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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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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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