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France’s chaotic election as plot to replace Fillon with Juppé unravels

Alain Juppé rules himself out of French Presidential race as former front runner Francois Fillon remains defiant.

Alexander Mercouris

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As French President Francois Hollande admits he will do everything in his power to stop Marine Le Pen from being elected French President, criminal accusations are being brought against her not just for republishing ISIS videos but also for making false claims for public funds to pay her staff.

This closely mirrors the charges brought against the former front runner, Francois Fillon, over alleged illegal payments to his family.

Just a few weeks ago Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen were odds-on favourites to go through to the second round of the French Presidential election, with Fillon expected to win the run-off.   The charges which have been brought against Fillon have pushed down his rating after it appeared to recover so that he is now trailing both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, whilst Marine Le Pen’s once clear lead over Emmanuel Macron has been dented, and she is now polling roughly equally with him.

Both Fillon and Le Pen are claiming that the charges brought against them are politically motivated.  They are being roundly denounced for doing so, though the timing – if nothing else – suggests they are right.

I am here going to say that I am gradually coming round to the view that the charges against Fillon and Le Pen not only are politically motivated, but that in the case of Fillon the intention was to drive him out of the race so as to replace him with Alain Juppé, who has always been the French establishment’s preferred choice for President.  If that is right then the extraordinary rise over the last few weeks of Emmanuel Macron is every bit as artificial as it looks, and was intended to keep the race open so as to provide space for Juppé to take over.

There has in fact been an orchestrated attempt to get Fillon to stand aside in order to open the way for Juppé.  This was supposed to come to a culmination today, when the Republicans – Fillon’s and Juppé’s party – were due to hold a meeting at which the plan appears to have been that Fillon would be forced to step aside to make way for Juppé.  Probably not coincidentally a series of opinion polls have appeared in recent days that appear to show that were this to happen Juppé would replace Le Pen and Macron as the front runner, putting him in a good position to win the Presidency.

What makes all this to an outsider like me completely bizarre is that though Fillon is being accused of false claims for public funds to pay his family, Juppé has actually been convicted in 2004 of the felony of abuse of public funds, for which he was sentenced to an 18 months suspended jail term subsequently cut to 14 months on appeal.

In other words the French elite has been pushing to replace someone who has only been charged with an offence (and who is therefore entitled to the presumption of innocence) with someone who a court has already found guilty of an offence.

In any event if the plan actually was to force Fillon out of the race in order to open the way for Juppé to become President, then the scheme looks like it is about to unravel.  Following a big rally of Fillon’s supporters in Paris over the weekend, Fillon has announced his determination to fight on, causing Juppé to rule himself out of the race.

It remains very difficult to see how Fillon can recover his position in the polls given the huge dent he has suffered.  By contrast Marine Le Pen as the anti-establishment candidate looks far more likely to put charges that are being made against her behind her.  Indeed there is a fair chance that by allowing her to claim that she is the target of persecution by the establishment the accusations made against her will eventually play out in her favour.

Unless the French establishment finds some other way to get Fillon out of the race it therefore now looks like the run-off will be fought between Marine Le Pen and the little known, inexperienced and frankly artificial candidate Emmanuel Macron.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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Defeat in Bavaria delivers knockout punch to Merkel’s tenure as Chancellor (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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The stunning CSU defeat in Bavaria means that the coalition partner in Angela Merkel’s government has lost an absolute majority in their worst election results in Bavaria since 1950.

In a preview analysis before the election, Deutsche Welle noted that a CSU collapse could lead to Seehofer’s resignation from Merkel’s government, and conceivably Söder’s exit from the Bavarian state premiership, which would remove two of the chancellor’s most outspoken critics from power, and give her room to govern in the calmer, crisis-free manner she is accustomed to.

On the other hand, a heavy loss and big resignations in the CSU might well push a desperate party in a more volatile, abrasive direction at the national level. That would further antagonize the SPD, the center-left junior partners in Merkel’s coalition, themselves desperate for a new direction and already impatient with Seehofer’s destabilizing antics, and precipitate a break-up of the age-old CDU/CSU alliance, and therefore a break-up of Merkel’s grand coalition. In short: Anything could happen after Sunday, up to and including Merkel’s fall.

The Financial Times reports that the campaign was dominated by the divisive issue of immigration, in a sign of how the shockwaves from Merkel’s disastrous decision to let in more than a million refugees in 2015-16 are continuing to reverberate through German politics and to reshape the party landscape.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning Bavarian election defeat of the CSU party, and the message voters sent to Angela Merkel, the last of the Obama ‘rat pack’ neo-liberal, globalist leaders whose tenure as German Chancellor appears to be coming to an end.

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Via Zerohedge

Voters in Germany’s economically dominant southern state of Bavaria delivered a stunning rebuke to the ruling Christian Social Union, in an election that delivered another crushing blow for the parties in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition in Berlin.

With all eyes on Sunday’s Bavaria election, moments ago the first exit polls showed a historic collapse for the ruling CSU party, which has ruled Bavaria continuously since 1957, and which saw its share of the vote collapse from 47.7% in the 2013 election to just 35.5%, losing its absolute majority and suffering its worst result since 1950, as voters defected in their droves to the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

German newspaper Welt called the election “the most painful election defeat of the past 50 years for the CSU”. As predicted in the polls, the CSU experienced a “historic debacle” in the Bavarian state elections, according to Welt. The CSU was followed by the Greens which soared in the election, more than doubling to 18.5% from 8.6% in 2013, the Free Voters also rose to 11% from 9.0%, in 2013.

Meanwhile, the nationalist AfD are expecting to enter Bavaria’s parliament for the first time ever with 11% of the vote, and as such are setting up for their post-election party. Party leader Alice Weidel already is having the first beer in the small community of Mamming in Lower Bavaria.

Establishment party, left-of-center SPD also saw its support collapse from 20.6% in 2013 to just 10% today.

The full initial results from an ARD exit poll are as follows (via Zerohedge):

  • CSU: 35.5 %
  • Grüne: 18.5 %
  • FW: 11.5 %
  • AfD: 11.0 %
  • SPD: 10.0 %
  • FDP: 5.0 %
  • Linke: 3.5 %
  • Sonstige: 5.0 %

The breakdown by gender did not show any marked variations when it comes to CSU support, although more women voted for the Greens, while far more men supported the AfD:

There was a greater variation by educational level, with highly educated voters tending more towards the green GRÜNE (G/EFA) and liberal FDP (ALDE) then the average, while low/middle educated voters tended more towards CSU (EPP) and AfD (EFDD).

This was the worst result for the CSU since 1950.

Zerohedge further reports that alarmed by the rise of the anti-immigration, populist AfD, the CSU tried to outflank them by talking tough on immigration and picking fights with Ms Merkel over asylum policy.

But the strategy appeared to have backfired spectacularly by alienating tens of thousands of moderate CSU voters and driving them into the arms of the Greens.

Meanwhile, as support the CSU and SPD collapsed, the result confirmed the Greens’ status as the rising force in German politics. Running on a platform of open borders, liberal social values and the fight against climate change the party saw its support surge to 18.5%, from 8.4% in 2013. Meanwhile the AfD won 11%, and for the first time entered the Bavarian regional assembly.

“This is an earthquake for Bavaria,” said Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz.

The CSU had governed the state with an absolute majority for most of the last 60 years. “It was Bavaria and Bavaria was the CSU. That is now no longer the case.”

The latest collapse of Germany’s establishment parties highlights the shaky ground the grand coalition in Berlin is now resting on as all three parties in the alliance, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the CSU and the SPD, are haemorrhaging support. Some are now questioning whether the coalition, already frayed by personal rivalries and near constant bickering over policy, can survive a full term in office.

“This outcome throws ever more doubt on the future of the grand coalition,” said Heinrich Oberreuter, head of the Passau Journalism Institute and an expert on the CSU. “Based on current polls, if an election were held now, the CDU, CSU and SPD would not even command a majority in the Bundestag.”

The CSU will now be be forced to form a coalition government — a humiliating outcome for a party that has run Bavaria single-handedly for 49 of the last 54 years. Its preference is probably for a three-party coalition with the Free Voters, a small party that is mainly focused on local politics. It could also team up with the Greens, though it would be highly reluctant to do so: the two parties are deeply divided over immigration, transport and environmental policy.

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