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LEAKED AUDIO: Adam Schiff offered nude photos of Donald Trump in prank phone call

Democratic Congressman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff was the latest to fall victim to Russian prankers Vovan and Lexus.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee was the latest victim of a prank phone call by Russian comedians Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, who offered to give Congressman Adam Schiff ‘compromising’ dirt on US President Donald Trump – including nude photos of the president.

An audio recording of the call was recently leaked, where the congressman can be heard discussing the committee’s Russia investigation and increasingly bizarre allegations about Trump with a man who claimed to be Andriy Parubiy, the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament.

The congressman, with already dubious connections to a Soros-tied Ukrainian arms dealer, has already found himself in hot water, as reported by The Duran.

The call was made almost a year ago in April 2017, just as the Russiagate scandal was entering its pinnacle in Washington – which leads one to wonder whether the information disclosed in this phone call, along with the falsified ‘Trump dossier’, was used by Schiff and passed along to those in the House Intel Committee to add fuel to fake Russia-collusion hysteria.

According to the Daily Mail who helped break the story, Schiff and his staff continued to engaged in correspondence with what they thought was a Ukrainian politician to try to obtain the ‘classified’ material promised on the call.

Two Russian comedians nicknamed ‘Vovan’ and ‘Lexus’ who have become notorious for their phony calls to high-ranking American officials and celebrities, including Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, US Senator John McCain, and most notably reported by The Duran, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Schiff’s office said the congressman suspected the call was ‘bogus’ from the beginning and reported it to authorities afterward. But in a recording of the eight minute conversation, Schiff appeared to take the call seriously, taking notes for reference – and emails from the Democrat’s staff to the fake politician afterwards said he had found it ‘productive’.

The prankers claimed that Trump had an affair with Russian glamour model Olga Buzova (left) after a Miss Universe pageant in 2013 – and that naked pictures of him were passed to Vladimir Putin by now presidential-candidate Ksenia Sobchak (right).

Below are the leaked email exchanges between the prankers and the Democratic congressman’s staff courtesy of the Daily Mail – which shows his office was very, very excited about the materials:

Via the Daily Mail:

Schiff and Trump have publicly feuded over the past week in the wake of a classified memo released by House Intelligence Committee Republicans, which alleged that the FBI used abusive tactics to obtain a surveillance warrant against a Trump campaign aide.

Schiff has been one of the most high profile Democrats in congress investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials during the election.

Trump slammed Schiff on Twitter on Monday, calling the congressman ‘Little Adam Schiff’ and claiming he leaked classified information from closed hearings of the House Intelligence Committee.

‘Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!’ said Trump on Twitter. ‘Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!’

The congressman from California shot back that the president was spreading ‘false smears.’

‘[T]he American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or…really anything else,’ said Schiff on Twitter.

The comedians Vovan and Lexus – whose real names are Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov – drew international attention last year for their prank calls to Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Sen. John McCain.

The phone conversation with Schiff took place early last April as the House Intelligence Committee ramped up its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Vovan and Lexus told DailyMail.com that it took them just 30 minutes to get the congressman on the phone after calling his office pretending to be Parubiy.

‘[Schiff] was pretty serious. He wrote all what we said on the paper. Remembered all the details,’ said Lexus.

Lexus said the congressman’s aide also followed up with them by email after the call and asked them to send the materials to the Ukrainian embassy so that one of Schiff’s staffers could pick up the documents.

The comedians claimed they would transfer the documents to Schiff through the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly.

Lexus and Vovan provided emails to the DailyMail.com which appear to show Schiff’s staff discussing the documents after the call.

‘I understand Mr. Schiff had a productive call with Mr. Parubiy, and that Mr. Parubiy would like to make some material available to Mr. Schiff through your embassy,’ wrote Schiff aide Rheanne Wirkkala to the pranksters, according to the April 4, 2017 email.

‘Please let me know how best to arrange pick-up of those materials from your Embassy in Washington, D.C.,’ the email continued.

In another email on April 5, 2017, Schiff’s aide asked: ‘do you know when we might be able to meet your colleagues at the Ukrainian embassy here in Washington, DC to pick up materials?’

Schiff’s office did not respond to a request to confirm the emails.

During the call, the pranksters concocted an elaborate story about Trump having a tryst with a Russian glamour model named Olga Buzova after a Miss Universe pageant in 2013, which led to Vladimir Putin obtaining nude photos of the president.

Other individuals they claimed were involved in the scheme included a former Playboy model and Russian journalist named Ksenia Sobchak and Russian pop star Arkadiy Ukupnik.

Buzova ‘got compromising materials on Trump after their short relations,’ one of the pranksters told Schiff.

‘And what’s the nature of the Kompromat?’ asked Schiff.

‘Well, there were pictures of naked Trump,’ said the caller.

The pranksters told Schiff that Sobchak was a Russian secret agent and Putin’s goddaughter, and claimed she gave the Russian leader the compromising pictures of Trump to use as blackmail.

Here’s the entire transcript of the phone conversation between Schiff and the Russian comedians:

Adam Schiff: Hi, how are you?

Caller: Hello Mr. Schiff, thank you for your time.

Schiff: Thank you, Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you.

Caller: I know that you work for investigation regarding Trump and Russian government.

Schiff: Yes

Caller: We have some important information about it.

Schiff: And that is documented as well in materials you want to provide to us?

Caller: Yes. Could I explain you where we are?

Schiff: Yes of course. But again, I would caution that our Russian friends may be listening to the conversation so I wouldn’t share anything over the phone that you wouldn’t want them to hear.

Caller: No, I don’t think that will impact on our investigation.

Schiff: Yes. Please, go ahead then.

Caller: In November 2013, Mr. Trump visited Moscow, it was competition Miss Universe. There he met with Russian journalist and celebrity Ksenia Sobchak.

Schiff: I’m sorry, can you explain that again? While he was in Moscow in November 2013 he met with a journalist?

Caller: Well, she’s poor journalist. But anyway, she became famous because Putin is her godfather.

Schiff: Okay. Putin godfather, okay.

Caller: She also known as the person who provide support for oligarchs. She met with Trump and she brought him one of Russian girl celebrities, Olga Buzova, who’s also known as person who’s [unintelligible].

Schiff: Okay, and how do you spell her name?

Caller: Olga Buzova.

Schiff: So Olga Buzova is a friend of the reporter?

Caller: Yes, she’s a friend of reporter and I think a special agent of Russia Secret Service Ksenia Sobchak.

Schiff: That Sobchak is or Olga is?

Caller: No, Sobchak is [unintelligible]

Schiff: Okay. So Buzova met with Trump in New York at some point after the 2013 Miss Universe.

Caller: Yes, absolutely. And she got compromising materials on Trump after their short relations.

Schiff: Okay. And what’s the nature of the Kompromat?

Caller: Well, there were pictures of naked Trump.

Schiff: Okay. And so Putin was made aware of the availability of the comprising material?

Caller: Yes, of course. Buzova shared those materials with Sobchak and Sobchak shared those materials with Putin, because she’s the goddaughter of Putin. And Putin decided to press Trump.

Schiff: And the materials you could provide to the committee or to the FBI, would they corroborate this allegation?

Caller: Sure, of course. When they were in Ukraine we got their conversation by the phone where they are discussing those compromising materials. We are ready to provide it.

Schiff: So you have recordings of both Sobchak and Buzova where they are discussing the compromising material on Trump?

Caller: Absolutely, and we also know who was a mediator between Trump and Russian government who met with ex-advisor of Trump, Mr. Flynn. It was Russian singer, very famous singer, Arkadiy Ukupnik, who met with Mr. Flynn on Brighton Beach in Brooklyn in special Russian café Langeron.

Schiff: What’s that again?

Caller: Langeron.

Schiff: Langeron?

Caller: Yes, it’s on Brighton Beach. It’s a Russian district in Brooklyn.

Schiff: And do you know what was discussed?

Caller: They discussed many things. But the most interesting thing is they used a special password for their meetings. When they met each other they said ‘The weather is good on Deribasivska.’

Schiff: The weather is good in – where?

Caller: ‘The weather is good on Deribasivska.’ That is the name of a street in Odessa. Did you hear?

Schiff: Yes, I did. So it’s a street in Odessa?

Caller: Yes.

Schiff: And the code word is ‘Weather is good on ‘Zerabasta’?’

Caller: Deribasivskaya. Deribasivskaya.

Schiff: Okay. And I’ll have my staff call up to get spellings and more details on this.

Caller: The next part of their password was, ‘It rains again on Brighton Beach.’

Schiff: ‘It rains again on Brighton Beach.’

Caller: Yes. On that meeting, Ukupnik told Flynn that all those compromising materials will never be released if Trump will cancel all the Russian sanctions.

Schiff: Okay. Well obviously we would welcome the chance to get copies of those recordings. So we will try to work with the FBI to figure out along with your staff how we can obtain copies of those.

Caller: Of course we will provide you all our copies of all our materials. But I also would like to let you know that Sobchak and Buzova will pretty soon visit our country and we could arrest them and deliver them to your embassy and we also could extradite them to your country and you can put them to your special jail Guantanamo.

Schiff: Well, I’ll be in touch with the FBI about this. And we’ll make arrangements with your staff. I think it probably would be best to provide these materials both to our committee and to the FBI. So we’ll make arrangements between my staff and yours on how to facilitate that. And we’ll also obviously let the FBI know about Buzova and Sobchak’s plans to travel to Ukraine.

Caller: I also advise you to check all Sobchak’s visits in the West because she was in the West very often and suggest you check what she did there actually. And I also would like to look at Russian café on Brighton Beach Langeron and especially on head of Russian Mafia Uncle Mischa.

Schiff: Uncle Mischa? In Brighton Beach?

Caller: Yes, he’s the head of Russian mafia. And he’s located on that restaurant on Brighton Beach.

Schiff: Okay.

Caller: I just want to advise you just to look at them, please.

Rep. Schiff: Alrighty. This was very helpful, I appreciate it. Anything else you wanted to add today?

Caller: Well I hope that my information will be useful for you and your committee. And I also would like to advise you when you or your colleagues will meet with Mr Trump I advise you to tell him first part of the password, ‘The weather is good on Deribasivska,’ and look at how his face will change color.

Schiff: And so those passwords were used with Mr. Trump?

Caller: Yes, of course.

Rep. Schiff: Okay. Well thank you very much. We will be back in touch with you through our staff to make arrangements to obtain these materials for our committee and the FBI. I appreciate you reaching out to us.

Caller: Well let’s be in touch and wait for your response from FBI.

Schiff: Excellent. I’ll have them follow up as soon as possible, and I thank you again. Goodbye.

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Judicial Watch Calls for Re-Opening of Hillary Email Investigation After More Classified Info Found

Judicial Watching is calling for a re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after finding more classified information on the former Secretary of State’s non-“state.gov” email system.

The Duran

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Authored by Joseph Jankowski via PlanetFreeWill.com,


On Thursday, the watchdog revealed that it had received two batches, 184 pages and 45 pagesof newly uncovered emails belonging to Hillary Clinton from the U.S. Department of State sent and received over her unsecured server.

The emails were uncovered by a FOIA lawsuit filed on May 6, 2015, after the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015 FOIA request seeking all emails sent or received by Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State, as well as all emails by other State Department employees to Clinton regarding her non-“state.gov” email address.

Judicial Watch broke down what they found:

  • On June 7, 2011, Clinton received classified information on her non-secure email account from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which Blair also forwarded to Jake Sullivan, about Blair’s Middle East negotiations with Israel, the Palestinians and the French
  • On January 26, 2010, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan sent classified information via his unsecure Blackberry to Huma Abedin’s State Department email account that he’d earlier sent to Clinton’s and Abedin’s non-secure @clintonemail.com email accounts about U.K. negotiations with Northern Ireland.
  • On October 28, 2010, Clinton exchanges information with her friend Marty Torrey – a congressional aide – who asks Clinton in an email if she would advise that Torrey meet with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Clinton responds through her non-secure email account approving the meeting and notes that she is emailing him from Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • An email chain dated April 8, 2010, which contains a memo from Sid Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton related to the change of government in Kyrgyzstan, contains information classified “confidential” and is redacted as “foreign government information” and “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Blumenthal urges Clinton to “develop relations” with the new government in Kyrgyzstan.

These emails caused Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton to call for the Department of Justice to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time in office.

“These emails were undercovered from the emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete or otherwise hide from the American people,” Fitton said in a video posted Thursday. “These new emails once again show why the Clinton email investigation needs to be re-opened by the Justice Department.”

The batch of emails also disclosed a January 26, 2010, email to Hillary Clinton’s private server from her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, that is classified “confidential” and contains a “call sheet” that Clinton received prior to a call with Northern Ireland political leaders.

Interesting, but not surprising, is also an email that shows a meeting scheduled between Hillary Clinton and leftwing billionaire George Soros.

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Doug Casey on Social Media: “Facebook enshrines stupidity”

“Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook.”

The Duran

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Authored by Joel Bowman via InternationalMan.com:


Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Doug Casey: No problem, Joel. It’s a pleasure to hear your Australian accent come across the ether from Mexico.

Joel: Let’s dive right in. A week or two ago, Facebook registered the largest single day loss for any one company in stock market history – roughly $122 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg lost around $15 billion himself, as much as the annual GDP of several resource-rich, West African nations.

Looking back to 2000, during the go-go days of the dot.com boom, Intel and Microsoft both registered staggering single-day losses, too… $90 billion and $80 billion, respectively. And we know what happened next in that case…

So, investors want to know… is past prologue? What’s next for Silicon Valley’s tech darlings?

Doug: Talking about losing multiple billions in a single day, it’s really a sign of the times. I remember when the only billionaires in the world were Howard Hughes, John Paul Getty and John Beresford Tipton– the mythical billionaire on a 1950’s-era show called “The Millionaire.”

These days, however, it seems everyone’s a billionaire. In fact, there are several thousand billionaires roaming the planet today, with new ones being minted almost every day.

Of course, much of this so-called wealth is just paper. It’s not real. In fact, it’s pretty clear to me that we’re in a stock market bubble. Which is being driven by the bond market hyper-bubble. And that, in turn, is fueling a real estate bubble, which I believe is just now beginning to deflate in major cities around the world.

None of this augurs well for the stock market. You’ve got bubbles all over the place. Except in the resource market. That’s the one place that hasn’t inflated. In fact, it’s been going down since it’s last peak in 2011.

Getting back to Facebook, I hope it goes bankrupt. I hate it as an institution. I hate what it does. I don’t like its policies. I don’t like its management. I don’t like the fact that it’s causing people to destroy whatever privacy they have left. While turning their brains to mush sending out selfies all day.

Joel: You’ve put a lot on the table there, Doug. Let’s unpack a bit of that, starting with the general tendency toward cerebral rot…

Many younger readers may not remember this, but there actually existed a time before everybody knew everything, when people had to read books and discuss them, engage in healthy debate and rigorous dialectic in order to learn and develop intellectually.

Now that everyone apparently has plenty of time to Instagram their kale salads and “like” one and other’s cat pictures, are we to assume mankind has finally reached the End of Learning…some new Age of Enlightenment?

Or might Facebook and its (anti)social media cousins represent – in addition to the potential fallout for investors – another, hidden cost to society?

Doug: Perhaps humanity is bifurcating into the Morlocks and the Eloi at this point. It’s true that people used to go to libraries. But even the Library of Congress has only a tiny fraction the world’s data available; libraries are quaint and delightful, but they’re dinosaurs.

All the knowledge in the world is now at our fingertips on the Internet. The Internet is one of the greatest inventions in history, on a par with moveable type and the Gutenburg printing press. A few people are using it to educate and better themselves—but relatively few.

Most people just use it for trivial amusement, as you mentioned. Facebook adds very little value to the equation. In fact, I can’t see that it does much that’s productive. It’s basically a vehicle for gossip and watching cat videos.

Joel: And it’s less than that. Aside from the general degradation of public discourse, social media also represents a kind of unalterable historical record of bad jokes and regrettable moments, accessible to anyone who may wish to besmirch one’s character or skittle one’s reputation.

We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t. To err is to be human, after all. What do you make of a world in which everyone’s worst moments are readily available to everyone else – including potential enemies – at the click of a mouse?

Doug: Facebook enshrines stupidity. A heavy Facebook user is, in effect, saying: “Look at me! I’m a thoughtless person who doesn’t have anything better to do with his time”. That’s on top of the fact that users are exposing their thoughts, actions, and whereabouts to the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and any of a hundred other nefarious agencies. In fact, there are credible allegations that Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, are willing tools of these intelligence agencies. No good can come of being a Facebookista.

But that’s about whether you should use Facebook. Whether you should own Facebook stock is a different question. Even after the recent selloff, Facebook still has a market cap of about $500 billion, which impresses me as a lot for a chat site cum advertising vehicle. Especially one where most of its growth is behind it. A lot of users are getting hip to the fact they’re not customers, they’re the product.

Facebook was a clever innovation ten years ago. But you know, there’s an old saying in the stock market: High Tech, Big Wreck!

Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook. My understanding is that kids now see Facebook as something used by old people– people over 21 years of age. So if it’s going nowhere with the younger generation, where’s it’s future? Maybe it picks up a billion new users in the Third World. Ultimately, what’s that worth?

Facebook may not be a terminal short sale, but I certainly won’t be putting any of my own money into the stock.

Joel: Assuming you’re correct and Facebook 2.0 does displace the current market leader, are you hopeful that such a platform may serve to promote a heightened level of discourse? Perhaps people might find their way into “phyles,” that is, subgroups based on commonly shared values that actually have real world meaning?

Doug: I hope that, in a year or two, International Man itself grows into a community of likeminded people with above average I.Q.s, libertarian values, and real world experience. IM might, itself, even branch off to become its own kind of Facebook. A private version.

I know there’s a lot of talk about regulating FB, or breaking it up. That’s a bad idea; the government should have zero to do with business in general—and areas related to free speech in particular. I’m disgusted by the fact FB has kicked Alex Jones and others off their platform. But they have a right to do so, as a private company. Although, on the other hand, they’re almost a creature of the State.

But that’s not an excuse for the government to “step in”. What will happen is that a newer, better Facebook lookalike—or a dozen of them—will replace them. FB will self-destruct. It’s a non-problem.

To be frank, you and I don’t really have that much in common with most of the 7.3 billion people on this planet. In fact, while I like many individual humans, I despise humanity in general. The more people you put together in a group, the more they act like chimpanzees. Big groups force down the lowest common denominator.

There’s some cause for optimism, but only on a person-to-person basis. I prefer the company of people who value free minds and free markets—and I suspect most people who are reading this now feel the same way.

Joel: That’s probably a very good note to end this conversation on, Doug. Thanks, as always, for taking the time.

Doug: Meanwhile, we’ll look for something with the potential of Facebook in 2008… and stay away from Facebook today.

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Why did Erdogan free two Greek soldiers after six months in a Turkish prison?

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 83.

Alex Christoforou

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Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet after their unexpected release by a Turkish provincial court.

Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece.

Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940…

“This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940.”

“I hope that their release…will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind Erdogan’s unexpected overture to Greece, with the sudden release of two Greek soldiers held in a Turkish prison for nearly 6 months.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Ekathimerini

The soldiers – 2nd Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis – were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

“All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters.

The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed their release as “an act of justice,” and provided the jet he uses on official foreign journeys to bring them back.

Their release “will contribute to strengthening friendship, good neighborly relations and stability in the region,” Tsipras said in a statement. “I want to congratulate and thank (the two men) and their families for their fortitude, patience and trust in our efforts, which were finally justified.”

In Athens, the Foreign Ministry said: “We welcome the release of the two members of the Greek armed forces … following more than five months of unjustified custody in Edirne prison. This decision by the Turkish authorities is positive and will contribute to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and the friendship between our people.

“The constant efforts exerted by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Ministry and the diplomatic and consular missions of Greece in Turkey have borne fruit. Once again diplomacy is the biggest winner.”

The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey.

Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

The two Greeks were released Tuesday pending the outcome of their trial by a Turkish court. Turkey’s state Anadolu Agency said that in a court hearing to review a request for their release the two said in their defense that they had crossed the border by mistake.

Mitretodis’ father told the AP that his son had shown great strength in prison.

“My wife phoned and told me the news, and at once I called the Greek consul (in Edirne) and confirmed that the lads have been set free,” Nikos Mitretodis said. “They didn’t do anything wrong, and they spent a long time in prison. But they were strong during all that time, and remain strong, they have to be.”

“I want to thank everyone for their solidarity – the media, our political leadership, the Church and anonymous people who stood by us,” he added.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the release of the two soldiers “on the one hand constitutes a basic act of justice on the part of the Turkish authorities. On the other hand, it shows how Turkey can and should continue to fully reestablish the climate of friendship and good neighborliness with Greece”.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “The release of the two Greek officers is happy news amid the gloomy summer that our country is experiencing. All Greeks await their return with joy and emotion.”

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was delighted by news of the Greek soldiers’ imminent release. “As I said (before) … Turkey has nothing to fear from its European neighbors. We want to see a democratic, stable and prosperous Turkey,” he posted on Twitter.

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog:

On August 15, Greeks celebrate the “Dormition (or the Assumption) of the Virgin Mary (in Greek: Koimisis tis Theotokou). The holiday commemorates the “falling asleep” or death of the Theotokos (Mary, translated as “God-bearer”). August 15, one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox calendar, is celebrated across the country, and is a date when many Greeks leave the towns and cities where they live and work to return to their home villages.”

Stole that bit from the local Kathimerini paper. And I would add: while most Athenians leave for the islands, along with about 2 billion tourists. Thought I’d bring up the national holiday because in Turkey, they celebrate the same. The orthodox church is still going strong in both countries. Even if Turkey is leaning increasingly towards Islam. And even then: the House of the Virgin Mary shrine in Turkey, which the Apostle John is supposed to have built for her, on a mountain overlooking the Aegean, the place where Mary is said to have spent her last years, sees both Christian and Muslim pilgrims.

All this can’t be seen apart from some recent developments between the two countries. Turkey had been holding two Greek servicemen in jail after they crossed a border in bad weather early March.

Athens got a phone call from Ankara, probably to Kammenos, not Tsipras, that said: you come get them. Whether that call was before or after the court decision we’ll probably never know. A bit of a shame, because it could tell us a lot of where the decisions are made in Turkey. Then again, we do have an idea. A mere provincial court that could make decisions that go completely against what Erdogan desires? What are the odds? But stick around.

Here’s what’s interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year, were released by a provincial court, and got back home on a joint Turkish/Greek national holiday. What’s not to like?

But then this: a few hours after they arrive home on PM Tsipras’ own government jet at 3pm, another Turkish court decides that an appeal for American pastor Brunson to be released, is denied. Brunson is the guy Trump wants freed. John Bolton has said there’ll be no more talks until that is done. But if one court takes a decision that at least on the face of it goes against supreme ruler Erdogan’s demands, and another decides differently, Erdogan can claim the pastor’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides.

That victory over Trump, concerning not freeing the pastor, is apparently worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have gotten asylum in Greece. Something Erdogan is allegedly very angry about, because he accuses them of being party to the 2016 ‘coup’. He’s trying to play chess with Trump.

*****

And then Reuters has this just now:

Erdogan Spokesman Says Problems With US Will Be Resolved

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday he expected problems with the United States, which helped drive the lira to record lows, to be resolved but Washington must stop trying to influence Turkey’s judiciary. Ibrahim Kalin also told a news conference that Turkey would exercise its rights if the U.S. does not deliver F-35 jets to Ankara. The lira, which has rallied after hitting a record low of 7.24 to the dollar, would continue to recover, he said.

Via The Automatic Earth blog:

A masterstroke? Did Erdogan just succeed in making everyone, including Trump, believe the Turkish judiciary system is impartial, and he’s not the one keeping Brunson from leaving the country? Sure looks like he tried. “Sorry, Mr. Trump, it’s out of my hands.. A judge let the Greek soldiers go, and I didn’t want that either..”

Problem is, everyone knows Erdogan fired half the judiciary system and 90% or so of the press, accusing them of being part of the same coup plot as Gülen and the pastor Brunson. It’s almost amusing. Almost, because innocent people’s lives are being played out on some primitive chess board and sacrificed against dreams of ever more power. Only a pawn in their game.

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