Sunday, June 23

Why not ask the rain god to strike all Tamil Nadu water officials dead?

Not that I'm calling for mass murder, and besides, smiting officials dead is not a rain god's department. But I'm just saying that officials should stop treating the Indian gods like chumps. Spend decades studiously ignoring a huge problem and pile on a mountain of corruption, then break a few coconuts and ask a god to get them off the hook? I know what my response would be if I were an Indian god. 

Nevermind, but here's the story, from India Today, for those interested in seeing bare-chested officials in full puja mode making piteous pleas to a god for rain.

Meanwhile, "DMK treasurer Duraimurugan said that there will be protests in Vellore if the plan to give water to Chennai was carried out. Duraimurugan also mocked the state government for performing yagya [prayer rituals for a god] instead of finding ways to solve the water crisis."


Does Kushner's Palestine Deal of the Century take water into account?

See also:

Ticking time bomb: The water crisis which threatens chances for peace in the Middle East; January 21; (U.K.Independent. (Fifth in a series, "Water Wars.")

Yesterday the Thomson Reuters Foundation news page published an exclusive Reuters report, White House's Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan:
The White House on Saturday outlined a $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies, and fund a $5 billion transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.
The "peace to prosperity" plan, set to be presented by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an international conference in Bahrain next week, includes 179 infrastructure and business projects, according to details of the plan and interviews with U.S. officials.
More than half of the $50 billion would be spent in the economically troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years while the rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Some of the projects would be in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where investments could benefit Palestinians living in adjacent Gaza, a crowded and impoverished coastal enclave.
The plan also proposes nearly a billion dollars to build up the Palestinians' tourism sector ...

The plan sounds pie-in-the-sky to Palestinians; it sounds the same to me unless the infrastructure projects put water first and foremost, and there's no indication of that as yet. 

Not that I like being a wet blanket, but for Mr Kushner's benefit, the Palestinian territories have been experiencing a severe water crisis with Gaza the worst and the West Bank not far behind. Resolving this crisis, or even making a stab at, will be incredibly expensive.

The Israelis have their side of the story but that's the point: it's two sides pointing fingers at each other, and meanwhile, the water crisis keeps getting rose.

I can't remember which year I first reported on the crisis -- could've been 2013 or a few years earlier, but here are quotes from an opinion piece at Gulf News, dated Apri 30, 2019, which will bring you up to speed: Water Crisis is Poisoning Palestine; the piece is based on a WHO report released in March of this year. Bottom line:
WHO indicated that 97 per cent of water pumped from Gaza’s aquifer, which is depleting at a rapid rate, fails to meet the minimum standards of quality for potable water.

In fact, the very sustainability of the Gaza Strip’s basin is now in jeopardy. WHO findings further confirm a previous United Nations report that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020.

Saudi Arabia and US/Euro regimes still trying to carve up Syria

"Syria affairs analysts are concerned about the US-Saudi plan to cut off Eastern Euphrates from the mainland, saying that the Saudi minister has paid some money to the tribal leaders to coax them into cooperation with the Kurdish militia and support for Riyadh's influence in the region."  

Saudi, US Envoys Meet in Deir Ezzur to Coordinate Syria Decomposition Plan
June 15, 2019

TEHRAN (FNA)- American and Saudi diplomatic delegations held a meeting with commanders of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a number of tribal leaders in a Washington-occupied base in Deir Ezzur in a bid to coordinate a plan for the separation of Eastern Euphrates from Syria.

The Arabic-language Step news website affiliated to the militants reported on Friday that recently a meeting was held between the two sides in al-Omar oilfield region in Eastern Deir Ezzur.

It added that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joel Rayburn, former US Ambassador to Bahrain William V. Roebuck and Saudi Minister for Persian Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan participated in a meeting with Qassan al-Yousef and Leili al-Hassan, the co-chairs of Deir Ezzur civil administration, noting that the event was meant do coordination for supporting the SDF-occupied regions against any possible threat and political and economic support for the SDF in Northern and Northeastern Syria.

According to the report, another meeting was also held between the Arab and US delegations and a number of tribal leaders of Deir Ezzur in al-Omar base to remove differences between the tribes and the SDF and discuss financial and logistical support for the Eastern Euphrates region.

Meantime, the Arabic-language Xeber 24 news website reported that al-Sabhan conveyed a message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his full support for militants in Northeastern Syria.

Syria affairs analysts are concerned about the US-Saudi plan to cut off Eastern Euphrates from the mainland, saying that the Saudi minister has paid some money to the tribal leaders to coax them into cooperation with the Kurdish militia and support for Riyadh's influence in the region.

The US has increased military support for the Kurds in Eastern Syria in recent months.

Media sources reported earlier this month that hundreds of trucks carrying US military and logistical aid have been dispatched to areas under the control of the SDF in Eastern Syria despite declaring the end of the ISIL by Washington.

The pro-militant Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a convoy comprising 55 trucks containing logistical and military consignments was sent to Eastern Euphrates via Simalka crossing in Northern Iraq.

The SOHR also reiterated that a sum of 1,115 trucks have been so far sent to areas under SDF's control in Deir Ezzur province.

Also last month, media reports said that the Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition had prepared to launch military offensive against the Syrian Army and resistance forces in Deir Ezzur Province.

The Turkish-language Anatoly news agency quoted local sources as saying that After taking control of Eastern Euphrates region, the Kurdish fighters are preparing to launch an attack on Damascus-backed forces in Deir Ezzur.

It noted that the US-led coalition forces were training the Kurdish fighters Ain Issa bases in Raqqa province and al-Amr oil region in Eastern Deir Ezzur, adding that the trainings include passing through mobile bridges and rivers.

The US-led coalition forces and Kurdish fighters are looking for winning the support of regional tribes for launching the attack after residents of the region called for holding massive protests in Eastern Euphrates and called for expulsion of the US-backed Kurdish fighters.

Meantime, the US-led Kurdish militants have held meetings with tribal leaders in al-Omar oil zone.


Is America's CBS News involved in a planned false-flag chemical attack in Idlib?

See also Video: New Chemical Attack Movie Trailer Found In Killed Terrorist’s Smartphone; Muraselon News (Syria), June 23 - 18:36:14.

"The sources noted that the terrorists intend to victimize civilians in real chemical attacks."

The sources would not have pulled the name "CBS" out of thin air. I have highlighted the passage in the following FARS report that mentions CBS. If CBS TV or a 'rogue' CBS cameraperson is involved in such planning, or even willing to studiously ignore it in order to get footage of carnage for airing on American TV, this is new. I could be wrong because I don't watch TV or 'live' at the CBS website, but my impression is that of the all the U.S. TV outlets, CBS does less propaganda for the U.S. civilian and military regimes than the others.

In any event, the warning about a planned false-flag chemical attack should be taken seriously. There have been so many such attacks (either real or hoaxes) launched by mercenaries in Syria since Obama made his infamous 'red line' threat against the Syrian government that they're routine. And their tactics are so well-established by now that the Russian and Syrian militaries have found it easy to spot planning for a false flag attack. 

By the way, I note from recent headlines at Google about FARS that Reuters has gone gaga for FARS reports, although they haven't mentioned the following one. Reuters has been featuring the name FARS in a number of their recent headlines in news about Iran. Here's one from yesterday: Iran summons UAE envoy to complain about U.S. drone launch: Fars.

As to why the sudden interest at Reuters in highlighting FARS reports -- my understanding is that with the exception of the British, West European EU members are not happy with the U.S. attempt to gin up a war against Iran that will surely draw in other NATO countries, which is the same as drawing in the European Union. So my guess is that the Europe-based Reuters news agency now has a firm rationale to give the Iranian government, via FARS, a chance to voice its side of the story to Western news readers, beyond what is announced in official Iranian statements. 

In any case, good for Reuters. Americans, in particular, need to know more about the Iranian side of Middle Eastern conflicts, particularly as it applies to Syria. FARS is a long-established perfectly legitimate news outlet with a large staff.       

White Helmets Preparing to Film Tahrir Al-Sham's False-Flag Chemical Attacks in Idlib
June 23, 2019 - 2:23

TEHRAN (FNA)- The pro-militant White Helmets Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) are reportedly preparing to shoot a scene in the demilitarized zone in Idlib that would show a chemical attack by the Syrian Army, media sources said.

The Arabic-language Morasseloun news website [
quoted special sources in Idlib province as saying that Tahrir al-Sham is planning to launch a new chemical attack on civilians and areas controlled by the Turkish Army in Mourek and Jbal al-Zawiyeh in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib.

The sources pointed to the preparedness of the White Helmets to take films from the preplanned chemical attacks, and said most probably the cameramen of the CBS television network who have recently obtained permits for preparing videos from Tahrir al-Sham terrorist commanders in Idlib will also contribute to shooting the scene.

According to intel, Tahrir al-Sham commanders have previously paid $200 to each of the White Helmets to take films and pictures from the aftermath of the chemical attacks on children in Saraqib and Jorjnaz in Idlib.

Meantime, the Tahrir al-Sham terrorists are also planning to conduct chemical attacks after the Syrian and Russian air forces carry out airstrikes on the town of Jorjnaz in Southern Idlib.

The sources noted that the terrorists intend to victimize civilians in real chemical attacks, and said that the White Helmets are also supposed to film the chemical attack to accuse the Syrian Army of the crime later.

In a relevant development, on Saturday the commanders of terrorist groups held a meeting in Idlib province to prepare for false-flag chemical attacks on areas under the control of the Turkish army to falsely accuse the Syrian Army.

Special sources in Idlib said that the commanders of Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at have decided to conduct fresh false chemical attacks in the province to point the finger of accusations at the Damascus Army.

They noted that the terrorist commanders have agreed to conduct chemical attacks on spots 9 and 10 controlled by the Turkish Army to portray that the Syrian Army has carried out the attack.

Meantime, the Syrian Army's artillery and missile units pounded the terrorists' military positions in the towns of al-Latamineh, Kafar Zita and al-Hobait in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib in response to the terrorists' rocket attacks on residential areas of Sheikh Hadid and al-Jornieh in Northern Hama.

The Syrian Army's artillery units also pounded Tahrir al-Sham's military convoys in the town of al-Mastoumeh and near Jabal al-Qarbain towards the city of Ariha in Southern Idlib, inflicting heavy losses on the militants.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik news agency also quoted a military source as saying that over 25 terrorists have been killed in al-Jalmeh in Northern Hama and that several of their military vehicles, including Turkish Army ones, were destroyed.



"Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan's ruling AKP lose again"

"Whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey" 

BBC, 45 minutes ago:

Turkey's ruling party has lost control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city's mayoral election, latest results show.

The candidate for the main opposition party, Ekrem Imamoglu, won 54% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

He won a surprise victory in March which was annulled after the ruling AK party complained of irregularities.

His opponent, ex-PM Binali Yildirim, has conceded. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated the winner.

"I congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu who has won the election based on preliminary results," he tweeted.

But the result is being seen as a major setback for Mr Erdogan, who has previously said that "whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey".

Ambitious mayor takes on Turkish president

In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu said the result marked a "new beginning" for both the city and the country.

"We are opening up a new page in Istanbul," he said. "On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love."



More than half of trafficked slaves in US come from US foster care industry

I think it would help if they stopped calling it "human trafficking" and "forced sex labor" and called it for what it is: the buying and selling of slaves. Bringing sex into the issue is muddying the water about what a large segment of Americans is doing. These people are slavers, plain and simple. 

Need I remind American law enforcement, politicians, media, and the electorate at large that slavery is illegal in the United States of America?

I note that the term "industry" in the title isn't mine; I took it from the following report by Fox News. The report is the last in a six-part series based on two months of investigative reporting by Fox.  You can see their previous five television segments and articles here: One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.  

Also, I posted only the highlights in the report, omitting much information on what U.S. law enforcement is doing to combat slave trafficking in America, which frankly is a drop in the bucket and will remain so until Americans confront the fact that they are supporting wide-scale slavery -- not only in the USA but in countries, notably Mexico and Phillipines, which supply many of the slaves shipped to American customers. But as you will see from the Fox report, it's the internal slave trade in the U.S. that is responsible for much of the slave business in America. 

Yet a large internal slave trade is surely mirrored in other countries where slavery is routine; it's just that America, with the world's third largest population, is the worst-case situation for a vaunted advanced democracy. 
Human trafficking in America among worst in world: reportBy Andrew Keiper and Perry Chiaramonte
June 23, 2019
Fox News [H/T Drudge Report]
The United States is again ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. According to a recently released report by the State Department, the top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking in 2018 were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the Trafficking in Persons report, which is created annually by the State Department to document human trafficking in the year prior, and highlighted the growing focus that government agencies and nonprofit organizations have dedicated to stopping human trafficking.
The Department of Justice provided more than $31 million for 45 victim service providers that offered services to trafficking survivors across the country. It was a demonstrable increase; the DOJ only provided $16 million to 18 organizations in 2017, according to the report.
At the heart of the human trafficking trade in America is simple economics: Supply and demand.
“We have a major issue here in the United States” Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), said in an interview with Fox News. “The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So we are driving the demand as a society.”
“We're also driving the demand with our own people, with our own kids,” Rogers said. “So there are tremendous numbers of kids, a multitude of kids that are being sold as sex slaves today in America. These are American kids, American-born, 50 percent to 60 percent of them coming out of the foster care industry.”
This assertion is confirmed by the State Department’s report, which found that children in foster care, homeless youth, undocumented immigrant children and those with substance abuse problems were especially at risk to fall into the human trafficking trap.
Rogers says that because the demand is so great in the U.S., traffickers are filling that demand with an increased supply of forced sex workers.
“So the demand here in the United States is a global one,” he said. “We do have men traveling the globe to go to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. But, in fact, the demand is so great that the supply has needed to be filled here in the United States.”
“Because of the demand, then these traffickers are filling that demand with supply. And the demand is so great here in the United States that they're filling the supply with our very own kids,” Rogers continued.

Saturday, June 22

The last thing the world needs is a chemical weapons watchdog buckling from political pressure

"The credibility of the OPCW itself and every report and conclusion it has released concerning allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are now suspect." 

Bias, Lies & Videotape: Doubts Dog ‘Confirmed’ Syria Chemical Attacks
Disturbing new evidence suggests 2018 incident might've been staged, putting everything else, including U.S. retaliation, into question.
By SCOTT RITTERJune 20, 2019

The American Conservative

Thanks to an explosive internal memo, there is no reason to believe the claims put forward by the Syrian opposition that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Douma back in April. This is a scenario I have questioned from the beginning.

It also calls into question all the other conclusions and reports by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was assigned in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

As you recall, the Trump administration initiated a coordinated bombing of Syrian government facilities with the UK and France within days of the Douma incidentand before a full investigation of the scene could be completed, charging Assad with the “barbaric act” of using “banned chemical weapons” to kill dozens of people on the scene. Bomb first, ask questions later.

The OPCW began their investigation days after the strikes. The group drew on witness testimonies, environmental and biomedical sample analysis results, and additional digital information from witnesses (i.e. video and still photography), as well as toxicological and ballistic analyses. 

In July 2018, the OPCW released an interim report on Douma that said “no organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties,” but that chlorine, which is not a banned chemical weapon, was detected there.

The report cited ballistic tests that indicated that the canisters found at two locations on the scene were dropped from the air (witnesses blamed Assad’s forces), but investigations were ongoing.

The final report in March reiterated the ballistics data, and the conclusions were just as underwhelming, saying that all of the evidence gathered there provides “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place,” due in part to traces of chlorine and explosives at the impact sites.

Now, the leaked internal report apparently suppressed by the OPCW says there is a “high probability” that a pair of chlorine gas cylinders that had been claimed as the source of the toxic chemical had been planted there by hand and not dropped by aircraft. This was based on extensive engineering assessments and computer modeling as well as all of the evidence previously afforded to the OPCW.

What does this mean? To my mind, the canisters were planted by the opposition in an effort to frame the Syrian government.

The OPCW has confirmed the validity of this shocking document and offered statements to reporters, including Peter Hitchens, who published the organization’s response to him on May 16.

The ramifications of this turn of events extend far beyond simply disproving the allegations concerning the events in April 2018. The credibility of the OPCW itself and every report and conclusion it has released concerning allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are now suspect. 

The extent to which the OPCW has, almost exclusively, relied upon the same Syrian opposition sources who are now suspected of fabricating the Douma events raises serious questions about both the methodology and motivation of an organization that had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for “its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.”



Getting around U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil sales

"If Russia’s help is successful, Iran would be able to export substantial amounts of oil to Europe." Meanwhile, the EU is trying to get its workaround off the ground. It's not the sanctions in themselves that have a number of European states ticked off; it's that the U.S. is throwing its weight around so much -- and everyone fall in line, or else.  

Russia To Lend Iran A Hand For Exporting Oil
By Julianne Geiger
June 21, 2019 - 5:00 PM CDT
Oil Price

Russia is willing to step in to help Iran export its oil while the Middle Eastern country is struggling to keep the oil flowing while pressured by sanctions levied by the United States.

Iran’s budget counts on raking in around $30 billion from oil and gas condensate exports.

Iran was holding out hope that Europe would have its Instex European payment system in place that would allow Europe to continue purchasing Iranian oil, but the system is not yet running, leaving Iran in tight spot when it comes to getting its oil out of country.

Russia, however, is happy to help, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday according to Reuters. It would also be willing to help with Iran’s banking sector as well, as Iran is finding it difficult to process payments.

The dynamic between the United States, Europe, Russia, and Iran is an interesting one, given the fact that some EU states have been irritated with the United States meddling in its affairs as it looks to purchase cheap Russian gas through the controversial Nord Stream 2 project. 

If Europe is unable to get its payment system off the ground, Russia could facilitate the transactions, making exports possible despite the sanctions. Russia may then find somewhat emboldened EU members who are willing to thumb their nose at the United States when it comes to Nord Stream 2.

If Russia’s help is successful, Iran would be able to export substantial amounts of oil to Europe, Russia would be able to export more gas to the EU, and Europe would be able to purchase both low-cost oil and gas. The United States, on the other hand, would find it near impossible to restrict Iran’s oil exports to zero, and would find it tough going to put the kibosh on Nord Stream 2.



Can you say the secret louder so all of us can hear?

Pundita comment: U.S.-Iran contretemps getting sillier by the hour

US Launches Secret Cyberattack Against Iranian ‘Spy Group’ – Report
June 22, 2019
Yahoo News via Sputnik

Iranian cyber-intelligence operatives are said to have hacked into a ship tracking website to track civilian vessels and used other measures to track US military ships, according to former US officials.

The US Cyber Command launched a retaliatory strike Thursday against what is said to be the Iranian intelligence group allegedly responsible for last week’s bombings of two oil tankers, according to a Yahoo News report citing two unnamed former intelligence officials.

According to the report, an undisclosed intelligence group, which has ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has “hacked” into marine traffic tracking websites and gathered information about civilian vessels, and somehow digitally tracked military ones operating in the Strat of Hormuz.

The report does not disclose why the Iranians needed to hack into a website openly available for anyone on the Web.



Friday, June 21

South India's water shortage calamity is the result of decades of "policy paralysis"

Although the water shortage crisis in Madras (Chennai) is grabbing the headlines, Bangalore (Bengaluru) is also teetering on the edge of a water crisis so severe there are predictions it will be uninhabitable within the next few years. 

Yet Madras and Bangalore are not just any old Indian cities.  Madras is the capital of Tamil Nadu state;, it is the cultural, economic and educational center of south India and according to a 2011 census, the sixth-most populous city and comprises the fourth-most populous urban region in India.

Bangalore, a megacity with a population of over 10 million, is the IT capital of India, the capital of Karnataka state, the second fastest-growing metropolis in India, and home to one of the most highly-educated workforces in the world.

So how did so many smart people turn up brain dead when it came to supplying their city with water? Bangalore is such an attractive city for work that it developed an overpopulation crisis, which fed into if not created its water crisis, and with all the knock-on effects that make up the dreary litany of urban water crises the world over. However, the basic calamity is assuredly the same one responsible for the water crisis in Madras, and which the following report deconstructs in detail. But it boils down putting water resources way down on the to-do list.
Why Chennai’s water crisis should worry you
Citizens are paying a heavy price for reckless destruction of water bodies, poor planning
June 21, 2019
Economic Times India
Having gone without a single drop of rain for about 200 days at a stretch, Chennai finally got some rain on Thursday. But this is way too little, and way too late for a city experiencing its worst water crisis in 30 years, and headed to becoming a Zero City.

School bags have grown bigger as children carry more water bottles, and Tamil Nadu’s apple of the eye – the famed Information Technology Corridor – has been pushed to the brink. Companies have started asking employees to work from home and bring their own water. Water is rationed in residential apartments and malls are asking their water-intensive outlets to either take a break or use the blue gold frugally.

Pipe-water supply to homes is not even 10% of what it used to be, and wait for a Metrowater tanker is as much as three to four weeks now. One does not know where the next pot of water will come from. It is that bad.

Chennai is today paying the price for its downright disrespect for waterbodies and water sources. Chennai and its two neighbouring districts – Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur – together used to be called ‘Yeri (lake) districts’. They had more than 6,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs that minimised run-off loss of rainwater and kept replenishing the groundwater table throughout the year. At present, authorities say only 3,896 have survived and Chennai city alone has lost nearly 150 such water bodies.
Further, whatever survived is nowhere near its actual size. Canals and supply routes have all disappeared while successive governments promoted housing projects called ‘Yeri schemes’ to convert water bodies into residential plots and apartments to house the city’s burgeoning population.
Policy paralysis for decades on the water front is to blame. For instance, the government opened the IT Corridor and showered builders and IT companies with floor space benefits, but no thought was given to the source of water for drinking and regular use.
Today, the IT Corridor has at least 150 mega structures owned by 650 big companies that employ 3.2 lakh people. Besides, there are more than 12.5 lakh residents, too. But they have no piped water supply and borewells are of no use as the clayey soil yields highly saline and soapy water. 
Their sole source of water is private tankers that [are] used to recklessly plunder farm wells located a short distance away.
I think it was in 2014 or 2015 that I took the unprecedented step of addressing a Pundita post directly to readers in India. I warned in the strongest possible terms that they had to put everything else aside and focus on dealing with the country's looming water crisis. The answer I got was the chirping of crickets, although one reader, who only later appreciated the scope and seriousness of the crisis, did ask whether I had a particular reason for addressing Indians.

The reason is in today's headlines out of South India. 


More on Sathya Sai Baba and the Golden Heart Lingam

On June I published a post on an extraordinary lingam that Sathya Sai Baba materialized on May 5, 1991, and which he said symbolized the "cosmic seed of creation." He dematerialized the lingam a few hours after producing it. At the time of the materialization, he made an unprecedented statement: that his energy would work miracles through just a photograph of the lingam.   

I had learned about the lingam only a few hours before I posted about it. Even though I'd been with Sai Baba in the early 1980s I'd had few interactions with his devotees in the intervening years and knew little about the situation around him since I'd been with him. 

And so I as much stumbled across information about the lingam. This happened when I suddenly found myself wondering why it was that Sathya Sai Baba had always manifested egg-shaped lingams on Mahashivaratri, during the years he had manifested them on that night most sacred to followers of Shiva. In the 1980s I had seen Shiva lingams manifested by a Shaivite Yogi on Mahashivaratri and they looked like, well, like Shiva lingams. Not egg-shaped. 

The question about Sai Baba's egg-shaped lingams had occurred to me at the time but as I had no interest in the Shaivite sect (or Sai Baba's lingam materializations), the question went to the back of my mind until the night of June 1, 2019. I took to the internet in an attempt to get an answer and immediately came across the story of the Golden Heart Lingam and the photographs of it. I did not continue to search; I felt I had gotten the answer to my question, if only I could understand it.   

Since then my mind has returned many times to the golden lingam and the mystery of why Sai Baba manifested it at that time. It certainly wasn't during Mahashivaratri and did not happen at the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram where his lingam manifestations, at least the public ones, had always occurred. It had happened in the auditorium during a Brindavan college summer course. 

And while the person who reported on the incident didn't specifically say, it didn't seem that Sai Baba had manifested the lingam from his stomach, as happened with the Mahashivaratri lingams. My assumption, from the description of the incident (see below) is that he had simply materialized it with a wave of his hand with no warning.

By why? And why then?  What, if anything, was so special about the year 1991 to merit such an extraordinary gift of grace from Sai Baba?  

Based on what is written in Wikipedia about this golden cosmic egg (see below), and on what I learned during my time in Sai Baba's presence, I'm going to make a couple guesses as to the answers. I emphasize that these are just guesses. 

First, I think he manifested the lingam to signify that his formal mission in the Sathya Sai Baba incarnation had ended at that time.

If my guess is correct, of course, the Sai Baba form continued on for several more years after 1991 and continued to be available to large numbers of people, but my guess is that May 5, 1991, was when the emanation had accomplished what it was created to do.  

Second, and given what has been written about the Golden Heart Lingam, I think his materialization of it was to make it explicit that Sathya Sai Baba had been nothing less than a human incarnation of the Vedic god Prajāpati, who came to be known in 'Hinduism' as Brahma, the god of creation.

Supposedly Brahma never incarnates in human form. But there are exceptions to every rule and my guess is that  Sathya Sai Baba represented an exception.

Those are my guesses.

Closeup of a photograph of Sathya Sai Baba holding the Golden Heart Lingam at the time he brought it forth on May 5, 1991

From Wikipedia:
Hiraṇyagarbha (Sanskrit: हिरण्यगर्भः ; literally the 'golden womb' or 'golden egg', poetically translated as 'universal germ') is the source of the creation of universe or the manifested cosmos in Vedic philosophy, as well as an avatar of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana.[1] It finds mention in one hymn of the Rigveda (RV 10.121), known as the Hiraṇyagarbha Sūkta, suggesting a single creator deity (verse 8: yo deveṣv ādhi devā eka āsīt, Griffith: "He is the God of gods, and none beside him."), identified in the hymn as Prajāpati. The concept of the "golden womb" is again mentioned in the Vishvakarman Sūkta (RV 10.82).
The Upanishad calls it the Soul of the Universe or Brahman,[2] and elaborates that Hiraṇyagarbha floated around in emptiness and the darkness of the non-existence for about a year, and then broke into two halves which formed the Svarga and the Pṛthvi.
In classical Purāṇic Hinduism, Hiraṇyagarbha is the term used in the Vedanta for the "creator". Hiraṇyagarbha is also Brahmā, so called because it is said he was born from a golden egg (Manu Smṛti 1.9), while the Mahābhārata calls it the Manifest.[3]

Thursday, June 20

The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II

"Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II" Audiobook,  Unabridged. Madhusree Mukarjee (Author).  John Batchelor's discussion of the book with the author. Podcast at Audioboom Part 1 of 4. See the Audioboom site for the other three parts. I warn this is very difficult listening. They're talking about genocide.  


Kafka's The Trial is now reality on a global scale

... government actors could be prosecuted abroad if powerful Western states can establish the perception that they committed a crime, even if no such acts were previously proven. Under the new doctrine, the West’s designated enemies are guilty until proven innocent."

Ironically, President Donald Trump was himself the target of this Kafkaesque type of lawfare and rails against what was done to him. (See Sputnik's 6/19 interview with Charles Ortel about investigations of 'Spygate.') Yet he sees nothing strange about its use against Syria's president and one assumes against anyone else on America's hit list.   

By Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton
June 19, 2019
The Grayzone

Mainstream reporting on Syria has relied heavily on the work of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), a Western government-funded regime change group whose investigators collaborated with al-Qaeda and its extremist allies to drum up prosecutions of Syrian officials

Western corporate media reporting on the war in Syria has relied extensively on partisan and dubious research produced by a cottage industry of opposition-linked groups posing as neutral monitors.
In part one of this investigation, we explored one the key cogs in this disinformation machine: the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a foreign government-funded, pro-military intervention opposition front group.
In this installment, we will probe a group that has not only helped shaped Western media reporting on Syria, but which is at the forefront of an emerging strategy to bleed the Syrian government even as the war comes to a close. It is called the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, or CIJA.
CIJA is often presented as an “independent” legal group committed to dispensing justice for war crimes. Its work has been the subject of glowing profiles in The New York Times, NBC News, The Guardian, and The New Yorker.
A shocking report in May on “Syria’s secret torture prisons,” by the New York Times’ former Beirut bureau chief Anne Barnard, was based heavily on documents and research provided by CIJA. Barnard described the organization simply as a “nonprofit,” with no further information.
In reality, CIJA is bankrolled by the very same Western governments that have fueled the proxy war against Syria, and was founded to supplement the regime-change operation that those states initiated in 2011.
CIJA’s investigators in Syria collaborated with and even paid foreign-backed Salafi-jihadist militias – including members of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra – to steal files from Syrian government buildings in areas that had been taken over by armed militants. These stolen documents are what lawyers hope to use in prosecutions of Syrian officials.
Indeed, top corporate media outlets like The New York Times have published major reports based on leaked Syrian government documents without disclosing the fact that these files were first stolen by Syrian al-Qaeda militants, and then handed over to a Western government-funded group committed to regime change.
Were this chain of custody publicized more widely, it would immediately call into question the reliability and veracity of the news reports that have relied on this group, and might even set off an international scandal.
But leading outlets have ignored CIJA’s methods of acquisition, depicting the group almost without exception as an impartial NGO whose leadership consists of noble humanitarians. A closer look shows the seamy side this organization.
CIJA’s executive director operates a for-profit consulting firm that has raked in lucrative contracts in conflict zones, including through CIJA’s work in Syria, while advising mining companies in Africa. And the commission’s deputy director openly touts their work with the US Department of Homeland Security and FBI on border security.
CIJA is also closely advised by a former State Department lawyer who has helped oversee the so-called “Caesar file,” a deceptive operation aimed at proving the Syrian government guilty of mass extermination, but which involved further collaboration with extremist militias in Syria as well as extensive funding from Qatar.
As the following investigation by The Grayzone will show, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability is anything but an independent group committed to human rights above all else.

‘Transitional justice,’ the latest tool in the regime-change toolbox

The Syrian opposition and its supporters abroad have spent the past eight years doing everything in their power to lobby the United States to launch a direct military intervention to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. They have deployed red lines, White Helmets, and a constant stream of white lies to argue that the US military has a “responsibility to protect” Syrians from their government.
Despite billions of dollars poured into a cataclysmic proxy war, this monumental effort failed: Syria has largely been stabilized, and refugees are slowly trickling back in. In frustration, a motley crew of veteran regime-change warriors and lawyers are resorting to a new and largely untested strategy.
Their efforts amount to legal warfare, or lawfare, and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability is a key player in the new campaign.
Some describe the latest weapon in the West’s regime-change toolbox as “transitional justice.” To others, it is referred to as the “Responsibility to Prosecute,” a play on the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, or R2P, that was applied with varying degrees of catastrophe by liberal interventionists in theaters from the former Yugoslavia to Libya.
Proponents of the experimental legal approach freely acknowledge that it involves the subversion of international law. As conceded by Oona Hathaway, a former counsel in the Defense Department and advocate of the newfangled legal tactic, “The need to prove that offenses have been previously ‘criminalized’ has produced inconsistent results and uncertainty about the corpus of war crimes.”
In other words, government actors could be prosecuted abroad if powerful Western states can establish the perception that they committed a crime, even if no such acts were previously proven. Under the new doctrine, the West’s designated enemies are guilty until proven innocent.
The “Responsibility to Prosecute” was conceived to address another obstacle in prosecuting Syrian officials: Neither the United States nor Syria is a state party to the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Today, the US government treats the ICC as a hostile institution, denying visas to its officials for investigating American war crimes in Afghanistan.
Under the novel doctrine, Washington could have its cake and eat it too, referring war crimes prosecutions of official enemies to friendly countries like Germany that accept universal jurisdiction without having to interact with the ICC.
“Domestic jurisdictions may in many cases be better placed to afford a measure of accountability, particularly in the context of Syria, and this approach allows them to do so for war crimes not reflected in those [Rome] statutes,” argued Hathaway, the former Pentagon lawyer.
Tim Hayward, a professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh and member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, is one of the few observers of the Syrian conflict to have cast a critical eye on the “Responsibility to Prosecute” campaign.
“There is a discernible aim here of redefining the rules of the ‘rules-based international order’, with particular relevance to who shall be permitted to govern a country,” Hayward explained. “This is to press for global rules that override the powers of nation-states – a development whose effects are akin to what is already being accomplished through trade and investment agreements like TTP and TTIP by imposing rules of corporate globalism on nations with compliant governments.”
Hayward concluded, “from the standpoint of concern to serve US-based corporate interests, there is more at stake than the matter of who should be president of Syria.”
Possible targets of this new legal tactic lie well beyond Damascus, and in any nation judged to be excessively recalcitrant. Fernando Cutz, a former National Security Council advisor to Donald Trump who played a central role in devising the coup attempt that has failed to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, took to the New York Times op-ed section this June to recommend prosecutions in hybrid courts as a means “to bring down Maduro.”
Citing as precedent a series of unproven allegations and US sanctions measures applied against the Venezuelan government, Cutz argued that members of Maduro’s inner circle should be tried in Latin American countries that have signed on to the Rome Statute, thus enabling the US to remain outside the jurisdiction of the ICC.
But the strategy for applying the “Responsibility to Prosecute” against Syria’s government is far more developed than the one targeting Venezuela’s.
And the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) is hoping to pave the way for this novel form of lawfare.
Back in 2014, at the height of the Syrian proxy war, CIJA spokesperson Nerma Jalacic made the group’s intentions clear, boasting, “No organization other than the CIJA is in fact building prosecution-ready case files with evidence pointing to the criminal liability of high and highest ranking individuals within the [Syrian] regime.”
In an article for a legal website in March, researcher Melinda Rankin revealed that CIJA is the main non-governmental entity working with Germany to “fill the gap” in the absence of an ICC commission targeting the Syrian government.

Funded by the same Western governments that armed the ‘moderate rebels’

In its major May 11 report on “Syria’s secret torture prisons,” The New York Times noted that “there is a growing movement to seek justice through European courts” against top Syrian government officials. Reporter Anne Barnard, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that French and German prosecutors had issued arrest warrants against two top security ministers in the Syrian government, and had begun proceedings against several others.
What Barnard omitted, however, was that the sources that informed her article have been at the forefront of the legal campaign against the Syrian government, and have been supported with millions from the same Western and Gulf states that fueled an Islamist insurgency inside the country.
Barnard’s investigation relied almost entirely on two groups: the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), the Qatari-based opposition front group exposed in part one of this investigation; and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA).
Barnard identified CIJA simply as a “nonprofit,” providing no further context on its background or political agenda.
Similarly, in a glowing profile of CIJA in the New Yorker, writer Ben Taub referred to the group simply as “an independent investigative body.”
But while CIJA may claim to be a non-governmental organization, it relies on governments for its funding. In a 2018 interview with a US government agency, CIJA’s director of investigations and operations said the group’s “current donors include the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway” — all countries that supported the opposition in one form or another in its war on the Syrian government.
These funding sources are far from hidden. The European Commission publicly lists CIJA as an “EU-funded project.” The European Union has allotted €1.5 million to the organization for work in the Syrian Arab Republic from 2016 to 2020.
There is much more in the report. 

Yippee! Putin's annual Q&A with the Russian people is today!

The Q&A starts at noon Moscow time and will be shown live on several outlets. Be there or be square. English speakers can watch on English language Sputnik or on YouTube.   

Now this isn't the same annual Q&A that he holds for the press, which is a great deal of fun -- although things got so rowdy last year that he had to remind the audience of journalists that this wasn't a circus. But today's Q&A will be as interesting and surely even more so in parts because he takes questions -- just about any kind of question -- directly from the Russian public. From Sputnik's report today:
People from across the nation will be able to speak with the president on various topics via telephones, text messages, a website or a special mobile application.
Russian citizens have submitted more than a million questions since the announcement of the session on 9 June.
Last year's "Direct Line" lasted a record amount of time, four hours and twenty minutes, during which President Putin answered dozens of questions and was also able for the first time to directly contact members of the government and regional authorities via a conference call during the event to issue orders or clarify situations.
According to President Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, this option will also be available this year.

No call left behind. Inquiries that can't be fit into the live Q&A will still be recorded, reviewed, and responded to by officials.