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Is War With Iran—Long-Time Neocon Fantasy—Finally Here? Nancy Pelosi Says Pro-Palestine Protesters Are Russian Agents—or Chinese. Plus: Expert Sal Mercogliano on Houthi Attacks in Red Sea
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January 30, 2024
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Good evening. It's Monday, January 29. 

Tonight: is Joe Biden leading the United States into an even more expanded war in the Middle East, this time targeting Iran? After the October 7 attack by Hamas, the Biden administration pledged full and unconditional American support for Israel, not only proposing to pay for and arm Israel's war, but even deploying military assets to that region, including two aircraft carriers. The objective, they said at the time, was to ensure that there would be no regional escalation. Yet exactly that has happened. 

The Israelis and Hezbollah have been repeatedly attacking one another for months. The U.S. has repeatedly and fatally bombed targets in both Syria and Iraq that it alleges are the home of Iranian-backed militias and has bombed multiple targets in Yemen over the last month, in retaliation for attacks by the Houthi on commercial ships connected to Israel in the U.S. But all of that escalation, though dangerous in the extreme, makes what happens next seem like child's play, as members of both parties are urging, even demanding, that Biden now attack and bomb targets inside Iran in retaliation for the death of three American soldiers at a U.S. base in Jordan caused by a drone attack the U.S. says Iran is responsible for. 

If one looks at this incident in complete isolation—three American soldiers were killed by a drone attack on the U.S. military base—then the question of what the U.S. should do might seem simple. Namely, the U.S. must retaliate, perhaps even aggressively, against whichever country was to blame. But if you pull back the analytical prism just a few inches, much broader and more complex questions arise, ones which complicate that question significantly. 

To begin with, why does the U.S. have military bases and U.S. soldiers deployed all across the Middle East, including in Jordan, Syria and Iraq? Looking at things purely from a pragmatic perspective, what does one expect will happen if the U.S. involves itself in multiple wars in the Middle East, including paying for and arming Israel as it destroys Gaza? Is it reasonable to assume that all these other countries will simply stand by passively, while the U.S. continues to interfere in, and assert its military force in that region? And how far is the U.S. willing to go? What price are Americans willing to endure in the name of protecting Israel and empowering its war in Gaza? 

Such questions regarding the use of force and bombing campaigns and the like had traditionally broken down years ago along left/right lines, but not anymore. After the standard establishment Republican warmongers, people like GOP Senators Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and John Cornyn all demanded that Biden strike Iran, the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in a mega-viral tweet, proclaimed them to be, and I quote, “fucking lunatics.” 

Other Republican politicians, including Rand Paul and Vivek Ramaswamy, have long questioned the wisdom of trifling with the U.S. war with Iran, something that has long been the goal of Israel's most ardent supporters in the U.S., as well as typical cheerleaders for the military-industrial complex and the doctrine of endless war. We'll report on these latest events involving Iran and examine all of these obviously important and quite grave questions that arise from them. 

Then: former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went on CNN on Sunday and announced her belief that pro-Palestinian protesters in the United States are likely Russian agents or in some other way are tied to the Kremlin. As a result of her suspicions, which she insisted were well-founded, and what she described as her longtime interest in the topic of Russian infiltration, Pelosi called on the FBI to immediately investigate those who are protesting against the Israeli war in Gaza, to find out about their connections to the Kremlin. In an odd turn of events, however, the very same Nancy Pelosi—when pro-Palestinian protesters showed up at her house earlier today to protest her support for Israel's war—screamed at them, “Go back to China. That's where your headquarters are.” She did not appear to realize that only 24 hours earlier, she had claimed that their headquarters were in Moscow, not Beijing. 

It is tempting just to laugh off Pelosi's rantings as the delusions of a deranged elderly lady who has spent her life accustomed to being shown great deference. That is of course true and is undoubtedly part of what is driving her uncontrolled rage against these protesters. There are several revealing aspects to this incident, however, showing not only how reflexively Washington Democrats seek to weaponize the FBI against their political opposition, but also how demented this core Democratic Party tactic is, which has dominated this party's discourse for almost eight years now, of insisting that anyone who questions or opposes them must be controlled by and loyal to Russia. 

Along the same lines, we'll examine the latest campaign literature of Congressman Adam Schiff, who was Pelosi's candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, where he boasts that he proved that Trump and Russia illegally colluded. 

Finally, one of the most inflammatory events driving the conflict in the Middle East has been the attack by the Houthi on U.S. and Israeli-linked commercial ships in the Red Sea. The way that the Houthis have caused so much turmoil and difficulty for commercial shipping is actually quite fascinating, given how little resources and military sophistication they possess. To help us understand exactly what is going on. We will speak to Sal Mercogliano, a former merchant marine and expert in the maritime sector, who is the host of a YouTube channel show entitled “What's Going On with Shipping?” Last week, he produced a very informative video explaining in detail exactly what the Houthis have been doing, why it is far more serious than it has been appreciated, and what the U.S. response has been and still might be in the future. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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CLIP: Glenn Greenwald Debates Alan Dershowitz on Iran

Glenn warns against waging wars during last week’s debate against Alan Dershowitz on whether the U.S. should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Glenn argues: “We don't go around the world attacking other countries or trying to remove their government because we want to give those people freedom and democracy. We only [attack] when we see a government that doesn't do our bidding."

We are grateful to The Soho Forum and Reason for hosting the spirited debate. You can listen to the full debate here: https://reason.com/podcast/2024/05/24/glenn-greenwald-and-alan-dershowitz-debate-bombing-iran/

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For years, U.S. officials and their media allies accused Russia, China and Iran of tyranny for demanding censorship as a condition for Big Tech access. Now, the U.S. is doing the same to TikTok. Listen below.

Listen to this Article: Reflecting New U.S. Control of TikTok's Censorship, Our Report Criticizing Zelensky Was Deleted
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FAUCI’S COVER-UP ON DOG EXPERIMENTS
How NIAID, with key help from the Washington Post, turned a true story into a “right-wing conspiracy theory”

By Leighton Woodhouse

On the morning of October 25, 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci dashed off an email to eight of his colleagues, asking them to look into an experiment conducted in Tunisia in 2019. It was urgent. “I want this done right away,” he wrote, “since we are getting bombarded by protests.”

The experiment Fauci was referring to was the one that Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene asked him about this week in a heated Congressional hearing. Holding up a photograph on poster board of two beagles with their heads locked into mesh cages, she said, “As director of the NIH, you did sign off on these so-called ‘scientific experiments,’ and as a dog lover, I want to tell you this is disgusting, and evil.”

 

 

Greene is to liberals what Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is to conservatives: an easy target for partisans to mock. Her questioning of Fauci predictably inspired the usual derision. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, referring to Greene as “the consistent frontrunner for stupidest member of the House of Representatives in history,” sneered, “No one knew what she was talking about.”

But in fact, Fauci knew exactly what Greene was talking about. Three years ago, the experiment in question was at the center of an entire crisis communications response within NIAID (the institute within NIH run by Dr. Fauci). Fauci claimed that it had provoked so many angry calls that his assistant had to stop answering the phone for two weeks. The day before Fauci sent his email about being “bombarded by protests,” one of his colleagues had advised him, “It might be wise to hold off on TV until we have a handle on this.” The story had become a full-blown publicity crisis for Fauci and NIAID — until the Washington Post came to his rescue, turning a legitimate news story into “right-wing disinformation,” based on flimsy evidence that was literally concocted by Fauci’s team.

In 2019, under the auspices of a microbiologist at the University of Ohio, researchers in Tunisia placed the heads of sedated beagles in mesh bags filled with starved sand flies. This was the image Rep. Greene had held up at this week’s hearing. Later, the beagles were placed in outdoor cages for nine consecutive nights, in an area dense with sand flies infected with a parasite that carries the disease with which the researchers were trying to infect the dogs.

In his paper, the Ohio microbiologist, Abhay Satoskar, along with his research partner, acknowledged funding from NIAID, which added up to about $80,000, alongside the grant number. The grant application read:

“Dogs will be exposed to sand fly bites each night throughout the sand fly season to ensure transmission…Dogs will be anesthetized…and for 2 hours will be placed in a cage containing between 15 and 30 females…”

The description fits the experiments in Tunisia perfectly.

In August of 2021, White Coat Waste Project, a non-profit group that advocates against federal funding of animal experimentation, exposed NIAID’s support for the experiment in a blog post. In October, based on White Coat Waste’s revelations, a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives released a letter expressing concern about cruel NIAID-funded experiments on dogs, drawing particular attention to the fact that some of the dogs had had their vocal cords severed to keep them from barking and howling in pain and distress. The story generated a maelstrom online, leading to the angry phone calls Fauci claimed to have received.  “#ArrestFauci” trended on Twitter.

NIAID staff went into damage control mode. Within hours of Fauci asking his staff to look into the experiment, Satoskar emailed NIAID, following up on a phone call. Satoskar now claimed that the acknowledgment of NIH funding was a mistake. “This grant was mistakenly cited as a funding source in the paper,” he wrote.

Later, NIAID would claim that it only funded an experiment that involved vaccinating the dogs against Leishmaniasis, the disease carried by the parasites in the sand flies. Leishmaniasis is the disease with which Satoskar infected his subject beagles in Tunisia.

There is no way to know what was said on the phone call with Satoskar, but released emails show that this is exactly what NIAID wanted to hear. “Will you forward this to Dr. Fauci or let me know if I should directly forward to him?”, the recipient of the email at NIAID wrote to a colleague (the names in the emails, which were obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project, are redacted).

Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.Email obtained by a FOIA request from White Coat Waste Project.

Satoskar then hurried to delink the paper from NIAID funding. Less than ten minutes after sending his email to NIAID, Satoskar emailed Shaden Kamhawi, editor of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the journal that had published the paper on the experiment. “We would like to request correction of this error,” Satoskar wrote.

He might as well have been asking himself. Kamhawi is a colleague of Satoskar. She is an expert on precisely the subject that Satoskar was studying. “Dr. Kamhawi is a world expert on phlebotomine sand flies,” her curriculum vitae reads, “vectors of the neglected tropical disease leishmaniasis.” Like Satoskar, Kamhawi has conducted research in which she used sand flies to infect beagles with the disease. She has even co-published with him. Indeed, Kamhawi’s own research has been the subject of White Coat Waste Project exposé. On top of that, she is an employee of NIAID: meaning that Anthony Fauci is her boss.

Kamhawi was aware of at least the last of these potential conflicts of interest. “BTW,” she emailed her colleagues at PLOS NTD, “as I am an NIAID employee, “I am not sure if there is a COI [Conflict of Interest] here so please let me know.”

It’s unclear whether the journal took that conflict seriously. In any case, the correction went forward. The journal now read:

“There are errors in the Funding statement. The correct Funding statement is as follows: the authors received no specific funding for this work. The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust did not provide any funding for this research and any such claim was made in error.”

This was the exonerating evidence that went out to reporters. On October 27th, a NIAID employee wrote to colleagues that “we can at least share with reporters that the journal has made the correction.” Another NIAID staffer emailed colleagues for help fielding a query from an Associated Press “fact checker,” who asked how NIAID could be sure that their funds weren’t used for the Tunisian beagle experiment. “Our evidence is simply the statement of the PI [Principal Investigator], Dr. Satoskar,” came the reply.

In fact, NIAID had no way to be certain that its funds were not used on the Tunisia experiment. Michael Fenton, Director of NIAID’s Division of Extramural Activities, wrote in an email, “It seems to me that the only way to prove that the grant funds weren’t used for other projects is to do an audit of those grant expenditures and invoices. This would not be something that could be done quickly.”  

The next day, NIAID was still putting out fires. “We are still getting clobbered on this,” one wrote in an email. But three days before, NIAID had scored a huge coup: On October 25, the same day Fauci wrote his “bombarded by protests” note, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote a column facetiously entitled, “Why is Anthony Fauci trying to kill my puppy?” The article maligned the story as a product of “the right wing disinformation machine and its crusade against Fauci,” and cited the correction in PLOS NTD as evidence that it was all just an innocent mistake.

In an email to a NIAID employee the next day, Milbank offered further assistance. He wrote, “I might do a follow-up column on the reaction, and the imperviousness to facts. Do you have any more info that could further prove that you didn't fund the Tunisia study involving feeding the anesthetized dogs to sand flies?” Forwarding Milbank’s story to colleagues, the NIAID staffer wrote approvingly, “Dana is being extremely helpful.”

From Milbank’s story came a cascade of “fact checks”: from Politifact, Snopes, FactCheck.org, MediaMatters, Mic, and USA Today. Then came a big story in the Washington Post about the “viral and false claim” that NIAID had funded the Tunisia experiment. The reporters who wrote the story had evidently already reached their conclusion before they began reporting on it. Their email to Satoskar and others asking for comment opened, “I am working on a story about a massive disinformation campaign that is being waged against Anthony Fauci.”

The media re-framing of the story had its intended effect. Three years later, following Marjorie Taylor Greene’s questioning, reporters are once again citing PLOS NTD’s correction as the definitive debunking of the beagle experiment story. The Washington Post effectively banished it from mainstream public debate, though today, the paper published a fact check that contradicts much of the Post’s previous reporting.

After the story came out, Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters on the Post story, emailed Satoskar the link. “Thanks Beth. This is a great article clearing up all misinformation and falsehood,” he wrote.

“Thanks!” she replied.

 

 


Leighton Woodhouse is freelance journalist and a documentary filmmaker currently based in Oakland, California. You can support his work at https://leightonwoodhouse.substack.com

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AIPAC's Singular Ability to Remove and Influence Members of Congress; Senator Rand Paul On More COVID Cover-Ups; PLUS: Media Denies Biden's Decline
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Good evening. It's Thursday, June 20. 

Tonight: AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is easily one of the most powerful, feared, and effective lobbying groups in Washington, if not the single most feared. That assertion is so well documented by now that it barely requires debate. But their power lies not only, or even primarily, in their extraordinary ability to foster close to unanimous votes in Congress for every pro-Israel resolution or bill they wish to see implemented. That is extraordinary enough. But even more amazing is their unmatched ability – and it is unmatched – to simply remove incumbent members of the U.S. Congress who are, in their eyes, insufficiently supportive of and dedicated to the foreign government of Israel. 

A perfect example illustrating how this works is the current primary challenge being launched against the two-term Democratic congressman and former middle school principal, Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York's 16th congressional district. Bowman currently faces an extraordinarily well-financed primary challenger from George Latimer, the corruption-plagued county executive in Westchester Country who, polls now show, has built a substantial lead over Bowman. And it's not hard to understand why. It's not because George Latimer is some beloved figure. It's because his campaign is being fueled by a massive amount of money that comes almost entirely from out-of-the-district funding, the vast majority of which comes from a pro-Israel PAC directed and funded by AIPAC. It's an extraordinary, even unprecedented amount that is being spent on this single primary challenge to a congressional House incumbent: $20 million and counting. 

The reason Bowman faces such a powerfully funded primary challenge is simple and obvious. He sometimes criticizes Israel and has been particularly critical of their eight-month U.S.-funded war that has destroyed much of Gaza. Voters in the district, who are being drowned in anti-Bowman ads on radio, TV, online, everywhere, have little idea that the reason for this overwhelmingly funded challenge to their congressman is due to pro-Israel groups, and that's because the ads that run against him rarely, if ever, even mention the issue of Israel, instead pretending that they are angry with Bowman for his failure to be a good Democrat, that he's not sufficiently loyal to President Biden and his agenda. 

This has been a long-standing and extremely effective tactic for punishing and even removing members of Congress for failure to support Israel with unquestioning praise. In an era where bipartisan systems ensure that congressional incumbents have even a higher reelection rate than Soviet-era members of the Russian legislature, AIPAC appears, as we will show you, to have become the one real threat to the ability of Congress members to win reelection, or even to secure their own party's nomination. 

Then: we welcome back to System Update, the three-term Republican Senator from Kentucky and medical doctor, Rand Paul. Senator Paul has been relentlessly attempting to expose the truth about what happened, specifically in the beginning months of the Covid pandemic, when Doctor Fauci and his associates falsely claimed to the world that they had confirmed that Covid originated from nature and not from a lab leak in Wuhan. That false claim of certainty ended up as intended, shaping discourse about that pandemic around the globe for the next two years and also as intended, caused a full-scale online censorship ban of any questioning or doubts about the official story of Covid's origins. Just as importantly, Dr. Paul has been attempting to demonstrate that Fauci deliberately concealed his attempts to fund what is called gain-of-function research, meaning scientific attempts in labs to manipulate viruses and other pathogens to become even more contagious or more deadly to humans, something that, if leaked, could cause a pandemic of the type that we saw with Covid. 

But now, Senator Paul is also warning about what appears to be bipartisan efforts to approve or defund the exact kind of dangerous gain-of-function research that very likely caused the worldwide Covid pandemic in the first place. I am genuinely amazed at how little interest there seems to be in investigating and finding the truth about what is easily one of the most consequential events in our lifetime, the Covid pandemic. Dr. Paul is one of the few in Washington still demanding just basic accountability and we believe that that work is extremely important and deserves as much journalistic attention as we can possibly give to it. So, we'll speak to him in just a little bit. 

And then finally: videos of Joe Biden frequently surface that confirm what Americans already know about him, as polling data demonstrates, namely, that he is aging in a way that has left him with serious cognitive impairment to the point that he sometimes barely knows where he is or what he is saying. The evidence proving that is overwhelming, from reporting to first-hand accounts to simply comparing his conduct now to what it was even five years ago. And it's worth remembering that the very first-time concerns about Biden's cognitive capabilities were expressed not by Republicans or even Bernie Sanders supporters in the 2020 cycle, it was by DNC operatives and DNC media allies, in 2019, who were very concerned that Biden would get the nomination simply because he was the most well-known candidate. They continuously warned that this was not the same Joe Biden, that he was likely not capable of sustaining the full rigors of the campaign. Once Biden got the nomination, those very same people turned around and said it was immoral to raise questions about Biden's cognitive capabilities, even though they were the ones who first cast doubt on it in the first place. 

Nonetheless, despite all that evidence, most of the U.S. corporate media, as we know, will say or do anything to ensure Trump's defeat, even if that means outright lying. They already proved that in 2016, when they spread virtually every day all sorts of false collusion conspiracy theories about Trump and the Trump campaign and Russia, and then did so again in 2021. They claimed that incriminating reporting about Biden and his family in Ukraine and China was the byproduct of what they called fake documents, meaning Russian disinformation. Now, with that same goal in mind, they insist that the video showing Biden's cognitive decline and incapacitation is somehow fake, as they hope to convince Americans to trust the media’s partisan claims, more than they trust their own eyes and their own judgment. We will examine the latest self-humiliation of the media in pursuit of manipulating another presidential election by trying to disseminate claims that are so recognizably false. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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The Pentagon's Secret Disinfo Campaign Discrediting China's COVID Vaccine Unveiled; France's Unprecedented Elections, China, Ukraine, and More with Commentator Arnaud Bertrand
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Good evening. It's Wednesday, June 19.

Tonight: the biggest media story by far in U.S. politics in 2016 was focused on Russia. Not only did they falsely insist that the Trump campaign had colluded with Moscow to hack the email accounts of the DNC and of John Podesta, but even more media indignation was focused on the fact that Russia had engaged in unprecedented and incomparably evil interference with our sacred democracy by using a few Twitter bots and Facebook pages to disseminate what our media called “disinformation.” What made this reaction so mystifying was the obvious belief that the United States and other freedom-loving democracies would never, ever engage in that kind of treachery. Instead, this kind of interference and trickery was the sole provenance of the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin. 

Anyone who knows even the most minimal amount of American history should have instantly scoffed at that claim. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the U.S. has “interfered” in the internal affairs of countless other countries, including Russia, for decades, and the U.S. has done so with methods that included clandestine disinformation campaigns as well as tactics a bit more extreme and far worse than a few online bots. It was just embarrassing to watch so many corporate media employees express what appears to be earnest rage that Russia would do such a thing. 

Late last week, Reuters published a genuinely good and important piece of investigative journalism – credit where due – the type of journalism that we rarely see anymore. Rather than bravely denouncing the bad acts of America's enemies on the other side of the world, Reuters actually revealed a secret and morally repugnant online disinformation campaign conducted in secret by the Pentagon. That online campaign was designed to spread fears, doubts and resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine that China was offering impoverished countries and impoverished people for free. That was being done at the very same time that the U.S. government was arguing that anyone spreading vaccine skepticism and encouraging vaccine hesitancy was guilty of killing large numbers of people. Indeed, they not only mandated that Americans take the vaccine they were given upon threat of losing their jobs or their freedom of movement, but the government coerced Big Tech outlets to censor and ban anyone expressing doubts about the vaccine's efficacy or its safety, all at the very same time that the same U.S. government was using an army of online bots and fake social media accounts to spread vaccine doubt in the poorest countries, the poorest populations of the world. 

It is worth reviewing these revelations and then putting them in the historical context of American behavior, as well as the claims the government was making about how nobody about Russia does such a thing, as well as the moral calculations that drove this clandestine campaign against China's COVID-19 vaccine. It really is remarkable when one delves into the details of what the U.S. government did here, and therefore, that is exactly what we will do. 

Then: as we reported two weeks ago, with the help of a professor who was a specialist in the EU, the European-wide elections for the EU Parliament provided major shocks and surprises for EU elites everywhere. Many countries saw a decisive rejection of pro-establishment parties, replaced by a mass surge of support for what is called far-right populist parties. That happened in Germany, Holland and elsewhere but especially in France. In response to the devastating defeat of his party at the hands of Marine Le Pen, French President Emmanuel Macron shocked even his own allies by dissolving the French parliament and calling for snap elections, a move that could very well result in the first-ever French prime minister from Le Pen's party. 

All of this has caused extreme chaos in EU politics, especially in French politics. Many of the trends that drove the EU election are, of course, visible and clearly present – if not dominant – in modern-day American politics as well. So, to help us sort out everything happening there, we will speak to the French political analyst and commentator Arnaud Bertrand. While he is French by origin, Bertrand has lived for quite some time in China. He is an expert in Sinology, which is a study of all things Chinese, and he has, in my view, been one of the most informed, enlightened analysts on the Washington-Beijing relationship, along with both wars that the U.S. is currently funding, the one in Ukraine and the one in Gaza. We are excited to talk to him and I think you will enjoy hearing from him as well. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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