Hundreds of Americans persecuted for anti-Trump protests

This video from the USA says about itself:

#J20 Activists & Journalists Still Facing Decades In Jail

3 July 2017

On January 20th over 230 demonstrators, most of them peaceful, we kettled by police for up to 16 hours before being arrested for protesting Trump’s inauguration. Cut to present day, many are facing multiple felony charges, which hold draconian punishments. This unconstitutional crackdown on free speech and protest is a chilling trend that is spreading all over the country.

Police are indiscriminately pepper spraying people and using tear gas, concussion grenades, and more. And on January 20th they didn’t differentiate between the few protesters partaking in property damage and the vast majority that were exercising their 1st amendment protected right to make their voice heard. Redacted Tonight correspondent John F. O’Donnell files this report.

By E.P. Milligan in the USA:

First round of trials begin for 194 charged in anti-Trump inauguration day protests

20 November 2017

Opening statements are expected to be heard today in the first round of trials for the 194 protestors who face state reprisal for their participation in an alleged riot that took place on January 20 during demonstrations to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The incident which sparked the police crackdown occurred when a small group of individuals smashed a series of windows and set a limousine on fire. Prosecutors allege a group called Disrupt J20 organized the protest and carried out the vandalism, describing rioters who used “black bloc” tactics such as wearing all black and masking their faces.

Soon after the disruption, the police surrounded and “kettled” a group of hundreds of protestors in the area, eventually arresting 230 people.

A report from the Washington, D.C. Office of Police Complaints detailed indiscriminate mass arrests and the use of nonlethal weapons without proper warning. Police fired upon the crowd with chemical agents, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stinger grenades. Protesters also claim the police sexually assaulted multiple detainees.

Prosecutors initially charged 214 people with “felony rioting,” a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In April, a grand jury issued additional charges. So far, 20 have plead guilty. The remaining 194 awaiting trial face as much as up to 70 years in prison.

Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff is pressuring the court to issue the maximum sentence to all 194 defendants—even ones who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. “A person can be convicted of rioting without breaking a window,” Kerkhoff claimed at a hearing in July. “It is the group who is the danger, the group who is providing the elements.”

The prosecution has already begun looking into a Facebook page used to discuss plans for the protest and profiles associated with Disrupt J20, potentially revealing information about thousands of people who expressed anti-Trump sentiments to the federal government.

The character of the trials so far and the severity of the charges make clear that the entire case is a frame-up aimed at intimidating protestors and silencing dissent.

The court is doing all it can to stack the jury against the accused. During jury selection last week for the first six trials DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz explicitly asked prospective jurors about their views on the president.

Multiple potential jurors were immediately removed from the selection pool when they voiced sympathy for the protestors, as was a woman who claimed she did not intend to “give greater weight” to police testimony. At the same time, a contractor who designs websites for one of the vandalized banks remained under consideration for inclusion. Astonishingly, a man whose brother was involved in coordinating the Coast Guard’s participation in President Trump’s inauguration day proceedings and had spent a decade as a DC police officer was also not excused.

The first round of trials will involve six defendants who have been charged with felony rioting though in many cases there is no real connection between the individuals charged and those that actually carried out acts of vandalism. Trials are scheduled to take place in small groups through all of 2018.

The first six to be tried are Jennifer Armento, 38, of Philadelphia; Michelle Macchio, 26, of Asheville, North Carolina; Oliver Harris, 28, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Brittne Lawson, 27, of Aspinwall, Pennsylvania; Christina Simmons, 20, of Cockeysville, Maryland; and Alexei Wood, 27, of San Antonio, Texas.

The viciousness with which that state is pursuing Alexei Wood, a photojournalist and videographer, underscores the contempt with which the ruling class views the freedom of the press and the anti-democratic character of the trials. Wood faces up to 61 years in prison having been charged with felony rioting and the destruction of property.

Wood had posted a video of the demonstration to social media. Despite the fact that the video was clearly shot from the point of view of an onlooker and not an active participant in any of the acts of vandalism, DC Superior Court Judge Lynn Lebovitz has decided that his commentary on the video is tantamount to “statements of conspiracy.”

According to NPR, Wood’s offending statements occurred when he made a series of enthusiastic but nevertheless vague exclamations such as “Woo!” at various intervals throughout the video.

The fact that Leibovitz has been selected to preside over the trials is itself politically significant. She has been routinely hailed in the mainstream press as “DC’s toughest judge,” having been described by one defense attorney as “smart and relentless.” The former prosecutor was tapped by President George W. Bush in 2001 to preside over the DC Superior Court.

In 2005, Leibovitz sentenced an 18-year-old to one month in prison for graffiti tagging. She denied his lawyer’s requests to send him to a halfway house, replying, “I want him to see what the inside of the DC jail looks like.”

Leibovitz also sentenced a 78-year-old antiwar activist to 25 days in prison in 2010 after the woman had disrupted a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing in protest over the criminal imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adding insult to cruelty, she said the woman’s activities “demeaned the action of protest.”

In January of last year, evidence came to light that connected the Canadian section of the “Black Bloc” to the Montreal Police Department which used agent-provocateurs to break up a demonstration against police violence and the austerity policies of the Quebec Liberal government.

During the night in question, a university student recognized a “Black Bloc” member as a police officer when he briefly removed his mask. The officer had arrested her at a previous protest.

When confronted by protestors, the police agent and his partners beat up the protestors and arrested one, while the agent in question pulled a gun on the protestors. The Quebec government vehemently defended the officers’ violent actions, with police spokesman Ian Lafrenière claiming the officers had feared for their lives.

Documents released in 2011 revealed that 12 undercover police agents had spied on and infiltrated protest groups planning to participate in demonstrations against world leaders at the June 2010 G-20 summit meeting in Toronto.

In 2014, an undercover police officer pulled a gun on protesters in Berkeley, California in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Protestors claimed undercover police officers were attempting to instigate looting and had been “banging on windows.”

This video from the USA says adbout itself:

27 June 2017

Volunteer organizers from Dead City Legal Posse, an organization founded to provide legal aid to more than 200 people police arrested during President Trump’s inauguration in January, joined anti-fascist demonstrators in front of the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters in Washington, DC to voice frustrations over the police crackdown on protesters on January 20th.

Attorneys working on behalf of the arrested filed for a motion to dismiss the case that will be heard on July 27th. Video by Henry Klapper.

By Ryan J. Reilly and Christopher Mathias in the USA today:

An American Journalist Is Facing A Felony Trial This Week — In The United States

A photojournalist facing a criminal trial on several felony charges sounds like something that would happen in another country. So this article is written in the style that would be used if it did.

Editor’s note: Taking a cue from Slate, this article describes an American news story — the virtually unprecedented prosecution of nearly 200 protesters on felony charges — using language the American media typically reserves for news stories written about more repressive countries. Felony charges against American journalists are jarring. Our approach to this story is meant to be as well.

WASHINGTON — An American photojournalist swept up in a mass arrest of hundreds of demonstrators conducted by security forces in the nation’s capital earlier this year during a protest of a regime change ceremony will face a criminal trial here Monday.

Alexei Wood, a 37-year-old freelance photojournalist based in the American southwest, has been charged with multiple felonies. If found guilty, he could face decades inside a mammoth prison system in the world’s most incarcerated nation.

Wood was one of more than 200 citizens captured en masse by police forces quelling demonstrations held at the same time as President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The continued prosecution of Wood and nearly 200 protesters has raised alarm among many who worry it will have a chilling effect on dissent in America, a country that holds itself up as a beacon of free speech and political expression. …

The protests have been referred to as the “J20″ protests, short for the date. The demonstrations were organized by a group called DisruptJ20, whose website had been subject to search warrants that critics called a fishing expedition. …

the Metropolitan Police Department responded to the demonstrations with significant force. They threw stinger grenades, fired pepper balls and sprayed chemical agents that are banned in warfare.

Following the lead of police, prosecutors also responded aggressively, moving to charge protesters using a rarely invoked riot act, which holds members of an entire group responsible for the actions of a few. Wood is now among nearly 200 defendants who, if convicted on charges of rioting, conspiracy to riot, inciting others to riot, and multiple acts of property destruction, could potentially each be sentenced to over 60 years in prison.

Though such extreme sentences are unlikely, human rights observers point to the aggressive prosecution of those rounded up during the demonstration as yet another excess of the American criminal justice system, which has come under increased scrutiny in recent years especially in regard to its treatment of ethnic minorities.

Wood and five co-defendants will be the first of those arrested during the protests to go on trial, with the remainder of the cases scheduled in the coming months. The trials will pit two groups routinely demonized by Trump ― journalists and protesters ― against security forces the American “law and order” president has sought to embolden both through his rhetoric and through official government policy.

Over the past year, prosecutors cracked into at least eight of the cellphones confiscated from defendants, extracting some of their internet histories, communications and pictures to be used as evidence in court.

In April, security forces with judicial branch approval broke into the D.C. home of one protest organizer ― a tactic more commonly associated with investigations of drug rings and criminal enterprises ― seizing thousands of dollars worth of personal property, including computers, cellphones and art supplies.

Media advocates and civil rights groups are particularly alarmed by the continued pursuit of severe felony charges against Wood, an eccentric photographer and videographer who has described his beat as “resistance cultures and conflicts” and has covered political unrest and sectarian violence across the country. Prosecutors had dropped charges against seven other journalists arrested that day, most of whom had connections to established media outlets. But the charges against two freelance journalists, Wood and Aaron Cantú, remain. …

The United States generally has a better track record on press freedom than most other countries. But arrests of journalists across the nation have seemingly been more common in recent years, with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker logging 31 arrests of journalists in 2017 alone.

Just over three years ago, for example, one of the authors of this story was arrested by local police inside one of the country’s ubiquitous McDonald’s restaurants in the American Midwest, where he’d been covering demonstrations that broke out after a police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old ethnic minority. The demonstrators were protesting the suburban security force accused of rampant discrimination and corruption.

Law enforcement isn’t the only threat, as journalists have also been targeted and subject to harassment at political rallies and demonstrations. Earlier this year, a politician from the American West body-slammed a reporter from The Guardian, shattering his glasses. …

Trump has been particularly vocal in his condemnation of  journalists, calling them “enemies of the American people.” His top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a conservative from the American South, has declined to rule out jailing journalists and greatly expanded the number of federal investigations into leaks to the news media.

Earlier this year, prosecutors even secured the conviction of a woman who laughed during Sessions’ appearance before the country’s legislative branch, though authorities declined to put her on trial yet again when a member of the judicial branch tossed out the conviction based on the government’s misconduct.

Trump’s response to protests has skewed authoritarian over the past two years. As a presidential candidate, he routinely called on his supporters to engage in violence against anybody disrupting his rallies. But after a resurgent neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement held a pro-Trump rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, which culminated in a neo-Nazi driving his car through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman, Trump was slow to condemn his supporters, eventually blaming the violence there on “both sides”.

Wood’s trial Monday will be held before District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz, who was appointed by the second president in the conservative Bush political dynasty …

She once sentenced a 79-year-old demonstrator who’d been arrested multiple times to 25 days in jail, and she thus far has denied defense motions to dismiss cases against the defendants who argued the capital city’s rioting laws were too broadly written. …

Even if jurors don’t convict Woods on any charges, the journalist said the prosecution has already taken a serious toll on him.

“Getting arrested was traumatic. The pepper spray was traumatic. Honestly the whole experience was traumatic,” he said. “The machinery and the inhumanity of pretty much every single bit of it.” …

This security force’s response to the Jan. 20 protests is currently being investigated by local authorities in Washington. The heavily armed police that day never warned protesters they could face arrest if they didn’t disperse, as is required by the department’s own policies. Instead, they surrounded the protesters, an aggressive policing technique known as “kettling,” often used at protests over the police killings of unarmed African-Americans. A recent “kettling” incident in the Midwest city of St. Louis swept up several journalists, and a member of the judicial branch found that the aggressive security force tactics there had likely violated the bedrock principles of American democracy.

In Washington, protesters were trapped and deprived of food, water and bathroom access for hours before eventually being detained and arrested. The zip ties used to bind their wrists dug into their flesh, causing them to bleed. And for weeks after, some said their skin peeled from the pepper spray with which security forces had sprayed them.

Journalist Shay Horse alleged in a lawsuit here that he and four protesters were subjected to cavity searches during their detention that could be considered sexual assault. The five men were forced to take off their pants, Horse said. An officer then grabbed the testicles of the five men, Horse alleges, before sticking a finger in each of their rectums, as other officers laughed.

Horse said in a press conference earlier this year that it felt like police “were using molestation and rape as punishment.”

Although the city has since launched an independent investigation into how the protest was policed, few of the defendants have hope for real accountability. The organization hired by the city to conduct the investigation is a decidedly pro-police organization called the Police Foundation.

Still, a dissident named Kris Hermes told HuffPost, “If the investigation proves that people were unfairly arrested, what does that mean for people that have already been tried?”

Hermes is a longtime legal activist affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, which has been working with the defendants in this case. He’s worried the charges against the defendants in this case are part of a government effort to crack down on protests.

“I think it’s already sent a chilling message,” Hermes said. “If all it’s gonna take is people going on the streets and being near some property destruction or near people engaged in alleged criminal activity for them all to get felony charges, that’s going to stifle free expression in the streets, and prevent people coming out and protesting when they have every right to do so.”

ACCORDING TO THE U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION Black men’s sentences are twenty percent longer than white men’s for similar crimes. [HuffPost]


Politicians blaming Russia for everything

Theresa May drinking

This photo from London shows British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May drinking at the recent Lord Mayor’s Banquet; where she blamed Russia for the problems caused by her own government, thus avoiding having to look at the woman in the mirror.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Putin is not responsible for Trump or Brexit

Friday 17th November 2017

Blaming our problems on Russian hacking and fake news is a way of ignoring Britain’s very real problems, writes SOLOMON HUGHES

DID RUSSIA interfere in the US presidential election? Did Russia meddle in the Brexit referendum?

Probably yes. Probably no. Does this mean Vladimir Putin is responsible for Donald Trump winning the US election? Does it mean Russia caused Brexit?

It doesn’t. But a lot of confused liberals are pretending it does as a way of hiding from the real world in a fantasy land stalked by a bare-chested Russian ogre.

A moment’s thinking can come up with the many examples of one nation interfering in the affairs of another. The US has years of organising coups and trying to fix elections worldwide.

On BBC2 on Sunday nights you can watch John Singleton’s excellent drama “Snowfall.”

The background to the story is the US government arming and backing murderous “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

It’s a shady, dirty story of how the US secretly supported a vicious militia fighting a left-wing Central American government.

The Contras funded themselves by drug dealing in the United States itself, but the US was so keen on the Contras and careless about their own citizens that it simultaneously armed Nicaraguan gangsters and helped gangsters deal drugs in California.

Sometimes it’s just interference by propaganda. In the 2000s the US funded the Iraqi National Congress (INC), based in London. The INC operated more as a propaganda group than an actual opposition to Saddam.

In 2002 the INC presented an invoice to the US government to justify its $33 million of funds. The invoice showed all the fake stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or terrorist links they had placed in the British press.

It was paid for getting “fake news” into the Sunday Times, Observer, Telegraph and other British newspapers, false stories which helped promote the Iraq war.

Just as the US “interfered” in far-off nations by backing its favoured political or propaganda groups, so too the former Soviet Union “interfered” in other nations by backing or supporting its favoured political groups, mostly around the communist parties.

That could mean, for example, supporting the African National Congress in its battle against apartheid. Or it could mean backing this newspaper, by buying loads of copies of it.

Many people on the left positively welcomed this “interference,” for obvious reasons. Other people got upset about “Moscow gold.”

Lots of rightwingers liked to claim that Russian-backed “communists” were the root of all trouble, even when trouble was so clearly the product of local conditions.

Faced with protests against racism, many a sheriff or governor in the southern US states would blame the communists for “stirring things up.”

Some of the liberals saying that Putin did Brexit or Putin made Trump happen seem like a weird version of this southern sheriff.

You can almost hear them say: “It’s only Putin stirring things up. Our humble folk wouldn’t be so riled up without that ‘Russkie’ meddling.”

Since the “fall of communism” and the end of the Soviet Union, I think Putin’s Russia has become much more opportunistic and less consistent about which foreign nations it backs and promotes.

In fact, it has become a bit more like the United States, though on a smaller scale. The US has covertly backed both right-wing death squads and non-communist liberals and, in one odd adventure, abstract expressionist art, to try to build US influence and undermine US rivals.

Similarly Putin plays with backing a variety of nationalist currents abroad, but also reaches out to more traditional “leftish” critics in the West. Some of this is “propaganda.” Some of it is “soft diplomacy.”

I think the US media is right to investigate Trump’s links to the Russians because, if nothing else, it shows Trump’s cynicism and sleaziness.

But to try to pretend Putin is the cause of Trump and ignore the long-term decay and corruption of the US political system is self-deception.

The US government is more and more dominated by big money, and offers less and less support to its own citizens.

Politicians substitute racism and bigotry for, say, the ability to run a health service. This has left a hollowed-out politics that Trump has exploited.

The Democratic emails leak had an impact because the emails were real, and they showed the Democratic leadership was part of that hollowing out.

They showed that Clinton was too close to big money donors, and was using the Democratic machine to freeze out the chance for actual social change with Bernie Sanders.

So while the emails may have been “phished” by someone close to the Russian state, they showed a real problem with US politics.

The case for Putin being behind Brexit seems by comparison vanishingly small.

The “Internet Research Agency,” a Russian PR firm that does government work, has a host of “trolls” churning out tweets and other social media posts in support of official Russian policy.

Its work seems to include a few fake personalities posting nasty divisive stuff about Britain.

But the idea that this had any impact on the enormity of the EU referendum vote is a bit laughable.

It seems to be a way of ignoring how all kinds of disillusion and feelings of abandonment — and tabloid-promoted anti-migrant feeling — flowed into the Brexit vote.

It’s a way of ignoring Britain’s real problems and blaming Putin.

IN AN attempt to deflect media attention away from her government’s sordid disarray, Theresa May used her speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet this week to accuse Russia of mounting a “sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption” in an attempt to “sow discord in the West.” Of course Russia probably is doing something like this, but so too is every other state on the planet. Thanks to good ol’ capitalism and the free market, every country with an internet connection is probably trying to “sow discontent” somewhere. It’s all part of the desperate bid to gain more control of the world’s resources before global climate change renders Earth inhospitable: here.

Blue Planet II, new David Attenborough wildlife series

This video says about itself:

Blue Planet II Trailer 2 – BBC Earth

20 October 2017

In 2001, The Blue Planet opened our eyes to the worlds beneath the waves. A generation on, new science and technology allow us to journey deeper than ever before at the most crucial time in our ocean’s history. This is Blue Planet II. Take a deep breath.

Blue Planet II is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and features an original score by legendary composer Hans Zimmer. The series is set for UK broadcast on BBC One on October 29th and coming soon to BBC America in 2018. A BBC Studios Natural History Unit production, co-produced with BBC America, Tencent, WDR, France Télévisions and CCTV9. A BBC Open University Partnership.

Trump’s Korean nuclear war threat and corporate media

This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Speaks To UN, Threatens To Destroy North Korea

19 September 2017

Trump keeps saber-rattling on North Korea. Does he intend to commit genocide with a nuclear first strike? Ana Kasparian, Michael Shure, and Brett Erlich, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.

“ON TUESDAY MORNING, Donald Trump gave a bombastic speech to the assembled delegates of the United Nations. Pay special attention to how he addressed North Korea and its looming nuclear threat. Unlike most of what Trump said otherwise, its implications are as wide-ranging as they are grim.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” said Trump. “‘Rocket Man’ is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

“Rocket Man,” you rightly guessed, refers to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. … And while Trump has made similar provocations before, either in impromptu remarks or ill-advised tweets, his UN taunting worsens an already alarmingly combustible situation—while also making it harder to defuse.”

Read more here.

By Ian Sinclair in Britain:

Obscuring the truth with lies and demonisation

Saturday 14th October 2017

IAN SINCLAIR on the media’s drumbeat for war

“Defence news is highly sensitive and tends to be conservative especially at times of crisis,” the Glasgow University Media Group noted in its influential 1985 book War and Peace News.

The nuclear standoff between the US and North Korea is the perfect illustration of this truism, with the mainstream media — bar a few exceptions — acting as a well-oiled propaganda system, echoing the official line of Western governments and minimising the public’s understanding of the ongoing confrontation.

This mass production of ignorance occurs in several ways.

First, the media tends to focus on immediate events and ignore the wider historical context. When some history is discussed, it tends to be a simplistic, limited and Western-biased narrative which is presented.

“As the war memorials in South Korea tell you: freedom isn’t free. In the Korean war four million died on both sides — soldier and civilian — in just three years, after the communist Korean People’s Army invaded the pro-Western South.” This was Asia correspondent Jonathan Miller’s take on the crisis for Channel 4 News in August 2017.

Compare Miller’s suggestion the war was fought for freedom with a 2008 report in the Sydney Morning Herald which noted that, by the start of the war in 1950, South Korean leader Syngman Rhee “had about 30,000 alleged communists in his jails, and had about 300,000 suspected sympathisers enrolled in an official ‘re-education’ movement.”

In his book The Death of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars, John Tirman notes the CIA knew Rhee was “bent on autocratic rule,” with repression of trade unions, liberal newspapers and political parties proceeding with US support.

Miller’s quote highlights the conflict’s gigantic human death toll but doesn’t give any indication of the central role played by the US in the slaughter. Journalist Blaine Harden summarised the largely unknown history in the Washington Post in 2015: in 1984, General Curtis LeMay, head of the US Strategic Air Command during the Korean war, told the Office of Air Force History: “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 per cent of the population.”

Picasso's Massacre in Korea

This is Pablo Picasso‘s painting Massacre in Korea.

Dean Rusk, who served as US secretary of state in the 1960s, said the US bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, US aircraft destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams, flooding farmland and destroying crops, notes Harden.

While the Korean war has largely been forgotten in the West, “the American air war left a deep and lasting impression” on North Koreans, notes Professor Charles Armstrong from Columbia University in his 2013 book Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992. The aerial bombardment, “more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.”

Another key propaganda technique, wilfully amplified by the media, is the demonisation of the enemy’s leader — in this case Kim Jung Un, who has ruled North Korea since 2011.

In addition to focusing the public’s attention on a single, supposedly evil person rather than the millions of ordinary people who would be killed in any war, the demonisation campaign has painted Kim as unstable, perhaps insane. However, after weeks of interviews with “experts and insiders,” Benjamin Haas and Justin McCurry noted in the Guardian that while Kim “may be ruthless and bellicose, few believe he is a madman with his finger on the button.”

The portrayal of the North Korean leader as mad chimes with another argument pushed by the Western media: that it is impossible — and therefore pointless to try — to negotiate with North Korea. In contrast, in a 2008 report for Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Co-operation, John Lewis and Robert Carlin, a senior adviser on North Korea from 1989 to 2002 in the US State Department, wrote: “Forgotten is the reality that from 1993 to 2000, the US government [had] 20 or more issues under discussion with [North Korea] in a wide variety of settings.”

“A large percentage of those talks ended in agreements or made substantial progress,” they note.

Discussing the recent history of US-North Korean relations, Professor Noam Chomsky told Democracy Now! earlier this year: “maybe you can say it’s the worst regime in history … but they have been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy.”

Chomsky pointed to the establishment of the Framework Agreement between the Clinton Administration and North Korea in 1994, which agreed a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions in exchange for the US providing North Korea with fuel oil, assistance with building two nuclear reactors and the normalisation of relations between the two nations. Though neither side fully lived up to their commitments, Chomsky noted that “it more or less worked,” meaning that up until 2000 “North Korea had not proceeded with its nuclear weapons programmes.”

James Pierce, who was part of the US State Department team which negotiated the agreement, tells a similar story. “The bottom line is, there was a lot in the 1994 agreement that worked and continued for some years,” he told The Nation magazine. “The assertion, now gospel, that the North Koreans broke it right away is simply not true.”

Finally, the way in which the media chooses to present important information or arguments plays a crucial role in the public’s level of knowledge and understanding. “The best way to erase-a-story-while-reporting-it is to give no hint of it in the title or in most of the article, and to drop it in at the end of the piece without any context, like a throwaway remark which deserves no attention,” activist and author Milan Rai recently argued in Peace News.

One could add an additional test: is the information or argument voiced by a particular actor? If so, are they a credible source to readers?

For example, in a August 30 2017 Guardian 34-paragraph report on the crisis — titled “Donald Trump on North Korea: all options are on the table” — US-South Korean military exercises are only mentioned in paragraphs 20 and 26 by Chinese and North Korean government officials, respectively. These war games have previously included training for striking North Korea and assassinating Kim and top North Korean military figures.

This is hugely significant because China and North Korea have repeatedly suggested a deal in which North Korea freezes its nuclear weapons programme in return for an end to the joint US-South Korean military exercises — the lastest of which took place in August 2017, likely escalating the face-off.

The offer has been rejected by Washington. Chomsky, however, believes the proposed deal “to end the highly provocative actions on North Korea’s border could be the basis for more far-reaching negotiations, which could radically reduce the nuclear threat and perhaps even bring the North Korea crisis to an end.”

Surveying the US media’s reluctance to report on the willingness of North Korea to negotiate, The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz argues: “there are huge roadblocks” to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis “and one of the biggest is the Western media’s failure to simply inform their audience of the basics of what’s happening.”

The peace movement and general public in the West therefore have an important role to play in this suicidal game of nuclear chicken: to apply pressure on their governments to sincerely explore the Chinese-North Korean offer, and work to de-escalate and resolve the crisis as quickly as possible.

Comments Tuesday by Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), underscore the advanced state of US preparations for war with North Korea. Delivering a speech in Singapore, Harris dismissed warnings by various strategic analysts and military commentators that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula would cost millions of lives and was therefore unthinkable: here.

Amid a deepening standoff with North Korea and rising tensions with Russia and China, the United States is preparing to place its fleet of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers on 24-hour alert for the first time since 1991: here.

Trump: US “totally prepared” for war with North Korea: here.

Trump team drawing up fresh plans to bolster US nuclear arsenal: here.