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Bret Stephens: A Century of Progressive Excuses for Communism

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Communism Through Rose-Colored Glasses.

Bret Stephens writes: “In the spring of 1932 desperate officials, anxious for their jobs and even their lives, aware that a new famine might be on its way, began to collect grain wherever and however they could. Mass confiscations occurred all across the U.S.S.R. In Ukraine they took on an almost fanatical intensity.”

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I am quoting a few lines from “Red Famine,” Anne Applebaum’s brilliant new history of the deliberate policy of mass starvation inflicted on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s. An estimated five million or more people perished in just a few years. Walter Duranty, The Times’s correspondent in the Soviet Union, insisted the stories of famine were false. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for reportage the paper later called “completely misleading.”

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How many readers, I wonder, are familiar with this history of atrocity and denial, except in a vague way? How many know the name of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Stalin’s principal henchmen in the famine? What about other chapters large and small in the history of Communist horror, from the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to the depredations of Peru’s Shining Path to the Brezhnev-era psychiatric wards that were used to torture and imprison political dissidents?

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Archive/Getty Images

Why is it that people who know all about the infamous prison on Robben Island in South Africa have never heard of the prison on Cuba’s Isle of Pines? Why is Marxism still taken seriously on college campuses and in the progressive press? Do the same people whoObaMao
rightly demand the removal of Confederate statues ever feel even a shiver of inner revulsion at hipsters in Lenin or Mao T-shirts?

These aren’t original questions. But they’re worth asking because so many of today’s progressives remain in a permanent and dangerous state of semi-denial about the legacy of Communism a century after its birth in Russia.

No, they are not true-believing Communists. No, they are not unaware of the toll of the Great Leap Forward or the Killing Fields. No, they are not plotting to undermine democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vladimir Putin Honors Critical Russian Journalist’s Birthday with a Celebratory Gunshot Wound to Journalists’s Head 

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Alexander Shchetinin found dead with a gun near his body after friends tried to visit him at home.

Rachael Pells reports: A well-known Russian journalist and critic of President Vladimir Putin has been found dead in his Kiev apartment with a gunshot wound to the head.

The body of Alexander Shchetinin, founder the Novy Region (New Region) press agency, was found at his flat after friends tried to visit him on his birthday.

A police spokesperson said Kiev forces were alerted of Ms Shchetinin’s death at around midnight on Saturday. He is believed to have died a few hours earlier, between 8 and 9.30pm.

Officials have speculated that his death was caused by suicide, after a gun was found near his body along with spent cartridges, and the door to his apartment was said to be locked. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Krauthammer: Putin Ready to Move, ‘Sees Weakness in the White House’

Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of sending saboteurs across the border into Crimea to provoke the Russians, which a Ukrainian official called “ridiculous.” Charles Krauthammer agrees, and believes Putin is ready to take advantage of U.S. and European weakness.

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[VIDEO] Fistfight! Ukrainian Parliament 

Brawl erupted in Ukraine’s upper house of parliament when a member of the legislature attempted to drag prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk from the floor’s podium.

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From The Daily Beast:

The Ukrainian parliament on Friday broke out into a brawl after one member approached Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, handed him a bouquet of roses, and then forcefully picked him up by the crotch, and removed him from the podium. Mayhem ensued, with members rushing toward the two men. The prime minister had been defending his embattled government.


[VIDEO] Politics, Ukraine Style: Just Days Ahead of Election, Mayoral Candidate Valeria Prokopenko’s Compromising Video Leaks

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Jed Smith reports: Valeria Prokopenko was a 21-year-old mayoral candidate in Odessa, Ukraine, an impressively ambitious young woman by any standard. She’s also in the spotlight for an unexpected reason.

video from her recent past has cropped up, just days before voters hit the polls—but did it hurt her chances, or help them?

The video, which the law school graduate said she made for a beauty contest known as ‘Miss Olymp,’ begins with Prokopenko rolling around her bed wearing gray leggings, and then follows her around the apartment as she dances, puts on makeup, poses in sultry positions, and shows off various “sexy” outfits.

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It’s being assumed now that an opponent leaked the video in order to damage Prokopenko’s campaign.

But apparently, since the leak, her popularity has skyrocketed….(read more)

Source: ijreview


Power Games: Vladimir the Ball-Breaker vs Barack the Passive Metrosexual

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Matt K Lewis writes: As was the case when Russians invaded Ukraine, the Russians cloaked their activity in lies.

In the former example, Russian soldiers didn’t wear uniforms, a thinly-veiled move meant to create the impression the fighters were merely Ukrainian “separatists.”

“In the vast majority of the world, power (or the perception of power) is what matters. In America, President Obama’s brand of metrosexual coolness works well.”

Likewise, Wednesday’s bombings ostensibly targeted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil); in fact, the strikes were aimed at moderate rebels and civilians – part of a plan to take out any opposition to their client, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

President Bashar al-Assad claimed the British Government is "determined to militarise the problem" in Syria

Syrian President Bashir al-Assad Photo: REUTERS

This all comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s drawing of a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons, only to back down when the Assad regime – by most accounts – used them.

This past week, White House press secretary Josh Earnest strained credulity when he said Mr Obama doesn’t regret drawing that red line.

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“For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.”

Weakness invites provocation, and – never one to miss an opportunity to outmanoeuvre Mr Obama – Mr Putin provided a self-serving opportunity that would also allow the president to save face: Moscow would push Syria to put their chemical weapons under international control.

It’s also important to note that in the wake of the red line being trampled, Russia invaded Crimea. President Obama’s legacy may be mixed, but one thing is for sure: Vladimir Putin is much more powerful and provocative than he was before Mr Obama took office, and Russia has only expanded its sphere of influence.

[Read the full text here, at Telegraph]

The Syria bombings also come almost immediately after Mr Putin met with Mr Obama at the UN where they agreed to “deconflict” military operations – a very Obama-esque line that Mr Putin immediately crossed.

Smoke rises after airstrikes in Kafr Nabel of the Idlib province, western Syria. Russian jets carried out a second day of airstrikes in Syria Thursday, but there were conflicting claims about whether they were targeting Islamic State and al-Qaeda militants or trying to shore up the defenses of President Bashar Assad.

Russian bombs exploding outside Idlib Photo: Hadi Al-Abdallah via AP

And prior to bombing our friends in Syria, the Russians also had the audacity to issue a “démarche” for the US to clear air space over northern Syria. As if that weren’t enough, this came just as reports that the Russians attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server.

For those paying attention, Mr Obama’s foreign policy world-view has failed.

The suggestion that America could leave a vacuum that wouldn’t be filled by our adversaries – the idea that the “international community” (whatever that means) would respect us more if we were to retreat from the world – was always a farce.
Read the rest of this entry »


Garry Kasparov: Vladimir Putin Takes a Victory Lap While Barack Obama Helplessly Watches

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Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.

Garry Kasparov writes: With the Middle East in chaos and a belligerent Russian regime stoking the turmoil, the dueling speeches at the United Nations on Monday by presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin might have offered new insight. What the world saw instead was entirely predictable.

“The images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself.”

Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must
recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every
51jUYNkqdIL._SL250_listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

[Order Garry Kasparov‘s bookWinter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped” from Amazon.com]

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

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“Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall.”

The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia. His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Mr. Putin’s only remaining gambit is to claim that he is defending Russian greatness while surrounded by enemies (whom that he is an expert at creating). With his offensive in Ukraine sputtering along, new fronts were needed. He has found them in Syria and at the U.N.

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“The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia.”

In this light, the much-hyped private meeting between Messrs. Obama and Putin was the biggest possible prize. The only statement to come out of the meeting was that the U.S. and Russia would consider working together against Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Not that Mr. Putin cares about cooperation, as long as his goal of preserving Bashar Assad’s murderous dictatorship in Syria isn’t interfered with.

“His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above.”

Yet the images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself. As soon as the first pictures were taken, the meeting became a great success for Mr. Putin, and another self-inflicted defeat for American foreign policy—and for stability and democracy in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Schwitzgebel: What Good is the Study of Ethics if it Doesn’t Make Us More Ethical?

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Are professional ethicists good people? According to our research, not especially. So what is the point of learning ethics?

Eric Schwitzgebel writes: None of the classic questions of philosophy are beyond a seven-year-old’s understanding. If God exists, why do bad things happen? How do you know there’s still a world on the other side of that closed door? Are we just made of material stuff that will turn into mud when we die? If you could get away with killing and robbing people just for fun, would you? The questions are natural. It’s the answers that are hard.

“Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would? To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought.”

Eight years ago, I’d just begun a series of empirical studies on the moral behaviour of professional ethicists. My son Davy, then seven years old, was in his booster seat in the back of my car. ‘What do you think, Davy?’ I asked. ‘People who think a lot about what’s fair and about being nice – do they behave any better than other people? Are they more likely to be fair? Are they more likely to be nice?’

Davy didn’t respond right away. I caught his eye in the rearview mirror.

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“Ethicists do not behave better. But neither, overall, do they seem to behave worse.”

‘The kids who always talk about being fair and sharing,’ I recall him saying, ‘mostly just want you to be fair to them and share with them.’

[Read the full text of Eric Schwitzgebel’s article here, at Aeon]

When I meet an ethicist for the first time – by ‘ethicist’, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics – it’s my habit to ask whether ethicists behave any differently to other types of professor. Most say no.51enhSs2nlL._SL250_

I’ll probe further: why not? Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?

[Order Eric Schwitzgebel’s book “Perplexities of Consciousness” (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) from Amazon.com]

To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought. They’ll toss out responses that strike me as flip or are easily rebutted, and then they’ll have little to add when asked to clarify. They’ll say that academic ethics is all about abstract problems and bizarre puzzle cases, with no bearing on day-to-day life – a claim easily shown to be false by a few examples: Aristotle on virtue, Kant on lying, Singer on charitable donation. They’ll say: ‘What, do you expect epistemologists to have more knowledge? Do you expect doctors to be less likely to smoke?’ I’ll reply that the empirical evidence does suggest that doctors are less likely to smoke than non-doctors of similar social and economic background. Maybe epistemologists don’t have more knowledge, but I’d hope that specialists in feminism would exhibit less sexist behaviour – and if they didn’t, that would be an interesting finding. I’ll suggest that relationships between professional specialisation and personal life might play out differently for different cases.

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“We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.”

It seems odd to me that our profession has so little to say about this matter. We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Photo by Hussein Malla/AP

“No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession.”

The same issues arise with clergy. In 2010, I was presenting some of my work at the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Afterward, I was approached by not one but two bishops. I asked them whether they Christ_Icon_Sinai_6th_century
thought that clergy, on average, behaved better, the same or worse than laypeople.

‘About the same,’ said one.

‘Worse!’ said the other.

No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession. But in most of their voices, I also hear something that sounds like genuine disappointment, some remnant of the young adult who had headed off to seminary hoping it would be otherwise.

In a series of empirical studies – mostly in collaboration with the philosopher Joshua Rust of Stetson University – I have empirically explored the moral behaviour of ethics professors. As far as I’m aware, Josh and I are the only people ever to have done so in a systematic way.

Here are the measures we looked at: voting in public elections, calling one’s mother, eating the meat of mammals, donating to charity, littering, disruptive chatting and door-slamming during philosophy presentations, responding to student emails, attending conferences without paying registration fees, organ donation, blood donation, theft of library books, overall moral evaluation by one’s departmental peers based on personal impressions, honesty in responding to survey questions, and joining the Nazi party in 1930s Germany. Read the rest of this entry »


Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak: ‘After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over’

A Polish Army tank takes part in the NATO Noble Jump exercise on a training range near Swietoszow Zagan, Poland, Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Zagan (Poland) (AFP) – NATO member Poland said Thursday that the post-Cold War period of peace is “now over”, as the European Union grapples with various crises including the Ukraine conflict and terrorism.

“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa.”

Poland’s defence minister spoke alongside NATO head Jens Stoltenberg in western Poland while attending the first full exercise of the Western defence alliance’s new rapid reaction force — part of NATO’s biggest defence reinforcement since the Cold War.

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“I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.”

— Defense Minister Tomasz Siemonia

“After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over,” Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters in Zagan.

“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa,” he said, using an acronym to refer to the jihadist Islamic State group.

He added that Europe had to do more to defend itself, saying “I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.” Read the rest of this entry »


ты уволен! Russian State TV Reporter Fired After Criticising Vladimir Putin

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Konstantin Goldenzweig says he is ashamed of taking part in Kremlin ‘propaganda madness’

 writes: A Russian state television reporter has broken ranks and apologised for taking part in “propaganda madness” after being sacked for criticising Vladimir Putin.

Konstantin Goldenzweig, the former Berlin correspondent of the NTV channel, lost his job after giving an interview to a German station in which he referred to the Russian president’s “well-known cynicism” and suggested it was advantageous to the Kremlin that the war in eastern Ukraine was prolonged.

The journalist now says he is ashamed at having take part in what he called Russia’s “general propaganda madness” since the beginning last year of the war in Ukraine, where combined Russian and rebel forces are fighting government troops.

State television in Russia dominates broadcast media and produces highly politicised and biased reports which often refer to Ukraine’s government as the “Kiev junta”. Some dispatches have been shown to be fabricated.

Vladimir Putin speaking in Milan this month

Vladimir Putin speaking in Milan this month

There have been some controversial departures from the state-run English-language channel RT in recent years but this is the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis that a high-profile correspondent from a major terrestrial channel has criticised his employer so publicly.

In an interview with the independent news site, Meduza, Mr Goldenzweig said he was ousted from NTV shortly after giving the interview on June 8 to the Phoenix channel, in which he said that Mr Putin felt “insulted” for being excluded from the G7 meeting of leading states in Bavaria.

He said he had already decided to leave NTV at the end of July after becoming disillusioned with his work, but he was forced out early after the general director of the channel became enraged at his interview comments.

“I am truly ashamed of what I have been doing for the last year and a half,” he told Meduza.

Before autumn last year Mr Goldenzweig had managed to avoid politicising his reporting, producing frequent dispatches about German culture, but he then started to get frequent orders for crude propaganda from Moscow, he said.
Read the rest of this entry »


German Tanks Roll Back into Poland

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The tiny Polish town of Swietoszow did not officially exist during the Cold War; as home to a massive but secret Soviet tank force ready to strike at the West, it was removed from all public maps and records.

Last week Nato used the base for the first big deployment of a new special force to defend eastern Europe from an increasingly expansionist Russia.

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American Black Hawk helicopters thundered in the skies as German tanks rolled from across the nearby border, along with troops and hardware from seven other nations that make up Nato’s Spearhead Force, which was set up last year in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Read the rest of this entry »


The ’80s Called and…


[VIDEO] FAILING UP: The Worst of Jen Psaki

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Jen Psaki is leaving after two years as State Department spokesperson to become White House communications director,..

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Her time as John Kerry’s top PR flack included countless moments of sputtering to explain the Obama administration’s foreign policy missteps, a moment of hashtag diplomacy unparalleled in its cringe factor, and daily verbal floggings by dogged Associated Press reporter Matt Lee

Source: Washington Free Beacon


Leaders Agree Deal for Ukraine Cease-Fire

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BREAKING: Putin Announces Ukraine Ceasefire

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A ceasefire will begin in eastern Ukraine on 15 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced.

“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” he said following marathon talks involving Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well the leaders of France and Germany.

French President Francois Hollande said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.

via BBC News


How Russia props up Putin in the polls

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Christopher Walker is executive director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Robert Orttung is assistant director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.

Christopher Walker and Robert Orttung write: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity appears to resist the laws of political physics. Despite the price of oil sinking below $50 a barrel and the Russian economy falling into a tailspin, Putin’s approval ratings hover above 80 percent, seemingly defying ­gravity.

“The cream of Russian society is voting with its feet, leaving a stultifying, ever more corrupt environment for greener pastures that allow them to productively apply their talents.”

But the numbers should not be taken at face value.

Deeper scrutiny is especially important because the more Putin’s sky-high popularity ratings are mentioned, the more they become accepted wisdom. Western news media and political analysts frequently report on them without providing critically needed context.

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“All of this should tell us something. Today, the Kremlin must work far harder than it has to manufacture regime support. Its fiercer propaganda and harsher repression suggest that the Russian population is less willing to accept Putin. To compensate, the state apparatus has been shifted into overdrive.”

First, Putin’s popularity has been achieved in an information vacuum. An informal set of censorship rules, actively enforced by the Kremlin, makes it virtually impossible to discuss important issues and question official actions through the mass media. Today, independent voices rarely reach into Russian living rooms over the airwaves. In recent months, the government has tightened its noose, pressuring even outlets serving niche audiences, such as the news Web site Lenta.ruthe newspaper Vedomosti and the Moscow station TV Rain. Meanwhile, feverish state propaganda feeds Russian television audiences an unchallenged and delusive flow of information designed to show the country’s leaders in the most positive light while blaming problems on “fascists,” “foreign agents” and “fifth columns.”

Second, Putin’s political repression makes certain that only the bravest and most self-sacrificing individuals challenge his rule. Emerging opposition leaders are either removed, smeared or co-opted before they gain sufficient popularity to present a threat. A popularity figure of 80-plus percent simply tells us that Russians cannot conceive of an alternative to Putin. Read the rest of this entry »


Garry Kasparov: The Global War on Modernity

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Islamists set the time machine to the Dark Ages. Putin dreams of czarist Russia. A common enemy: Americakasparov-tall

Garry Kasparov writes: The recent terror attacks in Paris at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and at a kosher supermarket, leaving 17 people dead, represented the latest offensive in a struggle that most people, even many of its casualties, are unaware is even taking place.

“The guaranteed freedoms represented by the First Amendment frighten the radical mullahs and dictators more than any drone strike or economic sanction.”

Globalization has effectively compressed the world in size, increasing the mobility of goods, capital and labor. Simultaneously this has led to globalization across time, as the 21st century collides with cultures and regimes intent on existing as in centuries past. It is less the famous clash of civilizations than an attempt by these “time travelers” to hold on to their waning authority by stopping the advance of the ideas essential to an open society.

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“Many politicians and pundits in the Free World seem to think that refusing to acknowledge you are in a fight means you can avoid losing it. But ignoring the reality of the conflict puts more innocents like the Paris victims—instead of trained soldiers and law enforcement—on the front lines.”

Radical Islamists, from the Taliban and al Qaeda to Boko Haram and Islamic State, set the time machine to the Dark Ages and encourage the murder of all who oppose them, often supported by fatwas and funds from terror sponsors like Iran. The religious monarchies in the Middle East are guilty by association, creating favorable conditions for extremism by clamping down on any stirring of freedom.

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 “There are no easy ways to deter homegrown terrorists or nuclear-armed dictators, but this culture of denial must end before true progress can be made.”

Vladimir Putin wants Russia to exist in the Great Power era of czars and monarchs, dominating its neighbors by force and undisturbed by elections and rights complaints. The post-Communist autocracies, led by Mr. Putin’s closest dictator allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, exploit ideology only as a means of hanging on to power at any cost.

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Since the time travelers cannot fight head-to-head with the ideas and prosperity of the Free World, they fall back on their arsenal of ideology, violence and disregard for human life.”

In the East, Kim Jong Un ’s North Korea attempts to freeze time in a Stalinist prison-camp bubble. In the West, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and the Castros in Cuba use anachronistic socialist propaganda to resist increasing pressure for human rights. Read the rest of this entry »


Rare photo of Vladimir Putin from when he worked as an informant for Starsky and Hutch


Putin Accuses West of Provoking Ukraine Crisis

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MOSCOWJames Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.

In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.

“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”

Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »


Russia prepares nuclear surprise for NATO

VladPutinKGBOn September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.

According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of 53936strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.

It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] NATO Sees ‘Significant Buildup’ of Russian Forces in Ukraine

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Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region

BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.

The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.

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“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”

The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.

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‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’

—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.

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‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’

Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general

Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”

Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »


By Proxy: Ukrainians Pull Down Putin’s Pants


The Provocations of Putin: Russian Nuclear Bombers Buzz Alaska, Northern Europe

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Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation

Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska

 reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.

“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”

Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.

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Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.

A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »


How The West Has Fallen Behind In The New Propaganda Wars

A poster in Sevastopol reading "On March 16 we will choose either... or...", March 13, 2014. Photo by AFP

A poster in Sevastopol reading “On March 16 we will choose either… or…”, March 13, 2014. Photo by AFP

George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.

Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.

The Revival Of State Controlled Media

One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.

But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.

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Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.

As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”

According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.

Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.

Misinformation Campaigns

By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: Obama’s Curious Rage

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Calm when it comes to Putin, ISIS and Hamas, but furious with Israel

Barack Obama “has become ‘enraged’ at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. ” So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, renocol_BretStephensuntil recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had “a very negative impact” on Jerusalem’s relations with Washington.

Think about this. Enraged. Not “alarmed” or “concerned” or “irritated” or even “angered.” Anger is a feeling. Rage is a Obama-incandescentfrenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.

[Also see Bret Stephens’ – ‘Pay Attention to Other People’s Nightmares, Because They Might Be Contagious’]

And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged. With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.

Think about this some more. In the summer in which Mr. Obama became “enraged” with Israel, Islamic State terrorists seized Mosul and massacred Shiite soldiers in open pits, Russian separatists shot down a civilian jetliner, Hamas executed 18 “collaborators” in broad daylight, Bashar Assad‘s forces in Syria came close to encircling Aleppo with the aim of starving the city into submission, a brave American journalist had his throat slit on YouTube by a British jihadist, Russian troops openly invaded Ukraine, and Chinese jets harassed U.S. surveillance planes over international waters.

Mr. Obama or his administration responded to these events with varying degrees of concern, censure and indignation. But rage? Read the rest of this entry »


Vladimir Putin’s Veiled Nuclear Threat

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“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Aug 29 (Reuters) – Alexei Anishchuk reports: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”

“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”

Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.

“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”

Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hammer: ‘I Thought the President Could No Longer Surprise Me. I Was Wrong’

“I thought he had a phone. How about picking up the phone and talking with the allies? You know the phone is a way to communicate rather rapidly.”

From The Corner: On Thursday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer reacted to President Obama’s statement, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse—we don’t have a strategy yet,” about the United States’ effort against the Islamic State. Krauthammer said he was shocked by Obama’s statement, especially considering the context in which the comment was made.

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“Look I thought that the president could no longer surprise me,” Krauthammer said. “I was wrong. He shocked me today.  The President of the United States, in the middle of a real crisis, a few days after the beheading of an American, deliberately sort of spitting in the face of the country and demonstrating his cruelty, the president gets in front of the world and says, ‘I don’t have a strategy.'”

But even worse than the president’s statement that he had no strategy to defeat the Islamic State, Krauthammer said, was his comment about Ukraine. Read the rest of this entry »


Russian Troops ‘Directly Involved’ in Ukraine Conflict


Dropping Oil Prices Threaten Moscow’s Budget

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Andy Tully writes: Oil and gas are at the heart of the Russian economy and are largely responsible for keeping Moscow’s government budget in balance. But the recent decline in the price of oil from the North Sea and Texas has now spread to Urals crude, giving President Vladimir Putin one more economic headache.

The price of Urals crude fell just below $100 per barrel on Aug. 18, an 18-month low. On Aug. 19, it dropped to less than $97 per barrel. These declines coincided with similar drops in the price of Brent crude from the North Sea and U.S. oil.

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The reasons are fairly easy to recognize. First, the United States has been on a drilling tear, extracting oil at record levels to increase its supply at a time when demand is waning. Second, though more tentative, is that conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East are so far not interfering with oil production in these regions.

This oil production boom raises problems for Moscow. Two-thirds of Russia’s exports are oil and gas, accounting for fully half of the central government’s revenues. That means that so far this year, every dollar drop in the price of Russian oil means a cut of about $1.4 billion in revenues. Read the rest of this entry »


Increased Violence Leads State Department To Issue Advisory For Americans Traveling To 1861

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“Events are developing quickly in 1861 and the potential for widespread violence is high, so we recommend that all citizens planning to visit that year exercise abundant caution and make proper arrangements.”

— State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Responding to reports of political turmoil and growing instability, officials from the U.S. State Department issued an advisory on Tuesday for all Americans traveling to the year 1861. “Events are developing quickly in 1861 and the potential for widespread violence is high, so we recommend that all citizens planning to visit that year exercise abundant caution and make proper arrangements,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, strongly advising against any non-essential travel to 1861 and the broader time period of the early 1860s in general. Read the rest of this entry »


Protesters Climbed an Iconic Moscow Skyscraper, Planted a Ukrainian Flag and Took a Selfie


Ukraine Strikes Russian Convoy, Scores

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Kiev (AFP) – Max Delany with Anais Llobet in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russia reporting: Ukraine said on Friday it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that entered onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions rocketing.

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NATO accused Russia of active involvement in the “destabilisation” of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists have been fighting against Kiev for four months.

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The two countries have also been wrangling for days over a Russian convoy that Moscow says is carrying humanitarian aid for besieged rebel-held cities but which Kiev suspects could be a “Trojan horse” to provide military help to the insurgents.

Fears that the border clash could spill into all-out war between Kiev and Moscow sent major share markets tumbling across Europe and the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Potemkin Humanitarianism

Aid Trucks to Ukraine? Almost Empty 

A convoy of Russian trucks carrying aid for eastern Ukraine has been opened up to journalists at the border. The Ukrainian government had insisted that inspectors checked the trucks’ cargo, amid fears that they could be carrying military supplies for the rebels – an accusation Russia has rejected. The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg noted that many of the trucks were “almost empty”.

BBC News – YouTube


[VIDEO] Join the Global Energy Interdependence Movement: Help This Russian Billionaire Stay Rich!


GLOBAL PANIC FAILURE OVERLOAD Washington Post: ‘President Obama’s Competence Problem is Worse Than It Looks’

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Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina, left, and Honduran President Juan Hernandez, right, listen as President Obama speaks to the media, after they met on July 25 at the White House to discuss Central American immigration and the border crisis. (AP)

For The Washington PostChris Cillizza writes: You can understand President Obama’s current political problems — and how those problems could make things very tough for his party in this fall’s midterm election — in a single word. And that gpoj-approved-panicword is “competence.”

“Almost six years on from that election, however, Obama is faltering badly on the competence question…”

Obama was elected in 2008 on a stated promise that he would restore competence to government. He pitched himself as the antidote to “Heck of a job, Brownie” and the Bush years, the person who would always put the most qualified candidate in every job in his Administration. That the basic functioning of government would never be in question.

“…and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats’ chances this fall.”

Almost six years on from that election, however, Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats’ chances this fall. A series of events — from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program — have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Tom Rogan: ‘Perception Abroad of Obama Is That He’s Disengaged’

Also see Tom Rogan’s essay at NRO“Words, Just Words”

“… Policy and rhetoric are effective when deployed together in pursuit of a goal. Yet, for the Obama administration, from the Middle East to Ukraine, American policy exists, rudderless, as pure rhetoric…”

“Whether it’s domestic or foreign policy, Obama has failed to build a bridge between words and action. Without such a bridge, the administration will sink in a morass of increasingly pointless speeches…” (read more)

— Tom Rogan is a blogger and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He is based in Washington, D.C., and tweets @TomRtweets.

 

 


Solder Blows Putin’s Secret: Posted Photos Post-Artillery Attack on Ukraine from Russia


The Hammer: Obama ‘Practically Half Asleep’ in Airliner Speech

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“He’s relying on the Europeans. The Europeans will never act. They never act on anything unless they’re led by the U.S.”

On Friday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer slammed Obama for the “unbelievable, passive nature” of his speech, which addressed the Malaysian airliner catastrophe in Eastern Ukraine. Reacting to yesterday’s news of the shooting down of the civilian plane – almost certainly at the hands of Russian-armed rebels – the president appeared disinterested, and ”practically half asleep.”

That response makes sense only if Obama believes that the events will necessarily go badly for Russia. However, Krauthammer contended, there is no reason to think that is true in the absence of American leadership….(read more) The Corner

National Review Online


Obama Points to Pro-Russia Separatists in Downing of Malaysian Airlines Plane

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WASHINGTON —For the  NY Times and  reporting: President Obama said Friday that the United States believed the Malaysia Airlines jetliner felled over eastern Ukraine was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from an area inside Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House were the strongest public suggestions yet from the United States over who was responsible for the downing of the jetliner, which exploded, crashed and burned on Thursday on farmland in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.

Mr. Obama said the loss of life was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and a “global tragedy.” He vowed to investigate exactly what happened to end the lives of “men, women, children, infants who had nothing to do with the crisis” in that region. Mr. Obama also said that at least one American was among the dead.

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“We are going to make sure the truth is out,” Mr. Obama said, referring to what he described as a trove of misinformation that has already shrouded the plane crash. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Every Single Day We’re Lying’: RT Reporter Resigns Over Coverage of MH17 Crash

For the NY Daily News A Russia Today reporter quit Friday, furious over the way the network covered the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash.

Sara Firth, who was born in the U.K. and has worked for the state-backed TV station since 2009, said Russia Today suggested the Ukrainian government took down the Boeing 777 flying over the country.

via YouTubeSara Firth, a London-based correspondent for Russia Today, resigned Friday, saying she's tired of lying and telling 'sexier' stories.

Firth, a London-based correspondent for Russia Today, resigned Friday: ‘ tired of lying and telling ‘sexier’ stories’.

“I didn’t want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we’re handling it like that.”

London-based reporter is not the first journalist to call the network’s bias into questions — another reporter quit in March over the way firth-tallRussian management covered riots in neighboring Ukraine.

“It’s great team, so talented. But at the heart of that organization it’s rotten.”

“I couldn’t do it anymore,” she told Buzzfeed. “Every single day we’re lying and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Firth, who first reported Russian government-backed station from Moscow before transferring to the London office, said management put witnesses into the story who specifically blamed Ukraine for the crash.

“The second you start to question or report honestly then you’re a problem.”

One correspondent said a previous plane crash that Ukraine had been involved with was “worth mentioning,” she claimed. Read the rest of this entry »