Puppet Masters

Snakes in Suits

Buying Democracy: Koch brothers plan to spend $900 million for 2016 presidential election

© Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press
Charles Koch in 2012. The Kochs and their advisers have built a robust array of political organizations
The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.

The spending goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs' annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited over the years, and covers both the presidential and congressional races. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.

Hundreds of conservative donors recruited by the Kochs gathered over the weekend for three days of issue seminars, strategy sessions and mingling with rising elected officials. These donors represent the largest concentration of political money outside the party establishment, one that has achieved enormous power in Republican circles in recent years.

Green Light

Genetically modified potatoes close to arriving at U.S. grocery stores

© Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
A new genetically modified potato is closer than ever to arriving in American grocery stores, but while advocates claim it can actually reduce the risk of cancer, opponents say not nearly enough is known to ensure public safety.

Created by the J. R. Simplot Company, 'Innate' potatoes were created by inserting extra genes into them - genes that are modified but that otherwise exist naturally in the potato. Through genetic modification using RNA interference (RNAi), scientists used these genes to shut down a few of the potato's other original genes - a process called gene silencing.

Some of the genes being shut down are those that cause bruising and create acrylamide when potatoes are baked or fried. Acrylamide is an amino acid which, in tests conducted on rats, has increased the animals' risk of getting cancer.

Comment: That's a great marketing strategy and one hell of a sales job. The fact that acrylamide has been linked to cancer doesn't mean GMOs are good for you or that eating them will prevent cancer.

There are also financial incentives behind gene silencing, and the Innate potato was designed to solve a big monetary problem. Farmers currently throw out 1.4 billion pounds of potatoes due to browning and bruising, costing them 15 percent of their profits each year. The fewer potatoes thrown out because of this, the more profit they can recoup off their yield.

While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the new varieties in November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to give the green light on the potato. It is looking into how the genetic modification has altered the chemical makeup of the potato, and whether that raises safety concerns.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is worried about the USDA granting the Innate potato a non-regulatory status, since GMO foods are not required to be labeled. As a result, the new potato will be sold to consumers without their knowledge.

Comment: See also:


Fact-checking group rates Fox News as worst TV outlet for promoting mostly lies and false information

© Fox News
Fox News host Sean Hannity
Fox News promotes the most false information among TV news outlets, according to a fact-checking watchdog - and the problem is only getting worse.

Politifact regularly examines claims made on air by pundits, hosts, or paid contributors and rates those statements by accuracy.

The latest scorecard showed more than 60 percent of the claims made on Fox News were mostly false or worse - and half of all claims were either demonstrably false or outright lies.

Politifact found that 39 percent of the claims made on air during Fox News broadcasts had some basis in fact, with 10 percent that could be proven as true, 11 percent rated as mostly true, and 18 percent that were half true.

However, a nearly equal number - 38 percent - of the claims made on Fox News were demonstrably false, while 26 percent of them were mostly false, and 11 percent were mocked as "pants on fire" falsehoods.

Ukraine Chief of Staff acknowledges no Russian troops in Donetsk

© Sputnik/ Igor Zarembo
The chief of Ukraine's General Military Staff Viktor Muzhenko acknowledged that Russian regular army units were not involved in combat action in the troubled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

"Right now the Ukrainian army is not engaged in combat operations against Russian regular units," he underscored.

Muzhenko added, however, that he had information about Russian civilian and military individuals fighting alongside independence supporters in the country's east.

Comment: But the misinformation campaign by the West has already done it's damage to make Russia look like the aggressor.

Eye 1

Unraveling the mysterious origins and benefactors of Boko Haram

© Unknown
Very well armed for a supposed rag-tag militia
The most entertaining mysteries are the ones with compelling protagonists, enigmatic and often surreptitious antagonists, and surprising or shocking conclusions. Indeed, without these essential elements, one is unlikely to read the story at all. However, when it comes to politics and geopolitics, somehow our mass media storytellers - the scores of journalists, military and counter-terrorism 'experts,' and establishment mouthpieces - fail to even point us in the right direction. Not only do they not follow the threads of the story, they prefer to pretend they simply aren't there.

And so it is with the great 'mystery' of Boko Haram, a group that in just a few years has become one of the most recognizable terrorist entities in the world. Having carried out heinous massacres of men, women, and children, abducted thousands of innocents, and destroyed whole towns, Boko Haram now symbolizes just that perfect blend of barbarism, religious and ideological fundamentalism, and non-white skin, which come together to cast them, in the eyes of westerners especially, as the manifestation of evil - the devil incarnate that can only be destroyed by the forces of righteousness. You know, the 'good guys.'

But what happens when there are no 'good guys' to be found? What happens when you follow the story only to find the most cynical of intentions from every player involved? Such is the case with this Boko Haram story, and indeed the regional politics and geopolitics of West Africa as a whole.

In trying to unravel the labyrinthine web of political, economic, and strategic threads connecting a number of significant actors, it becomes clear that no analysis of Boko Haram is worth reading unless it approaches the issue from three distinctly different, yet intimately connected, angles.

First, there is Nigeria's domestic politics, and the issue of Boko Haram and the perception of the government and opposition's responsibility for the chaos it has wreaked. With elections scheduled to take place in February, Boko Haram and national security have, quite understandably, become dominant issues in the public mind. The mutual finger-pointing and accusations provide an important backdrop for understanding how Boko Haram fits both into the public discourse, and into the strategies of political networks behind the scenes in Nigeria, and the region more broadly.
Light Saber

Putin's unexpected victory: Europe furious that Greece is now a Russian sanctions veto

© Unknown
The Syriza Party of Alexis Tsipras: Challenging the EU's status quo in more ways than one.
Two days ago, Zero Hedge first, and shortly thereafter everyone else, pointed out something stunning: the biggest surprise to emerge so far out of the new anti-Troika/austerity Greek government was not so much its intention to proceed with the first test of "Odious Debt" - this was largely known in advance - but its dramatic pivot away from Germany and Europe, and toward Russia.

As we noted before, not only has Greece already blocked all ongoing privatization processes, a clear snub of Merkel and the Troika which demands the piecemeal blue light special sale of Greece to western buyers as part of the "bailout", but is also looking at plans to reinstate public sector employees and announce increased pensions for those on low incomes: further clear breaches of the Troika's austerity terms.

But the most important message that Tsipras is sending to Europe is that (after meeting the Russian ambassador first upon his election) Greece is now effectively a veto power when it comes to future Russian sanctions!

This was first hinted when the Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who arrives in Brussels today to discuss possible additional sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, said a few days ago that the Greek government disagreed with an EU statement in which President Donald Tusk raised the prospect of "further restrictive measures" on Russia. As Bloomberg observed before, in recent months, Kotzias wrote on Twitter that sanctions against Russia weren't in Greece's interests. He said in a blog that a new foreign policy for Greece should be focused on stopping the ongoing transformation of the EU "into an idiosyncratic empire, under the rule of Germany."

Comment: Though Greece is still largely under the sway of its own Oligarchs and EU-aligned political parties, it will be interesting to see how far Tsipras and the Syriza party can go in throwing off the yoke of austerity policy and the Western imperative to destabilize Russia. It seems that following these two approaches go hand in hand if any country has a strong enough will towards national sovereignty.

See: Greece's Syriza party breaks from EU propaganda line against Russia

Eye 1

Justice? Hundreds of UK child sex offenders spared jail, let off with cautions

© Reuters / Finbarr O'Reilly
Hundreds of sex offenders are being given lenient punishments by British judges despite committing "abhorrent" crimes against children.

According to official figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), hundreds of sex offenders have been let off with cautions, despite the law saying they should face jail sentences of up to 14 years.

According to the MoJ, there were 7,057 cautions handed to sex offenders in the UK since 2009.

The figures come as authorities investigate allegations of historic child abuse during the 1970s and 1980s, including a suspected elite pedophile ring consisting of serving British politicians.

Philip Davies, the Tory MP who disclosed the figures, said sex offenders were not "feeling the full force of the law" adding, "It is completely unacceptable to give cautions for sexual activity with children under the age of 13."

"There are no mitigating factors and no excuses. They should go before a judge," he said.

West seeking to destroy Russia to avert its own destruction


Comment: Update: The following article has been put on the internet as being by Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk Peoples Republic. This is not the case as The Saker found out. It was penned by Eduard Birov.

If one is to speak without geopolitical complexities and nuances, the situation is extremely simple. This is a battle for the continent, for the international system, for one's own taiga. They are desperately attacking us and are trying to take us down quickly. They use all means at their disposal, except for direct military intervention on Russia's territory. They are destroying Russians outside their borders, are raising foreign legions in order to invade the country. The West undertook to destroy us for the simple reason it is trying to avert its own destruction. The main factors are the destruction of the economy and of the political authorities of Russia.

The main factor that might allow them to accomplish this is the decay within Russia, a split within the Russian government, the spreading of hatred among the people. That's the reason for the constant provocations and the divide-and-conquer policies: inter-ethnic animosities, hatred toward the state, toward big capital (specifically the pro-Russian), toward the Orthodox Church, toward its own people and everything around it. All of that is being done to get Russia to destroy itself from within. But that's precisely what is not happening. Everything is breaking apart against the unity of the government which has the support of its people which feels as if it was in a besieged fortress together with its leader. Even capitalists like Usmanov, Vekselberg, and others, who chose the West, moved their assets from offshore accounts back to Russia. Even Shuvalov swore his loyalty to Putin in Davos. To say nothing of ordinary mortals. No matter how much is said about "Putin the billionaire" and the government for sale, in spite of all the problems and the worsening financial situation, the solidarity with the national leader is not only not growing weaker, but is getting stronger. What is more, the people want him to act more firmly and not compromise with the West, no matter what the cost.

Comment: Donetsk is lucky to have a leader like Zakharchenko, who seems to have a good grasp of the big picture, popular support, military ability, and a conscience. The same can't be said for certain other 'leaders' involved in this senseless, murderous conflict. Readers can watch one of Zakharchenko's latest sitreps below:

Better Earth

South Front Ukraine updates: Ukraine 'troops' enter Russia! Russian Popeye behind Mariupol shelling!

south front
The latest South Front news updates from Ukraine:
  • Debaltsevo pocket closing around Ukrainian troops,
  • NATO condemns escalation of the crisis in Ukraine (blame Russia for Kiev's shelling of civilians!),
  • Ukrainian troops enter Russia (fleeing conscription)
  • Mariupol shelling 'confession'
Black Magic

This is why Ukraine's government is losing the war

On January 27th, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense headlined "Militants Continue to Suffer Losses," and reported that four helicopters, and other weapons of the "militants," were destroyed in battle, but no evidence was given to support the assertion.

Just two days prior, the (also pro-Government) Kiev Post had, in fact, bannered "Ukraine Hides Devastating Losses as Russia-Backed Fighters Surge Forward," and reported "Ukraine's worst-kept secret - that the Ukrainian army is drastically understating its casualties." After detailing, there, what seems to be outrageous unconcern by the Government, for the welfare of troops it's sending into battle (even by jamming battlefield-injured soldiers into regular civilian hospitals, which aren't equipped to handle their injuries), this report ends with a doctor saying, "It's bad everywhere. Yes, the soldiers are still standing at their positions ready to fight. But we don't see any help coming for them."

The Ukrainian news agency RIAN headlined on January 26th, "Mobilization in Dnipropetrovsk Almost Drowned," and reported, "In Dnipropetrovsk region [which is run by the U.S. White House's friend, the Ukrainian-Swiss-Israeli billionaire Ihor Kolomoysky, whose longstanding personal mercenary army has, alone, more than 5,000 fighters], thousands of men are hiding from the draft. Enforcement officers recognize that accomplishing their task will be very difficult." More than 2,000 people there who were drafted "did not show up, they evaporated."

Comment: Apparently one of Poroshenko's advisors, Yury Biryukov, posted details on his Facebook page showing how disastrous the latest, fourth mobilization of troops for the Ukrainian army is going: heads of rural councils are refusing to accept summons and warning their residents, conscripts are not turning up or are fleeing Ukraine, or are refusing service on religious grounds. No one wants this war except for the Nazi element in Ukraine and the U.S./NATO puppet masters pulling the strings. Ukrainian troops are being lied to, sent into battle under false pretexts, and then being killed or captured as cannon fodder. Even a dyed-in-the-wool patriot would find that slightly offensive. Is the Ukrainian military command really that stupid? Or just desperate?