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UK's Health Sec Hancock & sister own shares in NHS supplier, deny conflict of interest

© Reuters
The government denied there was any conflict of interest and said the health secretary had declared his shareholding properly
Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns shares in a company which was approved as a potential supplier for NHS trusts in England, it has emerged.

In March, he declared he had acquired more than 15% of Topwood Ltd, which was granted the approved status in 2019.

The firm, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, also won £300,000 of business from NHS Wales this year.

A government spokesman said there had been no conflict of interest.

Comment: This comes as the UK's former PM, David Cameron, has been in the headlines for his own conflict of interest, and he himself admits he should have 'acted differently': UK's Greensill lobbying scandal and former PM Cameron's involvement

It's notable that the very same ministers claiming the country is fighting a deadly pandemic also seem are those doing dodgy deals with their mates:

Bad Guys

Who is really running the Pentagon? Biden reportedly pulled rank on military in Afghanistan withdrawal

© Sputnik / David B. Gleason
Throughout the tenure of three American presidents, the US military maintained a presence in Afghanistan; Joe Biden's decision this week to withdraw all forces by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, sparked concerns among analysts that the move is fraught with a further escalation of the country's ongoing civil war.

A report claims top military brass had advocated for keeping a small US presence on the ground ahead of President Joe Biden's announced decision to withdraw its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan starting on 1 May, aiming to be fully out by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks according to Politico.

Comment: See also:


'Monumental failure'? Obama roasted for saying US achieved 'all that we can' in Afghanistan as Biden reveals exit plan

Afghan troops us soldiers
© REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo
Afghan troops and soldiers with the US Army's 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division take up fighting positions in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar, Afghanistan, July 27, 2010.
Barack Obama was barraged by sarcastic tweets after arguing that President Joe Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan was necessary because the US military had done all it could after nearly 20 years of war.

Biden announced on Wednesday that American forces will leave Afghanistan by September. Explaining his decision, he said that he refused to continue the cycle of "extending or expanding" the US military presence in the country, adding that waiting to create "ideal conditions" for a withdrawal was no longer viable. He noted that four presidents have presided over the conflict and that he was determined not to pass the conflict on to a fifth. Around 2,500 US service members are currently stationed in the country, with thousands more reportedly operating "off-the-books."

The Democrat said that he had spoken to Obama as well as former President George W. Bush earlier in the week about his withdrawal plans.

Comment: The Taliban have reiterated that until all foreign troops are out the country, they will not even begin to work towards a peace agreement; meaning that Biden's 5 month extension on Trumps May 1st withdrawal agreement will only lead to more violence and bloodshed in the country: Biden delays withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan until September 11th

Eye 1

French MPs finally pass draconian 'global security law' that allows 'broad surveillance of the population'

france police
© AFP Photo
Protesters clash with riot police during anti-government demonstrations called by the Yellow Vests, Lorient, France, Feb. 9, 2019.
French lawmakers have given their final support for a controversial "global security" law which has sparked widespread demonstrations.

The bill is centred on "Article 24", which will make it an offence to maliciously share images that identify police officers in operation by face or name.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the law would protect police officers from online calls for violence. Police unions have also expressed their support for the measures.

But the legislation has been widely criticised by both humans rights and media organisations who say that it would curtail press freedom and lead to less police accountability.

Comment: It's rather suspect that the same European countries with the harshest and longest lockdown restrictions are also clearly hell bent on ramming through draconian laws: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Arrow Down

Biden administration walks back claims that Russia put bounties on American troops

© epa/New Statesman/KJN
US President Joe Biden • Russian President Vladimir Putin
The Trump administration was much maligned by mainstream media for not taking seriously enough leaked, anonymous allegations from February 2020 that the Russian government was putting bounties on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan. Turns out that's because it's most likely not true.

In an article from Reuters on Thursday that details sanctions levied by the Biden administration against Russia, officials from the US intelligence sector admit that "agencies have 'low to moderate' confidence in their assessment that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan." this was per a senior US official on a conference call, Reuters reports.

"Translated from the jargon of spyworld," The Daily Beast reported, "that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven — and possibly untrue." Now, even the Trump-hating Daily Beast is saying "Donald Trump might have been right to call it a 'hoax.'"

Comment: Finally we have an acknowledgement of facts over fiction later than sooner. Why did it take so long? The lie has finally served its usefulness and is no longer necessary. The mileage for Biden now comes in refuting it.


US expels Russian diplomats, slaps fresh round of sanctions on Russia as Kremlin warns of retaliation

© Andrew Harnik/AFP
US President Joe Biden
The U.S. has imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia targeting what it calls the "harmful" foreign activities of Moscow.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on April 15 announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sanctions against dozens of other Russian people and companies as it moved to hold the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year's presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.

It also placed limits on the Russian sovereign debt market in steps sure to anger Moscow. In a statement from the White House:
"Today, President Biden signed a new sanctions executive order that provides strengthened authorities to demonstrate the Administration's resolve in responding to and deterring the full scope of Russia's harmful foreign activities."
The sanctions, which Russia swiftly denounced while warning of retaliation, are certain to exacerbate an already tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week in a phone call to "de-escalate tensions" following a Russian military buildup on Ukraine's border, and said the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests" regarding Russian intrusions and election interference.

Biden's executive order authorizes the U.S. government to sanction any sector of the Russian economy and use it to restrict Russia's ability to issue sovereign debt. It also bars U.S. financial institutions from taking part in the primary market for ruble-denominated Russian sovereign bonds from June 14. U.S. banks have been barred from taking part in the primary market for non-ruble sovereign bonds since 2019.

Comment: Is Biden's rare form of diplomacy cruising for a major international bruising? Insulated by NATO, probably not.

With the US and NATO in cahoots, Russia pledges retaliation:
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that it would soon respond in kind to a new package of sanctions unveiled against the country by US President Joe Biden.

Maria Zakharova, the ministry's spokeswoman, told reporters that retaliation against the move was "unavoidable," and that the American ambassador, John Sullivan, had been summoned for "tough talks". "I would hardly have said this before, but I can say it now: It's not going to be a pleasant meeting for him."

Just weeks ago, the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin warned that the US may resort to attacking bonds as part of "a deliberate calculation to create a toxic atmosphere around Russian securities in order to reduce their investment potential." He revealed that Moscow has already been working to create a battle plan to limit the effect such sanctions would have on the economy.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, also tweeted that "we are sending a clear message to Moscow" with the new measures.

However, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's deputy permanent representative to the UN, replied saying that "now it is our turn to 'hold the US to account' for promoting unsubstantiated allegations and unfriendly moves. That's how it works in diplomacy."

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's State Duma, claimed the measures demonstrated that the "whole arsenal of accusations has been exhausted, and the US is going in a circle." He added that "by imposing sanctions, they punish themselves. In the end, they will have to build relationships that they themselves have destroyed."

Responding to the news, the US-led NATO military bloc said that its members "support and express their solidarity" with Washington, and warned that "Russia continues to adhere to a recurring pattern of destabilizing behavior." The statement concluded that its constituency nations "will continue to work in close consultation on how to respond to Russian actions that pose a threat to Euro-Atlantic security."

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, added his voice to those backing Biden's move. "We share the concerns of our partners about the increasing number of malicious cyber activities," the former Spanish foreign minister said. "All actors must refrain from irresponsible and destabilizing behavior in cyberspace."
And, the potential Biden-Putin meeting Joe spoke about? Nyet!
Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the White House's invitation to meet "in a third country in the coming months" would not be possible to organize, at least in the short term. When asked whether the talks were likely to go ahead within that timeframe, Peskov said, "No, a bilateral meeting of course cannot be organized that quickly." He added that the
"issue is still under analysis. It is clear there is no smoke without fire. For now, we will not be commenting on newspaper reports, and we will be waiting to see if any specific decisions are announced officially. The fact that the sanctions are probably being discussed will in no way help the likelihood of such a meeting taking place - that can be stated unambiguously.

"Whether these things hinder [the proposal] or not, that will be a decision for the presidents. There was a proposal from the president of the United States, and then it will be a subject for a decision by the president of Russia.

"As for the sanctions themselves, we condemn any such measures - we consider them illegal - and, in any case, the principle of reciprocity applies here. Reciprocity that allows us to best ensure our own interests are being met."
There has been skepticism in Moscow over whether the White House is prepared for the kind of compromise needed for constructive talks to take place. In comments to journalists a fortnight ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said...the two nations must treat each other as equals.


Afghanistan: NATO plans to have withdrawal, resolute support mission forces completed 'within few months'

© Flickr/ResoluteSupportMedia
Outpost: Charkh District, Logar Province, Afghanistan
The US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said Wednesday it intends to begin pulling its troops out of Afghanistan before the end of the month.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted at a press conference in Brussels:
"Allies have determined that we will start the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces by May 1. We plan to have the withdrawal of all U.S. and Resolute Support Mission forces completed within a few months. We went into Afghanistan together, we have adjusted our posture together and we are united in leaving together. This is not an easy decision, and it entails risks."
The withdrawal was not the end of the alliance's relationship with the Afghan government in Kabul, but rather a "new chapter." According to Stoltenberg, withdrawing NATO troops from Afghanistan is not a risk-free decision, but the alternative would be a bigger, open-ended military presence to withstand growing Taliban pressure.

Comment: Apples and oranges or more fruit salad? Given the chaos and ineptitude of the Biden administration's handling of the US south-border migrant crisis, what should we expect as far as his open door commitment to asylum-seekers from Afghanistan?

Going...going...Spain and Georgia to synchronize troop withdrawal with NATO:
"Spain will synchronize the departure of its troops from Afghanistan with that of the United States and other allies, who have announced today that they will put an end to the 'Resolute Support' Mission coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks," the ministry said in a statement.

Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said that the US-backed withdrawal plan promotes the consolidation of "the democratic progress made in the country" and is sufficient to ensure that Afghanistan would avoid becoming a hotbed for terrorist activities. Nonetheless, the minister added that once the foreign forces leave the country, NATO should pursue a bilateral security and defense agreement with Afghanistan.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said Madrid was committed to continuing to support the Afghan government and voiced its intention to withdraw troops from the country in line with the alliance's strategy.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili wrote on Facebook:

"According to the schedule agreed with NATO, Georgian troops will also leave Afghanistan. We are holding intensive consultations with our strategic partner - the United States. The Georgian contingent will leave Afghanistan in coordination with them."
In a phone call commitment, Biden and Ghani to continue partnership after US boots retreat:
The readout said:
"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Ashraf Ghani. They discussed their continued commitment to a strong bilateral partnership following the departure of US troops from Afghanistan and affirmed shared respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by American forces, alongside NATO allies and operational partners, as well as by the Afghan people and Afghan service members over the past two decades."
The United States will continue to support Afghanistan through continued development, humanitarian and security assistance. Biden said the US will continue to monitor the terror threat in Afghanistan, adding that his administration is refining the US national strategy to monitor and disrupt significant terror threats anywhere they may arise and continue to provide assistance to the Afghan Security Forces.
In other words, the US is going into 'Phase II' of its un-occupation of Afghanistan.

See also:


The Saker: More of Margarita Simonian on Biden's call to the "killer"

Margarita Simonián Directora RT
© Alexei Kudenko/Sputnik
Margarita Simonian, the head of Russia Today
Note: in my analysis yesterday I quoted Margarita Simonian, the head of Russia Today. Today I have asked my director of research, Scott, to translate yet another thought provoking series of comments made by Simonian yesterday. Now that we see that Biden has imposed even more sanctions on Russia (right after his phone call), her words take on an even deeper meaning.

The Saker

In regard to Biden's phone call and his summit with Putin. The phone call took place, so what? Will this negotiation take place, or they won't take place, regardless, it won't change anything in their attitude towards us. Our relations towards them is our reaction to their actions. We don't want the same things for them as they want for us. We don't have the aim to destroy the USA, and to break the United States apart into 50 small independent countries. We don't seek to disarm the US and strip away their nuclear weapons, and to take away their every potential in every way. In other words, everything they are trying to do to us. We don't have plans against them similar to those they, actually, harbor towards us.

Interviewer: We don't even want to democratize them and to demand from them to stop human rights abuse. They elected a new president, but their police officer just again killed an Afro-American. They have unsolved racial problems. Biden criticized Trump for exactly the same Trump criticizes now Biden.


Joe Biden's ambassador to the UN says 'white supremacy is weaved into' the founding principles of America

The US ambassador to the United Nations said that white supremacy "is weaved into [the United States'] founding documents and principles" on Wednesday.

"When we raise issues of equity and justice at the global scale we have to approach them with humility... We have to acknowledge that we are an imperfect union and have been since the beginning and every day we strive to make ourselves more perfect," she said.

Thomas-Greenfield recounted of how the Ku Klux Klan would burn crosses on her neighbours' lawns, and she has for herself seen "how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles."

She also said racism is a problem "of the racist and it is the problem of the society that produces the racist."

Bizarro Earth

Capitol Police ordered to use light touch in riot response, given inadequate equipment, failed to follow up on intel

US Capitol
© Anthony T. Pope/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia
US Capitol Building
Capitol Police officers were instructed by leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics when responding to the mob of pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a new report from the agency's internal watchdog.

In the report, titled "Review of the Events Surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Takeover of the U.S. Capitol," which was obtained by The New York Times, Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton found that three days before the mob attack, officials were warned in an intelligence assessment of the potential for violence on Jan. 6 in which "Congress itself is the target."

"Stop the Steal's propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike," the assessment added, Bolton noted in his report.

Comment: It's become pretty clear by now that on January 6th Capitol police were significantly and deliberately prevented from doing their job properly: Also check out SOTT radio's: NewsReal #32: Trump's Attempted Coup, or Successful Coup Against Trump?