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Bizarro Earth

Britain's 'common' wealth: How London ensures that Africa never prospers

King Charles III and Queen Camilla view dancers at Fort Jesus the UNESCO World Heritage Site on November 03, 2023 in Mombasa, Kenya.
© Getty Images / Samir Hussein / WireImageKing Charles III and Queen Camilla view dancers at Fort Jesus the UNESCO World Heritage Site on November 03, 2023 in Mombasa, Kenya.
The privatization of Africa's state-owned companies is always linked to the US through its financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF, with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programs in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, the British were behind the exploitation, privatization, and eventual collapse of Africa's state-owned companies even before the introduction of the so-called neo-liberal market agenda by the US. The British have been doing this mainly through their Commonwealth institutions, proudly headed by the monarch.

Comment: This above article and the viewpoints shared is only one of many that reveal how Africa is being used or influenced:

For other examples, see About Africa:

Cruise Missle

Russia launches tactical nuclear drills (VIDEO)

Russian army
© RT Video Screenshot
The exercise will involve the delivery of nuclear weapons to troops, covert deployment, and preparations to a strike, the Defense Ministry has saidShare Video

Troops of Russia's Southern Military District launched the first stage of recently announced tactical nuclear drills on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry in Moscow has confirmed.

When announcing the drills a week previously, the ministry explained that the exercise is designed to serve as a deterrent amid continued escalation between Russia and the West, by demonstrating Moscow's ability to respond to any external threats.

It will involve delivery of nuclear weapons to troops from storage sites, arming tactical nuclear missiles, and preparation of missile launches, Moscow announced in a statement on Telegram.

Comment: See also:


Zelensky 'yelling at generals' - The Economist

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky during his year-end press conference in December 2023.
© STR / NurPhoto via Getty ImagesFILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky during his year-end press conference in December 2023.
The Ukrainian president allegedly believes that he is being kept in the dark about the situation at the front

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky believes his generals are hiding the truth from him and has taken to shouting at them, The Economist has claimed, citing a government source.

Purported fits of presidential rage were mentioned in a Monday report on the situation in Kharkov Region, where Russian forces have gained significant ground over the last month. According to the British newsweekly, Ukrainian troops deployed there are angry at the development and have competing theories about the causes.

Some blame the US and its allies for insufficient and untimely aid, not unlike Zelensky himself, while others "suspect that incompetence, or even treachery, played a more significant role." There are also "conspiracy theories" about politicians in Kiev and Washington conspiring to sell the territory "down the river ahead of an ugly peace deal."

From the same source:
21 May, 2024 14:02
Zelensky 'hysterical' as Ukraine loses ground - Kremlin

Kiev knows that even regular supplies of Western weapons won't be enough to turn the tide, Dmitry Peskov says

Ukraine's request for permission to use foreign-made long-range weapons against Russia is proof that Kiev has gone into full panic mode as Moscow's troops continue to advance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky admitted that Kiev had found itself in a "most difficult" situation on the front line due to a Russian offensive in the border Kharkov Region. He also lamented delays in Western assistance and the lack of authorization to use Western weapons against targets on Russian territory.

"We are negotiating with partners so that we can use their weapons against buildups of Russian equipment on the border and even [on] their territory... So far, there is nothing positive," the Ukrainian leader said.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Peskov noted that the authorities in Kiev and Zelensky himself "have been making many statements in recent days, sometimes in fact slipping into hysteria. This is due to the extremely unfavorable frontline situation of the forces of the Kiev regime."

He also suggested that Kiev's problems had been caused by inconsistent Western arms deliveries. "The desired steady pace [of shipments] is not there. And most importantly, there is a growing understanding that even if this even pace of military deliveries is restored, it won't allow the Ukrainian Army to turn the tide," Peskov said.

The spokesman also said Russia would continue its military campaign in the face of what he called "inhuman shelling of civilian facilities" on its soil. "We are taking appropriate measures, as President [Vladimir Putin] has said," he stated.

Earlier this month, Russian troops launched an offensive in Kharkov Region, capturing numerous border settlements. According to media reports, Kiev was caught off guard despite having received advanced warnings from the West. Ukrainian servicemen have also complained about the lack of defenses in the area, with some money earmarked for fortifications having been reportedly stolen.

The Russian attack came after Putin said in March that Moscow could "at some point" establish a "cordon sanitaire" in Kiev-controlled areas to deter Ukrainian cross-border attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure. Last week, he confirmed that the offensive had served this purpose, but said Russia had no plans to capture Kharkov itself.
There is little surprising in the reaction Zelensky has been reported to show. While many a boss, or team leader has been in a similar situation, some parallels might be more fitting than others. In this instance, since we do not know the details of what has taken place, we may be excused for resorting to fiction to assist our imagination. To our rescue comes the scene Steiner's Attack in the 2004 movie Downfall.


Dirty tactics: How the US tries to break China's soft power in Africa

© Seyllou Diallo/AFP/FileAfricans hold Chinese flags
In April, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) published the article "China's Strategy to Shape Africa's Media Space" by research associate Paul Nantulya. The author attempts to expose China's media strategy in Africa. Criticism of China on the ACSS website is not surprising, since the Center was established within the US Department of Defense and promotes the views and agenda of official US structures. In other words, through organizations like ACSS, the US engages in the same activities which it blames China for.

The article notes that in recent years, Chinese investments in the African media space have surged, and the country intends to establish a long-term institutional presence in the African media and communications market. This is evident from the fact that the state-owned Xinhua news agency has 37 offices throughout Africa, the Chinese provider of satellite TV services StarTimes has become the second largest player in the strategically important African market, China finances and supports African media outlets, and Chinese news agencies speak well of the ruling political elites in those African countries which have friendly relations with China.

Comment: Content reveals intent, whether US or China...therein lies the difference.


Zelensky approves military enlistment of convicts

© Sinenkiy/Getty ImagesTags and cuffs
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky ratified a new law on Friday which would allow some prisoners to be paroled if they agree to enlist in the country's military, according to documents published on the official website of the country's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

The bill was first submitted to the legislature in March this year as part of Ukraine's efforts to replenish its ranks amid a series of setbacks in its conflict with Russia.

The new legislation permits Ukrainian inmates to voluntarily enlist on a contractual basis and serve for as long as the country remains under martial law. The law only applies to convicts who have no more than three years left of their original prison sentence.
It does not extend to people who have been convicted of premeditated murder, rape, drug trafficking and production, crimes against national security or corruption. However, the law allows military service for those convicted of involuntary manslaughter, with the exception of cases where the prisoner committed the crime while intoxicated.
Ukrainian Justice Minister Denis Maliuska said earlier that the mobilized convicts will serve in special units, and could perform tasks not related to actual combat or the handling weapons, such as building infrastructure and other fieldwork. He also noted that the new law could help Kiev bolster its number of troops by as many as 20,000.


EU members would have to arrest Netanyahu if ICC issues warrant, admits policy chief Borrell

Josep Borrell  European union eu
© Thierry Monasse/Getty ImagesFILE: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell addresses the European Parliament in Brussels on April 10, 2024. All parties to the Rome Statute are bound by the International Criminal Court's decisions, the top diplomat has said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that if the International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for top Israeli officials over their alleged war crimes in Gaza, all EU member states will be legally forced to oblige.

On Monday, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan applied for warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant - as well as Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh - accusing them of "war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Comment: Meanwhile China's legal stance is that Palestine is well within international law to defend and attempt to liberate itself, including taking up arms, but Israel is not.

As was evidenced with the ICC warrant against Putin, it's a compromised organisation. Even if it, belatedly, gets it right sometimes.

The European Union has taken "note" of the move, Borrell acknowledged in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Comment: More on the possible warrant from Middle East Monitor:
Netanyahu cannot avoid international law: former Italian Premier Conte

Former Italian Prime Minister and opposition leader, Giuseppe Conte, said the Israeli Premier cannot avoid being submitted to international law, a day after the International Criminal Court Prosecutor requested arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Defence Minister and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes, Anadolu Agency reports.

"I don't enter into the merits of the decisions and requests of an international court," Conte told reporters in the northern Italian town of Forli. "But I say that as we applauded the request of an arrest warrant for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, now we acknowledge the request for Hamas leaders and surely Netanyahu, a democratically elected Premier, cannot avoid international law rules, war crimes rules."

In a statement, Khan said that he had reasonable grounds to believe the five men bear criminal responsibility for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have dismissed allegations of war crimes.

Separately, the permanent mission of Liechtenstein to the UN said it expressed its full support to the ICC's decisions.

"Fully support the ICC and its independence in carrying out its mandate in all situations. All victims are equally entitled to justice, and all are equal before the law," the Mission wrote on X.
Belgium's representatives welcome the 'important move':
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib yesterday welcomed the ICC prosecutor's decision to seek arrest warrants for those involved in "war crimes" in Palestine, as an "important move" to investigate the situation there.

"The request submitted by the Court's Prosecutor, Karim Khan, for arrest warrants against both Hamas and Israeli officials is an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine," she posted on X.

"Belgium will continue to support the essential work of international justice to ensure that those responsible for all crimes are held accountable," the minister added.

Netanyahu and Gallant are charged with "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare," "intentionally causing severe suffering or serious damage to body or health," "willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health", "willful killing or murder", "intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population", "extermination and/or murder, including in the context of deaths caused by starvation" and "persecution" among other charges.

This comes as the death toll from Israel's relentless bombing campaign in Gaza rises to over 35,500 Palestinians since October 2023.


Israel blocks Associated Press from livestreaming of Gaza under new censorship law, US urges it to reverse decision

AP israel
© APScreenshot. Israeli officials seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to The Associated Press in southern Israel, accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera.
Israeli officials seized a camera and broadcasting equipment belonging to The Associated Press in southern Israel on Tuesday, accusing the news organization of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera. The U.S. privately urged the Israeli government to reverse the decision, two senior U.S. officials said.

The U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is one of thousands of AP customers, and it receives live video from AP and other news organizations.

Comment: Over the previous months, Israel hasbeen emboldened by the complicity of governments and the mainstream press, and it has become ever more brazen, and deluded, however, with the ICC's possible arrest warrant for Netanyahu, the ICJ genocide case, the campus protests, and so on, Tel Aviv is also likely becoming increasingly desperate. But whilst Israel's cheerleaders will excuse genocide at every turn, action like this will make it increasingly hard for the 'undecided' to do so.


Macron and Cameron, a BAD comedy duo for Ukraine!

Two Puppet Clowns
© New Eastern Outlook
It is obvious to all, even the most ardent Ukrainian nationalists, that Ukraine is on the ropes, being battered relentlessly by a far better trained, prepared, and capable opponent. It is like watching a college boxer get hammered by a world champion heavyweight at this point, and one would think it would be in Ukraine's immediate and long-term interest to cry uncle and try and make the best deal it can with Russia. Even neocon mouthpieces like Politico realize this fact, but, of course, try and attribute this only to the recent "delayed delivery of weapons" caused by disagreements in the US House of Representatives.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, that the Russian armed forces have a massive superiority in all aspects of this war, tanks and artillery, airpower, cruise and ballistic missiles, drones for observation and attack, air defense and electronic warfare, as well as the ability to produce well-trained and highly motivated soldiers. The Russian military logistics, particularly the manufacturing sector, are light years ahead of the west, producing several times more weapons and equipment, especially the lifeblood of what is, in effect, an artillery war, 152mm shells.

It is interesting to note that, despite both sides allegory linking to the Great Patriotic War between Nazi Europe and the USSR, this war more resembles the Great War of 1914 to 1918 in the way it is being fought. Like that grinding campaign, this war started with rapid "big arrow" attacks by Russia, and has evolved subsequently into trench warfare and grinding engagements over towns like Mariupol, Bakhmut, Avdeevka, and now the strategic point of ChasovYar.

So it is today, with satellite and drone observation, combined with modern communications, making it impossible to achieve surprise. The Russian military have realized this far faster than their opponents, and quickly determined that, especially given their great superiority in firepower, a war of attrition proved an effective way to break the Ukrainian defense without suffering huge casualties on the Russian side.

Russian generals identified key strategic points in the Ukrainian lines which their opponents could not afford to lose, and proceeded to draw the Ukrainians into committing to defending them, trapping them in well-organized meat grinders, causing horrendous losses and the inevitable loss of each of the much-vaunted fortress cities, degrading not only the manpower but also the morale of Ukrainian troops, as the Russians took each in turn.

The Russian air force, especially the SU-34, are now bombing at will along the entire front line, as the Ukrainian air defences have been rendered ineffective. The liberation of territories by Russia from the neo-fascist regime is currently rapidly accelerating as the Ukrainian defense collapses.


The 'inside track' of Putin-Xi Jinping talks

Sergey Lavrov
© Indian PunchlineRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (C) addressing the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, Moscow, May 18, 2024.
In international diplomacy, summit meetings stand apart from regular high-level meetings when they are held at key moments or important junctures to reinforce partnerships and/or launch major initiatives.

The summit meeting at Beijing last Thursday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin last falls into such a category, taking place at a momentous juncture when a great shift in the global power dynamic is happening and the breathtaking spectacle of history in the making playing out in real time. (Read my article in NewsClick titled Sino-Russian Entente Shifts Tectonic Plates of World Politics.)

The two statesmen spent an entire Thursday together after Putin's presidential jet landed at the crack of dawn in Beijing. Extensive and very detailed discussions indeed took place. As Putin said later, this was a state visit which turned into a "working visit."

The "debriefing" on Saturday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the foreign and security policy elite in Moscow at the annual plenary of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy — Russia's equivalent of the Council of Foreign Relations headquartered in New York — soon after Putin's entourage returned from China gives some invaluable glimpses into the 'inside track' of the closed-door discussions in Beijing.

At the most obvious level, Lavrov hit hard in his speech at the US and its NATO Allies with exceptional bluntness that their agenda to inflict a "strategic defeat" on Russia militarily and otherwise — to "decolonise'' or "dismember" Russia, et al — is pure fantasy and it will be resolutely countered. Lavrov predicted that the escalation in western weapon supplies to Ukraine only highlights the ground reality that "the acute phase of the military-political confrontation with the West" will continue in "full swing".

The western thought processes are veering round dangerously to "the contours of the formation of a European military alliance with a nuclear component," Lavrov said. In particular, France and Germany are still struggling with the demons in their attics — the crushing defeat France suffered at the hands of the Russian army in the Napoleonic war and the destruction of Hitler's Wehrmacht by the Red Army.

The big picture is that the West is not ready for a serious conversation. Lavrov lamented that "they have made a choice in favour of a showdown on the battlefield. We are ready for this. And always." That Lavrov spoke in such exceptionally tough tone suggests that Moscow is supremely confident of Beijing's support in the crucial phase of the Ukraine war going forward. This is the first thing.


2024 and the inevitable rise of biometrics

© Off-Guardian
Have you noticed a lot of two-factor authentication prompts lately? Are you getting emailed verification codes that take forever to arrive, so you have to request another?

Perhaps you are asked to do captchas to "prove you're human" and they seem to be getting more complex all the time or simply not working at all?

Why do you think that might be?

We'll come back to that.

Did you know we're in a "breakthrough year" for biometric payment systems?

According to this story from CNBC, JPMorgan and Mastercard are on board with the technology and intend a wide rollout in the near future, following successful trials.

In March this year, JPMorgan signed a deal with PopID to begin a broad release of biometric payment systems in 2025.

A Mastercard spokesman told CNBC:
Our focus on biometrics as a secure way to verify identity, replacing the password with the person, is at the heart of our efforts in this area,"
Apple Pay already lets you pay with a face scan, while Amazon have introduced pay-by-palm in many of their real-world stores.

VISA showcased their latest palm biometric payment set-up at an event in Singapore earlier this year.

As we covered in a recent This Week, PayPal is pushing out its own biometric payment systems in the name of "preventing fraud".

As always, this is not just an issue in "the West".