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Wallonia proposes a new way of negotiating international trade treaties

© Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
Consumer rights activists take part in a march to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Germany.
Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia has proposed a new way of negotiating international trade treaties. The region held up the CETA free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

The so-called Namur Declaration, named after the capital of Wallonia, points out the heated debates around CETA is a sign the way the EU negotiates international economic and trade agreements, and the content challenges a large segment of public opinion.

"This means that the EU is not in a position today to negotiate a balanced agreement with the United States, given the asymmetry between the partners, especially regarding the degree of completion of their respective domestic markets and the unresolved extraterritorial issues of US law," the document said.

The manifesto was signed by university professors from different countries, including the US and Canada. A copy of the three-page document was reportedly handed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before it was published.

Comment: See also:
  • People didn't vote for it: EU Council decides to sign CETA trade agreement and celebrate with Canada
  • Wallonia caves in? Belgium reaches secret EU-Canada trade deal compromise



Rocket

Iran streamlines missile production to make more weapons for less money

© Mahmood Hosseini / TIMA / Reuters
Iran has managed to increase production of ballistic missiles despite budget constraints by streamlining the manufacturing process, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' air and missile force said.

"In addition to enhancing the precision-striking power and quality of ballistic missiles, the Iranian authorities and experts have used innovative and shortcut methods to produce inexpensive missiles, and today we are witnessing an increase in production [of ballistic missiles]," Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said in Tehran on Tuesday, as cited by Fars News Agency.

Meanwhile, Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan said "90 percent of the country's defense systems have reached an acceptable standard and enjoy competitive quality compared with the weapons of advanced countries."

Comment: Compare and contrast: Pentagon learns how to save billions, decides against it - $125bn down the drain


Info

Turkish PM Yildirim on relations with Russia

© Mustafa Aktas, Prime Ministry Press Service, Pool photo via AP
Russia and Turkey are natural partners

In the evening of 15 July, Turkey was subjected to a coup attempt that was unprecedented in our history. Tanks rolled onto Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge and rogue Turkish fighter planes, which had been seized by members of Fetullah Gülen's terror network, bombed our parliament. A well-known news presenter on state television was forced to read out a statement, by terrorists who were wearing military uniforms and directed by FETÖ.

While some 248 of our citizens -- who resolutely took to the streets and, mostly unarmed, faced down the insurgents -- were martyred, 36 FETÖ members who participated in the coup attempt and failed to submit themselves to justice were killed. The coup was an assault on a par with 9/11, the heinous attack on the Bataclan in Paris, or the downing of the Metrojet flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.

Comment: Two main points not addressed by Yildrim is the Turkey invasion of Syria and the military supplies from Turkey to the jihadists. Action speaks louder than words.


Target

The handwriting of Russian Spetsnaz in Aleppo


Russian Spetsnaz
A number of military experts, including foreign ones, are of the opinion that the efficient operations of Russian Spetsnaz are behind the recent big successes of the Syrian Army in eastern Aleppo. A number of signs have been noted which lend to such a conclusion.

First of all, experts believe that the remarkably accurate airstrikes of Russian and Syrian air forces would be impossible without the meticulous work of spotters on the front lines and even behind enemy lines. Insofar as the Syrian military does not have such experience, no one is capable of fulfilling such tasks other than Russian special forces.

Secondly, quite recently - in fact just before the storming of the eastern districts of Aleppo - social media was filled with a wave of reports by militants about the assassination of dozens of the notorious leaders of terrorist groupings. Some of them were liquidated during night time by long-range, large-caliber sniper rifles, while others died from being hit by precision-guided munitions while answering cellphones or using satellite communications...The handwriting of Russian Spetsnaz is also evident in these "technical neutralizations."

Moreover, official sources in the Russian defense ministry have "reluctantly" confirmed that there are Russian Spetsnaz in Syria who are actively sharing their experience with Syrian colleagues. The most experienced officers are working as advisers to the commanders of the Syrian Arab Republic's special task units.

For example, the Russian commander of a group of troops in Syria, Colonel General A. Dvornikov, stated in an interview: "Units of our special operations forces are operating on the territory of Syria. They are carrying out reconnaissance for Russian air strike targets, are guiding planes towards their targets in remote areas, and are resolving other special tasks."

Comment: See also: Did Russian special forces help Syrian army retake Aleppo corridor?


Attention

China fires back in harsh editorial: 'Trump overestimates US power'

© Reuters
President-elect Donald Trump's recent breaking of protocol with Taiwan - followed by brazen tweets directed at China - have led to Beijing's state-run Global Times issuing a scathing criticism of him, shunning their formerly measured approach to the US.


Comment: Interesting that they note the Global Times is "state run". We don't see similar notations when discussing reports from other state run organisations such as the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Commission, NZ Broadcasting Commission etc. Hypocrisy writ large.


Trump stirred outrage last week when he made a phone call out of order to Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, whom China does not recognize as official. This angered Beijing, and spurred Trump to tweet out a series of messages taking issue with Chinese trade policy in response - as well as wondering why he can't hold a phone call with the Taiwanese leader when the US already openly sells it weapons.


Comment: Really? According to Trump, the Taiwanese leader rang Trump, not the other way round.


A new editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid branch of the Communist Party-owned People's Daily newspaper to strike back at the president-elect, questioning his intentions toward Beijing.
"It is uncertain whether Trump went up against China because he had been irritated by some chiding comments on his receiving a phone call from Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, or this was a shrewd step in a well-considered China policy. Anyhow, his response is unexpected," the editorial read.

2 + 2 = 4

China's Ambassador to UN: 'Aleppo ceasefire resolution would only benefit jihadists'

© Brendan McDermid / Reuters
Chinese ambassador Liu Jieyi to United Nations
The idea of an Aleppo resolution in which the international community led by the United Nations would provide humanitarian aid, may look nice on paper. However, only jihadists would benefit from it, military and political analysts told RT.


Comment: A cease fire is no longer necessary for the delivery of aid into Aleppo. Russian has already shipped hundreds of tons of aid into Aleppo and continues to do so. The UN and the US and its allies are noticeable by their absence. Once again, deeds are far more important than just words.


A draft resolution was submitted by Egypt, Spain and New Zealand to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Monday, proposing an initial ceasefire period of seven days, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian cargo and to pave the way for the resumption of settlement talks.

Venezuela voted against the resolution while Angola abstained and 11 members of the UNSC voted in favor of it.

Russia and China vetoed the resolution as a "counterproductive" measure unlikely to produce any "tangible results."

It was done by the Egyptians and a few other countries to push for a ceasefire. But it is very clear that the ceasefires, the previous ceasefires had been used for the jihadists, the so-called moderates ... to rearm and to try to regain field advantage," Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official, told RT.

Comment: As the article mentions, despite the recent track record of failed cease fire deals with the Jihadists, (not to mention the fact that Russia is already delivering tons humanitarian aid to Syria) - 11 member countries of the UN Security Council voted for yet another cease fire!

What could one possibly conclude about the governments of these countries that could help us to understand their vote??




Light Sabers

California lawmakers pass resolution challenging Trump immigration policies

© Carlos Barria / Reuters
California lawmakers are throwing down the gauntlet to President-elect Donald Trump in a struggle to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Local legislators passed resolutions challenging "overly aggressive" immigration policies.

Both chambers of the California State Legislature have agreed to take a stand against Trump's incoming administration, specifically with regards to immigration.

"Immigrants are vital to many of California's industries such as technology, healthcare, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic services," two identical resolutions read. "Immigrants also represent a large percentage of small business owners and create economy prosperity and needed jobs for everyone."

Monday marked the first day of the new legislative session, in which immigration matters were one of the hottest topics on the agenda.

Nuke

France finally investigating hazardous nuclear plant after Greenpeace and numerous calls

© Vincent Kessler / Reuters
A general view shows France's oldest Electricite de France (EDF) nuclear power station, outside the eastern French village of Fessenheim, near Colmar.
France has reportedly opened an investigation into an activity of its oldest power plant, Fessenheim, after Greenpeace reported that the reactor has numerous abnormalities and is endangering people's lives.

The investigation was launched by the Paris Prosecutor's office, AFP reported on Monday evening, citing judicial sources.

The Fessenheim power plant is in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace, eastern France, near the German and Swiss borders.

The plant's activity is endangering the lives of people and it has equipment which doesn't fulfill the requirements of safety, according to the AFP report.

Eye 2

US diplomat: Iran must comply with nuke agreement even if US renews sanctions

© Flickr/ Ninara
Iran must comply with its part of the 2015 nuclear agreement regardless of whether the United States decides to renew sanctions, Democratic ranking member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel told Sputnik.

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif threatened to suspend the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) should the United States renew sanctions against Tehran.

"I do think that Iran has to fulfill some of its promises under the agreement, and I am not sure I want to let them off the hook from that," Engel said when asked if he is concerned about Tehran's statement it will suspend the implementation of the nuclear agreement if the United States extends sanctions against Iran.

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif threatened to suspend the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) should the United States renew sanctions against Tehran.

Engel explained he was not a supporter of the agreement, but once the deal was passed, and Iran needs to live up to its obligations on the deal.

Rocket

Ukrainian officers charged with attempted murder and deliberate shelling of Russian territory

© Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters
The Russian Investigative Committee has charged two Ukrainian military commanders, whose units shelled Russian territory in 2014, with attempted murder of military servicemen and law enforcement officers.

Svetlana Petrenko, the spokesperson for the Russian Investigative Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that the committee has brought charges against Andrey Grishenko, head of the "South" Operational Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and Valeruy Ismailov, commander of Ukraine's 27th Rocket Artillery Regiment. Russian investigators believe that both men were involved in organizing the repeated artillery attacks against Russian territory that took place from June to August in 2014.