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The Sport of the Gods: what is the likely outcome of the Catalan referendum

Instead of leading the political and economic regeneration of Spain Catalonia’s leaders are taking their region down a reactionary blind alley

Haneul Na'avi

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Republished with the author’s permission; first published by Dialectic Productions

“This is the debt I pay/ Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief/ Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end/ Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release/ Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought/ Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best/ God! but the interest!”

The Debt”, Paul Lawrence Dunbar

The October 1st Catalonian referendum, held across the region, quickly became marred with controversy following the Spanish Civil Guard’s violent crackdown, which quickly sowed antipathy between Catalans and the Spanish central government.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s brutal repression of voters at polling stations, which injured almost 900 people, and unilateral seizure of the referendum site, revealed a medieval, antiquated sentiment towards Catalonians unseen since the 1930s Francisco Franco dictatorship.

In his panic, Rajoy decried the referendum illegal (which it technically was, according to Section 148, Clause 1-32a of the Spanish constitution), his counterproductive actions merely emboldened Catalonians and incurred condemnation from the European bureaucracy.

As a result, 2.2 out of 5.3 million (29%) eligible Catalonians voted 90% in favour of independence, encouraging regional Prime Minister Charles Puigdemont to boldy call for secession within “a matter of days”.

The referendum comes years after the Spanish parliament retrenched parts of the Catalonian government’s 2006 Statute of Autonomy, to which, according to Catalonia Votes,

[…] was drastically altered by a controversial court ruling in 2010. Catalonia’s proposal for greater fiscal autonomy was then rejected [and attacks] against Catalonia’s education system and linguistic rights [also] increased and more and more recentralisation measures are being taken.

The Atlantic elaborates further,

Of the statute’s 223 articles, the court struck down 14 and curtailed another 27 [as well as] attempts to place the distinctive Catalan language above Spanish in the region [stating], “The interpretation of the references to ‘Catalonia as a nation’ and to ‘the national reality of Catalonia’ in the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia have no legal effect.”

Despite the referendum’s initial successes and intense nationalist sentiments, inklings of dissent within Catalonia’s class strata have already begun to betray the populist revolution.

A day after the referendum, Deutsche Welle mentioned that,

[…] it would be highly unlikely that any EU state would recognize [Catalonia’s] independence. Such a direct attack on EU member state Spain would lead to a crisis within the bloc [and] why many EU diplomats in Brussels cannot imagine this scenario.

This analysis proved true as events took at turn for the worst, when European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans ignored Puigdemont’s pleas for an EU intervention.

Instead, he delegated this to European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, who responded that,

For the European Commission … this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with [its] constitutional order,” and “[we] trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process.”

Most shockingly, however, was the Worker’s General Union (UGT) and Worker’s Commissions (CCOO) joint statement, which, contrary to popular opinion, did notcall for a general strike, but a

[…] ’go-slow’ of public transport services [at] 25 percent capacity during the morning and evening rush hours [and] Inter-regional transport services [at] 33 percent capacity.

It explains further,

UGT’s General Secretary, Pepe Álvarez, has reminded that “this is a political conflict and it needs political solutions.” […] Social mobilization in Catalonia has been unquestionable and it expresses, with no doubt, the existence of a political conflict which cannot be handled unilaterally by the Catalan Government, or exclusively from administrative and judicial points of view.

Russia Today also reports that,

The two most powerful national unions have called on workers to show solidarity in the face of “disproportionate” violence employed by the police and Guardia Civil but have not called for a Spanish general strike as the situation does not relate to a labor conflict but a political one.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau seconded this days before the referendum,

We are not just facing an institutional dispute but also a social and political conflict that clearly has to be resolved by political means. There are many non-separatists such as ourselves, who, while critical of the unilateral path taken by the Catalan regional government, are calling for a negotiated solution in accordance with the feelings of 82% of the Catalan population [and] it is my obligation [to] call on the European commission to open a space for mediation between the Spanish and Catalan governments to find a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict.

This is because a month prior, the CCOO published a report lambasting the high levels of unemployment in Catalonia and diminished collective bargaining rights amongst its trade unions, which it blames on the 2012 National Appeals’ ruling and Labour Market Reform Act, stressing that it and UGT are currently in negotiations with the Spanish government to resolve this.

The think tank Worker Participation explains further,

A recent major tripartite agreement [signed] in February 2011 [was] an agreement on pensions, but it also [included] measures to reduce unemployment, industrial and energy policy, a promise by the government to reopen talks with the unions on the public sector, and reforming the collective bargaining system.

It continues,

In 2011, the socialist-led government introduced legal changes (RDL 7/2011) giving a greater role to company bargaining and the current centre-right government [added] legislation in 2012 (Ley 3/2012) – developments which the unions have opposed.

This gives rise to a massive contradiction within the independence movement, which is a conflict of interests between the Catalonian regional government and various bureaucracies within its wealthiest cities, whom, due to their class standing, could undermine Puigdemont in order to make a compromise with the Rajoy administration on its coveted pensions campaign.

The myth of immutable social systems

The Catalans, according to the media, are pushing for independence based on their ‘cultural repression’ by the Spanish central government. However, according to historical materialism, one cannot determine historical events based on culture alone.

Former USSR Premier Joseph Stalin defines the driving force of historical materialism as,

[the] method of procuring the means of life necessary for human existence, the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life and development of society.

Speaking on dialectics, he mentions that it,

[holds] that nature is not a state of rest and immobility [but] a state of continuous movement and change, [where] something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away.

What is ‘arising and developing’ in Europe is the supremacy of the European Union bureaucracy over the all affairs of its member states, and what is ‘disintegrating and dying’ is the superstructural relevance of its nation-states—subversion of the nation-state to the superstate.

Additionally, the seemingly intransigent ideologies of the Spanish central and Catalonian regional governments share a dialectical relationship to Spain’s means of production, which unfortunately are no longer Spanish, but the European Union’s—a new model of the international cartel.

Vladimir Lenin’s book “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” elucidates,

International cartels show to what point capitalist monopolies have developed, and the object of the struggle between the various capitalist associations [which] shows us the historico-economic meaning of what is taking place; for the forms of the struggle may and do constantly change in accordance with varying, relatively specific and temporary causes, but the substance of the struggle, its class content, positively cannot change while classes exist. Naturally, it is in [the bourgeoisie’s] interests to obscure the substance of the present economic struggle (the division of the world) and to emphasise now this and now another form of the struggle.

Therefore, the true dialectic within Spain is not “Spanish vs. Catalan culture”, but the proportional division of the European bourgeoisie into the region, nation-state, and superstate; all whom, via finance capitalism, install its dictatorship of the bourgeoisie acting as the state force, wrest the means of production from the proletariat, reshape their relationships to the means of production through bureaucracy, and transform the social contracts within its authority.

Puigdemont and his ilk understand this perfectly and are using their massive reserve army of the unemployed—currently 22.7% of the Catalonian population—as a battering ram against Spain, using Rajoy’s tactless crackdown to garner sympathy from the international community.

Neither Puigdemont nor any of the Spanish trade unions have bothered to disclose the true source of their troubles—finance capitalism—where the bourgeoisie was directly responsible responsible for the greatest heist in human history. Instead, they scrounge opportunistically for piecemeal solutions rather than directly challenging the source of their conflict!

So, as this contest between these class strata continues, where Rajoy cites the “immutability” of the Spanish constitution, and Puigdemont cites the “immutability” of the right to self-determination, neither are as “immutable” as the EU—the primary force in European economics—which, like Rajoy and King Fillip VI, does not want a divided Europe.

A material assessment of Catalonia’s economic future

Although Puigdemont believes that Catalonia can secede from the Spanish state, it cannot relinquish the European Economic Area (EEA), but gambled this anyway with the referendum.

However, as the EU now sides with the Spanish central authorities, Puigdemont has completely changed his rhetoric to a vacuous, conciliatory call for dialogue, because he understands that the reigning bourgeoisie have called his bluff on his monumental gamble.

Also, since the EU bureaucracy has de jure monopolised Europe’s means of production, should Catalonia leave Spain, it would also leave the EU, but ultimately eviscerate all three economies, which are wholly interdependent and intertwined.

Catalonian-born Chief Economic Adviser for the World Economic Forum Xavier Sala-i-Martin highlighted that,

The EU accounted for 65.8% of Catalan exports in 2016, 7 percentage points more than in 2015. It is followed by the rest of Europe (7.4%) and Asia (6.5%), which moves to third place in terms of exported volume, ahead of Latin America (5.9%). France accounts for 16.1% of Catalan exports. Germany (11.9%), along with Italy (9.1%), Portugal (6.7%) and the UK (6.0%) represent nearly half (49.7%) of Catalan exports in 2016.

Therefore Catalonia would spend significantly more on tariffs alone and evaporate nearly half of its trade, giving rise to a crippling trade deficit and sinking into an economic depression.

According to Catalonia Votes (2013), 15.5 million tourists visited the region, 36.5% of its population are foreigners, and its economy achieved €63.8 mln. in exports—25% to Spain, and 65% to the EU member states. This is what helped Catalonia ‘thrive’ as a region—only inasmuch as it retains unmitigated access to the EU common market and ‘free movement’ of labour.

Unfortunately, the EU has socialised the divisions of labour through state-enforced capitalism—at gunpoint, penpoint, and PowerPoint—so much that Catalonia has few economic contingencies. Additionally, Spain knows that, without Catalonia, it would lose over one-third of its GDP and a significant portion of its diversified industrial base, whilst provoking the anger of its largest trading partners whom are the EU’s biggest economies, according to OEC figures.

He continues, making note of the Spanish debt question,

Even worse for Spain would be if the national government works to actively oppose a Catalonia that declares independence and therefore refuses to reach a debt transfer agreement […] If that were the case, then its debt-to-GDP ration would balloon to something approaching 125 percent […] With the richest region gone and with almost unsustainable debt, then Spain is in big trouble.

This is how Catalonia plans to blackmail both Spain and the EU; bursting their debt bubbles.

The Catalonian independence movement is, in fact, a bourgeois phenomenon which, like economic fascism, exploits the working class by with superstructural tactics-as-plan for the personal gain of that respective society’s bourgeoisie.

With Spain’s class strata competing for the blessings of the European Commission, one could deduce that King Felipe VI and PM Rajoy will remain the undisputed winner, but, to err on the side of caution, one could assume two potential outcomes:

  1. An admission of defeat for the Catalonian regional government, leading to PM Charles Puigdemont’s resignation (or head) and restored normalcy in the EU bureaucracy OR
  2. Catalonia’s complete breakaway from Spain, causing an economic and political crisis, which will embolden other secessionists, leading to a near-collapse in the European Union and a prolonged battle of attrition between regional, nation-state, and superstate power structures.

Rather than Catalonia attacking the very system of exploitation through its economic significance and revolutionary history to rally the Spanish proletariat, it has chosen to gamble its future away in a reactionary bid for ‘independence’. However, because the EU is a system of coercive interdependence, the most likely outcome is failure, bitter enmity between Catalans and Castilians, and a gradual return to socioeconomic ‘normalcy’, leaving the working class intact.

In his economic manuscripts, Marx sums up the Catalan question perfectly,

[…] Its idealism is fantasy, caprice and whim; and no eunuch flatters his despot more basely or uses more despicable means to stimulate his dulled capacity for pleasure in order to sneak a favour for himself than does the industrial eunuch – the producer – in order to sneak for himself a few pieces of silver […] out of the pockets of his dearly beloved neighbours in Christ. 

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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