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Sat, 16 Feb 2019
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High-ranking Ukrainian official suspected in killing of anti-corruption activist - Update - Vladyslav Manher arrested

Vladyslav Manher

Vladyslav Manher
The head of Ukraine's Kherson regional parliament is suspected of organizing the killing of anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk last year, prosecutors say.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko wrote on Facebook on February 11 that Vladyslav Manher had been notified of the accusation against him.

According to a document posted by Lutsenko, Manher felt "personal enmity" toward Handzyuk because of her efforts to reveal "illegal deforestation" in the region.

Handzyuk, a 33-year-old civic activist and adviser to the mayor of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, died in November -- three months after she was severely injured in an acid attack.

Five suspects, including a police officer, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack on Handzyuk.

Her death came amid a wave of attacks against Ukraine's civic activists, with human rights activists claiming law enforcement agencies have failed to thoroughly investigate the cases and may even be complicit in some of the attacks.

Comment: Update (Feb. 15): The official, Vladyslav Manher, was arrested. He has been charged with organizing a contract murder with "special cruelty."

WATCH: Kateryna Handzyuk died six weeks after making an impassioned video from her hospital bed, in which she listed dozens of attacks on civic activists that police have failed to resolve.

More on the arrest:
The killing outraged Ukraine, with activists accusing the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or identify the mastermind.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said on February 11 that prosecutors had obtained enough testimony from witnesses about Manher's alleged role in Handzyuk's death, adding that the attackers had received "no less than $4,000."

According to a document posted by Lutsenko on Facebook, Manher felt "personal enmity" toward Handzyuk because of her efforts to expose "illegal deforestation" in the region.

If convicted, the 48-year-old Manher could face up to life in prison.


BBC producer makes fascinating discovery: Footage of alleged gas attack in Syria's Douma was staged (No sh*t, Sherlock)

douma attack
© REUTERS / Bassam Khabieh
Riam Dalati, a BBC Syria producer, has said that the footage of people being treated after an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma was staged.

Dalati wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the issue had been investigated for six months.

The journalist pointed out that no fatalities had occurred at the hospital, adding that the attack in Douma had happened but sarin had not been used there. However, Dalati noted that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would look into whether chlorine was used at the scene.
Truth is @James__Harkin got the basics right in terms of #Douma's "propaganda" value.
The ATTACK DID HAPPEN, Sarin wasn't used, but we'll have to wait for @OPCW to prove Chlorine or otherwise.
However, everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect. https://t.co/abRvSIMV1L

- Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) 13 февраля 2019 г.
Everything else around the attack was fabricated, according to Dalati.

Comment: The BBC Politburo predictably responded by saying that Dalati's comments were his "personal opinions".

Western corporate media is beyond useless: it's destroying people and planet.


Deja vu all over again: When considering Venezuela's Guaidó, remember Victoria Nuland

nuland guaido ukraine venezuela
© 21st Century Wire
As Washington's Secret Team continues to line-up its guns against the elected government led by Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela, it's worth reminding viewers of another recently executed regime change operation - a portion of which was caught on tape - where US State Department officials could be heard discussing their new hand-picked, post-coup government in the Ukraine.

When the latest phase of the current crisis in Venezuela broke in the middle of January, cabinet officials in Washington immediately declared the elected government in Caracas as "illegitimate," and put forward their own hand-picked "interim president." US National Security Advisor John Bolton started the ball rolling by boldly announcing, "The United States does not recognize Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro's illegitimate claim to power. His 'election' in May 2018 was viewed internationally as not free, fair or credible." Bolton's proclamation was followed by a TV decree by US Vice President Mike Pence formally recognizing a previously unknown opposition parliamentarian, Juan Guaido, as Washington's new choice for president of Venezuela. This was then followed by a tweet from President Trump: "The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime," before adding, "Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela." President Trump then upped the ante, warning Maduro that "all options are on the table," clearly implying the possibility of military intervention by Washington.

Comment: Same script, different players.

The Making of Juan Guaidó: How The US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela's Coup Leader


Gratitude for Andrew McCabe's dishonorable service to America

Andrew McCabe
© Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
Andrew McCabe
Andrew McCabe is a national disgrace. He was part of the most corrupt and most partisan leadership team in FBI history and was fired for being dishonest under oath.

And yet, America owes him a big thank-you.

McCabe, you see, has reminded us once again that there really is a powerful deep state, and that there has not been a full accounting of rampant FBI misconduct during the presidential campaign of 2016.

There is also still too much we don't know about the role top aides to then-President Barack Obama and higher-ups in the Justice Department played in spying on the Trump campaign and leaks of classified information for partisan purposes.

In short, what is arguably the greatest scandal in the history of America remains mostly hidden from the public. That shroud of secrecy piles one scandal on top of another.


N. Dakota: To restrict access to public records after Standing Rock report exposed law enforcement abuses

Police drag victim
© Terray Sylvester/Reuters
Police detain Ricardo Salazar, 25, in a Dakota Access pipeline opposition camp near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Feb. 23, 2017.
North Dakota lawmakers are considering a bill to restrict the release of records related to security operations involving "critical infrastructure" - a category that includes fossil fuel pipelines. The bill comes after The Intercept and other media outlets published stories documenting law enforcement surveillance and coordination with private security during the Dakota Access pipeline protests, many of which were based on records released under the North Dakota Open Records Act.

The bill, known as Senate Bill 2209, would amend the North Dakota Century Code to bar the disclosure of public records involving "security planning, mitigation, or threats" pertaining to critical infrastructure facilities. It specifically forbids the release of any critical infrastructure "security systems plan," which it defines as "records," "information," "photographs," "videos," and "communications" pertaining to the "security of any public facility" or any "privately owned or leased critical infrastructure." Among several examples of critical infrastructure systems included in the bill are "utility services, fuel supply, energy, hazardous liquid, natural gas, or coal."

According to Jesse Franzblau, a transparency law expert and policy analyst at Open the Government, while some of the language in the bill is similar to exemptions in federal laws that restrict public access to critical infrastructure information, "several parts of the bill obviously seem very tailored toward pipeline-related construction and also, given the timing, toward keeping information on security operations against pipeline protesters a secret."

Arrow Up

Putin on US 'pullout' of Syria: Trump is working to deliver his election promises, rare thing in US

© almasdarnews.com/KJN
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The withdrawal of US troops from Syria appears to have stalled, but Russia remains hopeful it will eventually happen, President Vladimir Putin said, commending his American counterpart's effort to deliver on election promises.

The Russian president hosted Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran's Hassan Rouhani in Sochi, Russia on Thursday. The three leaders discussed their joint effort to further reconciliation in Syria, a goal that they assure is coming closer with every month.

The plans of US President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from northern Syria and an apparent lack of delivering on it was a major point of discussion at the media conference attended by the three leaders. All agreed that the promised withdrawal will benefit Syria, but Putin seemed to be the most optimistic that the move will actually happen anytime soon.

"President Trump is quite actively working on fulfilling his election campaign promises, which in practice rarely happens in the US political life. The withdrawal of the American troops from Syria was one of those promises," Putin said.

Ice Cube

US: Iran misuses International Court after the ruling on assets took Tehran's side

International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice's ruling to permit Iran to proceed with a lawsuit to recover its frozen assets in the United States is an attempt by Tehran to misuse the court, the US Department of State said in a statement.

"Iran must not be permitted to continue to misuse the International Court of Justice's judicial process for political and propaganda purposes", State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the International Court of Justice ruled that Iran's lawsuit against the United States over more than $2 billion in frozen assets was admissible.

Palladino said the case is yet another example of how Iran seeks to misuse legal processes and distort principles of international law. "Iran's goal is to prevent United States victims of the Iranian regime's wanton acts of terrorism... from recovering compensation from Iran in US courts".

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the money frozen by the United States should go to the survivors and families of victims of terrorist attacks attributed to Iran. Tehran claims that this decision violated the 1955 US-Iranian Treaty of Amity.

Comment: The US Supreme Court ruling on the distribution of Iranian assets to go to the survivors/families of victims of alleged Iranian terror attacks included the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. The Treaty of Amity governs economic ties and consular rights.

Star of David

The Benjamins? Netanyahu and Gantz won' be able to save Israel from the progressive American abandonment

netanyahu gantz
© Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz.
This is the story that is being talked about the last couple of days, and it can't stop:

Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has tweeted "It's about the Benjamins" in response to Glenn Greenwald, said it was about AIPAC, and then everyone went berserk about her supposedly applying anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money...

Once again it has been pointed out, that Ilhan Omar is being attacked for something that New York Times columnist, veteran Israel-apologist Tom Friedman, basically wrote in 2011:
I hope that Israel's prime minister understands that standing ovation he got in Congress this year wasn't for his politics. That ovation was bought & paid for by the Israel lobby.
We are witnessing political censorship of Omar, which has a racist bias to it (since she's not Jewish); she's not allowed to say what a Jewish-Zionist can say.


US revives secret sabotage program targeting Iranian missiles and rockets

iran missile display
© Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times
Long-range missiles on display this month in Tehran. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
The Trump White House has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran's missiles and rockets, according to current and former administration officials, who described it as part of an expanding campaign by the United States to undercut Tehran's military and isolate its economy.

Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes.

Those two rocket failures - one that Iran announced on Jan. 15 and the other, an unacknowledged attempt, on Feb. 5 - were part of a pattern over the past 11 years. In that time, 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed, an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.

Comment: The arrogance of the US as 'the exceptional nation' comes shining through once again. Who are they to decide what technologies a country is allowed to possess?

Gold Seal

The peace candidate: Tulsi Gabbard presents bill to stop Trump from pulling out of INF treaty

© AFP / Win McNamee
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has introduced a bill to Congress which would prevent President Donald Trump from withdrawing the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, Gabbard said that Trump's decision to pull out of the 1988 treaty was "reckless," was "exacerbating a new Cold War" with Russia, and could spark another arms race.

"Walking away from this agreement doesn't solve our problems, it makes them worse. It doesn't bring us closer to peace, it moves us closer to war," she said.

Gabbard said she was introducing the bill, called the "INF Treaty Compliance Act," not only to prevent the escalation of a new Cold War, but to "stop more American taxpayer dollars from being wasted on military adventurism that makes our people and our country less safe."

She said that rather than scrapping the treaty, the US should be working to expand it and bring in other countries, including China.

The bill would prohibit "a single taxpayer dollar from being used for weapons that would breach the treaty," she said. The bill is co-sponsored by three of Gabbard's House colleagues including freshman congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Both Washington and Moscow have repeatedly accused each other of violating the terms of the nuclear pact - and earlier this month, Russia said it would quit the treaty in a "mirror response" to Trump's decision.