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Facebook’s Libra Can Become West’s New Tool for Political Pressure – Chainside Co-Founder

By Anastasia Levchenko |  Sputnik | July 19, 2019

One month ago, Facebook shocked economists and politicians around the world by announcing its plan to launch a digital currency in 2020. Its ambitious goal is to enable people who “remain outside of the traditional financial system” and have no access to a traditional bank to use a “simple global currency”.

Libra, a cryptocurrency that Facebook seeks to launch as early as next year, could become another powerful tool of political pressure used by Western economies to adjust local markets in other countries as well as the global financial system as a whole to serve their own interests, according to Federico Tenga, a co-founder of Chainside, a company helping businesses to accept Bitcoin payments, and adviser on blockchain to the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.


Libra is going to use permissioned blockchain technology, which means that all transactions will need to be monitored by some authority, tentatively set as the Libra Association Council. This idea contradicts the very notion of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, which was invented as a free peer-to-peer network.

The council will comprise a group of the world’s top corporations, including Mastercard, PayPal, Visa Inc., eBay, Booking Holdings, Farfetch, Spotify, Uber, Vodafone and Facebook’s Calibra, a subsidiary set up to ensure separation between social and financial data. The association is open for membership in case a candidate entity meets certain financial requirements. However, these are the founding members who will serve as Libra’s initial validator nodes, which makes Libra more a private digital currency regulated by western corporations than a cryptocurrency.

“All the members of the Libra [association council] are mostly companies from the Western countries, which makes it very politicised. So, I think it will be hard for it to be adopted in, for example, East Asia, because the governments there will be reluctant to adopt something that is controlled by Western companies”, Tenga said.

According to the Chainside co-founder, Facebook seems to have “a certain political bias” since it is attempting to promote a political agenda to its own advantage.

“Libra is just another tool that they can use … Even to destabilise some countries. If Libra, let’s say, is adopted everywhere, and some country [does something against Libra], like Facebook is not allowed in China, this can be used as a tool to pressure the country to open the market and make concessions for Facebook and members of Libra”, Tenga argued.

If such an attempt is successful, then Libra could become another powerful tool to increase influence “on local politics and in general on the world economy,” he added.

“If Libra starts to be used in a country with which [the Western economies] have tension, like today Iran for example, then the political pressure on members of Libra federation can lead to applying sanctions. So this currency can be used as a political instrument to put pressure on local economies of other countries”, Tenga said.


Libra is due to be backed by a basket of government bonds and major fiat currencies, including the US dollar, euro, UK pound, and Japanese yen. If indeed launched in developing countries next year, Libra will be contributing to the global dominance of the US dollar, at least in the short term, before it itself becomes a competitor to the dollar.

“Instead of using local currencies, users will be using something that is backed by the US dollar, so they will be indirectly financing the US government”, Tenga said.

Moreover, the reserve basket of the most stable currencies of the world paradoxically makes Libra a coin that is stable everywhere and nowhere at the same time, Tenga noted.

“If I am in Europe, I am in an economy that is dominated by the euro, and, say, I start using this form of money, Libra. It will always have some minor fluctuations. I have one sum today, and maybe some 3 percent less tomorrow because there was some change in the US dollar to euro and so on. I used to have an equivalent of 5 euros, and now I have 4.9”, Tenga said.


According to the Libra’s white paper, in five years, the cryptocurrency will try to move to a permissionless blockchain. However, the co-founder of Chainside did not believe this transition would ever take place.

“I do not think they will become permissionless for real, I think they are just saying it, but actually have no idea. If they are successful and they have control of this thing, why should they then give up this control?” Tenga said, adding that this process might be difficult from a technical point of view.

A natural concern that arises from here is users’ privacy and data collection. Facebook already has a questionable record on observing users’ privacy, and simply establishing a separate subsidiary to deal with financial issues — Facebook’s subsidiary Calibra, which is one of the members of the council — is unlikely to erase it.

“If you say something on Facebook, maybe you do not really mean it. But if you buy something, this is actually your money, so it is a much more relevant data on your profile. It can be a way for Facebook and other companies to get more data on users, including other users, also outside of the platform. That can be the issue. People are becoming more and more aware of the privacy problem”, Tenga said.

This is precisely one of the main reasons why the project is facing fierce opposition in the US Congress. During hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, members of the House Financial Services Committee said they could not trust Facebook, citing the social networking giant’s record of privacy breaches and scandals.

They questioned David Marcus, the former president of PayPal, who now oversees the Libra project on Facebook, over data privacy, consumer protections and money laundering controls. It was proposed that Libra first be tested with a pilot program with one million users, under the supervision of US financial regulators. Marcus did not directly agree but said Libra would not be launched until regulatory concerns were addressed. In any case, the draft legislation to ban Facebook and other tech firms from entering the financial services sector has already been circulated.


Even with all its drawbacks, Libra has a chance to become a positive experiment in the monetary system in the current digital age, Tenga opined.

“I think in general the idea of private money competing with each other is good because it overcomes the idea of money as the monopoly of the government. So, more competition from private currency can eventually lead us to a better form of money”, he said.

According to the co-founder of Chainside, “apart from the fact that it is completely controlled by a few private corporations” it is still “an improvement” compared to the fiat paper money status quo.

Nevertheless, as long as this competition represents a fight for financial and political power between tech giants and governments within a single country, humanity is unlikely to see either a better form of money or billions of empowered people who are currently left outside of the traditional banking system.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics | | 1 Comment

Britain says seizures of UK vessels by Iran are ‘unacceptable’

RT | July 19, 2019

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned Iran of consequences for seizing two vessels in the Gulf, one of which has now been released. London’s response will be “robust” but not military, he said.

“We will respond in a way that is considered but robust,” Hunt told journalists, adding that the UK hopes to resolve the crisis through diplomacy and “is not looking” at military options.

Hunt said that he has already discussed the incident with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and looks forward to talking to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Denouncing the seizures as “unacceptable,” Hunt argued that Tehran would be “the biggest loser” if “freedom of navigation is restricted.”

Hunt said that there are no British citizens among the crew members of either ship. He also added that the British ambassador in Tehran has already contacted the Iranian Foreign Ministry in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Earlier on Friday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Iran’s elite military force – said it has seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz over failure to “respect the international maritime rules.” The vessel sailing to Saudi Arabia was seen changing its course and heading north towards the Iranian island of Qeshm, marine tracking data showed.

The company owning the vessel, Stena Bulk, said it lost contact with the ship and that it was approached by “unidentified” small vessels before changing course.

Later the same day, another tanker owned by a British company – Norbulk Shipping UK Ltd – the Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar – also suddenly changed its course to Saudi Arabia and sailed to the Iranian mainland. This time, Tehran has not officially confirmed its seizure.

The tanker was apparently released later in the day, with tracking data showing the vessel changing course and heading westward and away from Iran late on Friday. The Iranian private Tasnim news agency reported that the British-owned Mesdar was cleared to continue its course, after having received a warning from the authorities over safety and environmental issues.

Norbulk has confirmed that the ship has resumed its travel towards Saudi Arabia, adding that the crew was “safe and well.”

“Communication has been re-established with the vessel and Master confirmed that the armed guards have left and the vessel is free to continue the voyage. All crew are safe and well,” the company said in a statement.

Tehran and London have been locked in a bitter row ever since a super tanker Grace 1 carrying Iranian crude oil was seized by the British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating the EU sanctions against Syria.

Tehran denied these accusations while calling the Gibraltar’s justification of detention laughable. Iran also accused the UK of acting on behalf of the US.

Washington has long sought to pressure Tehran into concessions on its nuclear and missile programs while repeatedly vowing to bring its oil exports down to zero with sanctions. It has also recently sent a naval group led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to rehearse a possible strike against Iran while calling to form a “coalition” ostensively to defend the freedom of navigation.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 5 Comments

Any military aggression against Iran will drag entire Mideast into chaos: Nasrallah

Press TV – July 19, 2019

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has warned the US that any military aggression against Iran will drag the entire Middle East into disarray, stressing that Washington will definitely not be the one who determines the end of such a scenario.

“As Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei) has said, the US is not capable of imposing a military war on Iran. The White House knows that if a war against Iran happens, the entire region will get entangled, and the US will not be the one who finishes it,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a meeting with the visiting Iranian parliament speaker’s special advisor on international affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in Beirut on Friday.

Tensions have been running high between Tehran and Washington since last year, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Recently, the US has taken a quasi-warlike posture against Iran and stepped up its provocative military moves in the Middle East, among them the June 20 incursion of an American spy drone into the Iranian borders.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down the advanced US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk over Iran’s territorial waters off the coastal province of Hormozgan after the unmanned aircraft breached the country’s airspace on a spying mission.

Nasrallah then described resistance as the sole and most efficient option in the face of the Israeli regime’s crimes, acts of aggression and excessive demands.

He also lauded Iran’s political and democratic plan for a referendum among all historic residents of Palestine, inclusive of Muslims, Christians and Jews, as realistic and logical.

“The occupying Zionists, however, are the most irrational creatures on the earth, and do not understand anything other than the discourse of resistance,” the Hezbollah chief noted.

He further termed Trump’s controversial proposal for “peace” between the Israeli regime and Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century,” as hollow, stating that the Zionists are the root cause of corruption and insecurity in the region.

Nasrallah also highlighted that Hezbollah bears no grudge against Jews, warning members of the religious community not to play in the hands of Zionists’ land grab policies.

The Hezbollah secretary general emphasized that the anti-Israel resistance front is now in its best form even though the US and the Israeli regime continue with their fiendish moves in the region.

“Americans are seeking to impede the purge of the last remnants of terrorists in Syria, and are prolonging the (Syrian) crisis through various means in a bid to prevent the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland. They will fail in their interventionist policies in the region though,” Nasrallah concluded.

Amir-Abdollahian, for his part, congratulated Hezbollah’s victory during the 33-day war in July 2006, and discussed latest regional and international developments besides bilateral political and parliamentary relations between Tehran and Beirut with the Hezbollah chief.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 1 Comment

Quakes Prompt Fears of Devastating Consequences of Proposed Nuclear Waste Dump in Nevada

Sputnik – July 19, 2019

Nevada state authorities have voiced fears that radioactivity could be released into the environment by powerful tremors, regularly hitting the proposed site of a nuclear waste repository, set to store thousands of tonnes of hazardous reactor fuel, according to the federal government’s plans.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and the state’s six Congressmen and Congresswomen have confronted the country’s Department of Energy over plans to license a nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain in the Mojave Desert. The letter addressed to Energy Secretary Rick Perry followed powerful earthquakes in California in early July that hit an area just 100 miles northeast of the proposed waste dump site. It insisted that the seismic hazards in Yucca Mountain showed “one of the many geologic problems with the site as a nuclear waste repository”.

He stated that the quakes have only strengthened his “resolve to fight any continued federal effort to use Nevada as the nation’s nuclear dumping ground”.

“I’m proud to join our bipartisan group of federal representatives in once again sending the loud and clear message that Yucca has never been, and will never be, good for Nevada”, the letter from 16 July published by The Nevada Current reads.

The governor, joined by Senators and Representatives, threatened to challenge the DOE’s license application if its licensing resumes and criticised the federal government for considering proceeding with the development of the repository “at a location that evidences serious safety concerns and mounting uncertainties regarding its geological status”.

The letter cites the conclusions of the expert teams from the University of Nevada, Reno, and UNLV (University of Nevada in Las Vegas). In a separate letter to the governor from Reno’s experts, Nevada State Geologist James Faulds and Nevada State Seismologist Graham Kent noted that the proposed site “lies in a very dynamic, seismically active region, as evidenced by the Ridgecrest earthquakes as well as other historical temblors”. They insisted that more research is needed before the Yucca Mountain site can be determined as suitable for a nuclear waste storage.

The US government picked the area, stretching across the border between Nevada and California to store the by-products of reprocessing of old nuclear fuel into nuclear weapons-grade material in 2002. The state has fought these plans since then, debating whether the federal authorities are minimising seismic hazards there in their application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 2008, Nevada challenged the department’s conclusions during a NRC licensing hearing, and the project was put on hold two years later.

However, in March 2019, the current energy secretary decided to revive the licensing proceedings, allocating $116 million for the project.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 2 Comments

New US Pentagon Chief – Vested Interest in War & Conflict

Strategic Culture Foundation | July 19, 2019

Mark Esper is expected to be confirmed in coming days as the new US Secretary of Defense. His appointment is awaiting final Congressional approval after customary hearings this week before senators. The 55-year-old nominee put forward by President Trump was previously a decorated Lieutenant Colonel and has served in government office during the GW Bush administration.

But what stands out as his most conspicuous past occupation is working for seven years as a senior lobbyist for Raytheon, the US’ third biggest military manufacturing company. The firm specializes in missile-defense systems, including the Patriot, Iron Dome and the Aegis Ashore system (the latter in partnership with Lockheed Martin).

As Defense Secretary, Esper will be the most senior civilian executive member of the US government, next to the president, on overseeing military policy, including decisions about declaring war and deployment of American armed forces around the globe. His military counterpart at the Pentagon is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, currently held by Marine General Joseph Dunford who is expected to be replaced soon by General Mark Milley (also in the process of senate hearings).

Esper’s confirmation hearings this week were pretty much a rubber-stamp procedure, receiving lame questioning from senators about his credentials and viewpoints. The only exception was Senator Elizabeth Warren, who slammed the potential “conflict of interest” due to his past lobbying service for Raytheon. She said it “smacks of corruption”. Other than her solitary objection, Esper was treated with kid gloves by other senators and his appointment is expected to be whistled through by next week. During hearings, the former lobbyist even pointedly refused to recuse himself of any matters involving Raytheon if he becomes the defense boss.

As Rolling Stone magazine quipped on Esper’s nomination, “it is as swampy as you’d expect”.

“President Trump’s Cabinet is already rife with corruption, stocked full of former lobbyists and other private industry power players who don’t seem to mind leveraging their government positions to enrich themselves personally. Esper should fit right in,” wrote Rolling Stone.

The linkage between officials in US government, the Pentagon and private manufacturers is a notorious example of “revolving door”. It is not unusual, or even remarkable, that individuals go from one sector to another and vice versa. That crony relationship is fundamental to the functioning of the “military-industrial complex” which dominates the entire American economy and the fiscal budget ($730 billion annually – half the total discretionary public spend by federal government).

Nevertheless, Esper is a particularly brazen embodiment of the revolving-door’s seamless connection.

Raytheon is a $25 billion company whose business is all about selling missile-defense systems. Its products have been deployed in dozens of countries, including in the Middle East, as well as Japan, Romania and, as of next year, Poland. It is in Raytheon’s vital vested interest to capitalize on alleged security threats from Iran, Russia, China and North Korea in order to sell “defense” systems to nations that then perceive a “threat” and need to be “protected”.

It is a certainty that Esper shares the same worldview, not just for engrained ideological reasons, but also because of his own personal motives for self-aggrandizement as a former employee of Raytheon and quite possibly as a future board member when he retires from the Pentagon. The issue is not just merely about corruption and ethics, huge that those concerns are. It is also about how US foreign policy and military decisions are formulated and executed, including decisions on matters of conflict and ultimately war. The insidiousness is almost farcical, if the implications weren’t so disturbing, worthy of satire from the genre of Dr Strangelove or Catch 22.

How is Esper’s advice to the president about tensions with Russia, Iran, China or North Korea, or any other alleged adversary, supposed to be independent, credible or objective? Esper is a de facto lobbyist for the military-industrial complex sitting in the Oval Office and Situation Room. Tensions, conflict and war are meat and potatoes to this person.

During senate hearings this week, Esper openly revealed his dubious quality of thinking and the kind of policies he will pursue as Pentagon chief. He told credulous senators that Russia was to blame for the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. That equates to more Raytheon profits from selling defense systems in Europe. Also, in a clumsy inadvertent admission he advised that the US needs to get out of the INF in order to develop medium-range missiles to “counter China”. The latter admission explains the cynical purpose for why the Trump administration unilaterally ditched the INF earlier this year. It is not about alleged Russian breaches of the treaty; the real reason is for the US to obtain a freer hand to confront China.

It is ludicrous how blatant a so-called democratic nation (the self-declared “leader of the free world”) is in actuality an oligarchic corporate state whose international relations are conducted on the basis of making obscene profits from conflict and war.

Little wonder then than bilateral relations between the US and Russia are in such dire condition. Trump’s soon-to-be top military advisor Mark Esper is not going to make bilateral relations any better, that’s for sure.

Also at a precarious time of possible war with Iran, the last person Trump should consult is someone whose corporate cronies are craving for more weapons sales.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Concentration of forces near Gulf risks ‘conflict outbreak,’ US policy ‘a mistake’ – Moscow

RT | July 19, 2019

Washington’s claim that it downed an Iranian drone is another sign that tensions in the Persian Gulf are at risk of spiraling into a bigger conflict, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned.

President Donald Trump had earlier claimed that the assault ship USS ‘Boxer’ shot down an Iranian drone that was approaching it in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran denied losing any aircraft that day.

“The concentration of forces of different countries in the Persian Gulf is so high that any incidents are possible there,” the Russian diplomat told reporters on Friday, adding that the main task now is to “prevent the escalation.”

“As we see once again, the situation… can lead to an outbreak of a conflict.”

Ryabkov said that, despite calls to show restraint, Washington “stubbornly continues to follow the path of stoking tensions and maximum pressure on Tehran.”

This path is a mistake, and prone to cause further complications and shocks.

Last month, the Iranian military shot down a US drone it said had violated the nation’s airspace. Washington said the drone was destroyed over international waters.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 2 Comments

US Imposes Sanctions on Hezbollah Senior Leader Over 1994 Terror Attack in Argentina

Sputnik – July 19, 2019

Hezbollah’s top figure, Salman Raouf Salman, stands accused of the bombing of a Jewish centre perpetrated 25 years ago in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

The United States has introduced sanctions on a senior Hezbollah leader, a Colombian-born Lebanese national Salman Raouf Salman, over his complicity in terrorist attacks, according to the US Treasury. The top Hezbollah operative is accused of coordinating the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires in 1994.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it added Salman Raouf Salman to its specially designated nationals list.

Treasury undersecretary of terrorism and financial intelligence Sigal Mandelker stated that Salman has continued to orchestrate terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah since the attack in Buenos Aires.

On Thursday, Argentina’s authorities designated the Lebanese-based Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organisation and decreed a freeze of all financial assets belonging to the group.

The move coincided with the 25th anniversary of the violent attack on the Mutual Israelite Association of Argentina community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 that left 85 people dead and hundreds injured. Hezbollah denied any role in the attack.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Unidentified drones attack Hashd al-Sha’abi base in Iraq’s Salahudin Province: Reports

Press TV – July 19, 2019

Unidentified drones have reportedly attacked a base belonging to Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) in the Arab country’s Salahudin Province.

The attack killed one PMU member and injured another four, Iraq’s al-Ahad television network reported on Friday.

Footage later released by Iraqi media from the assault’s aftermath showed a large flame in what was reportedly a PMU base near the town of Amerli.

It is yet unclear who orchestrated the operation.

The PMU — better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi — was formed by popular volunteer forces in 2014 after the Daesh Takfiri terror group launched a campaign of bloodshed and destruction against the nation.

It joined forces with the national army and effectively contributed to its anti-terror operations. The combined push, which was reinforced by Iraq’s allies, including Iran, ultimately led to Daesh’s expulsion in late 2017.

The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. Last March, the then prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to order the PMU’s formal inclusion in the Arab country’s army.

The order would grant the PMU many of the same rights as members of the military, but it is yet to be fully implemented.

Earlier this month, Abadi’s successor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, issued a decree, calling for the PMU’s full integration in the Iraqi military.

The attack on the Hashd al-Sha’abi base comes as the United States has sought to pressure Baghdad against the PMU.

Washington has often labeled Iraqi units operating under the PMU organization as being “Iran-led terrorists groups,” a claim denied by the Iraqi officials.

Iraqis have sharply rejected Washington’s hostile stance against Hashd al-Sha’abi forces, describing it as a violation of the Arab country’s sovereignty.

July 19, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | Leave a comment