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Tue, 27 Jun 2017
The World for People who Think

Puppet Masters


Biggest privatization deal of 2016 sees 19.5% of Rosneft sold to Qatar, Glencore

© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
Workers gather at a well pad of the Rosneft-owned Prirazlomnoye oil field outside the West Siberian city of Nefteyugansk, Russia.
The sale of Russia's largest oil company Rosneft's share package to the natural resource trader Glencore International and a Qatari sovereign wealth fund for over $11 billion has become the biggest privatization deal of 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

"That is the biggest privatization deal, the biggest sale and acquisition in the world's oil and gas sector in 2016," the president said, referring to the Rosneft share sale during the meeting with the Rosneft CEO, Igor Sechin, a statement published on the official Kremlin website said.

Sechin informed Putin about the closing of the share package sale and said that the Russian state budget will receive more than a trillion rubles ($17.5 billion) from this deal, and the acquisition of the Russian Bashneft oil company by Rosneft in October.


Trump taps wrestling CEO Linda McMahon as head of Small Business Administration

© Mike Segar / Reuters
Linda McMahon speaks to members of the news media after meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., November 30, 2016
Linda McMahon, professional wrestling magnate and member of the World Wrestling Entertainment family dynasty, has been named to serve as head of the Small Business Administration in President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet.

The 68-year-old co-founder and former CEO of WWE ran failed bids in Connecticut for a US Senate seat in 2010 and 2012. McMahon made the announcement over Twitter after a day of speculation that she would be appointed.

Trump applauded McMahon in his announcement of her appointment, noting her contributions to developing the WWE business structure.

Bad Guys

War criminal David Cameron following in the footsteps of war criminal Tony Blair in launching firm to cash in on speaking gigs

© Yves Herman / Reuters
Former Prime Minister David Cameron is following in the footsteps of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown by setting up a firm to handle his business activities, and cashing in on bookings to speak in public.

Staff of the former PM registered The Office of David Cameron Ltd in North Lincolnshire in October.

As with The Office of Tony Blair - the trading name of Windrush Ventures No. 3 LP - it is expected Cameron will use the business structure to manage a lucrative speaking career.

The business was registered by Cameron's former political private secretary Laurence Mann, who is still working for him.

Friends of Cameron told the Times that setting up a business was a normal step for former prime ministers.

Mr. Potato

Johnson says Saudi Arabia is a 'puppeteer' in Middle East proxy wars, Downing Street not amused

© Gareth Fuller / Reuters
Boris Johnson accused Saudi Arabia of abusing Islam and acting as a puppeteer in proxy wars throughout the Middle East, in remarks that flout a longstanding Foreign Office convention not to criticize the UK's allies in public.

The foreign secretary told a conference in Rome last week that the behavior of Saudi Arabia, and also Iran, was a tragedy, adding that there was an absence of visionary leadership in the region that was willing to reach out across the Sunni-Shia divide.

At the event, Johnson said: "There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives. That's one of the biggest political problems in the whole region. And the tragedy for me - and that's why you have these proxy wars being fought the whole time in that area - is that there is not strong enough leadership in the countries themselves."

Better Earth

Putin promises to send enough wheat to Venezuela to stop the food war

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified Tuesday their strategic alliance in economic, military and agricultural matters.

Maduro said that his Russian counterpart had promised in a phone conversation to send its top experts and to build agrarian factories next year in five Venezuelan states in order to provide technology, equipment and capital to combat the economic sabotage being carried out by right-wing forces.

Putin also agreed to renew the military cooperation with Venezuela and to send modern military equipment by 2017, Maduro added.

With the sabotage from local producers, provoking a scarcity of basic goods, Maduro welcomed Putin's offer to send as much wheat as needed to combat the food war.


Spy v. spy: Snowden docs reveal British intel monitors Israelis, with help from U.S. & Jordan

British secret services have been spying on Israel's diplomats, defense firms, and military, according to documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden and examined by French newspaper Le Monde.

Documents found among Snowden's National Security Agency (SNA) leak from 2013, indicate that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) collects intelligence on what the paper called the "number two of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs" and "ambassadors posted in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Abuja, Nigeria." None of the targets were named in Wednesday's article.

Previous reports by the Wall Street Journal and German magazine Der Spiegel have already revealed how US spies monitored the communications of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessor Ehud Olmert.

These new revelations show how Israel's closest political allies - Britain and the United States - are clearly keeping tabs on all areas of Israeli politics, including government departments, civil servants, and diplomats.


Danish MP suggests shooting at migrant boats that stray too close in Mediterranean

© Reuters
In a televised debate shown on Tuesday, Danish MP Kenneth Kristensen Berth suggested that migrant boats that stray too close to European waters should be "shot at." A fierce backlash is now forcing him to backtrack.

Berth, a member of the populist Danish People's Party, made the remarks while taking part in a debate on immigration with the Danish European Movement Chairwoman Stine Bosse. At one point in the conversation, Berth suggested that harsher measures be taken against migrant boats coming across the Mediterranean Sea.

"The only way you can do it effectively is simply to turn the boats away and say 'You can't sail within this national border and if you do, you will either be shot at or be turned around and sailed back,' he said on the show.

In response, host Ole Stephensen asked Berth to clarify if he really meant that boats full of refugees and asylum seekers should be fired upon.

"Just so I can understand if what I am hearing is true, you really want a fairly stringent rule that states that if they come in above a certain mile limit, you have to shoot at them?" Stephensen asked.

"For example," Berth replied. "We need to do what is necessary to ensure that the border is not violated."

Berth's statement shocked his fellow panelists.

"You cannot stand here and say that they be shot in the Mediterranean. I simply refuse to believe it," his debate opponent Bosse said.

Comment: See also: 'Asylum spray' handed out in Denmark by far-right party 'to ward off migrant attacks'

Bad Guys

Views of General Kelly: Lead pick for Trump's head of Dept. Homeland Security

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Retired Marine Corps general John Kelly is escorted by Madeleine Westerhout (R) as he arrives at Trump Tower to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York, U.S., November 30, 2016.
General John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine General is President-elect Donald Trump's likely pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly's son was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Several news outlets, including The New York Times and Reuters, said Kelly was Trump's leading pick to head the Department of Homeland Security.

General Kelly had a 45-year career in the Marine Corps, served in Vietnam, commanded Camp Pendleton troops in Iraq, and headed US Southern Command. Here are five important things to know about Kelly.

Dismissed human rights abuses at Gitmo

While serving as head of Southern Command, which included the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he rejected criticism from human rights activists about the treatment of detainees.

General Kelly told reporters in January 2016, a week before he was due to retire from Southern Command, the remaining 105 inmates held at the US Navy base are "all bad boys."


Fake news: Are magazines that blame Brexit on Russia legitimate?

© imago stock&people / Global Look Press
The rebooted Newsweek has questioned whether the Brexit vote is valid. Rather than admitting that it simply dislikes the outcome, it ludicrously attempts to pin the blame on Russian meddling.

Firstly, a disclaimer. I personally believe voting for 'Brexit' is possibly the most stupid thing a semi-major nation has done in living memory.

At the very time that China, Russia and the US have de-facto established themselves as the three central pillars of an emerging multi-polar world order, it's beyond comprehension that the UK would vote itself into irrelevance.

It's quite apparent that the only way western Europe's diminished powers can compete with the 'big three,' in the geopolitical sense, is by pooling resources and developing a foreign policy independent of Washington. While Germany, France, Italy and the rest may eventually do that, Britain has excluded itself from the possibility and will now fade even further. Welcome to Upper Volta, reimagined by Boris Johnson.


Moscow slams Mogherini for saying EU alone in providing aid to Syria unless she means aid to terrorists

© Maksim Blinov / Sputnik
Residents of Kaukab, Syria during the distribution of Russian humanitarian aid.
Moscow has blasted as "outrageous twisting of the facts" a statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said the EU was the only party providing aid to Syria.

"It's outrageous twisting of facts which ignores what Russia has been doing for a long time," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also officially responded to Mogherini's statement "with surprise," and said that Russia, "unlike other international players, is actively supplying thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to various regions in Syria, including the liberated areas in eastern Aleppo, at the risk of Russian military lives."

"If the high representative [Mogherini] means providing assistance to terrorists and extremists, then we don't participate in this, indeed," the statement added.