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Putin extends capital amnesty to Russian businesses for reporting foreign profits

businessman
© Yuya Shino / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a package of laws extending a capital amnesty until February 28, 2019. It allows Russians to voluntarily declare assets and accounts in banks.

A total amnesty for all funds returning to Russia follows an anti-offshore bill requiring individuals and businesses to report foreign profits. The bill was aimed at curbing the outflow of capital from Russia, which was estimated at over $2 trillion in recent years.

The bill was explained by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov as allowing people who have made any mistakes in their business activities to declare the property and become completely law-abiding citizens.

Gear

Kurds claim that Russia is the reason Syrian army has not entered Afrin

Kurdish fighter
Afrin is waiting for Damascus to stop the Turkish attack. It seems that the Kurdish project and the Kurdish self-management in Syria are facing their first defeat since 2012, and the gradual withdrawal from the West Euphrates to settle in the areas where the Americans are located and under their umbrella.

Hostage to the next conflict between Russia and America

It is more likely that the turning point that makes all the areas where the Arab presence is intertwined in Kurdish in northern Syria, especially in Manbij, Tel Labid, Ras Al Ain and around it, is subject to a similar fate.

The Kurdish project is locked in Qamishli.

Comment: See also: Kurdish official claims deal reached for Syrian army to enter Afrin - Putin, Erdogan discussing situation - UPDATE


Arrow Up

Michael Flynn could reverse guilty plea in light of government misconduct, federal corruption

mike flynn
On Friday, Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an order in United States v. Flynn that, while widely unnoticed, reveals something fascinating: A motion by Michael Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea based on government misconduct is likely in the works.

Just a week ago, and thus before Sullivan quietly directed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to provide Flynn's attorneys "any exculpatory evidence," Washington Examiner columnist Byron York detailed the oddities of Flynn's case. The next day, former assistant U.S. attorney and National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy connected more of the questionable dots. York added even more details a couple of days later. Together these articles provide the backdrop necessary to understand the significance of Sullivan's order on Friday.

What's Happened in the Michael Flynn Case So Far

To recap: On November 30, 2017, prosecutors working for Mueller charged former Trump national security advisor Flynn with lying to FBI agents. The following day, Flynn pled guilty before federal judge Rudolph Contreras. Less than a week later - and without explanation - Flynn's case was reassigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

One of Sullivan's first orders of business was to enter a standing order, on December 12, 2017, directing "the government to produce to defendant in a timely manner - including during plea negotiations - any evidence in its possession that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant's guilt or punishment." Sullivan's standing order further directed the government, if it "has identified any information which is favorable to the defendant but which the government believes not to be material," to "submit such information to the Court for in camera review."

Comment: For what it's worth, Mike Cernovich claims to have the scoop on what's really going on here:

Here's the text of the tweet thread he posted:
  1. The FBI cannot provide a *clean* history of revisions for the 302 interview with General Flynn. That's why Judge Emmett Sullivan, who is very tough on unethical prosecutors, had ordered the Special Counsel to disclose exculpatory evidence, which would include these revisions.
  2. The IG knows McCabe changed Peter Strzok 302 / notes with General Flynn. Yet issuing a report to this effect would call thousands of FBI investigations into question. It's full on freak-out mode, as no one know how to spin this.
  3. Why did a federal judge order Muller to disclose exculpatory evidence AFTER Flynn pled guilty? Do you know how unusual this is? Flynn waived the right to exculpatory evidence in his plea deal. That's because the 302 was altered, and everyone knows it.
  4. Who is Judge Emmett Sullivan? *This* is Judge Sullivan: "A federal judge took the extraordinary step of naming a special prosecutor to investigate whether the government lawyers should themselves be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing." (Link: Tables Turned on Prosecution in Stevens Case)
  5. "2 Prosecutors in Case of Senator Ted Stevens Are Suspended" Who was the judge who demanded they be investigated - which almost never happens, as federal judges are boot lickers for DOJ? The same judge assigned to Flynn's case. Judge Sullivan.
  6. How corrupt is Obama's DOJ? They cleared the prosecutors who framed an innocent man. (Link: Review board clears U.S. prosecutors accused of botching Sen. Ted Stevens's corruption trial)
  7. You don't think Obama's DOJ framed people? They were caught doing this! It's literally not debatable. The Feds trained under Obama frame people for crimes. (Link: Report: Prosecutors Hid Evidence in Ted Stevens Case)
  8. "The 500-page report by investigator Henry F. Schuelke III shook the legal community, as law professors described it as a milestone in the history of prosecutorial misconduct." This was Obama's Department of Justice. This is who framed General Flynn.



Gear

Officials at Munich Conference agree Russia is the 'bad guy' but also critical to solving world conflicts

Munich Security Conference
© Munich Security Conference / Facebook
European and U.S. officials divided over U.S. President Donald Trump's foreign policy found common cause this weekend in decrying what they say is Russia's covert campaign to undermine Western democracies.

But despite the transatlantic show of anger at Russia during the Munich Security Conference, Western officials and diplomats also acknowledged an uncomfortable truth: that Russia is critical to resolving many of the world's worst conflicts.

From eastern Ukraine to North Korea, Russia's status as a nuclear power, its military intervention in Syria and its veto on the United Nations Security Council mean any diplomacy must ultimately involve Moscow, officials said.

Comment: In other words, Russia has taken on the responsibility of working to establish order from the chaos caused by the United States, and all Western world leaders can do is grumble, hee and haw.


Stock Up

De Mistura: Violence and civilian deaths in Syria worst in 4 years

Staffan de Mistura
© REUTERS/ Xu Jinquan/Pool
The UN special envoy for Syria has given warning that violence in the country is the worst he has seen since taking the job four years ago.

Staffan de Mistura's remarks on Wednesday came as the US and Russia again traded blame at the UN over the ongoing conflict.

"Civilians have been killed on a horrific scale - reports suggest more than 1,000 civilians in the first week of February alone," he told the UN Security Council.

"I have been now four years as the special envoy. This is as violent and worrying and dangerous a moment as any that I have seen in my time of tenure so far."

De Mistura mentioned all the countries now fighting in Syria, including the Turkish operation around Afrin and the Syrian government's continued bombardment of Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.

He talked of developments in recent days, including the US attack on Assad's forces near Deir Az Zor and Israeli air attacks in Syria including on Iranian targets. But both these operations were later defended by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

Comment: It is a bloody legacy, for sure. Yet never does De Mistura (or any other westerner for that matter) mention who started the war: terrorist groups backed by western and Gulf nations. None of these civilians would have been killed if not for the madness of the U.S., Israel, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.


Arrow Down

Mueller indictments show Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead

russia election meddling hillary
© Jeff Koterba / Omaha World Herald
Friday's grand jury indictment in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election destroys Democratic claims that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to win the race, and that the Russian interference cost Hillary Clinton the election. It is now time for Mueller to look into real election interference and collusion with the Russians by the Democrats.

The grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities for their alleged efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. The indictment says the Russians hid their involvement in this scheme and communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign. There was no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the scheme.

Boom. The Democratic Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead.

Mr. Potato

Absurd indictment of 'Russian trolls' deflects attention from FBI and DOJ criminality

Rosenstein
© CNN
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces charges against thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian entities on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. The charges are the latest in the special counsel investigation.
"If the election is 'disrupted' by voters changing their votes due to Russians posting on Facebook, then the problem is not that Russians are posting on Facebook, the problem is that voters are changing their votes based on posts they read on Facebook." Bill H, comments line Sic Semper Tyrannis

"God help America. We've lost our damn minds." Publius Tacitus
Robert Mueller's Friday night indictment-spree, is a flagrant and infuriating attempt to divert attention from the damning revelations in the Nunes memo (and the Graham-Grassley "criminal referral") which prove that senior-level officials at the FBI and DOJ were engaged in an expansive conspiracy to subvert the presidential elections by spying on members of the Trump campaign. The evidence that the FBI and DOJ "improperly obtained" FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign affiliate, Carter Page, has now been overshadowed by the tragic massacre in Parkland, Florida and the obfuscating indictments of 13 Internet "trolls" who have not been linked to the Russian government and who are being used to conceal the fact that the 18 month-long witch hunt has not yet produced even one scintilla of hard evidence related to the original claims of "hacking or collusion".

Sherlock

Reports allege White Helmets planning false flag chemical attack to be blamed on Syrian gov't

white helmets
© AFP 2018/ Msallam ABDALBASET
According to the Arabic-language news channel al-Manar, citing al-Ikhbariyah, the White Helmets group has been preparing for another provocation against the Syrian government.

The White Helmets group, which claims to be an impartial humanitarian NGO saving lives in Syria, has reportedly distributed masks in Eastern Ghouta to protect civilians from a chemical gas attack. The group, also known as Syrian Civil Defense, has allegedly been creating a new plot to blame another chemical attack on the Syrian government, al-Manar reported.

Last week the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation announced that it had received information from a local resident that Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) terrorists and White Helmets were preparing to stage a provocation, involving the use of chemical weapons in Idlib in order to blame the government for the attack on civilians.

Light Sabers

Duterte: Chinese military bases in South China Sea meant to protect against US, Philippines wants rapprochement with Beijing

China's People's Liberation Army
© Reuters
Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy patrol at Woody Island
The Philippines is not concerned about Chinese military bases in the South China Sea, which are aimed to counter US influence, Rodrigo Duterte said, emphasizing that Manila can solve any disputes with Beijing diplomatically.

The disputed waters of the South China Sea have long been a bone of contention between the regional players - China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Beijing has laid claim to nearly all of the resource-rich area, through which an estimated $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year. China reportedly boosted the construction of military bases on artificial islands around the Spratly and Paracel Islands to protect its national interests in the area. The control of the archipelago, which includes about 130 small coral islands and reefs, is key to Beijing's dominance in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, a direct party to the territorial dispute, believes that the Chinese military installations are not intended to confront neighbors, but rather to repel the US from the region. Despite Washington having no territorial claims in the area, the US has always stressed the necessity for freedom of navigation in the area and opposed China's claims. The US and Chinese militaries have had frequent standoffs in the South China Sea.

USA

In the Orwellian US Empire, 'nation-building' really means 'nation-destroying'

syria destruction
© Khalil Ashawi / Reuters
Over the past few days, a controversy has been in raging over what exactly happened near Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria.

To hear the US tell it, "pro-regime" forces launched an "unprovoked attack" on a "well-established" headquarters of the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF), among whom were US personnel. (One denizen of the fever swamps assures us the attack was for the purpose of killing Americans and was approved personally by Russian President Vladimir Putin!) So, naturally, in "self-defense," American planes and artillery struck the "advancing aggressor force," killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Russian "mercenaries."

To hear Russia and pro-Russian sources tell it, Syrian government and pro-government militia were fighting off an SDF and ISIS joint attack when they were hit by American air power, killing an unknown number of Syrians and perhaps five Russian private military contractors. Reports of higher numbers are "a classic example of disinformation," according to Moscow, and were first peddled by sources close to anti-government jihadists, then picked up by Western media.

Whatever the real story is, one thing is clear: the US is hunkering down in Syria to stay. The question is, why?