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 However, an archived version last captured on July 5, 2016, reveals details about the organization.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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Dear NZ Herald: Please Stop Giving Brian Tamaki Free Airtime

 

Zahra Shahtahmasebi

8 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) Brian Tamaki – everyone’s favourite bishop and leader of the Destiny Church – has made quite a name for himself in the headlines lately, ever since his infamous sermon on November 13th that apparently heralded the Kaikoura earthquake. In this Sunday session he finally revealed to us the unrivalled wisdom that homosexual activity, along with murderers, child abusers and other such sinners are the trigger that causes earthquakes and other natural disasters. Supposedly, the weight of all this sin is what causes the tectonic plates in the earth’s crust to move.

In lieu of this bout of genius, his latest insights turn away from earthquakes, and he has instead lashed out at the much beloved book series Harry Potter. The warning describes that the boy-wizard turned hero which is renowned for getting thousands of children and adults alike into reading, is actually a tool that lures people (particularly young adults) towards the occult and the demonic people.

If I remember correctly, there was a noticeable uprising of demonic activity since the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997. In the same statement, Tamaki continues to make further inspired comments about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), claiming that they would no longer be a problem in our society if people merely did not have sex until marriage and remained faithful to their spouse. This is despite the fact that STIs are not just transmitted via sexual intercourse but also via blood, mucous and contact with infected skin.

The backlash that has amounted against Tamaki and the Destiny Church since the “degradation of sexual sin being the cause for earthquakes” comments made the national news on the NZ Herald has been massive and profound. Tamaki has received several death threats, as well as threats to burn down the Church. He claims that he himself has homosexual friends yet fails to see how his comments could have offended people, particularly the LGBTQ community, and has emphatically refused to apologise. He is in fact, not spreading ‘Brian Tamaki’s word’ but instead, ‘God’s message’.

Protesters have since gathered at the Destiny Church to voice their anger; at least 54,000 people have called for the Church to be stripped of their tax-free status and several Kiwis have donated money to Rainbow Youth in Tamaki’s name. It seems that we’re all in agreement that these ideas of Tamaki’s are beyond absurd. So this begs the question, why is this controversial preacher and his ludicrous notions still getting air time? Why does the NZ Herald see fit to publish and give this man relevance that he in no way deserves?

A simple search of Tamaki’s name on the NZ Herald Facebook page yields at least sixteen separate articles relating to Tamaki that have been published in the last 2 weeks alone. Essentially, the NZ Herald is giving Tamaki a free platform to broadcast his “wisdom”.

Despite the fact that his comments and opinions have angered and enraged the New Zealand community, he is revelling in the publicity that it is bringing him and his church. An hour long radio interview with RadioLive allowed him to defend his views and promote his church. He welcomed many to attend, stating that one week’s attendance at the church is enough for to succumb and follow his ‘messages from God’. While a generous offer, interestingly enough I might be busy that day, doing anything else.

Would it not be a better idea to just ignore the bishop and his fantastical delusions, to not give him any credence, to let his ideas and his church to fade into nothingness – where they can no longer hurt and damage people with their spite? This is not to mention that what he is preaching can hardly be differentiated between the various religious advocates across the globe, also raising the question of why the media decides to single him out as if to be a somewhat lone wolf of religious extremism. How many churches do you know that strongly praise gay relationships?

Yes, what he is preaching is shocking and ridiculous, but we are allowing him to gather strength, power and the satisfaction of having a public medium publish his views for free.

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Why Did John Key Resign?

8 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) Prime Minister John Key’s decision to resign on 5 November 2016 has shocked both sides of the political spectrum. The New Zealand dollar dropped instantly, the national party began regrouping itself for its next leader, and Labour leader Andrew Little could not stop smiling.

According to Key himself, the decision to resign was based mostly on concerns for his family and being away from home too often, as well as the fact that he will be able to leave his post on a “high” as the National party is still doing well in the polls.

A so-called “body language expert” told the NZ Herald that Key appeared to be honest when speaking about wanting to spend time with his family. However, the “expert” stated that Key seemed less genuine when he talked about the National Party being in great shape and able to win the 2017 election.

If Key ends up taking job opportunities overseas away from his family following his resignation, one would naturally question his honesty regarding his decision to resign in order to spend more time with his family. This will remain to be seen but as it stands, he has already been tipped to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

So what are the real reasons for Key’s departure?

Kim Dotcom was bold enough to claim that the real reason for John Key’s departure is that “he can’t win the next election with tons of hacked Govt emails waiting to be leaked”. An extensive internet search has found no current evidence for this claim, but we will keep our eyes open. Given the fact that Key was able to comfortably win the election in 2014 after the email scandal that resulted from Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics”, any potential leak would have to be extremely damaging indeed for him to feel the need to resign.

Conversely, the Economist magazine heralded John Key’s legacy, stating that under John Key’s stewardship, New Zealand “can claim to be one of the most successful countries in the world.” The Economist even stated that under Key, national debt had been brought down, which let’s face it, is a complete lie.

The real legacy of John Key is actually a much more sinister story than that painted by the Economist and other local pundits.

In 2014, I wrote an article entitled “The Blunt Truth About the Recent Election in New Zealand” which deals with the same sorts of claims that are still being made today. For example, proponents of John Key’s successful legacy continue to highlight how Key was able to prop up the economy despite the global recession and the damaging earthquakes in Christchurch. Omitted from this assessment is the fact that the post-quake rebuild is one of the factors propping up the New Zealand economy in the first place, along with the reported China bubble boom.

What part of New Zealand’s economic growth can be solely attributed to the policies of John Key? Framing this question differently, how would another leader have treated the economy substantially differently to Key?

It is this fact that has prompted former National party leader, Don Brash, to state that John Key has achieved “almost nothing of significance.”

“I asked my National Party friends, what has he done in eight years that Helen Clark would not have done, and they struggled,” Brash stated.

In 2014, economist and Forbes columnist Jesse Colombo wrote an article entitled “12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End in Disaster.” Colombo has been warning the world about financial bubbles for years, and he accurately predicted the 2008 financial crisis. In the brief report, he acknowledges that New Zealand is showing the exact same symptoms that the world was showing during the 2008 financial crisis, namely:

  1. Interest rates are at an all time low;
  2. Property prices have doubled since 2004; 
  3. New Zealand has the world’s third most overvalued property market;
  4. New Zealand’s mortgage bubble grew by 165% since 2002;
  5. Nearly half of mortgages have floating interest rates;
  6. Mortgages account for 60% of bank’s loan portfolios;
  7. Finance, not agriculture, is New Zealand’s largest industry;
  8. New Zealand banks are exposed to Australia’s bubble;
  9. Australian and Chinese buyers are inflating the property bubble;
  10. New Zealand has a household debt problem (fourth worst household debt-to-GDP ratio among advanced economies, surpassing even the United States);
  11. Government overseas debt has nearly tripled since 2008; and lastly,
  12. the New Zealand dollar is overvalued.

Sooner or later, the bubble will pop. If John Key understands one thing, surely it’s the financial markets. Economic experts have been warning about the dangers of Auckland’s housing crisis all year.

This is a man who knows when to cash it in when the time is right. This is a man who turned down a CEO position at Merrill Lynch, and was nicknamed the “smiling assassin” whilst employed as Merrill Lynch’s global head of foreign exchange because he was able to fire dozens of employees whilst maintaining his cheerful exterior.

The assassin may indeed have something to smile about.

Meanwhile, in October of this year the United Nations warned that child poverty in New Zealand is a source of “deep concern”. Important institutions like Rape Crisis centres continue to go unfunded. Surveillance laws continue to expand the powers of the GCSB, an entity which has been complicit in the highly controversial United States drone assassination program, which led to the termination of a New Zealand citizen without trial. (Bear in mind Donald Trump is to inherit this program in a few weeks.)

Some would argue that the election of President elect Donald Trump may have something to do with Key’s decision, given Key’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement which Trump looks likely to have killed (for now).

Not to mention that little media attention has been given to the fact that John Key pledged $7.7 million NZD of taxpayer money to Hillary Clinton’s failed election campaign and promised to donate a further $6 million. In order to understand the implications of this, click here.

Are there more scandals to come?

We won’t hold our breath.

This article (Why Did John Key Resign?) 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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When Fake News Gets People Killed, It Must Be Stopped

(This article first appeared on the ANTIMEDIA)

(Darius Shahtahmasebi Op-ed)

Most of the time, the president says things we more or less agree with. When he says things along the lines of attacks on civilians must be stopped, of course, we all approve. How can we not?

The only problem is that usually, he is only applying those standards to uncooperative governments and never to himself or his allies.

The war on alternative media is a prime example of this. Obama’s spiel at a recent press conference in Germany is hard to argue with on its face, as he stated that fake news undermines the American political process:

“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

I agree. I think everyone agrees. Fake news must be stopped.

During the late nineties, the NATO war machine decided to spread its democratic principles to Yugoslavia. The country’s president at the time, Slobodan Milosevic, was widely branded as a war criminal by the mainstream media. There was some consensus that intervention was necessary to bring an end to his actions.

Years later, that perspective persisted. A 2011 Telegraph article explains that under Milosevic’s rule, “ethnic cleansing became a reality as whole populations were forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands were killed.

However, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague exonerated him earlier this year. Despite all the media’s claims, the ICTY determined he was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

I’m sure Milosevic did some truly heinous things while in office, but that’s beside the point. The point is that we were lied to, and NATO was able to launch a war based on those promulgated lies.

In 2011, we were told that the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit a mass genocide against his own people. The mainstream media advanced these claims without question. However, on the off chance we were not getting the full picture, Amnesty International decided to do an investigation of its own. As noted by the Independent:

“NATO leaders, opposition groups and the media have produced a stream of stories since the start of the insurrection on 15 February, claiming the Gaddafi regime has ordered mass rapes, used foreign mercenaries and employed helicopters against civilian protesters.

“An investigation by Amnesty International has failed to find evidence for these human rights violations and in many cases has discredited or cast doubt on them. It also found indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.” (emphasis added)

The mainstream media also failed to tell us a number of things about Libyan society. Although the country was ruled by Gaddafi, decision-making was conducted at the local level through a very participative democratic system. As explained by Counter Punch:

“Far from control being in the hands of one man, Libya was highly decentralized and divided into several small communities that were essentially “mini-autonomous States” within a State. These autonomous States had control over their districts and could make a range of decisions including how to allocate oil revenue and budgetary funds. Within these mini autonomous States, the three main bodies of Libya’s democracy were Local Committees, Basic People’s Congresses and Executive Revolutionary Councils.”

Under Gaddafi, Libya transformed itself into the most developed country in Africa with the highest standard of living on the continent. Libyans enjoyed state-sponsored health care and a number of other public services. The country was also debt-free.

Once again, the result of the media’s deceitful dissemination of half-truths was a NATO-led war.

Gaddafi was clearly no saint. There are numerous allegations about Gaddafi’s use of torture against political dissidents. But the idea that these allegations exonerate the media for peddling lies that ultimately led to the destruction of Libya’s future as a healthy state is so ludicrously untenable that it begs the question: Why do social media giants like Facebook not consider this disinformation to be worthy of the title “fake news?”

Syria is no different. In fact, the current Syrian conflict exists only because of a concoction of media lies so extensive that this topic alone would require an entire book dedicated to it.

Since the start of the conflict in 2011, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has maintained the majority support of his people. The most recent poll I am aware of (a French poll, believe it or not) gives him an approval rating of over 70 per cent — much higher than Barack Obama’s personal rating. Yet we have been told time and time again by the mainstream media that Assad has no legitimacy and the people of Syria want to overthrow him.

Wrong. The governments of TurkeySaudi ArabiaQatarJordanIsraelFrance, the United Kingdom, and the United States want to overthrow the current Syrian president over a pipeline that could potentially strengthen Russia and Iran’s position in the Middle East.

The idea that any of those players care about human rights in Syria when every single one of them is responsible for all kinds of human rights abuses, both domestically and abroad, should be questioned by every mainstream media outlet in the world. But it’s not.

Has Assad committed some horrible crimes, including widespread torture and indiscriminate attacks on civilians? Most probably. But so have many of Washington’s allies, and many of the so-called opposition groups in Syria are dominated by violent extremists, including the Free Syrian Army.

The war in Syria was instigated by external powers, but the media continues to push the agenda of the military industrial complex.

Further, Iraq has been the victim of years and years of mainstream media lies, which have led to what can only be aptly described as the biggest crime(s) of our generation.

Obama is right. Facebook is right. Google and Twitter are right.

Fake news is all around us, and it must be stopped.

But there is no war on fake news. There is only a war on alternative and independent media — media who question the official lines advanced by the corporate media.

There is a reason the Guardian newspaper is begging for donations and other corporate outlets are promoting half-baked theories about Russian propaganda. The media has lost all credibility when it comes to important topics – and we have become the scapegoat.

What we are witnessing is utter desperation from the corporate elites in their attempts to control what we read and what we choose to believe.

In the words of Secretary of State John Kerry:

“It [the internet] makes it much harder to govern, it makes it much harder to organize people, much harder to find the common interest and that is complicated by a rise of sectarianism and religious extremism that is prepared to employ violent means to impose on other people a way of thinking and a way of living that is completely contrary to everything the United States of America has ever stood for. So we need to keep in mind what our goals are and how complicated this world is that we’re operating in.” (emphasis added)

Or maybe, we could simply be taught to think and analyze critically at the school level rather than being told what to believe by corporate giants like Facebook and Google.


This article (When Fake News Gets People Killed, It Must Be Stopped) first appeared on the theAntiMedia.org and was written by Darius Shahtahmasebi. This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebi and theAntiMedia.org.

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