Russia’s Favored Outlet Is an Online News Giant. YouTube Helped.

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When the state-backed Russian news channel RT became the first news organization to surpass one billion views on YouTube in 2013, it marked the achievement with a retrospective of its most popular videos and a special guest — one of the Google-owned site’s senior executives.

Robert Kyncl, a YouTube vice president who has since become its chief business officer, joined an RT anchor in a studio, where he praised RT for bonding with viewers by providing “authentic” content instead of “agendas or propaganda.”

But now, as investigators in Washington examine the scope and reach of Russian interference in United States politics, the once-cozy relationship between RT and YouTube is drawing closer scrutiny.

YouTube — the world’s most-visited video site, owned by one of the most powerful and influential corporations in America — played a crucial role in helping build and expand RT, an organization that the American intelligence community has described as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.

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From regime change to ISIS: 5 years of US meddling in Syria

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The Syrian civil war began as protesters toppled governments across North Africa in the so-called “Arab Spring.” Washington has insisted on regime change in Damascus ever since, yet their rhetoric adapted over the years.

President Ben Ali of Tunisia was ousted in January, followed by protests demanding the resignation of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and an armed rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. A “Day of Rage” protest in Damascus and Aleppo on March 15, 2011 is commonly considered the start of the Syrian civil war. Protests escalated into an armed rebellion by July, after NATO warplanes intervened in Libya on behalf of the rebels

Map of Syria

Image: wikipedia

2011: ‘Peaceful transition,’ guns, and roses

President Barack Obama made the first call for regime change in Damascus in August 2011.

“The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples’ pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy,” Obama said.“They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality.”

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way,” Obama declared. “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Bashar Assad became president of Syria in 2000, after the death of his father Hafez, who had run the country since 1971. Bashar had been an eye doctor living in the UK when his elder brother was killed in a car wreck in 1994.

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Former Knicks’ great responds to NBA race scandal with call for black-only league

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Former New York Knicks Larry Johnson (Reuters / Adam Hunger)

Image: Reuters / Adam Hunger

New York Knicks executive and former star Larry Johnson reacted on Twitter to racist and misogynistic remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling by calling for an all African-American basketball league.

Sterling landed in hot water over the weekend, when TMZ released an audio recording believed to be of Sterling telling his mistress V. Stiviano not to bring black people to Clippers games and criticized her for posting pictures of her with black athletes Magic Johnson and Matt Kemp, the Associated Press reports. The recordings were made by Stiviano herself, according to TMZ.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”the man identified as Sterling asks the woman on the tape. “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

Johnson took to Twitter, with the following series of tweets::

I heard the Clippers owner made a racial statement And black people are all upset, get over it this is Integration.

— Larry Johnson (@TheRealLJ2) April 26, 2014

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Koch ally to introduce Monsanto-backed bill to bar state GMO labeling laws

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Rep. Mike Pompeo will introduce legislation backed by powerful trade groups to prevent states from passing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-modified foods, according to reports. The bill is linked to biotech giant Monsanto and Koch Industries.

Pompeo will offer the bill in the US House before Congress leaves for Easter recess later this month, The Hill newspaper reported, citing industry sources. Politico also reported on the impending proposal. Pompeo’s office would not comment on the congressman’s intentions for a labeling restriction.

The bill includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling,” according to The Hill, echoing powerful interest groups that have already declared war against such “right to know” labeling laws around the nation.

It was revealed in recent months that powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups like Monsanto were joining forces – under the name ‘Coalition for Safe Affordable Food‘ – to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to stem the tide of state legislation seeking to mandate labeling.

In recent years, voters in states such as California and Washington have narrowly defeated ballot initiatives proposing mandatory GMO labeling, though not without dragging members of the new Coalition into expensive campaigns to defeat the measures. Many other states are now considering their own proposals to label GMO food.

A top member of the Coalition – the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a major food industry lobbying group – raised and spent the bulk of the overall $22 million that opponents of labeling sank into defeating Washington State’s ballot initiative on GMO labeling last year. That total number was three times the amount that proponents of labeling spent in the state. GMA was joined in its effort by allies such as biotech giants Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont.

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California anti-gun senator charged with corruption and trafficking firearms

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A California state senator known for his outspoken views in support of gun control was arrested on Wednesday and charged with illegally trafficking in firearms alongside multiple counts of public corruption.

California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) (Reuters)

Image: Russia Today

In a federal corruption investigation that nabbed 26 people on charges ranging from drug smuggling to murder-for-hire, Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee was indicted on conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearm, and six counts of corruption, which included handing out favors in exchange for substantial campaign contributions.

If convicted, Yee could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each corruption charge, while the gun trafficking count could result in five years in prison and a similar fine.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the FBI affidavit claims Yee offered to negotiate illegal firearms sales on multiple occasions in exchange for financial donations towards his campaign. He allegedly told an undercover FBI agent of his connections to firearms dealers in Asia and Russia, with CBS San Francisco reporting he knew an arms dealer who’d been shipping “cargo containers” of weapons to Muslim rebels in the Philippines.

The meeting between Yee and the undercover agent was brokered by Keith Jackson, a political consultant with ties to Raymond Chow, whom the FBI identified as the ringleader of a Chinatown gang. Chow introduced an FBI agent who’d made his way into the group to Jackson, who was the first to tell of Yee’s connections to arms dealers.

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Effectiveness of NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk tactics is no big deal – report

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The actual outcome of the Stop-and-Frisk crime prevention program in NYC is essentially equal to any standard police operation, a report revealed. Despite great public discontent, police insist the benefits of the program are underestimated.

Image: Reuters/Eric Thayer

New York State Attorney, General Eric Schneiderman, prepared a report analyzing some 2.4 million stop-and-frisk precrime acts performed by the NYPD between 2009 and 2012.

The report claims that only three percent of these New York citizens were found guilty or convicted at trial.
New York AG believes this is the first analysis of its kind, as “until now, no known study has sought to assess what happens following arrests (of the stop-and-frisk program),” the report says.

The aggressive Stop-and-Frisk campaign of the NYPD, largely supported by the previous New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, actually split the opinion of the citizens of the metropolis.

Besides that, the fact that police stopped mostly Afro-Americans and Latinos, who comprised up to 87 percent of all police stops in 2012, only served to heat up the years-long debate about the program.

Schneiderman’s report has revealed that 51 percent of the total 150,000 arrests made over the last four years under the Stop-and-Frisk program have actually led to convictions or guilty pleas, which could hardly be called crime prevention. The remaining 49 percent led to no prosecution or a probationary period.

Also, the report maintains that nearly a quarter (24 percent) of stop-and-frisk arrests lead to incarceration.

Police chief spokesman, John McCarthy, dubbed the report as ‘flawed’ and lacking comprehension of how Stop-and-Frisk helps to deter crime.

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Record number of nations oppose US embargo of Cuba in UN vote

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In an overwhelming UN vote, 188 countries have called on the US to lift its 53-year trade embargo on Cuba. Havana has slammed the financial sanctions as a flagrant violation of human rights and said they are tantamount to genocide.

A session of the General Assembly at the United Nations (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary)

Image: AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary

The recording-breaking opposition to the embargo saw Israel isolated as the only country to vote in support of the US. Palau, the island nation that got behind the US last year, abstained in the 22nd UN annual vote, along with Micronesia and Marshall Islands.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla conveyed Havana’s disappointment at the Obama administration, stressing that the human cost of the embargo is “incalculable.” Upon assuming the presidency Barack Obama pledged to take steps to improve US-Cuban relations, but Rodriguez said the sanctions had actually tightened under Obama.

“Our small island poses no threat to the national security of the superpower,”
 Rodriguez said. “The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba are incalculable.”

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