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Tue, 25 Apr 2017
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Behind the Headlines: French elections, UK elections, and the Korean Question

With snap elections called for June, the UK joins a plethora of 'civilized' countries going to the ballot box this year. The world as we know it may be falling apart, but at least people can still vote in referenda and elections, which is a good thing, right?

Russian hacking, the 'deep state', anti-establishment candidates, 'terror' attacks, fake polls and media bias; today's election in France has marked similarities with last year's US elections. The same goes for the UK, where the 'unelectable' Jeremy Corbyn runs against the British 'deep state' in June.

Meanwhile, in Trumpland, war against North Korea is 'on the table'. The Neocon-era 'clash of civilizations' between the 'civilized' world and the 'axis of evil' wasn't meant to survive Trump's victory, but it has...

Today on Behind the Headlines we're taking a look at the line-up in today's first round of the French election, looking ahead to the UK election, and assessing the likelihood of an actual showdown between West and East in northeast Asia.

Running Time: 01:32:23

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Info

News report that ISIS 'essentially moved' its Syria HQ from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor province

© Reuters
In a move that may affect the protracted Raqqa offensive, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists have "essentially moved" their so-called capital in Syria to the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, Fox News reported, citing unnamed US defense officials.

The jihadists and their military command are now centered some 140 kilometers southeast of the city of Raqqa, the US media report claimed.

Saying that the move came in the wake of increased pressure from the US-backed Syrian fighters, the report claimed that the IS "government" is no longer in Raqqa.


USA

United States is the undisputed champion in election meddling

80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000.

With the entire "Russia interfered in US democracy" story collapsing, Jimmy Dore reminds us which country is the undisputed champion in election meddling.

The Carnegie Mellon University study does NOT even include coups and attempts at regime change.

The study just counts when the United States is trying directly to influence an election for one of the sides. Imagine the results if coups, regime change operations, invasions, sanctions, and bombings were added to the final tally.


Eye 1

Turkey will halt refugee deal if EU rejects Ankara's new visa liberalization scheme - minister

© Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters
The vexed migrant deal between Turkey and the EU to alleviate the refugee flows into Europe will be in jeopardy if Brussels fails to agree on the new visa liberalization scheme to be submitted by Ankara in May, the Turkish Minister for EU Affairs has said.

Speaking on the deal's status to CNN Turk on Saturday, minister Omer Celik argued that Turkey is entitled to the visa waiver by the EU since it has been fulfilling all its obligations under the once-celebrated agreement struck by the EU and Turkey at the heat of the European refugee crisis in March 2016.

He then went on to issue what appeared to be an ultimatum to Turkey's EU partners, saying that if they want the have agreement in place, they will have to agree to the for visa-free travel proposal to be laid out by Turkey next month.

"If they accept our proposal, the [refugee] deal will be completed in a positive way, otherwise it will come to a standstill," the minister warned, as cited by Anadolu news agency, without elaborating on what would ensue from the mooted proposal.

Comment: See also: Turkey launches probe into role of former US officials in coup attempt


Bizarro Earth

Monsanto is probably guilty of ecocide and war crimes rules global tribunal

A collaborative group that formed an international tribunal to address accusations of ecocide and human rights violations toward industrial agricultural giant Monsanto issued its findings in a recently released ruling.

The Monsanto Tribunal describes its organization as "an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide." The tribunal, which is comprised of numerous individuals largely from backgrounds in agricultural activism, was formed to "allow for an open deliberation on the company's policies and their impacts." The Monsanto Tribunal held hearings over two days last October in which dozens of witnesses from across the globe provided testimony.

To be clear, the tribunal is symbolic. The group did not seek legal action against the company or any other agricultural corporation with these hearings, and the tribunal did not file a legal complaint against Monsanto. However, the organization stated that it was seeking to analyze the corporation's actions based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and provide an "opinion based exclusively on legal consideration, grounded in international human rights law."

Radar

CENTCOM releases video footage of Daesh using civilian human shields

© REUTERS/ Muhammad Hamed
The Pentagon on Friday released drone video footage allegedly showing the coalition's restraint in striking Daesh targets while terrorists forcibly move civilians to use them as human shields.

According to US Central Command, the 2.5-minute video compresses hours of surveillance footage taken on March 29 at the height of Iraqi military's struggle to liberate the western part of Mosul from the extremist group.

Attention

Israeli strike kills 3 Syrian Defense Forces fighters in Golan Heights

© AP Photo/ Ariel Schalit
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) allegedly have struck the military base of the Damascus-backed National Defense Forces (NDF) in the Golan Heights, killing three Syrian fighters as a result, local media reported Sunday, citing an NDF official.

The NDF base was attacked on Sunday in the Naba al-Fawwar area of the Syrian Quneitra province in the Golan Heights, the Times of Israel newspaper reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the attack, according to the newspaper.

Comment: Israel is stepping up their aggression in the Golan Heights: Israel provides air cover for Al Qaeda (again) - Drones launch airstrikes on Syrian soldiers fighting terrorists


Rocket

Official paper - Korea ready to sink US aircraft carrier with a 'single strike'

© M. Castellano / Reuters
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson
North Korea has vowed to sink the USS Carl Vinson, which is scheduled to arrive in the waters around the Korean peninsula "within days." Meanwhile, Japan said two of its ships have joined the aircraft carrier group for a "joint exercise."

"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," according to Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, as cited by Reuters.

The newspaper reportedly called the vessel a "gross animal," while saying that sinking it would be "an actual example to show our military's force."

Map

Kurdish-led forces control all strategic highways leading to Raqqa

© AFP 2017/ DELIL SOULEIMAN
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have established control of all strategic highways leading to Daesh's de facto capital of Raqqa, the SDF press service said.

"We have cut all the strategic ways of supplying Daesh. We have cut the connection with Iraq, freeing the way to Deir ez-Zor and have gained control over the eastern part of the province of Raqqa. With the attack on the city of Tabqa, all the supply routes have been finally cut, we also established control of the roads of Raqqa-Tabqa and Raqqa-Damascus," Kurdish news agency Firat quoted SDF spokeswoman Cihan Şêx Ehmed as saying.

Moreover, the SDF continue their offensive in the north of the Raqqa province, she said.

"Now Daesh cannot replenish its forces and ammunition. They are besieged in Raqqa from four directions," she added.

Info

Changing narratives? Ex-Trump adviser Page fires back at CNN's 'Russia contacts' claim

© Anton Denisov / Sputnik
Carter Page
"False narratives," not the alleged Russian attempts, were the ultimate form of meddling in the election, Carter Page told CNN, striking back at the network's anonymous report claiming the FBI has proof he and other Trump advisers interacted with Russian agents.

Carter Page made the comments to CNN on Saturday, just one day after the news outlet alleged that the FBI had gathered intelligence last summer suggesting that Russian agents attempted to infiltrate the election by using Trump's advisers to do so.

Page was explicitly mentioned in the original CNN report, which cited unnamed US officials as sources.