Monday 20th of August 2018

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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 14:10
The Iran nuclear deal, which was recently ditched by the US, humanitarian efforts in war-ravaged Syria, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project… Putin and Merkel hold three-hour talks and are mostly on the same page.

The surprise visit announced earlier this week between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin took place in Meseberg Palace, 65km north of Berlin, on Saturday afternoon. Putin arrived in the 18th-century palace shortly after attending the wedding of Austrian FM Karin Kneissl.

Both Russia and Germany have been affected by US tariffs, while Moscow has also been hit by sanctions. As rifts with Washington grow, the two leaders found some common ground in their detailed three-hour talks.

Purely economic project Nord Stream 2

The €9.5 billion (US$10.8 billion) pipeline project was one of the key talking points at the meeting. During the Saturday media conference, Putin said the Nord Stream 2 is a "purely economic project" and does not mean the transit of gas through Ukraine will stop. "I am aware of the Federal Chancellor's position. All that matters to us is that this transit is economically feasible… and makes economic sense."

During the closed talks, Putin and Merkel discussed the project and the prospects for Russian gas transit through Ukraine. Merkel said that even after the launch of the Nord Stream 2, Ukraine "should play its part in gas transit to Europe."

READ MORE: Putin & Merkel could stick it to Trump as they look to bring Nord Stream 2 over the line

Merkel and Putin are obviously aware of the backlash from Washington and some Western politicians on the joint project between Gazprom and Western European energy giants. European Council President Donald Tusk has campaigned endlessly for the cancelation of Nord Stream 2 ever since it was announced in 2015. US President Donald Trump has also expressed strong opposition to the project, calling Germany a captive of Russian energy. The US leader has made no secret of American ambitions either, promising during his last whirlwind tour of Europe that Europeans will be buying "vast amounts" of US-produced liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Iran: Merkel, Putin stand for saving nuclear deal recently dumped by US

Both the Russian leader and the German chancellor are in favor of preserving the milestone Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Putin insisted that it is important "to preserve this multilateral agreement" approved by the UN Security Council, which aims at "strengthening regional and global security and the nuclear non-proliferation." Merkel also supports the deal, but noted that Germany is "following Iran's activities with concern, be it the missile program or the situation in Syria."

READ MORE: 'Iran Action Group' a new US tool of regime change, but Tehran’s resilience is 'strong' – researcher

It has been three months since Donald Trump, a long-standing critic of the Iran deal, pulled out of the agreement, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Tehran's compliance with the deal on numerous occasions. The US president also ignored attempts of world powers, including France and Germany, to talk him out of withdrawing.


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Let's say here that the German news outlet Der Spiegel has so far been more that quiet about this meeting. Its boffins and journalists would not ne happy... Like the US press, the UK press and most of the western press, they have demonised Putin and Russia since forever. This meeting is telling them to put a sock in it and listen. It will be interesting to see what the Teutonic Der Spiegel makes of it in the long run...


The major point here that the two leaders do not need interpreters to talk to each others... Read from top.

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 13:49

After President Donald Trump revoked his security clearance, John Brennan arose as a Hero of Free Speech. On Twitter, he announced in terms that reanimated the Founding Fathers and marched them down Constitution Avenue: “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.” Twelve former senior intelligence officials agreed, calling Trump’s revocation “an attempt to stifle free speech.”

No less than Ben Wizner, a director at the ACLU, stated, “The First Amendment does not permit the president to revoke security clearances to punish his critics.” Republican Bob Corker, the retiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, said, “It just feels like sort of a…banana republic kind of thing.” Admiral William McRaven, former SEAL and bin Laden killing superhero, said of Trump’s revocation, “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children.”

Relax. The only danger here is to John Brennan’s credibility as a #McResistance pop idol.

Over five million Americans hold security clearances. When a cleared person honorably leaves government, he usually retains his status. Ostensibly this is to allow him to help out his successors, yet most people use their clearances to hop on the gravy train. High-level clearances take time and cost a lot of money to obtain. Retired, cleared federal employees can slide into a range of lucrative contractor jobs. They can also use their clearances to garner information from old colleagues and put it to vaguely legal use at think tanks, universities, and as media analysts.


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Brennan on the gravy train is more scary than Trump in office:

scary... scary

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revoke it, please...

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 13:42

With the European Parliament elections of 2019 looming, the battle for the future of Europe, as many like to phrase it, is drawing ever closer. Two visions dominate this clash. On one side is Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who is trying to take the next step towards his dream of an “ever closer union.” On the other side is Matteo Salvini, the Italian secretary of the interior, leader of the Lega Nord, and ascendant right-wing populist. Thus did the recent headline blare off of Politico Europe‘s front page: “Macron and Salvini face off over Continent’s future.”

This is hardly the only dichotomy that matters. After all, older-school liberals like Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte aren’t too happy with Macron’s ideas either. But the war between EU federalism and nationalist populism is how the media has characterized Europe’s “Judgment Year 2019”—and both Macron and Salvini are at the center of it.

At least one American has also involved himself in this contest, seeing an opportunity to challenge the liberal world order—and perhaps renew a career that has hit a few roadblocks. A few weeks ago, the Daily Beast reported that Steve Bannon was planning to get his hands dirty in Europe’s elections, establishing his own think tank in Brussels to help right-wing populists build an alliance in their fight against the EU elite.

Europe’s populists have so far reacted to Bannon with skepticism. They seem unsure as to why they need someone who was deemed too far to the right even for Donald Trump. After all, the likes of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński were already in power before Trump even decided to run for president and certainly before Bannon was brought onboard.

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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 12:53

White House national security adviser John Bolton stated on Sunday that he is interested in a proposal by Erik Prince - founder of private military company Blackwater - to shift the prosecution of the 17-year US war in Afghanistan away from the Pentagon to private mercenaries.

Bolton — an appointee of US President Donald Trump like Blackwater founder Prince's sister US Secretary of Education Betsy Devos — made his remarks earlier during an weekly news program.

The top White House advisor's comments follow reports that Trump has allowed for the possibility of placing for-profit mercenary companies in charge of shoring up the increasingly unpopular US-supported Afghan government of former American citizen Ashraf Ghani, instead of using armed Pentagon ‘advisors.'

Asked about the likelihood of mercenaries prosecuting America's many wars abroad, Bolton averred, saying only that, "there are always a lot of discussions," cited by The Hill.

"I'm always open to new ideas," the noted warhawk added, however, although he was careful not to second-guess his boss.

"I'm not going to comment on what [Trump's] thinking is. That'll ultimately be the president's decision," he quickly noted.

Trump is said to be interested in Prince's offer to privatize the US war in Afghanistan, according to reports.


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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 12:03
Joining the landmark 2015 international nuclear deal may have been a mistake in the first place, the Iranian foreign minister has said. The deal is now agonizing because of what he called Washington's 'addiction to sanctions.'

Speaking to CNN, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the US has a "disease" in that it's addicted to sanctions. Some of the American economic sanctions, suspended under the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program, have kicked in now that US President Donald Trump has ripped up his side of the deal. But even before that, Zarif said, Washington's hands were itching to slap Tehran with economic penalties.

"Even during the Obama administration the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions that it had not lifted rather than implementing its obligations on the sanctions that it lifted," Zarif toldCNN's Nick Patton Walsh.

He then mused that singing the agreement might have been a mistake on Iran's part in the first place, made in the earnest belief that the US had wised up about the effect sanctions have on Iran.

"That may have been one of the mistakes. But the problem was that we felt that the United States had learned that, at least as far as Iran is concerned, sanctions do produce economic hardship, but do not produce the political outcomes that they intended them to produce. I thought the Americans had learned that lesson. Unfortunately, I was wrong."

The Iranian foreign minister was speaking on the 65th anniversary of a US-orchestrated coup that overthrew Iran's democratically elected prime minister in favor of a Shah's monarchic rule. Just days before the anniversary, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the Iran Action Group to counter the Iranian government's "malign activity." The move was seen by many as a clear indication of intent to repeat the 1953 regime change.

"Never again," Zarif tweeted, attaching archive photos of the CIA-instigated street turmoil of the time.


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Read from top, especially comment above...

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 11:53

An unprecedented succession of coral bleaching events has left reefs around the world in a catatonic state. Almost half the Great Barrier Reef has been reduced to a coral graveyard, with coral cover at its lowest point since monitoring began.

Under the right conditions, corals can regroup with algae and regrow and this has occurred across many areas of the reef. But even for the fastest growing corals that can take a decade.

“The problem with a 10-year window that’s required for a decent recovery is that the chances of us having a fifth bleaching event in that time period is actually very high because of global warming,” said director of the ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Studies at James Cook University, Terry Hughes.

“I dread to think that it might be as soon as next year.”

While he can’t predict when the next big bleach will happen, Professor Hughes is confident in saying the reef of the future will never look like the one of old.

The heat-susceptible corals are dying off in greater numbers than tougher corals that are harder to bleach and better equipped to recover.

The reef is transforming — but to what extent largely depends on how countries respond to climate change, according to Professor Hughes.

To get a better sense of what the reef will look like under various scenarios of global warming, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration science agency created these models.


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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 11:40

Australian artist Charles Blackman has died just days after his 90th birthday, after a long struggle with dementia.

Blackman, most famous for his Schoolgirl drawings and Alice in Wonderland series of paintings, died at 5:30am Monday morning according to his son, Auguste Blackman. “Charles painted our dreams,” Auguste Blackman told the Australian. “The dream of his life was the dream of all our lives.”

Blackman was part of a radical set of artists in post-war Melbourne who gained influence in the Australian art scene through the 1950s and 60s, largely through their rejection of the growing trend in abstraction and expressionism in art.

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I met Charles a few times in the early 1980s... 


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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 11:28

So it appears Antifa has scared Trump’s army of emboldened Nazis back into their hidey holes, or at least that’s the spin the Resistance is putting on the deeply weird events of last Sunday. In case you missed it, what happened was, thousands of “anti-fascist” protestors converged on the streets of the nation’s capitol to deny a platform to (or just beat the snot out of) twenty or thirty racist idiots who were trying to assemble in Lafayette Square and stand around shouting racist slogans at each other.

The organizer of this idiotic fiasco (i.e., the racist fiasco, not the protest thereof) was the same attention-seeking, racist idiot that had organized the original “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville in 2017. During that weekend, as I’m sure you’ll recall, a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing a woman, numerous other people were assaulted, and a few hundred racists in polo shirts and khakis marched around with tikki torches hollering neo-Nazi gibberish in an attempt to launch some sort of race war, or protest the removal of a statue, or something.

Last Sunday was a bit less dramatic. Basically, these twenty or thirty racists were escorted by hundreds of riot police and Secret Service to Lafayette Square, where they found themselves surrounded by thousands of protesters, many of whom intended to stomp their guts out. This must have been a bit unsettling, because the racists reportedly fled their own “rally” before they had even had the chance to holler any Nazi gibberish at each other. This was extremely disappointing for the militant “anti-fascist” contingent, which had been counting on another balls-out street fight.

According to The New York Times, a group of frustrated militant types tried to burn a Confederate flag, but it wouldn’t catch fire, so they were forced to rip it apart with their hands and jump up and down on it. Other militant “anti-fascists” threw anti-Nazi eggs at the cops, presumably as a form of “preventative self-defense,” or just to ensure that Breitbart had some video to paint them as “terrorists” with. The not-quite-so-militant “anti-fascist” contingent, most of whom never even caught a glimpse of the “emboldened” Nazis they had come to resist, apparently dispersed without incident.

The corporate media and the rest of the Resistance had been flogging this event for months. That infamous photo of the tikki torch Nazis had been repeatedly reprinted all summer long. Features on Kessler, the organizer, whose activities seem to have been mostly funded by his grandmother, with whom he had also been living, had been published in major international broadsheets. The coverage peaked going into the weekend. On Saturday, he was featured on National Public Radio, where he shared his views on “racial intelligence.” Go ahead, google him, and marvel at the amount of free publicity bestowed on this geek.

And it wasn’t just the corporate media. No, the militant “anti-fascist” left had also been also promoting this so-called “rally” as the Return of the Revenge of the Bride of Charlottesville. Affinity groups had been activated. “Anti-fascist” posters had been printed. Militant Twitter hashtags created. Snappy “anti-fascist” slogans, like “It takes a bullet to bash the fash,” and “Drive out Trump/Pence fascist regime,” had been applied to signs and banners. By Sunday morning, social media was buzzing with thousands of tweets and posts by people hoping to “punch a Nazi.” Antifa was obviously looking forward to some hardcore “preventative self-defense” … all they needed were a few hundred Nazis.


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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 11:10

About 800,000 people have been displaced and more than 350 have died in the worst flooding in a century in southern India's Kerala state, according to officials.

Key points:

  • 800,000 people are sheltered in some 4,000 relief camps across Kerala
  • Floods have caused landslides and homes and bridges have collapsed
  • About 10,000 kilometres of roads have been damaged


Downpours that started on August 8 have triggered floods and landslides and caused homes and bridges to collapse across Kerala, a picturesque state known for its quiet tropical backwaters and beautiful beaches.

Authorities are rushing to bring drinking water to the most affected areas.

At least two trains carrying about 1.5 million litres of water were moving to the flooded areas from the neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Indian railway official Milind Deouskar said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.


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by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2018-08-20 10:51

wearing a beige cardigan on a hot day at the beach because mum said so...


Climate change policy once again challenges Turnbull’s hold on the Liberal Party leadership. 

While the Murdoch press is stoking up tensions to undermine the Prime Minister, the simple fact is that there is a hardcore of reactionaries in his party who reject science and climate change.

Climate change policy once again challenges Turnbull’s hold on the Liberal Party leadership.

If this means dumping the Prime Minister to drop even the pretence of climate change policy that is the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), then some of Coalition members, at least – Tony Abbott comes to mind – may well pursue the destruction of their own Prime Minister and Government to achieve that.

So, what is the point of Malcolm Turnbull? After yet another back down to the extreme right within his Coalition Government, this time on climate change, the answer seems pretty clear. He stands for nothing, other than to remain in power.

Turnbull is a salutary lesson in the pitfalls of managing capitalism in the two-decade-long decline of profit rates globally. In Australia, that decline began after the collapse of the mining boom.

The graph ... shows the stabilisation of profit rates after 1997 (and even an increase due to the neoliberal policies of the Howard Government and the intervention of the Rudd Government in the GFC) but the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. reasserting itself in 2013.

The latest Turnbull NEG sell-out debate has reignited tensions. Instead of putting the target of a 26% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 into the NEG legislation, the back down proposal is now to have the target set in an executive order – seemingly similar to a regulation – but with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) mandated to report on the impact on energy prices any increase in the target would have.

Why has Turnbull sold out this time? There were up to ten Coalition backbenchers and ministers who reserved the right to cross the floor if the 26% target was included in the NEG legislation. 

The extreme right’s reasons for its position vary among members but it boils down to a belief that climate change is not real or, that a target will increase the price of energy even more. As well, for them, the problem is the target being in delegated legislation, like an executive order or regulation. They fear Labor would when in power, increase the target from 26% to their own long-term target of 45%, through the relevant minister or executive council signing off on the increase, without Parliamentary approval. 

As previously mentioned, the target will be met more or less through the current Renewable Energy Target (RET) anyway, without further action. This 26% is the target you have when you don’t have a target. It was itself designed to appease the climate change deniers and coal fetishists in the Coalition.


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The point is that Trumble wants to hold on to power no matter what — and he does every unimaginable spins and turns to stay there... Nothing to do with emission eductions, the price of electricity nor to do with the future of Australia as a believable country... Call an early election now, Trumble, and spare us the misery of "you being bowled out by Dutton". This would be the pits of pits.