Puppet Masters


U.S. ally President Burkina Faso, Africa's fourth largest gold producer, refuses to step down after protests

© Reuters/Joe Penney
Members of the military run from anti-government protesters outside the parliament building in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 30, 2014
Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore said on Thursday he would stay in power at the head of a transitional government until after elections, rejecting opposition calls for him to step down immediately following a day of violent protests.

The head of the armed forces, General Honore Traore, had earlier dissolved parliament and announced talks with all political parties to create an interim government to take the West African country to democratic elections within a year.

The move came after at least three protesters were shot dead and scores wounded in clashes with security forces as demonstrators attacked the homes of senior members of the ruling party and symbols of Compaore's long rule.

Hundreds of people had earlier stormed parliament, looting the building and setting it on fire, while others ransacked state television, forcing it off the air.

Protests also gripped Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina's second-largest city, and other towns across the gold and cotton-producing country.

Comment: It will be interesting to see what happens next. Burkina Faso, a neighbour of Mali and Niger, is vital to the interests of the U.S.

For more information:

The war on Mali: What you should know

Military occupation of West Africa: U.S. Reaper drone crashes at Niger airport


Top Russian economic boss: Sanctions are helping Russia, Western media is getting this badly wrong

Igor Shuvalov, the top Kremlin official responsible for the economy: Sanctions force companies to modernize, be more efficient, less complacent. We've been saying this for months: sanctions are helping Russia. Western media is getting this badly wrong.
© World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Michael Wuertenberg
Top Russian economic boss: Sanctions are helping Russia...
This is an account of comments made by Igor Shuvalov, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the economy, last week in Sochi.

Western leaders might care to reflect on them and on what Shuvalov reports Putin telling Biden (see the two paragraphs at the end).

This is an extract from an interview to Russia Direct, by the American political scientist, Nikolai Petro.
"Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov put forward the view that, if they last long enough, Western sanctions will be an impetus for modernization.

The very worst thing that the West could do now is to lift sanctions quickly. This would have the short-term effect of telling government officials and the heads of state enterprises that they need do nothing to change.

Russia would be caught in a more stringent liquidity crunch, as it waited for the end of sanctions to take effect, but still could not obtain credit cheaply or quickly. Shuvalov therefore concluded that, "the sooner sanctions are lifted, the worse for Russian modernization."

He went on to list several reasons why conditions are now optimal for Russian modernization: Falling gas prices are forcing Russian producers to be more productive; sanctions are forcing Russian companies to search for new sources of international funding at a time when the emerging economies have more cash liquidity than their Western counterparts; low debt and high cash reserves means that Russian investment programs can continue without foreign borrowing - at most, he said, if further sanctions are imposed, Russia will delay full implementation of current programs for two years.
Light Saber

Putin - a thorn in the side of US imperialism

us imperialism
Is Washington a revisionist power?

The idea that the United States must exercise "global leadership" is rationalized by our interventionists as a necessary prerequisite for maintaining some type of "world order." Who will guard the sea lanes? Who will deter "aggression"? Who will defend the "rules" against those "rogue states" just waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc, if not the United States of America?

No "mainstream" politician dares challenge this mythology, and those academics and popular writers who do so risk being marginalized. Challenging the motives of our wise rulers isn't good for your career: that is, not if you want to have any influence in Washington. And while it's okay to question whether this episode of meddling or that murderous invasion is really in our interest, the benevolence and historical legitimacy of the American empire is not to be questioned. Because, after all, the theoreticians of imperialism say, without the stability enforced by America's military supremacy "liberalism" could not exist.

This is how the world is seen inside the Washington Beltway, where the monuments of Empire loom large and more than half the population owes its livelihood to the Imperium. Outside that bubble of hubris and skyrocketing real estate values, however, the world looks to be quite a different place - as does America's role in it.

To an Iraqi citizen, who has watched his nation be torn to pieces by the American eagle, stability is the last thing he associates with the Americans. To a Libyan who had hopes his country might evolve into something more than Gaddafi's playground, "order" fled the moment the Americans intervened. To a resident of eastern Ukraine who voted in an internationally-recognized election for Victor Yanukovych - and who awoke one morning to discover his government had been overthrown by force - America is anything but the champion of liberal democracy.

But of course none of these peoples - Iraqis, Libyans, Ukrainians - count for much in the Imperial City. Their wishes, hopes, dreams, and opinions are irrelevant to the making of American foreign policy: they are outside the pale, forever exiled to that netherworld separating the West from the rest. And there is no race or nation farther outside that pale than the Russians, who lost the cold war and therefore - in Washington's view - have ceded any power or influence they once had over the calculations of US policymakers.

Russia and the Russians are routinely demonized in Washington: they are the one people it is perfectly okay to hate - unless, that is, you are a member of "Pussy Riot," or a has-been chess champion who's taken up Russophobia as a second career. That is, unless you're a traitor to your own country and allow yourself to be used as an instrument in Washington's hands.

Naturally the number one hate object is Vladimir Putin, who is regularly characterized as either the reincarnation of Stalin, the second coming of Hitler, or, preferably, both. That's because he doesn't recognize the implications of Russia's defeat in the cold war and still seems to think his opinions amount to something in the brave new unipolar world Washington is building.

Russia's pragmatic take on the post-Cold War global order

Political science professor Nicolai Petro analyzes the key themes and takeaways from this year's much talked-about Valdai Club event in Sochi, an event that was dedicated to the topic of Russia's role in the post-Cold War world order.
Putin valdai
© Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti
Vladimir Putin speaks to political experts at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, October 24.
This year's meeting of the Valdai Club brought together many of the world's top Russia experts to debate the changing needs of the global security system. Over a three-day period, participants discussed key issues related to Russia's future role in this global security architecture. The final day of the event was capped off by the appearance of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who reiterated many of the same concerns that he originally mentioned in his 2007 Munich speech.

Nicolai Petro

Nicolai Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island specializing in Russian affairs, just returned back from attending the Valdai event in Sochi.

In a Q&A for Russia Direct, he helps to break down the key issues and themes that emerged over the three-day period. In his extensive analysis of Putin's Valdai speech - a speech that many Western media outlets immediately criticized as "anti-American" - Nicolai Petro provides an insider's view of how the Russian foreign policy establishment views the world.

Russia Direct: The theme of this year's Valdai Club was "The World Order: New Rules or No Rules?" Based on what you heard in Sochi, which way do you think we're headed?

Nicolai Petro: Many participants felt that these two assumptions led only to rather extreme outcomes. While the loss of rules leads to the danger of global anarchy, new rules presuppose some sort of coercion, which returns us to the problems of hegemony that characterize the present.

We are in this situation precisely because the current rules satisfy an ever smaller number of states, yet there is no agreement among key international actors on new rules. This results in a transition fraught with perilous uncertainties.

It was suggested during the conference that one way to make this transition safer might be to strengthen regional associations of powers. Within the framework of the United Nations they would be tasked with maintaining order and peace according to rules established by their respective communities. Vladimir Putin picked up this theme in his speech at the end of the conference.

RD: One of the highlights of this year's Valdai Club meeting was the appearance of Vladimir Putin. What were some of the key ideas and takeaways from his talk?

N.P: Meeting the president of Russia is always the highlight of these meetings and he has used the past two meetings to explain Russia's vision of world affairs. In 2013 he elaborated on how a more traditional Russia seeks to advance its values in the world.

In 2014 he elaborated on many of the themes raised in his speech to the Munich Security Conference in 2007. In fact, the headline of one of Russia's leading newspapers the next day read: "Putin transitions from 'Munich Speech' to 'Native Speech.'"

By calling Russia (along with Iran and China) a new "center of evil," Putin says that the West is gradually "sawing off the branch it sits on." The globalization of economics, security and politics will continue, and Russia will expand its contacts with other nations.

If some countries wish to cut themselves off from Russia, then it will be their loss. Russia will simply expand profitable relations with other countries.

Borrowing rhetoric familiar to Americans, he spoke of unipolarity as undermining the system of checks and balances that has existed since the end of the Second World War. The U.S. made a critical error, according to Putin, when it abandoned this system after the collapse of the USSR but did not have anything with which to replace it.

What arose to take its place was American hegemony increasingly suffused with a sense of America's "exceptional" and "indispensable" historical mission. In the absence of any countervailing balance, these ideological motifs in U.S. foreign policy, which have always been present, have become dominant.

The result is a newly aggressive foreign policy that, because it does not see any other nation's interests as constraints upon American action, now poses a direct threat to Russia's vital national interests. This, according to Putin, is what has exacerbated the current crisis in Ukraine.

Russia, according to Putin, would like all major actors agree to restore the principle of balance of power, and to respect each other's national interests. Only in this context can international law work and international cooperation, which Russia says it wants, be resumed.

After Putin's speech, former French Prime Minster Dominique de Villepin commented that no one wants Ukraine to become a "frozen crisis." Personally, I suspect that what political leaders want even less is for Ukraine to become a successful state, if that means that it is conceded to the "other side."

The problem in Russia's relations with the West is therefore not really one of "crisis management," but something much, much deeper. It is the very assumption that, within European civilization itself, opposed to "our side" is "another side" which is its moral antithesis.

It is this assumption that made the Cold War a Manichean struggle, and its persistence is indispensable for future conflict. At present, we are trapped into repeating the Cold War simply because there is no cultural context in Western society for cooperation with Russia - there is no common cultural framework that would allow the West to see Russian values as their own values.
Star of David

Taking its ball and going home: Israeli ambassador recalled after Sweden officially recognizes Palestinian statehood

© AP Photo/ Markus Schreiber
According to Haaretz, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is considering permanently removing Bachman from his position in Stockholm.
Israel's Foreign Ministry has recalled the country's ambassador to Sweden following Stockholm's recognition of the Palestinian state, Haaretz reported Thursday.

Ambassador Isaac Bachman "will remain in Jerusalem until further notice," Haaretz said, citing a Foreign Ministry official. According to the newspaper, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is considering permanently removing Bachman from his position in Stockholm.

According to the Swedish SVT broadcaster, Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom is familiar with the reports, but has not received any official confirmation.

"If this is correct, it is totally unexpected. Israel is using its diplomatic policy tools. But it is clear that it is unfortunate," she is cited as saying by SVT.

Earlier on Thursday, Wallstrom announced that Sweden would become the 135th country officially recognize the Palestinian state. Most European Union members and the United States have not given their official recognition, though some EU members recognized Palestine before joining the union.

Wallstrom stated that Sweden expected criticism from Israel, but hoped the move would be received "in a balanced and constructive way" and that the countries' "excellent cooperation" would continue.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement following the announcement, calling Sweden's decision unfortunate and claiming that it "strengthens radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance".

Sweden becomes first European state to recognize Palestine

Israel's foreign minister says Sweden 'needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA that you assemble at home.'
© Dreamstime
The Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm
The Swedish government officially recognized Palestine as a state Thursday morning, during its morning session. In doing so, it became the first European state to recognize a Palestinian state.

"Today the government takes the decision to recognize the state of Palestine," Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in the Dagens Nyheter daily, AFP reported.

"It is an important step that confirms the Palestinians' right to self-determination," she added.

"Through our recognition we want, first of all, to give our support to moderate forces among the Palestinians," Wallstrom wrote, according to DPA.

Sweden considered that criteria in international law for recognizing a Palestinian state "are met," she said. Although the borders are not defined, there is a government that can "show inner and outer control."

Wallstrom wrote that "Sweden has earlier recognized states - Croatia in 1992 and Kosovo in 2008 - although they actually lacked control over parts of their territory. Like them, Palestine is a special case."

EU holds largest-ever cyber-security exercise

Cyber Attacks
© Inconnu
Cyber-attack: Thursday's one-day exercise involving 29 countries and 200 agencies dealt with attack scenarios against "critical infrastructure."
The European Union on Thursday carried out its biggest exercise to prevent cyber-attacks on Europe's public utilities and communications networks.

The director of the European Network and Information Security Agency, Udo Helmbrecht, told The Associated Press that Thursday's one-day exercise involving 29 countries and 200 agencies dealt with attack scenarios against "critical infrastructure."

Helmbrecht said European countries were working to improve their coordination between national security agencies and to further standardize protective software and methods.

Examples of serious past incidents, he said, include a wave of cyber-attacks against Estonia in 2007 that severely affected the country's banks and government agencies, and the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to target energy and industrial sites in Iran.

Comment: see also: Cybersecurity survey Major hacking attack in US looms


Milosevic's widow ridicules EU lifting sanctions against her family and former associates of the leader

Mirjana Markovic
© AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File
In this June 27, 2001, file photo Mirjana Markovic, the wife of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, arrives to visit Milosevic at the central prison in Belgrade, Serbia. Slobodan Milosevic's exiled widow has ridiculed European Union's decision to lift a 15-year freeze on assets of the former Serbian strongman, saying that the family has no property outside Serbia.
Slobodan Milosevic's exiled widow ridiculed the European Union's decision to lift a 15-year freeze on assets of the former Serbian strongman, saying in an interview published Thursday that the family has no property outside Serbia.

The EU earlier this week dropped its sanctions against Milosevic's family and several of his former political associates, saying they no longer represent "a threat to the consolidation of democracy" in Serbia.

Comment: Well, we can look at Ukraine to understand how well Western democracy works.

Milosevic's widow, Mirjana Markovic, who was granted political asylum in Russia with their son Marko when Milosevic lost power in a popular revolt 2000, told Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti newspaper that she "laughed" when she heard the news.

"Neither me, nor my husband nor my children had or have any property in the EU countries," she said.

Play-time is over, children: Putin's message to the Western elites is most important since Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' speech

Comment: Putin's speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi last week is getting a lot of coverage, both in the alternative news sphere, and the Russophobic den of lies that is the corporate western mainstream presstitute media. And for good reason. You can read the full speech here, along with Paul Craig Roberts' commentary. See also:

© Aleksey Nikolskyi, RIA Novosti
Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world missed Putin's speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi a few days ago, and, chances are, those of you who have heard of the speech didn't get a chance to read it, and missed its importance. (For your convenience, I am pasting in the full transcript of his speech below.) Western media did their best to ignore it or to twist its meaning. Regardless of what you think or don't think of Putin (like the sun and the moon, he does not exist for you to cultivate an opinion) this is probably the most important political speech since Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech of March 5, 1946.

In this speech, Putin abruptly changed the rules of the game. Previously, the game of international politics was played as follows: politicians made public pronouncements, for the sake of maintaining a pleasant fiction of national sovereignty, but they were strictly for show and had nothing to do with the substance of international politics; in the meantime, they engaged in secret back-room negotiations, in which the actual deals were hammered out. Previously, Putin tried to play this game, expecting only that Russia be treated as an equal. But these hopes have been dashed, and at this conference he declared the game to be over, explicitly violating Western taboo by speaking directly to the people over the heads of elite clans and political leaders.
Bad Guys

Insurance companies start writing 'Ebola exclusions' into policies

© AFP Photo/Simon Maina
As Ebola spreads further from its current epicenter in West Africa, American and British insurance companies have started to adjust their standard policies for hospitals and other vulnerable businesses to exclude the virus.

According to insurance industry insiders, companies needing to insure business travel to West Africa or to cover losses following a quarantine may now deal with revamped policies that will likely increase in price based on the latest Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 5,000 people in West African countries like Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

"What underwriters are doing at the moment is they're generally providing quotes either excluding or including Ebola - and it's much more expensive if Ebola is included," Gary Flynn, an event cancellation broker at London's Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group Plc, told Reuters.

Ebola has had less impact on liability insurance. For instance, in the US, policies that cover the likes of worker's compensation claims are regulated on the state level. Thus, Ebola exclusions are not likely, according to Reuters.

Property and casualty insurers, though, have more at stake and are taking into account the possibilities of heightened Ebola infections.

ACE Ltd told Reuters that its global casualty unit, used for US companies to insure employees who travel abroad, was excluding Ebola on a "case-by-case basis" while underwriting new policies and renewals for some clients with operations in Africa, since there is a "potentially higher risk exposure."

"Business interruption" may be getting the most attention, according to Tony DeFelice, managing director of Aon Risk Solutions' national casualty practice in the US. Such interruptions include possible loss of employees to illness, or quarantine of an airliner or cruise ship due to a case of suspected Ebola or other sickness.