Puppet Masters

Snakes in Suits

Don't be nostalgic about Tony Blair; his effect on Britain and beyond was toxic

© Mark Thomas/Rex Features
Tony Blair has refused to apologise for the Iraq war, and periodically pops up to argue that he was right all along
Zoe Williams wants us to get nostalgic about Blairism. But in her attempt to defend Tony Blair's record she badly misjudges the significance of the Iraq war. By any standards, Iraq was a catastrophe. The most recent study suggests nearly half a million people were killed as a result of a western military operation that tore up the fabric of a modern society and divided its people. By rights, no politician intimately responsible for such a cataclysm should survive with any kind of reputation intact. A criminal process is entirely appropriate.

But the Iraq war was more than a disaster in itself. It was a signifier of new and disturbing times. It wasn't an isolated blunder; it marked the moment when the wider population became fully aware of a new foreign policy posture, developed in Washington, enabled and encouraged by Blair himself. The parody of Blair as US poodle diminishes his role in history. He chafed at Bill Clinton's hesitancy to bomb Serbia in 1999 and secretly reassured the Bush administration that it would not be alone in the illegal pursuit of regime change in Iraq as early as May 2002. The attack on Libya in 2011, government enthusiasm for a new bombing campaign against Syria last year, and the current sabre rattling against Russia show that the spirit of the ethics-led aggression Blair championed lives on. Thankfully, it is a deeply unpopular impulse, with substantial majorities calling for an end to foreign military adventures and massive defence spending.

Scientists say UK wasted £560m on flu drugs that are not proven

© Bloomberg/Getty
Roche HQ: the company disputes a report by independent scientists questioning the effectiveness of Tamiflu
The government has wasted half a billion pounds stockpiling two anti-flu drugs that have not been proved to stop the spread of infection or to prevent people becoming seriously ill, according to a team of scientists who have analysed the full clinical trials data, obtained after a four-year fight.

The government has spent £424m buying stocks of Tamiflu and £136m on Relenza in case of a flu pandemic. During the swine flu outbreak of 2009, the World Health Organisation recommended that all countries should stock up on supplies.

But the Cochrane Collaboration, a group of independent scientists who investigate the effectiveness of medicines, says that the best Tamiflu can do is shorten a bout of flu by approximately half a day - from around seven to 6.3 days.

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Oligarchy, not democracy: Americans have 'near-zero' input on policy - report

© Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh
The first-ever scientific study that analyzes whether the US is a democracy, rather than an oligarchy, found the majority of the American public has a "minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy" compared to the wealthy.

The study, due out in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, sets out to answer elusive questions about who really rules in the United States. The researchers measured key variables for 1,779 policy issues within a single statistical model in an unprecedented attempt "to test these contrasting theoretical predictions" - i.e. whether the US sets policy democratically or the process is dominated by economic elites, or some combination of both.

"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts," the researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University wrote.

US is an oligarchy not a democracy, says scientific study

Money Talks
© Shutterstock
In America, money talks... and democracy dies under its crushing weight.
A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study's opening question, "Who governs? Who really rules?" in this country, is:
"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise.

But, ..." and then they go on to say, it's not true, and that, "America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened" by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead "the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America].

When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

John Hagee: Tuesday's 'blood moon' eclipse signals the end of the world

© RawStory
Pastor John Hagee is warning members of his megachurch to prepare for the end of the world because a "blood moon" eclipse on Tuesday is signaling that the End Times could be beginning.

On Tuesday, most of the United States will be treated to the first of four complete lunar eclipses - which scientists call a tetrad - occurring in six month intervals. The eclipses are often referred to as "blood moons" because as sunlight shines on the moon through the Earth's atmosphere, it gives the moon a red color.

Hagee, pastor of Texas' Cornerstone Church, has written a book on the phenomenon titled Blood Moons: Something is About to Change. And he is airing a live television event on Tuesday to reveal "direct connections between four upcoming blood-moon eclipses and what they portend for Israel and all of humankind."

Seven killed in coal mine explosion in Donetsk, Ukraine

© Reuters/Maks Levin
Men carry the body of a victim of an explosion on a stretcher at the Skochinsky mine outside Donetsk April 11, 2014. Seven people were killed on Friday when an explosion caused by leaking gas tore through a coal mine near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, local authorities said. Altogether 52 miners were working at a depth of 1,300 metres when the accident occurred at the Skochinsky mine. Apart from the seven killed, an eighth miner was taken to hospital with injuries.
According to preliminary reports, the explosion occurred because of methane outburst during drilling operations

Seven people were killed as a result of an explosion that occurred at the Skochinsky coal mine in Ukraine's Donetsk. The press service of Donetsk Oblast department of the state emergencies service reported this on Friday.

"Seven people have died today. The explosion happened early in the morning," the service's spokesperson said.

According to preliminary reports, the explosion occurred because of methane outburst during drilling operations.

The Skochinsky coal mine is located straight in Donetsk and forms part of Donetsk Coal Power Company.

Pathetic Propaganda: Shifting the blame toward Russia for possible intelligence failures before the Boston bombing

© AP/Jacquelyn Martin
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, asks a questions on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during the committee's hearing about the Boston Marathon Bombings leading up to the year anniversary of the attack.
A yearlong review of information the U.S. intelligence community had prior to the Boston Marathon bombing found that the investigation could have been more thorough, but the intelligence agencies' inspectors general said it is impossible to know whether anything could have been done differently to prevent the attack.

The report also said that Russia withheld some information about the bombing suspects until after the attack, but an unclassified version of the report didn't address what difference that might have made.

The Obama administration briefed Congress Thursday on the intelligence community inspectors general's findings. The inspectors general examined how the government's 17 intelligence agencies handled information it had prior to the April 15 attack that killed three people and injured more than 200 others. It explored whether there were any missed opportunities to share information that could have prevented two ethnic Chechen brothers from carrying out the bombings.

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Russia warns of Kiev using American hired guns in Eastern Ukraine

On April 7th, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued several statements on the tense situation in eastern Ukraine. The latest ones warn against specific actions by the coup-installed Kiev regime, including the use of mercenary security forces provided by the U.S.-based firm Greystone Limited. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke by phone.

In Donetsk and Kharkov, local militias supported by large crowds in the streets had occupied Ukraine Security Service (SBU) offices over the weekend, as well as the Donetsk regional government building. Acting President Alexander Turchynov charged that these were Russian-backed separatist "saboteurs," language that was echoed by U.S. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki.

In an afternoon statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was closely monitoring the situation in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkov, while continuing to believe that stabilization of Ukraine will only be achieved through constitutional reform that includes "federalization" - extensive autonomy for different regions of the country. It accused Kiev of irresponsibility and failure to give cogent answers to "legitimate demands" from the population. Saying that "it is time to quit blaming Russia," the Foreign Ministry called for international efforts, especially on the part of Germany, France and Poland, which had witnessed the government-opposition agreement of Feb. 21 - just before the coup - to "promote a genuine national dialogue of all political and regional forces in Ukraine."

The next generation of shadow wars: America's military-industrial complex is evolving as U.S. African Command goes to war on the sly

After a decade of failed nation-building in the Middle East, the U.S. military sets its sights on a new continent

What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things - especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command's activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts. At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States "has little forward presence" on that continent. Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon's presence there were telling a very different story - but they weren't speaking with the media. They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet. They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.

I recently experienced this phenomenon myself during a media roundtable with Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When I asked the general to tell me just what his people were building for U.S. forces in Africa, he paused and said in a low voice to the man next to him, "Can you help me out with that?" Lloyd Caldwell, the Corps's director of military programs, whispered back, "Some of that would be close hold" - in other words, information too sensitive to reveal.

The only thing Bostick seemed eager to tell me about were vague plans to someday test a prototype "structural insulated panel-hut," a new energy-efficient type of barracks being developed by cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He also assured me that his people would get back to me with answers. What I got instead was an "interview" with a spokesman for the Corps who offered little of substance when it came to construction on the African continent. Not much information was available, he said, the projects were tiny, only small amounts of money had been spent so far this year, much of it funneled into humanitarian projects. In short, it seemed as if Africa was a construction backwater, a sleepy place, a vast landmass on which little of interest was happening.

Psychopath overview: Washington is humanity's worst enemy - Paul Craig Roberts

How does Washington get away with the claim that the country it rules is a democracy and has freedom? This absurd claim ranks as one of the most unsubstantiated claims in history.

There is no democracy whatsoever. Voting is a mask for rule by a few powerful interest groups. In two 21st century rulings (Citizens United and McCutcheon), the US Supreme Court has ruled that the purchase of the US government by private interest groups is merely the exercise of free speech. These rulings allow powerful corporate and financial interests to use their money-power to elect a government that serves their interests at the expense of the general welfare.

The control private interests exercise over the government is so complete that private interests have immunity to prosecution for crimes. At his retirement party on March 27, Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor James Kidney stated that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other "banks too big to fail" were blocked by superiors who "were focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service." The SEC's top brass, Kidney said, did not "believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful." In his report on Kidney's retirement speech, Eric Zuesse points out that the Obama regime released false statistics in order to claim prosecutions that did not take place in order to convince a gullible public that Wall Street crooks were being punished.