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Thu, 27 Jul 2017
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African Horizons of the New Silk Road

The New Silk Road project (the NSR) mapped out by China in 2013 envisaged the development of a network of land transport routes originating in China and interconnecting Eurasian countries, thus creating a single Eurasian economic space. A Maritime Silk Route is being developed within the framework of the NSR. Its mission is to connect Asia not only with Europe but also with Africa. The possibility of construction of a railway network on the African continent as part of the NSR is being currently considered. To engage African countries in the NSR, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Wang Yi paid a visit to selected countries of the continent at the beginning of 2017.

The original Ancient Silk Road revived by China also branched to the African continent, and in January 2017, Mr. Wang seized the opportunity to inform heads of Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Congo and Nigeria of this fact.

Attention

Has Maduro really dissolved the National Assembly in Venezuela?

What on earth is going on in Venezuela?

Since yesterday, the international media has been ablaze with the news that Venezuela's National Assembly - one of the five fundamental branches of the state - has been dissolved, quite literally overnight. De facto making Venezuela, well, a dictatorship, according to the mainstream press.

But is it true that the country's legislative branch has been eliminated in one fell swoop? The short answer is no, not quite.

As usual, there is a grand canyon sized gap between what is being reported in the corporate press and the reality on the ground. Luckily VA is here to clear that up. So let's start with the facts.

Info

No surprise: Donbass Republics report numerous violations of new ceasefire by Kiev troops

© AFP 2017/ ANATOLII STEPANOV
The Kiev forces have violated the new ceasefire in southeastern Ukraine (Donbas) several times in the early hours of Saturday, representatoves of Donbass self-proclaimed republics told Sputnik.

According to a spokesperson of the people's militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), the violation was registered less than two hours after the new ceasefire came into force.

"At 01:20 mortar shelling was registered (88-mm caliber)," the spokesperson said on Saturday morning, adding that a total of 29 shots were made.

Info

French presidential hopeful Fillon dismisses Russian 'interference' in election as 'fantasy'

© Regis Duvignau / Reuters
French center-right presidential candidate Francois Fillon has dismissed allegations of Russian interference in the French election, calling them "fantasies," and saying that Europe should seek a dialogue with Moscow.

"We must avoid these fantasies," the French politician said, referring to the recurring speculation about Russia's alleged interference in the electoral process in France.

"There is enough unwelcome interference in this electoral campaign to not need to go and seek some in Russia," Fillon told reporters, as he outlined his defense program at a press briefing, adding that French politicians "are sufficiently capable" of interfering in the election campaigns of their rivals themselves.

Dollar

White House releases financial disclosures on Bannon and Kushner among 180 high-ranking officials

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
The White House has released financial disclosure documents from 180 officials, showing President Donald Trump's administration staffers raked in millions of dollars last year.

STEVE BANNON

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's financial disclosure report shows he earned between $1.3 and $2.3 million last year, according to the New York Times. Much of that money came from companies backed by Republican mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

Bannon disclosed $191,000 in consulting fees from Breitbart News Network, where he previously worked as executive chairman before joining the Trump campaign. He also disclosed $125,333 in consulting fees from Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm that specializes in predicting the political leaning of voters through "psychographic" profiles based on details of their consumer habits, social media, and other traits.

Radar

Belgium probes own possible involvement in Mosul strike that killed 200+

© Belgian Defense / YouTube
Belgium has opened a preliminary investigation to determine if its jets were responsible for civilian casualties on at least two occasions in Iraq. One probe seeks to establish whether a Belgian F-16 was involved in the March 17 strike which killed over 200 people.

In one of the deadliest single incidents of the Mosul siege, hundreds of people lost their lives in the al-Jadida neighborhood on March 17 from what the initial reports indicated to be a US-led coalition airstrike.

With the exact number of casualties still unclear, Mosul's municipality chief, Abdul Sattar al-Habbo, who was supervising the rescue, said 240 bodies had been pulled from the rubble.

Jet5

Serious Russian Meddling: 'Rebel' Offensive Collapses After Russian Airstrikes Wipe Out 'Entire Groups' of Jihadists in Hama


Roach problem? No problem. Call 1-800-RUSSIA
The offensive launched last week by Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) targeting the Syrian city of Hama has screeched to a halt, according to multiple sources.

One reason for the lack of progress: Russian meddling. (As usual.)

HTS, the "latest incarnation of Al-Qaeda", assembled upwards of 10,000 jihadists in an attempt to seize Hama.

As usual, Russia crashed the party:

(We've found Inside Source to be highly reliable in the past, by the way.)

Bad Guys

'Crushing news': McCain, Graham "deeply disturbed" over Syria policy change

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
US Senator John McCain (L) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R)
Following the announcement by top US diplomats that Washington will no longer pursue regime change in Syria, Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham condemned the administration's shift in priorities, saying it would empower ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the future of President Bashar Assad "will be decided by the Syrian people." Earlier in the day, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington's "priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out."

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), said he was "deeply disturbed" by Haley and Tillerson's pronouncements, adding that their "suggestion that Assad can stay in power appears to be just as devoid of strategy as President Obama's pronouncements that 'Assad must go'."

Syrian people can't decide the future of their country "when they are being slaughtered by Assad's barrel bombs, Putin's aircraft, and Iran's terrorist proxies,"McCain said in a statement.


Comment: Or, in reality, slaughtered by McCain's terrorists.


He also said a "Faustian bargain with Assad and Putin" would betray US allies and partners and "empower ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other radical Islamist terrorists as the only alternative to the dictator that the Syrian people have fought for six years to remove."

Comment: See also: How President Trump and Sec of State Tillerson have changed US foreign policy in 5 ways


Camcorder

Pentagon says videos show ISIS setting up civilians, provoking coalition airstrikes


Many civilians were reportedly killed in an explosion and building collapse in west Mosul.
The Pentagon says Islamic State (IS) militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul are holding civilians in buildings by force and then deliberately attracting coalition strikes.

A Pentagon spokesman on March 30 said the U.S. military will soon release a video showing IS fighters herding people into a building, then firing from the structure to bait coaltion forces.

The comments come as the U.S. military responds to criticism from within Iraq and internationally over a separate incident in which as many as 240 civilians are believed to have been killed.

"What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields," said Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the coalition. "Now it's something much more sinister."

He said militants are "smuggling civilians so we won't see them" into buildings and then attempting to draw an attack.

Comment: The Pentagon is damned if they do, damned if they don't. What they say above is plausible - that's the way ISIS operates. The Jihadis in Aleppo, and all over Syria, do the same or similar things. But the U.S. military will have to do a LOT to clean up their image if they want to really fight terrorism, and do so in a way that keeps what little honor they have intact. Decades of callous disregard for civilian life can't just be washed away. Funny thing is, ISIS knows that, which is why these tactics are so effective.


Info

Mattis: U.S. concerned by Russia's actions in Afghanistan

© AFP
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks to journalists during a press conference in London on March 31.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has expressed concern over Russia's activities in Afghanistan and its interaction with the Taliban militant group.

"We have seen Russian activity vis-a-vis the Taliban," Mattis said during a news conference in London on March 31.

"I am not willing to say at this point if that is manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but, certainly, what they are up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern," he added.

The comments come after U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, told a U.S. Senate committee on March 23 that he had seen evidence of increasing Russian efforts to influence the Taliban "and perhaps even to supply" the militant group.

Comment: While Russia denies "aiding" the Taliban, they probably do have contact. Along with China and Pakistan, Russia is actually interested in finding a solution for Afghanistan that is better than the status quo. And like it or not, that involves dealing with the Taliban. See Andrew Korybko's analysis, for instance: Pakistan's Eurasian Solution for the Conflict in Afghanistan. Whereas the U.S. has been denying a significant ISIS presence in the country, Russia, China, and Pakistan warn the Islamic State is growing in Afghanistan. Newsbud's Peter Lee agrees, and points out how the West's narrative is falling apart: