Havana: city of dreams underpinned by harsh socioeconomic realities

By Daniel Margrain

The Plaza Hotel in central Havana has all the grace and fading colonial splendour reminiscent of something out of a E. M Forster novel. I had arrived at the hotel in the early hours. The wooden shutters of my room opened up to a small balcony overlooking a dusty and dimly lit street. What first struck me about the city was its apparent sense of serene calmness. I felt I had stepped into an Edward Hopper painting. Except for the sound of the occasional taxi that passed on the street directly below, and the flickering echo of distant voices, the streets remained eerily quiet.

Cuba

Bustling

It wasn’t until the following morning from the rooftop of the hotel that the aromas of the city, bustling street life and clogged roads in the distance below – set against a backdrop of crumbling tenement buildings, colonial edifices and pot-holed roads – became evident in this unique metropolis. The vivaciousness, eclecticism and atmospheric energy of the Caribbean’s largest city has survived everything that has been thrown at it throughout its 500-year history and continues to stand as a beacon of resistance against U.S imperialism today.

For this writer, it was the visceral and abstract, as opposed to conventional notions of beauty, that was Havana’s main appeal. The overriding sense of a city that forms part of an Island of quasi-socialism within a sea of capitalism, and all of the contradictions and potential opportunities that this entails, is palpable for the first time visitor. Graham Greene was right when he said that Havana is a city where “anything is possible”.

To be immersed in the hustle and bustle of Havana whilst constantly reminding yourself of the historical significance of the city in both time and place opens up a potential space in which it is possible to get lost in the melee and embrace its earthy authenticity. No other city in the world that I have visited has quite the aesthetic seductiveness for the flaneur as Havana has.

It’s along the kilometre stretch of the Calle Obispo that the city really bursts into life. A rag-bag collection of hustlers, drunks, artists and musicians throng the street from dawn until dusk after which time the cramped drinking dens come into their own. Musically accomplished and professional-sounding resident bands who can be heard for free playing everything from jazz and the traditional son through to calypso, folk and salsa way into the early hours, throng the bars.

Beating heart

The beating heart of the city metaphorically pulses to the sound of live music in much the same way as New Orleans does. Whether it emanates from somebody’s balcony or from the bars and streets, the eclecticism of a city where music and architecture appear to fuse into one means that visitors and residents alike are rarely far from either.

The latter is one of Havana’s main draws. Many of the buildings and squares are shaped by a colourful colonial history embellished by a myriad of foreign influences that gracefully combine baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and modernist styles. The buildings in central Havana are almost, without exception, visually stunning. Unfortunately, much of the architectural splendour has been left to fester in an advanced state of dilapidation, largely as a result of the turmoil of three separate revolutionary wars.

Thankfully, though, the cities well-preserved historical core has survived into the 21st century relatively unscathed. One of the most impressive of these ‘survivors’ is the magnificent 18th century baroque Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana (see photo above). This graceful-looking edifice was described by the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier as “music set in stone”. This, if anything, is an understatement. Words cannot describe the emotional impact this building and the beauty of its tranquil surroundings had on this writer.

In a city like Havana, it’s difficult to fully set aside the vibrant and colourful cultural preconceptions associated with the place from a lifetime of images ingrained in ones consciousness. Some of these images have an objective basis in reality, while others are mainly subjective or fantasies and caricatures. The Havana experience in its totality, though, is rarely less than alluring.

To what extent one allows oneself to be immersed in either aspect is largely dependent on the individual. “Habana is very much like a rose”, said Fico Fellove, in the movie The Lost City, “it has petals and it has thorns….so it depends on how you grab it. But in the end, it always grabs you.” 

Fellove is right. Havana is a city of dreamers and dreams; of myths and fantasies. But it is also a city that cannot escape a present guided by the dark forces of its past. In essence, Havana is a contradiction that represents the antithesis of the kind of nightmares imposed on it by its super power adversary 90 miles away.

Torricelli & Helms-Burton

One of the nightmares the people of Havana continue to suffer is the US trade embargo which has hit the city hard. The Washington-imposed 1992 Torricelli Act prevents foreign subsidiaries of US companies trading with the city and prohibits ships that have called at its port from docking at US ports for six months.

The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, meant that the tightening of the embargo was pulled up a notch. The end result of this draconian U.S attack, was the effective banning of virtually the entirety of the rest of the world trading with Cuba. This is causing terrible suffering in the city.

The hope for many was that Helms-Burton would be repealed. However, under Obama these hopes were dashed. Given the perilous state of the U.S economy under his successor, Trump, in addition to Cuba’s continued resistance to U.S hegemony, any compromise in the Cuban position, post-Fidel, seems equally unlikely.

By smearing Cuba’s “socialism” as “devastating” and a “failure”, Trump has further alienated the Cuban leadership. The country is hardly socialist. The revolution that overthrew U.S puppet, Fulgencio Batista in 1959, was in reality an anti-colonial rather than a socialist revolution in which Cuba’s workers were largely onlookers, however sympathetic.

Two-tier economy

The consequence of prioritizing national liberation above socialist revolution has been the emergence of a two-tier economy in Havana. Hard currency in the form of the Cuban convertible, has largely replaced the Peso as the means of exchange. Its growing use is creating a distorted local economy altering the dynamic of the city in a way not dis-similar to the satellite states of the former Soviet Union prior to the collapse of the Berlin wall.

The crisis in the Cuban economy was exacerbated during the period 1991-94. This was a particularly dark phase in the history of Havana. During this time the people of the city and throughout the country, had suffered terribly. The ending of Soviet subsidies that had effectively sustained the Cuban economy for 30 years had, by the end of the decade, become reliant for its growth on a rapidly expanding tourist industry. But this growth was fragile because it did not reflect any deep transformation of the economy.

Today, the Cuban convertible and other forms of hard currency (except the US dollar), can be exchanged at any bank in Havana for Pesos. A basic meal paid for by the latter on the streets of the city costs the equivalent of 25p, while a beer at a hard currency-only tourist bar will set a skilled Cuban worker back one-twentieth of his or her monthly salary. This kind of two-tier economy is not consistent with socialism but rather a highly political bureaucratic state.

Corruption

State corruption is the inevitable consequence that flows from this set of relationships. Ordinary Cubans who are not connected to either the high echelons of the bureaucratic state or the tourist sector, speak endlessly and angrily about the visible and growing gulf – economic, social and political – between this privileged layer and the majority, whose daily life is a struggle. Tourism exacerbates these divisions which explains why politically, socially and economically Havana is being pulled in different directions.

At the time of my visit to the city, socioeconomic polarizing fractures had already started to appear – a situation that will almost certainly worsen as the relative trickle of tourists inevitably turn into a flood in the years to come. The irreconcilable forces that are seemingly pulling the city apart acts as a warning sign to the rest of the country in a post-Fidel world.

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Saving Syria’s Children: Was BBC license fee money used to support an Islamist terror group protection-racket?

By Daniel Margrain

  In Saving Syria’s Children the logo of Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham, is visible on the front of one the vehicles in Pannell and Conway’s security convoy (Source: Robert Stuart).

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the possible fabrications behind the infamous BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. The documentary was made in response to the alleged dropping of an incendiary bomb containing a “napalm-type” substance on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened. They reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.

Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns. In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress.

My first impression after having seen the film was that it was contrived and staffed by actors. What initially led me to this conclusion were the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looked directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Many other anomalies and contradictions too numerous to mention here in detail were evident throughout the Panorama documentary and the related reports. These included:

– Conflicting and contradictory accounts.

– A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.

– Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.

– Questions as to the authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.

– Apparent choreographed behaviour.

– Unconvincing injuries.

– Testimonies that challenged the BBC version of events.

I attended Robert Stuart’s most recent public presentation of his findings in London which can be viewed here

Saving Syria’s Children made reference to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria, and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan.

Dr Rola’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member, while her on-site colleague, Dr Ahsan, is a former captain in the British Army Medical Corps. All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

The British state broadcaster has not addressed any of the legitimate issues raised by Stuart. All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

The researcher has presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and has not been threatened, legally, with any injunctions or forms of legal redress which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations been false.

Most recently, Stuart has argued, convincingly, that Pannell and Conway were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham. On 22 November, 2017, Stuart reported the activities of Pannell and Conway – that amounted to colluding with executioners – to Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Not only is it shocking that the British public helped fund the production of anti-Syrian government propaganda in the form of Saving Syria’s Children, but that they also inadvertently helped support an Islamist terrorist protection racket to enable this to happen.

It appears to be increasingly clear that BBC licence fee money was used to allow the safe passage of Pannell and Conway to and from the location where Saving Syria’s Children was being filmed.

The actions of the BBC are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the national state broadcaster to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events that involved the active participation of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers.

While the UK foreign office and high-ranking government ministers are eager to publicly condemn terrorist atrocities committed against UK citizens on British soil, what has not been widely acknowledged is the extent to which the British state is complicit in furthering the terrorists objectives in Syria. This has serious potential implications for all UK citizens in terms of helping to facilitate ‘blow-back’ on the streets of our towns and cities.

Evidence produced from independent journalists like Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others who have exposed the nefarious activities of UK-funded ‘humanitarian’ organisations like the White Helmets and Hand in Hand, add to accusation that the role of the BBC is that of a propaganda conduit for UK imperial power in the countries these groups operate. After having studied Robert Stuart’s analysis in detail, it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.

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Theresa May’s Mansion House speeches: Is Putin an agent of the British state?

By Daniel Margrain

In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 film, North By Northwest, Cary Grant plays the part of an advertising executive who inadvertently gets caught up in a web of espionage after he is mistaken for “George Kaplan”, a fictional persona created by a government agency in order to thwart the nefarious activities of a spy, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason).

After reading the transcript of Theresa May’s recent Mansion House speech in which she alluded to the alleged nefarious activities of Vladimir Putin, one might reasonably conclude that real life imitates art and that the Russian leader is a creation of Britain’s secret services.

Hard power

Resplendent with cliches and insubstantial rhetorical flourishes low on substance, May’s projection of hard power harked back to the days of the British Empire in which, as George Galloway famously remarked, “the sun never set because God would never trust the English in the dark”.

May’s vision of a post-Brexit Britain in a globalized world, is marked by ‘humanitarian interventionism’ predicated on military pre-emption, or as one US administration official put it, “pre-emptive retaliation”. Such a foreign policy strategy is one in which the ‘responsibility to protect’ is informed by a notion of imperialist exceptionalism couched in the language of economic liberalism and free markets. This is regarded by the political establishment as the best way to counter (largely imaginary) military threats.

Last years Mansion House speech

Thus, in the tradition of Kipling, May emphasized that the historic role of Britain was to nurture ‘less enlightened’ societies by invoking in them the virtues of neoliberal ‘trickle-down’ economics. This sentiment echoes the substantive part of the Mansion House speech May made this time last year:

“Over our long history, this country has set the template for others to follow”, said May.

The PM continued:

“We demonstrate to the world that we can be the strongest global advocate for free markets and free trade.”

But as income inequality has continued to increase inexorably since last years Mansion House speech, the PM has been left to ponder as to whether ‘trickle-down’ is not really a case of ‘gushing-up’. Regardless, there is scant evidence she intends to do anything about it, preferring instead to regurgitate the requisite caveats:

“There have been downsides to globalisation in recent years, and that – in our zeal and enthusiasm to promote this agenda as the answer to all our ills – we have on occasion overlooked the impact on those closer to home who see these forces in a different light”, said the PM.

May added:

“If we take a step back and look at the world around us, one of the most important drivers becomes clear – the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have held sway in Britain, America and across the Western world for years have left too many people behind.”

But rather than acknowledge that neoliberal ideology is the catalyst for growing inequality, May persists with the illusion that the rules-based international capitalist system on which it is based, represents the solution to the problem:

“Liberalism and globalisation…underpin the rules-based international system that is key to global prosperity and security and which I am clear we must protect and seek to strengthen,” claimed May.

White man’s burden

The alleged merits of a 19th century rules-based liberal system rooted in the Kipling-esque “white man’s burden” notion of modern international relations, was a topic May returned to during her November 13, 2017 speech:

“So as we reach out into the world and write this new chapter in our national history, the task of a global Britain is clear – to defend the rules based international order against irresponsible states that seek to erode it”, said May.

Clearly, the PM had one country in mind as one of the more significant of the worlds “irresponsible states” who she regards as potentially undermining neoliberalism’s global reach:

“The comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them. Chief among those today, of course, is Russia”, said May.

Ratcheting-up

Ratcheting-up Russia’s imaginary threat to Western civilization, May remarked:

“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.”

This simplistic analysis conveniently overlooks the subversive actions of the US in the Ukraine and broader geopolitical and strategic contextual objectives of the Western-led alliance which meant that Putin was left with little option other than to incorporate Crimea in order to attempt to fend off an encroaching NATO.

Also, by limiting her critique to Europe, May ignored the attempts by Britain, France, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others, to destabilize Syria in addition to the US-led coalitions decades-long illegal wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of Iraq and Libya.

May stepped-up the anti-Russian line by reproducing unsubstantiated soundbites against the country. The PM falsely inferred that Russia’s supposed state-run media propaganda is unique to a country whose official enemies constantly use the rhetoric of war against it.

May’s anti-Russian tirade during the latter part of her speech culminated in what were clear threats against Putin – an arrogance akin to that of a 19th century imperial overseer. Seemingly eager to continue justifying the reinforcing of the British industrial-military complex, May added to the fear mongering rhetoric:

“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise”, she said.

That it’s Britain and it’s NATO allies, not Russia, that represents the greatest potential threat to world peace, is unmentionable in mass corporate media parlance.

Weaponising information

Ironically, the Russian state broadcaster, RT, who Theresa May in her speech alluded seeks to “weaponise information…in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”, revealed the collusion between the Western powers and ISIS. This was a fact that the BBC only began to belatedly acknowledge many years later.

So, as Patrick Henningsen astutely pointed out with an air of sarcasm, using May’s logic, the much maligned Vladimir Putin – who the PM effectively accused of ‘weaponising information’ – is presumably meddling in the BBC?

Another possibility is that he is a double agent, who like the Cary Grant character in North By Northwest, is unknowingly working for the British government. The third, and most likely possibility, is that Theresa May is a hypocrite and liar.

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Thoughts on the sacking of Slaven Bilic

By Daniel Margrain

So yet another sacrificial lamb has been put to slaughter. The decision by the board of West Ham United Club to sack manager Slaven Bilic, is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the club I have supported for 45 years. I’m really angry and disappointed by the reaction of the club and our “fans” to Bilic in the months leading up to his dismissal.

Many of these baying supporters that were calling for his blood, are the same people who two seasons ago were praising his abilities and asserting he was one of the most hard-working, committed and inspirational figures to be associated with the club in its history. Competent football managers do not become bad football managers overnight.

There is no evidence, whatsoever, that a change of manager improves the fortunes of a team in terms of results on the pitch. Although it’s tempting to believe that the appointment of a Sam Allardyce or any other manager with a reputation of keeping clubs in the Premier League is based on hard evidence, empirically this is not supported by the facts. There is a zero line of causality between the fortunes, or otherwise, of a football club and the figure who happens to be at the helm of said club at any given time – none, zilch, zero, nada.

I find it incredulous that football fans and pundits alike continue to place so much emphasis on the supposed significance a manager makes in relation to the respective success or failure of a club. It is no coincidence that almost every season, the same big clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal etc – with the greatest resources at their disposal, challenge for the league title.

These clubs invariably win silverware not because of the manager but in spite of the individual who sits at the helm. That explains, why Avram Grant, for example, holds the worst win percentage of league games of all permanent managers (18.92%) in the clubs recent history, but also, conversely, came within a whisker of winning the Champions League with Chelsea.

Yes, there are anomalies – Leicester winning the league under Ranieri and Clough’s numerous successes with limited resources come immediately to mind. But that’s all they are – exceptions to the rule. It has always seemed peculiar to me that in all other walks of life, we apply the law of probability to our reasoning but somehow professional football always appears to get a free pass.

Football managers who work at the highest level are a bit like politician’s – both come and go with frequent regularity, but the fans and the voting public respectively are invariably the ones who end up picking up the pieces of the failed decisions made by others bigger than them.

If the board at West Ham end up appointing David Moyes as the replacement for Bilic, as has been widely reported, and the club start to pick up valuable points, that will not be because of the new-found “innate genius” of the former. On the contrary, as I alluded to above, the evidence would seem to suggest that a similar set of results would – given a combination of time and luck – have happened under Bilic’s watch anyway.

Moyes’ recent managerial record has been appalling and yet nobody in the media appears neither to want to point that fact out, or why a proven failure is regarded as a suitable replacement for somebody who knows the club inside out. In no other walk of life is failure rewarded to the extent it is in professional football at the highest level.

The management merry-go-round in the high echelons of the game amounts to one of the greatest protection rackets going – that if we were to apply the same reasoning to say, banking – people would rightly condemn. But somehow this scandal, when attributed to the professional game, gets conveniently overlooked by media pundits and the wider public alike.

How have we managed to arrive at a situation in which fans exult an extremely passionate, capable, committed and loyal manager like Bilic as a genius one minute, but at the next are baying for his blood? What kind of society are we living in that regards that kind of behaviour and mind-set as being in any way acceptable, never mind rational?

Why is it apparently beyond the capability of football supporters to accept that there is a correlation between the financial resources clubs have at their disposal and the success of the said clubs on the field of play? The appointment by the West Ham United board of Champions League finalist, Avram Grant, is proof positive that managers do not make a blind bit of difference to the success of a club.

But West Ham fans and fans of other medium sized clubs of the Hammers stature, continue to place what are clearly unrealistic expectations upon the shoulders of their managers. Slaven Bilic is clearly a sincere and passionate man who is devoted to the Hammers. It’s about time, the board and fans alike begin to get a grip on reality and put an end to this ridiculous game of managerial merry-go-round that is plaguing professional football.

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Review of Fiende Fatale live at The Horn, St. Albans

By Daniel Margrain

In Steven Shea’s 2013 cult horror-adventure parody, Fiende Fatale, an assortment of DNA-cloned monsters and weirdos reconfigured from the carcasses of vampires, zombies, demons and others, find themselves confronting government and terrorist forces in a dystopian world devoid of meaning whose citizens are out of control.

As well as working at the level of a spoof, the short film mainly succeeds as a metaphor for a world spiraling ever-deeper, both spiritually and figuratively, into decay. With the enemy as much internalized as a result of the tactics of divide and rule, and brute force increasingly becoming the norm, the urban proletariat see violence as their only form of salvation against the tyranny of government – a kind of subterranean ‘fight club’ for lost souls.

The dark and claustrophobic venue, ‘The Horn’ in St. Albans fits neatly into this cinematic narrative. When headline band, Fiende Fatale, took to the venues small stage last Saturday evening, against a backdrop of the ever-present sight of ghouls, vampires and zombies in the run up to Halloween, the scene was set perfectly.

From two songs in, it was clear that the band are not easy to pigeon-hole. This is a testament to their creative and musical flair. Attending the same school, the north London ensemble have clearly imbued a multitude of influences – Lou Reed, Stooges, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music – among them.

The groups defining aesthetic is nevertheless one that is reminiscent of the art-rock and post-punk scenes of the early 1970s and early 1980s respectively. Indeed, the manner with which the group merge these influences seamlessly into their work is extremely impressive.

From the opening chords, the bands music, to this critics ears, doesn’t sound derivative, contrived or forced but rather discombobulating which is a mark of their distinctive musicality and artistic creative impulses.

Underneath the clever and often witty lyrics given free expressive reign by lead singer and guitarist, Matthew Magee – whose intensity is equal to Ian Curtis, and whose theatrics are reminiscent of Dave Vanian – is a band that musically, as a unit, are as tight as The Fall without Mark E Smith.

All the while, guitarist, Rolph Edwards regularly skews the formal structure of the groups sound to the point of cacophonous informality rooted in Captain Beefheart and the post-punk of say, the Gang of Four, while Alex Wright’s meaty bass and Dom Bowmans manic but disciplined drumming ensures that the spine of the sound remains intact.

Unfortunately my close friend and me had to leave during the bands rendition of the catchy ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ in order to catch the last train back to London so we missed all of the set. My one criticism is that the group do perhaps veer at times too much towards pop for my taste, but regardless they are talented musician’s who are keeping the spirit of rock and roll very much alive.

Fiende Fatale play The Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, Thursday, 30th November.

 

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Why the corporate media continue to obfuscate in relation to Assad sarin attack claims

By Daniel Margrain

“A new report from the UN has found that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are to blame for a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 90 people in a rebel village earlier this year”, proclaimed a recent Independent article.

Contradicting what the paper alluded was a definitive statement of fact, the article continued:

“The investigation from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), released on Thursday [October 26], said that experts are confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017”.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was quick to emphasize the former interpretation when he stated:

“The independent [OPCW] report from expert investigators reach a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims.”

However, Russian officials claimed that the reports methodology, that included the sequence and storage of material evidence, the use of fake evidence and biased sources, was flawed.

The Russian claims appear to be credible. Details outlined by Moon of Alabama indicate that the alleged gas attack was used by the US government as their justification to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase on April 7, three days later. The decision to attack the airbase, in other words, had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression.

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media have become embedded within the deep state of government that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch the April 7 attack on the airbase. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017), for example, stated without evidence to support her assertion, that the US attack was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”.

We’ve been here before

The release of the latest OPCW-UN report follows on the heels of another similarly flawed August, 2015 OPCW-UN report in connection with Security Council resolution 2235. The report which was aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it by the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Referring to the August, 2015 reports many caveats and reservations, security analyst Charles Shoebridge argued that the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the [pro-rebel terror organisation] the White Helmets.”

Furthermore, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on September. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter revealed that the reports findings, also based on White Helmets testimonies, were “full of internal contradictions.”

Purveyor of propaganda

Despite the reservations as to the veracity of previous UN reports outlined, Boris Johnson’s eagerness to uncritically promote the latest OPCW offering is indicative of his role as a purveyor of UK government propaganda.

He has form in this regard. In September last year, for example, Johnson engaged in a piece of foreign office-produced theatre. The UK foreign secretary claimed the government had earmarked £2.3 billion towards supporting human rights organisations in Syria.

The money, however, was almost certainly channeled into promoting sophisticated propaganda campaigns and the funding of mercenary forces. The ultimate objective, as French foreign minister Roland Dumas admitted, is regime change in Syria that the UK government have “prepared, conceived and organised.”

However, impending defeat for the West in Syria prompted rhetorical flourishes from mainstream reporters and politicians alike that have shifted from the surreal to the absurd. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, for example, described the liberation of Aleppo as a “tragedy”.

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Hard Times On Benefit Mall

By Daniel Margrain

For many years the media have portrayed the lifestyles of what they have termed the undeserving rich who inhabit Britain’s Benefit Malls, as feckless wasters and a burden on the tax-paying public. There have been signs over recent months that their attacks on this largely invisible minority in society are beginning to take their toll.

So extreme have these attacks on some of Britain’s most privileged elite been, that many within the gold-vaulted communities of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington, often under the cloak of anonymity, have decided to fight back. One such individual is a young woman called Beatrice Ferguson, 28, who some have alleged is a princess.

Claiming that her lifestyle has been regularly vilified in the media, and following in the footsteps of her father, Beatrice has recently starred in the Channel Five reality show, ‘Benefit Mall’ where, among other things, she has been filmed getting drunk on gin and tonics in her local public house, the Duke of York, named after him.

Allegations

The allegations that Ms Ferguson has consistently abused the benefit system continue to be stringently denied by the alleged princess. One of the most serious accusations relates to the claim that Beatrice set herself up as a business matchmaker after having secured a high-profile client in the shape of would-be stock market debutant Afiniti.

It was reported that a member of the Zia Chishti entourage, who is said to have accompanied Ferguson to meetings and parties at the World Economic Forum in Davos, including to a lunch for many of the most senior figures in British business, phoned the DWP in the UK anonymously.

Undercover

When challenged by undercover journalists, Beatrice was reported as having said that she informed her local Job Centre Plus in London’s Bayswater Road that she intended to take a week’s holiday abroad to which she claims she was entitled:

“I phoned the DWP three days in advance informing them that I would be taking a foreign holiday for a week which was agreed at the time by my work coach. This was not a working holiday”, she said.

But this version of events was contradicted by what has been claimed are her clients, the advisory board members of the company that is headquartered in Washington DC, comprising no fewer than 21 senior figures. An account relayed to investigators by one of these figures, BP chief executive Lord Browne, however, appears to support the benefit claimants version of events:

“The notion this young lady owns a company called Afiniti or that I am one of her clients is absurd. I recall that she was at a party I attended as a guest. The fact that Mr Chishti, who previously co-founded and brought to market a company that makes transparent braces for teeth straightening, is merely coincidental”, he said.

Spotted

Beatrice, who some in the media have dubbed Britain’s version of a Kardashian, has in previous years also been spotted taking to the water on Roman Abramovich’s £1 billion super yacht, Eclipse, which is docked off the Spanish coast near Ibiza. Asked by reporters how the alleged penniless royal could afford to rack up seventeen holidays in eight months on a weekly Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.40 since giving up her 20k a year role at Sony, Beatrice claimed the trips were paid for using savings accumulated in her Barclays Instant Saver account.

Responding to accusations that her lifestyle is excessive, Beatrice snapped back at the media by saying that Channel Five’s Benefits Mall programme was a cheap attempt at smearing people like her on benefits which she claimed was indicative of a culture that “treated elites like me as though we are animals in a zoo.” The reality star added, “If I knew then, what I know now, I would never have agreed to do this show.”

Beatrice exclaimed that chalking up three skiing holidays on top of multiple hot weather breaks and repeated trips to New York, “is my human right”. She continued: “People are jealous that I have saved up some money that funds a lifestyle to which I’m entitled and that I regard as being normal. When I visited New York, it was to see my sister, Eugenie”, said the streetwise hustler from downtown Belgravia.

Last November, the DWP claimed she visited the United Arab Emirates for a “business engagement” with her father, the Duke of York, which she categorically denies. She also claims that people driven by jealously conspired against her by falsely claiming she subsequently attended a lavish party on board a Polynesian themed party yacht.

Private jet

Later that week, Beatrice admitted to investigators she flew on a private jet with her mother, Sarah Ferguson, to Beijing for a wedding, paid for by her father which she claims didn’t break DWP rules since she was able to sign-on the following week. Moreover, she claimed she was able to prove to her job coach that she had spent a sufficient amount of time actively seeking work. She put her late attendance that day down to heavy traffic along the Bayswater Road and that the 148 bus she was travelling on had broken down.

Serious questions, however, remain with regards to Beatrice’s whereabouts during Christmas 2016. Having failed to turn up to a 2pm appointment previously arranged with her work coach who had planned to run through her CV with her, Beatrice claimed she phoned Job Centre Plus saying that she was too sick to attend.

However, I was subsequently contacted by a member of Beatrice’s entourage who alleged that after enjoying Christmas lunch with the Queen at Sandringham, the Benefit Mall star jetted off to Verbier to stay at her parents £13m ski chalet. My source then alleges she flew off to the Caribbean where she saw in 2017 relaxing on a yacht belonging to billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Jimmy Carr

Having made a quick trip back to London to sign on, it is claimed she spent time on another yacht in the company of, among others, comedian Jimmy Carr. After a double holiday in the Caribbean, she then took a trip to New York.

With the authorities becoming suspicious of her increasingly erratic lifestyle depicted on Benefit Mall, the DWP finally made the decision to suspend the reality TV stars Job Seekers Allowance. The suspension of her housing and council tax benefits swiftly followed. After complaining vociferously to TV executives at Channel Five about the manner in which the programme-makers had characterized her, and by extension, their demonizing of her class in Benefit Mall, Beatrice flew back to her parents place in Verbier.

After spending a short time with them, she clearly felt that she needed another break from all the stress. So she decided to fly out to Florida for her twelfth holiday in five months. Beatrice was subsequently spotted in the Gulf State of Bahrain as a guest of it’s Prince whose father helped put down pro-democracy protests. Clearly, Ms Ferguson loves to hang out with nice people.

Great Guana Cay

In September, Beatrice flew to Florence before jetting off for her third Caribbean jaunt where she was photographed lounging on a beach in Great Guana Cay that’s home to just 150 people. It is also blessed with a five and a half mile stretch of sandy white beach, virgin forest and pristine coral reefs.

With Ms Ferguson having apparently set up home in Great Guana Cay, the authorities back in London are keen to interview the reality TV star regarding unanswered questions that reportedly involve her failure to report a change in her circumstances. Some other independent journalists are also seeking answers to similar questions.

Isn’t it about time the mainstream corporate media also began asking searching questions about the activities of royal benefit scroungers like Beatrice? They might begin by asking how her father, who has a modest naval pension, can afford a £13m property and pay for regular private jet flights?

“The Royal Family is still guarding secrets that we the people should know about”, says the Guardian. These secrets include how the royal benefit spongers manage to screw the British tax payers of their hard earned cash to the extent they do in order to fund their extravagant lifestyles without serious challenge in the media?

Answers on a post card to Daniel Margrain, c/o the Palm Fringe Savoy, Bahamas.

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