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More than two thirds of Americans don’t believe Epstein died by suicide

RT | August 16, 2019

It appears most Americans don’t believe the official narrative on the death of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein after a poll found that more people believe the financier died as a result of murder rather than suicide.

The curious circumstances surrounding Epstein’s reported suicide last Saturday raised more than a few eyebrows. Now, a poll from Rasmussen has found that only 29 percent of Americans believe he died by suicide in jail. That figure pales in comparison to the 42 percent of people who think that Epstein was murdered to prevent him from testifying against some of his powerful associates.*

The news attracted a huge level of interest with more than two thirds of people saying that they followed developments ‘closely’ and one quarter of people saying they followed it ‘very closely.’ Among Americans following the story ‘very closely’, 56 percent believe Epstein was murdered, Rasmussen found.

The survey was carried out in the days after Epstein’s death and it involved 1,000 respondents. It found that men were more likely than women to suspect that the disgraced financier was murdered. White respondents were also found to be less suspicious than people from minority backgrounds.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Epstein’s autopsy found that the 66-year old had several broken bones in his neck including his hyoid bone. Forensic experts told the paper that breaks in the bone can occur in those who hang themselves, however, they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation.

*  (To see survey question wording, click here.)

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | | 6 Comments

US slaps crew of Iranian supertanker with visa ban after it set sail from Gibraltar

RT | August 16, 2019

Hours after Washington failed to persuade the Gibraltar authorities to not release the Iranian oil tanker, the State Department warned that anyone linked to the vessel will not be able to travel to the US.

Unable to stop the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 from leaving Gibraltar, the US will target its crew, comprised of Indian, Filipino, Latvian, and Russian citizens. The sailors are now accused of aiding Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), labeled as a “terrorist organization” by the US.

“Crewmembers of vessels assisting the IRGC by transporting oil from Iran may be ineligible for visas or admission to the United States under the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds,” a statement released by the State Department reads.

On Thursday, Washington unsuccessfully sought the seizure of the Grace 1, filing a request that formally postponed the lifting of Gibraltar’s detention order by a few hours. Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, called Washington’s move “its desperate, last-minute efforts, intended to prevent the release of the [Grace 1] oil tanker from detention,” which ended in “humiliation.”

Nevertheless, the authorities chose not to bow to the US pressure and allowed the Panamanian-flagged ship to finally set sail.

The Grace 1 was seized by the British Royal Marines outside of Gibraltar in early July, prompting Tehran to retaliate in kind by capturing a British-flagged vessel in the Persian Gulf two weeks later. The seizures added fuel to the simmering feud between Iran and the West, prompting the UK to seek to defuse the tensions.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 6 Comments

Iran made ‘no commitments’ over released tanker, Syria ‘wasn’t its destination’

RT | August 16, 2019

Iran has made no commitments to gain the release of its tanker from detention in Gibraltar, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

“Iran has given no assurances over the ‘Grace 1’ not going to Syria to secure its release,” a state broadcaster’s website quoted Abbas Mousavi as saying. “The tanker’s destination was not Syria… and even if it was, it did not concern anyone else.”

Fabian Picardo, chief minister for the British territory, said the detention order was lifted after written assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge oil in Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The tanker carrying Iranian oil is preparing to set sail into the Mediterranean, the deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, Jalil Eslami, said on Friday. The ‘Grace 1’ will be renamed and switch to the Iranian flag for its onward journey, Eslami told state television.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Sound Proposal for Gulf Peace

Strategic Culture Foundation | August 16, 2019

There is an eminently reasonable and feasible way to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf, and to secure peace. The principles of multilateralism and international law must be adhered to. It seems almost astounding that one has to appeal for such obvious basic norms.

Fortunately, Russia has presented a roadmap for implementing a security concept in the vital waterway based on the above principles.

Russia’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, outlined a possible international coalition to provide security for commercial shipping through the strategically important Persian Gulf. The narrow outlet accounts for up to 30 per cent of all globally shipped oil on a daily basis. Virtually every nation has a stake in the safe passage of tankers. Any disruption would have huge negative consequences for the world economy, impacting all nations.

The Russian proposal, which has been submitted to the UN Security Council, is currently being considered by various parties. Crucially, the security concept put forward by Moscow relies on the participation of the Gulf nations, including Iran. Rather than being led by an outside power, the Russian proposal envisages a region-led effort.

This multilateral arrangement for cooperation between nations is solidly within the principles of the UN Charter and international law. Potentially, it can build trust and positive relations, and thereby reduce the climate of tensions and uncertainty which have intensified over recent months, primarily between the United States and Iran.

Washington has blamed Iran for several sabotage incidents on commercial shipping since June. The Americans have not provided any proof for their claims. Iran, for its part, denies any malfeasance and instead has pointed to a “malign conspiracy” aimed at stoking tensions, or worse, precipitate an all-out military confrontation between the US and Iran. Significantly, too, the problem of alleged sabotage and danger to shipping followed the increased deployment of US forces in the region during May, ostensibly to counter anticipated “Iranian aggression”.

One thing for sure is that the US proposal for a naval coalition led by Washington, purportedly to “protect shipping” in the Gulf, is a non-starter. Most nations have rebuffed the American plan. Germany, France and other European Union states have given it a resounding pass. Even Arab nations allied with the US, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have demurred on the idea. Significantly, too, the Gulf states have refrained from following Washington’s line of fingering Iran for the unknown sabotage incidents.

After weeks of lobbying for its US-led “navy coalition”, Washington appears to have recruited just two other partners: Britain and Israel.

The term “coalition” is therefore a misnomer in this context. It also has no credibility as a force serving to uphold international law and security. The position of the US-led axis is one of outright hostility towards Iran. It is premised on the flawed assumption that Iran is the “problem”.

Any such extra-regional military force is by definition a source of further insecurity and tensions in the Persian Gulf, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has noted. Arguably, any such US-led deployment is illegal because it is not mandated by the UN Security Council. The US plan relies on a unilateral imposition of American force along with a coterie of allies who have a long history of facilitating Washington’s militaristic adventures.

Indeed, moreover, one can easily perceive that the US claims about maritime security and safe passage are dubious. What Washington appears to be doing is cynically using “security concerns” as a cover for forming an aggressive front against Iran. The real purpose is to augment the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy towards Tehran in order to coerce that nation into ceding to American strategic demands. This US policy is, of course, illegitimate, arguably criminal. But it is being concealed, as the Americans usually do, with the pseudo-image of acting as the world’s “policeman”.

By contrast, it may be hoped that the UN and the nations of the Gulf region move forward to embrace Russia’s proposal for a genuinely cooperative, mutual effort to maintain peace. The only way forward is through multilateralism, mutual respect, dialogue and adherence to international law. Conflict is a lose-lose scenario. Peace is win-win.

Surely, if any party cannot support such a reasonable proposition, then the telling question is: why not? A negative response strongly suggests there is a disingenuousness about putative “security concerns”, and that an ulterior, sinister agenda is actually at play.

It should also be borne in mind that the present mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf have come about because the Trump administration took the reprehensible step of repudiating the international nuclear accord with Iran. That accord was signed by Iran, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union back in July 2015. The international treaty was endorsed by the UN Security Council. When Trump walked away from the US legal obligation last year, all the tensions that we now see with Iran have transpired.

As Russian envoy Dmitry Polyanksy told the press conference at the UN recently it is incumbent on Washington to return to the nuclear accord. Until then, for Washington to pose as some kind of security arbiter in the Middle East is too ludicrous for words.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Why does Trump need Zelensky

By Alexander Ponomarenko | August 16, 2019

On August 9, Voice of America journalist Mikhail Komadovsky asked President of the United States Donald Trump whether he plans to invite President Vladimir Zelensky to the White House and how he would advise him to communicate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

The US President’s response was eyebrow-raising enough: “He’s going to make a deal with President Putin. And he will be invited to the White House. He is a reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine. I think he’ll be coming very soon.”

The sensation was that a few hours earlier, United States Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor said that a possibility of a Zelensky-Trump meeting in Warsaw and New York is only being worked out. It was clear that it was about a symbolic act, a brief meeting and a succinct conversation on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session and arrangements timed to the 80th anniversary of the World War II outbreak.

And suddenly the American President himself says Zelensky’s visit will take place soon and pays him generous compliments. Why would he? We certainly need to take heed that Trump said not a single negative word about Russia and welcomed an early settlement. All of this sustains the hypothesis that he wants to get along with Moscow, but I do not think that this was the President’s number-one motivation. For Trump, the main thing is his re-election next year, as well as his key alleged rival, Joe Biden. And his compliments to the President of Ukraine seem to testify to his having enlisted cooperation of the new Kiev authorities in this regard.

Here it is appropriate to recall the conversation between Trump and Zelensky of July 25. The press service of the President of Ukraine reported that the US leader offered his congratulations to the former on the victory of the Servant of the People party at the parliamentary elections and expressed conviction that the new Ukrainian government proves able to quickly improve the image of Ukraine and to complete the investigation into corruption cases that hampered cooperation between Ukraine and the United States.

It is clear that the above phrase about the image and corruption cases restraining bilateral relations is a broad hint at both Kiev’s help in the 2016 struggle of the Democratic Party with Trump, which resulted in the Manafort case, and the dark Ukraine business of former US Vice President and Trump’s likely opponent Joe Biden.

But the most interesting thing is that the entire text with its transparent hints is a product of the Ukrainian President’s press service. After all, it is the only source of information in this respect, as the conversation between the two presidents has been mentioned neither on the White House website nor on Donald Trump’s Twitter. As press services traditionally provide a summary of the conversation, if both parties report on it, their messages are never identical, because each focuses on the facts considered the most fascinating to it.

In other words, it’s not just that Trump took interest in the part Hunter Biden, the son of his rival, had in the Burisma gas producing company and the role of the last Kiev administration and the Soros grant-eaters in digging up dirt while fighting against his election campaign in 2016, but that the Zelensky press service has actually voiced this. But they could have erased the hints and just report that “the US President stressed the importance of combating corruption.”

The presence of such a hint could be explained by the unsophistication of the Ukrainian President’s press service, but an explanation of this kind is out of place after Trump’s statement about his imminent meeting with Zelensky. Compliments to the President of Ukraine are a likely consequence of his willingness to help Trump in the issue key for him.

Yes, a week before the Kiev inauguration, The Washington Post reported Zelensky as afraid to be involved in the internal American conflict, as well as that he was surrounded by people who were enemies of Trump. The last phrase is an expression by attorney to the American President and former mayor of the New York City Rudolf Giuliani in justification of his planned trip to Kiev. He did not mention any names, but there could be only one person behind the transparent hint – Deputy of the eighth Verkhovna Rada convocation Serhiy Leshchenko, who was first to make a point of Manafort’s getting money from the Party of Regions. Leshchenko did really support Zelensky and attended events arranged by him, but all of this was before the inauguration.

The Zelensky team set a course for a criminal prosecution of former President Petro Poroshenko. And there is an opinion among Kiev experts that it is through the imprisonment of old team representatives that the new President will try to ensure his ratings, because succeeding here appears incomparably easier than in economy or in the Donbass region. However, with the patrons Poroshenko has in the West, the victory may be hollow. And those patrons will stand up for the ex-President even notwithstanding such skeletons in the closet as Poroshenko’s role in digging up Trump’s dirt in 2016 and the role of Yuri Lutsenko (№1 on list to the PPB in the 2014 elections), his political appointee to the post of Prosecutor General, as regards the termination of the Prosecutor’s Office’s interest in Burisma. And if probing into those “skeletons”, one can expect a favorable attitude of the White House.

But that’s not all of Zelensky’s motivation to support Trump. In exchange for such assistance one can ensure patronage in matters important. For instance, the presence of those close to Igor Kolomoyskyi in the establishment. I am primarily referring to Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine (the former Presidential Administration) Andriy Bohdan. Let me remind you that in May Giuliani hurled forth his rage upon Kolomoyskyi as a “criminal oligarch”.

However, the Ukrainian media have published leaked information that Trump refuses to meet with Zelensky while Bohdan heads the administration. But the compliments of the American President to the President of Ukraine obviously disavow such a rumor. By the way, it is quite possible that pressure on Zelensky through Kolomoyskyi has originally been a lever to persuade him to cooperate in the Biden case and other things Trump is concerned with.

Yes, getting involved in domestic political games of the United States is risky for Zelensky, because there is no guarantee that the White House will not be occupied by the Democrats in 2021. But it’s a long way off, and the situation is far from being easy under pressure coming from Washington. In addition, assistance to Trump in matters essential to him will obviously be delivered through the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office, with its leadership to change after a new Rada convocation starts its work. And Zelensky will get an opportunity to say that the Prosecutor’s Office is an independent agency free from presidential interference.

Alexander Ponomarenko is a political scientist with BRICS.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | , , | Leave a comment

Baghdad Says it Will Down Any Vehicle Violating Iraqi Airspace After Depot Blast

Sputnik – August 16, 2019

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Mahdi, following a mysterious blast that hit a munitions depot in Baghdad, has ordered the air defences to immediately bring down any aerial vehicle that will violate the country’s airspace, the government’s press service said on Thursday.

The decision came after a blast hit the ammo depot in the Iraqi capital on Monday, leaving one civilian killed and dozens injured.

Though the causes of the explosion remain unknown, the incident has given rise to a number of theories, including that Israel might have been allegedly behind the airstrike on the depot belonging to the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces.

“The prime minister ordered to revoke all special flight permits in Iraqi airspace for reconnaissance aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft with weapons, fighters, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles of all kinds available to the Iraqi and non-Iraqi sides”, the press service said following the Iraqi National Security Council meeting.

The council also ruled that flight permits would now be issued exclusively by the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, i.e. Mahdi, or officials authorized by him.

“All authorities are required to comply with this order. Any flights that violate this regulation will be considered an aggression, which our air defence will immediately respond to”, the statement added.

It is noteworthy that the decision also comes amid the Turkish Air Force’s regular raids against the Kurdistan Workers Party’s positions in Iraq, which the latter has repeatedly slammed as an assault on its sovereignty.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 4 Comments