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Italian president appoints ex-IMF official Cottarelli as interim PM, gives him mandate to form govt.

Press TV – May 28, 2018

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has appointed Carlo Cottarelli, a former senior director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as interim prime minister, giving him mandate to form a government ahead of snap elections in the country, which has been without a government for two months.

Cottarelli made the announcement after a meeting with Mattarella on Monday, saying he would put together a transitional government “very quickly” and lead the country to fresh elections slated in the fall or early next year.

“I have accepted the task to form a government as the president has asked. As an Italian I am very honored by this task and I will do my best,” Cottarelli said.

The former senior IMF official also told reporters that he would soon return to parliament with a budget program to be put to the vote for approval.

“I will present myself to parliament with a program, which, if it wins the backing of parliament, would include the passage of the 2019 budget, and then parliament would be dissolved with elections at the beginning of 2019,” he said.

“In the absence of a confidence (vote), the government would resign immediately and its main function would be the management of ordinary affairs until elections are held after August 2018,” Cottarelli added.

The appointment came after anti-establishment forces abandoned efforts to form a ruling coalition in the European country and hit a standoff with the president over his refusal to endorse a eurosceptic pick for the post of finance minister.

Mattarella vetoed the nomination of Paolo Savona as economy minister in a coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right League party.

The 76-year-old president said he would accept every proposed minister except Savona, who had formerly asserted that Italy’s entry into the European Union’s single currency, euro, was a “historic mistake.”

Mattarella stressed that he had done “everything possible” to aid the formation of a government but an openly eurosceptic economy minister ran against the parties’ joint promise to simply “change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view.”

The two populist parties accused Mattarella of betraying voters and later dropped their plan to take power.

Mattarella’s action sparked angry calls for his impeachment and the chaos sent Italian stocks tumbling by as much as two percent at one stage.

Cottarelli, 64, is widely known at home as “Mr. Scissors” for making cuts to public spending. To become prime minister, he is required to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League holding a majority in both houses.

Italy — a founding member of the European Union — has been without a government since an election in early March when Five Star and League emerged as the biggest parties.

The two parties have vowed to battle the EU over its financial and immigration policies. The two have formerly been open to the possibility of Italy holding a referendum on euro.

The prospect of a eurosceptic government in Rome has concerned EU leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are pushing for further political and economic integration.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , | Leave a comment

The flames that killed Fathi Harb should make us all burn with guilt and shame

By Jonathon Cook | The National | May 27, 2018

Fathi Harb should have had something to live for, not least the imminent arrival of a new baby. But last week the 21-year-old extinguished his life in an inferno of flames in central Gaza.

It is believed to be the first example of a public act of self-immolation in the enclave. Harb doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on a street in Gaza City shortly before dawn prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.

In part, Harb was driven to this terrible act of self-destruction out of despair.

After a savage, decade-long Israeli blockade by land, sea and air, Gaza is like a car running on fumes. The United Nations has repeatedly warned that the enclave will be uninhabitable within a few years.

Over that same decade, Israel has intermittently pounded Gaza into ruins, in line with the Israeli army’s Dahiya doctrine. The goal is to decimate the targeted area, turning life back to the Stone Age so that the population is too preoccupied with making ends meet to care about the struggle for freedom.

Both of these kinds of assault have had a devastating impact on inhabitants’ psychological health.

Harb would have barely remembered a time before Gaza was an open-air prison and one where a 1,000kg Israeli bomb might land near his home.

In an enclave where two-thirds of young men are unemployed, he had no hope of finding work. He could not afford a home for his young family and he was about to have another mouth to feed.

Doubtless, all of this contributed to his decision to burn himself to death.

But self-immolation is more than suicide. That can be done quietly, out of sight, less gruesomely. In fact, figures suggest that suicide rates in Gaza have rocketed in recent years.

But public self-immolation is associated with protest.

A Buddhist monk famously turned himself into a human fireball in Vietnam in 1963 in protest at the persecution of his co-religionists. Tibetans have used self-immolation to highlight Chinese oppression, Indians to decry the caste system, and Poles, Ukrainians and Czechs once used it to protest Soviet rule.

But more likely for Harb, the model was Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in late 2010 after officials humiliated him once too often. His public death triggered a wave of protests across the Middle East that became the Arab Spring.

Bouazizi’s self-immolation suggests its power to set our consciences on fire. It is the ultimate act of individual self-sacrifice, one that is entirely non-violent except to the victim himself, performed altruistically in a greater, collective cause.

Who did Harb hope to speak to with his shocking act?

In part, according to his family, he was angry with the Palestinian leadership. His family was trapped in the unresolved feud between Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. That dispute has led the PA to cut the salaries of its workers in Gaza, including Harb’s father.

But Harb undoubtedly had a larger audience in mind too.

Until a few years ago, Hamas regularly fired rockets out of the enclave in a struggle both to end Israel’s continuing colonisation of Palestinian land and to liberate the people of Gaza from their Israeli-made prison.

But the world rejected the Palestinians’ right to resist violently and condemned Hamas as “terrorists”. Israel’s series of military rampages in Gaza to silence Hamas were meekly criticised in the West as “disproportionate”.

The Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where there is still direct contact with Israeli Jews, usually as settlers or soldiers, watched as Gaza’s armed resistance failed to prick the world’s conscience.

So some took up the struggle as individuals, targeting Israelis or soldiers at checkpoints. They grabbed a kitchen knife to attack Israelis or soldiers at checkpoints, or rammed them with a car, bus or bulldozer.

Again, the world sided with Israel. Resistance was not only futile, it was denounced as illegitimate.

Since late March, the struggle for liberation has shifted back to Gaza. Tens of thousands of unarmed Palestinians have massed weekly close to Israel’s fence encaging them.

The protests are intended as confrontational civil disobedience, a cry to the world for help and a reminder that Palestinians are being slowly choked to death.

Israel has responded repeatedly by spraying the demonstrators with live ammunition, seriously wounding many thousands and killing more than 100. Yet again, the world has remained largely impassive.

In fact, worse still, the demonstrators have been cast as Hamas stooges. The United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, blamed the victims under occupation, saying Israel had a right to “defend its border”, while the British government claimed the protests were “hijacked by terrorists”.

None of this can have passed Harb by.

When Palestinians are told they can “protest peacefully”, western governments mean quietly, in ways that Israel can ignore, in ways that will not trouble consciences or require any action.

In Gaza, the Israeli army is renewing the Dahiya doctrine, this time by shattering thousands of Palestinian bodies rather than infrastructure.

Harb understood only too well the West’s hypocrisy in denying Palestinians any right to meaningfully resist Israel’s campaign of destruction.

The flames that engulfed him were intended also to consume us with guilt and shame. And doubtless more in Gaza will follow his example.

Will Harb be proved right? Can the West be shamed into action?

Or will we continue blaming the victims to excuse our complicity in seven decades of outrages committed against the Palestinian people?

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 3 Comments

Palestinians call to save their homes from Israeli demolition orders

Palestinians watch the demolition of their home in the West Bank on 7 November 2017 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]
MEMO | May 28, 2018

Palestinian families in the village of Aqaba, north of the West Bank, on Sunday called on Palestinian human rights organizations and the government to save their homes from the Israeli demolition orders.

The Israeli authorities have recently issued orders to demolish the homes of 20 families in the village of Aqaba under the pretext of being built in Area C.

The head of Aqaba village council, Sami Sadiq said the decision was issued by the Israeli Defence Ministry and ordered the all houses built during the past six months in Area C to be demolished if they were not inhibited by their owners.

He added that the village council has been trying to contact human rights organizations and the media in an attempt to stop the decision and protect the homes.

In an interview with Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, he pointed out that the houses are built on land owned by their owners who have owner documents.

Ibrahim Yusuf Jaber, the owner of one of the houses threatened with demolition said the decision stipulates to demolish the house within 60 days if I do not move in, but 40 days have already passed while we received the orders only two days ago.

Watch: Video of about Al Aqaba village

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

NYT Edit Board Are Last Humans on Earth Who Believe US Neutral in Israel/Palestine Conflict

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | May 16, 2018

The fact that the United States favors Israel in its decades-long “conflict” with the Palestinians is not a subjective or abstract question; it’s a well-established empirical fact. The US gives over $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel (more than the US spends on aid for the last seven countries it’s bombed combined ), and defends it from sanction almost uniformly at the UN Security Council. Israel’s support from the US Congress borders on sycophantic. The US, on the other hand, gives no military aid to Palestine, and opposes resolutions that even acknowledge Palestine exists—much less support its resistance to Israeli occupation. The US gives some aid to the Israeli-approved and corrupt Palestinian Authority, but this largely serves to buy off the docile and unpopular PA.

None of these simple, clear-as-day facts however, seem to be known—or at least acknowledged—by those who make up the New York Times editorial board.

NYT: Trump's Failure in Jerusalem

New York Times editorial (5/14/18): “For generations the Americans, the honest brokers in seeking peace, withheld recognition of either side’s claims.”

In an otherwise decent scolding of President Donald Trump for moving the US embassy, the Times (5/14/18) fired off this cartoonishly naive and ahistorical gem:

Mr. Trump’s announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, swept aside 70 years of American neutrality.

It’s difficult to imagine any of the seemingly knowledgeable and healthy adults at the Times editorial board actually thinking the US has been “neutral” in its dealings with Israel and Palestine. Perhaps not 100 percent lockstep. Perhaps sometimes pushing back against the most right-wing elements in Israel. But “neutral”? It flies in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary.

This isn’t the first time the New York Times has played the part of a kindergartener finding out Santa Claus isn’t real. As FAIR noted last December (12/30/17), Times reporter Mark Landler used the specter of Trump to totally whitewash America’s aggressive and violent past, in a manner that crosses from jingoistic to outright goofy:

Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.

How they know this wasn’t made clear. Perhaps Landler and his editors at the Times did a secret poll and found out the United States has been viewed by “the world” as a “reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order,” rather than a superpower bully that defends rogue apartheid states and launches wars of aggression without UN sanction. But in the article, this “view” was simply asserted, all the ideological lifting being done by the reporter’s back-of-the-napkin editorializing.

In a similar bout of amnesia (, 2/9/17), the Times editorial board argued earlier that year that America’s wars over the past decades were started for purely noble intentions:

At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy, sometimes with extraordinary results, as when Germany and Japan evolved after World War II from vanquished enemies into trusted, prosperous allies.

Again, one is compelled to ask, how do Times editors know what’s in the hearts of our beloved leaders? What’s the evidence that their motives were benevolent, their empire an earnest, aw shucks effort to help out the little guy?

It’s understandable wanting to impress upon readers how dangerous and flagrant President Trump’s actions are and have been. But in doing so, there’s no reason to rewrite history and whitewash America’s crimes, or its prior bad-faith actions with regard to Palestine—if not for the sake of history, at least for the sake of their paper’s credibility.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. speaks out

Press TV – May 28, 2018

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has said he doesn’t believe Sirhan B. Sirhan, the 24-year-old Palestinian man convicted of killing his father Bobby Kennedy in 1968, had carried out the assassination and believes a second shooter did it.

In an interview with The Washington Post published this weekend, Kennedy said he had spent months reviewing autopsy results, police reports and interviewed witnesses who were there when his father was gunned down on June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, California.

He told the newspaper that he also met 74-year-old Sirhan incarcerated in the massive Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, a California state prison complex in the desert outside San Diego.

“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

He said that after his research and his meeting with Sirhan after all this he found out that he did not kill his father, but there was a second gunman who carried out the assassination.

Kennedy, now 64, was just 14 when he lost his father. He said he doesn’t know if his involvement in the case will change anything, but he wants a reinvestigation of the assassination.

Bobby Kennedy served as a Democratic senator for New York from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968, when he was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

He was assassinated five years after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was gunned down in Dallas, Texas, and two months after civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, Tennessee.

The President’s Commission on the Assassination of Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1963 to investigate the assassination of JFK.

The commission’s final report concluded that former US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald acted entirely alone in assassinating the president.

However, many independent researchers, including American writer and journalist Stephen Lendman, are unconvinced by the official government account and argue that Oswald was part of a conspiracy to kill the charismatic 46-year-old president.

They believe the CIA murdered President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.

“Sirhan Sirhan is still alive, in prison. He had nothing to do with the killing of Bobby Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald had nothing to do with the killing of Jack Kennedy. The CIA killed Jack Kennedy,” Lendman told Press TV in October last year, referring to the 35th president of the United States.

“And Kennedy was not shot twice from behind as the official report said. He was shot at least four times, from the front and from the back. And there was a bullet hole in the windshield of his limousine, and that was covered up, rather poorly, but it was covered up,” he noted.

Lendman said that Oswald “was set up” and then “he was assassinated. He was assassinated by Jack Ruby, who was eliminated also.”

“And the moral of that story is: ‘dead men tell no tales,’” he observed.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | | 3 Comments

America’s Incredible Shrinking Influence

By Ron Paul | May 28, 2018

Just two weeks after President Trump pulled the US from the Iran nuclear agreement, his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued 12 demands to Iran that could never be satisfied. Pompeo knew his demands would be impossible to meet. They were designed that way. Just like Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, that led to the beginning of World War I. And just like the impossible demands made of Milosevic in 1999 and of Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003, and so many other times when Washington wanted war. These impossible demands are tools of war rather than steps toward peace.

Secretary Pompeo raged at Iran. The mainstream news media raged at Iran. Trump raged at Iran. But then a strange thing happened: nothing. The Iranians announced that they remained committed to diplomacy and would continue to uphold their end of the nuclear agreement if the Europeans and other partners were willing to do the same. Iranian and European officials then sought out contacts in defiance of Washington in hopes of preserving mutually-beneficial emerging commercial relations.

Washington responded to the European snub by threatening secondary sanctions on European companies that continued doing business with an Iran that had repeatedly been found in compliance with its end of the bargain. Any independent European relationship with Iran would be punished, Washington threatened. But then, again, very little happened.

Rather than jump on Washington’s bandwagon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made two trips to Russia in May seeking closer ties and a way forward on Iran.

Russia and China were named as our prime enemies in the latest National Security Strategy for the United States, but both countries stand to benefit from the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran deal. When the French oil company Total got spooked by Washington threats and pulled out of Iran, a Chinese firm eagerly took its place.

It seems the world has grown tired of neocon threats from Washington. Ironically the “communist” Chinese seem to understand better than the US that in capitalism you do not threaten your customers. While the US is threatening and sanctioning and forbidding economic relations, its adversaries overseas are busy reaping the benefits of America’s real isolationism.

If President Trump’s canceled meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un remains canceled, North and South Korea have shown that they will continue with their peacemaking efforts. As if Washington was no longer relevant.

I’ve often spoken of the unintended consequences of our aggressive foreign policy. For example, President Bush’s invasion of Iraq only helped Iran – our “enemy” – become more dominant in the Middle East. But it seems new consequences are emerging, and for the neocons they must be very unintended: for all of its bellicosity, threats, demands, sanctions, and even bombs, the rest of the world is increasingly simply ignoring the demands of Washington and getting on with its own business.

While I am slightly surprised at this development, as a libertarian and a non-interventionist I welcome the growing irrelevance of Washington’s interventionists. We have a far better philosophy and we must work hard to promote it so that it can finally be tried after neocon failure becomes obvious to everyone. This is our big opportunity!

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

MH-17 Probe Follows Frame-Up Process of Skripal Poisoning

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 28.05.2018

The latest report by a Dutch-led investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner in 2014 casting blame on Russia for the disaster follows the same reprehensible flouting of due process as the Skripal poison affair.

No credible evidence is ever presented. The charges leveled against Russia largely rely on assertion and innuendo. And despite the grave implications for the accused, Russia is not permitted to access the investigation file independently to form an adequate defense against the claims.

This is far from the standard of due legal process. Ironically, by Western governments that claim to be paragons of law and jurisprudence. It is more akin to an inquisition where guilt is presumed from the outset, and where the prosecution is tilted heavily in favor of the accusers.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has released updated conclusions to its nearly-four-long probe into the airline disaster. On July 17, 2014, Malaysian MH-17 crashed while transiting airspace over eastern Ukraine on its way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. All 298 people onboard were killed. Most of the victims were Dutch, Malaysian and Australian nationals.

A plausible explanation for the downing is that the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile. The big question is who fired the missile since the Ukrainian region was the scene of intense fighting between Western-backed Kiev regime forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Western news media and governments immediately sought to blame Russian-backed rebels for the carnage. By dubious extension, President Vladimir Putin was vilified in some media coverage as being personally responsible for the deaths.

Russia has vehemently denied having any involvement in the incident. Indeed, Moscow has said it believes Kiev’s armed forces may have fired the missile.

The rebels in the Donbas region again this week reiterated that they were not responsible since they did not possess any such high-altitude anti-aircraft weapon systems.

The JIT probe previously reported that the weapon was a Soviet-made Buk missile. This week, the investigators dramatically upped the ante by charging that the missile came from a Russian anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk, southwest Russia. The Dutch-led team claim that the 53rd Brigade transported the Buk system over the border into Ukraine. They claim that the convoy returned to Russia shortly after the downing of the airliner. The Dutch team leave the possibility open that the weapon may have been fired by another party, but the implication is Russian culpability.

Like the Skripal affair involving the alleged poisoning of a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in England on March 4, the MH-17 case has been prejudiced from the outset by wild allegations of Russia’s guilt.

Within days of the purported poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, the British government accused Russia of carrying out an assassination plot. There has never been any verifiable evidence presented by the British authorities to substantiate their sensational claims. The trick seems to be to railroad through a guilty verdict before any due process is allowed to take place.

Likewise in the case of the MH-17 disaster. Russia or Russia-backed militants have been labelled as guilty from the beginning. All proceedings thereafter seem to be solely for the purpose of “proving” the foregone conclusion.

A further similarity in this inquisitorial process is that Russian investigators have been excluded from multilateral fact-finding. The Dutch-led JIT is heavily reliant on NATO secret intelligence. More disturbing is that the Kiev regime, which should be treated as one of the suspect parties, has been allowed to contribute to the report findings. That is an incredible bias given the enormous incentive for Kiev and its NATO supporters to inculpate Russia or the pro-Russian rebels.

Responding to the report this week, President Putin quite correctly stated that Russia cannot acknowledge the charges because it has constantly been denied fair access to the investigation files. The Russian president said, however, that Russia was willing to participate in an open and transparent probe.

Again, this is analogous to the Skripal affair. Moscow has repeatedly offered to carry out a joint investigation and contribute to an elucidation of what really happened to the former spy and his adult daughter. But the British authorities have continually refused to include Russian investigators.

As for the lack of hard evidence, the British have based their tendentious allegations against Russia largely on the alleged detection of a Soviet-era chemical weapon. In the MH-17 case, the Dutch-led investigators are implicating Russia based on the alleged claim that the missile was a Soviet-made Buk system. That’s very elastic extrapolation.

The Kiev regime forces are in possession of Buk missiles dating back to when Ukraine was a Soviet Republic before 1991. It is entirely plausible that its forces could have fired the weapon that doomed the airliner.

Indeed, Russian military said this week that video images presented by the Dutch police of the alleged Buk missile’s casing indicate that the model is dated to the pre-1991 period. If that is the case, then one wonders why a top-notch, modern Russian defense brigade would be toting relatively old missiles if it were involved, as the JIT report claims.

Russia’s defense ministry said: “One of the arguments the investigators used to back up their charges the Russian military might have been involved in the tragedy was a fragment of the Buk missile’s engine demonstrated at a news conference. The serial number unambiguously indicates that the engine was manufactured in the Soviet Union back in 1986.”

As well as the unprecedented exclusion of Russia’s participation into what was an international disaster on its border, the JIT also omitted potentially crucial data such as radar and air-traffic communications, according to Moscow. The JIT also did not investigate why the Kiev authorities who had operating control over the aviation routes allowed the ill-fated airline to traverse what was at the time a hot war zone.

The Washington Post reported: “The investigators Thursday offered only open-source video and photographic evidence to support their conclusion that the missile came from a Russian military anti-aircraft system. Portions of the evidence already had been reported by the Bellingcat research group. But the international investigative team said that its findings stood independently and that it possessed additional information to buttress its conclusions that it would announce only in eventual courtroom proceedings.”

That is a startling admission. “Open-source videos” of an alleged Buk convoy hardly constitute credible evidence to support the severe claims being made against Russia.

The mention too of using Bellingcat as a source is also deeply troubling. This self-styled “expert group” of amateur sleuths based in England, run by Eliot Higgins, has been notoriously collaborating with Western military intelligence to frame-up Syrian state forces and Russia over alleged atrocities. It specializes in peddling fake videos as used by the terrorist affiliate, the White Helmets. Anything that Bellingcat puts its name to should be treated with derision, not deference as the Dutch prosecutors have done.

Note too how the JIT claims to have “additional information” that it says it will present in a future courtroom. That’s not acceptable. It is making very grave allegations and innuendo against Russia in the present based on flimsy videos.

Furthermore, the Dutch and Australian governments are leaping ahead with threats of bringing criminal charges against the Russian government and demanding Moscow pay financial compensation to the crash victims’ families.

Such reckless adversarial positions are setting up a new geopolitical conflict with Russia based on prejudice and hearsay. Following the 2014 air crash, the US and Europe imposed a raft of economic sanctions on Russia, without any substantiation. The precedent has been set for even more sanctions following this week’s JIT report.

Just like the Skripal affair which resulted in 150 Russian diplomats being expelled by dozens of countries merely on the back of British assertions, Western governments and media are again finding Moscow guilty over the MH-17 tragedy, without any evidence or due process.

The same can be said with regard to a whole host of anti-Russia media campaigns: alleged electoral interference in Western states; alleged Olympic sports doping, alleged cyberattacks; alleged aggression against Europe; alleged violations in Syria; and so on and so on.

There is no due process here. The only process taking place is one of extreme, unrelenting provocation towards Russia.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Western leaders back in Russia as tensions appear to ease

East-West relations seem to have changed over past 10 days, as three major Western leaders attend St Petersburg forum

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 28, 2018

East-West relations have transformed over the past 10-day period. Russia’s isolation from the West after the Maidan coup in Kiev appears to have warmed as abruptly as it began.

Three major Western leaders – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – visited Russia during the period since May 18, mainly to attend the St Petersburg Economic Forum. But they had one mantra to chant: Russia is an indispensable partner – and one offer to make – despite sanctions, economic and political ties with Russia are possible and necessary.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump’s critics, who accuse him of causing a trans-Atlantic rift, have had a rethink, since he may have instead triggered an overall easing of East-West tensions, as America’s European partners dust off their “Ostpolitik” to seek an apparent rapprochement with Russia.

Of course, the three Western leaders who traveled to Russia were not acting in concert. Merkel, Macron, Abe – each had a specific agenda with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. They were not interested in taking advantage of Russia’s tense relations with the US. Their intuition probably told them that things have come to such a pass in world politics that high-level contact between Russia and America might now be only a matter of time.

Equally, Putin was not inclined to turn the visits of three top Western leaders into an “anti-American” platform to exploit the current trans-Atlantic rift. Putin’s focus was on what these leaders could bring to the Russian economy by way of trade and investment. But in political terms, as much as Russia sizes up Germany, France and Japan as partners, the US still remains the partner of its heart’s desire.

Suffice to say, Russia grapples with the geopolitical reality that while the trans-Atlantic rift could become the “new normal,” an outright rupture between the US and its European allies or an unraveling of the Western alliance is not in the cards. Again, in the final analysis, without the United States’ participation, it is impractical to address issues such as Syria, the Iran nuclear problem, Ukraine, etc.

Macron audacious, Merkel wary

Between Merkel and Macron, the latter seemed far more eager and audacious to turn a new leaf in relations with Russia. France’s Total has taken US$2.5 billion in equity in Russian major Novatek’s Yamal LNG 2 project in the Siberian Arctic (with an option to double it). Macron promised to overtake German investments in Russia ($18 billion). He sought a new “mechanism” to solve the Syrian crisis; he stated France’s intention to protect its companies operating in Iran; and he even harked back to the defeat of Nazism to invoke France’s and Russia’s common destiny as United Nations veto powers and world leaders.

Nonetheless, Moscow is yet to figure out the potential of Macron, who began one year ago as the alpha male vis-à-vis Trump but went on to invite the latter as guest of honor on Bastille Day and become his best friend in the Western world, and is now presenting himself as an incorrigible Gaullist. Putin wore a quizzical look as Macron plunged gustily into an extraordinary speech lasting half an hour at the improbable forum of their joint press conference in St Petersburg on May 25.

The point is, Gaullism didn’t survive Charles de Gaulle. Will Gaullism-2 survive the second year of Macron’s seven-year presidency? Time only can tell. How far will Macron go out on a limb to drop the European Union’s hostile sanctions against Russia or to break loose from the West’s strategy to provoke Russia? Actually, he didn’t forget to add that France remains all the while a US ally.

As for Germany, Russia has always viewed it as the pace-setter in the EU. But there is a catch here too, since Merkel was also a midwife to the Maidan in Kiev (where it all began) and worked shoulder to shoulder with Barack Obama to erect a harsh sanctions regime against Russia. Those were halcyon days when Merkel was de facto leader of the EU and the champion of the liberal international order – “The Iron Frau” who doubled up as the “Matti” – Otto von Bismarck and Mother Teresa at the same time.

Things have changed since then. Obama has left the stage; the migrant problem became controversial and eventually diminished Merkel politically (despite the brilliant performance of the German economy); and she is besieged today by several negative factors. Brexit came out of the blue; the Franco-German axis that was integral to her pet project of European integration lost verve; and America First began incessantly battering Germany (and Merkel personally). To borrow a poignant metaphor from Mikhail Gorbachev over the sad plight of managers of Soviet state enterprises in the era of perestroika, Merkel is afraid to leave the open cage and take wing and fly into the firmament.

Perhaps her timidity is due to the fear that assertiveness may provoke accusations of Germany’s inordinate geopolitical ambitions triggering another tragic cycle of history (“German Question”), and due to a genuine distrust of Russia among Germany’s political class, which is weaned on Euro-Atlanticism. But it is there. As top Moscow pundit Fyodor Lukyanov wrote recently, in Berlin “change is feared.”

Within earshot of the visiting Western leaders, Putin again signaled his interest in a full-bodied Russian-American dialogue. But alas, Washington speaks in multiple voices. Meanwhile, bad tidings have arrived from Syria – an attempted drone attack on Hmeimim air base; a US threat to take “firm and appropriate measures” against any Syrian operations against extremist groups ensconced in southwest Syria; and the killing of four Russian military personnel in Dier ez-Zor on Sunday.

If only Russian wishes had wings, Americans should have been better soccer players. That might have just about brought them into the finale of the FIFA World Cup – and Trump to Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on July 15 in front of a capacity crowd of 87,000 fans in one of the most picturesque districts of the Russian capital with the Moskva River flowing gently alongside the stadium, and Putin sitting beside him, with no aides present, for a full 90 minutes.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Austria’s New Coalition Betrays on CETA Trade Agreement

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2018

US President Trump told the world his government rejects negotiations on the highly controversial TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Citizen groups and EU opponents of the Obama comprehensive trade agreement breathed a sigh of relief. Too little attention has been given to the agreement reached between Canada and CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (German: Umfassendes Wirtschafts- und Handelsabkommen), sometimes called the Canada-EU Trade Agreement. Secretly and behind any public open discussion, the largest global multinational corporations are moving the world closer to a top-down corporate dictatorship, a 21st Century version of Mussolini’s Corporativism. A major potential roadblock to CETA approval has now fallen in Austria under a new populist coalition government of Sebastian Kurz.

Legally the CETA must be approved by the national parliaments in a majority of the 28 EU member states before becoming operative. Now it comes out that Sebastian Kurz’s populist Austrian coalition, after campaigning on a platform of NO to CETA and TTIP, secretly agreed late in 2017 to renege on their election campaign promises opposing CETA as a precondition for the refugee-critical conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) of Sebastian Kurz as Chancellor, to be able to form a coalition government with the right populist FPÖ. It represents a major betrayal of Austrian voters as well as of the future of EU sovereign national laws on environment, health and safety. But it gets worse.

In terms of the legitimacy of the Austrian elections in October 2017, the coalition FPÖ party campaigned hard against any acceptance of the multinational CETA trade deal. It promised a Swiss-style “direct democracy” referendum process of citizen vote on issues where a substantial number of citizen petitions warranted such. In their election campaign the FPÖ promised repeatedly such slogans as ”with us no CETA” and “… CETA only with a peoples’ referendum.”

Pre-election polls showed that 72% of Austrians opposed both the TTIP and the closely-related CETA on grounds it would damage Austrian small and mid-size businesses to the advantage of global multinationals. Citizen groups gathered an impressive 562,000 signatures opposing both CETA and TTIP before the election.

Only days following the election, on November 21, 2017, the FPÖ showed signs of retracting that opposition when they surprised voters and voted in Parliament in favor of the CETA’s most controversial proviso, the so-called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism (German: Investitionsschiedsgerichten). That ISDS proviso allows Canadian corporations sue any EU government over any new law or policy that might reduce their profits in future such as a new German minimum wage law or stricter laws prohibiting toxic chemicals such as glyphosate or neonicotinoids. However, the Canadian company or investor in say, Germany, does not sue in a German court. They rather go to a special secret arbitration tribunal over which the EU state has no control. Opposition to the ISDS was a central platform of the Austrian FPÖ campaign before October 15. Most USA large corporations have subsidiary companies in Canada meaning CETA is a backdoor for the now-frozen TTIP with the USA.

Forcing EU states to dilute laws

Among its provisions, under CETA as under TTIP if there is a difference in rigor for example in the environmental or safety and health standards for EU states and the Canadian rules, the lowest standard (North American) applies. The Canadian government has largely followed US loose corporate regulations in recent years and this under CETA now would threaten a diminishing of EU strict regulations. According to an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

and Greenpeace-Holland study, “Canada has weaker food safety and labelling standards than the EU, and industrial agriculture more heavily dependent on pesticides and GMO crops. CETA gives Canadian and US multinationals the tools to undermine rules concerning cloning, GMO crops, growth hormones and country of origin labelling, among others.”

According to the September, 2017 joint study, CETA will “promote the harmonization of food safety standards to the lowest common denominator, and the weakening of the EU’s risk assessment standards for food products.” A horrifying example is the decision in March 2016, by the Canadian authorities to approve AquAdvantage Salmon, the first genetically modified animal to be approved for human consumption in the country. Canada did not require labelling. Under CETA now, unlabeled GMO salmon will be sold across the EU. That holds for other unlabeled Canadian GMO foods as well as industrial agribusiness products such as beef.

Giant Agribusiness Threatens EU Family Farm

With CETA, for example, current EU laws requiring Country of Origin Labeling for meat and fish could be challenged by Canadian agribusiness whose meat exports will now come almost tariff-free to compete with carefully-controlled EU meat products.

Another proviso of CETA relates to reducing business costs and limiting regulation. In reality it will mean stronger EU food and agricultural policies will be weakened under pressure from large Canadian-US agribusiness companies such as IBP or Cargill Foods. To date the EU agriculture associations have largely contained the economic cost-reduction pressure that has destroyed family farming smaller units in North America since the 1980’s and replaced it with cartel formations of giant food industry.

Driven by US agribusiness lobbying at the USDA and Canadian Department of Agriculture, economies of scale in meat processing as an example have created documented horrendous sanitary conditions in giant processing operations that slaughter up to 1,000,000 cattle a year at a plant. Now with CETA, EU small farmers will simply be driven into bankruptcy as was done since the 1980s in North America. There the giant meat processing firms had 25-30% lower costs than smaller meat packing firms that were driven out of business.

The creation of North American agribusiness, a major focus of the TTIP as of the CETA, involves the dramatic reduction of labor costs and speedup of the meat processing portions that are not automated. Work is not protected by trade union agreements, labor is mostly immigrant and largely illegal meaning they are vulnerable to threat from employers demanding longer hours and lessened safety conditions.

North American slaughterhouse workers face conditions of speedup on the meat chains that they must cut and process that they have abnormally high rate of work-related injuries or nerve damage but the Government regulators turn a blind eye and the workers are mostly sub-minimum wage illegal workers from Mexico or Central America who have little recourse to change it.

As I account in my book, Seeds of Destruction, the cartelization and vertical integration of agriculture in North America after World War II was a brainchild of the Rockefeller Standard Oil family, notably Nelson Rockefeller and a project they financed at Harvard Business School that created the term “agribusiness.” The countries of the European Union until today have largely defended more small-scale meat and food production by way of safety, health, environment and labor laws. With the flood of far cheaper Canadian (North American in reality) beef and other foods into the EU under CETA, European small scale, high quality agriculture producers will be literally slaughtered to the gain of mass agribusiness cartels that can now globalize in the all-important EU market as well.

Austria is a Warning Bell

Now on May 16 the Austrian coalition parties, FPÖ and the ÖVP of Sebastian Kurz, turned on the voters and voted in the Council of Ministers in favor of approving CETA including with the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. It will now come to the full Parliament before Summer for a final vote where passage looks certain.

The European Commission proposed the signature of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and despite need for national parliaments to ratify, CETA entered into force provisionally on 21 September 2017. National parliaments in EU countries have still to approve it before it can take full effect.

With an Austrian coalition government, one that owes its existence to vigorous opposition to CETA and defense of the right of citizens to hold a referendum on it and other issues, now betraying that voter pledge and backing CETA, implications for not just Austrian citizens—farmers and all consumers—but as well for the quality of world food exports, the health of world eaters (meaning us all) is to undergo a dramatic decline at a time we can ill afford it.

Under CETA now the world food chain will face over the coming decade or so an overwhelming concentration of corporate agribusiness control that will combine the two great agriculture production regions—North America and the EU. That, if it is allowed, will be devastating.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

EU Extends Sanctions Against Syria for One Year

Sputnik – 28.05.2018

The European Union has decided to extend sanctions against Syria by one year, until June 1, 2019, the EU Council said in a statement on Monday.

“On 28 May 2018, the Council extended EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime until 1 June 2019. Given the ongoing repression of the civilian population, the EU decided to maintain its restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters, in line with the EU strategy on Syria,” the document read.

The European Union introduced sanctions “against Syria and persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population” in May 2011, during the Arab Spring protests, which led to the ongoing civil war in the country.

In 2017 EU also imposed restrictions on Syrian officials who relate to the development an the use of chemical weapons in the country, with over 250 individuals targeted by the sanctions for the involvement in the development and use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. Damascus strongly denied those accusations, also noting that the international organizations didn’t find any evidence of the chemical weapons development by the Syrian government.

In its turn, the US ruled out any American reconstruction support to Assad-controlled territories in the war-weary country.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Daesh-Linked Terror Groups Seen in Syrian al-Tanf Controlled by US – Lavrov

Sputnik | May 28, 2018

According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, only Syrian government troops should be located on the country’s Southern borders with Israel.

Russia and the United States are conducting a dialogue at the diplomatic and military level regarding the situation in Syria’s al-Tanf region, Lavrov stated.

“We are witnessing an increasing number of armed groups appearing in this region, including the Rukban refugee camp, which according to our information, is related in one way or another to Daesh and other extremist structures,” he noted.

Lavrov expressed hope that reports on the withdrawal of US troops from Syria’s al-Tanf base would come to fruition.

“The military presence there has no sense, from a military point of view,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.

He emphasized that the Russian side has called the US’ attention to the fact that the situation does not correspond to the agreements on how to organize de-escalation in the south of Syria.

Lavrov recalled that initially, the agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in the south-west of Syria had presupposed an “eventual” withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces from this region, saying that “it should be reciprocal.”

“Of course, all non-Syrian forces should be withdrawn on a reciprocal basis, this should be a two-way process. The situation, when only representatives of the Syrian armed forces will be deployed on the Syrian side of the border with Israel, should become the outcome of such work,” Lavrov said.

The United States occupies a 34-mile zone around its military base in al-Tanf, where it trains and equips armed Syrian opposition forces.

The Rukban refugee camp is located about 11 miles south of al-Tanf and inside the US-controlled zone on the Syrian-Jordanian border.


US Military Presence Near Al-Tanf Base in Syria ‘Aggression’ — Damascus

US Wants to Share Responsibility for Syria’s Sovereignty Violation by Arab Forces Deployment – Moscow

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment