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EXCLUSIVE: The Duran visits London fire ground zero

A combination of ‘life going on’ and everything pausing in moments of reflection, anger and sorrow has converged in the streets underneath the burnt out Grenfell Tower in London.

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Judging from the mainstream media reports in the UK, the area around the location of a massive fire which gutted Grenfell Tower, a large apartment tower in west London, is something of a war zone, a place where anger and bitterness is ready to burst open into displays of violence.

As it is with so much else to do with the msm, this was not the case.

The area was not only calm but in some ways was eerily silent. On every wall and lamppost were signs with photos of missing people, most sadly presumed dead.

Makeshift memorials dotted the streets, particularly outside of churches. Many people set up areas to give away free food and water to anyone passing by and also to police officers and journalists, many of whom were clearly overwhelmed by the scene.

Many locals in similar towers near by looked out of their window with a combination of visible anger and frustration. One local told me privately that their shattered community had become a ‘tourist attraction’. Others had large signs draped across the parapets asking for justice for their community, such people want the right kind of attention to be focused on their area.

While many businesses were converted into makeshift donation points, others continued to operate on a  normal basis, something which is  surreal and at the same time lends a sense of normalcy to a community upon which the shadow of a burnt out tower now reigns supreme. The smiling faces at local pubs and coffee houses show that within a small area, a wide range of human emotions and activities were commencing simultaneously.

Far from being chaotic as many have implied, if anything, people were more polite and calmer than usual on a long boiling summer’s day in a concrete clad part of a major city. However, behind the veneer of ordinary ‘hellos and goodbyes’ was the unavoidable, that a modern urban disaster that was almost certainly made worse by the hand of irresponsible individuals, was looming large. Everyone stopped to lock up at the burnt tower as they walked pass, as though there was a giant magnet inside the charred remains of the building in which many dead bodies still sit, waiting for their final resting place.

In one area, left-wing political activists set up a small sound system through which they allowed others to address the crowds who by that time had gathered.

Every speaker approached things from a similar perspective, that of anger at the poor standards of safety, anger at a UK government that acts with an arrogant indifference to their plight and most spoke openly and enthusiastically about their support for Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s surging opposition leader.

The anger however was a political anger. I speak as someone who came expecting rage, instead I found people organised and united against what they see as common foes: big yet irresponsible government and likewise, big yet irresponsible business.

It is a worrying thought though that the longer government neglects to listen to the angry voices, the more likely the angry voices will turn into angry people on the brink of something physical.

Is the government so foolish as to not realise this? Or do they simply not care?

While some have said that it is wrong to politicise the incident, for the people who gathered, those who lived near by and in similar accommodations from other parts of the city,  it was a deeply political issue and for obvious reasons. The property was built by the state and managed by a private company at the behest of the local government, numerous complaints about fire safety from locals were ignored at all levels of government. It is simply impossible to say that there was no political angle.

However, what becomes starkly clear is that even if political heads electorally roll and I have no doubt that they will, even if a new culture of real safety comes into play and I certainly hope that it does, the failures that led to the disaster at Grenfell Tower in London are part of a political and indeed philosophical culture that has widely failed the people it was supposed to help.

Throughout much of the world, across many continents, the horrors of the Second World War led many people to re-consider the role of society in a future that many hoped would be better than a recent passed which produced the horrors of the War. The most deadly event in history led many to think that it was time to change the thinking that is connected to the violent hand of man.

This led to among other things, the idea that old communities were outdated and some certainly were. The slums which blighted post-war societies, including those like the United States which did not face any bombardment on the mainland, were simply awful. Everything from the lack of electricity, to no proper windows and doors and no in-door plumbing blighted major cities in the age of electricity, the jet engine and television.

One of the most common solutions to slum clearance was the construction of large tower blocs where ‘streets in the sky’ would offer the most downtrodden in society, a glimpse at a future that they might have otherwise been left out of. Such schemes were at the time embraced by both left and right wing politicians.

At first many residents loved their new apartments in the sky. New construction, indoor plumbing, modern kitchens, normal bedrooms, electricity and a futuristic ethos that was miles away from the view-less slums.

But then reality set in from all directions.

At a practical level, in countries like the UK and US in particular, the new modern buildings that required a great deal of attention and maintenance were neglected due to either a real or purported lack of funds.

Architects that wanted to provide spaces for leisure, sport and relaxation were often horrified to see their originally plans slashed by bureaucrats which rendered a sterling vision of the future into one which was partly blinded. Furthermore, many corners were often cut in terms of sound construction techniques which led to many early structural failures.

Then there was the human side. For years, the debate over modern tower blocs used to house the poor revolved around two polar perspectives. One side focuses exclusively on the lack of adequate public funds and efforts to maintain the structures and their accompanying facilities.

The other side blames the nature of poor individuals in urban settings for being incapable of such living, often pointing out that in many cities wealthy people also live in tower blocs of a not entirely dissimilar nature and do so with relatively few problems.

There is however a difference. Men and women were not meant to live in cities in the sky. They are often architectural marvels and occasionally eye-sores, but this is not a manner in which people were accustomed to living throughout human history.

The vast majority of the world’s population will never pilot a plane, take a journey in a submarine or attempt to go into space. These are aberrational vocations that take a particular kind of individual to embark on. One must consciously decide that one wants to go where others have not gone and in unique ways at that.

Those who elect to buy expensive apartments in skyscrapers do so consciously. They have made a decision to invest a great deal of money in order to live in a certain way.

By contrast, the poor who were housed in the kinds of towers like the one which was gutted by flame in London, did not have a choice. Of course they were at first grateful for the opportunity, but sooner or later human nature set in and an involuntary experiment to put humans in ‘streets in the sky’ failed for many.

The classic case study of where modernist tower living went wrong is Pruitt–Igoe, a housing complex made up of several towers in the American city of St. Louis.

The estate was meant to give slum-dwellers of St. Louis a glimpse into the future. Instead, Pruitt–Igoe became the victim of poor building, worse maintenance, lack of opportunity and an environment that due to human factors deteriorated rapidly from a futuristic dream to a crime ridden slum from which one couldn’t even escape by easily taking a walk down the street.

After opening in 1956, the entire area was demolished by 1976. Twenty years is a very short lifespan for any building, let alone such ambitious ones.

The demolition of Pruitt–Igoe was immortalised in the 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi which was a visual and musical meditation on everything wrong with the modern west.

The fire at London’s Grenfell Tower is the clearest indication yet that the 21st century is no better suited to the 1950s attempt to create a future than was the 20th century. Interestingly, the Grenfell Tower in London opened up just two years prior to the final demolition of Pruitt–Igoe.

It is a peculiar fact of life that even the worst politicians are far easier to remove than the worst buildings. I have no doubt that the credibility of the politicians presiding over the prelude and aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire will soon be voted out of office.

What is less clear is what the new leaders will do about the hundreds of buildings like Grenfell?

The immediate solution is to make all such structures safe for living in. The longer term solution will be to phase out such buildings by offering re-location opportunities to more traditional properties either as houses or low-rise apartments.

The amount of post-industrial commercial space that is rotting in many big cities is the perfect opportunity to build such places and most of the owners would happily part with their properties for a reasonable price which contrary to what many say, government can afford.

While the calm but unmistakable anger and sorrow on the streets of London was due to the fact that many people felt their governments have failed them. In the long term, many may take the view that modernism failed them.

Like all forms of idealism, the ‘perfect modern home’ eventually goes up in flames one way or another. One can only hope that such a realisation takes hold in the wider public conscientiousness before another actual major fire occurs.

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US Pressures Germany To Ditch Huawei Over ‘Security Concerns’

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

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Via Zerohedge


First it was Australia, New Zealand and Japan, now the US is pressing the German government to refuse to use equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as Europe’s largest economy seeks to build out its 5G infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, a US delegation met on Friday with German Foreign Ministry officials in Berlin to talk about the security risks presented by Huawei’s equipment, which the US says is vulnerable to spying. The meeting in Germany follows a report from late last month claiming the US had launched an “extraordinary outreach campaign” to warn its allies against using Huawei equipment (while its vulnerability to Chinese spying has been cited as the reason to avoid Huawei, it’s also worth noting that the US and China are locked in a battle for who will dominate the global 5G space…a battle that Huawei is currently winning).

Germany is set to hold an auction early next year to find a supplier to help expand its 5G network. The Berlin meeting took place one day after Deutsche Telekom said it would reexamine its decision to use Huawei equipment.

US officials are optimistic that their warnings are getting a hearing, though any detailed talks are in early stages and no concrete commitments have been made, according to one of the people.

The US pressure on Germany underscores increased scrutiny of Huawei as governments grapple with fears that the telecom-equipment maker’s gear is an enabler for Chinese espionage. The Berlin meeting took place a day after German carrier Deutsche Telekom AG said it will re-evaluate its purchasing strategy on Huawei, an indication that it may drop the Chinese company from its list of network suppliers.

France is also reportedly considering further restrictions after adding Huawei products to its “high alert” list. The US has already passed a ban preventing government agencies from using anything made by Huawei. But the telecoms equipment provider isn’t taking these threats to its business lying down.

U.S. warnings over espionage are a delicate matter in Germany. Revelations over the scale of the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence, including reports of tapping Merkel’s mobile phone, are still fresh in Berlin five years after they came to light.

Huawei is pushing back against the accusations. The company’s rotating chairman warned this week that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt the emergence of new wireless technology globally. Ken Hu, speaking at a Huawei manufacturing base in Dongguan, cited “groundless speculation,” in some of the first public comments since the shock arrest of the company’s chief financial officer.

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. In an editorial published Sunday, the Global Times, an English-language mouthpiece for the Communist Party, warned that China should retaliate against any country that – like Australia – takes a hard line against Huawei. So, if you’re a German citizen in Beijing, you might want to consider getting the hell out of Dodge.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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