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Tue, 17 Jul 2018
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MIB

Trump circles reportedly hired Israeli spy company 'Black Cube' to dig up dirt on Iran deal negotiators

Israeli Black Cube
Someone tipped off the Observer, the Guardian's Sunday edition, about an attempt of Donald Trump flunkies to find dirt about the people who negotiated the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran. An Israeli spy company was hired to set up traps. One of the victims describes how that happened. The modus operandi seems similar to one described in another dirty story which surfaced about a year ago. The company, not named by the Observer, in question is Black Cube.

The Observer: Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for 'dirty ops' on Iran arms deal
Aides to Donald Trump, the US president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a "dirty ops" campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to "get dirt" on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama's top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.
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Sources said that officials linked to Trump's team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president.
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According to incendiary documents seen by the Observer, investigators contracted by the private intelligence agency were told to dig into the personal lives and political careers of Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Kahl, a national security adviser to the former vice-president Joe Biden. Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal.
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Both Rhodes and Kahl said they had no idea of the campaign against them.

Quenelle

Judge mulls dismissal of Manafort charges as he slams Mueller for overreach

manafort
© Alex Wong/Getty Images
Like most motions to dismiss, Paul Manafort's was initially viewed as a long-shot bid to win the political operative his freedom and get out from under the thumb of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

But after today's hearing on a motion to dismiss filed by Manafort's lawyers, it's looking increasingly likely that Manafort could escape his charges - and be free of his ankle bracelets - because in a surprising rebuke of Mueller's "overreach", Eastern District of Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee, said Mueller shouldn't have "unfettered power" to prosecute over charges that have nothing to do with collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Ellis said he's concerned Mueller is only pursuing charges against Manafort (and presumably other individuals) to pressure them into turning on Trump. The Judge added that the charges brought against Manafort didn't appear to stem from Mueller's collusion probe. Instead, they appeared to be the work of an older investigation into Manafort that was eventually dropped.

Comment: Further reading: Giuliani says Mueller's Russian collusion case is 'dead' - 'Sessions should step in and close it'


Camcorder

New bodycam footage of Vegas shooting shows officer stating 'windows not broken' in Paddock's room

mandalay bay
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is finally starting to release portions of the footage from the body cameras worn by the officers who responded to reports of a mass shooting on 1 October, and the footage that has been made public is showing that officers' accounts differ from the official narrative.

Suspect Stephen Paddock is alleged to have transported dozens of firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition to his adjoining hotel rooms on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel where he broke the windows and used his perch to open fire on a nearby music festival.

In the body camera footage, LVMPD officers can be seen clearing the rooms on the floor, and waking up other hotel patrons who were in bed near where the massacre was said to have been launched and were apparently unaware that any gunfire had taken place. Following entry into their room, an officer informed the patrons in their beds that there was someone shooting inside the casino.

In fact, one of the patrons who sounded like a female seemed shocked a shooting was taking place. She said, "Oh, ok." The tone of her voice seemed to indicate that she had no idea a shooting was reportedly taking place just feet from their room. Also interesting was the officer's order for them to "lock the door." Who were these patrons and why were they not interviews by the press?


Comment: See also:


Fire

Hawaii State of Emergency: Small Tsunami Followed Strongest Quake Since 1975 - SIX Fissures Have Opened up, Forcing Evacuations

hawaii lava fissure
A large, 6.9-magnitude quake jolted Hawaii Island on Friday afternoon, just an hour after another sizable quake, amid an ongoing eruption of Kilauea that's triggered mandatory evacuations in Leilani Estates, sent lava spewing into streets and threatened homes.

Six fissures - each several hundred yard longs - have been confirmed in the Puna subdivision, officials say.

The extent of the damage isn't yet known, but officials did say at least two structures were significantly damaged and a number of roads have been covered in lava or severely cracked.

"Everything is still elevated," said Talmadge Magno, administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense. "It kind of gets you nervous."

The 6.9-magnitude quake, which happened about 12:30 p.m., was the largest in Hawaii since 1975 and generated small tsunami waves around the Big Island. Hawaii County Civil Defense said sea fluctuations ranged from 8 inches in Hilo to 16 inches at Kapoho.


Ambulance

America's post-9/11 wars in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen: How many have been killed?

tripoli nato airstrike smoke
© REX
Smoke is seen after an NATO airstrikes hit Tripoli, Libya
In the first two parts of this report, I have estimated that about 2.4 million people have been killed as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, while about 1.2 million have been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. In the third and final part of this report, I will estimate how many people have been killed as a result of U.S. military and CIA interventions in Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

Of the countries that the U.S. has attacked and destabilized since 2001, only Iraq has been the subject of comprehensive "active" mortality studies that can reveal otherwise unreported deaths. An "active" mortality study is one that "actively" surveys households to find deaths that have not previously been reported by news reports or other published sources.

These studies are often carried out by people who work in the field of public health, like Les Roberts at Columbia University, Gilbert Burnham at Johns Hopkins and Riyadh Lafta at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, who co-authored the 2006 Lancet study of Iraq war mortality. In defending their studies in Iraq and their results, they emphasized that their Iraqi survey teams were independent of the occupation government and that that was an important factor in the objectivity of their studies and the willingness of people in Iraq to talk honestly with them.

Comprehensive mortality studies in other war-torn countries (like Angola, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda) have revealed total numbers of deaths that are 5 to 20 times those previously revealed by "passive" reporting based on news reports, hospital records and/or human rights investigations.

In the absence of such comprehensive studies in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen, I have evaluated passive reports of war deaths and tried to assess what proportion of actual deaths these passive reports are likely to have counted by the methods they have used, based on ratios of actual deaths to passively reported deaths found in other war-zones.

Beaker

Czech president admits Republic tested Novichok, confirming Russian claims and further weakening UK accusations against Russia

Presidente checo, Milos Zeman
© David W Cerny - Reuters
The Czech Republic has apparently produced and tested a nerve agent of the so-called Novichok family, the country's president Milos Zeman told state media. His statement follows an inquiry conducted by the Czech security services.

"One has to conclude that our country produced and tested Novichok, even though [it was produced] only in small quantities and then destroyed," the Czech leader told the Barrandov TV Channel. "It would be hypocritical to pretend it is not so," he said, adding that "there is no need to lie."

The president said that he based his conclusions on a report provided by Czech military intelligence. The report showed that a nerve agent known as A230, which was produced by the Czech Military Research Institute located in the city of Brno, was, in fact, Novichok.

Another report, which was provided by the Czech Security Service (BIS) said, however, that the nerve agent produced and tested in Brno was not Novichok but some other substance. After studying both papers, Zeman still decided to agree with the opinion of the military intelligence, Czech media report.


Comment: Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov pointed out the obvious on Twitter:
"Novichok was produced and stored in the Czech territory in some small quantities. This fact is a crushing blow to London's theory that is already falling apart at the seams," Russian Senator Aleksey Pushkov said in a Twitter post, commenting on the recent revelations made by the Czech President Milos Zeman. "London is confused: Its whole construct is crumbling," the Russian politician added.
But the British media are silent. D-notice, perhaps??


Russian Flag

Russia's strength and innovation is a deterrent against NATO aggression

russia putin
As recent events in Syria suggest, Russia has found an effective way of keeping aggressive Western powers at bay with state-of-the-art missile systems and electronic warfare methods - much of it reportedly developed by young scientists and on the cheap.

War is rarely a pleasant topic, and even less so when it is known that particular conflicts - most regrettably in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, for example - were triggered due to the shameless machinations of foreign players and mercenaries.

Now the world is being held captive audience to yet another predictable Western rerun starring the usual suspects - the US, UK and France. These NATO members, willfully ignoring bona-fide terrorist groups in Syria, are blaming the 'Assad regime' for a series of chemical attacks against civilians - without evidence and formal investigation. To quote Thomas Paine, speaking on a different matter from a much earlier age, "These are the times that try men's souls."

These are also the times, we might add, that challenge men to find ways to address the threat. After all, how many more sovereign states must fall to the Western regime-change fanatics? How long before the regime change juggernaut arrives at Russia's front door? With NATO forces moving inexorably towards Russia's border, these are no idle questions. Thus it was with no small amount of enthusiasm and optimism that an April 13th assault on Syria by the US, UK and France was met with surprisingly successful resistance: According to the Russian military, Syrian government forces, using Soviet-era surface-to-air missile systems, including the S-200 and Buk, shot down 71 of 103 missiles launched by the Western powers.

The Pentagon has denied the claim.

Comment: With a 10th of the US military budget, Russia was able to meet and exceed the military capabilities of the West and still be able to fund social programs and infrastructure. A demonstration of the types of things that are possible when good leadership and careful management of resources are a core feature of its policies. See also:


Network

Wuhan summit between India and China another sign of faltering US global hegemony

xi jinping narendra modi
The anxiety syndrome in the American write-ups on the Wuhan summit is truly tragi-comic. An analyst at the Brookings Institution confidently predicted even before the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping that the event was much ado about nothing. The US government-funded Voice of America in an analysis has now arrived at the same conclusion, after the summit. Why are these American analysts in such tearing hurry to debunk the Wuhan meeting?

It's geopolitics, stupid! The prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report today which says amongst other things that India's defence spending rose by 5.5 per cent to US$63.9 billion in 2017, overtaking that of France as one of the world's top five military spenders. The report estimates that one of the main motivations behind India's plans to expand, modernise and enhance the operational capability of its armed forces lies in its tense relations with China.

From the US perspective, the situation is ideal to advance the business interests of America's vendors of weaponry. Last year, business deals worth $15 billion were chalked up. Any improvement in India-China relations will profoundly hurt American interests. Fueling India-China tensions is a major objective of the US' regional strategy.

Blue Planet

Russia-DPRK-ROK 'peace pipeline' gaining traction thanks to Korean thaw

Moon Jae-in and Vladimir Putin
© Sputnik / Grigoriy Sisoev
The two "peace pipelines" - one carrying Iranian natural gas via Pakistan to India and a second transporting Russian gas via North Korea to South Korea - surfaced as tantalizing ideas roughly a decade ago. They were promptly lampooned as "pipedreams". But the Russia-DPRK-ROK pipeline (RDR) is having the last laugh on its detractors, thanks to the "thaw" on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean President Moon Jae-in telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to personally brief him on the outcome of the inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom last Friday. The Russian readout says that during the conversation, Putin "reaffirmed Russia's readiness to continue facilitating practical cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, including through major trilateral projects in infrastructure and energy."

The South Korean media reported that Putin "stressed the need to take advantage of the success of the inter-Korean summit to launch economic cooperation projects between the two Koreas and Russia" and flagged, in particular, that "connecting railways, gas pipelines, and electric power transmission between Russia and the Korean Peninsula via Siberia will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula."

Earlier, in a statement in Moscow on Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry had welcomed the Panmunjom summit as "a significant step by Seoul and Pyongyang to national reconciliation and the establishment of strong relationships of independent value." The statement said, "We are ready to facilitate the establishment of practical cooperation between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, including through the development of tripartite cooperation in the railway, electricity, gas and other industries."

Recycle

Xi and Modi meet at SCO Summit: It's the Belt and Road Initiative against Washington's Indo-Pacific strategy all over again

Xi Jinping Narendra Modi China India
© AFP/Fred Dufour
Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BRICS Summit in Xiamen on September 4, 2017.


Modi and Xi meeting could have a crucial SCO subplot focusing on security and economic cooperation


All bets are off on the outcome of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's potentially ground-breaking meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this Friday and Saturday in Wuhan.

Things have not exactly started in auspicious mode.

After a meeting in Beijing of foreign ministers represented at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), India, once again refused to support the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the final communiqué.

Every other SCO member - represented by the foreign ministers of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan - did.

So here we go again - back to the interminable, intractable India-Pakistan soap opera.

Comment: This puts Trump's threats to scrap the JCPOA and Netanyahu's accusations against Iran in a new light.

As for India, money talks, at the end of the day. If it's committed to INSTC, it'll find solutions to Kashmir, sooner or later.