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The tragic loss of the Alexandrov Choir (VIDEO)

All but three members of Russia’s most beloved vocal ensemble have died in the tragic plane crash.

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Today’s news of the Tupolev-154 crash is personally devastating. Of the 92 souls on board, the vast majority were members of the Alexandrov Choir, colloquially known  as the Red Army Choir. The rest were civilian journalists and charity workers, including Elizaveta Glinka who has worked tirelessly to help the children of Donbass whilst the west lets them starve.

The Alexandrov Choir were en route to Syria to perform for the troops and civilians as they have done in every major conflict abroad since Alexander Alexandov formed the ensemble in 1926. The choir’s music helped comfort civilians and entertain soldiers during The Great Patriotic War. They provided the soundtrack for the most harrowing years in all of Russian history. Many of the most beloved songs composed during the war were by Alexander Alexandrov, including my personal favourite The Sacred War.

Perhaps most enduring was Alexandrov’s composition of the Soviet Anthem whose music is used as the current anthem of the Russian Federation. Few people in the world have not heard the basses, baritones and tenors of the choir. The signature sound was unlike anything in the world. The instrumentalists of the ensemble were equally talented playing a mixture of orchestral instruments, folk instruments and modern pop instruments.

In the 1990s, the fate of the ensemble remained uncertain, especially after the death of Boris Alexandrov in 1994, who had directed the ensemble since his father’s death in 1946 up to his official retirement in 1987. However, a Finnish punk rock band called The Leningrad Cowboys revived the economic fortunes of the ensemble by performing with the Alexandrov Choir throughout the world. At first such moves proved controversial. The Alexandrov Choir is quite sacred to most Russians and the idea they’d lower themselves to play with comic rockers was peculiar to say the least. But this was Russia in the 1990s and all artists were forced to take whatever opportunity arose to earn their living.

Under President Putin, the prestige of the choir was restored to that of its Soviet glory and the music remains as popular as ever in Russia and the wider world. Today’s loss is a colossal blow for Russian culture. The choir will continue, it will have to be re-built from the ground up, but the voices silenced in the plane crash will continue to haunt many.

May God rest the souls of all those lost in this terrible tragedy.

 

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Saudi Crown Prince Spoke To Khashoggi By Phone Moments Before He Was Killed: Report

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community.

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Via Zerohedge


In the latest bombshell report involving the Khashoggi murder, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly spoke on the phone with journalist Jamal Khashoggi moments before he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak disclosed the new alleged details of the case in a report on Sunday, contradicting claims by Saudi authorities that Prince Mohammed played no part in Khashoggi’s murder.

“Khashoggi was detained by the Saudi team inside the consulate building. Then Prince Mohammed contacted Khashoggi by phone and tried to convince him to return to Riyadh,” the report said.

“Khashoggi refused Prince Mohammed’s offer out of fear he would be arrested and killed if he returned. The assassination team then killed Khashoggi after the conversation ended,” it added.

While the report is so far unconfirmed, the New Arab reports that so far Turkish pro-government media have been receiving a steady stream of leaks many of which turned out to be accurate, including pictures of the hit team as they entered Turkey and reports of audio recordings of the murder said to be in the possession of Turkish authorities.

Meanwhile, the Saudi version of events has been changing significantly over the past two weeks with authorities conceded Saturday that Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and a Riyadh critic, was killed inside the kingdom’s Istanbul diplomatic compound following a “brawl”. The admission came after a fortnight of denials with the insistence that the journalist left the consulate alive, starting on October 5, when Crown Prince MBS told Bloomberg that Khashoggi was not inside the consulate and “we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises”.

On Saturday, the kingdom announced it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 others in an investigation into the killing – a move that has widely been viewed as an attempt to cover up the crown prince’s role in the murder.

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community, and has left the U.S. and other allies struggling for a response on Sunday. As Bloomberg reports, France demanded more information, Germany put arms sales to Riyadh on hold and the Trump administration stressed the vital importance of the kingdom and its economy to the U.S.

In Sunday radio and TV interviews, Dominic Raab, the U.K. politician in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, described the latest Saudi account as not credible; French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for “the truth’’; and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government would approve no arms sales so long as the investigation was ongoing.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir acknowledged a cover-up attempt. The dramatic reversal, after Saudi officials had previously said the columnist left the building alive, has only complicated the issue for allies.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday that the journalist’s death was an “aberration.”

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to cover up,” he said, promising that “those responsible will be punished for it.”

More importantly, he said that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the events, although if the Turkish report is confirmed, it will be yet another major flaw with the official narrative.

Several senior members of US President Donald Trump’s Republican Party said they believed Prince Mohammed was linked to the killing, and one called for a “collective” Western response if a link is proved. In an interview with The Washington Post, President Trump, too, said the Saudi narrative had been marked by “deception and lies.’’ Yet he also defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “strong person,’’ and said there was no proof of his involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Some members of Congress have questioned his willingness to exonerate the prince.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” Trump said on the shifting accounts offered by Riyadh.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to disclose details about the case at a meeting of his AK Party’s parliamentary faction on Tuesday, Haberturk newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, as Western firms and high-ranked officials scramble to avoid any Saudi involvement, Russia is more than happy to step in and fill the power vacuum void left by the US. As a result, Russian businesses are flocking to attend the investment forum in Saudi Arabia, as Western counterparts pull out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had considerable success boosting Moscow’s influence in the Middle East at U.S. expense, by standing by regimes that fall afoul of the West, including in Syria and Iran. Last week Putin signed a strategic and partnership agreement with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, backed by $25 billion in loans to build nuclear reactors. Until El-Sisi came to power, Egypt had been closely allied to the U.S.

Meanwhile, all eyes are fixed squarely on the Crown Prince whose position of power is looking increasingly perilous. Congressional leaders on Sunday dismissed the story proffered earlier by the Saudis, with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee saying they believed the crown prince was likely involved in Khashoggi’s death.

Lawmakers said they believe the U.S. must impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia or take other action if the crown prince is shown to have been involved. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. should be formally expelled until a third-party investigation is done. He said the U.S. should call on its allies to do the same.

“Unless the Saudi kingdom understands that civilized countries around the world are going to reject this conduct and make sure that they pay a price for it, they’ll continue doing it,”’ Durbin said.

The obvious question is what happens and how the Saudi royal family will respond if it is pushed too far, and whether the worst case scenario, a sharp cut in oil exports, could be on the table if MBS feels like he has little to lose from escalating the situation beyond a point of no return.

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The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

Energy companies are flocking to the Mediterranean after oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

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Authored by Vanand Meliksetian via Oilprice.com:


Former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney once said: “the good lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected states… Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Europe is surrounded by states with abundant energy resources, but supply from these countries is not always as reliable. Russia, for example, is regularly accused of using energy as a weapon. However, major discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean could mitigate dependence on Russian gas.

The discovery of a gas field named Tamar near the coast of Israel in 2009 set off a wave of investments in the energy sector. After 9 years, companies are flocking to the region after other discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. Ever larger finds in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levant Basin such as the Leviathan gas field in 2010 and Zohr in 2015, have the potential to transform the strategic importance of the region.

Turkey’s energy hub ambitions

Few states in the world are geographically so well positioned as Turkey. The country controls Russia’s only warm water port in the Black Sea and serves as a bridge between east and west. Therefore, during the Cold War Ankara was an indispensable member of NATO. More recently, Turkey has the ambition to become an energy hub for Middle Eastern and Caspian energy. Ankara has had mixed successes in attracting investors and maintaining political stability.

After Israel’s significant discoveries, a U.S. backed initiative presented Turkey as an energy hub. Although a land pipeline is the cheapest option to transport gas from the Mediterranean to Europe, political developments have stalled construction. President Erdogan’s escalating public denunciations of Israel have made Jerusalem look for other options. Furthermore, relations with Europe have also been damaged which would be dependent on Turkey as a transit country.

Egypt as the regional gas hub

Egypt’s has the third largest gas reserves in Africa. Therefore, its export-oriented LNG industry came on-stream in 2004 but was shut mid-2013 due to a lack of resources. The growth of the domestic market demanded ever larger volumes, which went at the expense of exports. Instead, Egypt started importing LNG. However, the discovery of the massive Zohr gas field, the largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, has turned around the situation. Egypt imported its last shipment of LNG in September 2018.

Although relations between Egypt and Israel are far from normal, privately held companies have been able to strike a deal. Starting from the first quarter of 2019, in 10 years 64 bcm worth $10 billion will be delivered. The agreement has stirred controversy in Egypt, which until recently was exporting to Israel. However, with this deal, Cairo comes closer in becoming an energy hub.

The recent signing of another agreement, this time with Nicosia to develop a subsea pipeline from Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field, has been another important step. Cypriot gas will be pumped 400 miles (645 kilometers) to the south to Egypt’s LNG facilities. Difficult relations with Nicosia’s northern neighbors make a pipeline to the north highly unlikely.

Cairo has been able to act pragmatically concerning its relations with its neighbors such as Israel while taking advantage of the limited amount of options for exporting gas. The obvious winner in this context has been Egypt and its LNG industry. Its chances of becoming the regional energy hub instead of Turkey have significantly increased.

Turkey’s hope for luck

All littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean struck ‘gold’ in the shape of natural gas except for Turkey. Ankara strongly opposes the exploitation of the gas resources in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus without a sharing agreement with Northern Cyprus’ Turkish inhabitants. The Turkish Navy prevented ships from Italy’s Eni from performing exploratory drilling off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus.

In search of its own luck, Ankara has set up a project to start looking for gas in the EEZ of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey. Kudret Özersay, TRNC deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, proclaimed the desire to turn the TRNC into an energy and electricity hub. However, it seems unlikely that investors will be willing to participate due to political and legal reasons.

The legal situation of the TRNC is an impediment to any major decision involving a longtime commitment worth billions. From an international point of view, the region is de jure part of the Republic of Cyprus, despite holding no control over the region. The TRNC holds no seat in the WTO.

Large investments require solid legal and political support for companies to earn back their investments. The current economic situation of Turkey makes it dependent on foreign money. However, stringent due diligence rules could impede some international banks in lending the necessary funds.

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea basin promises great rewards, but the risks are also high. With Turkey potentially being the only country that doesn’t profit from the gas bonanza, Ankara has acted aggressively to get what it regards as its fair share. However, it faces a united front from the other littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Turkey will be able to profit in the same way as Cyprus, Egypt or Israel.

By Vanand Meliksetian for Oilprice.com

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The United States Of Empire: “We’re Getting Close To The End Now”

There comes a time when hard choices must be made…when it is no longer possible to remain aloof or amused, because the barbarians have arrived at the gate.

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Authored by Jonathan via LesTraveledRoad.com:


We’re getting close to the end now. Can you feel it?  I do.  It’s in the news, on the streets, and in your face every day. You can’t tune it out anymore, even if you wanted to.

Where once there was civil debate in the court of public opinion, we now have censorshipmonopolyscreaminginsultsdemonization, and, finally, the use of force to silence the opposition. There is no turning back now. The political extremes are going to war, and you will be dragged into it even if you consider yourself apolitical.

There are great pivot points in history, and we’ve arrived at one. The United States, ruptured by a thousand grievance groups, torn by shadowy agencies drunk on a gross excess of powerrobbed blind by oligarchs and their treasonous henchmen and decimated by frivolous wars of choice, has finally come to a point where the end begins in earnest. The center isn’t holding… indeed, finding a center is no longer even conceivable. We are the schizophrenic nation, bound by no societal norms, constrained by no religion, with no shared sense of history, myth, language, art, philosophy, music, or culture, rushing toward an uncertain future fueled by nothing more than easy money, hubris, and sheer momentum.

There comes a time when hard choices must be made…when it is no longer possible to remain aloof or amused, because the barbarians have arrived at the gate. Indeed, they are here now, and they often look a whole lot like deracinated, conflicted, yet bellicose fellow Americans, certain of only one thing, and that is that they possess “rights”, even though they could scarcely form an intelligible sentence explaining exactly what those rights secure or how they came into being. But that isn’t necessary, from their point of view, you see. All they need is a “voice” and membership in an approved victim class to enrich themselves at someone else’s expense. If you are thinking to yourself right now that this does not describe you, then guess what? The joke’s on you, and you are going to be expected to pay the bill…that “someone else” is you.

In reality, though, who can blame the minions, when the elites have their hand in the till as well? In fact, they are even more hostile to reasoned discourse than Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, or Antifa. Witness the complete meltdown of the privileged classes when President Trump mildly suggested that perhaps our “intelligence community” isn’t to be trusted, which is after all a fairly sober assessment when one considers the track record of the CIAFBINSA, BATF, and the other assorted Stasi agencies. Burning cop cars or bum-rushing the odd Trump supporter seems kind of tame in comparison to the weeping and gnashing of teeth when that hoary old MIC “intelligence” vampire was dragged screaming into the light. Yet Trump did not drive a stake into its heart, nor at this point likely can anyone…and that is exactly the point. We are now Thelma and Louise writ large. We are on cruise control, happily speeding towards the cliff, and few seem to notice that our not so distant future involves bankruptcy, totalitarianism, and/or nuclear annihilation. Even though most of us couldn’t identify the band, we nonetheless surely live the lyrics of the Grass Roots: “Live for today, and don’t worry about tomorrow.”

The “Defense” Department, “Homeland” Security, big pharma, big oil, big education, civil rights groups, blacks, Indians, Jews, the Deep State, government workers, labor unions, Neocons, Populists, fundamentalist Christians, atheists, pro life and pro death advocates, environmentalists, lawyers, homosexuals, women, Millenials, Baby Boomers, blue collar/white collar, illegal aliens…the list goes on and on, but the point is that the conflicting agendas of these disparate groups have been irreconcilable for some time. The difference today is that we are de facto at war with each other, and whether it is a war of words or of actual combat doesn’t matter at the moment. What matters is that we no longer communicate, and when that happens it is easy to demonize the other side. Violence is never far behind ignorance.

I am writing this from the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel in Vienna, Austria. I have seen with my own eyes the inundation of Europe with an influx of hostile aliens bent on the destruction of Old Christendom, yet I have some hope for the eastern European countries because they have finally recognized the threat and are working to neutralize it. Foreign malcontents can never be successfully integrated into a civilized society because they don’t even intend to try; they intend to conquer their host instead. Yet even though our own discontents are domestic for the most part, we have a much harder row to hoe than Old Europe because our own “invaders” are well entrenched and have been for decades, all the way up to the highest levels of government. That there are signs Austria is finally waking up is a good thing, but it serves to illustrate the folly of expecting the hostile cultures within our own country to get along with each other without rupturing the republic. Indeed, that republic died long ago, and it has been replaced by a metastasizing mass of amorphous humanity called the American Empire, and it is at war with itself and consuming itself from within.

Long ago, we once knew that as American citizens each of us had a great responsibility. We were expected to work hard, play fair, do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and serve our country when called upon to do so. Today, we don’t speak of duty, except in so much as a slogan to promote war, but we certainly do speak of benefits for ourselves and our “group” of entitled peeps. We will fail because of our greed and avarice. The United States of Empire has become quite simply too big, too diverse, and too “exceptional” to survive.

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