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Fri, 19 Jan 2018
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Kushner devastates Russiagate "scandal" with statement (full text and analysis)

Jared Kushner
© ABC News
Jared Kushner's detailed statement published prior to his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee should persuade any reasonable person that there is no truth to the farfetched allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia made in the Russiagate scandal.

Jared Kushner, US President Trump's son-in-law, has published a lengthy and detailed statement setting out his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 Presidential election.

The statement is published immediately prior to Kushner giving evidence to a closed session of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is one of the Congressional committees carrying out the multiple investigations into the Russiagate scandal.

The statement - if its contents are accurate, which I have no doubt they are - exposes possibly more clearly than any other document the sheer absurdity of the whole scandal. In view of this I have attached the complete text of this statement to this article (see below).

Star of David

The long and under-reported history of Judeo-Christian terror around al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli police between the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque in 2012

Israeli police between the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque in 2012.
The current Palestinian protests, related to the shootings at Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem over a week ago and subsequent Israeli altering of security arrangements at the site, could, as some Israeli analysts observe, "turn into an intifada in the blink of an eye." (Nir Hasson in Haaretz).

The Israeli narrative here is that it is trying to prevent "terror" - referring to the shooting attack on July 14 by three Palestinian citizens of Israel on Israeli security forces, killing two Border Police officers on July 14th, with the attackers shot dead on scene. Prime Minister Netanyahu has assured the world that "this is a measure to prevent the use of weapons on the Temple Mount, something that happened for the first time."

But it really depends whose weapons you are counting, and whether Israeli weapons count. And whose 'terror'. There is a problem in defining the event as terror, something that Israel's politicians from left to right are doing - see for example Labor's new leader Avi Gabbay, calling it a "vile terror attack" and the gunmen "despicable murderers". But as Gideon Levy notes in Haaretz, "the shooting of two police officers on the Temple Mount has a motive, a reason and deep roots. But discussing them is considered treason and a justification of terror". Indeed, the gunmen were acting solely against security forces of an occupying power. That the Palestinians were citizens of Israel (over 2/3 of Palestinian citizens of Israel identify as Palestinians and not as 'Israeli Arabs,' as Israel defines them), does not change their affiliation as Palestinians, and Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem does not change the fact that this annexation is considered null and void by international law.


A snub to the US: Iraq seeks Russia's military and political alliance

Iraqi people
Iraq is embracing Iran, Russia and Syria while actively distancing itself from the US and its multiple bases in the country.

Iraq's Vice President Nouri al-Maliki is in Moscow where he openly declared that he seeks a military and political alliance with the Russian Federation. After talks with Valentina Matvienko, the Speaker of the Federation Council of Russia, al-Maliki stated the following:
"It is known that Russia has historically strong relations with Iraq. So, we would like Russia to have a substantial presence in our country, politically and militarily. This way, a balance would be established that would benefit the region, its peoples and its countries".
During a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, al-Maliki spoke of the importance of working closely with Russia in order to avoid Iraq being imposed upon by a "foreign political entity". Given Iraq's close relationship with Iran, the clear country which al-Maliki is warning of imposing undue influence on Iraq is the United States.


FBI seized crushed hard drives from home of Wasserman-Schultz's IT aide

Over the past few months, the story of the Awan brothers has been largely ignored by mainstream media. However, the Pakistani-born brothers Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan are at the center of a criminal investigation by U.S. Capital Hill Police and the FBI. While official charges have not yet been filed, allegations of wrong doing vary from simply overcharging taxpayers for congressional IT equipment to blackmailing members of Congress with secrets captured from emails.

The Awan brothers were Pakistani IT specialists, whom worked for more than 30 house and senate democrats, as well as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The substantial scandal has raised questions about who may have been passed data which the Awans had access to, given Pakistan's history of collaborating with a number of foreign countries who have demonstrated past willingness to influence U.S. politics.


Beijing warns India to not 'push its luck' during tense border stand-off

Indian Army People's Liberation Army China soldiers
© Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
An Indian Army soldier stands in front of a group of People's Liberation Army of China soldiers
China has warned India not to "cling to fantasies" amid a tense border stand-off, which also involves Bhutan, involving disputed territory in the Himalayas. Earlier, China staged live-fire drills in the area while India deployed troops there.

"China's determination and resolve to safeguard national security and sovereignty is unshakable," Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian said in a statement on Monday, as cited by AP and local media. His words come ahead of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"Don't push your luck and cling to any fantasies," Wu said.

Comment: Further reading:

Wall Street

Global oil producers 'in near complete compliance' with Russia's production cut deal

OPEC oil well
© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
Major global oil producers have almost fully complied with the crude production cut deal over the last six month, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Monday.

"The countries showed an unprecedented high level of discipline and compliance, which over six months stands at a level close to 100 percent, and in some countries even more than 100 percent," Novak said.

The Russian energy minister spoke at the OPEC-Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC), a panel tasked with tracking the implementation of the Vienna Agreement, in St. Petersburg.

Stock Down

Reality check: IMF warns of 'fading economic growth' in US & UK

Theresa May Donald Trump
© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
US President Donald Trump (R) talks to Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut its growth forecast for the British and American economies, saying they will expand more slowly in 2017 than previously predicted.

According to the IMF report, the UK will grow by 1.7 percent compared with a previous two percent forecast due to "weaker-than-expected activity" in the first three months of the year.

For 2018 it left the forecast unchanged at 1.5 percent, saying "the ultimate impact of Brexit on the United Kingdom remains unclear."


Pat Buchanan blasts Trump-Russia probe: Media attack as bad as Watergate

Tucker Carlson
© Fox News
Mission creep for Trump Russia probe.

The Mueller probe into Trump's imaginary connection to Russia is expanding without limit or scope, moving now towards investigating Trump family past business dealings with anything and anyone Russian.

Pat Buchanan went on Fox News' Hannity to weigh in on Mueller's special counsel investigation that is a dangerous and open mandate, that is coming after Trump and his family.
"Special counsel's office is targeting the President."
A determined prosecutor with no accountability, time limit, or budget can prove almost anything.


Armed Chinese fighter jets drive off US spy plane over Yellow Sea

EP-3 ARIES signals intelligence plane
A US spy plane flying near the eastern coast of China was intercepted by two Chinese fighter jets and had to change course, US officials said. The surveillance aircraft was flying over international waters between China and South Korea.

The incident took place on Sunday, unnamed US officials told reporters on Monday. An EP-3 ARIES signals intelligence plane was flying about 90 miles (140km) south of the port city of Qingdao, when it was approached by two J-10 interceptors, armed with air-to-air missiles.

One of the Chinese jets flew under the EP-3 and popped up 300 feet (90 meters) in front of the US plane, causing the crew "to take evasive action to avoid collision," according to one official.

The EP-3 Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System (ARIES) is a version of the P-3 Orion spy plane. Both are in service with the US Navy.


Philippines President Duterte warns 'jail or hell' for addicts & dealers in war on drugs

© Romeo Ranoco / Reuters
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte warned those involved in drugs that they face "jail or hell" during an astonishing state of the nation speech in which he attacked critics and advocated capital punishment as "retribution" for crimes.

A year into his presidency, the controversial Philippines leader has been accused of spearheading an anti-drugs campaign which has violated human rights laws and claimed the lives of thousands of people.

In a wide-ranging speech at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Duterte said that since his election in 2016 he has attempted to stamp out addiction and illegal drug use.

Comment: See also: Duterte approval rating rises despite human rights abuse accusations - report