Russia

Iranians March Against Trump’s UN Speech

This is a very short clip from Telesur English showing the people of Iran marching in protest at Trump’s belligerent speech attacking their country at the UN. It’s only about 23 seconds long, but it does show the range of people on the march, from older men dressed in traditional Islamic garb to young women in chadors and people in western-style, ‘modern’ dress.

I remember the great demonstrations in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, in which thousands of people turned up chanting ‘Margh bar Amrika! Margh bar Thatcher!’ – ‘Death to America! Death to Thatcher!’ I wasn’t impressed with those demonstrations, but having read a little more about the political situation in Iran and foreign exploitation of the country by Britain and America under the Shah, I now understand why the Revolution broke out, and what motivated the marchers to come onto the streets.

The election of Rafsanjani a few years ago seemed to indicate that relations between the West and Iran had thawed. It’s true that the country still has a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, and claims they can’t rescind the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, a claim I find frankly incredible. However, people can move freely between the two nations, and there have been some cultural exchanges. For example, the Young British Artists – Damian Hurst and the rest of them – went to Iran to open an exhibition of their work, and the British Museum also leant the Cyrus Cylinder, documenting the conquests of the great Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the 5th century B.C. to go on display.

John Simpson in his book on the country also points out that Khomeini and the other theocrats were careful to distinguish between America, Ronald Reagan and the American people. They denounced Reagan and America, but not ordinary Americans. He also states that, with the exception of the demonstrations at the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, in one of which he was nearly torn apart by the crowd, he always knew he was perfectly safe. He describes covering one such demonstration where the crowd were chanting slogans against the ‘great and little Satans’ – meaning America and Britain. He then stepped into the crowd and walked up to one of the demonstrators, and introduced himself. The man greeted him, and said, ‘You are very welcome in Iran, Agha.’ That said, I do know Iranians, who have said the opposite, that you are certainly not safe during these marches.

Trump’s speech has had the effect of making relations between the west and Iran much worse. But it’s very much in line with the policy of the neocons, who defined and set the agenda for American foreign policy in the Middle East back in the 1990s. They want Iran and Syria overthrown. They see them as a danger to Israel, and are angered by the fact that Iran will not let foreigners invest in their businesses. It’s an oil producing country, whose oil industry was dominated under the Shah by us and the Americans, and which was nationalized after the mullahs took power. One of the holidays in the country’s calendar commemorates its nationalization. I’ve no doubt that the American multinationals want to get their hands on it, just as they wanted to steal the Iraqi oil industry.

Iran is abiding by the agreement it signed with Obama not to develop nuclear weapons. This is confirmed by the Europeans and the Russians. The real issues, as I’ve blogged about previously, are that they’re supporting Syria, sending troops into Iraq to support their fellow Shi’a there, and are allied with the Russians. It’s all about geopolitical power.

Iran’s an ancient country, whose culture and history goes back thousands of years, almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. It’s a mosaic of different peoples and languages. If we invade, as the Trump seems to want, it’ll set off more ethnic carnage similar to that in Iraq. And I’ve no doubt we’ll see the country’s precious artistic and archaeological heritage looted and destroyed, just as the war and violence in Iraq has destroyed and seen so much of their history and monuments looted.

Iran is an oppressive theocracy, and its people are exploited. You only have to read Shirin Ebadi’s book on the contemporary situation in Iran to know that. But if Trump sends in the troops, it’ll be just to grab whatever he can of the nation’s wealth for his corporate masters in big business. It certainly won’t be to liberate them and give them democracy.

And the ordinary people of America and Britain will pay, as we will be called upon to send our brave young people to fight and die on a false pretext, just to make the bloated profits of American and western big business even more grossly, obscenely inflated. Just as the cost of the war won’t fall on big business, but on ordinary people, who will be told that public spending will have to be cut, and their taxes raised – but not those of the 1 per cent – in order to pay for it.

Enough lies have been told already, and more than enough people have been killed and maimed, countries destroyed and their people left impoverished, destitute, or forced in to exile.

No war with Iran.

As they chanted during the First Gulf War – ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or Aramco, Halliburton or anyone else.

We need peace, so let’s get rid of Trump.

Republicans Try to Block RT from Being Shown in US

The Republicans are up to their tricks again, trying to stop American audiences from taking their news from alternative sources and so getting a clearer, different picture from that the corporate media wishes to impose. In this report by Samira Khan from RTUK, Republican Senator John McCaine and one of his colleagues are trying to pass a bill, which would allow American network providers to avoid having to carry RT – Russia Today – in the US. The ostensible reason is that Russia is using the broadcaster, which is owned by the Russian state, to influence American politics. There’s a clip in the programme of various Republicans in Congress debating and complaining that too many Americans are getting their views from RT.

The programme notes that there are three other state-owned foreign broadcasters in the US. These are France 24, Al-Jazeera, which is owned by Qatar, and, of course, the Beeb. None of these will be subject to the McCaine’s and Graham’s bill.

I’m very much aware that RT is owned by Russia, which since the Second World War has been America’s ideological and geopolitical opponent. And, despite the Fall of Communism and the introduction of capitalism, Russia still is in geopolitical opposition to America. But the claims that Russia is interfering in US politics is pure rubbish.

This twaddle ultimately comes from Hillary Clinton and her attempts to blame everyone else for her failure and corruption at the elections. She claimed that the leaked emails from the Democratic National Convention, which showed how corrupt she was in her dealings with corporate backers, and how she and Debbie Wasserman Schultz unfairly manipulated the internal electoral process within the party to stop Bernie Sanders coming to power, came from the Russians. They weren’t. They came from disgruntled members of her own party.

As for the accusation that Russia was influencing US politics, there’s no evidence that they were doing so unduly, or at least, no more than they had been. And as William S. Blum has pointed out on his Anti-Empire Report, that’s a lot less than America has interfered in other countries. He has a whole list of the countries, in which America has interfered in their politics and elections, not counting those, which the US has actively invaded or organized or backed coups to overthrow liberal and left-wing, but not necessarily Marxist or even Socialist governments. And there are pages and pages on this in Blum’s book.

This is just another attempt by the political establishment to try and shut down alternative media, and stop the American people from finding out what their country is really doing. Not just around the world, but also to them. Thanks to both the establishment Democrats and the Republicans’ promotion of corporate interests, as Pat Mills observed in one of his talks on politics and comics, there are pockets of America which are like the Third World. And this is White America, never mind Blacks, who still remain much poorer.

The corporate establishment is panicking, both in America and over here in Blighty, because people are no longer buying the right-wing propaganda churned out by Fox News and MSNBC, or by a supine BBC over here, which has turned its news into a kind of British TASS for Conservatives. (TASS was the Soviet state news agency before the collapse of Communism). They’re taking their news from alternative sources, like the Real News Network, RT, Democracy Now!, The Young Turks, Secular Talk, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Majority Report in the US, RTUK over here, media commentators like Chunky Mark the Artist Taxi Driver, and a whole plethora of bloggers and vloggers. And they’re getting worried.

It’s why establishment journos in the press and on the Beeb are whining about how the decline of their sector of news gathering and publication means that there will no longer be a consensus view that broadly unites people of all shades of political opinion. What this actually translates into is a panic that they won’t be able to shape public opinion like they could. They argue this means that opinions are becoming increasingly polarized and oppositional. It also means that they’re afraid that they can’t shape public opinion for the benefit of their corporate proprietors like they used to, and without influence and declining sales they could see all that lucrative advertising money that keeps so many of them going, drying up.

And the giants of the internet are also panicking. It’s why Google is so keen to demonetize ‘controversial’ material on YouTube. The excuse is that they’re doing so to stop racist, Alt Right, Nazi and Islamist propaganda appearing on the platform. But as so much of what is demonetized extends to left-wing news outlets, like David Pakman, Sam Seder and Democracy Now!, this excuse is very spurious and flimsy indeed. Google has said it wants to prioritise corporate content. It’s therefore just another big corporation trying to silence the critics of the corporate capitalism that’s destroying the planet and impoverishing everyone in the world except the super-rich 1 per cent.

It’s also why Facebook has also changed its policy, so that bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political also find it hard to reach their audience.

People the world over aren’t buying the corporate, establishment propaganda. They are turning to alternative media, which includes Russia Today, to find out about what’s really going on. And the corporate media is terrified. Hence this wretched bill. And I’ve no doubt that if this gets through Congress, the Tories will try something similar over here. After all, RT is also over here, as is the Iranian state broadcaster, PressTV, and they also tell the British public facts and information that they really don’t want people to see. Like George Galloway talking about the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel, and western militarism and imperialism in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Chelyabinsk copper plant conflict reaches new (and sad) lows

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/09/2017 - 3:20pm in

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A copper mining complex in one of Russia’s most polluted regions has been given the go-ahead — and is fraught with intimidation at the local level. RU

''I want to breathe", almost half of the region’s residents are against the project, and fear the environmental impacts. Photo: Vk.comDespite the open protests by ecologists and locals, it seems the Tomino copper mining complex is going ahead. This month, Russia’s largest extractor of copper ore received permission to build in the Chelyabinsk region, in the southern Urals. The project’s designers believe that this mining and refinement plant will bring billions of roubles to the regional budget through taxes, create new jobs and raise the investment potential of the region as a whole. However, almost half of the region’s residents are against the project, and fear the environmental impacts.

The project design proposes a full-cycle complex in Tomino, some 12km south of Chelyabinsk. This will make it the largest such factory in Russia today. As the Russian Copper Company (RMK) reports, there’s enough ore reserves at Tomino to last for roughly 50 years. On a yearly basis, that would translate to roughly 28m tonnes going through the complex. Indeed, RMK is currently preparing a site of more than 3,000 hectares for construction, with more than half a million dollars committed.

Currently, this site is occupied by a forest, which previously enjoyed the status of a protected territory, and offered some protection to one of Russia’s most polluted cities. However, in 2013, the regional government removed this protected status, without much in the way of public discussion or the necessary decisions in the regional bureaucracy.

The authorities’ attitude to Chelyabinsk residents is already provoking open resistance. Rallies against the Tomino complex have been held every few months in recent years

Indeed, it is the felling of this forest and possible pollution of the Shershnev reservoir, the only source of drinking water for the city, which has generated a wave of resentment in the south Urals. Likewise, there are concerns regarding the drilling and blasting method of extraction. Some people believe that this will send tonnes of dust into the air on a daily basis, which will then drift into the city limits.

The tree-felling operation at Tomino has already started, despite protests by residents. Source: Stop GOK.These risks have been confirmed by ecological analyses, including those conducted by the Chelyabinsk governor’s office. Off the back of these reports, RMK has been recommended to rework the projects further. Boris Dubrovsky, the regional governor, promised that construction will only begin after everything has been agreed. But the official opening of the Tomino complex took place on 11 July 2017 (albeit, without Dubrovsky in attendance); the forest felling and preparation work had begun a few days before.

Only at the end of August 2017 this year did Dubrovsky state his support for the project openly: “The storm around the Tomino complex doesn’t suit its scale. Strictly speaking, there are emotions, and then there’s the practicality of life. This is about investment, this is about jobs. And if a business follows all the rules, then what grounds or risks, apart from emotions, do we have to permit or not permit the construction?”

“This is about investment, this is about jobs”

The governor’s opinion contradicts many of his constituents, who, according to an official poll by the All-Russian Opinion Research Center, are against it in 51% of cases. When municipal deputies conducted their own survey, they found that more than 70% of people living in direct proximity to the site (Tomino and the nearby Korkino district) were against it. Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council also recently recommended RMK not to start construction without the necessary decisions in place. However, as yet no one has presented new project plans (which are supposed to deal with the risks) to the public.  

The authorities’ attitude to Chelyabinsk residents is already provoking open resistance. Rallies against the Tomino complex have been held every few months in recent years, and the Stop GOK movement has the clearest and most active position on the issue. According to its leader Vasily Moskovets, RMK’s project is unconstitutional, and the local authorities are, in effect, repeating the unlawful activities of the project’s backers.

Gamil Asatullin at a solitary picket against the copper plant, Chelyabinsk. Image: Activatica.Local officials regularly refuse to permit Stop GOK from holding rallies or try to permit them in unpopular locations. In particular, the authorities have used various pretexts to refuse rallies during spring and summer this year.

For instance, for an unsanctioned rally this past Sunday, the authorities deployed a significant number of police and equipment, in order to deter and intimidate participants. This resulted in a small number of participants, several of whom were detained both during and after the protest in relation to a criminal investigation. Gamil Asatullin, a Stop GOK participant and local political activist, was recently arrested on charges that he attempted to burn down the mining complex site. Asatullin was arrested by a group of FSB and anti-extremism officers, and the investigation is likely to involve several more activists of the Stop GOK movement.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time those against the Tomino complex have been declared criminals or foreign agents pursuing commercial and political interests. For instance, Felix Panov, a representative of Russia’s Civic Chamber, recently claimed that the ecological component of locals’ demands is secondary: “We can conclude that, despite its ‘humane direction’, environmentalism is being used here as a means of influencing public opinion, to make people antagonistic towards any state projects and projects, including those that are useful.”

Despite the difficulties of getting the message out, public actions against the development of the Tomino site regularly gather hundreds of people

Attacks on Chelyabinsk’s ecological activists can also be found in the local and federal press. In June this year, local TV Channel 31 broadcast a documentary film which called Stop GOK a “political sect” that was trying to bring down the region’s economy. “They present themselves as ecologists and researchers. But as a rule, they aren’t. These activists are involved in ecological extremism and are controlled and financed by foreign organisations,” the voice-over claimed. The region’s main print and online media have a similar opinion. This is why people involved in the movement consider social media groups to be the only source of information on the potential risks of the Tomino plant.

"The imposters", a recent film broadcast on regional television, "exposes" Chelyabinsk activists for pursuing foreign interests.

Despite the difficulties of getting the message out, public actions against the development of the Tomino site regularly gather hundreds of people. These people aren’t only concerned with the ecological risks, but the outflow of capital and people from the south Urals. According to Oleg Vitkovsky, president of the Ural Economic Union, over the past few years, 150,000 people have left the region — and the main factor for emigration has been the environmental situation.

In turn, the people who move to Chelyabinsk for work are mostly from neighbouring regions or former Soviet republics, and travel mostly for low-skilled labour. In any case, it seems likely that the Tomino complex will not find itself with a labour shortage — over the next three years, it plans to hire 1,200 people. Most people are willing to forego principles, including dissatisfaction with the environmental state of the region, to find work in an increasingly difficult market.

Catastrophe zone

Chelyabink’s ecological problems are no secret. The city suffers from poor weather conditions several months a year. You can feel the industrial smog all year round. At this time of year, the city is covered in mist, visibility is reduced, and the air reeks of chemicals.

The south Urals has already found itself at the bottom of Green Patrol’s ecological rating three years running. People passing through notice the air immediately. Russia’s Minister of Ecology Sergey Donskoy stated in 2016 that Chelyabinsk leads Russia in terms of hard particles released into the atmosphere, and it is joined by towns nearby, Magnitogorsk and Karabash. Last year, Vladimir Soloviev, a prominent TV presenter, called Chelyabinsk an “ecological catastrophe zone”.

“I believe the chances of stopping construction are high. Governors in our region change often”

Perhaps amendments to Russia’s ecological legislation will change this; they’re due to take effect in January 2018. This legislation will ban the construction of potentially harmful enterprises (such as Tomino) without an initial state ecological survey.

Meanwhile, RMK has already started construction, and is ready to reach its performance indicators in terms of extraction and refinement in the coming years — though it still hasn’t stated whether it will consider the results of critical ecological surveys. Currently, Russian legislation gives these surveys only the status of non-binding recommendations.

Despite recent defeats in the struggle against the Tomino complex, people involved in Stop GOK are sure that the final decision hasn’t been made just yet. “I believe the chances of stopping construction are high,” believes Vasily Moskovets. “After all, Governors in our region change frequently.”

 

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Related stories: 

Stop GOK: how residents of Chelyabinsk are resisting plans for a new copper plant

Our city, our space: Ekaterinburg residents come out against plans to construct a new church

Makhachkala: citizen city

Fighting back, in the back of beyond

My first death threat: the life and times of a Russian ecological activist

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A Timeline: Everything We Know About the Comey Firing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/09/2017 - 8:50am in

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Newest Additions to Our Trump-Russia Timeline

BY Steven Harper | September 21, 2017

Of all the events in our Trump-Russia Timeline, perhaps none has been more controversial than the president’s dismissal of James Comey as director of the FBI, a move many believe is an obstruction of justice. Our timeline of the Comey firing collects the entries from our main Trump-Russia Timeline that bear most directly on the axing of Comey and its continuing aftershocks. It’s a companion piece to our six-minute video: “James Comey, You’re Fired.”

 

 

 

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Interactive Timeline: Everything We Know About Russia and President Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/09/2017 - 8:45am in

Newest Additions to Our Trump-Russia Timeline

BY Steven Harper | September 21, 2017

When it comes to Donald Trump, his campaign and their dealings with Russia past and present, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the players without a scorecard. We have one of sorts — a deeply comprehensive timeline detailing what actually happened and what’s still happening in the ever-changing story of the president, his inner circle and a web of Russian oligarchs, hackers and government officials.

Since first launched in February 2017, the Trump-Russia Timeline has grown to more than 400 entries — and we will continue to add updates regularly.

What have reporters and investigators already uncovered and made public? What are the connections and patterns? Review the timeline to see.

 

 

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Not in my classroom: Russia’s refugee children struggle to get to school

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/09/2017 - 6:20am in

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Headteachers in Russia’s schools are turning foreign children away — fearing hefty fines and pressure from the migration services. RU

Children of Syrian refugees in an improvised school in Jordan. Forty percent of refugee children from the Middle East are not educated. Photo: Freedom House, open source.Nura, 12, takes her belongings from her rucksack and lays them on the desk: a big, bright pink pencil-case emblazoned with the words “I’m CHIC”, a notebook, textbooks, and erasers. Nura always shares erasers with her neighbour Gufran, with whom she sits at the back desk in this classroom. On the next row sit two younger girls — another Nura and Soraya, who are best friends. The children slurp lollipops and freshly-picked plums as they take out trading cards. All of them are originally from Aleppo.

The girls have turned up for a lesson at an integration centre in the town of Noginsk, just outside Moscow. It’s run by Civic Assistance, a human rights organisation that runs classes for the children of foreign citizens in Russia. The school itself comprises two classrooms in an office building. The walls are covered with posters of the alphabet, animals and household objects, as well as children’s drawings. Among them are samples of applications made to Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS), including possible answers in Arabic and Russian (and phrases such as “documents must be submitted to file an application” and “refusal for temporary asylum”).

Usually around 10-15 people turn up for a lesson, but today there are just five girls. After all, tomorrow is the festival of Kurban-Bayram. There’s no single timetable — teacher Elena Lebedeva, who is trained in pedagogy, begins the lesson with multiplication tables, then everyone reads a text about a boy, in which they have to insert the missing words in the correct grammatical case. “The towel is on the windowsill — so there is a messes in his room,” concludes Nura.

“A mess,” Elena Yurevna corrects her. “Teacher?” Gufran raises her hand, pronouncing the Russian word without softening the final “l” as is custom. “What’s a windowsill?” Nine year-old Shahad doesn’t know what the word “everywhere” means. While their elders are engaged, the young girls share green plums among themselves — during breaks Soraya and Nura make a break for a plum tree which grows near the school.

Gufran tells me that she and her sisters (Soraya and the younger Nura) have lived in Russia for five years. The older Nura and her family moved to Noginsk even earlier — back in 2011. This school for the children of refugees opened three years later. One of its founders was the Syrian journalist Muiz Abu Aljadail. Initially, teachers’ salaries were paid by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). However, local authorities actively obstructed the centre’s work: the FMS put pressure on those from whom it rented facilities, and it soon had to move premises. Muiz eventually left Russia. Today, the centre’s work is only possible thanks to private donations.

Without a clear legal status, the children of refugees cannot receive an education — although they formally have the right

Syrians have lived in Noginsk since well before the war, and generally worked in textile factories (of which there are eight in this city of 100,000). When war broke out in Syria, many decided to stay here for good and arranged for their families to join them. The majority of these people had arrived in Russia on tourist visas, after which they received temporary asylum. Once that period had expired, the migration service told them that they could return home — in the minds of these government officials, the war in Syria had already come to an end.

Civic Assistance cites data from the Federal Statistical Service: as of 1 January 2017, only two Syrian citizens in Russia had full refugee status. Some 1,317 had temporary asylum. According to the same body, there are over 2,000 Syrians living in Noginsk alone.

Without a clear legal status, the children of refugees cannot receive an education — although they formally have the right. Article 43 of Russia’s Constitution guarantees the right to a free education, accessible to all. Article 78 of the federal law “On Education” addresses the right of foreign citizens in Russia to free pre-school, primary, and secondary education. Nevertheless, in 2017 the RUssian Ministry of Education adopted Order 32, according to which foreign citizens must present documentary evidence of their right to stay in Russia upon enrolling their children in school.

This development essentially closed the Russian education system to the children of migrants and refugees. School directors and headteachers frequently interpret the order as meaning that migrants must have the right to temporary or permanent residency in Russia — and refuse to enrol children without it. To make matters worse, pupils are threatened with expulsion when it becomes clear that their registered residency in Russia is drawing to an end.

Civic Assistance points out that directors and headteachers often avoid giving written refusals, and instead simply delay enrolment of refugee children in school, citing incomplete documents. Online enrolment, which has been introduced in all Moscow’s schools, is no better: the system doesn’t allow non-citizens without registration to send their children to first grade.

Meet the migration service

In 2015, Nurbek Kurbanov, an Uzbek citizen, took his sons’ expulsion from school to Russia’s Supreme Court. Vera Pankova, director of school 34 in the city of Tver, openly discussed her close cooperation with the FMS. In October 2014, the service sent letters to schools across Russia (a copy of which was obtained by Civic Assistance) instructing them to verify the legal status of all their pupils. Otherwise, the letter continued, the school would be fined under an article of Russia’s code of administrative offences, which concerns “provision of a dwelling, vehicle, or other services to a foreign citizen or stateless person who is in the Russian Federation in violation of the established order of rules of travel or transit through its territory.”

In assessing Kurbanov’s appeal on the case of his expelled children, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the practice was illegal. “The absence of the listed documents [such as a registered place of residence or domicile] cannot be sufficient grounds for refusing the enrolment of a child in any educational institution which has free places,” concluded the court. Yet despite this decision, and aid provided by Civic Assistance, school directors are in no hurry to enrol children without registration.

Daniil Aleksandrov, a professor at the department of sociology at the Higher School of Economics, adds that not all schools cooperate with the FMS. “I myself have seen how school administrations cover for children who don’t have the right documents from the migration service. The teachers were very worried about their pupils — to such an extent that our researchers were not allowed to enter some of these schools, due to the fear that the children might encounter some [legal] problems as a result.”

Avoiding an answer

lead Children during lessons in the secondary school of the village of Krasny Desant, in which there is a refugee camp from the south-eastern regions of Ukraine. Photo: Sergey Pivovarov / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.Arseny Kovpan, an eight-year-old boy from Odessa, didn’t go to school this year. Just like the year before, and the year before that. His family has lived in Russia for three years — Arseny’s father works as a barman, his mother as a hairdresser. His parents are on the migration register, have work contracts, and rent out an apartment. Furthermore, his older sister Yaroslava has already been studying at school for three years — the same school which refuses to admit Arseny.

Yury Kovpan, the boy’s father, says that when he tried to enrol Arseny in the first grade in June 2016, the school demanded to see not only their temporary registration (which the family had last year, and still has today), but also a temporary residence permit or residency card. The school’s director Natalya Faydyuk didn’t provide a written refusal. “They didn’t directly say ‘no’,” remembers Yury, “but simply kept on repeating that our documentation was incomplete. Bring all the documents, and we’ll admit him.”

The Kovpan family decided to bring the case to the courts — but first and second instance courts sided with the school. In the words of Darya Manina, an employee of Civic Assistance who reviewed the situation, the main argument of the department of education rested on the expiration of a certain three-month period: Arseny’s parents had appealed to the court more than three months after the school’s refusal.

''As soon as the decision is clear, the family must demand the refusal in writing. Headteachers frequently avoid face-to-face meetings, preferring to communicate through their secretaries''

In a Moscow City Court session on the Kovpan family’s case, a representative of the Department of Education insisted that Arseny’s parents first came to the school not in June, as the father had said, but on 28 August — by which time there were no more free places in class. The court dismissed the case against the school, but Arseny’s parents still intend to petition the Supreme Court. That said, they’ve now gone back on the idea of a conventional school education altogether; Arseny and Yaroslava will now study at home instead.

Konstantin Troitsky, a rights defender, believes that the case of the Kovpan family, just as many others, shows that parents should always insist on a written refusal. “As soon as the decision is clear, the family must demand the refusal in writing. Headteachers frequently avoid face-to-face meetings, preferring to communicate through their secretaries — they’re very reluctant to provide any written statement, but you must insist.”

Prospects and paradoxes

The children of Syrian refugees are no exception to this trend — they’re also not wanted in the education sector. This year only three of them are enrolled in school; the rest must stay at home. The families of Nura and Gufran also received a refusal.

“Our children really like learning. What would they be doing without this school? They’d just sit at home all day, left to themselves. Here, they can spend time together, learn, and meet the volunteers. The main thing is they feel that they’re starting to speak Russian better, that they’re making progress,” says Elena Yuryevna, the children’s teacher in Noginsk. Anna, a volunteer at the centre, agrees with her: “Once we let the younger kids go home early, and thought the older ones would then want to leave too. But Nura said ‘No! We still have maths!’”

Children of migrants, as a rule, exemplary pupils, and parents inspire respect for teachers. Photo: MIA "Fergana". All rights reserved.Nura and Gufran speak Russian well, and take their studies seriously. They always listen to their teacher. But as the sociologist Daniil Aleksandrov puts it, that’s nothing exceptional for the children of migrants or refugees. In a report for the Higher School of Economics on the situation of migrant children in St Petersburg, researchers stated that the main factor affecting progress in education is the age at which they move. If a child moves to a new country before the age of seven, her academic performance will not be markedly different from that of her classmates. Progress in English language, for example, is on average slightly higher among children for whom the Russian language is not native. For example, the average score for algebra among Russian children is 3.5 — for foreign children it’s 3.4.

“The children of migrants are, as a rule, exemplary students,” concludes Aleksandrov, recalling the words of one school director in the Moscow region. “They are always neat, they always do their homework, and their parents instil in them a respect for their teacher.”

''We asked children without Russian citizenship whether they encountered xenophobia or discrimination. They say that there were some cases — on public transport, on the street — but not a single instance at school''

Nura and Gufran say that from time to time, strangers glare or shout at them to “go home.” However, Aleksandrov is certain that migrant children rarely face xenophobia. “My colleagues came across an interesting paradox” begins the sociologist. “On the one hand, a teacher says that migration is an awful thing — ‘people come over here, they fill the streets…’ and so on. But if you give it ten minutes and ask about her migrant pupils, she’ll say that she has amazing children in her class who study very hard. Half her mind is occupied by this fear of migrants; the other half by her wonderful students!”

Aleksandrov continues that other schoolchildren tend to have a good attitude towards children of other nationalities. “We asked children without Russian citizenship whether they encountered xenophobia or discrimination. They say that there were some cases — on public transport, on the street — but not a single instance at school.” Stories about frequent conflicts between Russian schoolchildren and the children of migrants are nothing but myths, he believes.

Fatima’s mother (one of the three Syrian children who have been enrolled in school in Noginsk) confirms this: “Fatima does clash with other children: she says that sometimes the kids whisper behind her back, but there are no big problems with her classmates.” As Aleksandrov puts it, school is a safe social space for migrant children.

''Children who don’t have access to a school education often experience serious difficulties — they find it difficult to socialise, and rarely end up with a well-paying job''

Research carried out in 2010 by Yuliya Florinskaya, a researcher at the Russian Institute of Demography, found that the percentage of the children of migrants who don’t attend school varies from 10 to 25%. Troitsky believes that migration policy depends on the position of the particular region: “In Moscow city everything is fairly harsh, but in the wider Moscow region, there’s no unified, centralised system — so variants are possible. However, in Noginsk the authorities won’t budge, and Syrian children aren’t going to school.”

“Children who don’t have access to a school education often experience serious difficulties — they find it difficult to socialise, and rarely end up with a well-paying job, as they have very limited opportunities,” explains Aleksandrov. “A child may fall into the grey economy, or work in a tyre repair shop or something like that, and remain there for the rest of his life. A girl who stays at home and helps her mother with the housework will usually end up as a cleaner or work in the service sector. Furthermore, schooling for these children is also a way of integrating their parents — they’ll go to parents’ meetings and participate in the life of the school. That’s why we stress the idea that schools should be left alone.”

Yet despite the hard work of lawyers and human rights defenders, school education is accessible only to a few. A March 2016 report by Russia Today on the school in Noginsk claimed that “Russia [compared to western countries] strives to take all necessary measures to fully integrate refugees into society, so that they can continue to live, work, and study as usual.”

A school education, apparently, is not included in these “necessary measures for integration” — foreign parents should presumably educate their children themselves. Meanwhile, Russia continues to provide increased military support to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and the self-proclaimed republics in south-eastern Ukraine. The victims of these conflicts will just have to make do.

Translated by Maxim Edwards.

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RTUK: Iranians Say They Are Unafraid of Trump

This is a very short clip from RTUK that I found on YouTube. The news agency asks people on the street in Iran’s capital, Tehran, how they feel about Trump’s threats at the UN. They state they are not afraid, with one gentleman rightly pointing out that the UN states that they are complying with the treaty, as do the Europeans and Russia. Another nattily dressed chap says that they’ve been under sanctions for four decades, and in many ways it’s made the country stronger.

I’m posting this because, while I despise the theocratic regime, Iran itself is one of the most of ancient cultures in the world, with a history stretching back almost to the dawn of western civilization in the Ancient Near East. Its people were exploited by we British when we had control of their oil industry, and we created the conditions that led to the Islamic Revolution and the dictatorship of the ayatollahs when we overthrew the last, democratically elected prime minister of the country, Mohammed Mossadeq with the aid of the Americans, because he dared to nationalize their oil industry. The result was the despotism of Shah, who ruled through fear and his secret police force, SAVAK.

The country is abiding by the agreement they signed with America in which they pledged themselves not to build nuclear weapons. The reason Trump is threatening them with invasion is for geopolitical reasons – they’re supporting Assad in Syria, whom Trump would like to overthrow, and sending troops in to assist the Shi’a in Iraq against the Sunnis and ISIS. Both Israel and the Saudis would also like to see Iran invaded as a major threat to their countries. And Iran was one of the nations on a list of seven which the neocons drew up for invasion. This list also included Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. These are not sufficient grounds for invasion, and so Trump is making up more lies about the Iranians developing nukes. Just as Blair and Dubya lied about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The people of the Middle East do not deserve another war, a war, which will create the same carnage that the invasion of Iraq has wrought in that ancient part of the Arab world. And we should not be sending our courageous young men and women to be killed just so the Saudi and American oil companies can steal their oil industry, and the Americans can loot whatever else they can seize from the Iranian state sector for the enrichment of their already bloated multinationals.

If Trump invades, as he and the American military-industrial complex wish, it won’t be to give the Iranians freedom, and it certainly won’t bring them – or us – peace. It will just be another imperialist war of conquest and exploitation. And it will harm the ordinary people of America and Britain, as we will be forced to shoulder the economic costs of the war, just as the heads of the multinationals get even richer from it. Quite apart from seeing more bodies and maimed and traumatized young people come back from the war itself.

Trump is a menace to everyone on this planet. We have to make sure he never starts the wars he’s threatening.

Oops! How Moscow’s municipal election turned into a headache for city hall

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/09/2017 - 12:13am in

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The unexpected success of independent candidates in Moscow’s recent council elections may be relative — but it's real enough. RU

City day (c) Evgeny Sinitsyn/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.The Russian opposition enjoyed an unexpectedly decent showing at the municipal council elections in Moscow last week. The Yabloko political party, having broken with its own traditions by participating under the umbrella of Dmitry Gudkov’s United Democrats coalition, secured 176 seats, while a further 108 were won by independents, the majority of which have been working together with Gudkov. Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia movement, which set up a school for prospective municipal deputies, also contributed to the overall result. There’s even been talk of a “united opposition victory” at the election.

On balance, however, this talk is premature: United Russia candidates won 1152 seats out of an available 1502. In the wake of the elections, city newspapers controlled by Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin came out with identical editorials proclaiming a “triumphant victory for United Russia”. They can’t exactly be accused of lying, either: winning over 75% of all seats is certainly a triumph.

Furthermore, the opposition’s showing isn’t sufficient to overcome the so-called “municipal filter” at next year’s mayoral elections: candidates must enlist the support of 110 deputies from 110 districts, but the oppositionists are represented on only 66 district councils.

System failure

At first glance, the results of this year’s municipal elections aren’t all that different from what we witnessed in 2012. Back then, United Russia also garnered some 75% of seats, with the rest being divided between nominal oppositionists.

In 2012, however, around half of all opposition seats went to the Communist Party. A year later, the Communists were able to overcome the municipal filter at the mayoral elections. In 2017, the Communists have only 43 seats. The respective performances of the other nominal opposition parties were even more dismal: 10 seats for Sergei Mironov’s A Just Russia, a mere two for Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats.

Russia’s official party system, purely ornamental in nature, is edging predictably towards collapse

Educational Center "Open Elections". Source: Facebook.Russia’s official party system, purely ornamental in nature, is edging predictably towards collapse. In the years following the annexation of Crimea, the nominal parliamentary opposition, throwing itself into raptures over Russia’s — and Putin’s — successes, is no longer regarded by voters as meaningfully different from United Russia. The upshot? All-round failure in the parliamentary elections of 2016, and a constitutional majority for United Russia in the Duma.

The Moscow elections have shown that voters have no need of pseudo-oppositionist pseudo-parties at the metropolitan level either. But in contrast to Russia’s federal-level elections, the systemic opposition has now lost (considerable) votes to the non-systemic opposition as well.

But that’s not the main thing, of course. In 2012, United Russia enjoyed no majority in a mere three Moscow districts. That number has now increased to 28. Furthermore, certain local councils have no United Russia representation at all. A notable case in point is the Gagarinsky district, where Vladimir Putin is formally registered to vote, where he cast his ballot last Sunday — and where every seat was won by Yabloko candidates. This time round, United Russia’s triumph has left a bitter aftertaste.

Architects of success

If anyone has emerged as hero in these elections, it’s opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov. Despite his relative youth (Gudkov is 37 years old), he cannot by any means be called a political novice.

Gudkov served as a Just Russia deputy in the Duma of the previous convocation and became renowned, among other things, for his unswerving willingness to engage frankly with the media. He was one of three deputies not to vote for the annexation of Crimea in 2014 (Ilya Ponomarev, the only lawmaker who voted against it, has now left the country). Gudkov was expelled from the party; despite taking part in the elections as a single-mandate deputy, he didn’t make it into the new Duma either. He has made no secret of his intention to run for mayor of Moscow, and began preparing for the municipal elections virtually before anyone else.

Deputy of the State Duma Dmitry Gudkov at a plenary meeting of the State Duma. (с) Vladimir Fedorenko / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.When it comes to the mayoral elections, the municipal filter is all-important. To make it to the elections, prospective candidates need loyal deputies in local councils. And Gudkov has decided to train these candidates up. Working in collaboration with Maxim Katz (who served as the politician’s chief of staff during the parliamentary elections as well), he has inaugurated an online platform and a centre providing prospective candidates with ideological and strategic assistance in addition to financial support via crowdfunding. Gudkov and Katz launched a campaign that ended up motivating over a thousand candidates — mostly young people with no prior involvement in politics — to take part in the elections.

They negotiated a cooperation agreement with Yabloko — practically the first time anyone had managed to do so in the entire history of post-Soviet Russia. Assistance was also provided by the school for municipal deputies inaugurated by Open Russia, with some candidates receiving training from both the Gudkov and Khodorkovsky teams. Remarkably enough, this failed to precipitate any scandals — despite the fact that the Russian opposition can’t resist a good old internal spat.

Meanwhile, Ilya Yashin, a young politician with a national profile and an associate of the late Boris Nemtsov, has been working miracles of his own. He and a group of fellow-thinkers from the Solidarity movement decided to compete for seats in Moscow’s Krasnoselsky district... and prevailed: Solidarnost won seven seats to United Russia’s three.

Unexpected ally

Another key player in the opposition’s electoral successes must be mentioned here. That player is the Moscow mayor’s office.

It sounds paradoxical, but that's the way it is. The mayor’s office bet on the loyalty and discipline of Moscow’s pensioners, who were canvassed by employees of the welfare system, as well as on public sector employees voting “the right way”.

Other Muscovites simply weren’t informed that an election was imminent. Posters featuring polling station addresses weren’t even displayed at information stands by apartment block entrances. Things came to such a pitch that Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Election Commission, publicly scolded Moscow City Election Commission chair Valentina Gorbunova.

Meanwhile, an anonymous representative of the presidential administration insinuated to the Vedomosti newspaper that the strategy chosen by the mayor’s office was a fallacious one. Not only did posters materialise at information stands in the last two days before the vote, but people even received text message alerts from the Electoral Commission. After the elections were over, a hastily concocted poll proved (a fact that had been apparent to the the displeased anonymous source from the administration) that at least 80% of Muscovites knew about the elections.

The mayor’s office reckoned on the loyalty and discipline of Moscow’s pensioners, who were being canvassed by social workers, as well as on state employees voting “the right way”

But it was too late. Loyal voters were out celebrating Moscow City Day — organised on a particularly grand scale by the mayor’s office on account of the round anniversary — and simply had no time (or energy) to make it to the polls. The mayor’s office had achieved what it set out to achieve: a record low turnout of under 15%. But the people who did turn out were those whose votes had been solicited by youthful, charismatic, door-to-door canvassing opposition candidates.

City hall’s cause was helped neither by traditional violations such as ballot-stuffing and the alteration of vote tallies (incidentally, not all that many infringements were recorded this time round), nor even by certain innovations – thus, for example, several thousand servicemen were registered at a Ministry of Defence building in central Moscow shortly before the elections, their votes securing a victory for United Russia in that district.

The mayor’s office, it must be said, has shot itself in the foot like this on a previous occasion: a similar scenario unfolded in the mayoral elections of 2013, allowing Alexey Navalny to take second place in the contest and garner 27% of the vote – a record total for the non-systemic opposition.

Opposition squabbles benefit the Kremlin

The opposition, as noted above, loves a squabble, and this remains the case even now: their victory is as yet a highly relative one, and fresh scandals are already brewing. Dmitry Gudkov has gently chided Alexey Navalny for providing his campaign with insufficient support; and Maxim Katz, who’s been locked in a longstanding conflict with Navalny, directly accused Russia’s most famous oppositionist of working for the mayor’s office. Katz, who served as deputy chair of Navalny’s mayoral campaign, ended up being ousted from Navalny’s staff office, although the details of this affair surfaced much later, during the opposition’s abortive attempts to form a coalition for the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Navalny apologised for the fact that he hadn’t been overly active in his campaigning for opposition candidates and congratulated the winners. But commentators and bloggers working in cahoots with the presidential administration had already picked up on the story: the Runet was suddenly awash with identikit articles to the effect that Gudkov must be regarded as the real opposition leader — his deeds and actions serving as proof of his right to be so called — rather than the manipulator and provocateur Navalny, by whom the Moscow elections were simply ignored.

Yet just a month ago, lest we forget, Bolotnaya Case defendant Sergei Udaltsov’s release from prison was greeted by rather similar sentiments from those selfsame bloggers: Udalstov, they wrote, is the real opposition leader, his sufferings serving as proof of… And so on and so forth.

Local self-government in Moscow is pretty much non-existent: it was systematically dismantled by previous mayor Yuri Luzhkov and is now being completely killed off by Sergey Sobyanin

The Kremlin, of course, doesn’t need any “opposition leader”. What the Kremlin needs is discord in the opposition ranks. Another dispute is to do with the nomination of a single candidate for the mayoral elections. Gudkov intends to stand as the Yabloko candidate. So too, however, does Yabloko veteran Sergey Mitrokhin. He has already branded Gudkov a “weakling” and insinuated that his chances of success are slim to nil.

Mitrokhin, incidentally, took part in the 2013 elections and picked up 3.5% of the vote. And let’s not forget that a single opposition candidate, even if one suddenly emerges, still won’t overcome the municipal filter unless the mayor’s office deigns to gift them the votes of United Russia deputies, as happened in 2013 with Alexei Navalny.

Another risk is that the newly-minted municipal deputies — young people who were inspired by the campaign and who see their victory as an initial foray into big politics — will simply skedaddle when they realise what they’re really up against. In practice, local self-government in Moscow is pretty much non-existent: it was systematically dismantled by previous mayor Yuri Luzhkov and is now being completely killed off by Sergei Sobyanin.

Municipal deputies enjoy minimal power and can in no way influence mayoral decisions that have a real bearing on the life of the city. Of course, neither Gudkov nor Open Russia concealed this fact from their candidates, but knowing it is one thing and experiencing it first-hand quite another.

Will many of these deputies be sufficiently captivated by debates around whether or not to allow a local entrepreneur to open a household section in his grocery store? This is a big and difficult question.

All power to the councils

But there’s room for optimism, too. Alongside the young romantics, the ranks of the new deputies boast individuals with media fame and political experience: among these are the abovementioned Ilya Yashin, the journalist Ilya Azar, and Yulia Galyamina, an unswerving opponent of the mayor’s office (incidentally, a scandal has erupted in Timiryazevsky district, where Galyamina stood for election: vote tallies there were altered to ensure a majority for United Russia).

There have already been proposals to organise a rally with a view to marking their electoral success, and — more significantly — in the hope of forming something like a permanent city council of oppositionist municipal deputies

They’ve now acquired a new status and the opportunity for active collaboration. There have already been proposals to organise a rally with a view, as it were, to marking their electoral success, and — more significantly — in the hope of forming something like a permanent city council of oppositionist municipal deputies.

Such a council could serve as an effective platform for honest engagement with voters and journalists. And, naturally enough, it would complicate things for the mayor’s office, which has learned to contrive a semblance of dialogue with society, and to convince itself and the “folks up top” that any actions Sobyanin might undertake invariably send the capital’s denizens into raptures. An alternative hub for genuine dialogue could present Sobyanin with a real headache — especially in an election year.

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Kushner, Bannon, Flynn Pushed Huge Nuclear Power Deal in Middle East for Profit, In Secret

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/09/2017 - 5:20am in

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Editor’s Note: First read the article below the picture. Then focus on the photograph. Keep looking. Begin to narrow your gaze on the three grifters in the center of the picture – Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner. Let sink in what you have just read. And ask yourself, “How long? How long must we breathe so foul an odor?” —Bill Moyers

 

 

I have seen corruption boil and bubble
Till it o’er run the stew.”

— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

 

From left: Senior adviser to the president Stephen Miller, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon; national security adviser Michael Flynn; senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner; and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Feb. 13, 2017 in Washington, DC.
(Photo Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

 

This post first appeared at DailyKos.

It’s no wonder that Mike Flynn asked the House and the Senate for immunity and has refused to voluntarily testify before the Senate twice, the last time being Tuesday. On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committee reported that Flynn failed to disclose that he worked for oil companies and had attended a meeting on their behalf promoting a US-Russian Saudi-financed program to build nuclear reactors in the Arab world. This took place in 2015, and it is one of the meetings that Flynn failed to disclose on his security clearance application.

He also failed to disclose the $25,000 he was paid for his services, and all this information was forwarded by Democrats on to Robert Mueller to decide whether it’s a prosecutable offense, according to Rachel Maddow. Last week Maddow interviewed Anthony Cormier, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist working for BuzzFeed, who also on Friday broke a story about another meeting that Flynn conveniently forgot: a meeting he took with Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon on Jan. 5 with the king of Jordan. Both Kushner and Flynn left that meeting off their security clearance applications, and details of Bannon’s application are as yet unknown.

This is smoking hot. The Wall Street Journal says Flynn’s disclosure forms “indicate that [his] year-and-a-half work on the project ended in December 2016, but Mr. Flynn in fact remained involved in the project once he joined the Trump administration in January, discussing the plan and directing his National Security Council staff to meet with the companies involved, the former staffers said.” BuzzFeed:

The meeting — details of which have never been reported — is the latest in a series of secret, high-stakes contacts between Trump advisers and foreign governments that have raised concerns about how, in particular, Flynn and senior adviser Jared Kushner handled their personal business interests as they entered key positions of power. And the nuclear project raised additional security concerns about expanding nuclear technology in a tinderbox region of the world. One expert compared it to providing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”

On the morning of Jan. 5, Flynn, Kushner and former chief strategist Steve Bannon greeted King Abdullah II at the Four Seasons hotel in lower Manhattan, then took off in a fleet of SUVs and a sedan to a different location. […]

While it is not unusual for an incoming administration to meet with foreign dignitaries during the transition, Trump surrogates have repeatedly failed to acknowledge these contacts. Attorney General Jeff Sessions at first said he did not discuss campaign matters with Russian officials, only to later acknowledge at least two conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The United Arab Emirates set up a meeting between a military contractor close to the Trump administration and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin. And this week, CNN reported that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, visited with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon without alerting the American government beforehand.

The meeting with the king of Jordan had extremely high stakes: a discussion with the head of a key American ally that might have included plans about spreading nuclear power to one of the world’s least stable regions, possibly with the help of one of America’s main geopolitical enemies, Russia. The revelation of the meeting comes as Abdullah plans to visit the United States next week and speak with Trump.

Vanity Fair bottom-lines it:

If this sounds like the kind of thing that’s going to keep you up at night, you’re not alone. “Any proposal to introduce dozens of nuclear reactors to the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, raises many proliferation red flags,” the Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball told BuzzFeed. “The Saudis do not need nuclear power and them gaining access could lead to dangerous consequences down the road.” Giving a country nuclear energy capacity, as the Marshall Plan would, “is like giving a country a nuclear weapons starter kit,” the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s Alexandra Bell said.

On the bright side, Flynn, Bannon and Kushner are completely transparent, highly qualified people who we can definitely trust with national security.

And don’t forget, Kushner still works for the White House. Sweet dreams.

 
Note: The original post misstated that Steve Bannon also still works for the White House. That has been corrected and a link added to Jared Kushner’s position.

The post Kushner, Bannon, Flynn Pushed Huge Nuclear Power Deal in Middle East for Profit, In Secret appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

We Lived Better Then

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/09/2017 - 11:30pm in

by Stephen Gowans Over two decades ago Vaclav Havel, the pampered scion of a wealthy Prague family, helped usher in a period of reaction, in which the holdings and estates of former landowners and captains of industry were restored to their previous owners, while unemployment, homelessness, and insecurity—abolished by the Reds– were put back on the agenda. Havel is eulogized by the usual suspects, but not by his numberless victims, who were pushed back into an abyss of exploitation by the Velvet revolution and other retrograde eruptions. With the fall of Communism allowing Havel and his brother to recover their family’s vast holdings, Havel’s life—he worked in a brewery under Communism—became much richer. The same can’t be said for countless others, whose better lives under Communism were swept away by a swindle that will, in the coming days, be lionized in the mass media on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s demolition. The anniversary is no time for celebration, except for the minority that has profited from it. For the bulk …

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