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Skripal case becomes even weirder

British say deadly Novichok chemical 8 times more powerful than any other smeared on front door; Yulia Skripal conscious and talking; freeze Russians out of court proceedings

Alexander Mercouris

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Those trying to make sense of the Skripal poisoning will have their work cut out following the news which have been coming out about it over the past week.

Firstly, the British police have announced that they now believe that Sergey and Yulia Skripal came into contact with the deadly chemical which poisoned them because it was smeared onto their front door.

This announcement has come after weeks of speculation during which a bewildering range of competing theories explaining how the poisoning supposedly took place have appeared in the British media.

These theories have included claims that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were (1) sprayed with the supposedly deadly chemical by a passer-by; (2) sprayed with the supposedly deadly chemical by an aerial drone; (3) contaminated by the supposedly deadly chemical which was brought from Russia in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase where it had been hidden by some third party; and (4) were poisoned by having the supposedly deadly chemical somehow inserted into Sergey Skripal’s car.

The British and other critics of Russia have recently taken to citing as ‘proof’ of Russian guilt the fact that the Russians have supposedly been proposing various theories about who might have poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

The British – who unlike the Russians have control of the crime scene and samples of the poison – have however been at least as busy proposing various theories about how Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned.

In both cases the fact that the Russian media and the British media – though not it should be stressed the Russian or British governments – have been busy engaging in their respective speculations about who who and how Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned is not proof of guilt.

Rather it suggests ignorance, which if anything (especially in Russia’s case) is an indicator of innocence.

As I have said on many occasions, it is the guilty who so far from engaging in a variety of different speculations tend to come up with a single alternative narrative to explain away the facts, which they then pass off as the truth in order to provide themselves with an alibi.

As to the present theory – that Sergey and Yulia Skripal came into contact with the chemical agent on their front door – note the following:

(1) The British police have not said whether the chemical agent was smeared on the outside of the door or on the inside of the door.

If it was smeared on the outside of the door, then it was an extremely reckless act which might have easily poisoned a delivery person to the house such as a postman.

If it was smeared on the inside of the door, then whilst it might have been placed there by a burglar, the greater probability must be that it was placed there by a visitor.

If so then it is likely that either Sergey or Yulia Skripal or possibly both of them have some knowledge of the identity of this person.  That might make the fact that Yulia Skripal is said to be recovering and is now conscious a matter of great importance for the solution of this mystery.

(2) If Sergey and Yulia Skripal really were poisoned with the chemical agent by coming into contact with it because it was smeared on their front door, then that would mean that the chemical agent took 7 hours to take effect.

Russian ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko has claimed that the British authorities have told him that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by nerve agent A-234, a Novichok type agent which is supposedly “as toxic as VX, as resistant to treatment as soman, and more difficult to detect and easier to manufacture than VX”.

I am not a chemist or a chemical weapons expert, but such a slow acting poison seems at variance with the descriptions of A-234 and VX which I have read.

(3) The suggestion that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by coming into contact with the chemical agent on their front door must for the moment be treated as no more than a theory.  It does however appear to confirm the presence of the chemical agent in the house.

If the latest theory that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by coming into contact with a chemical agent smeared on their front door begs many questions, then the news that Yulia Skripal is apparently recovering well from the effect of her poisoning, and is now conscious and speaking and is no longer in intensive care, though extremely welcome, in some ways adds further to the mystery.

It suggests that her contact with the poison was either very slight, or – if the poison was A-234 – that its potency has been exaggerated, or that it was not A-234.

That of course adds to the questions raised by the latest British theory that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by coming into contact with the chemical agent on their front door.

Regardless, the fact that Yulia Skripal is recovering is very welcome news, not just at a human level but also because she is a key witness in the case.

Perhaps, once her recovery is complete, she can answer some of the many unanswered questions about the case.

However Yulia Skripal’s recovery highlights another extraordinary fact about the case.

In the recent proceedings in the High Court where a Judgment was obtained to allow blood samples to be taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal in order to enable the OPCW investigators to research the chemical, Sergey and Yulia Skripal were represented by lawyers instructed by the Official Solicitor, a British official who regularly acts for parties who cannot represent themselves.

The High Court Judge who heard the case – Mr. Justice Williams – granted the Official Solicitor’s request for blood samples to be taken, saying the following

Given the absence of any contact having been made with the NHS [National Health Service] Trust by any family member, the absence of any evidence of any family in the UK and the limited evidence as to the possible existence of family members in Russia I accept that it is neither practicable nor appropriate in the special context of this case to consult with any relatives of Mr Skripal or Ms Skripal who might fall into the category identified in s.4(7)(b) of the Act

(bold italics added)

This is beyond strange given that no less a person than Sergey Skripal’s niece – who lives in Russia with the rest of Sergey Skripal’s family including his 90 year old mother – had previously been interviewed by the British media.

In fact Skripal’s niece was telling the BBC just days ago of her lack of knowledge of Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s condition, and was even being reported as saying on Wednesday that she understood that they had no more than a 1% chance of survival – this just hours before the British authorities announced that Yulia Skripal was making an impressive recovery.

This failure to keep the Skripal family in Russia properly informed of Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s condition and of the taking of blood samples from them, is matched by the refusal of the British authorities to allow the Russian authorities consular access to them notwithstanding that Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen not a British citizen (the Russians say that Sergey Skripal has dual nationality and is also a Russian as well as a British citizen).

This is despite the fact that both a bilateral treaty – the 1965 Consular Convention between Britain and the USSR (of which Russia is legally the successor state) – and an international treaty – the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations – both appear to require the British authorities to grant consular access to the Russian authorities to Russian citizens such Yulia Skripal who find themselves in difficulties in Britain.

The 1965 Consular Convention between Britain and the USSR was moreover presented by the British government to Parliament and came into legal effect in 1968, which presumably makes it a part of British domestic law.

Article 35 (1) of the 1965 Consular Convention reads as follows

A consular officer shall be entitled to propose to a court or other competent authority of the receiving State the names of appropriate persons to act as guardians or trustees in respect of a national of the sending State or in respect of the property of such a national in any case where that property is left without supervision.

Article 36 (1) of the 1965 Consular Convention reads as follows

(a) A consular officer shall be entitled within the consular district to communicate with, interview and advise a national of the sending State and may render him every assistance including, where necessary, arranging for aid and advice in legal matters.

(b) No restriction shall be placed by the receiving State upon the access of a national of the sending State to the consulate or upon communication by him with the consulate.

Article 5 of the 1963 Vienna Convention reads in part as follows

Consular functions consist in:

(1) (a) protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, within the limits permitted by international law;……

(e) helping and assisting nationals, both individuals and bodies corporate, of the sending State;….

(h) safeguarding, within the limits imposed by the laws and regulations of the receiving State, the interests of minors and other persons lacking full capacity who are nationals of the sending State, particularly where any guardianship or trusteeship is required with respect to such persons;….

Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention reads in part as follows

1.With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State:

(a) consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State;

(b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this subparagraph;

(c) consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison,

custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation.  They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgement. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.

2.The rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this article are intended.

(bold italics added)

Article 37 of the 1963 Vienna Convention reads in part as follows

If the relevant information is available to the competent authorities of the receiving State, such authorities shall have the duty:

…..

(b) to inform the competent consular post without delay of any case where the appointment of a guardian or trustee appears to be in the interests of a minor or other person lacking full capacity who is a national of the sending State. The giving of this information shall, however, be without prejudice to the operation of the laws and regulations of the receiving State concerning such appointments;…..

(bold italics added)

(I am grateful to John Helmer for sending me copies of these two treaties)

In other words it appears that the British authorities as a matter of both international law and British law should not only have informed the Russian consular authorities of Yulia Skripal’s condition and granted them full access to her, but they should also have discussed with the Russian consular authorities the application to the High Court for the taking of blood samples from her, with the Russian consular authorities rather than the Official Solicitor representing her in those proceedings.

Mr. Justice Williams, the Judge in the High Court case, was clearly worried that the Russian consular authorities were not involved in the proceedings and that members of Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s family had not been contacted or consulted.

This resulted was this fascinating discussion referred to in paragraph 12 of his Judgment

……As a result of my having appointed a Litigation Friend for Mr and Ms Skripal I raised the issue with the parties of whether this gave rise to any notification obligation pursuant to Articles 36 and 37 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963 as Ms Skripal is a Russian national although Mr Skripal became a British national. In the field of care cases in the Family Court the President gave some guidance on this issue in In Re E (A Child) [2014] EWHC 6 (Fam). Mr Thomas QC submitted that as there is no domestic implementation of Art 37 no obligation arises. He also questioned whether the court could be a competent authority. He noted that the Convention is implemented by section 1 and Schedule 1 of the Consular Relations Act 1968 and that this does not include Article 37. I note that at paragraphs 41 and 44 in Re E (above) the President noted the issue in relation to the effect of Article 37 in public international and English domestic law. Mr Sachdeva QC drew my attention to the context in which the President offered the guidance and that it was guidance only for the purposes of care cases in the family court. Both Mr Thomas QC and Mr Sachdeva QC also submitted that even if (and it is a very big if) that guidance could be transposed into the Court of Protection there was good reason for not imposing a notification obligation still less the other obligations the President identified in paragraph 47 of Re E. I am satisfied for the reasons set out above that there is no notification obligation in law on this court. The nature and extent of any good practice which might be followed in Court of Protection cases where a foreign national is the subject of an application may require consideration in another case. In practice, the Russian consular authorities will be made aware of these proceedings because this judgment will be published. I do not consider it necessary to list the issue for the sort of further extensive argument that would be necessary to enable the court to determine if any good practice guidance should be given.

(bold italics added)

Note that Mr. Justice Williams does not seem to have been told by the lawyers representing the Official Solicitor and the British National Health Service about the 1965 bilateral Consular Convention between Britain and the USSR (see above) whilst the discussion which did take place seems to have been narrowly restricted to a discussion of Article 37 of the 1963 Vienna Convention – with the lawyers telling the Judge that this has not yet been made part of the law of Britain – with nothing however being said to the Judge about what look to me to be the equally important provisions of Articles 5 and 36 (see above).

I am no expert in this area of the law, but it seems to me that Mr. Justice Williams’s unease about the way the British authorities are handling the matter is made clear by the way he went out of his way in his Judgment to say that the Russian consular authorities would be “made aware of the proceedings because this judgment will be published”.

The hearing in which Mr. Justice Williams made his Judgment took place in private, but Mr. Justice Williams specifically decided that the Judgment itself should be made public, as its preamble makes clear

This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the witnesses must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

Perhaps I am wrong but my impression from the Judge’s words is that one of his reasons for deciding to make his Judgment public was because he was concerned that the Russian consular authorities should know about it.

In addition, as various people have pointed out, the lawyers representing the Official Solicitor and the British National Health Service seem to have told the Judge that there was only limited information about Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s family in Russia, and that the Russian consular authorities had made no attempt to contact the hospital where Sergey and Yulia Skripal are being treated.

The claim that the British authorities have only limited information about Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s family in Russia is difficult to reconcile with the fact that Sergey Skripal’s niece had by the date of the Judgment already been giving interviews to the British media (see above), whilst the point about the Russian consular authorities not contacting the hospital looks to me something of a red herring since I presume that the British agency which the Russian consular authorities are contacting is not the hospital but the British Foreign Office.

Now that the Russian consular authorities know of the Court proceedings concerning Yulia Skripal which have been underway it would in theory be open to them to instruct lawyers to apply for them to be joined as a party to those proceedings so that they can represent Yulia Skripal in them.

I have no idea whether they are considering doing so, but I do frankly wonder whether the sudden announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – welcome news that it is – might also in part have been intended to forestall such a step by the Russian consular authorities on the grounds that Yulia Skripal is now in a position to make her own decisions.

Irrespective of what happens in the British proceedings, the Russians are now convening a meeting of the OPCW executive council on 2nd April 2018 to discuss the Skripal case and to demand answers to the questions about the case that they have been asking.

It seems however that the only role the OPCW has in the case is to verify the identity of the chemical agent used.  It is not a competent body to investigate what the British authorities say is a  murder attempt on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, which is currently being investigated by the British police.

The High Court Judgment however appears to confirm that the British authorities are doing all they can to freeze the Russians out of the investigation of the case – which involves an attack on a Russian citizen – and to prevent them from learning any of the facts of the case.

That looks to me not just a violation of due process, but based on the texts of the 1965 Consular Convention between Britain and the USSR and the 1963 Vienna Convention which I have seen also a violation of both British and international law.

Given the increasingly strange look the facts of the case are taking (see above), it is however perhaps not so surprising that the British are reluctant to share with the Russians the full facts of the case.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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