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Fri, 17 Aug 2018
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Why did PM May tell Parliament the Skripals were "in critical" condition, when they were in fact recovering?

may skripal
I would like to thank the many commenters to this blogsite, whose information and insights have been immensely valuable in putting this piece together.

I'm afraid I don't currently have much faith in the nation's MPs to hold the Government of the day to account on critical issues. This is especially the case with issues where the words "national security" are mentioned. The phrase seems to engender a dangerous sort of Groupthink, whereby it is considered to be unpatriotic and unBritish to scrutinise the actions of the Government and intelligence agencies, even when it is blatantly clear that such scrutiny could in no way constitute a threat to national security.

This is a particularly dangerous tool in the hands of Government, which can avoid having its actions properly scrutinised by simply waving the magic "national security" wand whenever it doesn't want too many questions to be asked. But it is not something that a free people, acquainted with the concepts of the rule of law and liberty should ever accept. Indeed, blind acceptance of it shows us to be halfway down the path to a totalitarian future.

Still, despite the endemic Groupthink that now characterises the chamber on incidents and events relating to "national security", I don't suppose many MPs would take too kindly if they found out that they had been misled in the course of such an issue. And yet earlier this year, this does indeed appear to have happened, as I hope to demonstrate.

Chess

White House: Bolton to meet Russian counterpart for 'Helsinki summit follow-up'

Russian President Vladimir Putin with US National Security Adviser John Bolton
© Alexander Zemlianichenko / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Moscow, June 27, 2018
President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton will meet with his Russian counterpart next week for follow-up discussions on issues raised at the Helsinki summit, the White House confirmed.

After meeting officials in Israel and Ukraine, Bolton will head to Geneva to meet with an unnamed Russian representative to "discuss a range of national security issues," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday, calling it a "follow-up" to last month's summit in Helsinki.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said earlier that a meeting between Bolton and secretary of the Security Council Nikolay Patrushev could happen "by the end of the summer."

Comment: The Kremlin said on Wednesday preparations were underway for a meeting in Geneva next week between Russian officials and White House national security adviser John Bolton, the first top level meeting since the Russian and US presidents met in Helsinki.
"Such contacts are indeed planned and being prepared," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. Mr Peskov did not elaborate further.



Snakes in Suits

Devin Nunes: Clinton campaign colluded with 'nearly every' top official at the DOJ and FBI, media not covering it

Devin Nunes

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes
Sunday on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures," House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton's "colluded" with "nearly every" top official in the Justice Department and FBI.

Nunes said, "What's come out now, Maria, is that he has been the go-between Christopher Steele, so once Christopher Steele was terminated as a source, for doing all things like talking to the media, at the behest of Glenn Simpson, remember he was working for Glenn Simpson Fusion GPS, who are working for the Clinton Campaign. Christopher Steele was fired, a lot of this information wasn't shared with the FISA court, especially because of the fact that Christopher Steele was desperate that Donald Trump not become president. After that happened, Bruce Ohr, one of the top lawyers in the Department of Justice, kept continually meeting and providing information from Christopher Steele to who? The FBI."

Arrow Up

'Moscow's genius move': Syrian Kurds will join Syrian Army and Russians to cooperate on assault on Idlib

SDF patrolling streets
© AFP 2018 / DELIL SOULEIMAN
RusVesna reports that the hitherto US-backed mixed Kurdish-Arab units under the brand of "Syrian Democratic Forces" have decided to put on Syrian Arab Army uniforms and fight terrorist forces in cooperation with Moscow and Damascus.

Sources on the ground have reportedly said that in the cities of Nubbol and Zahra in the Aleppo province, Kurdish militias have fully joined forces with Syrian troops.

Local units of the 'Syrian Democratic Forces' have resolved to don Syrian Arab Army uniforms in order to not be singled out by Turkish forces in the impending battle for Idlib and the western part of the Aleppo province.

The largest Turkish news agency, Anadolu, has reportedly confirmed this, with an Anadolu correspondent in Aleppo saying: "As part of an agreement with the Bashar Assad regime, the YPG organization has deployed 1300 fighters over the past two weeks to the regime-controlled Aleppo province. On the morning of August 11th, a convoy with YPG fighters went via Manbij to Aleppo.'

As FRN has reported, YPG commander-in-chief Sipan Hemo recently declared that Kurdish forces would join Syrian forces in anti-terrorist operations in the north.

These developments follow months of Russian military negotiations with Kurdish elders and field commanders to persuade them to cooperate with Damascus, RusVesna reports, calling this "Moscow's genius move."

Comment: Except for a few tactical blunders (e.g., the loss of Palmyra after it was liberated), the Russian campaign in Syria has just been one success after another. Compare with the U.S. effort in Iraq and Afghanistan and draw what conclusions you will.


Dollar

Turkey green-lights Moscow's proposal for ditching dollar, switching to trading in national currency

turkish businessmen dollar bills
© Umit Bektas / Reuters
Businessmen holding US dollars stand in front of a currency exchange office in Ankara
Ankara has given a green light to Moscow's proposal to switch to ruble-lira trade between the countries. Turkey also has similar plans for trade with China and other countries.

"We are discussing the transition to national currencies not only with Russia and China, but also with other countries. It is not just Turkey's request. In other countries, there has been reaction to US attacks," said Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.

"Many countries oppose the pressure of the US dollar as a means of political and economic coercion, and we see that the demand for payments in national currencies between different countries is increasing," he added.

Both Russia and Turkey's currencies have been exposed to the US sanctions pressure. They both lost half of their value against the greenback since 2014 and 2018, respectively, despite relatively strong economic performance.

Comment: See also:


Green Light

Is Harvey Weinstein a sex trafficker? Judge says it's O.K. to ask

weinstein
© Jeenah Moon/The New York Times
A judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit that claims Harvey Weinstein, shown in June after he was charged with sex assault, violated a federal sex-trafficking statute.
In a novel decision that could pave the way for other lawsuits, a judge on Tuesday ruled that Harvey Weinstein can be sued for violating a federal sex-trafficking statute by a young actress who claims he coerced her to engage in sex acts with him in exchange for a false promise of a movie role.

The judge said the inducement to have sex with the Hollywood producer could fall under the sex-trafficking law, which makes it a crime to entice and force a person to commit a "commercial sex act" in return for something of value.

Card - VISA

Crimea ditches Visa and MasterCard in favor of Russia's Mir payment system

Swallow's nest in Crimea
© Sergey Malgavko / Sputnik
Swallow's nest in Crimea
US payment systems Visa and MasterCard are no longer present on Russia's Crimean Peninsula. The republic's largest bank has finished the procedure of switching all plastic cards to Russia's Mir payment system.

"On August 14, the process of replacing Visa and MasterCard plastic cards in favour of the Mir payment system has ended. Visa and MasterCard plastic cards issued by Genbank, which have not been replaced, are not serviced since August 14," the Crimean bank said.

However, Genbank would still accept Visa and MasterCard cards issued by other banks outside Crimea at its ATMs. The bank had been the only financial institution in Crimea to issue cards of foreign operators.

Attention

The real reasons the FBI fired Peter Strzok

peter strzok

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok
Former FBI agents say the text messages are not the only reason Strzok was fired

There are certainly more than just the anti-Trump text messages sent by former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok that led the second in command at the FBI to fire him. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich actually overruled a recommendation by the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to suspend and demote the former senior agent, and instead, terminated Strzok on Friday.

But, what could have led FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, to make the decision to overrule OPR? Why didn't FBI Director Christopher Wray take charge and fire Strzok himself? And more importantly, why would OPR recommend Strzok - who was charged with handling the investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia - only receive a 60-day suspension and demotion?

In a statement to SaraACarter.com on Monday, the FBI said: "Mr. Strzok was subject to the standard FBI review and disciplinary process after conduct highlighted in the IG report was referred to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)."

Brick Wall

Now teleSUR is removed from Facebook: Social media platform becoming 'US govt censorship vehicle' UPDATE - Page restored

facebook telesur taken down
© Telesur / Instagram
The decision by Facebook to delete left-leaning Latin American news network Telesur's English language page with no explanation has only added to concerns over censorship and US government interference on the platform.

Having been deleted on Facebook earlier this year, Telesur had been "even more careful" with its posts and broke "absolutely none" of Facebook's terms, former director of Telesur, Pablo Vivanco, told RT.

Vivanco believes there is no justification for the social media giant to have removed the page once again, stressing that on Telesur, there was "always a process to ensure accuracy and journalistic ethics."

Comment: Simon Rite comments at RT:
When Facebook decides to censor, there is absolutely nothing to stop them. For the second time, left-leaning Latin American news network Telesur has had its Facebook page removed, with no explanation given.

When Telesur's page was first taken down in January this year, no explanation was given then either. 'Kafkaesque' is an overused phrase, but here it is absolutely valid. Telesur is being punished, yet no one will actually tell them why. Here is a description of Kafka's The Trial: "it tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader." Sound familiar?

So, why Telesur? Well this comes off the back of Infowars and Alex Jones finding themselves de-platformed by a whole raft of social media platforms including Facebook. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot in common between the two. Telesur is a media organisation, Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist. One comes from the left, and one comes from the right; but that is exactly the point. Neither of them are regarded as mainstream, so are in the firing line. Thinking differently to the mainstream legacy media outlets is going to make you no friends at the likes of Facebook.

As Telesur itself said in a statement: "this is an alarming development in light of the recent shutting down of pages that don't fit a mainstream narrative."


It's also telling that when Facebook decided it did need to do something to deal with what is labelled 'fake news' it partnered up with the Digital Forensic Lab, an offshoot of the Atlantic Council, a neo-liberal think tank set up in 1961 to promote Western ideology around the world. In more simple terms, it is NATO's lobbying organization and it goes about its work very aggressively.

So, what does that make Facebook? It is a social media platform that is global, it has billions of users in every country in the world, and it is starting to refine what people are allowed to be exposed to, to fit it into the same old mainstream narrative, and it is able to operate completely unchecked.

I personally don't want to defend Alex Jones, and Telesur is not my first port of call when it comes to getting news, but censorship takes on a life of its own, it has unpredictable consequences, and it presupposes that a chosen side has a monopoly on truth. Governments will do what they can to further their interests, but Facebook was supposed to provide a platform for people to communicate freely.

Running the current model of Facebook is every crooked politician's dream. There are no term limits, no elections and no demand for them either, yet at the very same time the power the platform holds is wide-ranging and knows no international borders. It is no exaggeration to say that Facebook has the power to control huge swathes of what the global population reads or thinks.

The irony of the situation surrounding Facebook currently, is there are literally people and governments begging for Zuckerberg's social media giant to act as a censor. To repeat, governments want Facebook to do their censoring for them. To make it even more specific, there is one particular government that wants Facebook to start censoring, and it's located in the land of the free.

How far down this rabbit can you go? Well a senior Facebook executive has reportedly told Australian media organisations that if they didn't cooperate with the social network, their businesses would die. Facebook has a lot of power, and it's starting to use it.
UPDATE 15 Aug 11:00 CET

Facebook has restored teleSUR's page.

Given how unreliable FB has become, it's time to ditch it.


USA

Fear and loathing intensified domestically and geopolitically by the US

US police state
As I write this news came of the attempt on President Maduro's life, additional "sanctions" against Iran, North Korea, Syria and Russia, a ramping up of the economic warfare against China through the use of trade tariffs, threats of war against all of those nations and dangerous alarms from within the USA that the upcoming midterm elections for Congress are being threatened by Russia. The western media have spun the failed attempt on Maduro as a staged event so he can "clampdown on democracy" and so act as co-conspirators in the plot. If the attempt had succeeded they would have been jubilant that it worked but they are so corrupt we could not put it past them to claim that his murder would be justified. But what strikes me about all these circumstances is the connection between the domestic situation in the USA and its external aggression.

The defeat of the US and its NATO and Middle Eastern allies in Syria dealt them a major strategic blow. They had hoped to be able to take over the land and air space of Syria and ISIS controlled Iraq to build up forces so they could attack Iran. Now that is only possible by air attack and they know as we all know that despite the destruction they can wreak air bombardment alone does not win wars. So the US reneged on the Iran nuclear deal in order to have its pretext to impose crippling economic warfare on Iran, which has had the effect of devaluing its currency and making life difficult. Already some unrest has been provoked because of this and the actions of western agents in Iran. The Americans hope to cause enough unrest to bring down the Iranian government and impose their own puppets or direct western colonial rule but they do not understand either the will to resist nor the Persian culture and people. Nor did they expect to be frustrated by Iran's friends who refuse to obey US diktats to reduce Iranian oil sales to zero. India, China, Russia, Turkey and some EU countries that need it will continue to by Iranian oil.