Thursday, 27 October 2016

The US-backed Saudi war in Yemen could leave ‘an entire generation crippled by hunger’

NATO Seeks More Troops in Continued Eastern Europe Buildup

Troops Would 'Send Message' to Russians and Trump

by Jason Ditz,

Since the increase in tensions with Russia began in 2014, NATO has been sending ever growing numbers of troops to their eastern frontier with Russia, with military officials predicting an imminent Russian invasion for months. Even though no one thinks that’s going to happen anymore, NATO is still pushing for more troops.
While the US has made up the vast majority of such deployments, the alliance leadership is now pushing for other member nations to send some troops too in what they’re now presenting as a 40,000-troop rapid reaction force deployed directly on the Russian border.
Officials are saying this huge force will be closely combined with missile defense programs in the region, along with air and cyber forces, as part of an overall force “to prevent conflict” with Russia. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described it as a minimal “credible deterrence.”
Yet with the US openly talking starching a war with Russia, the continued deployments seem far from a purely defensive measure. Diplomats also suggested it was only partly about sending a message to Russia, and that the real point of the latest push is to get a bunch of nations involved as a “message” to US presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has complained the US is spending too much defending Europe and that Europe isn’t doing enough on its own.
That underscores the cynical nature of the deployments, and indeed the sort of thing adding to the sense of NATO being obsolete, that they feel they can afford to organize major deployments just for the sake of scoring political points in member nations’ elections.

Lights, camera, propaganda! US government anti-Russia campaign invades Hollywood

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer, journalist and media analyst. She has lived and traveled extensively in the US, Germany, Russia and Hungary. Her byline has appeared at RT, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, The BRICS Post, New Eastern Outlook, Global Independent Analytics and many others. She also works on copywriting and editing projects. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook or at her website

For years the influence of the CIA in Hollywood was hidden and unacknowledged. Now it’s more of an open secret; not publicized, but pretty easy to read up on if you care. Just ask the spy agency’s Entertainment Industry Liaison.
Yes, such a thing really exists.
You see, the CIA’s man in Hollywood wants to help actors, authors, directors, producers and screenwriters “gain a better understanding” of the intelligence agency in order to ensure “accurate portrayals” of its activities. It even wants to help fire up the neurons and actually give you some good ideas if you’re coming up short in that department. Indeed, the CIA provides “inspiration for future storylines” and lists them on its website. Of course, it’s all in the interest of creating authentic and balanced portrayals of US intelligence agencies and the US military. And they’re quite busy, too. Between 2006 and 2011, the CIA public relations office had input into at least 22 film and movie projects.
In a column for the Washington Post in 2011, David Sirota noted that the Pentagon too enlists the help of Hollywood for PR purposes when things are going awry and Americans are becoming weary of war. Movies like Top Gun in the 1980s and Zero Dark Thirty more recently were made in consultation with the Pentagon and White House. The result of this “creative input for Pentagon assistance” bargain created an entertainment culture “rigged to produce relatively few anti-war movies and dozens of blockbusters that glorify the military” and which amounts to “government subsidized propaganda,” Sirota wrote.
The CIA has had a hand in creating TV shows like 24, Homeland and AliasThe Americans — an FX show about two Russian spies living undercover in the US — was created by a former CIA agent, and the agency reportedly approves the scripts for each episode.
A piece in the Guardian in 2008 called the CIA’s involvement in Hollywood a “tale of deception and subversion that would seem improbable if it were put on screen”. Of course, it’s unlikely to be put on screen, given that the agency which provides guidance on CIA-related movies (...) is the CIA.

Enlisting Hollywood help with “anti-Russia messaging”

Remember the “inspiration for future storylines” list mentioned earlier? Well, guess what? The liaison’s “current pick” for a possible future movie project is about one Ryszard Kukliński — a Polish colonel and spy for NATO who spent years passing secret Soviet documents to the CIA. I wonder why they’d be interested in that sort of thing right now. It couldn’t be anything to do with deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, could it?
It may sound like conspiracy theory, but the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment revealed that the the US State Department has actively sought out the biggest players in Hollywood and tried to enlist their help with what they called “anti-Russia messaging” for the public’s consumption through innocent entertainment. In other words, the government asked Hollywood for help producing propaganda — although I’m sure the State Department would call it something nicer.
Richard Stengel, the US under secretary for public diplomacy, wrote to Sony CEO Mark Lynton explaining that the government needed help countering both ISIS and “Russian narratives” and said this wasn’t something the State Department could do “on its own”. He suggested convening a meeting of media executives to discuss ideas, content, production and “commercial possibilities”. Lynton responded with a list of media executives at other entertainment companies including Disney and Fox. It’s unclear from the emails whether that meeting Stengel requested ever happened, but judging by much of the recent entertainment industry output, one might be forgiven for assuming it did.
Negative depictions of Russia in American and British news and entertainment media are hardly new — but at least as far as I can tell, there’s certainly been an uptick over the past 12-18 months, and it coincides nicely with a major US government-led anti-Russia messaging campaign which has also spilled over into much of Western print and broadcast media. Gratuitous mentions of Russia and Vladimir Putin where they are not necessary are becoming tiresome. For me, the last straw was sitting down to watch Bridget Jones’s Baby last month and being subjected to an entirely unnecessary and irrelevant subplot about the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot and their struggle for free speech. It was the last straw because it was just one more in a long line of useless allusions to big bad Russia that seemed to come from nowhere.
For me, the last straw was sitting down to watch Bridget Jones’s Baby last month and being subjected to an entirely unnecessary and irrelevant subplot about the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot and their struggle for free speech.
In the Netflix political drama House of Cards, Pussy Riot — the real ones this time — got their own cameo alongside evil Putin (not the real one). But even when there isn’t a major storyline attached to Russia, somehow the country frequently gets thrown in anyway. Russia is still the go-to country when there needs to be a joke about scary or immoral foreigners. There are endless examples.
In NBC’s Scandal, one character suggests Putin might randomly invade Belarus. In CBS’s Madam Secretary, one character spews the line: “I can’t go back to Russia, it’s a pigsty.” In the recently released movie Bad Moms, one of the bad moms, protesting something or other which I can’t recall, shouts “What is this, Russia?” The short-running show Allegiance was entirely about a Russian sleeper cell in the US which was suddenly reactivated and whose members — now fully adapted to blissful life in America — no longer wanted anything to do with Russia. How original.
NBC’s Blacklist has given us multiple Russian baddies and the sitcom 2 Broke Girls has made its fair share of Putin jokes. The third installment of The Purge introduced us to a gang of menacing Russian “murder tourists” who take advantage of the annual 12-hour period during which any crime, including murder, becomes legal. I could go on, but you get the idea: Russians are bad.
Is it all CIA influence? Is it all the result of the State Department’s“anti-Russia messaging” campaign? Not necessarily. While the CIA does have huge influence in Hollywood on specific projects, many of the random negative references to Russia are probably the result of a media information war which naturally spills over into the creative output of writers and directors. Many of them probably shouldn’t be blamed too harshly. They’re fed a diet of anti-Russia messaging through the news media, so it’s no wonder these kinds of lines end up in their movies and TV shows.
Interestingly, in June, the Senate Intelligence Committee included an amendment to Congress’ annual intelligence spending bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence to submit reports detailing the relationship between the CIA and Hollywood. But the Senate committee is no doubt less worried about the propaganda effects and more worried about the CIA divulging sensitive and classified information to movie directors, as was the case, controversially, with Zero Dark Thirty.
Anyway, tip for aspiring filmmakers and TV producers: Leave the Russia jokes out. It’s getting boring.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

61% of Americans don’t feel represented by either Democrats or Republicans

Despite the current US electoral landscape, which again sees a Democrat and a Republican leading the face off in the finals, more than six in 10 Americans who put them there do not feel represented by either party, a survey found.
The presidential election in 2016 has the entire country and world on the edge of their seats, as any hope of a third party candidate is all but gone. But according to the 2016 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), dissatisfaction with both parties has plummeted sharply since 1990.
And it’s not just parties: Americans don’t trust the electoral process as a whole, with only 43 percent believing their vote will be counted accurately. One in five people has shown a complete lack of confidence.
“Pessimism about the direction of the country is considerably higher today (74 percent) than it was at this time during the 2012 presidential race, when 57 percent of the public said the country was off on the wrong track,” the authors, who have tested 2,010 adults across 50 states, write.
One contributing factor that shook up people’s belief were things like outsider Donald Trump having success, and the popular Bernie Sanders, who lost his party’s nomination. This did not make life any easier for third-party candidates like the Libertarian Gary Johnson and Jill Stein of the Greens.
The resulting disappointment is thought to have contributed to 61 percent saying neither party reflects their views, with only 38 percent disagreeing.
The authors write that the views don’t change across class or race.

Yearning for another ‘Golden Age’?

Most of the people who support the firebrand Trump (72 percent) believe they’re doing so because life in the US has changed for the worse since the 1950s, while almost the same portion of those supporting Hillary Clinton believe things are actually looking up.
What is also a telling sign is that a slight majority of college-educated whites believe things have become better since that time, while nearly two-thirds of the white working class believe the opposite. The authors believe this testifies to just how pronounced class differences have become.
The biggest pessimists in America are white evangelical Protestants, as nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say “American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s.” But overall, the country is almost split on the matter, with 51 percent believing this aren’t looking as good as in the post-war golden age.
One thing everybody agrees on, however, is just how badly both the current candidates are doing. Less than half now view a major party candidate favorably, with Clinton taking 41 and Trump taking 33 percent in the poll.
And, as mentioned before, vote-counting confidence is a big issue. Here, Clinton supporters fair noticeably better, with 70 percent believing their votes will be counted accurately, compared to Trump’s 41 percent. This could be a result of how much importance each candidate or their party generally attributes to the issue.
“This election has become a referendum on competing visions of America’s future. Donald Trump supporters are nostalgic for the 1950s, an era when white Christians in particular had more political and cultural power in the country, while Hillary Clinton supporters are leaning into – and even celebrating – the big cultural transformations the country has experienced over the last few decades,” PRRI chief Robert P. Jones says.
But all of this is not to say that things have been steadily getting worse at the same rate. Outgoing President Barack Obama still enjoys one of the highest recent ratings among Democrats as the Number One president: 35 percent. That’s compared to John F. Kennedy, who had 21 percent, and Bill Clinton’s 20 percent. For Republicans, things appear to have ended with Reagan: nearly 69 percent of his constituents believe he was the best president ever. Although there’s a wild variation here, seeing as George W. Bush is next in line, and he has only 12 percent.
But mostly, everyone just wants the elections to be over: a startling majority (69 percent) recently told ABC News in a poll that they find the election stressful; of those 23 percent reported the period to be causing “serious stress.”

Nat Geo’s iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ arrested for false documents in Pakistan

© Tim Chong
The woman behind National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry’s famous ‘Afghan Girl’ portrait has been arrested in Peshawar, Pakistan for possessing falsified documents.
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested Sharbat Gula at her home on Wednesday for having a forged Computerised National Identity Card.
Gula’s ID cards for both Pakistan and Afghanistan were taken from her. She faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
The arrests coincides with a Pakistani crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
Gula swept to fame after her image appeared on a 1985 cover of National Geographic. It was taken by McCurry at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar in 1984 when she was about 12-years-old.  
Gula’s striking green eyes has seen her being dubbed the Afghan Mona Lisa, and her photograph is ranked in the top 5 of  National Geographic’s most iconic images.  
Gula’s identity was a mystery for 18 years, until McCurry finally tracked her down in 2002, after returning to the region more than 10 times hoping to find her.
Gula’s parents were killed in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war.
In 1992, Gula left Pakistan and returned to  Afghanistan where she married a baker and had three children in a village in Eastern Afghanistan. National Geographic was able to verify Gula was the famous girl by comparing her moles and scar, as well as using iris scanning technology.
"Her eyes are as haunting now as they were then," McCurry said at the time. "She remembered me, primarily because she had never been photographed before I made the image of her in 1984, or since then."
Last year, Pakistani media reported the National Database and Registration Authority had cancelled the cards of Gula and two men said to be her sons because they had been illegally issued. Three officials are wanted for issuing her card and have been missing since it was first reported.
Gula applied for an identity card in 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi. It isn’t clear why Gula returned to Pakistan after living in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s investigation into fake ID cards has found more than 60,000 cases of non-nationals holding cards. The country is home to 2.5 million Afghan refugees.