Showing posts from January, 2015

American taxpayers unwittingly support proponents of terrorism

The recent performance of “Iolanta” at the Met was outshined by the high-spirited protests, accompanying Russian Conductor Valery Gergiev’s and opera singer Anna Netrebko’s performances in the West. Mariinsky theater musicians callously asked protesting Ukrainian artists: “When will you all die already [expletive]?” and exclaimed “Alaska will also be ours!” (play on words for the Russia’s distasteful annexation slogan, “Crimea is ours!”) Undeterred, protesters put on quite a show, inside and outside of the Met. Dressed in colorful costumes, they reenacted Anna Netrebko’s ill-fated donation to the sanctioned separatist leader, Oleg Tsarov. While the protesters’ musical act and a political message was a resounding success, critics lambasted Gergiev’s barely-rehearsed productions. They were also far from impressed with Netrebko’s waning vocal chops. A review of “Iolanta” bemoaned her poor performance: “Maybe it’s sentimentality that’s kept this role in Netrebko’s repertoire, because a

Children’s theater in Russia will enact murder of Obama

Russia’s Charyshskiy Theatre of Russian Folk Culture prepared a special treat for the children. This year’s celebrations of Maslenitsa (the Butter Festival) will feature an “anti-sanction” jester Petrushka’s ritual killing of American President Barack Obama. Petrushka and Obama are the main characters of the children’s puppet show. The show’s host, Evgeny Golovinin, said: “This year’s Petrushka is not just the average one, but anti-sanction Petrushka. In our show, Petrushka will kill Obama.” In addition to Obama’s theatrical murder, children will be greeted with Russian singing, pancakes and “manly” amusements. This year’s Maslenitsa celebration will take place on Feb. 16 through Feb. 22, 2015. Russia’s growing hostility towards the West is undeniable. It is complete with nuclear saber-rattling by the Editor-in-Chief or Russia’s National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko and Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin’s New Year’s greeting that featured Russian Santa Claus b

Mariupol massacre blame game: another epic fail of Russian propaganda

Horrific rocket attacks by Russian insurgents in Ukraine have left 30 people dead and over 100 injured in the city of Mariupol. Kremlin continues to deny its direct involvement, in spite of a growing body of information about numerous Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine, as well as sophisticated Russian weaponry used by the so-called “rebels” in their attacks. Russian paratroopers, captured in Ukraine, revealed the use of misleading uniforms that enable members of the Russian military to covertly operate within Ukraine. These techniques, also known as “masquerades” or false flag operations, were common under Soviet military doctrine. Soviet and Russian commandos were sent into Afghanistan and Chechnya, posing as locals. Another front of Russian aggression is the country’s notorious propaganda machinery, which aids the Kremlin in its efforts to obfuscate the facts and spread disinformation. One common technique of the Russian mainstream media is boasting about the offensive mounted b

Gergiev shredded by critics, targeted by protesters along with Anna Netrebko

While Putin’s Russia runs roughshod over the sovereignty of its neighbors, his cultural emissaries are legitimizing his imperialistic aspirations in the West. Conductor Valery Gergiev is a personal friend of Vladimir Putin, having known Russia’s President since his notorious St. Petersburg days. Gergiev’s protégé, Anna Netrebko, is another loyal Putinista. Gergiev and Netrebko openly support the most loathsome policies of their favorite dictator: from oppressive anti-gay policies and invasions of neighboring countries to the annexation of Crimea and Russia-funded terrorist activities in Ukraine. Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko are now touring the United States, with a series of performances sponsored by sanctioned Russian banks, Sberbank and VTB. Perhaps the financial incentives take precedence over the perceived artistic value of such productions. Scruffy Gergiev, who doesn’t seem to own a comb and rarely uses a razor, seems to be just as sloppy in his interpretation of timele

Russia brings criminal charges against #JeSuisCharlie protester Vladimir Ionov

Russia continues to express its overt rejection of Western ideals, such as the freedom of press, speech and expression. While the civilized world mourned the victims of terrorist attacks in Paris, France, Russian media and politicians chose to blame the victims. They’ve emphasized the need for strict censorship andurged Russia to turn away from the West and to look inward. So far, it’s not a pretty sight. The Russian ministry of culture is proposing a decree that would ban the showing of any film that is perceived as denigrating the country’s national culture, threatening its national unity and undermining the foundations of the constitutional system. This would ban controversial films, such as Oscar-nominated “Leviathan” (the first Russian film to win a Golden Globe since “War and Peace” in 1969) from being shown in its native Russia. The pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov panned the film as “part of the new cold war the west is fighting against Russia … an anti-Russian

Conductor Valery Gergiev and opera singer Anna Netrebko face backlash in the US

Controversy continues to surround Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and opera singer Anna Netrebko. Both of them are close friends of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. Indeed, Gergiev and Putin are said to be Godfathers to each other’s children. Until the outbreak of hostilities in Gergiev’s home region of Ossetia, the conductor kept his political views to himself. He complained that the West attempts to politicize Russian composers for what he described as "propaganda wars" perpetuated by "boring people who don't hear the music." Contradicting his own stance, Gergiev chose to politicize his position when the Russian Federation invaded Georgia. The maestro openly supported Russia’s aggression, even though it meant betraying his native land. From that point forward, Gergiev used his celebrity status to promote his political views. His views could be summed up quite simply: no matter how draconian, the conductor blindly supports all of Putin’s policies. C

Russia takes the wrong side in the Paris terror attack

This week’s abhorrent terror attacks in France outraged people around the world, prompting them to rally in defiance against those behind this attack on free speech. Twitter was ablaze with more than 5 million Tweets bearing #JeSuisCharlie hashtag, with some glaring exceptions. Chief among them is Russia, where the hashtag clearly didn’t catch on. The issue, however, goes much deeper. Russian politicians, religious organizations and public figures largely blamed the victims of the attack for having brought these acts upon themselves. Today, Russian police detained activists for holding up signs that said “Je Suis Charlie,” clearly demonstrating the official position against Charlie Hebdo. The controversial newspaper published irreverent cartoons poking fun at Russia’s lies and hypocrisy with respect to its unlawful annexation of Crimea and covert activities in Ukraine. Continue reading:

Russia will deny driver’s licenses to people with “sexual orientation disorders”

On January 8, 2015, Russian government published a decree that was recently signed into law by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In a continued backward slide, Russia now bans the issuance of driver’s licenses to people with “personality and behavior disorders” described in sections F60 through F69 of the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organization.  While the Russian government claims that the new restrictions are meant to reduce the number of road accidents, in reality it serves as an extension of the ongoing crackdown against sexual minorities. The new decree is broad enough to be used as a retaliatory tool, banning the issuance of driver’s license to anyone who dares to publicly oppose dubious activities and the official position of the Russian government. Continue reading:

Prisoner of Putin’s undeclared war in Ukraine Nadiya Savchenko

Russia’s mainstream media and President Vladimir Putin continue to remain silent about numerous prisoners of Putin’s undeclared war against Ukraine. Pilot Nadiya Savchenko and 30 other Ukrainian service members are still being illegally held in Russian jails. Taking hostages is one of Russia’s Hamas-style tactics against its perceived enemies – foreign and domestic. In that sense, Nadiya is much more than a prisoner. To Putin and his regime, she is the symbol of Ukraine itself: spirited, strong and unbroken. In a video of her interrogation, Nadiya said that she does not expect to return home alive, but is not afraid. The brave pilot has entered the third week of her hunger strike, during relative media silence. In the meantime, Savchenko’s attorneys are fighting an uphill battle, seeking justice in kangaroo courts of Russia’s Banana Republic. To break the media silence, activists all over the world are taking Twitter by storm with a trending campaign, #FreeSavchenko. Appealing to

Coburn report: Department of Homeland Security is failing in all of its missions

On January 3, 2015, Senator Tom Coburn released the report that outlines his findings pertaining to the efficacy of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in executing its primary missions. Senator Coburn has been a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee since 2005. The report finds that the DHS is failing miserably in every one of its stated missions. Since criticizing the DHS is an unspoken taboo for most of the mainstream media, this report was released on Saturday and received very little press coverage. Traditional reporting typically defends the DHS by telling the viewing audiences that the agency is comprised of “our best,” all of whom are risking their lives to protect the nation. In reality, neither of those statements holds water. Continue reading:

Harper Collins omits Israel off the map, citing ‘local preferences’

For months, publishing giant HarperCollins has been selling an atlas that was “developed specifically for schools in the Middle East.” The map looked to be perfectly accurate, except for one glaring omission – the name of Israel was conspicuously absent. This wasn’t a mistake or an oversight. Israel was purposely left off because of “local preferences.” Collins Bartholomew, a subsidiary of HarperCollins that specializes in maps, said that it would have been “unacceptable” to include Israel in atlases intended for the Middle East. After being exposed by the media, Harper Collins apologized on its official Facebook page, stating: “HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologises for this omission and for any offence caused.” Continue reading:

Dissecting the deception: anatomy of Russia’s propaganda in the West

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton infamously presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said "Reset" in English and "Peregruzka" (“Overload”) in Russian. The prop, pilfered from a Jacuzzi or a swimming pool in Geneva, turned out to be quite symbolic. While the West naively looked the other way, Russia overloaded the world with the deluge of disinformation and propaganda. Putin told the delegation of rabbis: “Unfortunately, just like 70 years ago, arrogance often achieves its goals. After all, Goebbels had said, “The more improbable the lie, the faster people believe it.” And he achieved his goals, he was a talented man.” By that definition, as a mediocre Chekist who rose to the highest position in the land, Putin himself is quite talented. His propaganda machine spreads fantastical stories, outright lies and ludicrous conspiracy theories. Even after those fabrications are exposed, they plant the black seed of decepti

Pakistan and Egypt jump on the censorship bandwagon along with North Korea

On the heels of North Korea’s fury about “The Interview,” other countries are now attempting to influence American film and television productions. On Dec. 27, 2014, Pakistani diplomats told the New York Post that the fourth season of Showtime’s hit show “Homeland” portrays their country as a “grimy hellhole.” Disgruntled officials complained directly to the show’s producers, to no avail. Now they’ve decided to go to the press. “Maligning a country that has been a close partner and ally of the US … is a disservice not only to the security interests of the US but also to the people of the US,” said Pakistan Embassy spokesman Nadeem Hotiana. The diplomats were displeased with the lack of greenery in the depiction of the nation’s capital. The show’s Islamabad-based scenes were actually filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. Pakistani officials were also appalled at the portrayal of their homeland as a perpetual war zone, with constant shootouts and bombings. Pakistani diplomats were also

North Korea blames the US for Internet disruptions, compares Obama to "a monkey”

On November 26, 2014, North Korea fired another salvo against the United States, blaming the US for shutting down its Internet services and expressing outrage at the release of Sony Pictures film, “The Interview.” North Korea’s National Defense Commission, led by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, stated: "Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest." The commission threatened "inescapable deadly blows" to the United States as the consequence of America’s “arrogant, high-handed and gangster-like arbitrary practices despite (North Korea's) repeated warnings.” In Putin’s Russia, similar insults, threats and comparisons are not uncommon. Russia joined North Korea’s Stalinist comrade regime in its outrage against the controversial feature. "The very idea of the film is so aggressive and scandalous that the reaction of the North Korean side ... is completely understandable,"said Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Al

Black Friday in annexed Crimea

As of December 26, 2014, Ukraine cut off electricity to Russian-annexed Crimea. Ukraine also discontinued train and bus service to the beleaguered peninsula. Ukrainian security services issued a statement, stating that travel to Crimea is being halted to protect passengers, citing threats of “armed groups, extremist parties and the military aggression of the Russian Federation.” Crimea’s only mainland link is with Ukraine, which maintained its control over the recently-annexed peninsula for over 60 years. Crimea is dependent on Ukraine for most of its supplies, including food, electricity and water. Ukraine’s decision to halt train and bus service to Crimea comes shortly after Russia decided to halt its train services to Ukraine on Dec. 14, 2014. Continue reading:

Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against Facebook for scanning private messages

On December 23, 2014, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California denied Facebook's bid to dismiss a class action lawsuit, accusing the company of violating user privacy by scanning the content of private messages for advertising purposes. Facebook alleges that the scanning of private messages is covered by an exception under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act for interceptions by service providers, occurring in the ordinary course of business. Judge Hamilton said that Facebook had "not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business." Judge ruled that “Facebook’s unwillingness to offer any details regarding its targeted advertising practice prevents the court from being able to determine whether the specific practice challenged in this case should be considered ‘ordinary.’” Continue reading:

Congressman Michael Grimm refuses to resign House seat after felony guilty plea

On Dec. 23, 2014 at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, United States Congressman Michael Grimm pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return. He is refusing to resign his seat after pleading guilty to the felony tax charge. After his court appearance, Grimm said: “I’m going to get back to work and work as hard as I can.” Grimm is a former undercover FBI agent, who has served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing New York’s 11th Congressional District since 2011. Grimm made the headlines in January 2014, when he threatened to "break" a reporter in half and throw him off a balcony for asking questions about a fundraising investigation for Grimm’s 2010 campaign. In September 2014, Congressman’s former girlfriend, Diana Durand, pleaded guilty to funneling illegal campaign contributions to Grimm in a straw-donor scheme. Continue reading:

Department of Homeland Security uses Santa Claus to promote Global Entry program

On Dec. 23, 2014, Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claimed that Santa Claus was enrolled in the agency’s Global Entry program. It allows expedited clearance for “pre-approved, low-risk travelers” upon their arrival in the United States. Global Entry is open to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), Dutch citizens, South Korean citizens, Panamanian citizens and Mexican nationals. More than 1.8 million members are already enrolled in Global Entry and 50,000 new applications for the program are being filed every month. Continue reading:

North Korea threatens to blow up the White House, the Pentagon and other targets

On Dec. 21, 2014, North Korea’s defense department made an assertion that the U.S. government was “deeply involved” in the making of the Sony Pictures comedy “The Interview.” In response to President Obama’s statement that the United States intended to retaliate against the isolated country for its cyberattack, North Korea threatened to “blow up” the White House, the Pentagon and other U.S. targets. North Korean National Defense Commission stated: “Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans.” The statement added: “The army and people of [North Korea] are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces, including cyberwarfare space, to blow up those citadels.” Continue reading: