The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

DW (2020)

Film Review

This documentary is based on the Turkish intelligence investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent murder. It was subsequently authenticated by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Khashoggi*, a dissident journalist, left Saudi Arabia for the US (where he worked for the Washington Post) in September 2017 after running afoul of Saudi authorities for criticizing their human rights violations.

He disappeared on October 2, 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Ankara Turkey. He was collecting divorce papers needed to fulfill Turkish legal requirements prior to remarrying. Although his  fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited for him outside the consulate, but he never reappeared. Khashoggi and Cengiz, a Turkish divorcee** and PhD student, first met at an academic conference in May 2018.

On October 8, Turkish authorities began leaking intelligence to the international media that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered during his visit to the Saudi consulate. This intelligence included surveillance footage on a 15-member Saudi security team. It shows the team arriving in Ankara on October 2, buying 20 large suitcases, visiting the consulate and leaving by plane ten hours later. It also shows two vehicles leaving the consulate a few hours after Khashoggi’s visit, traveling to the Consul’s residence and from there to a car wash. Most importantly it included a surveillance audiotape from the consulate consistent with Khashoggi being injected with a sedative, suffocated with a plastic bag and dismembered with a bone saw.

fter reviewing this evidence, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in June 2019 that Khashoggi was the victim of a deliberate premeditated extrajudicial assassination. He called for Saudi Arabia to extradite the 15-member security team to Turkey to be tried for Khashoggi’s murder.


*Jamal Khashoggi was the nephew of the prominent arms Saudi arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi, known for his role in the Iran–Contra scandal. Jamal was also the cousin of the late Dodi Fayed, the lover killed with Princess Diana in the August 1997 Paris car crash.  Jamal Khashoggi Saudi Arabia Journalist Connect Princess Diana Dodi Fayed

**Cengiz has one son by a prior marriage to Turkish movie star Deniz Oral (see Deniz Oral Biography) and Khashoggi three previous marriages and four children (see Hatice Cengiz Biography)

The Spy in Your Phone

The Spy in Your Phone

Al Jazeera (2021)

Film Review

This film concerns Al Jazeera reporter Tamer Almisshal, who learned in mid-2020 that advanced phone spyware was collecting all his passwords, texts, emails and social media posts. He sought help from Citizen’s Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. They discovered his phone had been hacked by Israeli-made Pegasus software. The latter is marketed by the Israeli company NSO Group to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to monitor dissident journalists and human rights activists.

Al Jazeera believes that Saudi Arabia used Pegasus to track the movements of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (prior to murdering him in 2018). They believe UAE hacked Almisshal’s phone because of his investigation into the three-year embargo of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and UAE (which ended January 5 – see Arab States Agree to End Three Year Boycott of Qatar.

Citizens Lab ultimately discovered that 36 Al Jazeera journalists had phones infected by Pegasus software.

Citizen Lab first uncovered the existence of Pegasus spyware when it was used to target UAE dissident Ahmed Mansour in 2016. It’s also used to target journalists in African and Latin American countries. Unlike other spyware, Pegasus has “zero click” capability. This means it can download itself (by dialing a phone number) without the user answering, clicking on a link or downloading a file.

The film also reports on a UAE enterprise known as Dark Matter that uses Pegasus to spy on US journalists and activist. The company employs a number of former NSA and CIA officials in their surveillance activities. This, according to NSA whistleblower William Binnie, is illegal without clearance from the contracting agency that employed them.

People who believe their phone is being hacked can contact Citizens Lab at  https://citizenlab.ca/ for assistance.

 

 

Ending Global Corruption: What Are Our Chances?

BBC iPlayer - Cant Get You Out of My Head

I Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Part 6 Are We Pigeon? Or Are We Dancer?

Directed by Adam Curtis (2021)

Film Review

The final episode in Adam Curtis’ I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind series focuses on complexity theory. According to the theory, because human beings are part of a complicated system they can never totally understand, our conscious thoughts have nothing to do with our actions. Therefore, it concludes, social activists have no hope of ending corruption and human suffering in modern day society.

Until the total commercialization of the Internet that occurred after 2010, Silicon Valley icons believed the Internet could be used for social change. This by enabling large groups of people to share information outside the control of corporate and political elites. 

Curtis covers the 1999 rise of Putin, who Curtis describes as the ultimate technocrat who believes in nothing. The film portrays all Putin’s political decisions as tactical moves, devoid of any ultimate objective. Throughout his career he has cynically played off popular anger against the oligarchs. When this fails he plays the populist/nationalist card and to appeal to Russia’s glorious history and its (alleged) role as the last defense against a corrupt West.

Other key events Curtis covers in Part 6 include

  • The 2001 dotcom crash, which he blames on private banks lavishing money on essentially worthless dotcom companies to drive up their share prices.
  • The CIA torture (at Guantanamo) of former Mujaheddin* operative Abu Zubaydah, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002 despite discontinuing his paramilitary (“terrorist”) activities in 1992 following a severe head injury.  
  • The rise of Dominic Cummings within Britain’s Brexit movement. Cummings believes computers allow us to to use complexity theory to understand the unelected global elite behind globalization and to take back power from them.
  • The rise of corruption in China, in part due to collusion between party and government officials and criminal gangs. According to Curtis, the main purpose of Xi Jinping’s Social Credit policy is to suppress growing popular anger against government corruption.**
  • The role of artificial intelligence (ie allowing computers to write their own algorithms by feeding them massive data) in disastrous decisions (by the financial sector and their regulators) in triggering the 2008 global economic crash.
  • The Russiagate and Qanon conspiracies that dominated media and social media during Trump’s presidency

*The CIA secretly trained, armed and funded the Mujahaddin (under the leadership of Osama bin Laden) in their fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989).

**Social Credit uses a massive public surveillance system to monitor the activities and social interactions with every resident and reward them for “acceptable” behavior with financial benefits and other perks.

 

Due to age restrictions video can only be played on YouTube.

 

The Billionaire Who Nearly Brought Herbalife Down

Betting on Zero

Ted Braun (2016)

Film Review

This is the very sad story about efforts by billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman to end Herbalife’s predatory pyramid scheme by 1) short selling* their stock and 2) pressuring regulators to end their deliberate exploitation of low income and minority communities.

Bloomberg News reporter Christine Richard’s 2011 book Confidence Game describes how Ackman helped to bring down MBIA (Municipal Bond Insurance Association) by purchasing credit default swaps against them. In 2012, she alerted Ackman to a similar scam perpetuated by the multibillion dollar international health supplement company Herbalife. Ackman’s response was to short sell Herbalife’s stock (in an endeavor to drive their stock price down) and to engage in a multimillion dollar investigation and public information campaign to pressure federal and state regulators to take regulatory action.

Herbalife was founded in the 1980s by Mark Hughes. After Hughes died in 2000 from an accidental overdose, former Disney CEO Mark O Johnson took over as Herbalife CEO. Just like other pyramid schemes, Herbalife derives profit, not from selling health products, but from continuously recruiting new distributors – and pressuring them to recruit other distributors.

According to the investigation Ackman commissioned, only 17% of these distributors could make a living selling Herbalife. Forty percent earned less than $1,000 and 40% were left with a garage full of Herbalife products which had passed their expiry date. One reason Herbalife is so difficult to sell is that it’s three to four times more expensive than Slim Fast, the closest equivalent available in pharmacies and supermarkets.

In the US, Herbalife deliberately targets illegal migrants in the Hispanic community, who are reported to immigration if they complain about the way the company treats them. The film profiles a grassroots group in Los Angeles that organized a series of protests highlighting the fraud Herbalife had perpetuated against them. In 2014, they joined a class action suit of 1.5 million former Herbalife distributors. Despite losing an average of $10,000 apiece, the California judge approved a settlement awarding them $10 each.

In 2016 the FTC ruled that Herbalife was indeed a pyramid scheme. The penalty imposed was essentially a slap on the wrist – a $200 million fine and an order to restructure their corporation.**

Ackman’s short selling scheme was defeated the same year when rival billionaire Carl Icahn*** invested heavily in Herbalife shares to short up their stock price. Ackman would exit his short position in 2018.


*Short selling means investing in way to derive income if the stock price falls. When a large number of investors (or a large hedge fund) short sells a single stock, it can force its price to collapse.

**Herbalife was required to reduce shipping costs they charged distributors, to increase their acceptance of unsold product, to crack down on unofficial distributors, and to engage an independent monitor.

***In 2017, Trump appointed Icahn as his key regulatory advisor.

Public library patrons can view the full film free on Kanopy.

The Boeing 737 Max: When Cost Cutting Threatens Passengers’ Lives

Boeing 737 Max: Deadly Assumptions

DW (2020)

Film Review

This documentary concerns worrying shortcuts Boeing took in its development of the 737 Max, resulting in two fatal crashes (and 346 death) in 2018 and 2019. Filmmakers obtained their information from Boeing whistleblowers and from a lawsuit victims’ family filed against the manufacturer. The film also raises troubling questions about the failure of the FAA to adequately enforce safety regulations.

The first Max crashed in Indonesia in October 2018. On investigation, the FAA, identified a potential for the plane’s MCAS software system to malfunction. Statistically  engineers predicted the faulty MCAS could cause one plane crash every three years. Victims of the second, Ethiopia Airlines, crash assert that either Boeing or the FAA should have grounded the 737 Max at this point. However, for some inexplicable reason, both deemed the risk to be acceptable.

According to lawyers for the victims, Boeing began work on the Max in 2011 to compete with the Eurobus Neo. Launched n December 2010, enhanced fuel efficiency made the latter far cheaper to operate than anything Boeing had to offer. Instead of designing a totally new aircraft, to save costs Boeing simply mounted the engines higher on their 50-year-old 737 model. To compensate for the difficulty in manoeuvrability this caused, the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation Software System (MCAS).

The MCAS, in turn,  had an unfortunate tendency to increase the plane’s downward thrust without the pilot’s knowledge The second crash led both the EU and China to immediately ground their Max jets, with the FAA following suit a day later. Although Boeing had warned pilots about potential problems with the MCAS after the first crash, the Ethiopian Airlines pilot was unable to compensate for the downward thrust effect of the MCAS. Again owing to cost concerns, Boeing had resisted offering pilots simulator training on the faulty planes.

Boeing whistleblowers informed filmmakers about other Boeing cost cutting measures that pose potential risks to passenger safety. Examples include 800 airplanes with damaged bolts (caused by using the wrong tool to tighten them), metal slivers in the wiring (that could cause shorts by damaging the insulation) and oxygen masks (on the 787) that fail to deploy 25% of the time.

According to the New York Times, the FAA and Canadian and Brazilian regulators lifted their grounding ban on the Max in  December 2020. The families of those killed aboard the two fatal flights argue the Max is still unfit to fly. For now, American and other airlines allow “anxious” passengers to rebook flights if they wish to avoid the troubled aircraft.

Chappaquiddick: The Tragic Accident that Destroyed Ted Kennedy’s Presidential Ambitions

Chappaquiddick

Directed by John Curran (2018)

Film Review

The first (presumably of many) docudramas about the tragic accident at Chappaquiddick that destroyed the late Ted Kennedy’s presidential ambitions.

In it, Kennedy is portrayed as an extremely insecure and entitled rich brat who lives in terror of his tyrannical father Joe Kennedy. What comes across best in this production is that the persona the world knew as Ted Kennedy was one created for us by a network of extremely shrewd (and cynical) political advisors.

Thanks to their expert “management” of the episode, Kennedy got off with a two month suspended sentence (and one year probation) for leaving the scene of an accident, despite the fact he was driving while intoxicated and his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne could possibly have been rescued had he made immediate contact with the police.*

Prior to watching the film, I was unaware of the extreme pressure on Ted to run for president after his brother Bobby was killed in June 1968. I was also unaware he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980.

After watching numerous documentaries about the event, the version of Chappaquiddick that makes most sense to me is that Kennedy’s car flipped over when he accidentally drove off Dike Bridge into Poucha pond. He escaped from the car but not his passenger Kopechne. According to his campaign staff, he had been drinking at a “cookout” prior to getting in the car. In my view, his high blood alcohol levels were the most likely reason he postponed notifying the police until the following morning.


*I agree with legal experts who believe he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Anyone who belongs to a public library can view the film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

Frackman: Anti-Fracking Activism in Queensland

Frackman: Anti-Fracking Activism in Queensland

Directed by Richard Todd (2015)

Film Review

This documentary concerns “accidental” anti-fracking activist Dayne Pratsky, a Queensland farmer who refused to allow Halliburton to frack for coal seam gas on his farm. When his neighbors’ kids started getting sick with headaches, rashes, and nosebleeds, he organized a grassroots campaign to pressure the government to either ban or properly regulate fracking.

What impressed me most about the film is its similarity to our experience here in Taranaki. Fracking began here about 25 years ago, though the number of wells increased exponentially when skyrocketing oil prices and new horizontal drilling technology increased its financial viability.

As in Australia, foreign oil and gas companies moved into Taranaki with no notification or consultation of local residents. Likewise, in both countries farmers agreed to one or two wells and were suddenly surrounded with 10 or more. Taranaki residents living adjacent to wells are experiencing the same nosebleeds, headaches, rashes (and cancer), as well as the smoke and benzene smell of 24/7 flaring, the deafening noise of drilling and heavy truck traffic, water contamination with toxic chemicals, and atmospheric venting of methane gas and carcinogenic benzene.

The film depicts Pratsky eventually joining forces with Drew Hutton, founder of Australia’s Lock the Gate campaign. Hutton helped us start our own Lock the Gate campaign in Taranki nine years ago. He helped Pratsky organize an inspired protest action in which scores of farmers blocked Halliburton’s access to their fracking rigs with pickup trucks.

Faced with the reality that he couldn’t expose a wife and family to the health risks of living in an industrial fracking zone, Dratsky eventually allowed Halliburton to buy him out and left his his farm.

He remains as active as ever in the anti-fracking movement and supports his former neighbors seeking similar buyouts. As in Taranaki, Queensland farms covered with fracking rigs are virtually impossible to sell on the open market.

Link to Dratsky’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Frackman-Dayne-Pratzky-141386222547945/

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy: https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/frackman

To sign up type “Kanopy” and the name of your local library into your search engine.

Plague of Corruption: The Book Behind Plandemic

Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science

By Dr Judy Mikovitz and Kent Heckenlively JD

Skyhorse Publishing Inc (2020)

Book Review

The banning of the film Plandemic on YouTube and other social medial sites, has caused this book to soar to Amazon’s best seller list in a matter of weeks. As a tribute to her supporters Dr Mikovitz is offering the ebook version free at https://ebooksbag.com/pdf-epub-plague-of-corruption-restoring-faith-in-the-promise-of-science-download/

The book has a long and revealing preface by Robert F Kennedy, Jr, co-founder and chief spokesperson of Children’s Health Defense. The preface is valuable for its succinct summary of the reason Mikovits poses such a major threat to big Pharma’s vaccine industry and the federal agency that allegedly regulate it.

In 2009, Mikovits and Dr Frank Ruscetti published a study linking a mouse retrovirus knownas XMRV (Xenotropic Murine Retrovirus) to the epidemic of chronic fatigue syndrome that essentially appeared from nowhere in the 1980s. Mukovitz, Ruscetti, and other virologists that XMRV entered the human population via vaccines cultured from mouse brain cells. This discovery had the potential of costing the vaccine industry hundreds of millions of dollars if federal regulators forced them to a) screen all vaccines for XMRV and/or b) recall their vaccines.

Instead Big Pharma and federal regulators conspired to falsely arrest and bankrupt Mikovits, while simultaneously destroying her career.

Kennedy’s preface also provides a long list of doctors and scientists who have been similarly persecuted for challenging “official” medical and scientific orthodoxy. The list includes

  • Ignaz Semmelweiss – committed to a mental institution in 1865 (where he died 2 weeks later) for trying to introduce handwashing to prevent child bed fever.
  • Herbert Needleheim – academic career ruined for publishing study linking lead toxicity to brain damage in children in 1979.
  • Rachel Carson – totally vilified in mainstream media for her 1962 book Silent Spring, exposing the dangers of DDT – until President Kennedy defied the FDA and Monsanto by appointing a panel to investigate her findings.
  • Dr Alice Stewart – career destroyed in 1965 when she published paper linking x-rays in pregnant women to childhood cancer.
  • Dr Bernice Eddy – career destroyed for revealing (in 1954) the presence of dangerous live polio viruses in Salk vaccine and (in 1961) the presence of carcinogenic SV40 virus in Salk vaccine.
  • Dr John Anthony – fired from NIH in 1976 for paper concerning lack of proof that flu vaccine prevented influenza.
  • Dr Bart Classen – career destroyed in 2002 for studies linking HIb vaccine to epidemic of juvenile diabetes.
  • Dr Gary Goldman – computer scientist forced to resign in 2002 for study linking chickenpox vaccine to shingles in children.

The book itself chronicles Dr Mikovitz’s harrowing account of being stalked, thrown in jail, bankrupted, and expelled from academia that she describes in the film Plandemic.

For me personally, the most interesting part of the book concerns research into the high incidence of gut problems and autism in children of women with XMRV-related chronic fatigue syndrome. Here Mikovitz credits Dr Andy Wakefield (another doctor systematically vilified for a study linking the MMR vaccine with autism)* for uncovering the “gut-brain” connection.


*The controversy Wakefield generated led him to lose his medical license in 2010. Despite widespread disinformation in the mainstream media (that he was struck off for fraudulent research), the excuse offered by the British Medical Council was that he ordered (allegedly) “unnecessary tests” on autistic children with gastrointestinal disease. As Likovits outlines in her book, Wakefield was vindicated in 2015 when CDC whistleblower Wiilliam Thompson revealed the CDC had actively covered up links between MMR and autism in reporting 2001-2004 studies.

60 Minutes Australia: Jeffrey Epstein’s International Sex Trafficking Ring

Exposing Jeffrey Epstein’s International Sex Trafficking Ring

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking ring and their years’ long battle to bring him and his enablers to justice. The film specifically profiles Virginia Roberts DuFray and Courtney Wild and the New York lawyer assisting them.

Both Dufray and Wild talk about Epstein and his partner Ghislane Maxwell deliberately targeting low income with promises of masseuse training and glamorous new lives. Both women were  flown around the world in Epstein’s private plane (the Lolita Express) to have sex with Epstein’s billionaire friends, politicians and “royalty.”* Both describe threats against their families, ensuring their loyalty and silence. Wild states that Epstein forced her to have sex with other men to “blackmail them so people would owe him favors.**

The documentary goes on to explore charges the State of Florida filed against Epstein in 2005. Despite detailed affidavits from 40 victims, extensive message and flight logs documenting that Epstein was trafficking 13 to 16-year olds to the rich and famous, and the seizure of numerous sexually explicit CDs and photos from his Florida home, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of “soliciting minors for prostitution.”

Instead of serving 45 years in prison on rape and sex trafficking charges, he spent 13 months in a private prison wing. His sentence included work release of 12 hours a day 7 days a week.

The plea deal also granted Epstein full immunity against criminal charges from other, unidentified victims.

It was largely to Wild’s 14-year battle to overturn this immunity provision that pressured federal prosecutors to bring charges against him in 2019. Owing to all the unfortunate “coincidences” that enabled him to commit suicide in a high security prison, the victims’ legal team believes he was murdered. “He knew too much about the wrong people.”

At present the mean legal focus is ongoing victim lawsuits against the Epstein estate, Brislaine Maxwell and French model agent Jean-Luc Brunel (who reportedly procured more than 1,000 girls for Maxwell). Both Maxwell and Brunel have gone into hiding.

The film closes with DuFray describing her 2002 rescue from the trafficking ring by an Australian she subsequently married. She tells her story to ABC Sixty Minutes from her new home in Australia.


*DuFray has provided names of all her abusers in court, but except for Prince Andrew name (already publicly identifying), ongoing litigation prevents her from identifying them in the broadcast..

**The ABC documentary makes no mention of Epstein’s role in a long-established CIA scheme to entrap and blackmail politicians, ambassadors, etc by luring them into embarrassing sexual escapades and secretly videotaping them. See

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case

How ABC’s 20/20 Framed Mumia Abu Jamal for Execution in 2001

Framing an Execution: ABC News and the Case of Mumia Abu Jamal

Sut Jhally and Danny Glover (2001)

Film Review

This 2001 documentary concerns the hatchet job ABC did in their 20/20 feature on Mumia Abu Jamal. In the late nineties, a number of Hollywood celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner and Mike Farrell, brought substantial mainstream media attention to Mumia’s 30+ year battle to win a new trial. In 1999 the West Coast longshoremen’s  union shut down ports from San Diego to Canada to support a new trial for the embattled activist.

When Framing an Execution was first released in 2001, Mumia was still on death row. In 2011, the death sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment.

The intro to ABC 2001 20/20 feature on Mumia is shockingly bloodthirsty in its contention that only the immediate execution of a Black man (already on death row for 20 years) could possibly bring peace of mind to the grieving widow of slain Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner.

The 20/20 program also deliberately omits and/or distorts crucial defense evidence. It also carefully edits statements by Ed Asner, Mike Farrel and Mumia’s attorney Leonard Weinglass to make them seem uninformed, irrational and deliberately evasive.

Evidence had already emerged in appellate hearings that the police coerced seven witnesses who saw someone other than Mumia shoot Faulkner to change their testimony. They also dropped three outstanding charges against the  prosecution’s star witness, prostitute Cynthia White, to reward her for incriminating Mumia in the murder.

The other main weaknesses in Mumia’s conviction are the absence of ballistics evidence (there is no evidence showing Mumia fired a gun at the scene nor that the bullet that killed Faulkner came from his gun) and the alleged confession he made while recovering from critical gunshot wounds. The doctor who attended him continuously in the emergency room and intensive care maintains maintains he was barely conscious and didn’t speak at all during this entire period.

Framing an Execution was filmed a few months before Arnold Beverley confessed, via video (below) and sworn affidavit to being hired, with a friend, to murder Faulkner. According to Beverley, the Mob hired them to kill Faulkner due to his crusading efforts to root out police corruption.

In April this year, Mumia finally won  the right to have his appeal reheard in the Philadelphia Supreme Court.

In July, he won the right to continue his lawsuit against prison authorities for denying him antiviral treatment for his hepatitis C.

In September the prosecutor’s office “miraculously” discovered a box of suppressed evidence related to police witness tampering in a janitor’s closet.