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U.S. sends four Guantanamo prisoners home to Afghanistan

© Reuters/Bob Strong
The frontier road parallels the security fence leading to the Northeast gate at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, March 8, 2013.
Four Afghans held for over a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent home, the Pentagon said on Saturday, the latest step in a gradual push by the Obama administration to close the jail.

The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a U.S. military plane and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the war-torn country since 2009.

With the repatriation of the four Afghans, Guantanamo's detainee population has been whittled down to 132. Several more prisoners of "various nationalities" are expected to be transferred before the end of the year and a further unspecified number in succeeding weeks, according to a senior U.S. official.

Obama promised to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago, citing the damage it inflicted on America's image around the world. But he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles posed by Congress.

Comment: So now if there is an upswing of fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, the US can say "see, it's because we released those prisoners". Closing the prison is a good thing but it is too little too late to clean up the US's reputation around the world.

2 + 2 = 4

Stratfor head: Yanukovich overthrow "most blatant coup in history"

stratfor
In a December 19th interview in the Russian magazine Kommersant, George Friedman, who is the Founder and CEO of Stratfor, the 'Shadow CIA' firm, says of the overthrow of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych that occurred on February 22nd of 2014: "It really was the most blatant coup in history." Perhaps he is saying this because of the videos that were uploaded to the Web which showed it to be so, but this statement by him contradicts the description that is asserted by the U.S. White House and the European Union, and the Western press, which description is that Yanukovych's overthrow was instead just the result of the U.S. Government's $5+ billion expense since 1991 to establish 'democracy' in Ukraine.

Friedman further says that "The Russian authorities can not tolerate a situation in which western armed forces will be [in Ukraine] a hundred kilometers from Kursk or Voronezh [in Russia]", and that the goal of the U.S. is to "maintain the balance of power in Europe, helping the weaker party," which he says is Europe. He furthermore says, "The United States considers the most dangerous potential alliance to be between Russia and Germany. This would be an alliance of German technology and capital with Russian natural and human resources." So: the U.S. is trying to antagonize Germans against Russia. This will weaken both of them. However, that would be not a "balance of power" but an increasing imbalance of power in favor of the United States. The Russian interviewer failed to catch his inconsistency on that.

Comment: Funny how the truth seeps out of the most unexpected places! More on Stratfor:

Network

North Korea says it can prove it wasn't behind Sony hack

Kim Jong Un
© Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un
North Korea has proposed a joint investigation with the United States into the hack attack against Sony Pictures, according to the state news agency, KCNA.

The offer comes as the FBI formally accused Pyongyang of the attack on Friday and US President Barack Obama promised to "respond proportionally" to the online breach.

North Korea says it can prove it has nothing to do with the cyberattack on Sony, the KCNA news release said.

Comment: Certainly it's no mere coincidence that just as the US is 'considering' putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terror an attack is made on a US corporation that the FBI blames on North Korea, with no evidence mind you. Perhaps it has something to do with North Korea broadening cooperation with Russia to prevent dangerous military activities? At the same time, this phony 'terrorist' hack makes for the perfect headline to bury the latest Israeli offensive.

Eiffel Tower

SOTT EXCLUSIVE: Is President Hollande growing a spine? French leader calls for scaling back economic war against Russia

Two weeks ago, French president Hollande decided to make an impromptu visit to Russia's president Putin. The visit in itself was, if not courageous, at least different from Western leaders' previous tactics of isolating the Russian president. The good mood of the Russian president made people wonder if something had happened and whether Hollande had been cured of the Bulgarian symptoms.

Hollande Putin
© EPA/LETA
Has Hollande after the meeting with Putin started to stand up and act in favour of the interests of his country?
At the Brussels summit, which finished yesterday, it was Hollande who voiced the desire to scale back the sanctions regime on Russia. In doing so, he caused a split in EU unity, as Bloomberg reported:
Europe stumbled into a debate over the end of sanctions on the economically distressed Russia after French President Francois Hollande became the first major leader to dangle the prospect of easing the curbs. [...]

Hollande urged the EU to offer early "de-escalation" to reward expected peace overtures by Russian President Vladimir Putin in eastern Ukraine, while others including German Chancellor Angela Merkel put off sanctions relief until a settlement emerges.
It's obvious that the sanctions would hurt the EU badly, but that has been known all along by anyone with two neurons firing, so the timing by the French President is interesting, especially given that Canada and the US have announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, although they have yet to be implemented:
Hollande warned that declining demand from Russia knocks out one of the props of Europe's economy.
No doubt! But the fact that a major European leader dared to question the sanctions regime is significant and made it easier for others to follow suit:
Europe's divisions were on display yesterday, with Austria joining the call for early sanctions relief and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying: "New sanctions? Absolutely no!"
That Poland and the Baltic states want tougher sanctions, or at least to keep the existing sanctions, shouldn't come as any surprise, but their voice in the EU does not carry much weight.
Attention

Paul Craig Roberts - Russia's black swan card(s) and the end of NATO

financial collapse economic
Today Dr. Paul Craig Roberts warned King World News that the Russians are going to unleash what he called the "ultimate black swan" against the West. Dr. Roberts also discussed how a terrifying series of events would then bring the Western financial system to it knees as the banking system completely collapses.

Dr. Roberts: "I was listening to the news today and there were all these self-righteous people just happy as all get out that they had finally stomped Russia into the ground and 'Russia is now finished,' and Russia was broken and 'would soon be an American vassal state where it belongs.' And I was listening to this rot and got to thinking, 'How can people be so utterly stupid?' But they are, and they are just as stupid in Washington.

And in the meantime, as part of this process, Eric, we may see Russia unleash the predicted black swans that bring down the Western house of cards...

"Suppose the Russian government says, 'Well, since the attack on the ruble is political and you guys are attacking the ruble and causing us so much trouble, we are just not going to pay off the next tranche of our debt that comes due early in 2015.'

Comment: Paul Craig Roberts gives a shrewd assessment of the political and economic maneuvering between Russia and Washington. When the facts are laid out it's clear Washington is operating from a fantasy world. Unfortunately, the rest of us in the real world will have to live with the consequences.

Info

Israel bombs Gaza in alleged response to a rocket attack

© Unknown
The Israeli military forces have conducted the first airstrikes on targets in Gaza Strip after the August ceasefire agreement, the BBC Israel reports.

Residents of the Khan Yunis area in Gaza reported hearing two explosions, the Associated Press news agency said.

The attack was carried out on a Hamas infrastructure site in response to a rocket, fired from Gaza several hours earlier, a statement from the Israeli defense reads.

No casualties were reported as a result of the attack.

Israel and Palestine agreed on an open-ended ceasefire, brokered by the Egyptian government, on August 26.

The truce followed an escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which happened in June after Israel laid the blame for the death of three Israeli schoolboys on Hamas, a radical Palestinian Islamic organization and the de facto authority in Gaza. In response, Israel launched its operation "Protective Edge." Over 50 days of hostilities, 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis lost their lives.

Comment: Recently, EU took Hamas off their list of "terrorist" organizations and the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon responded with the following:
The Israeli army might be forced to attack Gaza again, said the Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday, according to the army's radio channel.

Ya'alon met with Israeli soldiers and told them that they need to be ready for another war in Gaza anytime, the Israeli news radio reported. Ya'alon reportedly said, "The army might be forced to attack Gaza with all its power."
And something to keep in mind whenever you hear about 'Hamas Rockets.'
The false image of Palestinians as 'terrorists' who want to 'destroy Israel' is promoted by Israel as a bulwark against the emergence of a genuine movement for Palestinian rights that can be accepted internationally. To perpetuate the idea that Paestinian = terrorist, Israel has to launch periodic 'anti-terrorist' operations against the Palestinian people. When such operations are politically expedient, Israel manufactures a 'provocation' to justify the operation.
See also: Hamas blames 'Israeli collaborators' for launching rockets
The Hamas rulers of Gaza Strip on Tuesday lashed out at gunners who fire rockets at Israel from the Palestinian territory in violation of a seven-week-old calm, calling them Israeli collaborators. "About the rocket-firing, I think those who are responsible are those who collaborate with Israel because there is a consensus by all Palestinian groups to respect the truce," said Dr. Mahmud Zahar, a senior leader of the Hamas movement.
Is the latest attack by Israel another attempt at demonizing Hamas?
Nobody has claimed responsibility so far for the rocket attack, but the former deputy defense minister Danny Danon rushed to announce that the incident once again proves that Hamas, ruling Gaza, is a terrorist organization. "If anyone doubted this then they received the answer now with the [rocket] fire,"Danon said.


Whistle

Where's the evidence? U.S. accuses North Korea for Cyberattack on Sony

© Reuters / Jason Lee
Kim Jong-un.
A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.

The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a "national security matter". Who's national security? Japan's? Canada's? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. "national interest"? Why would the U.S. even consider some "proportional response"?


Comment: Maybe it has something to do with this:
At the same time, though, Obama said the attack should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and prompt lawmakers in Washington, DC to get serious about implementing cybersecurity legislation in the wake of what is only the latest hack to be endured by a major American company.

The White House is anonymously accusing the state of North Korea of having done the hack. It provides no evidence to support that claim and the government of North Korea denied any involvement. The FBI and Sony say they have no evidence for such a claim.

Still the New York Times editors eat it all up:
North Korean hackers, seeking revenge for the movie, stole millions of documents, including emails, health records and financial information that they dished out to the world.

Comment: After stating that the U.S. government has no evidence to implicate North Korea in the hacking, the following New York Times article would admit that the NSA has been trying to hack and infiltrate North Korea's computer network for years. And if that wasn't enough the U.S. government is considering relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Double standards and exceptionalism at work.
American officials have concluded that North Korea was "centrally involved" in the hacking of Sony Pictures computers, even as the studio canceled the release of a far-fetched comedy about the assassination of the North's leader that is believed to have led to the cyberattack.

Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism attack. Sony capitulated after the hackers threatened additional attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie, "The Interview," was released.

Officials said it was not clear how the White House would respond. Some within the Obama administration argue that the government of Kim Jong-un must be confronted directly. But that raises questions of what actions the administration could credibly threaten, or how much evidence to make public without revealing details of how it determined North Korea's culpability, including the possible penetration of the North's computer networks. [...]

It is not clear how the United States determined that Mr. Kim's government had played a central role in the Sony attacks. North Korea's computer network has been notoriously difficult to infiltrate. But the National Security Agency began a major effort four years ago to penetrate the country's computer operations, including its elite cyberteam, and to establish "implants" in the country's networks that, like a radar system, would monitor the development of malware transmitted from the country.


Die

Exploring the possibility of a 'Russian Maidan'

© Unknown
The coordinated manipulation of global energy prices, a NATO build-up in Eastern Europe, and the rekindling of terrorism in Russia's southern Caucasus region all appear to be ever-increasing crescendos toward a much larger event - a "Russian Maidan."

The necessary components of a successful Western bid to overthrow the Russian political order include a political front protesting in Russia's major cities, as well as a full-spectrum economic war to put pressure on Russia's population, increasing dissent as well as swelling the ranks of staged protests Wall Street and Washington put in Russian streets. Another necessary component includes armed components to act under cover of "peaceful protesters" to escalate street demonstrations, prevent security forces from restoring order, and to carry out the actual physical overthrow of these security forces.

These elements could all be seen in neighboring Ukraine - a nation in which America and NATO's incessant meddling is a matter of long-standing public record. The Guardian would admit in its 2004 article, "US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev," that (emphasis added):
...while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.
Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.
Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.
Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.
That one failed. "There will be no Kostunica in Belarus," the Belarus president declared, referring to the victory in Belgrade.
But experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus has been invaluable in plotting to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma in Kiev.
The operation - engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience - is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people's elections.
Not only has Ukraine suffered because of this admitted US-backed political destabilization over the years, but as revealed by the Guardian and other sources, all of Eastern Europe has fallen prey to this brand of foreign-backed subversion, manipulation, and regime change. Considering this documented fact, the prospect of Wall Street and Washington trying likewise in Russia itself is not only possible, it has already been tried before, with likely attempts in the future only inevitable.

Comment: See also: Analyst: U.S. wants to force Russia to capitulate

Christmas Tree

China takes a stand in the U.S. currency war against Russia and offers Putin support

© secretsofthefed.com
China and Russia against the U.S.
Over the past month, attacks on both oil and the Rouble have created economic turmoil around the world, and especially in the economies of Russia and the European Union. And despite the fact that the United States has chosen Ukraine as ground zero for instigating pressure against Russia and the Russian currency, one superpower has sat on the sidelines until today when on Dec. 17, China stepped forward and offered full aid and assurances to Russia in their ongoing proxy war with Washington.

Until yesterday, Russia was believed to be isolated and under immense economic pressures from both the U.S. and Europe over what has been labeled 'aggressions against Ukraine'. However, the underlying truth is that Ukraine has little or nothing to do with the war on the Rouble and on the Russian economy, and the U.S. is simply using the Eurasian country as a scapegoat for Putin's chess moves against the petro-dollar and America's hegemony over the global reserve currency.
Russia could fall back on its 150 billion yuan (HK$189.8 billion) currency swap agreement with China if the rouble continues to plunge.

If the swap deal is activated for this purpose, it would mark the first time China is called upon to use its currency to bail out another currency in crisis. The deal was signed by the two central banks in October, when Premier Li Keqiang visited Russia.

"Russia badly needs liquidity support and the swap line could be an ideal tool," said Bank of Communications chief economist Lian Ping.

The swap allows the central banks to directly buy yuan and rouble in the two currencies, rather than via the US dollar.

Two bankers close to the People's Bank of China said it was meant to reduce the role of the US dollar if China and Russia need to help each other overcome a liquidity squeeze. - South China Morning Post
Most of the sanctions placed upon Russia oil companies and investment banks stem primarily from several ground-breaking agreements the Eurasian state has made this year to facilitate the selling of oil and other products in currencies other than the dollar.

Comment: See also SOTT Editor Aeneas Georg's article, as well as the following:

China will not give up its partnership with Russia

Is 'isolated' Russia about to be bailed out by the world's largest economy China?

Cloud Grey

Analyst: U.S. wants to force Russia to capitulate

U.S. President Barack Obama
© Reuters/Jason Reed
Poster child of the U.S. Empire
The US strategy of economic sanctions against Russia is designed to create a "permanent war zone" in that region and cause chaos in the Russian economy, a geopolitical analyst in Europe says.

"When we are looking at the strategy of the US towards Russia, it is to force Russia to capitulate," said Joaquin Flores, director of the Center for Syncretic Studies in Belgrade, Serbia.

"Ultimately, one thing they would like to do is to create a permanent war zone or a permanent area of armed conflict right in its historical sphere of influence," Flores told Press TV on Friday.

The US is also looking to "create chaos within its economic system which is aimed at getting different elements of the elites in economic power circles in Russia to turn against the government and to side with the US interest," he indicated.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama signed a new Russian sanctions bill into law over the crisis in Ukraine.

Ties between United States and Russia have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine. The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Russia, however, denies the accusation.

Tensions between Washington and Moscow began to escalate in April after the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea seceded from Ukraine and reunited with the Russian Federation following a referendum a month earlier.

Comment: See also: SOTT Exclusive: U.S. Congress anti-Russia law pulls the Empire of Chaos deeper into the black hole of its own making

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