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Julian Assange and RT attacks were designed to help Hillary Clinton

The simultaneous attacks on Julian Assange and RT in Britain are almost certainly connected. They were almost certainly intended to plug the leaks to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead they have exposed the arrogance, incompetence and intolerance of the Western establishment and its loss of nerve.

Alexander Mercouris

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The crackdown on RT has been a rapidly evolving story, and I do not know the whole truth of it.  However what is clear is that it is a tale of arrogance and stupidity on the part of a Western establishment that has lost its nerve.

First there were reports that RT’s bank accounts in Britain had been frozen.  Then RT released a letter from its British bank – NatWest, which is 70% owned by the British government – saying that its bank accounts were being closed.  No reason was given and the letter said that the decision was final and was not subject to review. 

RT complained that it had been given no notice and that the letter had come as a total surprise out of the blue.

A storm of criticism then followed and significantly not just from Russia, with many British individuals and organisations complaining about an attack on free speech. 

The British government avoided comment, the Treasury denied involvement, and amid rumours that the Russians were threatening to freeze the BBC’s accounts in Russia and to bring complaints to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and to other multinational institutions about an attack on free speech, with some talk of a possible challenge to the European Court of Human Rights, NatWest was left throughout the day hanging out to dry. 

Later, after markets closed, NatWest put out a statement saying that the decision would be reviewed after all, and that RT’s accounts with NatWest were still open and operating, and that it was in talks with RT about their future. 

There have been unconfirmed reports that the closure of RT’s accounts has now been put back to December, and that no final decision to close the accounts has been made.  The London Times is talking about a British climbdown.

Simultaneously, on the same day, it became known that the Ecuadorian authorities are denying Julian Assange internet access.

What is happening and are these two events connected as many people think?

The first thing to dispose of is the claim of some people in Britain (eg. Dominic Lawson in The Times) who are trying to defend the British actions against RT by saying they are not an attack on free speech because NatWest’s decision was supposedly a purely a commercial decision, made solely by the bank, with politics playing no part in it.

This claim is silly.  This was a decision made out of the blue with no warning and no reason given.  Given how controversial it was, if there had been some genuine commercial reason for it the bank would have told RT about it. Given the storm of controversy which followed throughout the day, if NatWest had acted for purely commercial reasons it would have put out a statement saying so. 

This would certainly have been the case if the reason for the decision was the one suggested by Dominic Lawson: that RT is about to be sanctioned.  Besides saying this begs the question who told NatWest RT was going to be sanctioned?  As it happens there is no evidence RT is going to be sanctioned, and a meeting of the European Council which took place on Monday ended with no announcement of further sanctions whether against RT or against anyone or anything else connected to Russia.

The fact that the whole day went by without NatWest publicly saying any of these things should put the claim that this was a purely commercial decision to rest.  Frankly I doubt many of the people who make it really believe it.

It is no secret the British authorities have been angry and worried about RT for a long time. 

Supposedly the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, even convened a special meeting to discuss the channel, where he expressed his frustration on being given legal advice that were no grounds to act against it.

It is also no secret that this anger is shared by other Western governments, including the US government.  US Secretary of State Kerry after all has famously called the channel a “propaganda bullhorn”.

It is also no secret that RT is the subject of a relentless and highly vituperative campaign against it by the Western media, including especially the media in Britain.

That RT should therefore have come under this sort of attack is hardly a surprise.  Why however did it happen now?

Here I am going to align myself with Adam Garrie and with those who think that it is no coincidence that this attack came on the same day as Julian Assange was denied internet access.  Moreover this clearly points to the US Presidential election, and the roles Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Russia, are taking or are supposed to be taking in the election, being the reason for the attack.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been hit by a series of leaks of emails published by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Hillary Clinton, her campaign, the Western media, and US intelligence, are all blaming Russia for these leaks, and are saying that it is Russia that is providing the hacked and stolen emails to Assange and Wikileaks.  The implication is that Assange and Wikileaks, whether consciously or not, are Russian agents. 

I have said previously why I personally doubt this is so, and I have explained why the statement US intelligence has published blaming Russia cannot be taken as proof of this

The US nonetheless publicly insists it is the case, and it has been talking openly of taking retaliatory action against Russia because of the leaks. The cutting off of Assange from the internet and the action against RT look to me like precisely the sort of retaliatory action the US has been talking about. 

To be precise they look to me like an attempt to plug the leaks by simultaneously acting against the person who is producing the leaks and the operation in Britain – the country where Assange is located and where Wikileaks is mainly based – of the Russian television channel the US believes Russia is using to disseminate news of the leaks 

The coincidence of the simultaneous actions against Assange and RT is just too strong to leave me personally in any doubt that the two events are connected.

Presumably Ecuador was warned that Assange by meddling in the US election is abusing his asylum status, and that unless Ecuador takes steps to silence him it will itself be the target of US retaliatory action.  Ecuador, a small country with a fragile economy which uses the US dollar as its currency, had no option but to comply.

As for RT, legal attempts to close the channel having failed, an attempt was made to close down its British operation by denying it banking services.

The latest news from Britain suggests that the action against RT has miscarried.  The British authorities seem to have underestimated the strength of the Russian reaction and the unpopularity of the action taken against RT in Britain. 

I should say that I have not discussed what has happened with anyone I know at RT – including with Peter Lavelle who writes for The Duran – and I have no inside knowledge of what has happened or of what is going to happen next.  However I here express my confidence that RT’s British operation will continue, and that this attempt to close it down will fail.

I also believe the attempt to plug the leaks by denying Assange internet access will also fail.  I have met some of the people who work for Assange and Wikileaks, though I have never met with or had any contact with Assange himself. 

I have had no contact over the last few days with any of these people, and I have not discussed recent events with them, and I do not know what they are going to do.  However they have struck me as extremely determined and resourceful, and I have no doubt they will find a way round.  I therefore have no doubt the leaks will continue.

Which brings me to what stands out most for me from this affair, which is its sheer stupidity.

Since I have no doubt the leaks will continue, I cannot see the point of this whole exercise, which can only make the Western authorities look simultaneously overbearing and ineffective.

More to the point, though I have no idea what any of the leaked emails Assange and Wikileaks may be about to publish contain, I strongly doubt they will have any negative impact on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

In my opinion the US public decided long ago that Hillary Clinton is someone they don’t like and who is not to be trusted, which is why she has struggled to ‘seal the deal’ with them in the election.  

Nothing in the emails is going to make the US public think any the worse of Hillary Clinton than they already do.  The veteran and highly professional spin doctors who work for Hillary Clinton’s campaign – with the unstinting help of US intelligence and of the Western media – have anyway managed to divert the whole story from a discussion of the content of the emails to a discussion of their alleged theft and leak by Russia.  Successfully plugging the leak of the emails – even if that were possible – therefore achieves nothing.

Whilst there was nothing to be gained by going after Assange, by doing so the US and the British have not only managed to make themselves look thuggish and vindictive, but the US has also given the impression that it and Hillary Clinton are afraid of him and of whatever it is he is going to leak.  That in turn creates the impression that they really do have something to hide and be afraid of, when on any cool and objective assessment they don’t.

As for RT, not only has the channel and its British staff been treated with a callous and unconscionable  brutality – with many of its workers made cruelly frightened for their next pay cheque – but this banana republic style behaviour, which would be rightly and roundly condemned if it happened anywhere else, betrays an astonishing loss of nerve on the part of the Western establishment.

The deluge of comments which have flooded the media threads in response to the attack on RT show that many of its viewers in Britain and elsewhere reject the label of “propaganda bullhorn” the West is trying to impose on it, and that they have come instead to value RT’s wide international news coverage and its critical point of view.   

Going after RT not only reeks of fear – not just of the channel but of the news it is broadcasting – but calling it a propaganda channel insults the millions of people in the West, including in Britain, who regularly watch the channel by implying that they are too stupid to realise the fact.  Moreover going after RT in this tawdry way – indirectly through its bank accounts whilst hiding behind NatWest – is an implicit admission that there are no actual grounds to close it, and that the claim that it is a propaganda channel not entitled to a broadcasting licence is untrue and a sham.

In truth it is astonishing that the political, security and media establishment of the West is today so frightened of a single television channel, especially a Russian one. 

Not so long ago such a thing would have been considered inconceivable.  During the Cold War the idea that the mighty Western media and the Western establishment would be running scared of a single Russian television channel would have been thought ridiculous.

That more than anything else shows the extent to which the West is losing the plot, and how the actual balance of power in the world, what some old fashioned Russians still like to refer to – far more accurately – as “the correlation of forces”, is changing and has now shifted decisively against the West.

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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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