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Tue, 28 Mar 2017
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Moscow battens down the hatches, preparing budget for era of cheap crude

© Sergey Karpukhin / Reuters
After joining major global oil producers in production cuts to stabilize crude prices, Russia has prepared a conservative budget for the next three years based on oil prices of $40 per barrel.

This is well below the current $50 trading price for Brent crude, a benchmark linked to Russia's Urals blend.

Moscow and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to look at extending output cuts by six months, aiming to keep prices at a reasonable level.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said it was too early to say if there would be an extension, although the pact was working quite well and all the participants were committed to a hundred percent compliance. Global oil stockpiles will grow in the second quarter of this year, predicts Novak.


Trump handed Merkel $375 billion invoice for NATO defenses during recent visit

© Image Tweeted BY @hadyr2es
Donald Trump's refusal to shake Angela Merkel's hand sent Twitter into meltdown mode
A couple of weeks ago we wrote several notes about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's painfully awkward visit to the White House. After meeting in private, the pair sat down in the oval office for a brief press conference where you could cut the tension with a knife. At one point someone from the media asked for a handshake but the request was promptly ignored.

Now, a couple of weeks later, we learn what may have prompted some of the tension in the room between Merkel and Trump that day. According to a new report from The Times of London today, Trump apparently took advantage of Merkel's visit to Washington D.C. to pass her a $375 billion invoice for 'overdue' NATO defense expenses. Per The Hill, Merkel largely ignored the invoice though it certainly seems to have accomplished it's goal of ruffling some feathers.

Treasure Chest

Europe's largest banks made over a quarter of their profits in offshore tax havens last year

© Francois Lenoir / Reuters
Luxembourg is the most notable tax haven around the world, offering secrecy and advantageous tax laws for large corporations.
A report by Oxfam suggests Europe's largest banks have registered over a quarter of their profits in offshore tax havens last year. The continent's top 20 lenders avoided paying tax on an estimated €25 billion, the study finds.

The report follows increased international scrutiny of corporate tax avoidance.

The lenders paid no tax on profits of €383 million posted in seven tax havens last year while booking earnings of €4.9 billion in Luxembourg - more than they did in the UK, Sweden, and Germany combined.

Star of David

Jewish state: US Vice President Pence confirms Trump is mulling Israeli embassy Jerusalem move

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
US Vice President Mike Pence
US Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed that Donald Trump is thinking about moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The VP's statement is another sign of President Trump's commitment to the Jewish state.

"I am proud to say today America's support for Israel's security is at a record level. And President Trump has made it absolutely clear - our commitment to Israel's defense is not negotiable - not now, not ever," Pence said at the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Conference in Washington, DC on Sunday.

"The president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Pence also said.

Comment: See also:
  • #JewishResistance: Protesters block AIPAC conference calling for end to Israel occupation (VIDEOS)
  • Dozens arrested in ultra-Orthodox anti-draft protests


Where's the outcry at massive death toll from US bombing in Mosul?

© Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Smoke rises after an U.S. airstrike, while the Iraqi army pushes into Topzawa village during the operation against Islamic State militants near Bashiqa, near Mosul, Iraq October 24, 2016.
Massive death toll after US air strike on ISIS held Mosul. Will West admit it was wrong about Russian air strikes in Al-Qaeda held Aleppo?

The Iraqi military and its US led coalitions backers have announced what might as well be called a 'humanitarian pause' in the battle against ISIS in Mosul.

This came after confirmation that a US air strike on the city on 17th March 2017 killed 150 civilians. This is how the Guardian reports details of the strike and the pause

Comment: Sputnik reports that 200 civilians were killed in recent US airstrikes, and that the US is playing the 'Iraqis told us to do it' card:
The US-led coalition claims that its airstrike in West Mosul that according to media reports caused casualties among the civilian population was carried out against Daesh militants at the request of Iraq.

The air strike by US-led coalition in West Mosul that according to media reports caused casualties among the civilian population was carried out against the Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) terrorist organization militants at the request of Iraq, the press service of the coalition said in a statement.

"An initial review of strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties," the statement released on Saturday reads.

According to the statement, a formal assessment has been initiated by the coalition in order to examine the allegations about civilian casualties as a result of an air strike.

Earlier this week, media reported that at least 200 people, many of whom were civilians, were killed in recent airstrikes in Mosul.


US forces block Syrian Army advance in preparation for Syria's 'balkanization'

© AP
A U.S.-backed operation near Raqqa aims to "block any advance by Syrian government forces from the west". The Balkanization of Syria begins

The road to Raqqa is now blocked by U.S. forces and their allies. The chances that Raqqa (and the surrounding region) will be returned to Syria are now slim to none. Foreign armies and their proxies are sharpening their carving knives.

People 2

Protests across Moscow & Russia are 'just a political show'

Russians rallied in central Moscow on Saturday
Protests called by liberal opposition activist in Moscow and across Russia attract few supporters.

Some sections of the international media including RT, Russia's publicly funded international TV broadcaster, are reporting today that Moscow and Russia has been hit by a "wave of protests".

Here is a detailed description of the Moscow protest by The Duran's Vladimir Rodzianko, who went to see what was happening for himself (photographs and video provided).

There have indeed been scattered protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other Russian cities. The protests were called by the Russian neoliberal 'non-system' activist and 'anti-corruption' campaigner Alexey Navalny, purportedly in order to protest against the alleged corruption of Russia's Prime Minister and former President Dmitry Medvedev.

Comment: RT reports that some 600 protesters were arrested, but most were released immediately afterward:
An estimated 600 people have been detained in central Moscow during an unsanctioned rally, with opposition figure Aleksey Navalny among them. Similar rallies, some unsanctioned and others permitted by local authorities, took place across Russia. [...]

Police released most of those detained shortly afterward. The usual procedure for such cases of detention (which falls short of an arrest, which has to be sanctioned by a court) is to identify the individuals for potential administrative action and then release them.


On the verge of collapse? EU provides 'no clear answers' to mistakes it admits

© REUTERS/ Tony Gentile
Despite the signing of a declaration on post-Brexit priorities at a celebratory EU summit late last week, most experts warn that the supranational organization faces its gravest challenge yet and that its most highly-touted accomplishments of the last several decades are in jeopardy.

On Saturday, a new declaration honoring the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which led to the EU's foundation, was signed by 27 EU member states during a celebratory summit in the Italian capital.

Despite optimistic remarks by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker about the future of the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, admitted in an interview with the Italian news network Rai that the EU "did not do everything well" in its migration and economic policy and that some relevant issues have yet to be resolved.


CIA whistleblower leaks 47 hard drives exposing Obama Administration spying

The same day House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes gave a press conference stating that Trump and his transition team were under "incidental surveillance," Attorney and founder of Judicial Watch, Larry Klayman, sent a formal letter to the House Committee on Intelligence demanding they investigate the claims and evidence more than 40 hard drives over 600 million pages of information presented under oath at the FBI Field Office In Washington, DC by his client - CIA/NSA Whistleblower Dennis Montgomery.

Klayman claimed in a Newsmax report that Montgomery, "holds the keys to disproving the false claims that there is no evidence that the president and his men were wiretapped," however Montgomery's case was largely ignored.
"When Montgomery came forward as a whistleblower to congressional intelligence committees and various other congressmen and senators, including Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who, like Comey, once had a reputation for integrity, he was "blown off;" no one wanted to even hear what he had to say," the letter said.
This resulted in Montgomery contacting Attorney Klayman, who then approached the FBI:
"Under grants of immunity, which I obtained through Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Curtis, Montgomery produced the hard drives and later was interviewed under oath in a secure room at the FBI Field Office in the District of Columbia. There he laid out how persons like then-businessman Donald Trump were illegally spied upon by Clapper, Brennan, and the spy agencies of the Obama administration.

Montgomery left the NSA and CIA with 47 hard drives and over 600 million pages of information much of which is classified. He sought to come forward legally as a whistleblower to appropriate government entities, including congressional intelligence committees, to expose that the spy agencies were engaged for years in systematic illegal surveillance on prominent Americans, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, other justices, 156 judges, prominent businessmen such as Donald Trump, and even yours truly. Working side by side with Obama's former Director of National Intelligence (DIA), James Clapper, and Obama's former Director of the CIA, John Brennan, Montgomery witnessed "up close and personal" this "Orwellian Big Brother" intrusion on privacy, likely for potential coercion, blackmail or other nefarious purposes.

He even claimed that these spy agencies had manipulated voting in Florida during the 2008 presidential election, which illegal tampering resulted in helping Obama to win the White House."

Comment: See also:


ISIS in Russia: Militants clash with Russian National Guard in Chechnya

ISIS/Al-Qaeda leader Omar Al-Shishani of Chechnya
Battle in Chechnya between ISIS fighters and Russian National Guard confirms organisation has established a presence in Russia.

What the Russian authorities have always feared and warned against finally happened today when early this morning a group of six ISIS fighters attacked a base of the Russian National Guard ('Rosgvardiya') in Chechnya's Naursky district.

A report of the clash from the official Russian news agency TASS drawing on a report from Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee reads as follows