Pale Fire and London Fog: Illuminating Outliers in the Death of Alexander Litvinenko

  by Chris Floyd

I. The Baron and the Billionaire

Everyone knows that Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning in London last month. But beyond that bare fact, almost nothing is clear about the case. The truth has disappeared, probably forever, into the shadowlands – that murky confluence of crime, violence, money and politics where so much of the real business of the world is conducted. However, an examination of some of the curiously overlooked aspects of the affair might send at least a few shafts of light into the cloud of unknowing that has enveloped Litvinenko's death.

Of course, one of the chief obstacles in assessing the situation is the fact that almost everything we knew about the case for weeks was spoonfed to the media by the most elite PR operation in Britain. Almost from the moment that Litvinenko fell ill, he disappeared behind a phalanx of handlers paid for by his patron, Boris Berezovsky, the fugitive Russian billionaire and shadowlands operator par excellence. To handle – and generate – the publicity surrounding the incident, Berezovsky called on his old friend, Baron Bell of Belgravia, who, back when he was just plain old Tim Bell, served as the private propaganda chief for Margaret Thatcher, as Sourcewatch reports. The baron has also flacked for disgraced media mogul Conrad Black, disgraceful media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the mechanism set up by the Bush Administration to eviscerate Iraq.

(Speaking of the CPA, UK investigators now say they've found traces of Polonium 201, the radioactive isotope believed to have killed Litvinenko, in the London offices of Erinys, a private security company. As I noted in CounterPunch back in December 2003, Bush's CPA gave Erinys' Iraqi branch – formed as a joint venture with business cronies and family members of bigtime shadowlander Ahmad Chalabi – $40 million to guard oil pipelines in the conquered land. This has grown into a much larger stashn, not to mention an armed force of 16,000 men – something of a militia, one might say. The freebooters also bagged big money riding shotgun for Halliburton and Bechtel in those palmy CPA days of yore. And as the Guardian reports, Erinys is also active in Russia. You pull at one string in the shadowlands, and a whole tangled nest of other dark business starts shaking somewhere else.)


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O Come Let Us Adore Them: Treasuring our American Values of Greed, Self-Interest, and Enlightened Oppression

By Ragnar Redbeard III

“What kind of a society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that system.”

---Milton Friedman



What kind indeed? Certainly not a prodigious society such as ours. Thanks to Capitalism, the United States is replete with opulence, might, and benevolence.

Guided by the brilliant foresight of Hamilton, manacled by men like Keynes, Galbraith, and FDR, and ultimately granted a refreshing degree of freedom by the heroic intellectual efforts of Rand and Friedman, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” has wrought a citadel for those wishing to pursue healthy greed, self-interest, and enlightened oppression. While Capitalism in the United States is still afflicted with the diseases of a mixed economy, government regulation and socialistic tendencies, America’s socioeconomic system is far superior to any rival, past or present.
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The Road Less Traveled

By Paul William Roberts


On Saturday, December 02, the Washington Post wrote:

“The emerging plan by the Iraq Study Group tries to find a middle road between President Bush's adamant refusal to leave Iraq until the job is done and Democratic demands to pull out U.S. troops. But in achieving unanimity among its Republican and Democratic members, the commission has outlined a strategy with its own political and military risks.”


The reason this road is less traveled is that it just doesn’t exist.


One expected more from James Baker and his expensive commission, but perhaps we will yet have cause to thank him. For the uselessness of the ISG underscores a deeper uselessness in American politics generally when it comes foreign policies in which the public (read “the media”) have developed a level of interest that already has, and will continue to cost votes. In managing to arrive at a “plan” upon which all its members could agree, the ISG has merely wasted paper – not to mention taxpayers’ money (a commodity more disposable than toilet paper in Washington). Like so much the long-suffering taxpayer finds himself and herself funding these days, this bi-partisan circle jerk can satisfy only the overpaid and bloated egos participating in the couple of long lunches that were surely all it took to assess the facts and then devise a course of action ignoring them. To the cash whores and corporate crooks whose fingers are always in the till and whose snouts rarely leave the Beltway trough, of course, this latest wasteful disgrace is just another drop of fecal matter in a septic tank the size of the Pacific Ocean.

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Swearing on the Quran?

by Larry C Johnson

Normally I ignore religious controversy, but the latest flap surrounding incoming Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, a muslim who intends to take the oath of office with his hand on the Quran, demands comment. If you're not muslim then mind your own business. Here's the bottomline--the Christians who are in an uproar over Ellison's plan and who insist that the oath can only be taken with the Bible probably ought to read the damn Bible. Why? Because the Bible, specifically the New Testament, contains clear instruction about taking oaths. According to James 5:12 (Whole Chapter):

But above all, [James 1:16] my brethren, [Matt 5:34-37] do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
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The Spirit of Resistance in Mexico City

by Stephen Lendman
 
National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderon had center stage at 12:01 AM, December 1 at the presidential residence of Los Pinos as Mexico's new president addressed the country on national television after a brief stealth swearing-in ceremony for him to the office he didn't win and will now assume illegitimately because of the fraud-laden electoral coup d'etat that gave it to him.  He then had to be slipped in a back door of the Congress later that morning to take the oath of office there, as constitutionally required, in a second "lightning-fast" chaotic ceremony preceded by a brawl between lawmakers for and against the new president who then left as fast as he entered and is now off to a rocky start. 

At the same time, outside in Mexico City's streets, hundreds of thousands of people assembled early in the morning in the vast Zocalo square supporting opposition Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who changed his earlier plans to march on Congress and instead held a peaceful mass-protest march of his supporters through the city center to avoid clashes with the police that might have turned violent.  It went as far as Chapultepec Park, the entrance to the secured area, to demonstrate opposition to Mr. Calderon and to support Lopez Obrador who was denied the presidency he won now handed over illegitimately to Mr. Calderon.  Obrador told the crowd his fight will continue because "it is not possible that there are no democratic elections in Mexico.  We are not rebels without a cause, like the media want to portray us.  Sometimes they forget the real issue at hand, they forget that we were robbed of the presidential election."
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CAN JIMMY CARTER DO FOR PALESTINE WHAT JACK MURTHA DID FOR IRAQ?

by Linda Milazzo

Other than 2002 Nobel Prize Laureate, Jimmy Carter, no American politician has spoken honestly about Israel's occupation of Palestine. No American politician has addressed Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians. Not because the mistreatment doesn't exist. But because acknowledging it brings accusations of anti-semitism and the potential to lose an election.

To date, Jimmy Carter is the most high-profile American to publicly denounce the horrors of the Israeli occupation. Not in a sound byte or a simple aside. But in a full length book, provocatively titled, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

In his book, President Carter provides a detailed analysis of Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and ongoing demoralization of the Palestinian people within their own homeland. President Carter bravely defies the American taboo of never criticizing Israel, recognizing that humanitarianism dwarfs political correctness.
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Fighting the Iraq War...at Home

by Dave Lindorff

I had just gotten to the gym yesterday, and had started on the treadmill, when a barrel-chested young former marine recently returned from a second tour in Iraq walked past. Looking at my shirt, which sports the slogan "No US War on Iraq" on the front, and a peace sign on the back, surrounded with the number of U.S. dead in the war, he stopped and said coldly, "If I see you here again in that shirt, I'll tear it off you myself."


Momentarily taken aback, I looked him in the eye and said, "This is a free country, buddy, and if you touch me or my shirt, I'll have you charged with assault."
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Powderkeg

by Mike Whitney

“You’ll find a day when there are no Sunnis left in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are panicking about this, and they are hoping that the US will in some way arm or support Sunnis militias. It’s hard for me to imagine that Sunni nations in the region will stand by and watch Sunnis pushed out of Baghdad, because there is this terror of the Shia threat. So you’ll see greater support from Saudi Arabia, from Jordan, perhaps from Yemen, from Egypt for Sunni militias. And the civil war will spread and become a regional one.” Nir Rosen; interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

President Bush’s latest round of “Disaster Diplomacy” has turned into a tragedy worthy of Eugene O’ Neill. In Riga, Latvia he was coolly greeted by foreign leaders in NATO who flatly rejected his request for more troops in Afghanistan or for redeploying troops to the south where the fighting is fiercest.

The next leg of Bush’s trip, a stopover in Amman, Jordan, turned out to be an even bigger flop. Bush was supposed to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, but Al-Maliki decided to follow the orders of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and pulled a “no show”. This left the “most powerful man in the world”, the President of the United States, looking like a schoolgirl who had been dumped on Prom Night. Bush's humiliation appeared as headline news around the world.

All in all, it’s been a tough week for Bush. The trip has exposed the fault-lines in US foreign policy and the steady erosion American power. Bush seems completely oblivious to the damage he’s doing to the country by refusing to change the present strategy and by blundering-ahead blindly pushing us deeper and deeper into the quagmire:

“I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete,” Bush growled to the NATO assembly.

Translation: “Stay the course, stay the course, stay the course”; repeat into infinity.


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Merry December to You

by Mickey Z.

Let me be the first to wish Bill O'Reilly a very Happy Winter Solstice. The precise moment this year will be December 21, 2006 at 7:22 p.m. EST (00:22 UTC on December 22). For those of you scoring at home, "solstice" means "standing-still-sun" and it occurs when, due to the earth's tilt, your hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun.

I don't know about you, but I refuse to shop at any store that doesn't acknowledge the leaning of my hemisphere. Never mind sweatshop labor or fair wages or union bashing, my shopping habits are based entirely on the earth's tilt.

For those tiring of the same old end-of-the-year holidays, December 24 is I.F. Stone's birthday (he would have been 99). His journalistic example is about as good a reason as any to get merry. Born Isidor Feinstein, the incomparable I.F. Stone served as an editor at The Nation and worked for several other papers before founding his own journal in 1953...with $3,000 borrowed from a friend and a 5,300-name subscription list inherited from a handful of defunct lefty publications. I.F. Stone's Weekly reached a circulation of 70,000 by the 1960s and Stone was widely praised-even by his enemies-for his investigative skills and his ability to see through the hype. Victor Navasky of the Nation wrote that "Izzy" was "right about McCarthyism, right about the war in Vietnam (he was one of the first to raise questions about the authenticity of the Gulf of Tonkin incident), right about the Democrats' repeated failure to live up to their own principles, right about what he called, long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the 'Pax Americana.'" Add a comment
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Double Standards in the Phony War: Small Errors Cost Big Bucks, but Enormous Lies Remain Standing

by Winter Patriot

Here's something you don't see every day!

Papers compensate man wrongly implicated in alleged bomb plot:

A group of national newspapers have paid £170,000 [roughly $330,000] to a man they falsely accused of involvement in the "liquid bomb" plot to blow up planes at Heathrow airport.

 

Lawyers for Carter Ruck, representing Amjad Sarwar, said he had been paid £170,000 by the publishers of the Guardian, the Observer, the News of the World, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the Evening Standard, the Independent, the Times, the Daily Express and the Daily Star.

 

Each newspaper has already published a full apology to Mr Sarwar, who lives in High Wycombe, after falsely suggesting that he was suspected of being involved in the alleged plots to blow up a number of British aircraft using "liquid bombs" in August.

Apologies currently online include those from the Guardian, the Observer, the Mirror, and the Independent.

"Mr Sarwar has never been arrested, nor questioned, nor detained by the police on suspicion of involvement in the 'liquid bombs' plot or for that matter any other alleged terrorist plots or activities, and there are no grounds for suspecting any such involvement," Mr Sarwar's solicitor, Adam Tudor, said in the high court today before Mr Justice Eady.

 

"The articles caused Mr Sarwar great distress and embarrassment at a time of particularly heightened sensitivity in relations with the Muslim community, and indeed led Mr Sarwar to fear for his own and his family's safety in light of possible reprisal attacks."

The newspapers apologised to Mr Sarwar and paid his legal costs.

Apart from the quoted report from the Guardian, news of this settlement can be found in the Times and some regional papers (here, here, and here). But the other named papers have been silent on the issue.

 

I beg you to consider some of the questions raised by this small bit of news:

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Pale Fire and London Fog: Illuminating Outliers in the Death of Alexander Litvinenko

by Chris Floyd

This is an updated version of the piece that appeared yesterday at Truthout.org.

I. The Baron and the Billionaire


Everyone knows that Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning in London last month. But beyond that bare fact, almost nothing is clear about the case. The truth has disappeared, probably forever, into the shadowlands – that murky confluence of crime, violence, money and politics where so much of the real business of the world is conducted. However, an examination of some of the curiously overlooked aspects of the affair might send at least a few shafts of light into the cloud of unknowing that has enveloped Litvinenko's death.

Of course, one of the chief obstacles in assessing the situation is the fact that almost everything we knew about the case for weeks was spoonfed to the media by the most elite PR operation in Britain. Almost from the moment that Litvinenko fell ill, he disappeared behind a phalanx of handlers paid for by his patron, Boris Berezovsky, the fugitive Russian billionaire and shadowlands operator par excellence. To handle – and generate – the publicity surrounding the incident, Berezovsky called on his old friend, Baron Bell of Belgravia, who, back when he was just plain old Tim Bell, served as the private propaganda chief for Margaret Thatcher, as Sourcewatch reports. The baron has also flacked for disgraced media mogul Conrad Black, disgraceful media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the mechanism set up by the Bush Administration to eviscerate Iraq. Add a comment
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Ethnic Cleansing and Israel’s Racist Discourse

By Ramzy Baroud

“The term ethnic cleansing refers to various policies of forcibly removing people of another ethnic group. At one end of the spectrum, it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population transfer, while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide.”

According to this definition, and others including those emerging in the 1990s, following the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, Palestinians have been and remain victims of a determined and unwavering ethnic cleansing policy that began in 1947-48 and continues until today.

However, it is important that when we examine the subject of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, we take into account its various dimensions, one of which is the accompanying racist discourse, which has become part and parcel of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies.
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