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Catalonia’s long road to independence is the high road

The ball is now firmly in Madrid and Brussels’ court.

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Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont has offered his own supporters, those in Catalonia who are sceptical of independence, the Spanish people, the European Union and the Madrid regime, an elegant solution to a long burning issue. During a speech in which Puigdemont was widely expected to proclaim a full declaration of independence, he instead offered a declaration of intent, one which carries the penultimate goal of establishing independence through negotiations. While the time-frame of such negotiations is not yet clear, Puigdemont indicated that he is willing to allow for an extended period of discussions while he pursues what he called his “mandate” for independence.

While the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and even the Spanish King intervened to state that the Catalan exercise in democracy had no legitimacy on constitutional grounds, one must realise that all constitutions, like all currencies not pegged to a metallic standard, are only valid if a consensus of peoples are willing to bestow them with legitimacy. The United States for example, violates its constitution on a daily basis and this is now accepted as a status quo. Just ask the detainees in Guantanamo Bay about the sanctity of the US constitution.

In this sense, the Catalonia referendum on independence was equally a referendum on the legitimacy and more specifically, the lack of legitimacy of Spain’s perennially controversial 1978 constitution.

Many critics of the 1978 constitution hold that it enshrined into contemporary Spanish law, many of the Falangist elements of the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Indeed, during his speech, Puigdemont alluded to Catalonia’s historic struggle against Francoism as well as its subsequent contribution to Spanish society.

While the Catalan referendum from the 1st of October was proximately called due to the Spanish’s Constitutional Court’s quashing of many elements of the 2006 autonomy law which granted long demanded concessions to Barcelona, the overall reaction of Madrid to a peaceful vote, has forced a larger debate about the legacy of Falangism in modern Spain.

While the Catalans want a debate, Madrid answered with an anti-democratic campaign of police brutality in a country that is not anywhere near a war zone. There was no excuse for the violence and indeed, the violence was totally condemned by the Catalan President in his speech.

However, rather than use Madrid’s arrogance and police violence as an excuse to declare instant independence, Carles Puigdemont instead used his speech before the Catalan parliament to extend an olive branch to Madrid.

He stated that full independence can and will only be declared after a mutual agreement is reached between Barcelona and Madrid. Puigdemont also welcomed other European partners to help mediate in such negotiations. While not in the EU, Switzerland has already offered to serve as a neutral mediation in the dispute.

While the dispute between Madrid and Barcelona cannot be compared to the Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Carles Puigdemont’s attitude to Madrid was rhetorically reminiscent of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s statement to the United Nations in 1974.

During his first address to the UN General Assembly, Arafat said,

“I come to you bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.

This is in essence, what Carles Puigdemont is saying to Mariano Rajoy. Catalonia will approach Madrid with a peaceful list of demands and expects these demands to be negotiated peacefully and with due respect. If Madrid is unwilling or unable to negotiate, the implication here is that Catalonia will ultimately declare independence without an agreement, much as Britain continues to threaten leaving the EU without an agreement, should no amicable agreement be reached.

But whereas Britain is approaching Brussels from a perspective of intransigence, Catalonia appears to be approaching Madrid and other potential mediating partners, with an open mind and a clear conscience.

It was Madrid who inflicted violence on Catalan civilians, not the other way around and it is Madrid which refuses to engage with people who are technically still Spanish citizens, while Catalonia’s leaders seek dialogue without specific caveats, apart form the general acknowledgement of the referendum and the future consequences this implies.

The ball is now squarely in Madrid’s court. They can force Catalonia into an unwanted unilateral position or even worse, they could impose martial rule upon Catalonia, thus bringing a new conflict to the heart of the European Union. The EU has prided itself on being an instrument which helps avoid further war within its borders. If Spain becomes more militant in its position towards Catalonia, this will not only be a Spanish failure, but a colossal EU failure.

While Carles Puigdemont’s speech was filled with mentions of peace, dialogue, compromise and pan-European values, Madrid’s response to Catalonia thus far, has been legalistic, heavy handed and ultimately unrealistic.

If Spain buries its head in the sand even further than it already has, whatever happens can only be blamed on Madrid. If the EU continues to exercise the same attitude as Madrid, Brussels too will share a substantial portion of the blame.

Catalonia’s message is clear: work with us as partners who are equal but increasingly separate, or lose us forever in more ways than one.

The choice should be obvious for Madrid, but so long as Mariano Rajoy is in power, it may not be possible for Spain to choose consensus over conflict.

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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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