Trump vs. Obama/Clinton: the True Horror of Identity Politics

When it comes to apathetic politics, there appears to be two camps of people. On the one hand, we have die-hard Trump supporters who will support the golf-addicted billionaire even in cases when he has clearly contradicted his election promises. And on the other hand, we have those who love Barack Obama so much that they continually refuse to admit many of the crimes, horrors and scandals that plagued the Obama presidency. Instead, the latter wish Obama were still president, and still dream of the day the Hawaiian born messiah will return to save the planet.

Meanwhile, Obama is making $400,000 per speech from Wall Street giants that owe their lifeline to the American taxpayer. His presidency did nothing to alleviate the suffering of the African American community; in fact the economic situation for blacks went steadily from bad to worse under Obama’s presidency. When Obama was elected, black unemployment rates stood at 11.1 percent. In 2010, it rose sharply to 16.1 percent, around roughly twice the rate of white unemployment. The economic disparity between blacks and whites continued to rise until the end of his presidency, yet no one seems concerned with this.

Obama was well-spoken, eloquent at times; and appeared to care on the surface about issues other people also pretended to care about.

Yet how can society transition from identifying with Obama to identifying with his supposed polar opposite in Trump? Are people aware that firstly, Obama’s policies paved the way for a Trump presidency and secondly, that Trump is only exacerbating these dangerous policies even further?

Conservatives are right to blame Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the refugee crisis, something Trump staunchly opposed Clinton on in his campaign in a number of ways.

As well as vowing to ban all Muslims and create a register (a ludicrous notion), Trump did state that the world would have been better off if Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had not been overthrown (a sane suggestion). Not many people are aware, but Gaddafi was integral in keeping a lid on migrants wanting to travel from North Africa to Europe, particularly through Italy.

It is for this reason that Italy, as a NATO member, was so heavily involved in the bombing campaign against Gaddafi in 2011. Not because they wanted to overthrow Gaddafi, but because they had a vested interested in the outcome of the conflict. Since the fall of Gaddafi, over 2 million Libyan children are out of school, firearms and heavy weaponry have been spread like wildfire across the region (including to the terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria) and refugees and migrants have been flowing out of Libya like a commodity. I say “commodity” not to elicit offence or to denigrate migrants – but because Libya is now the marketplace of a lucrative slave trade operation.

Hillary Clinton was instrumental in convincing Obama to topple Gaddafi in 2011. They both rightfully share the blame for this disaster. Libya previously had the highest standard of living in Africa, according to the U.N. Human Development Index (2010). In 2015 alone, it fell 27 places down the list.

And now we have Donald J. Trump.

If you are reading this article and you are a Trump supporter, now comes the hard part of facing up to reality. You need to ask yourself what it is you liked about Trump so much and disliked about Obama.

Is it because he said he would have left Gaddafi in power and would focus more on making America great again? Is it because he tweeted at least 18 times that Obama should not bomb Syria, and that if he did he would need congressional approval to do so?

Why then is it okay for Trump to bomb Syria without congressional approval in April 2017?

I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but the Syrian government is famous for protecting the rights of minorities, especially Christians. Attacking the Assad regime only empowers Islamic extremists; it certainly doesn’t defeat them or their ideology.

According to a recent report by the London-based IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, a leading security analysis agency, a whopping 43 percent of ISIS’ battles between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, were fought against the Syrian military and its allies (including Iran, Russia, and pro-government militias). Conversely, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accounted for a mere 17 percent of the action against ISIS.

According to this report, Syria’s military has been the most engaged entity fighting against ISIS over the past year. In this context, attacking the Syrian government makes no sense if the aim of the U.S. war on terror is to combat extremism and terrorism.

For those of you who find yourself experiencing a cognitive dissonance experience, you should take note that many of Trump’s biggest supporters criticized him heavily for attacking the Syrian government last month. You see, it turns out they were actually sticking to their principles in their reasons for supporting Trump in the first place, and have realised that actually, Trump’s administration has been infiltrated by neoconservative warmongers who don’t serve the interests of the American people.

Seriously, attacking the Syrian government is a Hillary Clinton policy. Clinton came out of hiding prior to the attack to state that Trump should attack Assad’s air bases. Lo and behold – that is exactly what Trump did.

To me, this is the true horror of identity politics. If Clinton had succeeded in winning the election, and started attempting war with Syria, North Korea, Iran, Russia and China, you would all be losing your minds. Now that it is Trump doing so, he is a brave, strong leader who you will support until the last nuclear bomb detonates and we are all completely annihilated.

During the election campaign I saw many memes on social media from people who would say things like “Trump doesn’t receive money from countries like Saudi Arabia who execute gays like me.” Yet Trump is cozying up to Saudi Arabia even as we speak, enabling the radical Kingdom to commit a mass slaughter in neighbouring Yemen by continuing billion dollar arms sales to the radical Kingdom.

How do you feel about Saudi Arabia now?

Seriously, you don’t need to support anyone. If you do, there are plenty of other decent people in the world who do share your worldview who you can support that aren’t contradicting the promises they made to you.

It’s time to put to rest the notion that choosing one or the other will make a difference when it comes to serious issues of war. If Donald Trump cared so much about refugees, or “beautiful Syrian babies”, he wouldn’t be bombing Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan back into the Stone Age right now.

But he is. And that is what you are supporting. If it is wrong for Clinton or Obama to do it, it is equally wrong for Trump to do it.

So what can you do?

Spread this message with everyone who still hasn’t realised the full nature of their enslavement. It is time to wake up the masses. Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton, are all part and parcel of the same problem.

Trump is not going to save us, just as Clinton was never going to save us. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can do something about it, without their help.

Is Mike Pence the Deep State’s Insurance Policy?

(Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on the Anti-Media.

March 9, 2017 at 12:12 pm

(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) Last month, Anti-Media reported on leaked intelligence that forcibly ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn from the Trump administration. Flynn’s successor,  General H.R. McMaster, is far more hawkish, and in comparison to Flynn, takes a much more anti-Russian stance. It isn’t too much of a stretch to assume McMaster’s job will be secure if he continues to perpetuate the anti-Russian narrative we have become so familiar with in recent decades.

Despite this, the media still perpetuates anti-Russian hysteria and repeated claims regarding the Trump administration’s ties to Russia — despite the fact that Flynn, Trump’s supposed go-between with Russia, has already relinquished his power.

Why would this be?

As most people are aware, Trump was able to secure his seat in the White House by offering a markedly different vision for America than Hillary Clinton, who largely mirrored Obama’s presidency. Both Clinton and Obama had very hawkish approaches to Russia and Russia’s strategic allies in the Middle East. In contrast, Trump was clear that he respected Russia’s president and wanted to forge closer relations.

The first thing to note is that Trump has been keeping most of his campaign promises to date — even the most outlandish ones. The second is that Flynn was actually in the process of offering a deal on economic sanctions against Russia and a ceasefire in Ukraine, suggesting there was substance behind Trump’s pro-Russia rhetoric. The issue with this, of course, is that ultimately, there are people within the intelligence community who view a warming of relations with Russia to be a deal breaker with the Trump administration.

Evidently, there are those behind the scenes within the deep state and the intelligence community who still fear that Trump could take away their long-held anti-Russian narrative, which has arguably been fueling the need for such a large and oversized military budget since World War II.

So where is this headed?

If Trump doesn’t adopt the Cold War 2.0 approach of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and is forced out of his own administration in the same manner as Flynn, it will become clear why once we learn who would replace him: Mike Pence.

As the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin observed:

“Pence is seen by many in Washington as a figure who might stand up for the traditionally hawkish views he espoused while in Congress, a proxy of sorts for the GOP national security establishment.”

According to White House officials, lawmakers and experts, Pence, a “traditional hawk influenced heavily by his Christian faith” is reportedly advancing a Rasputin-esque agenda in which he can appease Trump in the meantime by working within Trump’s proposed foreign policy framework, as well as respect the prerogatives of other senior White House aides who want to play large foreign policy roles.

According to Rogin, behind the scenes, Pence will ultimately help shape Trump’s foreign policy into the traditional style witnessed under Obama:

“Inside the White House, Pence is in the room during most of the president’s interactions with world leaders. He receives the presidential daily brief. As head of the transition, he was instrumental in bringing several traditionally hawkish Republicans into the top levels of the administration’s national security team, including Director of National Intelligence-designate Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.”

It was because of Pence that the U.S. decided to confront Russia and Syria at the U.N. over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, despite everything Trump has previously said regarding resetting U.S. policy with regard to Syria and Russia. However, the true extent of Pence’s hold over Trump — and the true nature of the agenda he serves — can be seen in his role in ousting Flynn in the first place.

Rogin continues:

“The chief example was when Pence personally spoke to Trump about removing national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had lied to him about conversations with Russian officials during the transition.” [emphasis added]

Since this occurrence, Pence has reportedly taken up more of the role previously occupied by Flynn.

No matter what one makes of Trump — or his administration and the policies that have been initiated thus far — the fact remains that Trump won the U.S. election. The people working behind the scenes to oust him are not subject to democratic controls, nor are they working in the best interests of the American public. We are left to ask ourselves exactly how renewing relations with Russia –  a nuclear power –  could possibly endanger American lives.

Either way, we are more or less left with two paths ahead of us. The first path involves Trump giving in and adopting an anti-Russian agenda, as is already apparent in his decision to send more ground troops to Syria alongside Saudi troops, who will intentionally oppose the Syrian regime (a close ally of Russia). The second involves the possibility of another direct coup within the Trump administration, this time one that may ultimately force Trump out of the White House so he can be replaced by Mike Pence, a war hawk who will be more than happy to do the job Hillary Clinton wanted to do.

Opinion / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

I’m Done With Online Hate Speech

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

(THE TV’s LEAKINGIn one of those idle moments I took to perusing Instagram, scrolling through endless photos in my home feed. I took a pause at the latest image posted by Jamie Oliver – a rest in peace post for one of his icons, Carrie Fisher. Eyes quickly fell to the comments to see evidence of a disjointed argument interspersed between similar comments of respect and sadness at Fisher’s passing. Being an idle moment as it were, I made the decision to load the rest of the comments and immediately wished I hadn’t.

One commenter had taken the trouble to attack Oliver over a spelling mistake in the photo’s caption. Oliver, known to have severe dyslexia, had used ‘too’ incorrectly (writing ‘to’ instead). This mistake was something I had noticed when I read the caption, but barely thought it worth paying attention to. The commenter claimed that someone as rich as Oliver should hire a ‘personal spelling advisor’ so as to avoid future incidents such as this, before they went on to further insult Oliver and other commenters who jumped to the celebrity chef’s defence.

Doesn’t this just border on the edge of incredulity? I could scarce believe what I was reading; that this is something capable of triggering an online argument, hateful words and insults. In a world where electronic devices and autocorrect mean typos are a highly frequent occurrence – well speaking for myself in particular – at this rate we’d all be needing personal spelling advisors. Pity that most of us, unlike Oliver, do not have the cash to fork out for this much needed assistance.

On another scale, how is it that this – a missing ‘o’ from a word that did not detract from the meaning of the caption – was actually worth starting a feud over? How can it be, especially with the state of everything else that is going on the world at the moment that someone actually took the time to type out a complaint over a spelling error? Compared to other things that I would believe worth taking a stand over, this pales into teeny tiny insignificance – a minor issue that truly warrants no attention whatsoever.

The truth of it is, this era of electronic devices that we are now in lends a sort of bizarre courage to people, allowing them to say all sorts of things they never would say in reality, all because of the safety and anonymity that comes from sitting behind a screen. The thing is – what is gained by all of this hate? I’m all for free speech and being allowed to speak your mind but what use is it to personally attack and insult people, even people you do not know? It is not tolerated in real life, so why should it be so online? Why should we have to suffer through this war of hate as people feel they have the right to rip others to shreds to mock, and berate, to taunt, to threaten? A number one rule that we learn as children is that if we have nothing nice to say that we should say nothing at all. Telling people that they are f****** stupid, that they should kill themselves, leaving cryptic and hurtful comments, purely because you disagree with their point of view, simply makes no sense and all of this leaves emotional wounds that cut deep. We all seem to forget that the people out there in the spotlight are humans too, just like us and we all know words are powerful weapons that can prove detrimental or even fatal.

The strangest thing seems to be how people take particular delight in tearing down people who are trying to help others, and even themselves. Maybe they’ve made mistakes before but now they are trying to improve themselves and raise awareness, assist others – so why pull them down? Is this some form  of the Tall Poppy syndrome?

Whatever it is needs to end. If you have something to say why not try say something constructive. There is and never will be a need for hate as it does not achieve anything. Remember, if you don’t have anything nice – or at the very least useful to say – don’t say anything at all.

This article (I’m Done With Online Hate Speech) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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Is This Why Researchers Can’t Solve Rising Suicide Rates?

(This article first appeared on the ANTIMEDIA)

(ANTIMEDIA) Suicide rates continue to rise in the developed world and beyond. Despite the fact billions of dollars are spent on health systems for suicide alone, the trend has failed to reverse itself.

Suicide is misunderstood because a medical model is being applied, meaning doctors are incorrectly treating it as an illness of the mind, argues Professor Said Shahtahmasebi, Director of the Good Life Research Trust Centre and editor of Dynamics of Human Health. Shahtahmasebi has conducted years of research to try to better understand suicide trends and find an effective prevention model. Utilizing his grassroots, community-empowering model, one region in New Zealand went from having one youth suicide a month on average to having two suicides in an 18-month period.

In light of the fact suicide rates are unacceptably high (New Zealand has the highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world), Anti-Media asked Professor Shahtahmasebi why suicide rates have increased despite a redirection of massive resources to mental health services.

AM: In your opinion, what are some of the underlying problems with the way suicide is being treated?

Over the last 20 years, I have repeatedly challenged the conventional wisdom about suicide, emphasizing that suicide rates follow a cyclical pattern (the sequence of downward and upward movements of suicide rates). Instead of concentrating efforts on breaking the cycle, decision makers, mental health services, and researchers claim credit for lowering suicide rates when the cycle is on the downturn, then demand more funding to continue with the same services. But when the cycle is on the upturn, they claim suicide is a very complex issue with many socio-economic and environmental risk factors and that they, again, require more funding to extend the same service to more people.

This may be fine the first time. However, after many decades of research and psychiatric intervention, the reality is that suicide prevention is really more of the same, with an approach centered around looking for signs of mental illness and then referring individuals to mental health services. But each year, the strategy of ‘more of the same’ is costing more in terms of both lives lost and monetary burden.

Suicide is not a mental health problem. Not many people with mental illness or depression commit suicide, but some suicidal people undergoing psychiatric intervention do. Current estimates suggest about one-third of all individuals who have killed themselves had previous contact with mental health services but still went ahead and completed suicide.

On the other hand, between two-thirds and three-quarters of all people who end their lives have no contact with mental health services, which means we don’t know anything about their state of mind. Further, psychological autopsy studies linking mental disorder to suicide have been challenged and discredited.

AM: So how can psychiatrists and politicians still claim suicide is the result of mental illness?

A study [pdf] I conducted in 2003 using patient records from a psychiatric/mental health hospital showed that out of those who sought psychiatric help and completed suicide, only 16 percent had depression recorded as a diagnosis or had it mentioned somewhere in their medical notes. Thirty-three percent had a different classification, including schizophrenia, alcohol or drug abuse, paranoia, or personality disorder, and 17 percent had “other.” Astonishingly, 33 percent did not have a diagnosis at all.

Therefore, about 50 percent of the patients had no mental illness diagnosed at the time of suicide.

The research suggests that psychiatrists and politicians can no longer claim that suicide is the result of mental illness.

AM: So what is actually known about those cases who had no contact with health services?

The whole notion of ‘look for signs of mental illness and refer’ to prevent suicide defies logic and is counter-intuitive.

First, it assumes that only people with a mental disorder commit suicide. This is not true. Second, this method ignores the majority of people who may be suicidal and in need of help. Third, by associating suicide with mental illness, people who experience suicidal thoughts or behavior potentially avoid seeking help. Fourth, if signs are detectable, then prevention has failed, and it is time for effective interventions. Fifth, psychiatric intervention has failed to prevent a large proportion of all suicide cases who were referred to mental health services.

For example, official government documents show that in New Zealand, prescriptions for antidepressants have more than quadrupled since 1997, yet the suicide rate has continued in a cyclic upward pattern, now reaching an all-time high of 579 this year.

If mental illness is the cause of suicide, shouldn’t we be observing a continual reduction in the number of suicides given the amount of resources being put towards mental-health-based treatments and the increase in antidepressant use?

So it is not only ‘more of the same’ in suicide prevention action plan but also ‘more of the same’ in rhetoric: at every cyclic upturn, ministers and their ‘experts’ claim suicide is ‘unacceptably’ high and that mental health services must be strengthened.

‘More of the same’ is symptomatic of a lack of accountability.

AM: How does your proposed model differ from the current status quo?

The philosophy of preventing suicide through mental health intervention is no longer tenable. Psychiatric research declaring mental illness the cause of suicide has been challenged and discredited. In a recent publication, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists mental illness causing suicide as one of the many myths, and as a result, they have modified their guidelines.

There is no doubt that mental health services must be supported effectively to deliver efficient services and to improve health outcomes. However, mental health services cannot prevent suicide.

The problem is exacerbated by an uncritical media that pushes the medical model and refers to proponents of the medical model as the “experts.” The truth is that we do not understand suicide because all of our efforts have been focused on treating mental illnesses that may or may not exist.

In other words, if an individual is referred to mental health services (whether they are self-referred because of a suicide attempt or by a health professional), the intervention looks to establish a mental disorder, such as depression, for which medication can be prescribed. So, in the process of treatment, ‘suicide’ per se is effectively taken out of the equation and ignored, and a completely different issue is treated as a result of the misdiagnosis. Treating a condition that does not exist explains the reason why a significant proportion of all suicide cases who received psychiatric treatment went through with suicide (about one third).

Through the process of raising research funds, I realized several points. Firstly, it is futile to wait for the government to take the initiative and act in the interest of the public. Secondly, suicide prevention does not require major funding and can be operationalized with few resources. Third, uncritical and flawed suicide information is contributing to misinformation in the public domain. Fourth, so long as suicide prevention remains highly politicized, ‘more of the same’ is the only suicide prevention action plan available to the public.

In order to achieve a change in direction, suicide prevention must be de-politicized. A sure way of achieving this is to engage the public. This can be achieved by providing the public with quality and appropriate information about suicide and human behavior.In 2010, our grassroots approach to suicide prevention was rolled out in the Waikato and Kawerau in New Zealand through a series of training workshops. The philosophy behind the grassroots approach is that we, the public, cannot wait for signs of mental disorder to manifest and then seek psychiatric intervention. The aim is to prevent people getting to the stage where they feel that suicide is a viable option.

A couple of very important outcomes from the workshops were: first, we received many personal comments from suicide survivors (parents who had lost a loved one to suicide). By teaching them about adolescent development and adolescent behavior, we were providing them with alternatives to dealing with their teenaged children. For example, it’s no use telling a teenager to pull themselves together or that there are plenty more fish in the sea when they are going through a break-up because, at that point in time, the break-up means everything to them. Showing sympathy and empathy have been proven to be far more effective. Because of this, many personal comments came our way along the lines of: “Had they known this information then their loved one would probably be alive today.

Second, participating communities formed suicide prevention groups enforcing prevention rather than intervention. The groups developed locally-based suicide awareness activities designed to inform and to prevent.

As I previously explained in a 2013 article:

For the approach to be successful it had to address the needs of the participating communities as perceived by them. The frontline health workers that we contacted indicated their greatest need was for information, training, and for upskilling in order to be able to deal with youth and adolescent issues. The resulting outcome was a pilot project offering training workshops.

The frontline health workers organized the community workshops including locating venues, facilitating publicity, and inviting local dignitaries and other community members (e.g., police, teachers, social workers, counselors, young people, and the general public). The project intended to empower communities to plan and make decisions at the family and community level by increasing their awareness of adolescent issues. In this context, the role of the researchers was to facilitate training workshops and basically play a support and mentoring role. All the community projects and activities that followed were designed and developed at the grassroots level by the communities themselves.”

The frontline health and social workers in the participating communities reported that suicide — youth suicide, in particular — had substantially declined. This is a trend that continues to the present date.

The communities also have reported that they are much more confident in engaging in problem situations and preventing them from becoming suicide crises.

The workshops were also funded through local institutions and charitable trusts, a Fulbright grant, frontline workers, and volunteers. Attendees included social workers, mental health frontline workers, police, coroners, psychiatrists, GPs, teachers, church representatives, youth, the general public, and suicide survivors. Unlike the medical model, the grassroots approach is an inclusive strategy.

I guess the concluding message is that if the public is sick of ‘more of the same’ suicide intervention strategy, then the grassroots must mobilize and take action… after all, it is the grassroots who know their communities better than the ‘experts’ or government decision makers.

It’s Cheaper to Buy an Island Than A House in Auckland Right Now

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(Pictured above: Wild Cane Key Island, retrieved from: Stuff.co.nz)

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

21 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) Forget about that house you’ve been scrimping and saving for; there are 12 islands for sale that are under US$1 million (NZ$1.43 million).

Frigate Caye is a 1.4 acre island listed for US$225,000, which is incredibly cheaper than a house in Auckland where house prices are now averaging at $1,013,632. For a three bedroom house with a new bathroom and kitchen close to the city, it’ll cost you $1,049,000 – or $995,000 for a two bedroom, one bathroom home out on Waiheke island.

Or…you could have the Cayo Iguana island, listed at $750,000, which quite conveniently already has a three bedroom, two bathroom house. 

I know which one I’d rather have.

This article (It’s Cheaper to Buy an Island Than A House in Auckland Right Now) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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The Media’s Main Source on Syrian Conflict is a T-Shirt Shop – No, Seriously

(This article first appeared on the ANTIMEDIA)

(ANTIMEDIA) Western media regularly quotes the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on statistics regarding the current Syrian conflict. Take, for example, this recent article from the Guardian, which reported the “UK-based monitor says dozens have died after [an] attack near [the] border with Turkey.” Referring to the SOHR as a “monitor” or “monitoring group” is a common practice corporate media employs to lend the organization legitimacy.

So who—or what—is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights?

The truth is stranger than fiction.

At the time of this article’s publication, the official SOHR website has been down for several days. However, an archived version last captured on July 5, 2016, reveals details about the organization. Founded in May 2006, the SOHR is a group of people—not associated with or linked to any political body—that documents the Human Rights situation in Syria. They assert their goals and aspirations are democracy, freedom, justice and equality. The founder and director of SOHR is Rami Abdulrahman, a Sunni Muslim who fled to the United Kingdom after being arrested numerous times in Syria. He never returned.

In December 2011, Reuters provided some insight into how this so-called Observatory, “arguably Syria’s most high-profile human rights group,” operates:

“‘Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot,’ said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in Coventry, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.”

Reuters further stated:

“[W]hen he isn’t fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.

According to the New York Times, Abdulrahman relies on four men from inside Syria to help collate and report data from more than 230 activists on the ground. The Times admitted the SOHR is, essentially, “a one-man band” operating out of a “semi-detached red brick house on an ordinary residential street” using the “simplest, cheapest Internet technology available.”

He relies on money from his clothes business, as well as small subsidies from the European Union and one European country he refuses to identify.

According to an interview with RT published last year—in which the SOHR director proved to be very elusive before he was eventually tracked down by the reporter—Abdulrahman acknowledged he personally has not been back to Syria in over 15 years, adding:

“But I know some of the Observatory activists through common friends. This organization only takes new members following a six-month trial period and the candidate has to be familiar to someone from the organization or to a reliable outside contact.”

To date, his informants remain anonymous, and he is the only individual listed as working for SOHR. Abdulrahman has no journalistic or legal qualifications, is not based in Syria, and relies on phone calls–yet the corporate media quotes his reports without question. This is particularly damning for Russia, as prominent outlets like the International Business Times have released articles treating the SOHR as an authority:

“SOHR, which collects information from several ground sources in Syria, in a statement on its website, accused the regime and Russian air forces of bombing areas without distinguishing between the civilian and militant targets.”

The ridiculousness of this reporting has been, in turn, chastised by Russia. As stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry through its spokesperson, Maria Zakharova:

“This information appears with reference to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London. As we all understand, it is very ‘convenient’ to cover and observe what is happening in Syria without leaving London and without the ability to collect information in the field.”

Sounds reliable.

However, it could be the case that Abdulrahman scrutinizes every piece of information from his sources to the best of his ability. It could be the case that his sources are the most reliable sources inside Syria and are not trying to push a particular agenda. However, statements like, “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes” seem to suggest the “Observatory” may not always be a neutral source.

But how would we know, anyway? How does the corporate media know to trust these reports?

They don’t, yet they quote this so-called Observatory on a regular basis, peddling a pro-war agenda in the process. The media treats its coverage of Syria like war is a game—as if innocent lives won’t be lost and the repercussions of a war with Syria are not massive.

When did the corporate media become so lazy? The fact that Western media resorts to quoting a t-shirt shop stationed thousands of miles from the Syrian conflict reveals something about the availability of actual evidence, especially when such reports purport to document the atrocities the Syrian and Russian regimes are committing inside Syria. This is not to say Russian and Syrian forces have not caused widespread damage and inflicted suffering on many Syrians. But surely, if the credible evidence existed to support those peddling anti-Assad propaganda, news outlets would likely not use a t-shirt shop in England as a regular source.

That being said, my girlfriend’s family has a barbecue business at the front of their house; perhaps I can start documenting human rights abuses in the Middle East for the establishment media, as well.

US-Backed Coalition Starving Yemeni Children to Death, UNICEF warns

15 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) The idea that the Obama administration and his respective allies (in the form of the beacon of human rights that is Saudi Arabia) care about human rights in Syria is somewhat untenable when you consider what is happening in Yemen right now.

According to UNICEF, 2.2 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. A child is currently dying every ten minutes in Yemen, yet our beloved world powers have done nothing but exacerbate this problem.

Not long ago, I wrote an article about how the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition is purposely starving Yemen to death.  

Yemen is the poorest, most impoverished country in the Arab world. With the Saudi blockade, and the deliberate targeting of food production including arable land with air strikes, as well as the countless strikes on hospitals, schools, factories, residential areas, weddings and funerals, it really makes one wonder how the Obama administration can freely criticise Assad and Putin in Syria.

This article (US-Backed Coalition Starving Yemeni Children to Death, UNICEF warns) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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American Bases to Remain in Okinawa, What You Are Not Being Told

 

okinawa

Above: Myself observing the Kadena airbase, Okinawa.

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

15 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) It has been 71 years since the Futenma Airfield was constructed by the U.S. military in Ginowan, Okinawa, following the Battle of Okinawa in World War II.

71 years.

Even after the end of World War II, the base remained with control transferred to the United States Navy where it was developed into a United States Marine Corps air station.

In this time, Futenma has become the subject of several controversies. As Okinawa’s population has grown and expanded, there has been significant concerns over the noise caused by flights over residential areas, the pollution from the aircraft, and the endangering of civilian lives. Just a few months ago, a US harrier jet went down in the ocean just off Okinawa and elevated the fears that Okinawa citizens already had. This was just one of many crashes that have occurred over the last few years.

And yet, despite all the issues the bases have caused and continue to cause, it looks increasingly more likely that the extremely controversial decision of the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court to relocate the base will go ahead. The plan is to move the base from the crowded residential area that it is currently in, in Ginowan, to the less populated Henoko area. This move will still go ahead despite the efforts of the Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, who attempted to revoke his predecessor’s approval for the landfill work that was required for the relocation. This is not enough for the people of Okinawa. The public do not want the base relocated within Okinawa, but out of Okinawa entirely.

Onaga’s actions in trying to block the relocation project was branded by the High Court as being illegal. He was sued by the central government in Tokyo for rejecting the permit for the landfill proposal that had been approved by his predecessor. According to the same judge, the decision made by the previous governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, to grant permission for the landfill was entirely legal and “within his rights” as the governor. Because of this and even though the people desperately want to see reductions in the base facilities, the previous governor’s decision is valid, and cancellation of it can not be upheld.

Four men were arrested for trying to obstruct the relocation. The men were suspected to have piled 1,400 concrete blocks around the entrance to U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab which blocked the passage of vehicles used in the construction of the new facility. There has also been several sit-ins organised by protesters as they also tried to block the gates.

In the face of this open opposition to the relocation of the airbase the central government is still adamant that relocating to a less populated area of Okinawa is the only way to address noise and safety problems. Outside the prefecture is where the majority of military facilities in Japan are located.

The people of Okinawa have suffered long enough and it seems even the people in charge of the island are powerless to protect their citizens, while crimes are continually committed against the people; while they suffer the noise and pollution from aircraft; while they continue to host more than 47,000 US troops.

Twenty years ago, a 12 year old girl was abducted and raped by US military personnel. Earlier this year, an American soldier injured two people after driving while drunk. A civilian contractor at the Kadena air base confessed to raping and murdering 20-year old Rina Shimabukuro in April.

Still, the military presence persists.

Okinawa is considered as a major geo-political asset to the USA, in order to be able to respond to the immense power of China, and nuclear armed North Korea. The opinion of the people is irrelevant.

In November, the Okinawan people were offered 2.46 billion yen in compensation for the noise pollution caused by the aircraft. However, requests to put a restriction against flights by U.S. military aircraft were rejected.

So long as the Americans have their way, right?

I’ve been to Okinawa, and seen the Kadena Air base. It is huge, a sprawling mass four times the size of our very own Hagley park in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’ve seen the aircraft fly, I’ve seen how the Okinawa people suffer.

It’s time to end this injustice.

This article (American Bases to Remain in Okinawa, What You Are Not Being Told) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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What Christmas Means to Me

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

13 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) It’s hard to escape it, you realise, as it settles down over the world like a big thick blanket. Creeping up from beneath the earth, no one noticing until it was there, its shadow looming over you, the sound of chiming bells as it descends. It’s that time of year again, the carols will play over and over again incessantly until you feel yourself going mad, decorations on every inch of free space anywhere, santa hats bobbing in amongst the usual caps and beanies.

Christmas.

The credits card will flash, bank accounts will empty, wrapped presents will pile up under trees, tensions will flare, and a lot of food will be eaten. For at least a good month, the world will descend into a semi-sort of chaos, that seems to vanish as quickly as it appeared. Some people have a tense sort of hatred for the holiday, dreading the moment the decorations appear as if by magic in the stores, dreading the days the radio won’t stop blaring that godforsaken tune about that red nosed reindeer.

The main reason behind that is the commercialism that threatens to overtake Christmas, with its extravagance and the forking out of the big bucks for presents that, lets face it, no one will actually use.

But, the thing is, Christmas is so much more than the materialistic holiday it is presented to be. Unfortunately, I believe Christmas gets a bad rap, with it being hailed as a waste of time, money and effort. I for one have always loved Christmas. And I still do. It is a massive part of my life and is probably my most favourite holiday (probably equal with my birthday, because I mean c’mon who doesn’t love a holiday all about them?!). As cheesy as it sounds Christmas is a time for giving, for sharing light, love, kindness and of course food.

I love it not for the presents, but because of what it means to me. Christmas for me has always first and foremost been about family. Moving right across the world at a young age, and coming from a diverse background, meant that in our new habitat, my immediate family was all we had. Aunties, uncles and cousins we have plenty of but only if they weren’t scattered in various regions of the globe.

It was just us. There would be no going to visit our grandparents on Christmas day, or having Christmas lunch with our cousins. Just us.

But looking back on all the Christmases we’ve had over the years, they are always some of the best days of my life. It was a day that we all made an effort to be together, even when my siblings grew older and started moving away, they always made it back for Christmas. It came as shock the first time two of them was unable to, both stranded together across the ditch in Australia, but we always had Skype and at least they had each other, so we made do with that. This year will be another quiet Christmas, missing two siblings again, but new additions to the family means a spot will be filled, but by no means replaced.

A quieter Christmas in some ways, but of course no less fun and no less happy and joyful, because for that one day, those of my family that are here, will be together. There will be no stress, worrying about work, or errands or the gardening, or the bills that need to be paid. There will be just us, waking up early to have a cup of tea, a stroll down to the reserve, the lovely brunch we always have.

The endless TV marathons, some boards games, plenty of chocolates. Probably a kick around or two at the neighbour park, then scrambling back home for the roast turkey that awaits.

Lame Christmas cracker jokes that we all bemoan but still laugh at, bubbly drinks that fizz in our noses, the classic family photo. Then we all groan about over eating, but are still eager for dessert, trifle, pudding, mince pies, shortbread, then more groaning as we stumble to the lounge to flop down and rest ourselves. More board games, a cup of tea, a movie, the lovely sunshine that shone all day now slowly dipping down beyond the horizon to pull the blanket of night over the day that seems to last forever.

And how I always wished it did, or maybe not forever, but just a little bit longer. To bask in the warmth, the laughter, the closeness we all feel on that day. The joy of just being in each other’s presence for those few hours, of having everyone’s undivided attention. Of sharing the love.

So give a little more this Christmas and remember that it doesn’t have to be this glorified extravagant over-commercialised facade. If anything, Christmas is about people, and having someone to spend it with can make all the difference.

A muslim-owned restaurant in London are starting a Christmas day initiative, offering up a free three-course meal to elderly and homeless people, adamant that ‘no one will eat alone’. It is things like that embodies the true meaning of Christmas.

There are many other ways out there, to help each other out, so people know that they don’t have to be alone during this festive time; that it isn’t just about the money and materialism. Christmas doesn’t have to be a thing of dread, that stirs bad memories, loneliness and frustration. We can all help each other out to enjoy Christmas by being there for each other. Reach out to your family members, to your friends, even to strangers. I know someone who is paying his babysitter to take the Christmas week off even though he can barely afford to.

You can do things like donate to charities: The Salvation Army, who helps around 17,000 families or individuals who struggle with the immense monetary pressure of trying to provide on Christmas, and those that struggle with the loneliness of not having anyone to share it with (there are City Missions who send out food parcels to families in need).

Cherish the moments you have this holiday with the ones you love. For Christmas doesn’t even need to involve presents, the joy of family and of peace, of sharing, of remembering, are the real presents that Christmas gives us.

This article (What Christmas Means to Me) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

The U.S. Has A Concerning Relationship with ISIS in Syria

12 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING)

The U.S. has a peculiar relationship with ISIS in Syria, which may be explained as follows.

The background is that in 2006, the U.S. made a secret decision to take steps to overthrow the Syrian government (now public knowledge). This related to gas pipelines and Middle-Eastern alliances and had nothing to do with democracy or human rights.

It is illegal in international law for one country to take covert or over steps to overthrow another country.

When ISIS (then known as al-Qaeda in Iraq) was pushed over the border into Syria, it assisted the US regime change strategy in the following ways:

  1. ISIS was a vicious force and it’s fanatical attacks on the Syrians weakened the Syrian defence forces. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) – the U.S. government’s leading thinktank on foreign policy, endorsed al-Qaeda’s role in the Syrian battlefield for this reason.
  2. The US could not openly request Congress to vote funds to overthrow a sovereign Syrian government (as it unsuccessfully tried to do in 2013), but could and did secure vast funding to battle ISIS.
  3. Much of the funding allocated to combat ISIS was in fact “diverted” to fund an insurgency to overthrow the Syrian state. The fact that the groups being funded and armed were mainly Islamic extremists (with ideology very similar to al Qaeda and the Taliban) actually made them “better” insurgents because they were fanatical and prepared to die. One of the groups armed with U.S. weapons was in fact al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra (a.k.a. al-Sham). Al-Qaeda is now in overall command of the other (US armed) groups in Eastern Aleppo and NW Syria.
  4. So, the U.S. has needed ISIS in Syria to push the regime change strategy. If Russia or the Syrian government defeat ISIS then the justification for the regime change strategy gets very thin. So the U.S. has had to ensure that ISIS is not defeated, until it has ousted or broken the Syrian government. Sadly this has nothing to do with human rights, but everything to do with establishing hegemony over the Middle-East for the Saudi/U.S. alliance. The Syrian people are the unfortunate victims of this power plan.

In the attack on Mosul (October 2016) the U.S. has allowed much of the ISIS leadership to move from Mosul to Syria along safe corridors. This strange relationship between the U.S. and ISIS in Syria is illustrated by the points hereunder:

  1. After ISIS took over Raqqa , it attacked the Syrian government air force base (near the town). It mounted one of its now classic “blitzkrieg” attacks on the airbase and managed to capture a number of pilots and staff. It proceeded to march them out later and publish worldwide its beheading of all of them. The Syrian air force mounted an attack (revenge attack) on ISIS in Raqqa, but as the Syrian air force (over Syrian sovereign territory) was approaching Raqqa, the U.S. air force intercepted the Syrian air force and then and ever since has “protected” Raqqa and ISIS in Raqqa (and its surrounding territory). The U.S. has made some half-hearted bombings in Raqqa of empty buildings, but no attacks on the lovely ISIS parades in the white Toyota SUVs that ISIS is so fond of posting online (on lovely clear blue sky days).
  2. The U.S. has also avoided attacking ISIS columns as they headed out to attack and take Palmyra and continue the attacks on Deir ez Zor and other Syrian held towns and villages. As long as ISIS was attacking the secular Syrian state the U.S. turned a blind eye. Again if one considers the topography, roads west and clear blue skies the U.S. could easily have prevented the murders and destruction in Palmyra. ISIS is depended on lines of attack and supply, which are visible from the sky. Even now, in the face of Russian air strikes, the U.S. did nothing to assist a successful ISIS offensive which has reclaimed Palmyra.
  3. The U.S. chose to ignore the massive trade and movements from ISIS held territory to Turkey and back. The oil trade (after ISIS captured the Syrian oil wells) was massive, the oil tankers easily visible from the air. This oil trade with Turkey was a major contributor to ISIS coffers (and Erdogan’s extended family coffers). Again, large number of SUVs went over the Turkish border to ISIS (as did weapons, Jihadists, etc). Both Turkey and the U.S. were incensed when Russia (invited in by the sovereign Syrian government) attacked the columns of oil tankers going to Turkey. The Russian strikes deprived ISIS (and the Erdogan family) of a major source of funds.
  4. The US has done nothing to help Deir ez Zor (on the Euphrates) which is under siege from ISIS and is totally dependent on food and materials flown in by the Syrian government. In fact, the U.S. attacked a Syrian army advance to relieve Deir ez Zor in 2015 and killed many Syrian soldiers (alleging it made a mistake). Then recently, as the “cease-fire” had taken effect, the US coalition planes attacked the Syrian soldiers defending the Deir ez Zor airport (through which all its food and materials pass) killing a number of them and simultaneously ISIS launched an attack to try and enter Deir ez Zor and take the airport. The attack has all the appearances of aiding ISIS and derailing the “cease-fire’ agreement between John Kerry and the Russians. When Russia objected in the UN, the US delegation changed the subject and refused to apologise.
  5. If one looks at a map, both Deir ez Zor and Palmyra are in Eastern Syria, which the U.S. coalition would much rather were not under Syrian government control. This is because both Eastern and Northern Syria are areas the coalition (esp. the Saudis and Turkey) would rather have under their Sunni surrogates (virtually all of whom are Islamic extremists). If ISIS took the two cities (Palmyra again and Deir ez Zor) then the U.S. (with Turkey and Saudi Arabia) could oust ISIS in a quick movement and hand over the entire area (with no problem of a Syrian government presence and a dispute over sovereignty). ISIS is still only a few miles east of Palmyra and still supplies its forces from Raqqa.
  6. The Syrian Kurds, who have consistently been the only US ally that has actually fought against ISIS, were on the point of cutting off the Turkish border with ISIS held territory, when the US agreed with Turkey that it could attack into Syria (at Jarabulus) and oust the Kurds. The Turks then attacked the Kurds (killing their members) and pushed them back (re-opening a direct access between Turkey and ISIS held territory). In this last week (of October) Turkey attacked Syrian Kurds from the air, as the Kurds were fighting ISIS in Northern Syria at Dabiq (a large number of Kurds were killed and wounded).
  7. The U.S. is talking about attacking Raqqa this year. But agonising over not knowing how to do this to ensure only Sunni (Islamic) forces (i.e. approved by such people as the Saudis and Turks) actually take over Raqqa and not the Syrian government or Kurds. The U.S. is maintaining assistance to al-Qaeda led forces in the NW, which is pinning down Syrian forces, so that the Syrian army (with Russian help) do not relieve Deir ez Zor and then take Raqqa and restore it to sovereign Syrian control.
  8. The recent release of a WikiLeaks document shows that Hillary Clinton knew (in 2013 when she was Secretary of State) that the Saudi and Qatar governments were funding and supporting ISIS and the serious implications of this. Yet Hillary continued to have friendly relations with both the Saudis and Qataris (receiving a large Qatari donation to the Clinton Foundation). But even worse is that the U.S. led “Coalition Against ISIS” includes as its key members the Saudis and Qatar, staunch opponents of the Syrian regime. So it appears to really be a “Coalition Against Assad”? This point has not been picked up as a real issue in the U.S. during the presidential election.

All of this is barely scratching the surface, but it certainly makes one wonder how it is possible that the U.S. coalition has been bombing Syrian territory for two years without any major success against the terror group.

Whether or not a President Trump will be able to put a stop to any of this remains to be seen, and is highly unlikely given the establishment insiders that he has chosen to surround himself with.

This article (The U.S. Has A Special Relationship With ISIS) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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