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CATALONIA: Now is the time for dialogue

The time for dialogue was months ago, but it is still not too late to try.

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Catalonia has declared victory in its independence referendum, with 90% of voters opting for forming an independent Catalan republic. In Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy  has said that the referendum did not occur, in a statement that can only be described as arrogant, out of touch and defiant in all the wrong ways.

Spanish PM says “there was no referendum in Catalonia” – Madrid has passed a point of no return

Now, the only sensible thing to call for is for a cessation of all violence and for dialogue. While the intricacies of the referendum are still being examined, Catalonia’s leadership, Catalonia’s streets and millions of Catalan voters who braved a brutal police presence in order to cast a vote, have in fact spoken and spoken clearly.

As I wrote prior to the referendum,

“Spain could have easily managed to create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation, but Madrid under the closet Francoist government of Mariano Rajoy, has treated Catalonia like a colony, rather than a region.

Because of this, Catalans have responded by acting as an oppressed nation and it is not difficult to understand why.

Madrid has used cyber-warfare against Catalan websites, including those of the official regional government. Spain has vowed to use police from outside of Catalonia to physically dispute the peaceful vote. Spain has threatened effective martial law on Catalonia before the vote has even taken place and Spain has arrested prominent Catalan political leaders in the style of a banana republic.

For a country that is in the EU, whose principles of freedom of trade and people ought to make regional independence movements less rather than more confrontational, Spain has taken a position which has debased and degraded Catalan people and it is therefore no wonder that they have responded as they have.

The EU which could have made assurances to both sides, that Brussels would maintain a position wherein EU mechanisms for peace, dialogue, freedom of movement and economic exchange would be open to helping foster an atmosphere of trust and democratic engagement. Instead, the EU turned a blind eye for all intents and purposes. For an organisation that has prided itself on peace and unity, the EU has failed to maintain either for Catalonia’s nationalists and for Spain.

Furthermore, the internal and pan European debates about fascism, communism, liberalism, Christianity, monarchy and liberalism were supposed to be moderated, made less caustic and less violent through the EU’s presence in modern pan-Europe politics. The EU has failed in this respect also, as old ideological wounds came to the surface in both Barcelona and in Madrid.

At the same time, Spain a longtime EU member, has spat on democracy, on civil rights and on any sense of civil order, yet the mainstream media remains stunningly silent about this gross violation of modern political norms.

The failure of the EU is only matched by Spain’s failure to live up to so-called European values, values which as many suspect uphold double-standards rather than fair standards”.

This analysis has sadly become more poignant in the aftermath of the referendum. The EU continues to bury its multiple heads in the sand with no official statement coming from the EU Commission or its President Jean-Claude Junker, nor the European Council and its President Donald Tusk.

In fact, the only major EU figure to release a statement has been Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal bloc in the EU Parliament. While personally, I tend to agree with few of Guy Verhofstadt’s ultra-liberal views, objectively, he must be commended for being the lone major EU figure to release a statement calling for dialogue and condemning clear wrongdoings by Madrid.

Verhofstadt’s statement reads,

“I don’t want to interfere in the domestic issues of Spain but I absolutely condemn what happened today in Catalonia.

On one hand, the separatist parties went forward with a so-called referendum that was forbidden by the Constitutional Court, knowing all too well that only a minority would participate as 60 % of the Catalans are against separation.

And on the other hand – even when based on court decisions – the use of disproportionate violence to stop this.

In the European Union we try to find solutions through political dialogue and with respect for the constitutional order as enshrined in the Treaties, especially in art. 4.

It’s high time for de-escalation. Only a negotiated solution in which all political parties, including the opposition in the Catalan Parliament, are involved and with respect for the Constitutional and legal order of the country, is the way forward”.

While Verhofstadt does not speak for the EU as a whole, only a similarly balanced statement from Brussels can hope to bring calm to the situation. In many ways however, it may be too late for both Brussels and for Madrid.

In respect of Brussels, it may be a matter of far too little, far too late and inversely for Madrid, it may be a matter of crossing a red line for Catalonia by using such heavy handed policing and political techniques to try and suppress Catalans from conducting an exercise in regional democracy and peaceful free speech.

It is however, not too late to try and create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation between Madrid and Barcelona. What is clear however, is that Mariano Rajoy, the current Spanish Prime Minister cannot be the man to conduct such talks, nor do many of his front line government ministers seem up to the task. Rajoy’s arrogant remarks and his apparent praise of clear police brutality against unarmed people including young women and the elderly, means that he has no leg to stand on in would-be respectful discussions with the leaders in Catalonia.

This too exposes the hypocrisy of western mainstream media. In countries that the western mainstream media tends not to understand and have likely never even visited, pundits are quick to say that certain non-western leaders ‘must go’.

In Spain, a country in the heart of western Europe, about which western MSM journalists ostensibly have a great deal of knowledge about, little is being said about the figure of Mariano Rajoy and has terrible handling of the referendum in Catalonia.

If Rajoy resigns and is replaced by a more moderate figure, there is a chance that a special conference organised by the EU, an institution to which Spain belongs and which an independent Catalonia seeks to join, could be held in order to reach some sort of agreement. Even if independence is inevitable, surely it is in the interest of the EU, Madrid and Barcelona to foster an atmosphere where Spain and a Catalan Republic could be good neighbours rather than perpetual foes.

There is no other reasonable solution. The question therefore is: who has the moral and political courage to unapologetically call for such a solution and make sure that it becomes a new reality?

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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