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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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US calls on Russia to help deliver aid to Rukban Camp in Syria

Rukban camp
© AP Photo
The US Department of State on Monday called on Russia to help facilitate deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Rukban refugee camp in Syria.

"The United States has [...] called for many months for the Syrian regime [government headed by President Bashar Assad] to allow rapid, safe, and unhindered UN access to the Rukban encampment. The recent humanitarian convoy was a positive step, and we call upon Russia to help facilitate continued, regular humanitarian deliveries," US Department of State deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a press statement.

Palladino praised the recent delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rukban camp by the United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

"The delivery, complete with careful distribution to all groups and UN/SARC monitoring, ensured that aid reached all those who needed it. We urge that access for humanitarian assistance must continue to Rukban and to all areas in Syria where people are in need," Palladino said.

Comment: In agreement with Lavrov, the refugees would clearly dispute US claims that they have "freedom of movement", because it's Russia along with the Syrian government who have taken the responsibility of organising humanitarian corridors alongside the Syrian government: Syrian refugees "trapped" in "deplorable conditions" in US held area, Russia to open humanitarian corridors for their escape

Elsewhere in Syria the US-led coalition continues its relentless slaughter of civilians: US-led coalition's policy of bombing 'ex-mosques' in Syria revealed, 70 civilians dead in 2 days, Kurdish militants advance in Al-Baghuz


Pistol

Suspected terrorist behind Kashmir bomb attack killed by Indian forces after 12-hour siege

Kamran Pulwama
© Reuters / Younis Khaliq
The scene of the explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 14, 2019.
The suspected mastermind behind the terrorist attack in Pulwama in the disputed Kashmir region that took the lives of 44 paramilitary police officers has been killed by Indian security forces following a 12-hour gun battle.

Kamran, believed to be an elite member of the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and mastermind behind one of the deadliest attacks in the disputed region, was among seven people killed in the battle on Monday.

Two Jaish terrorists, three soldiers and one policeman were killed in the battle just 10km from the site of the February 14 suicide attack, in Jammu and Kashmir's disputed Pulwama district.

Comment: You have to wonder about such a massive bomb attack occurring just as Indian and Pakistani relations are thawing.

Cui bono?

Certainly neither of those countries, nor Russia nor China...


Cow Skull

A new despotism in the era of surveillance capitalism

surveillance padlock
© Legal Loop
There is a fascinating chapter toward the end of Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America titled "What Kind of Despotism Do Democratic Nations Have to Fear?" in which the author attempted something truly extraordinary - to describe a social condition which humankind had never before encountered. We find him trying to put his finger on something which does not yet exist, but which - in his extraordinary political imagination - he was able to foresee with startling clarity.

I maintain that we have good reason to fear that the business model of commercial surveillance - pioneered by Google and adopted by Facebook, among others - is serving to undermine the foundations of our democracy. Shoshana Zuboff explains in her new book, The Age of Surveillance Capital (Public Affairs, 2019), that the system works by treating human experience as "free raw material for translation into behavioral data. Although some of these data are applied to service improvements, the rest are declared as proprietary behavioral surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as 'machine intelligence,' and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon and later. Finally, these prediction products are traded in a new kind of marketplace that I call behavioral futures markets. Surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, for many companies are willing to lay bets on our future behavior."

In effect, we are becoming the subject of a new insidious, subtle, and almost invisible form of subjugation that was foreseen with uncanny ability by Tocqueville in 1849. Over a hundred and seventy-five years ago, Tocqueville wrote:
"The kind of oppression with which democratic peoples are threatened will resemble nothing that has proceeded it in the world."

Comment: See also:


Arrow Down

Justin Trudeau's government in turmoil after top aide resigns amidst corruption allegations

Justin Trudeau
When he swept into office back in 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised supporters of a Liberal Party reinvigorated by a decade of conservative rule that he would bring about "real change" - both in Ottawa, and for a Liberal Party marred by allegations of corruption.

So far, he has largely failed at both, cozying up to the country's energy industry while masking his maintenance of the pro-business status quo with legalized marijuana and a "progressive" agenda that has included banning misgendering and hiring the first cabinet in Canada's history with an equal number of men and women.

Yet as Canada's leader braces for what promises to be a bruising reelection campaign ahead of a vote in October, his office has been marred by a blossoming scandal surrounding reports that it pressured the former attorney general into dropping years-old corruption charges against Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian construction company with close ties to Trudeau's party.

In a sign that this scandal won't easily disappear, no matter how many times Trudeau stands in front of a gaggle of reporters and breezily denies the allegations, one of his closest aids resigned on Monday over allegations that he or his staff pressured the former AG, who was abruptly demoted last month.

The aide, Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, denied the allegations, and said he was resigning to avoid distracting Trudeau from the hard work ahead. It's unclear whether he will have any role on the Trudeau campaign. He is considered the second most influential official in Trudeau's government after Chief of Staff Katie Telford.

Comment: See also: Scheer calls for emergency meeting over Trudeau's potential interference in justice system


MIB

Niece of Sergei Skripal believes her uncle is dead

Viktoria Skripal

Sergei Skripal's niece Viktoria Skripal
Victoria Skripal, a niece of Sergei Skripal, poisoned in Salisbury, said she was sure of his death.
"Well, Skripal is not among the living," she said. She came to this conclusion because the ex-spy has not informed his relatives about his state of health for a year. An earlier edition of The Sunday Times, citing an intelligence source, reported that the former GRU officer, Sergey Skripal, who had been poisoned by a nerve agent in British Salisbury, was feeling worse. - 'Skripal is dead - niece' | Russian spring
We remind our readers that the alleged poisoning of the Skripals was the excuse for the huge expulsion of Russian diplomats by England and the US, and for the US to completely close the Russian Consulate in Seattle. The Russian Federation in response closed the US Consulate in St. Petersburg and ousted 60 US diplomats.

Jet5

Mutiny in Western Ranks as Top French Commander Slams US' Phoney War Against ISIS

Francois-Regis Legrier
© DAPHNE BENOIT/AFP/Getty Images
(L to R) French Major of the Wagram Task Force Francois-Regis Legrier explains military positions on a sand map to French Defence Minister Florence Parly, French General Jean-Marc Vigilant, US Army General Paul Lacamera, and French ambassador to Iraq Bruno Aubert, at a French artillery forward operating base (FOB) near al-Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province opposite Syria's Deir Ezzor region, a few kilometres away from the last scrap of territory held by Daesh, on 9 February 2019.
A senior French officer faces punishment after publicly condemning the US-led coalition's military tactics against Daesh in the east of Syria, accusing Washington of prolonging the conflict and disregarding a growing civilian death toll, the army said on Saturday.

Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier - who has been in charge of directing French artillery supporting Kurdish-led groups in Syria since October - said the coalition's focus had been on limiting its own risks and this had greatly increased the death toll among civilians, as well as raised the level of destruction.


Comment: Unlike the Russians, who die on the field side-by-side with Syrian forces and thus swiftly liberate Syrian cities with minimal destruction.


"Yes, the Battle of Hajin [near Syria's eastern border with Iraq] was won, at least on the ground, but by refusing ground engagement, we unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and thus contributed to increasing the number of casualties in the population," Legrier wrote in an article in the National Defence Review.

France is one of the main allies in the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq, with its warplanes used to strike militant targets, its heavy-artillery backing Kurdish-led fighters and its special forces leading the ground assault.

Comment: No, they deliberately target mosques, weddings, funerals and hospitals when they are full of civilians specifically to harvest more terrorists/insurgents from the general population. Without terrorists, there is no 'great game' for control of world energy resources.

That's why 'removing the scourge of terrorism from the Middle East' is totally antithetical to Western interests.

Legrier also wrote:
"The question is whether the liberation of a region can be done only at the cost of the destruction of its infrastructure (hospitals, places of worship, roads, bridges, dwellings, etc.). This is the uncomplicated approach taken yesterday and today by the Americans; it's not ours."
We find it interesting that the French military staff at this publication elected to publish this at all...


Penis Pump

"Funny tinge": UK MP quits 'racist' Labour party, hours later makes bizarre reference to skin colour

Angela Smith

Angela Smith
The MP Angela Smith has apologised for having "misspoke" after she appeared to refer to people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as having a "funny tinge".

In a discussion on the extent of racism in the UK on BBC2's Politics Live show, Smith - who on Monday left Labour to help found a new independent grouping in parliament - said society needed to address the important debate rather than run away from it.

Referencing the fact working-class women find life hard enough but that BAME working-class women face greater impediments, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge said: "The recent history of the party I've just left suggests that it's not just about being black or a funny [partially inaudible], you know, different, from the BAME community."


Comment: It is clear from the audio she says "funny tin-" and stopped herself.


Ash Sarkar, the political commentator from Novara Media, interjected: "A funny what?". Smith's comment, however, was not addressed by the host Jo Coburn.


Comment: Why not? Is there any reason the BBC host, who are supposed to be impartial, wouldn't address such a strange comment?


Comment: It's likely that Angela Smith isn't racist, and instead has become a victim of her own weaponisation of political correctness. And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

An article from Joe.co.uk summed up the situation rather aptly:
This morning Angela Smith announced herself as one of the co-founders of the new Independent Group, a political group formed by seven rebel MPs who quit Labour.

At the announcement press conference, the MPs stood up, one after the other, and passionately highlighted the key factors in their decision to leave the party, including Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Brexit, racism in the form of anti-Semitism within the party and the growing influence of the "hard-left".

In fairness to Smith, managed to last - what was it? A couple of hours? Three max?

[...]

How you ask? By actually answering a question by saying the following sentence, during an interview on the subject of whether racism remains a problem in Britain: "It's not about being black or a funny tinge-" before interrupting herself to add, "from the BAME community".

On that evidence, Angela, I'd perhaps maybe argue that racism is a big problem in the UK, yeah. Considering you were an elected member of parliament and you are referring to BAME people as being a 'funny tinge'. I'd say it's a reasonably bad state of affairs to be quite honest with you.

Smith resigned from her seat as representative for Penistone and Stocksbridge, which she had held since 2010. In her resignation speech, she cited her 'Labour family' and 'working-class pride' before going on to explain the reasoning behind her decision.

She stated that "the Labour is a party now characterised by intolerance" and "fosters division rather than unity" before concluding that she could not "in all conscience, continue to affiliate with a Labour Party that I consider unfit for government".

As starts go, it's a rather inauspicious one for the Independent Group.
See also:Those seven dwarfs date back to Tony Blair, good riddance': Rundown of Labour MP's defection






Eye 2

Pervert Anthony Weiner released from prison, will remain under house arrest until May

anthony weiner
Anthony Weiner is no longer behind bars, but the disgraced ex-U.S. Congressman still has a few months in federal custody before he's freed ... still earlier than originally expected.

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... Weiner's been transferred out of a Massachusetts prison and into the custody of a Bureau of Prisons residential re-entry center in New York. We're told he's either in a halfway house or home confinement.

Weiner's now in pre-release status, which inmates often get as they approach the end of their federal sentence. The purpose is to prepare them to transition back into society.

As we reported ... Weiner started serving his 21-month prison sentence in November 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting with a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. He was slated to get out August, 2019, but good behavior slashed the sentence 3 months to May 14.

Arrow Down

Lavrov disapproves 'NATO-centric' approach to crises, but extends hand to US on nuclear treaty

Lavrov MSC
© Reuters
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference
The annual Munich Security Conference, a Cold War era trans-Atlantic focused meeting to address severe military challenges, but which has over the years grown to include nations from around the world addressing pressing security issues, kicked off late this week on a pessimistic note. "The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart," Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, wrote in an essay introducing the conference. "We are experiencing an epochal shift; an era is ending, and the rough outlines of a new political age are only beginning to emerge." And on Saturday German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a "disintegration of international political structures" while stressing the importance of NATO as "an anchor of stability on a stormy sea".

But concerning this "disintegration" the conference has already included a significant overture made by the Russian representative hoping to open the door to negotiations with the United States over the future of now shaky arms treaties between the two countries following the historic US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) within the last month. In the tit-for-tat accusations and lashing out that followed at the beginning of February, Putin alarmingly accused Washington of also imperiling in the long term the landmark New START treaty, signed in 2010 and set to expire in 2021. It aims to reduce the total number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, according to TASS:
President Putin has repeatedly said that we are ready to launch the talks on extension of the New START. It only expires in 2021, though time flies fast, and we have suggested to the US that such discussions be launched, considering the necessity to clear up certain issues that we are worried about.

Comment: More from RT:
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says European project [is] failing to provide security and prosperity for continent, while EU wastes its energies on confronting Russia to please Washington.

"A unified Europe still hasn't been built," Sergey Lavrov said in his keynote address at the Munich Security Conference. "Everyday issues - from eradicating terrorism, to providing steady economic growth - have not been addressed with adequate solutions." Instead, the Russian diplomat said that Europe has been happy to play "follower" to Washington's "leader" all while pursuing a "NATO-centric" foreign policy.

"While Europeans have let themselves be dragged into a pointless standoff with Russia, losing billions on sanctions imposed on them from across the Atlantic, the world has continued changing," said Lavrov, in reference to the measures applied to Russia over Crimea and Ukraine since 2014.

In order to stop from falling behind, the European house needs a major renovation. In a practical sense the EU has lost its monopoly on the regional integration agenda. The balance of power across the region is changing, primarily due to the rising powers in the Asia Pacific."

Lavrov said that as part of this new configuration, which includes China's One Belt-One Road project, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a notable role is being played by the Eurasian Economic Union, which has strengthened ties between five former Soviet republics, including Russia.

But Lavrov insisted that "despite widespread speculation" among Western politicians and media outlets, Moscow is not interested in undermining the European Union.

"We are interested in a strong, independent, and open European Union," adding that EU's striving for independence in the sphere of defense in the form of an EU army, is a "natural and positive development for the strengthening of a multipolar world. To what extent Europe will be allowed to achieve its aims, is another question," Lavrov added.



Snakes in Suits

Bolton's sordid history of tirades and dirty tricks

Bolton
© Gage Skidmore/Fikr/Creative Commons
If he doesn't check these worst impulses at the door, we're in more trouble than we think.

It has been about four days since President Donald Trump appointed former U.S. ambassador John Bolton to be his next national security adviser, and the reactions have ranged all over the map. Fellow uber-hawks like Senators Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton are charged up about Bolton joining Trump's national security team, while the rest of us are heading to church and praying that the rapture won't come early. For those in the a realist persuasion who prize diplomacy as a preeminent foreign policy tool rather than a form of appeasement, it's hard to find anyone who would be as terrifying in the Situation Room as Bolton. What's next? Another stint for Dick Cheney as secretary of defense?

As dangerous as Bolton's foreign policy views are - which, if one were to sum them up, consist of bombing any adversary callous enough not to succumb to America's wishes - his cutthroat, take-no-prisoners approach to policymaking should be just as nerve-wracking. With experience across three administrations, Bolton's bureaucratic chops are as ruthless as his mustache is bushy. He takes the national security bureaucracy by the horns and is not afraid to play dirty.

Comment: Bolton Cringe Factor: the demise of diplomacy