Australians continue to be poorly served by the mainstream media in the coverage of foreign affairs. In many cases it seems that the narrative is determined upon at an early stage. That is then maintained regardless of new evidence that may emerge, and even when it is repeatedly pointed out in the alternative media that the “official” version is biased or simply hopelessly wrong.
Foreign news coverage just in the past week illustrates the point. All of these stories have been around all year, but the preferred narrative remains constant. I use the ABC, SBS and Fairfax newspapers for the following illustrations.
Russian Interference in the US Election.
This story serves many goals. It is used primarily to cast doubt upon the validity of Trump’s presidency; and it also provides a useful stick to maintain the constant barrage of anti-Putin and anti-Russian propaganda. There is not a shred of evidence that Russia interfered in the US presidential elections.
Sundry breathless revelations turn out to be either non-existent, of miniscule impact (Facebook ads, mostly after the election), or creations of the Democratic Party, is in the bought and paid for (by the Democratic Party) ex-British spy Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier.
Completely under reported is the admitted $100 million the US spent trying to influence the last Russian presidential election, not to mention repeated attempts (sometimes successful) at regime change.
The Clinton Emails.
We now know that senior FB I official Peter Strzok in conjunction with his mistress FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and the FBI acting director Andrew McCabe actively conspired to promote Hillary Clinton’s campaign and to undermine Donald Trump. Part of this included ex-president Bill Clinton meeting with Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch just before the FB I announced that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted over the unauthorized use of tens of thousands of emails and their corresponding security breaches. This was before the investigation was even concluded. Such double standards are apparently not worthy of comment by our mainstream media.
South China Sea.
It is correct that China is building military facilities on artificially created atolls, or “militarizing” the South China Sea as we are endlessly reminded. That Taiwan (which makes identical claims to rights in the South China Sea as does the PRC), the Philippines and Vietnam are doing exactly the same thing that China is accused of doing for nefarious purposes is similarly never mentioned.
China’s contribution to island building in the South China Sea as 8 out of 44 such constructions, but that also is missing from the mainstream narrative.
Nor is there any acknowledgement that China has cause to be concerned about the regular Australia-US military exercises such as Operation Talisman Sabre that practice, inter alia, blockading the Malacca Straits through which more than 80% of China’s oil imports pass.
We are told that the Americans are exercising their freedom of navigation rights to sail military vessels within the territorial waters of China’s islands, although no one can point to a single instance of that freedom being impaired. Neither can our mainstream media explain why it is that the loudest demands for rights of freedom of navigation under the UNCLOS should be made by a nation that that is not even a signatory.
That same nation would be unlikely to tolerate similar exercises by the PLAN were such exercises to be carried out for example, in the Gulf of Mexico.
As the Russian interference meme loses steam from its lack of evidence and increasingly obvious ulterior motives, we are now exposed to its ready-made substitute, China’s alleged influence peddling in Australian domestic politics.
The timing is not coincidental. On 14 December 2017 the Rothschild organ The Economist published a title story ‘How China’s “sharp power” is muting criticism abroad.’
The day before, on 13 December 2017 the influential US Council of Foreign Relations also published a piece entitled ‘Beijing’s Influence Sparks Regional Concerns’. Sam Dastyari’s indiscreet actions were therefore a godsend to the embattled Malcolm Turnbull. Amidst all the hyperbole from Turnbull, Bishop and Dutton the mainstream media completely ignored the real story, which was the blatant use of one or more of the intelligence agencies to use confidential information for political purposes.
Such soft power as it is exercised by China is no different from that exercised by other nations. Why then is there no analysis in the mainstream media of the relationship between the multiple visits made to Israel by our parliamentarians, and the extraordinary amount of political support extended to Israel by Australia, in the United Nations and elsewhere? Turnbull and Bishop’s much loved “rule of law” does not include Israel and its daily breaches of UN Resolutions and the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries, let alone the appalling treatment of the Palestinians and the ongoing theft of their land.
There are numerous American groups both official and unofficial who offer scholarships, study visits, goodwill trips and other inducements. The benefits to the Americans of this largesse are readily ascertainable in parliamentary debate, newspaper editorials and a facile ‘joined at the hip’ foreign and defence policy.
Yet we never read criticism of this “influence” on our domestic and foreign policies.
According to the Department of Defence website the Australian government is operating in Syria in consultation with the government of that country. I made a Freedom of Information application for documentary evidence of such consultation. Within 24 hours I received a telephone call from the Department of Defence saying that the website was “in error” and had now been corrected as a result of my query.
When the aforesaid media outlets make rare references to even the fact that Australia is operating in Syrian air space (and probably also on the ground with unacknowledged special forces) it is always in the context of their being there as part of a “coalition.”
That this coalition is operating in Syria contrary to international law is never discussed. More than two years ago Julie Bishop made the claim that Australia was in Syria at the request of Iraq, pursuant to the collective self-defence provisions of article 51 of the UN Charter.
That claim and information about the true circumstances about how Australian forces came to be acting in Syria has been thoroughly documented in a number of alternative media outlets without a word of this evidence ever being printed or broadcast in the mainstream media.
Compare for example, the media coverage of the liberation of Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces and the more recent liberation of Raqqa by “coalition” forces. The former was invariably described as illustrating Syrian and Russian brutality and the Syrian “regime’s” disregard for human life.
The almost total destruction of Raqqa by aerial and artillery bombardment, the deaths of thousands of civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands is by contrast treated with kid gloves. Loss of life is merely “regrettable” and really the fault of ISIS for being there.
Even when Australia takes part in aerial attacks upon Syrian soldiers it is described as a “mistake” and the mainstream media promptly lose interest. As Tim Anderson has forensically dissected, it was not a “mistake” but part of a deliberate strategy of coalition support for ISIS (www.21stcenturywire.com 17 December 2017). The now well documented role of ISIS and similar terrorist groups as part of the US’s geopolitical strategy is similarly ignored by the mainstream media.
The Americans are now claiming through Defence Secretary Mattis that they intend staying in Syria for an indefinite period. Again one has to wonder why this is not being reported in the mainstream media and editorially condemned?
The arrogant hubris of Mattis’ statement is extraordinary, but apparently being the “exceptional nation” exempts one from observing the rights of sovereign nations to decide who may or may not set up shop on the territory.
There are many other examples, including Crimea (“annexed” by Russia) and North Korea (invariably a “rogue state” that “poses a threat to the region”) Both politicians and mainstream journalists seem bereft of even minimal historical knowledge or insight. When did you last read in the mainstream that North Korea had more bombs dropped on it during the Korean War than the whole of World War 2?
Or that most of the targets were civilians and civilian infrastructure and that napalm was used to destroy crops and starve the people into submission? Or that General McArthur wanted to use nuclear bombs to not only destroy North Korea totally, but also China before it too became a threat to American hegemonic ambitions for North and East Asia? Yet it is Mr Kim who is invariably described by Turnbull et al and faithfully parroted in the media as the “mad” or “dangerous” one.
Readers will undoubtedly have their own lists.
These are not trivial examples that have been referred to above. Each has the potential to start a nuclear war in which the survivors will envy the dead. Our mainstream media has a duty, one would argue, to try and minimize that unthinkable outcome. Our ability to do so depends in part on an impartial media fully informing its readers and listeners of relevant information in an unbiased manner.
Their failure to do so does a profound disservice to Australia. It also, I would suggest, poses a risk to our nation’s security and to our economic well-being. They are living in a fool’s Paradise if they believe that this demonization of important nations does not carry with it significant risks. There are many ways that China for example could choose to express their anger at the government’s mindless rhetoric. Warnings have already been given in the semi official Chinese media and we would ignore those warnings to our considerable cost.
by Rosemary Mason – Colin Todhunter January 19, 2018
If the proposed Monsanto-Bayer merger goes through, the new company would control more than 25 per cent of the global supply of commercial seeds and pesticides. Monsanto held a 26% market share of all seeds sold in 2011. Bayer sells 17% of the world’s total agrochemicals and also has a seeds sector. If competition authorities pass the deal, the combined company would be the globe’s largest seller of both seeds and agrochemicals.
It marks a trend towards consolidation in the industry with Dow and DuPont having merged and Swiss seed/pesticide giant Syngenta merging with ChemChina. The mergers would mean that three companies would dominate the commercial agricultural seeds and chemicals sector.
In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, after it was announced in 2016 the US National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:
“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, nor should we allow it to determine the landscape for our future… We will continue to express concern that these megadeals are being made to benefit the corporate boardrooms at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural economies… [there is an] alarming trend of consolidation in agriculture that has led to less competition, stifled innovation, higher prices and job loss in rural America.”
For all the rhetoric that we often hear about ‘the market’ and large corporations offering choice to farmers and consumers, the evidence is restriction of choice and the squeezing out of competitors. Over the years, for instance, Monsanto has bought up dozens of competitors to become the largest supplier of genetically engineered seeds with seed prices having risen dramatically.
Consolidation and monopoly in any sector should be of concern to everyone. But the fact that the large agribusiness conglomerates specialize in a globalised, industrial-scale, chemical-intensive model of farming should have us very concerned. Farmers are increasingly reliant on patented corporate seeds, whether non-GM hybrid seeds or GM and the chemical inputs designed to be used with them. Monsanto seed traits are now in 80% of corn and more than 90% of soybeans grown in the US.
By its very nature, the economic model that corporate agriculture is attached to demands expansion, market capture and profit growth. It might bring certain benefits to those farmers who have remained in agriculture, if not for the 330 farmers in the US who leave their land every week (according to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service).
But in the US, ‘success’ in agriculture has largely depended on over $51 billion of taxpayer handouts over a 10-year period to oil the wheels of a particular system of agriculture designed to maintain corporate agribusiness profit margins. And any ‘success’ fails to factor in all the external social, health and environmental costs. It is easy to spin failure as success when the parameters are narrowly defined.
Moreover, the exporting of Green Revolution ideology and technology throughout the globe has been a boon to transnational seed and agrochemical manufacturers, which have benefited from undermining a healthy, sustainable indigenous agriculture.
The main players in the global agribusiness sector rank among the Fortune 500 corporations. These companies are high-rollers in a geo-politicised, globalised system of food production whereby huge company profits are linked to the worldwide eradication of the small farm (the bedrock of global food production), bad food, poor health, rigged trade, environmental devastation, mono-cropping and diminished food and diet diversity, the destruction of rural communities, ecocide, degraded soil, water scarcity and drought, destructive and inappropriate models of development and farmers who live a knife-edge existence and for whom debt has become a fact of life.
Does the world need it?
Britain is a leader in intensive, corporate-dominated agriculture. But is this the model of agriculture the world should rely on?
Let us turn to campaigner and environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason to appreciate some of the consequences of this model. She has just written an open letter to Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government. Although written to Davies, the letter is intended for the four Chief Medical Officers of Health for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and Public Health England.
Her letter is essentially a plea to highly placed officials to act.
Mason provides a stark reminder of the impacts of the agrochemical/agribusiness sector, its political power and its effects on health. She draws attention to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, which states unequivocally that the storyline perpetuated by the likes of Bayer’s Richard van der Merwe (in this piece) saying we need pesticides and (often chemical-dependent) GMOs to feed the world is a myth.
The report is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.
The authors of the report call for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. They say:
“excessive use of pesticides is very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security.”
Mason notes that chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. Certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends.
One of the report’s authors, the UN expert on Toxics Baskut Tuncak, wrote in the Guardian:
“Our children are growing up exposed to a toxic cocktail of weedkillers, insecticides, and fungicides. It’s on their food and in their water, and it’s even doused over their parks and playgrounds. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified international human rights treaty in the world (only the US is not a party), makes it clear that states have an explicit obligation to protect children from exposure to toxic chemicals, from contaminated food and polluted water, and to ensure that every child can realise their right to the highest attainable standard of health. These and many other rights of the child are abused by the current pesticide regime. These chemicals are everywhere and they are invisible. The only way to protect citizens, especially those disproportionately at risk from exposure, is for governments to regulate them effectively, in large part by adhering to the highest standards of scientific integrity.
Mason offers Sally Davies and her colleagues evidence that suggests rising UK Mortality rates point to a critical, unprecedented health epidemic. Arguing that the heavy use of agrochemicals in the UK is a major contributory factor, she notes Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is protecting the agrochemical industry due to its strategic influence. As a result, the mainstream narrative on cancer focuses on the role of alcohol (see this also) and ‘lifestyle choices’ while sidelining the strong evidence that agrochemicals are having.
Rosemary Mason asks Sally Davies if she is aware that the UK Department of Health is working with industry, again citing evidence in support of her claim.
As someone who has written extensively on the adverse impacts of glyphosate, Mason refers Davies to research that links Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup with liver damage.
If the National Health Service in the UK is experiencing a crisis – as indeed it is – due to rising rates of morbidity (not withstanding the effects of poor funding and creeping privatisation), surely these spiralling rates of diseases must be addressed. And where better to start by shining the light on agrochemicals rather than blaming individuals for lifestyle choices and alcohol consumption?
For instance, a report by ‘Children with Cancer UK’ in 2016 said there were 1,300 more cases per year of cancers in children, particularly in young adults, compared with 1998. While the medical correspondent from The Telegraph has mentioned pesticides as a possible cause, a spokesperson from CRUK said there is no evidence of environmental factors.
Among the various statistics Mason provides are those indicating that colon cancer had risen by 200%, thyroid cancer has doubled, ovarian cancer is up by 70% and cervical cancer is up by 50% since 1998.
Yes, despite the evidence, the corporate media in Britain is silent about pesticides, which partly results from the corporate sponsorship of the UK Science Media Centre; so any science against the corporations can be suppressed by interested parties, including AstraZeneca, Coca Cola, Syngenta, BP and Monsanto.
While Mason produces figures to show the massive increase in a range of agrochemicals over the years, the Chief Scientist for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Professor Ian Boyd, points out that once a pesticide is approved there is no follow up. There is also no follow up as to the impacts of not just one chemical but the cocktail of agrochemicals out there and how they interact when in the human body and within the environment.
And let’s not forget that many of these agrochemicals were fraudulently placed on the commercial market in the first place without proper testing.
Readers can read Mason’s letter in full here, where she also discusses a potential UK-US trade deal with the US and the impacts on the lowering of food and environmental standards and subsequent relations with the EU.
The impacts of the Monsanto-Bayer deal and the contents of Rosemary’s letter to the Chief Medical officers of the UK are just the tip of an iceberg. There is a lot more that could and has been said on the impact of agribusiness giants on the globalisation of bad food and poor health, ecological degradation, soil health, ocean dead zones as well as the chemical contamination of our food by the handful of food conglomerates that now increasingly dominate the supply chain.
Alternative approaches and solutions exist but the political influence and financial clout of transnational corporations means that ‘business as usual’ prevails.
The security of pretty much every computer on the planet has just gotten a lot worse, and the only real solution — which of course is not a solution — is to throw them all away and buy new ones.
On January 3, researchers announced a series of major security vulnerabilities in the microprocessors at the heart of the world’s computers for the past 15-20 years. They’ve been named Spectre and Meltdown, and they have to do with manipulating different ways processors optimize performance by rearranging the order of instructions or performing different instructions in parallel. An attacker who controls one process on a system can use the vulnerabilities to steal secrets elsewhere on the computer.
This means that a malicious app on your phone could steal data from your other apps. Or a malicious program on your computer — maybe one running in a browser window from that sketchy site you’re visiting, or as a result of a phishing attack — can steal data elsewhere on your machine. Cloud services, which often share machines amongst several customers, are especially vulnerable. This affects corporate applications running on cloud infrastructure, and end-user cloud applications like Google Drive. Someone can run a process in the cloud and steal data from every other user on the same hardware.
I am sure people thought me weird and old fashioned because I would not subscribe to the Cloud philosophy. This is exactly one reason why. – Tom)
Information about these flaws has been secretly circulating amongst the major IT companies for months as they researched the ramifications and coordinated updates. The details were supposed to be released next week, but the story broke early and everyone is scrambling. By now all the major cloud vendors have patched their systems against the vulnerabilities that can be patched against.
From a girl who lost her battle to cancer – age 27.
Ruth: Hi! Jeannie.
Jeannie: Hi! Ruth. How’d you die?
Ruth: I froze to death.
Jeannie: How horrible!
Ruth: It wasn’t so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold, I began to get warm & sleepy, and finally died a peaceful death. What about you?
Jeannie: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating, so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead, I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.
Ruth: So, what happened?
Jeannie: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking. I ran up into the attic and searched, and down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all the beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere, and finally I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with a heart attack and died.
Ruth: Too bad you didn’t look in the freezer — we’d both still be alive!
A farmer went out one day and bought a brand new stud rooster for his chicken coop. The new rooster struts over to the old rooster and says,
‘OK old fart, Time for you to retire.’ The old rooster replies, ‘Come on, surely you cannot handle ALL of these chickens. Look what it has done to me, can’t you just let me have the two old hens over in the corner?’
The young rooster says, ‘Beat it: You are washed up and I am taking over.’
The old rooster says, ‘I tell you what, young stud. I will race you around the farmhouse. Whoever wins gets the exclusive domain over the entire chicken coop.’
The young rooster laughs. ‘You know you don’t stand a chance, old man. So, just to be fair, I will give you a head start..’
The old rooster takes off running. About 15 seconds later the young rooster takes off running after him.
They round the front porch of the farmhouse and the young rooster has closed the gap.
He is only about 5 feet behind the old rooster and gaining fast! The farmer, meanwhile, is sitting in his usual spot on the front porch when he sees the roosters running by.
The Old Rooster is squawking and running as hard as he can.
The Farmer grabs his shotgun and – BOOM! – He blows the young rooster to bits. The farmer sadly shakes his head and says, ‘Dammit… …third gay rooster I bought this month.’
Moral of this story? …
Age, skill, wisdom, and a little treachery always overcome youth and arrogance!
OLD GUYS RULE! (don’t mess with us)
Disagree with injustice, out ethics and immorality. Make some necessary trouble!
Robyn O’Brien says:
“Necessary trouble” I love that term, though, as anyone who does disruptive work knows, it is not always easy.
But if you want to make a difference, lean into it with your whole heart, with kindness and with hope.