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Stumbling Towards Catastrophe: The New Cold War With China

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With tensions between the US and China at an all-time high, experts warn the two powers are closer to a military confrontation than ever before. A war with China should be unthinkable in Washington since the conflict could be catastrophic to the entire world as the threat of it erupting into a full-blown nuclear war is very real. But with a deteriorating trade relationship, tension over the Covid-19 pandemic, increased US Navy activity in the Pacific, new sanctions aimed at Chinese officials, and hostile rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, the unthinkable is becoming more and more likely.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new sanctions on Friday aimed at “current and former” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, accusing them of violating Hong Kong’s autonomy. Hong Kong has served as a stage for recent US meddling, with Washington openly supporting the protests that rocked the city since March 2019. The Trump administration accused Beijing of violating Hong Kong’s autonomy with a new national security law made for the city, a bill designed to quell protests.

Some Chinese officials justified passing the law by pointing to the foreign interference in the demonstrations – that interference included Congress hosting protest leaders and passing legislation to confront Beijing over the former British colony. China’s concern with foreign interference is clearly outlined in the national security bill, which includes “collusion with foreign and external forces” on a list of criminal offenses the bill aims to combat.
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OPCW Insiders Denounce Latest Syria Report

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Over the past year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been quietly facing a crisis of credibility. The crisis started when whistleblowers within the organization shared information that contradicted the findings of an OPCW investigation into the April 2018 alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria. Leaks and whistleblower testimony show the organization suppressed the findings of its experts to fit the narrative that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack. That crisis of credibility continues. A group of OPCW insiders have just spoken out against a new report that blames the Syrian government for an alleged 2017 chemical weapons attack.

On April 8th, the OPCW issued the first report from its new Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), a unit of the organization established to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks inside Syria. The new IIT report found "reasonable grounds" to conclude the Syrian government was responsible for three chemical attacks in Ltamenah, Syria at the end of March 2017. Specifically, two sarin attacks on March 24th and 30th, and one chlorine attack on March 25th. The three alleged attacks jointly "affected" 106 people and did not claim any lives.

The Grayzone published a response to the IIT report from a group of OPCW insiders who called the credibility of the IIT "compromised" and said the report is "scientifically flawed." According to The Grayzone, the authors who wrote the piece "represent the view of, at minimum, a small group of current and former OPCW officials who took part in its [the IIT report’s] drafting and review."
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New Anti-China Propaganda Uses Russiagate Playbook

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A rabid anti-China propaganda campaign has spread through the media since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hysteria seems to be just as contagious as the virus, as Americans are bombarded with anti-China stories from the pages of The New York Times to segments on Fox News. Both Republicans and Democrats are arguing the other side is not tough enough on China as they gear up for the 2020 election.

Since Donald Trump was elected president, the unfounded claim that Russia meddled in the 2016 election was spread far and wide by intelligence officials and liberal media outlets.

A common tactic used to promote the Russiagate narrative was unnamed officials making statements to the press without providing evidence or any factual basis to their claims. Another common tactic was frequent media appearances by former intelligence officials, like James Clapper and John Brennan, usually making wild accusations about Trump and Russia. These tactics are being repeated to promote an anti-China narrative.

The New York Times ran a story on April 22nd titled, "Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in US, Officials Say." The article says rumors that were spread through text messages and social media posts in mid-March that claimed the Trump administration was going to lock down the entire country to combat coronavirus were boosted by "Chinese operatives." The authors’ sources are "six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters."
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William Barr Greenlit Bush’s Invasion of Panama, Is Venezuela Next?

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The US Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials last week, accusing them of "narco-terrorism." The move is reminiscent of the 1988 indictment of former CIA asset and Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega. The Noriega indictment resulted in a US invasion of Panama that left hundreds – possibly thousands – of dead civilians in its wake. Attorney General William Barr took to the podium to announce Maduro’s indictment. Barr happens to be the same person who gave the first Bush administration the legal justification to invade Panama just over 30 years ago.

Barr first worked in the DOJ in 1989 when George H. W. Bush appointed him as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Bush and Barr had some history together. The two first crossed paths in 1976 when Bush was head of the CIA, and Barr served as a congressional liaison for the agency. At the time, Manuel Noriega was also on the CIA’s payroll.

Noriega served as a useful tool for the CIA for decades, most notably known for helping the US send money and weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua. But after Noriega became more of a liability than an asset, the US turned on him. Noriega’s connection to drug trafficking became the pretext for his disposal, something the US government was undoubtedly aware of long before the indictment.

In 1988, the Senate subcommittee on terrorism, narcotics, and international operations said, "It is clear that each US government agency which had a relationship with Noriega turned a blind eye to his corruption and drug dealing, even as he was emerging as a key player on behalf of the Medellin Cartel (Pablo Escobar’s infamous Colombian cartel)."
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Douma Whistleblowers Respond to OPCW’s Attacks

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Two whistleblowers that have been speaking out about a scandal within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have responded to the organization’s attempts to discredit them. The OPCW has been doing some serious damage control over its investigation into a chemical attack that allegedly took place in Douma, Syria on April 7th 2018.
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MIT Study Finds No Evidence of Fraud in Bolivian Election That Resulted in a Coup

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Back in November 2019, former Bolivian President Evo Morales was ousted in a coup after claims of election fraud from the Organization for American States (OAS). A new MIT study into the October 20th presidential election does not support the conclusions of the OAS and casts further doubt on the already flimsy claims. Much damage has already been done, Morales fled the country, members of his Movimento al Socialismo (MAS) party have been arrested, and dozens of his supporters were shot and killed by police in the unrest that followed the coup.

The claims of election fraud stem from a 24-hour pause of the preliminary count system on election day. The counting was paused after 84 percent of the votes were tallied, at the time it showed Morales leading his closest opponent Carlos Mesa by just under eight percent. When the counting resumed the next day, Morales’ lead increased to over 10 percent. In Bolivia’s election system, a candidate is required to have over 40 percent of the votes, and a 10 percent lead to their nearest opponent to prevent a runoff vote.

The OAS claims that during this 24-hour pause in the preliminary count, manipulations occurred that resulted in Morales taking a large enough lead to prevent the runoff vote. The new MIT study examined the data and concluded, "The OAS’s claim that the stopping of the trep (preliminary count) during the Bolivian election produced an oddity in the voting trend is contradicted by the data … Therefore, we cannot find results that would lead us to the same conclusion as the OAS. We find it is very likely that Morales won the required 10 percentage point margin to win in the first round of the election on October 20, 2019."
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Intelligence Officials Sow Discord By Stoking Fear of Russian Election Meddling

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Another presidential election year is upon us, and the intelligence agencies are hard at work stoking fears of Russian meddling. This time it looks like the Russians do not only like the incumbent president but also favor who appears to be the Democratic front-runner, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

On Thursday, The New York Times ran a story titled, "Lawmakers Are Warned That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump." The story says that on February 13th US lawmakers from the House were briefed by intelligence officials who warned them, "Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected."

The story provides little detail into the briefing and gives no evidence to back up the intelligence officials’ claims. It mostly rehashes old claims from the 2016 election, such as Russians are trying to "stir controversy" and "stoke division." The intelligence officials also said the Russians are looking to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries.

It looks like other intelligence officials are already undermining the leaked briefing. CNN ran a story on Sunday titled "US intelligence briefer appears to have overstated assessment of 2020 Russian interference." The CNN article reads, "The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at re-electing Trump, the officials said."
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White House Justifies Killing Soleimani for Past Actions, not Imminent Threats

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The White House released a memo on Friday to Congress justifying the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Despite earlier claims from the administration of Soleimani and his Quds Force planning imminent attacks on US personnel in the region, the memo uses past actions as the justification for the killing.

The memo says President Trump ordered the assassination on January 2nd “in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East region.”

Although the memo says one purpose of the action was to “deter Iran from conducting or supporting further attacks against United States forces,” it does not cite any specific threats. Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the killing was done to prevent imminent attacks and led on like they had the intelligence to prove it.
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Author of Leaked OPCW Engineering Report on Douma Speaks at UN Security Council

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The UN Security Council met in New York on Monday to discuss the investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into an alleged chemical attack that was said to have taken place in April 2018 in Douma, Syria. The alleged attack was blamed on the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the US, UK, and France responded with an airstrike against Syrian government targets.
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US Sanctions Are Still Strangling Venezuela

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As tensions in the Persian Gulf are taking up most of the headlines, the Trump administration is still seeking regime change in Venezuela. Since coming into office President Trump has had an aggressive policy towards Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. The Center for Economic Policy and Research determined in April that US sanctions were responsible for 40,000 deaths in Venezuela since 2017.

Well, those sanctions are still in full affect. A report released last month by Torino Economics concluded, "There is no logical reason why Chavez’s irresponsibility, Maduro’s incompetence and US economic sanctions cannot all have contributed to worsening the plight of Venezuelans." Francisco Rodriguez, the economist who prepared the report, is no fan of Maduro. He served as an advisor to Henri Falcon, one of Maduro’s opponents in the 2018 election. Yet Rodriguez still recognizes the damage US sanctions are inflicting.

The report focused on the effect sanctions have had on Venezuela’s oil production. It makes the point that oil production had been slowly declining, but it decreased drastically once the August 2017 sanctions were imposed by the US and when more sanctions were added in January 2019.
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