Written by Patrick Lawrence of The Nation, It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised – a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump. A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment. The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget. In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole. All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that ‘hack’ and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined. The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 10, 2017.
While the Pentagon may be already contemplating its next steps in the escalating conflict with Russia, which as the WSJ reported will likely involve supplying Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry – a red line for the Kremlin not even the Obama administration dared to cross – there is minor matter of what to do with a suddenly furious Europe, which as we discussed previously, has vowed it would retaliate promptly after Trump signed the anti-Russia legislation into law, due to allegations it was just a veiled attempt at favoritism for US-based energy companies. And, sure enough, on Monday, the Germany economy minister said that tew penalties against Moscow proposed by US lawmakers violate international law and officials in Brussels should consider countermeasures. Speaking to Funke Mediengruppe newspaper, Brigitte Zypries said that “we consider this as being against international law, plain and simple.” She added that “of course we don’t want a trade war. But it is important the European Commission now looks into countermeasures.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 1, 2017.
An investigative reporting coalition recently released a report alleging a multi-billion dollar money laundering operation that has affected hundreds of banks and companies in 96 countries including the repeat offender, HSBC. In 2012, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, settled with the U. S. Government, avoiding criminal prosecution of its executives, for helping to launder money for Mexican drug cartels as well as Al Qaeda. According to the US Senate’s report, which investigated the matter, HSBC provided a ‘gateway for terrorists to gain access to U. S. dollars and the U. S. financial system.’ Loretta Lynch, while serving as the U. S. District Attorney in NY, said HSBC engaged in a ‘sustained and systemic failure to guard against the corruption of our financial system by drug traffickers and other criminals and for evading U. S. sanctions law.’ As a result of the criminal charges for money laundering and admitted guilt in four counts against the global banking firm – the megabank was let off with a slap on the wrist. ‘HSBC has agreed to forfeit 1.256 billion dollars, the largest forfeiture amount ever by a financial institution for a compliance failure,’ Lynch stated.
Long-time Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to the murky agencies at work to ensure this planetary plan stays on track as the ‘deep state,’ in his book of the same name. He writes that it includes key elements of the national security state, which ensure continuity of policy despite the superficial about-faces from one administration to the next. The deep state is effectively a warlike oligarchy, hell-bent on full spectrum dominance, driven by a lust for wealth and power, and anxious to inscribe its name in history. Specifically, Lofgren says, the deep state includes the Department of Defense, the State Department, the National Intelligence Agencies, Wall Street, the defense industry, and the energy consortium, among other major private players. They share common agendas, operate a revolving door of employees, and have a collective distaste for democracy, transparency, and regulation. The deep state is the link between military interventions and trans-pacific trade deals, between sanctions and IMF loans. All of these tools, be they arms or loans or legal structures, serve a single purpose: the overarching control of world resources by a global community of corporate elites. One can also see how these three instruments of policy and power all do tremendous damage to a particular entity, the nation-state.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 12, 2017.
Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, has confirmed that it hired the consultancy of Tony Podesta, the elder brother of John Podesta who chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, for lobbying its interests in the United States and proactively seeking the removal of various Obama-era sanctions, the press service of the Russian institution told TASS on Thursday. “The New York office of Sberbank CIB indeed hired Podesta Group. Engagement of external consultants is part of standard business practices for us,” Sberbank said. Previously, The Daily Caller reported that Tony Podesta was proactively lobbying for cancellation of a range of anti-Russian sanctions against the banking sector. In particular, he represented interests of Sberbank and was paid $170,000 for his efforts over a six-month period last year to seek to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against that country. Podesta, founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, is listed as a key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms. His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Former President Barack Obama imposed the Russian sanctions following the break out in violence in east Ukraine in 2014.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 9, 2017.
Reminder to media: this is 2nd time Flynn's shenanigans have compromised the credibility of @VP. Won't be a 3rd.— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) February 13, 2017
Is it sweet revenge, or just desserts? Gen. Michael Flynn resigned suddenly from Trump’s cabinet after it came to light that the National Security Advisor had not told the Vice President or President about his conversations with Russia regarding sanctions. A scandal has since unfolded, and will continue in the media; Gen. Flynn has fallen on his sword. Via the Guardian: General Michael Flynn has resigned as Donald Trump’s national security adviser after weeks of speculation over his links to Russia turned into days of reporting on the contents of his calls with the Russian ambassador and a day of intense pressure over whether the president could continue to back his pick. But is there more to the inner-workings and behind stage schemes that led to his demise? The reaction from one of Hillary Clinton’s closest advisors, and a retweet from the would-be queen herself, suggests that there may have been some Machiavellian intrigue at work.
This post was published at shtfplan on February 14th, 2017.
Trump’s ongoing spat with Iran escalated on Tuesday, when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the US president’s warning to Iran to stop its missile tests, saying the new U. S. president had shown the “real face” of American corruption. “We are thankful to (Trump) for making our life easy as he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei said according to his website. He made the remarks in an address to the commanders of the Army Air Force on the verge of the Islamic Revolution’s victory anniversary which falls on February 10 this year. “During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U. S. ruling system,” he added. It is unclear if Trump’s domestic opponents will be quick to agree with the Iranian. Provocatively, the Supreme Leader once again alleged that it was the US that created ISIS: “The new U. S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for [creating] ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 7, 2017.
While we have gotten used to the neo-McCarthyite tactics employed by the Clinton campaign linking Donald Trump to the Kremlin, the whole disgraceful operation has reached a new low with the introduction of US law enforcement agencies into the mix. According to a report by Michael Isikoff – who has become the Judy Miller of this smear campaign – the feds are moving in on the Trump campaign: ‘U. S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials – including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.’ US citizens have no right to question or attempt to change American foreign policy, and any effort to do so will result in the FBI swinging into action: ‘The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and ‘high ranking sanctioned individual’ in Moscow over the summer as evidence of ‘significant and disturbing ties’ between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.’
Europe’s Competition Directorate commands the shock troops of the EU power structure. Ensconced in its fortress at Place Madou, it can dispatch swat teams on corporate dawn raids across Europe without a search warrant. It operates outside the normal judicial control that we take for granted in a developed democracy. The US Justice Department could never dream of acting in such a fashion. Known as ‘DG Comp’, it acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and can in effect impose fines large enough to constitute criminal sanctions, but without the due process protection of criminal law. It misused evidence so badly in pursuit of the US chipmaker Intel that the company alleged a violation of human rights. Apple is just the latest of the great US digital companies to face this Star Chamber. It has vowed to appeal the monster 13bn fine handed down from Brussels this week for violation of EU state aid rules, but the only recourse is the European Court of Justice. This is usually a forlorn ritual. The ECJ is a political body, the enforcer of the EU’s teleological doctrines. It ratifies executive power. We can mostly agree that Apple, Google, Starbucks, and others have gamed the international system, finding legal loopholes to whittle down their tax liabilities and enrich shareholders at the expense of society. It is such moral conduct that has driven wealth inequality to alarming levels, and provoked a potent backlash against globalisation.
A foreign army consisting of 31,000 soldiers from an anti-American alliance are conducting military ‘exercises’ a few miles from San Diego. Hundreds of tanks converge on the Rio Grande, while jets from 24 countries converge in attack formation, darting through Mexican skies. It isn’t hard to imagine Washington’s response. Yet that’s precisely what has been happening on Russia’s border with the NATO alliance, as the cold war returns. Economic sanctions aimed at sinking Russia’s fragile economy, plus a propaganda campaign designed to characterize Russian President Vladimir Putin as the second coming of Stalin – or, in Hillary Clinton’s view, Hitler – have history running in reverse. Once again, an iron curtain is descending across Europe – only this time it’s the West’s doing. The European Union renewed sanctions against Crimea on Friday: their ‘crime’ – holding a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of voters opted for union with Russia, restoring what had been the status quo since the days of Catherine the Great. And the EU is slated to extend sanctions against the Russian Federation later this week. Yet dissent against this revival of the cold war is rising in Europe, notably in Germany, where Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is calling for the ‘gradual’ lifting of sanctions to reflect progress in the implementation of theMinsk accords, which call for the demilitarization of Ukraine and elections in rebel-held territory. This reflects a division within Germany’s left-right coalition government: Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are holding out for ‘full’ implementation of the accords. Yet it is the government in Kiev – held hostage by far-right crazies – that has been dragging its feet over Minsk, refusing to grant autonomy to east Ukraine and vowing to continue the war against the rebels in spite of Kiev’s lack of success in pacifying the rebellious region.
The following video was published by X22Report on May 27, 2016 FBI may receive the ok to read emails without a warrant. Obama admin deletes conflict of interest disclosures from website. Poroshenko places Rasmussen on his advisory board. Poroshenko places sanctions on Russian media. Russia extends food band. NATO has drill in the Baltics. UK sends more ships to coast of Libya. IS traps 100,000 Syrians between Turkey and Syria border. US has troops in Syria many more than is being reported. North Korea is being linked to the cyber attacks that stole millions of dollars from Asian banks. Daytime Military drills took place in Tampa Florida, these drills are being used to condition the American people for an upcoming event.
FRANKFURT – China is cutting back on mining machinery as its economy slips. The United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries are no longer awash in oil money, putting luxury car brands at risk. Russia, still facing Western sanctions, cannot buy as much high-tech energy equipment. The downshift in the emerging markets is leaving Germany vulnerable – and, by extension, Europe. As many businesses in the region struggled just to tread water in recent years, German companies prospered by selling the goods and technology that emerging countries needed to become more modern economies. As they did, Germany’s strength served as a counterweight to the economic malaise, financial turmoil and Greek debt drama that dragged down many European countries. Now, Germany, which accounts for the largest share of the European economy, is looking like the laggard. Compared with the economies of other countries in the region, Germany’s has been more deeply tethered to emerging markets. And the political climate is only adding to the uncertainty, as Germany deals with a wave of migrants and a potential exit of Britain from the European Union. Against that backdrop, the country’s export engine is sputtering, while business confidence is eroding.
Russia’s decision to greatly reduce its military presence in Syria, coming as it did with little warning, has left the world struggling for explanations. Russia is to maintain a military presence at its naval base in Tartous and at the Khmeymim airbase. In fact Russia is ‘withdrawing without withdrawing’. The partial withdrawal is seen by many as a message to the Assad government to not take Russia’s military aid for granted, and to be more flexible in the upcoming peace negotiations. As Robert F. Kennedy Jr., attorney and nephew of US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy explains, the major reason for the west’s attempt to overthrow the Assad government was to build a natural gas pipeline from Qatar that traversed Syria, capturing its newly discovered offshore reserves, and continued on through Turkey to the EU, as a major competitor to Russia’s Gazprom. By re-establishing the Assad government in Syria, and permanently placing its forces at Syrian bases, the Russian’s have placed an impenetrable obstacle to the development of the Qatar gas pipeline. Russia has also placed itself at the nexus point of other new offshore gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. It’s not hard to imagine a new Russian pipeline to Europe serving these new partners. Could easing of sanctions also lead to the implementation of the long-stalled plans of Gazprom for a second pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany for Russia and its partners, Royal Dutch Shell, Germany’s E. ON, and Austria’s OMV?
A Den of Corruption We last wrote about Ukraine in late December, on occasion of the EU’s bizarre decision to do its neo-con vassal duties and extend economic sanctions on Russia to the EU’s own detriment. At the time we remarked on the truly funny spectacle of corrupt Ukrainian politicians hurling insults at each other at a cabinet meeting, in an attempt to clear up which one of them was the greater criminal (a video of the meeting is embedded in the article and is a must see). Naturally, we wouldn’t want to be deprived of such excellent entertainment, but we do have one objection: the tickets to the show are simply way too expensive. European and US tax cows are forced by their governments to involuntarily finance this den of corruption to the tune of 10s of billions. We could have had all of this for free, if only Western governments had allowed Russian president Vladimir Putin to continue to fund the bankrupt Ukrainian political oligarchy, which he was perfectly willing to do prior to the coup (incidentally, there would have been no civil war, and likely no takeover of Crimea either). Other than that, we see precisely zero difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ state of Ukraine. All that has happened is that one group of corrupt oligarchs has been exchanged for another. Of course, there is now a man in charge, who according to diplomatic cables available at Wikileaks, has been ‘our man in Ukraine’ for at least 13 years. This may please Brzezinski-worshiping neo-con empire builders in Washington, but it is little consolation to the serfs who have to pay for it all.
This post was published at Acting-Man on March 4, 2016.
Russia’s economy, facing renewed pressure from plunges in energy prices and the ruble, contracted the most since 2009 last year on oil’s decline and sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine that curbed access to international financing. Gross domestic product fell 3.7 percent after growth of 0.6 percent in 2014, the Federal Statistics Service said Monday on its website, citing preliminary estimates. Economists in a Bloomberg survey forecast a 3.8 percent drop. A separate release of consumer data for December showed spending continued to decline as real wages and disposable incomes fell further.
This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979. Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain. Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions. This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.
Even as advocates of peace in the Middle East celebrate the release of the five American prisoners held in Iran’s jails, as well as the release of the Iranians – most of them dual citizens of the US and Iran – either convicted of violating US sanctions or charged with doing so, a dark cloud obscures this sunlit moment. I’m talking about the political response – from both parties – to the prisoner swap, which bodes ill for the future. Frontrunner Donald Trump simultaneously condemned the prisoner swap while taking credit for it. ‘So I’ve been hitting them hard,’ he said, ‘and I think I might have had something to do with it.’ Yes, it’s all about him: a typical Trumpian response. And yet on the other hand, this was another ‘bad deal,’ like – in Trump’s view – the nuclear deal: ‘We give them $150 billion, we give them essentially 22 people – 21, 22 people – but these are people that really did have problems, and we’re getting back four people … That’s the way we negotiate. That’s the way we negotiate. It’s so sad. It’s so sad.’ It’s not at all surprising that this nonsense is coming from a megalomaniacal lunatic like Trump. What’s disturbing, however – although not the least bit surprising – is that a more sophisticated version of this is coming from the frontrunner on the other side of the partisan divide. While paying lip service to the Obama administration’s ‘achievement’ in securing the nuclear deal – and now the release of the five Americans held by Tehran – Hillary Clinton has proposed undoing all that by imposing new sanctions on Iran:
The Obama administration has expressed its intention to make a needed correction, albeit only a partial one, to a badly flawed and misdirected piece of legislation that was an emotional response to fears about terrorism and that will do little or nothing to achieve its stated objective. The legislation, which was a rider on an omnibus spending bill that President Obama signed into law a week ago Friday, selectively reverses part of the visa waiver program under which citizens of some countries do not need to go through the time-consuming process of obtaining a visa before visiting the United States for tourism or business. Iran is not one of those countries, but its economic interests will be indirectly affected. Secretary of State Kerry has told Iran in a letter to the Iranian foreign minister that the administration will use its waiver authority and other lawful tools to prevent the new visa rules from contradicting the sanctions-relief provisions of the recent agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. About the only good thing about the new legislation is that it implicitly recognizes that the earlier hysteria over refugees and the fear of terrorists in their midst was misplaced. None of the known foreign terrorists who have entered the United States came here as refugees. But then one has to note immediately that neither were any of those terrorists kept out by having to apply for a visa. This is true of, among others, the woman involved in the San Bernardino shootings, the incident that probably has contributed more than any other to the current emotions and fears in the United States about terrorism.
In the fight for market share among the world’s oil producers this year, Russia wasn’t supposed to be a contender. But the world’s No. 3 producer has been pumping at the fastest pace since the collapse of the Soviet Union, adding to the flood on an already-swamped market and helping push prices to the lowest levels since 2004. Russia’s unexpected oil bounty this year is the result not of a new Kremlin campaign but of dozens of modest productivity improvements across the sprawling sector. Even pressured by plunging prices, as well as U. S. and European Union sanctions that cut access to much foreign financing and technology, Russian companies have managed to squeeze more crude out of some of the country’s oldest fields. They have also brought new projects on line, offsetting steady declines in its core producing region of West Siberia. With a rise of 0.5 percent in the first nine months of 2015, Russia hasn’t boosted production as much as its larger rivals, the U. S. (up 1.3 percent) and Saudi Arabia (up 5.8 percent), according to Citigroup Inc. But having ignored OPEC’s calls earlier this year to join efforts to support prices by pumping less, Russia is keeping up with the cartel. ‘I know of no one who had predicted that Russian production would rise in 2015, let alone to new record levels,’ said Edward Morse, Citigroup’s global head of commodities research. As recently as April, not even the Russian government thought 2015 would break the record. Bashneft’s Boom But Mikhail Stavskiy said he wasn’t surprised. A veteran of the oil fields of Siberia who’s now head of upstream at Bashneft PJSC, he said his engineers have managed to find more oil in some of the fields where he worked summers as a student in the early 1980s. Bashneft, with some of the oldest reserves in Russia, has been the biggest single contributor to increased crude output this year, thanks largely to low-cost efforts to squeeze more oil out of regions that have been in production for decades. The results have helped make Bashneft’s shares among the best performers on Russia’s stock market in the last 12 months.
The commodity-price slump and the slowdown in China’s economy are crippling developing nations’ ability to borrow abroad, even as international debt sales from advanced nations remain at a five-year high. Issuance by emerging-market borrowers slumped to a net $1.5 billion in the third quarter, a drop of 98 percent from the second quarter, according to the Bank for International Settlements. That was the biggest downtrend since the 2008 financial crisis and reduced global sales of securities by almost 80 percent, the BIS said in a report. Emerging-market assets tumbled in the third quarter, led by the biggest plunge in commodity prices since 2008 and China’s surprise devaluation of the yuan. The average yield on developing-nation corporate bonds posted the biggest increase in four years, stocks lost a combined $4.2 trillion and a gauge of currencies slid 8.3 percent against the dollar. Sanctions on Russian entities and political turmoil in Brazil and Turkey also affected sales by companies in those countries.