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Wed, 21 Nov 2018
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Another GDPR disaster: Journalists ordered to hand over their secret sources under 'data protection' law

Newsprint
© Unknown/KJN
When the GDPR [EU's General Data Protection Regulation] was being debated, we warned that it would be a disaster for free speech. Now that it's been in effect for about six months, we're seeing that play out in all sorts of ways. We've talked about how it was used to disappear public court documents for an ongoing case, and then used to disappear a discussion about that disappearing court document. And we wrote about how it's been used against us to hide a still newsworthy story (and that leaves out one other GDPR demand we've received in an attempt to disappear a story that I can't even talk about yet).

When I wrote about all of this both here on Techdirt and on Twitter, I had a bunch of "data protection experts" in Europe completely freak out at me that I had no idea what I was talking about, and how any negative impact was simply the result of everyone misreading the GDPR. I kept trying to point out to them that even if that's true in theory, out here in the real world, the law was being used to disappear news stories and was creating massive chilling effects and burdens on journalists. And the response was the same: nah, you're reading the law wrong.

And now we have an even more horrifying story of the damage the GDPR is doing to journalism. There's a Romanian investigatory journalism publication called RISE Project that has reported on corruption in Romanian politics. Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy about that. OCCRP -- the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project -- a partner to RISE Project has the worrisome details about how the very Romanian government that RISE Project has been breaking corruption stories on has magically found the need to use the GDPR to demand the journalists turn over their sources.

Comment: Rules and regulations are rarely fair. The scale is always tipped to the powerful. It is only the public that is fooled into thinking 'protections' are for them.


Oil Well

Iran shall thrive despite US sanctions, remarks FM Zarif

Hunt Zarif
© Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty
UK FM Jeremy Hunt • Iran FM Javad Zarif
Iran's foreign minister has said his country will not only survive newly reimposed US sanctions but it will thrive.

The Trump administration announced sanctions this month covering banking, oil exports and shipping, aimed at forcing Tehran to stop what the US described as its "destabilising activities" in the Middle East.

Speaking after meeting the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in Tehran on Monday, Javad Zarif said:
"We are used to pressure and we are used to resisting pressure. Sanctions always hurt and they hurt ordinary people, but sanctions seldom change policy, and that has been the problem with US sanctions all the time. They do not take people back to the negotiating table. In fact, they strengthen the resolve to resist.

"We will certainly survive. We will not only survive - we will thrive. We have tried to minimise the impact on the population but the ordinary people are going to suffer, the economy is going to suffer."
Speaking to the Guardian, Zarif said he was confident the Iranian oil industry would find markets, even though the US measures have pushed down exports sharply. "There are always markets for oil, it depends on the conditions and the price," he said. "I believe Iran will always sell oil."

Comment: See also:
UK FM Hunt will make his first visit to Iran, discuss the nuclear deal


Clipboard

US Senator Rubio urges Venezuela be placed on US state terrorism sponsors list

Maduro
© Reuters
Venezuelan President Maduro
The prospect of Venezuela being included on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism is looming as a result of increased lobbying from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), WaPo reports.

A person "familiar with the deliberations" told the Washington Post on Monday that, while no timetable for adding Venezuela to the list had been decided, discussions had "moved forward" in recent days, thanks to Rubio's insistence. The State Department has shopped the move around to various agencies for feedback, including the Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Agency for International Development.

The administration will have a difficult time finding proof to tie the Venezuelan government to terrorism, according to another anonymous source, this one a US official. Rubio and two other Republican senators implored Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a September letter to declare Venezuela a terrorism sponsor, accusing the country of links to both Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) but neglecting to furnish proof.

Comment: If Venezuela is a terrorist-sponsor state, it surely doesn't have any money to pay the buggers. See also:


Clipboard

Was it a CNN victory or press defeat? WH restores Acosta's pass but imposes conduct rules

Jim Acosta/Intern
© Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
CNN's Jim Acosta and White House intern
CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta will see his "hard pass" restored, but all journalists seeking access to the presidential press room will now have to abide by written rules of conduct due to his misbehavior.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine sent a letter to Acosta on Monday, notifying him that his hard pass was restored, but that it might be suspended or revoked again if he fails to abide by the new rules that apply to all White House correspondents going forward.

Under the rules laid out in the letter, each journalist gets "a single question" before having to yield the floor, with follow-ups solely at the discretion of White House officials. Failure to obey the rules may result in suspension or revocation of the "hard pass," the document allowing major networks regular access to the White House.

"Should you refuse to follow these rules in the future, we will take action in accordance with the rules," wrote Sanders and Shine.

Acosta's pass was yanked following an incident at President Donald Trump's November 7 press conference, where the CNN correspondent argued with Trump instead of asking questions (not for the first time) and physically prevented a White House intern from taking the microphone away from him.

Comment: See also:
You're FIRED! Trump pulls press credentials of craven CNN reporter Jim Acosta after press conference confrontation - UPDATES


Arrow Up

Russia's major leap in the European gas war

pipeline
© unknown
On November 19th, President Putin will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Erdogan during a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the first string of Turk Stream. The subsea gas pipeline will transfer 15.75 bcm directly from mainland Russia to Turkey. The capacity will double after the second string is completed. The pipeline will be operational at the end of 2019. Despite several setbacks, mutual interests concerning security and trade have ensured the strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Turkey in the face of opposition from the West. The first string of Turk Stream, which is almost completed, is important for bilateral relations. The second string, however, will service the European market and is a sign of Gazprom's successful strategy in the face of opposition from the EU and several European countries.
Pipelines
© PISC Gazprom

Comment: Russia's pipe dreams are coming true.


Dollar

America the Global Empire: French bank pays huge US fine for doing business in Cuba and Iran

french car
© Global Look Press / Bernhard Schmerl
Societe Generale has agreed to pay $1.34 billion to US federal and state authorities to settle a pending legal dispute over violations of US trade sanctions against Iran and other countries.

One of France's largest banks has also pledged to pay $95 million to resolve another dispute over violations of anti-money laundering regulations.

"We acknowledge and regret the shortcomings that were identified in these settlements, and have cooperated with the US authorities to resolve these matters," the group CEO Frederic Oudea said in a statement.

"These resolutions, following on the heels of the resolution of other investigations earlier this year, allow the bank to close a chapter on our most important historical disputes."

Comment: The amazing thing is that these European companies are actually paying these 'fines'.

Of course, because of the sinking of the Iran Deal, we now know why: these companies have such huge market shares and joint investment deals in the US market that they prefer to accept the shakedown than tell Uncle Sam to take a hike.


Vader

US playing int'l bully again, promises to 'disrupt' oil shipments to Syria, sanctions Russian & Iranian companies

latakia port
© Reuters / Khaled Al Hariri
The US has introduced sanctions against what it called a network of petroleum shipments to Syria, including Russian and Iranian companies and individuals. Washington says it wants to disrupt shipments to Syrian-owned ports.

Six individuals have been sanctioned over oil shipments to Syria, the US Treasury Department has said. Three institutions have also been sanctioned.

In addition to the fresh measures, the US Coast Guard has issued an advisory warning of "significant sanctions risks" on petroleum shipments to Syria. The US has promised that it will "disrupt" any attempted shipments to government-owned ports in Syria.

The Treasury Department claims that the individuals and companies affected by the measures are involved in a "complex and malign scheme" to bolster the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. It claims that oil is being imported into Syria from Iran in defiance of American sanctions. The Syrian government then allegedly transfers cash to Islamic militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, at Iran's direction.

Chess

Russian officials warn Poland not to proceed with permanent US military base

us tank
© Reuters / Agencja Gazeta
Moscow will have to respond if Warsaw pushes through a plan to build a permanent US base on its soil, top Russian officials have warned, as the Polish defense chief said construction of the so-called Fort Trump was a done deal.

Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak confirmed that a permanent US military installation will be "undoubtedly" created on the country's territory. While bolstering US military presence is not a matter for negotiation, the exact mechanism and select units to be deployed are still being discussed, Blaszczak told Polish Radio on Tuesday.

However, he did not reveal any details citing the need to protect a "strong negotiating position."

The idea of building a permanent US military installation is wholeheartedly supported by top Polish officials, who are even ready to pay a hefty sum of $2 billion for it.

Red Flag

Trump shrugs shoulders, doesn't seem to mind if Saudi Crown Prince MBS ordered the murder of an innocent civilian

mbs and trump
© Reuters / Jonathan Ernst
US President Trump has said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "could very well" have known in advance about the plan to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the US will remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement released Tuesday, Donald Trump said that Khashoggi's murder was an "unacceptable and horrible crime," and that as American intelligence agencies continue to investigate the case, "it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event."

Trump went no further with that train of thought, and instead reaffirmed the strategic alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom, he wrote, is an important ally against Iran and a vital supplier of oil.

The president again touted the importance of maintaining the US' $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi government, which he said means "tremendous economic development" for the US.

Comment: If Trump wants to "consider" what to do, perhaps he might want to look at what is reportedly the chilling last words during and after Khashoggi's interrogation and torture, revealed by a Turkish newspaper:
Release my arm! What do you think you are doing?
In the second part of the recording, Mutreb calls Khashoggi, who was taken into the consulate's B unit, a "traitor."
Traitor! You will be brought to account!
Another voice is heard in the recording. It belongs to 57-year-old Saudi engineer Mustafa al-Madaini who posed as Khashoggi's lookalike:
It is spooky to wear the clothes of a man whom we killed 20 minutes ago.



Bullseye

UN report makes it clear: Britain's enemy is not Russia but its own ruling class

british cops
© Reuters / Darren Staples
As the UK political establishment rips itself to pieces over Brexit, a far greater crisis continues to afflict millions of victims of Tory austerity.

A devastating UN report into poverty in the UK provides incontrovertible evidence that the enemy of the British people is the very ruling class that has gone out of its way these past few years to convince them it is Russia.

Professor Philip Alston, in his capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, spent two weeks touring the United Kingdom. He did so investigating the impact of eight years of one of the most extreme austerity programs among advanced G20 economies in response to the 2008 financial crash and subsequent global recession.

What he found was evidence of a systematic, wilful, concerted and brutal economic war unleashed by the country's right-wing Tory establishment against the poorest and most vulnerable section of British society - upending the lives of millions of people who were not responsible for the aforementioned financial crash and recession but who have been forced to pay the price.