μεγαλύτερη απειλή «σε σχέση με την παγκόσμια τζιχάντ», δηλαδή τον «ιερό πόλεμο» του Ισλαμικού Κράτους.

Οι τρεις «σωματοφύλακες» του ISIS όμως, οι ΗΠΑ, το Ισραήλ και η Σαουδική Αραβία, είδαν αυτό το τόσο πολύτιμο εργαλείο τους να χάνει μια μετά την άλλη τι μάχες.

Πρόσφατα, οι συριακές κυβερνητικές δυνάμεις, υποστηριζόμενες από σιιτικές δυνάμεις από το Ιράκ και το Λίβανο – που με τη σειρά τους στηρίζονται από το Ιράν – απομάκρυναν τους μαχητές του Ισλαμικού Κράτους από το τελευταίο τους προπύργιο στη Συρία – την πόλη Αλμπού Καμάλ στις όχθες του Ευφράτη.

Ο καθοριστικός ρόλος που έπαιξε και η Τεχεράνη σε αυτή την εξέλιξη έχει σημάνει συναγερμό στις ΗΠΑ, τη Σαουδική Αραβία και το Ισραήλ, που συνειδητοποιούν ότι το Ιράν δημιουργεί και πάλι μια γεωπολιτική «γέφυρα» για την προβολή της ισχύος του στο Λίβανο, τη Συρία και το Ιράκ.

Ο άξονας Ουάσιγκτον – Τελ Αβίβ – Ριάντ επιχειρεί να τινάξει αυτή τη γέφυρα στον αέρα με συντονισμένες κινήσεις που στοχεύουν στη συμφωνία για τα πυρηνικά του Ιράν, αλλά και την πρόκληση αναταραχής στο Λίβανο. (ακούστε το σχετικό αφιέρωμα του INFO-WAR εδώ).

Η ήττα του ISIS οδηγεί δηλαδή σε κλιμάκωση της επιθετικότητας των τριών δυνάμεων, οι οποίες καλούνται πλέον να δράσουν ανοιχτά για να εξασφαλίσουν τα πλεονεκτήματα που τους προσέφερε μέχρι σήμερα η δράση του ISIS.

Η συμμετοχή της κυβέρνησης Τσίπρα σε αυτόν τον «άξονα του κακού» απειλεί, για πρώτη φορά εδώ και δεκαετίες, να σύρει και τη χώρα μας στο επίκεντρο του νέου γεωπολιτικού τυφώνα.

Η στρατιωτική συνεργασία με το Ισραήλ (με αποκορύφωμα την εκπαίδευση ισραηλινών πιλότων σε προσομοιώσεις επιθέσεων στο Ιράν), η σύσφιξη των σχέσεων με το Ριάντ και η ενίσχυση των αμερικανικών στρατιωτικών βάσεων, που συμφώνησε ο Τσίπρας με τον Τραμπ, φέρνουν την Ελλάδα στην πρώτη γραμμή της αντιπαράθεσης.

Έχοντας χάσει την – φαινομενική τουλάχιστον – ουδετερότητά της, στα μάτια του αραβικού κόσμου, η Ελλάδα μπαίνει σε μια μάχη από την οποία δεν έχει να κερδίσει τίποτα και έχει να χάσει πάρα πολλά. Τα νέα προσφυγικά ρεύματα που θα φτάσουν στην Ελλάδα αλλά και η εξάπλωση τρομοκρατικών πυρήνων στην Ευρώπη είναι οι προφανείς συνέπειες μια ενδεχόμενης ανάφλεξης για την οποία η ελληνική κυβέρνηση θα είναι ταυτόχρονα θύτης και θύμα.

Πηγή, σύνδεσμοι:

China unveils next-gen intercontinental ballistic missile

Beijing’s Dongfeng-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test was broadcast over China Central Television on Sunday, about one week after images of the multi-warhead missile went viral across Chinese social media platforms.

The missile has been tested eight times, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which reported that the most recent launch took place early November somewhere in China's western desert region.

DF-41 is one of the farthest traveling ICBMs in the world, rubbing shoulders with Israel's Jericho 3, Russia's RS-26 Rubezh and the US' LGM-30 Minuteman III.

According to Chinese state media, the ICBM has a range of 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles), can strike within 328 feet (100 meters) of its intended target, and cruises faster than Mach 10 (7,672 miles per hour).

The missile measures approximately 16.5 meters (54 feet) in length and 2.78 meters in diameter (9.1 feet) and carries up to 10 warheads.

The missile can launch from a variety of platforms, including from a stationary silo as well as mobile rail and road platforms.

The Global Times, a Chinese state-run media outlet, reported earlier this month that the DF-41 would be commissioned with the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force. Nevertheless, former military officials have said on CCTV that the missile is already operational.


Macron's African tour: fresh start or 'colonial' business as usual?

Paris is seeking to establish closer working ties with its former colonies in West Africa. Speaking to Sputnik, some African observers characterized French President Emmanuel Macron's African tour as a sign of "transition" in relations, while others insist that Africa needs to gain independence from French dominance.

French President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a three-day tour to visit Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Ghana in order to present a new model of relations with the continent based on "education, investment and business development." Still, critics say that Macron's strategy is new in name only.

The continent's student associations and trade unions cite the fact that Paris' repeated promises to modernize Franco-African relations have yet to be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, citing Radio France International, Reuters wrote Tuesday that a grenade was thrown at French soldiers injuring three civilians in the Burkina Faso capital "just hours before Macron was due to speak before a university audience at Ouagadougou."

It was also reported that Macron's convoy was attacked with stones, however, later the French president's office denied the reports saying that stones were thrown at one of the vehicles transporting members of a delegation accompanying Macron in Burkina Faso.

Full report:

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New evidence for the surprisingly significant propaganda role of the CIA and the DOD in the screen entertainment industry

This article reassesses the relationships of the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Defense with the American entertainment industry. Both governmental institutions present their relationships as modest in scale, benign in nature, passive, and concerned with historical and technical accuracy rather than politics. The limited extant commentary reflects this reassuring assessment. However, we build on a patchy reassessment begun at the turn of the 21st century, using a significant new set of documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. We identify three key facets of the state-entertainment relationship that are under-emphasized or absent from the existing commentary and historical record: 1. The withholding of available data from the public; 2. The scale of the work; and 3. The level of politicization. As such, the article emphasizes a need to pay closer attention to the deliberate propaganda role played by state agencies in promoting the US national security state through entertainment media in western societies.

Part 1 - Method and Literature: The Need to Refocus on Entertainment Production Processes

When examining the political nature of a piece of entertainment, we can variously consider the intentions and motivations of its creators, how meaning is encoded in the text itself, or audience reception. All three are important and legitimate approaches within media studies but it is a striking feature of the literature that so little is written about the role of the US national security state, most prominently embodied by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense (DOD), in shaping the content of screen entertainment.

This tendency to shy away from production analysis has been exacerbated and legitimized by the postmodern turn, the pervasive influence of Freudian analysis, and the cross-disciplinary emphasis on audiences. Ed Herman, co-creator of the propaganda model (PM) that attempts to account for the uncritical nature of elite media discourse, explains that such a focus on micro-issues of language, textual interpretation and gender and ethnic identity is ‘politically safe and holds forth the possibility of endless deconstruction of small points in a growing framework of jargon’. Consequently, Hollywood journalist Ed Rampell (2005) can argue that ‘movies are our collective dreams’ and ‘emanations of the collective unconscious’. Influential film critic and scholar Robin Wood (2003) commented that movies are ‘as at once the personal dreams of their makers and the collective dreams of their audiences’. US entertainment, it seems, is to be interpreted and reinterpreted ad infinitum.

In contrast, when analysing authoritarian forms of governance, scholarship invariably assumes considerable state influence over entertainment systems and that they are used as crucial tools to spread misinformation and disinformation (Hoffmann et al., 1996; Proway, 1982; Qin, 2017; Reeves, 2004; Taylor, 1998; Welch, 2001). Similarly, although critical scholars of US news media have suffered marginalization in academia, even here there has at least long been a body of material about the role of the state in shaping discourse for its own ends by authors like Carl Bernstein (1977) and Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky (2002) and watchdog organizations like the Glasgow Media Group and Media Lens.

We also recognize that there is a respectable body of work that demonstrates how entertainment – going back to the origins of Hollywood in early 20th century America – represents US power (Boggs and Pollard, 2007; Burgoyne, 2010; Kellner, 2010; McCrisken and Pepper, 2007; Prince, 1992; Scott, 2011; Westwell, 2006). One of the authors on this article, Matthew Alford, engaged similarly in a mainly text-based set of readings for his early work (2008). What has long been lacking, though, is a robust body of scholarship on how the state actually affects productions. Here, we show that a major reason for this deficiency is the difficulties associated with acquiring useful documentation, largely the reluctance of state officials in releasing it.

There was a brief flurry of new books and articles on state involvement in the entertainment industry around the turn of the century, but each of these was decidedly narrow in scope. David Eldridge (2000) and Frances Stonor Saunders (1999) concentrated on the early Cold War, with their new material on cinema being limited to their discovery of an official at Paramount Studios who sent letters to an anonymous CIA contact explaining how he was using his position to advance the interests of the agency in the 1950s.

In two major early 21st century studies, Suid and Haverstick (2002, 2005) systematically document the relationship between the military and Hollywood. However, remarkably – particularly given the detail with which he writes and his unique access to source material – Suid does not question ‘the legitimacy of the military’s relationship with the film industry’ (noting that Congress permits it 2002, p. xi) and characterizes the Pentagon entertainment liaison chief Phil Strub as ‘simply a conduit between the film industry and the armed services’ (Suid and Robb, 2005: 75, 77 ). A scattergun and journalistic account by David Robb (2004), the only other researcher we know to attain even partial, temporary access to the same set of documents as Suid, highlights numerous cases typically ignored by Suid that point to much more politicized and controversial impacts by the DOD. In short, Suid utterly dominates the source material and his macro and micro analyses are, in light of our new analysis, little short of a whitewash (Alford, 2016; Alford and Secker, 2017).

From 2014 to 2017 we made numerous requests to the CIA, US Army, Navy, and Air Force with regards to their cooperation on films and television shows. It quickly became apparent that there had been a huge surge in the number of television shows supported by the DOD, especially since it decided circa 2005 to begin supporting reality TV. The authors compiled a master list of DOD-assisted films and TV using IMDB, the Entertainment Liaison Officer (ELO) reports and DOD lists, and miscellaneous files, which produced a total of 814 film titles, 697 made prior to 2004, and 1133 TV titles, 977 since 2004. Lawrence Suid had missed a handful of DOD-supported films and has not updated his lists since 2005, so neither he nor any other author had documented the huge scale of DOD support for television. Added to that, in 2014 the CIA’s first ELO, Chase Brandon, published a full list of dozens of film and television shows on which he had worked, which was many more than any previous public records had indicated. The White House, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI had also been involved, as shown by infrequent news reports. By all measures, even without considering the role of less politically controversial entities like the Coast Guard and NASA, the US government has been involved with the entertainment industry on a scale several times greater than the latest scholarship has indicated.

This article shows that the characterization of the DOD and CIA ELOs as minimally and passively involved in the film industry, merely receiving and processing requests for technical and other production assistance, is inaccurate. To do so, we identify three key facets of the state-entertainment relationship that are under-emphasized or absent from the existing commentary and historical record: 1. The withholding of available data from the public; 2. The scale of the work; and 3. The level of politicization.

Source, links, references:

[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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21st-century industrial revolution: Will robots steal your job?

Part 2

Ongoing advancements in technology are expected to lead to further job losses in future. Accountancy firm PwC predict that in the UK up to 30 percent (10 million) existing, mostly low-skilled and manual jobs could be taken over by robots within the next 15 years.

Economies with comparable figures are the US (38 percent), Germany (35 percent) and Japan (21 percent). According to PwC’s chief economist John Hawksworth “jobs where you've got more of a human touch, like health and education,” which do not easily lend themselves to automation are expected to be somewhat protected. Some job losses could be offset as new industries develop on the back of the growth in robotics and AI.

However, there are concerns that workers lacking the necessary skills to prosper in the coming years could be left behind in this 21st century industrial revolution, leading to greater income inequality.

Introducing a universal basic income for all citizens, to create a safety net for those whose jobs end up being done by robots, has been touted as a solution. Billionaires Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have spoken in favor of this initiative. Branson comments: “Basic income is going to be all the more important. If a lot more wealth is created by AI, the least that the country should be able to do is that a lot of that wealth that is created by AI goes back into making sure that everybody has a safety net.

Finland is currently testing out a two-year scheme to give all citizens €560 a month and parts of the Netherlands, Hawaii and Ontario are considering, or in the process of conducting small experiments, giving all citizens a basic income.

Source, links:

[1] [3]

How Social Media is leveling the playing field between governments, militants, and ordinary people

Part 3

During the initial upsurge of enthusiasm about the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, observers noted how effectively social media had been used as an organizing tool by young activists. While it would be overstating the case to attribute the revolutions themselves to social media (as some of the more breathless analyses did at the time), the impact that online social networks, cellphones, and new satellite television stations had on mobilizing and informing people in these societies was undeniable. The idea of young people using social media to topple dictatorships played into the narrative of “tech-utopianism,” still in vogue at the time, stimulating the idea that future political changes might be organized from below through the liberating power of the internet.

The grim years that followed the initial uprisings have mostly dispelled this narrative. While liberal activists were adept at organizing online, so were political Islamists and jihadist groups. These groups were better funded, better organized, and already had experience operating clandestinely – using the latest technologies for propaganda, recruitment, and networking. Over time, it would be Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as jihadists, that moved into the vanguard of the revolutions, pushing aside the liberal activists who had initially captured the world’s imagination.

Digital World War” is an analysis of how opposition movements, and Islamists in particular, have used social media as a tool of waging war against established governments. Haroon Ullah is a former State Department official and expert on Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami movement. Unlike Patrikarikos’s book, “Digital World War” is a staid academic analysis of how social media and other new technologies are altering the dynamics between central governments and opposition movements, both Islamist and liberal. But Ullah’s work also addresses the crux of how social media is upending the traditional power dynamics governing war and politics.

Perhaps the most destabilizing aspect of new technologies is the way that they have potentially supercharged the speed of political change. Youth-led revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia began and ended within a matter of weeks, toppling governments that had been in place for decades. Although both countries had suffered from long-standing structural problems, the sparks for both uprisings were lit over individual outrages – corruption and police brutality – that were spread and rapidly popularized over social media. Though many bystanders later joined the protests for other reasons, the speed and scale with which people initially organized would have been impossible in an era before cellphones and the internet.

The very speed of these movements, however, made it hard to build a sustainable order out of the collapse of the old regimes. While it was true that online mobilization played a role in toppling both Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, it also allowed little time for real leaders to emerge or for political platforms to be agreed upon. While the people who went into the streets were united in their indignation over injustice and their opposition to the old order, they had very different ideas about the future of their countries. When the regimes collapsed, the only parties established enough to take advantage were those aligned with the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.

It was not a matter of Islam being some defining feature of Tunisian identity — despite the Islamists claims,” Ullah writes, regarding the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent election of the liberal Islamist party Ennahda, “Rather, the victory was the natural outcome of the inevitable schism between the nature of the revolution and the readiness of the Islamists for power.

Social media is not the first information technology that has had helped galvanize revolutionary change. Radio, telegraph, and even the printing press all helped precipitate major socio-political transformations in the past, the latter famously helping enable the Christian Reformation.

More recently, the groundwork for the 1979 Iranian Revolution was laid with the help of a relatively new technology: Popular speeches by the revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were recorded and copied onto cassette tapes, which were then rapidly replicated and distributed. Unlike social media movements that can close the cycle between outrage and protest to a matter of days, however, it took Khomeini years of painstaking media work to help build mass support for an opposition movement in Iran. By the time the that Iranians finally went into the streets against the Shah – motivated by many different ideological currents – Khomeini was a well-known and popular spiritual leader within the opposition. When the monarchy fell, he was well-placed to marginalize his ideological rivals and consolidate clerical power over the country.

The difference between Iran’s uprising and the leaderless revolutions of today is vast and points to one of the major pitfalls of internet activism. Online organizing and propaganda can be legitimately useful for destabilizing regimes, especially rigidly authoritarian ones that need to strictly control the flow of information. But because of the speed with which it can precipitate change, it is less useful for building up the networks and organizations needed to fill the gap created when old governments actually fall.

When there is no single leader to focus a political movement — Khomeini, Mandela, Lenin — there may be more and faster revolutions than previously, but there are fewer revolutionary outcomes and scenarios,” Ullah writes. “So when a dictatorship – by definition and decree the sole and strongest institution in a country — is deposed by insurrections like the Arab Spring, what comes into the place of the power vacuum is not dictated by those who have created it.

Source, links:

[1] [2] [4]

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28 November, 2017

WikiLeaks paper provides details about Israel's operation to destroy Syria's nuclear program

The WIKILEAKS Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) holds the world's largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications. As of April 8, 2013 it holds 2 million records comprising approximately 1 billion words. The collection covers US involvements in, and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published. The PlusD collection, built and curated by WikiLeaks, is updated from a variety of sources, including leaks, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and documents released by the US State Department systematic declassification review.

A cable from April 2008 gives details about an Israeli operation to destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction. Three interesting remarks are:

1st, the fact that the cable describes that Israel acted without the permission of the US, 2nd, that the US officials were convinced that the Syrian government was collaborating with North Korea on building the reactor, 3rd, that the US officials were convinced that the reactor would had been used for the production of nuclear weapons.
 Image result for syria

As described in the summary, on September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor Syria was clandestinely constructing, we judge with North Korean assistance. The reactor site was in Syria's eastern desert region in a location called al-Kibar. On April 24, Executive Branch officials briefed Congress and the press on evidence that lead the USG to conclude that the Syrian facility at al-Kibar was a nuclear reactor being constructed clandestinely, and therefore in violation of Syria's NPT-required safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Some key parts:

... the Israeli air force conducted a mission over Syria on September 6, 2007. [...] the purpose of that Israeli mission was to destroy a clandestine nuclear reactor that Syria was constructing in its eastern desert near a place we call al-Kibar. The Israeli mission was successful - the reactor was damaged beyond repair. Syria has completed efforts to clean up the site and destroy evidence of what was really there, constructing a new building on the old site.

The existence of this reactor was dangerous and destabilizing for the region, and we judged that it could have been only weeks away from becoming operational at the time it was destroyed by the Israeli air force.

... we assessed that once the pumphouse and pipe system were complete in early August, the reactor could begin operation at any time. Once operations began, certainly a military option would have been much more problematic with radioactive material present.

... we conducted our own intensive internal policy deliberations regarding what to do about this disturbing and destabilizing development.

We discussed policy options with the Israelis, but in the end Israel made its own decision to destroy the reactor. This decision was made by Israel alone - they did not seek our consent. Nonetheless, we understand Israel's decision. Israel saw this reactor, and what Syria may have intended to do with it, as an existential threat that required it to act to defend itself.

The North Koreans have stated that there is no ongoing nuclear cooperation with any foreign country in violation of applicable domestic and international laws and treaties, and that there will be no such cooperation in the future.

North Korea has agreed to cooperate on verification activities in line with its past commitments on non-proliferation, including as stated in the October 3, 2007, agreement, and to provide additional explanations as necessary.

Full cable: