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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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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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Via RT…


The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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