‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp – By RT

‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp
Jeff Bezos has $141 billion, and 63 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a $500 emergency. The system of massive inequality is unsustainable, but it keeps going thanks to the myths we are told, Lee Camp says.

Comedian Lee Camp breaks down the eight great myths of American society in the latest edition of his satirical talk show Redacted Tonight on RT.

In the opening segment, Camp says that the corporatocracy is steadily tightening its grasp, the insanely wealthy get richer every day, and the poor get exploited more and more.

63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, the rear end of the spectrum, if you will, and you should, Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. Meanwhile, worldwide 1 in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people at $2 a day to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. And that’s if they only buy single-ply toilet paper. And yet there are riots in the streets for the most part, at least not in the US.

Camp is puzzled why we are okay with this and says the reason is “the myths we are all sold.

Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth when our heads are still soft. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned,” Camp said, adding that he feels it is his job to lay them all out.

Myth #8:  We have a democracy

If you think that we still have a democratic republic, ask yourself this: when was the last time Congress did something that the people of America wanted that was not in the benefit of corporations? You probably can’t do it, right?

Camp claims that Congress doesn’t do “a damn thing without the approval of their sugar daddies.”

He noted that even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed to an oligarchy – a small corrupt elite group controls the country without much input from the people.  

The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control,” he said.

Check out the other seven myths here:

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Study finds alarming decline in biodiversity worldwide By Philip Guelpa – (WSWS)

A recently released United Nations-supported study presents a grim picture of the accelerating decline in biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal species) across the globe and its dire implications for the not-too-distant future of life on Earth, including humans.

Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina due to uncontrolled development in wetlands

The study, composed of multiple reports by over 550 researchers, was conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It contends that the increasingly rapid loss of plant and animal species due to habitat degradation, invasive species, and pollution is happening in tandem with climate change. Together, these processes, if not halted, will soon have catastrophic environmental consequences, amounting to a sixth mass global extinction, which will threaten the very survival of humanity.

Biological ecosystems are a complex, dialectical interaction of plant, animal, and microbial life forms with each other and their physical environment, evolving over millennia. These systems are not static. They change over time due to the dynamic of unity and conflict of opposites of their myriad biological and physical constituents. In general, the greater the species diversity (number of different species) within an ecosystem, the more stable it is, barring external perturbations (e.g., the impact that caused the mass extinction, including dinosaurs, about 66 million years ago) and the more slowly change takes place.

By contrast, the lower the species diversity, the greater is the tendency toward instability and the more vulnerable an ecosystem is to catastrophic collapse. High diversity will generally buffer the degree to which changes in any particular constituent of the system will affect the system as a whole. The role of one species, known as its ecological niche, may gradually be filled by one or more other species, leading to gradual change.

With lower diversity, however, ecosystems tend to be more fragile. The loss of any one species will likely have a much greater impact on the system as a whole, creating instability and possible catastrophic collapse. It is less likely that another species will evolve or adapt with sufficient rapidity to fill the “gap” in the system, potentially resulting in a cascading series of disruptions. If the trends documented in the IPBES reports continue, the world’s biological systems are likely to go into this kind of severe crisis within the next few decades.

Humans have had a significant impact on natural ecosystems, especially since the Industrial Revolution. However, in no way are we “decoupled” from the natural environment. Such systems remain a vital part of our survival—affecting weather and climate, food resources, potable water and breathable air.

The authors of the IPBES study provide a range of examples to illustrate both the variety and rapidity of species loss and environmental degradation, which are occurring across the globe.

Among the direct and substantial impacts of species decline and extinction, the study found that exploitable fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to be exhausted by 2048. This will result in severe economic losses as well as dietary privation for millions.

Habitat destruction by forest clearing in Mexico

In Africa, where more than 60 percent of the human population depends directly on natural resources, the study projects that half of some bird and mammal species could be lost by 2100. Of the continent’s historically recorded species, more than 20 percent are threatened, endangered, or already extinct. The recent effective extinction of the northern white rhinoceros, which received much media attention, is just one iconic example.

In Europe, 42 percent of land species have suffered notable declines during the past decade alone. Half of existing wetlands have been lost since 1970.

The destruction of wetlands and their associated plant and animal communities around the world, both inland and along coastlines, results in accelerated erosion, pollution, and loss of protection against flooding, as seen, for example, during last year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Over the last 500 years, since Europeans began colonizing the Americas, 30 percent of the hemisphere’s biodiversity has been lost. The study projects that over the next decade, if present trends continue, that figure will rise to 40 percent, indicating its rapid acceleration. Nearly one quarter of the existing species that were studied are threatened.

Trees are key to the production of atmospheric oxygen, essential for the survival of humans and other animals. However, since 1990, over 130 million hectares of rainforest have been lost. In northeastern Brazil, part of the Amazon rainforest, which is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth,” between 2003 and 2013 alone, the area under cultivation more than doubled to 2.5 million hectares.

The reports’ authors highlight the combined effects of direct human-caused landscape modification and of climate change on the decline in biodiversity. By 2050, climate change may equal or surpass landscape modification as the primary cause of species decline. In either case, the planet is well on its way to becoming a biological wasteland. These findings are not new, only confirming and re-emphasizing the critical urgency of the situation. Previous studies have painted a similar picture (see: “Scientists warn of ‘biological annihilation’ as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates”).

While the IPBES study documents the growing danger posed by the rapid and accelerating global decline in biodiversity, it presents only general notions as to what might be done to halt the process and avert catastrophe, without any mechanisms for implementation aside from the good will of business and political leaders. As with other such studies, the researchers can only lament the complete inadequacy of response to their dire warnings so far. Robert Watson, the chair of the IPBES, stated, “The time for action was yesterday or the day before. Governments recognize we have a problem. Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need.”

Mass extinctions have happened five times previously during the existence of life on earth (see:  “The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert”). In each of those instances the causes were natural. The currently developing sixth mass extinction differs in that it is directly related to human activity. However, contrary to statements in the report and in numerous other pronouncements in the media and elsewhere, the cause is not human moral failure, overpopulation, or the need to eat less red meat.

The poor farmer in Brazil who is forced to clear more land in order to eke out an existence, the factory worker in China or the US whose plant spews out toxic chemicals, etc., are not responsible for the resulting environmental degradation.

The responsibility lies with the anarchic and profit-driven capitalist system that disdainfully ignores the consequences of its actions and prevents the development and implementation of rational, scientifically based solutions to the problems of climate change and environmental degradation. As the world capitalist crisis deepens and inter-imperialist rivalries intensify, environmental concerns will increasingly be swept aside, as is already the case under the Trump administration in the US.

If, on the other hand, the vast resources now horded by the world’s elites or squandered in wars were instead used to eradicate poverty, end pollution, develop and expand clean energy, and generally organize society for the benefit of the many rather than the few, the developing crisis could be halted and reversed. That can only happen under the democratic control of the working class implementing the socialist reorganization of society.

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

 

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

Russia upgrades Su-25SM3 attack aircraft with modern electronic warfare system in Syria – By SOUTH FRONT (SOTT)

A Su-25SM3 attack aircraft

© Source: https://bmpd.livejournal.com/3179127.html
A Su-25SM3 attack aircraft is at the Khmeimim airbase, Syria, April 2018

A first clear photo of Russia’s Su-25SM3 attack aircraft in Syria has appeared online. The photo was made at the Khmeimim airbase in April, 2018. The Su-25SM3 is a deeply modernized modernized version of the Su-25, which entered service with the Russian Aerospace Forces (previously known as the Russian Air Force) in the early 1980s.

Su-25SM3 version differs significantly even from upgraded Su-25SM strike-fighters. The Su-25SM3 incorporates a host of sensor and defensive systems upgrades. The core of the modernization package is the Vitebsk-25 EW system, avionics, and weapon control systems.

The Vitebsk-25 includes an L-370-3S digital active jamming station. It can locate the likely enemy’s azimuth and the radar emission type as well as suppress the signal in different frequency ranges. It also poses protective measures against various missiles. External elements of the L-370-3S digital active jamming station are marked by red squares.

The Russian Aerospace Forces actively use Su-25SM(x) attack aircraft in order to provide a close air support to government forces combating militants across the country.

From tanks to drones: Military hardware floods central Moscow in V-Day parade rehearsal (VIDEO) – By RT

click to view video :

https://www.rt.com/news/425351-victory-day-parade-rehearsal/video/5ae30880fc7e93836f8b45a5

 
 
Thousands of servicemen and dozens of armored vehicles, defense systems and even drones appeared in downtown Moscow for a Victory Day parade rehearsal, offering a sneak peek of the novelties to be displayed at the upcoming parade.

Some 12,500 personnel took part in the rehearsals, staged at the iconic Red Square late on Thursday. More than 150 pieces of military hardware rolled through Moscow’s center, allowing bystanders to get a glimpse of the weaponry that will participate in the upcoming Victory Day parade.

Victory Day parade regulars, the T-72 main battle tanks, have been presented with the most modern modifications of the iconic machine. The T-72B3 machines seen during the rehearsal have additional spaced armor and quite fancy side skirts, along with other improvements.

Arctic-bound Tor-M2DT short-range air defense systems, which debuted at the Parade last year, are set to appear during the celebrations again. The base platform of the system, the DT-30 twin off-road vehicle, has already been tested in the Arctic, while the interceptor missiles have shown impressive capabilities. The entire Tor-M2DT complex is set to be weather-proven this year and, following the tests, the systems are expected to be adopted by Russia’s Arctic troops.

New Russian attack UAVs, namely the ‘Korsar’ and ‘Katran,’ will be featured during the parade for the very first time. The machines will seemingly be carried on trucks alongside their armament that will be put on display and not fly on their own, but any surprises can be expected.

Earlier this week, the aviation crew that is set to take part in the parade completed preparations for the event, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. A whole range of aircraft is expected to partake in the celebrations, including strategic and tactic bombers, fighters and close air support, as well as various helicopters. At least two cutting-edge Su-57 warplanes are also expected to fly over Red Square on May 9.

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Russia capable of providing S-300 to Syria within one month — source – By TASS

April 23, 18:46 UTC+3

According to the source, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria

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MOSCOW, April 23. /TASS/. Russia is technically capable of providing its air defense systems S-300 to Syria within one month, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS, adding that for this the launchers already at the Defense Ministry’s disposal might be used after the required reconfiguration, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS.

According to the official, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria. One is Russia may provide to Syria the export configuration of the air defense launchers. In that case Syria will get them in 18 to 24 months from now. The other possibility is the available systems may be retrieved from the Defense Ministry’s reserves. Those replaced by S-400 in the Russian army might be use, too.

“Naturally, the used S-300 systems that may be taken to Syria will have to be reconfigured to suit the standards of the Syrian air defense. This work may take about a month,” the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of this.

 

Earlier, the daily Kommersant quoted its own sources as saying that Russia in the near future might start the delivery of S-300 Favorit air defense systems to Syria.

 

S-300 for Syria

 

Russia’s General Staff declared it might be possible to raise the question once again of providing S-300 systems to Damascus shortly after the United States, Britain and France on April attacked Syria with cruise missiles. The agreement with Syria on providing S-300 was signed back in 2010 only to be frozen due to objections from the West and Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 16 said Russia might be prepared to consider all the necessary steps for enhancing Syria’s defense capabilities, including the supplies of S-300 systems. On April 23 Lavrov said the question of providing S-300 to Syria had not been settled yet, but Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed that possibility with the Defense Ministry “from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that took place on April 14.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from comment when asked if S-300 might be delivered to Syria in the near future.

 
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By Billing Russia ‘Terror Sponsor’ US Wants to Lay Hands on Europe – Think Tank – By Sputnik

The Moon over the Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya (Savior) Tower

© Sputnik / Vladimir Sergeev

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Republican senator Cory Gardner is championing a legislative initiative to determine whether Russia should be billed a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Radio Sputnik discussed this with Manuel Ochsenreiter, director of the German Center for Eurasian Studies and editor-in-chief of the German news magazine “ZUERST!”

Sputnik: In your view, why was this article published now, when relations between Russia and the US are as tense as they were during the Cold War era?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We witness right now an escalation of the informational warfare; we have already now, well since the war started in Syria, which was escalating even more since the problems and difficulties in Ukraine, with the Maidan uprising, so we are now at a new escalation period and of course, the consequences for Gardner, for the US, or what they would like to see as consequences is to have a safe hand on Europe, on the European allies by labelling Russia as a “terrorist sponsoring” state.

It is not just about the consequences from the US, but they would pressure their European allies into also going into these consequences. One consequence, for sure, would be that Europe would be even closer to the US than Europe already is right now. This is also already the consequence of the Skripal story, the consequence of the so-called “gas attack” in Syria. So, it is about informational warfare meant for having the European allies more safe on the Washington side.

Sputnik: If Russia was indeed declared a state sponsor of terrorism, what kind of diplomatic moves would we see by the European Union, by the US?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We would see a variety of diplomatic and economic measures. It would mean that sooner or later, the European countries would have to follow Washington’s judgement about Russia as a “terrorism sponsor.”

That would mean that there would be an enormous political pressure on all companies and businesses, and on all politicians who are advertising good and normal relations with Russia, between Europe and the Russian Federation. For the US, it is absolutely important to keep Europe on their side and to make Europe, let’s say, hostile towards Russia. Russia is a sort of natural partner for European states; Russia is a supplier of resources.

Germany, for example, has excellent high tech products and is also very important for the market of Russia, but the US wants to separate these two markets, or these two political spheres, to bind Europe closer to the US. The US knows [that] if Europe gets lost for the US, they are outside of the game.

READ MORE: Situation in Syria Shows ‘Cold War is Back’ — UN Chief

The consequences would include a diplomatic cooldown, maybe even freezing, maybe even more freezing than we were used to during the escalating periods of the “cold war.”

In economic terms, it would mean that companies, even if they do business with Russia, which would be legal, would suffer from moral and public pressure … if the US succeeds in making Europe also label Russia a “terrorism sponsor.” 

Sputnik: What other countries around the world are currently considered by the US and Europe as states sponsors of terrorism?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: If we take a closer look on these countries – we have for instance Iran labelled as a terrorist sponsor – we know also that they label the Lebanese Hezbollah forces as terrorists, as they are on the official terrorist list.

But if we look at the situation in the Middle East, we can precisely see that those entities and those groups labelled as terrorists or terrorist sponsors by the US are in many cases forces that are standing for stability and fighting against terrorism.

For example, Iran is one of the main forces supporting Syria in fighting the Islamic State*. Russia is the only foreign force, besides Iran, which is in Syria legally, which is there on the invitation of the legal Damascus government.

While the Americans, the British, the French and all other forces are there not legally, they were never invited, never asked by the sovereign state of Syria to support them in fighting terrorism.

We can say that one of the main terrorist-sponsoring states on the globe is the United States itself. There would be no Islamic State group existent today, if the US hadn’t meddled in the Middle East. The Islamic State exists precisely due to the meddling of the United States [in the Middle East.]

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.

The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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Empire Collapse: Russian Missile Tech Renders America’s Trillion Dollar Navy Obsolete – By Dmitry Orlov /Russia Insider(SOTT)

Dmitry Orlov

kinzhal hypersonic missile

Kinzhal (‘dagger’) hypersonic missile being test-fired by the Russian military

For the past 500 years European nations-Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany-were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so-during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection. Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them. It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world. In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt-beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms. When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders. And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat. Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power. The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada. More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily. But this has now changed: Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier. The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own. The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant: the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

Equally significant is the development of new Russian air defense capabilities: the S-300 and S-400 systems, which can essentially seal off a country’s airspace. Wherever these systems are deployed, such as in Syria, US forces are now forced to stay out of their range. With its naval and air superiority rapidly evaporating, all that the US can fall back on militarily is the use of large expeditionary forces – an option that is politically unpalatable and has proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also the nuclear option, and while its nuclear arsenal is not likely to be neutralized any time soon, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents. Their special value is in preventing wars from escalating beyond a certain point, but that point lies beyond the elimination of their global naval and air dominance. Nuclear weapons are much worse than useless in augmenting one’s aggressive behavior against a nuclear-armed opponent; invariably, it would be a suicidal move. What the US now faces is essentially a financial problem of unrepayable debt and a failing wealth pump, and it should be a stunningly obvious point that setting off nuclear explosions anywhere in the world would not fix the problems of an empire that is going broke.

Events that signal vast, epochal changes in the world often appear minor when viewed in isolation. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was just one river crossing; Soviet and American troops meeting and fraternizing at the Elbe was, relatively speaking, a minor event-nowhere near the scale of the siege of Leningrad, the battle of Stalingrad or the fall of Berlin. Yet they signaled a tectonic shift in the historical landscape. And perhaps we have just witnessed something similar with the recent pathetically tiny Battle of East Gouta in Syria, where the US used a make-believe chemical weapons incident as a pretense to launch an equally make-believe attack on some airfields and buildings in Syria. The US foreign policy establishment wanted to show that it still matters and has a role to play, but what really happened was that US naval and air power were demonstrated to be almost entirely beside the point.

Of course, all of this is terrible news to the US military and foreign policy establishments, as well as to the many US Congressmen in whose districts military contractors operate or military bases are situated. Obviously, this is also bad news for the defense contractors, for personnel at the military bases, and for many others as well. It is also simply awful news economically, since defense spending is about the only effective means of economic stimulus of which the US government is politically capable. Obama’s “shovel-ready jobs,” if you recall, did nothing to forestall the dramatic slide in the labor participation rate, which is a euphemism for the inverse of the real unemployment rate. There is also the wonderful plan to throw lots of money at Elon Musk’s SpaceX (while continuing to buy vitally important rocket engines from the Russians-who are currently discussing blocking their export to the US in retaliation for more US sanctions). In short, take away the defense stimulus, and the US economy will make a loud popping sound followed by a gradually diminishing hissing noise.

Needless to say, all those involved will do their best to deny or hide for as long as possible the fact that the US foreign policy and defense establishments have now been neutralized. My prediction is that America’s naval and air empire will not fail because it will be defeated militarily, nor will it be dismantled once the news sinks in that it is useless; instead, it will be forced to curtail its operations due to lack of funds. There may still be a few loud bangs before it gives up, but mostly what we will hear is a whole lot of whimpering. That’s how the USSR went; that’s how the USA will go too.

About the author

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and author of several books, including The Five Stages of Collapse. His website is Club Orlov, and his Patreon page is here.

Lavrov on S-300 Supply: After West’s Attack, We Mull All Options to Defend Syria – By Sputnik

A soldier during a military exercise involving S-300/SA 10 surface-to-air missile systems at the Ashuluk training ground, Astrakhan Region.

© Sputnik / Pavel Lisitsyn
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Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry had stated that Russian-made air defense systems deployed by the Syrian forces managed to intercept 71 of 103 missiles, fired by the United States, France and the UK on April 14.

“Several years ago we decided not to supply S-300 systems to Syria at our partners’ request. Now, we will consider options to ensure the Syrian state’s security after this outrageous act of aggression from the United States, France and Great Britain,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the BBC.

READ MORE: Russian S-300 in Syria Will Curb Israel From Operating Against Iran — Researcher

Responding to the interviewer’s question whether the foreign minister was implying that the recent developments in Syria had made Russia rethink its stance on supplies of the S-300 long range surface-to-air missile systems, Lavrov said that Moscow was ready to consider any means to help the Syrian army curb further aggression.

Lavrov’s interview with the BBC came two days after the US, France and the UK carried out coordinated airstrikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by government forces in the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept 71 out of the 103 missiles, fired by the trilateral alliance. The Ministry’s spokesman said that the Syrian army had used Russian-made air defense systems such as S-125, S-200, as well as Buk and Kvadrat units to repel the missile strike.READ MORE: US-Led Overnight Missile Attack on Syria in Pictures

The joint attack was conducted amid reports, covered by several media outlets, citing militants, that the Syrian army had dropped a chlorine bomb on civilians in Douma, with the infamous White Helmets tweeting purported footage of the aftermath of the alleged chemical weapons’ use. The West was quick to blame the chemical attack on Bashar Assad’s forces, while the Syrian government strongly denied its involvement, denouncing the entire incident as a false flag.

Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury, not produced in Russia, was in US & UK service – By RT

Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury, not produced in Russia, was in US & UK service
The substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ, according to Swiss state Spiez lab, the Russian foreign minister said. The toxin was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an incapacitating toxin known as 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the results of the examination conducted by a Swiss chemical lab that worked with the samples that London handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW. However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added. He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.

Lavrov said that the Swiss center that assessed the samples is actually the Spiez Laboratory. This facility is a Swiss state research center controlled by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and, ultimately, by the country’s defense minister. The lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.

The Russian foreign minister said that London refused to answer dozens of “very specific” questions asked by Moscow about the Salisbury case, as well as to provide any substantial evidence that could shed light on the incident. Instead, the UK accused Russia of failing to answer its own questions, he said, adding that, in fact, London did not ask any questions but wanted Moscow to admit that it was responsible for the delivery of the chemical agent to the UK.

The scandal erupted in early March, when former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in critical condition in the town of Salisbury. Top UK officials almost immediately pinned the blame on Russia.

Moscow believes that the entire Skripal case lacks transparency and that the UK is in fact not interested in an independent inquiry. “We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making a transparent investigation impossible,” the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said during a press conference on Friday.

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Press review: Russian potential reaction to US Syria strike and ruble devaluation benefits – By TASS

April 11, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, April 11

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Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia may hit back at US strike on Syria with cruise missiles

If the United States decides to use force in Syria in the wake of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, it will get a symmetric response both from Damascus and Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Wednesday. Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya along with other Russian politicians and officials have warned of serious consequences, should such steps be taken by the Americans and their allies. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier said the Russian army was ready to protect Damascus.

Several military websites wrote that on April 8-9 Russia’s Armed Forces had been secretly put on full combat alert. No official comments on these reports have been made. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s report, the army and the fleet have stepped up activity, especially in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and also in the Caspian Sea from where the Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired on targets in Syria. It is not ruled out that preparation for these strikes there is underway now, the paper says.

“The Kalibr strikes may be launched on US facilities and bases in the Middle East if the Pentagon, which accuses Russia of the notorious chemical attacks, decides to deal a retaliatory blow on the Russian bases in Tartus and Hmeymim,” military expert Lt.Gen. Yuri Netkachev said.

Reuters reported citing the White House’s sources about possible strikes by the US and its allies on the Russian facilities. The expert stressed that Moscow won’t leave these strikes unanswered. But such a scenario is unlikely as this will spark “a real big war, which neither the US nor Russia want.”

 

Another military expert, Col. Vladimir Popov, did not rule out that if the missiles launched from the US destroyers kill Russian servicemen in Syria, the US vessels will be attacked by Russian missiles or aviation. Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov had earlier warned of this possible Russian response.

 

Kommersant: Ruble devaluation to boost Russian grain exports

This week’s sharp ruble devaluation may prop up Russian grain exports, which started declining by the end of the season, Kommersant business daily writes. “The devaluation factor will influence the market for several weeks. Even if the ruble manages to recover losses soon, the short-term jump in the foreign currency rate will significantly help exports,” Director of SovEcon analytical center Andrei Sizov said.

Dmitry Rylko, Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, expects that exports will revitalize amid the ruble’s decline, but this factor’s influence will be restrained by infrastructure restrictions.

Traditionally, by the end of the season, grain exports diminish. But Russia’s grain exports in March and April turned out to be higher than expected, Sizov said. According to the customs data, on April 4 Russia’s grain export grew 39% year-on-year to 40 mln tonnes, and wheat supplies rose 41% to 31.2 mln tonnes. By the end of the season, the wheat export is anticipated to reach 39.7 mln tonnes, according to SovEcon.

ProZerno CEO Vladimir Petrichenko forecasts that the drop in value of the Russian ruble will positively affect the price climate on the Russian grain market.

The global grain market is racked by drought in North America and problems in Argentina, but due to the ruble devaluation the buyers of Russian wheat will seek to contain prices as the contract value in rubles grows, Rylko noted. According to Sizov, the ongoing ruble devaluation will also affect the growth of domestic grain prices.

If the ruble’s devaluation sends domestic grain prices soaring, the Russian authorities may step in and limit supplies, he said.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pyongyang seeks Moscow’s backing in talks with Seoul, Washington

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia in the run-up to the summits in late April-early June with South Korean and US Presidents, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump respectively, Seoul’s media reports said citing the US special services. They view the visit of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Moscow as a hint at groundwork being laid for a meeting between the Russian and North Korean leaders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russian officials have refuted reports on the possible visit of the North Korean leader. Speculation about Kim Jong-un’s trip to Moscow is being fueled by his recent trip to Beijing, his first foreign tour since coming to power, the paper writes. Experts recall that the North Korean leader’s father Kim Jong-il had held high-level meetings with Russia and China before and after his meeting with South Korea’s then-President Kim Dae-jung in 2000.

These trips by the North Korean leadership come amid the need to secure support of the major global powers in preserving the political system and strengthening their positions at talks, the paper writes. However, Kim apparently remembers that the West’s unilateral guarantees helped neither Saddam Hussein nor Muammar Gaddafi.

“Although Pyongyang is offended by Moscow’s almost unquestioning support of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, and imposing tough sanctions on North Korea, he wants to know Russia’s position if no agreement is reached with Washington on the peninsula’s denuclearization,” said Alexander Zhebin, Director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “The deal is unlikely to be clinched soon without providing security guarantees to America.”

According to the expert, North Korea wants Russia to understand that the upcoming summits won’t result in any immediate nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang does not want inspections in the country like with Iraq, and the US is very interested in total inspections. “I think the inspections issue will be a key obstacle for agreements between North Korea and the US,” he stressed.

Russia needs to develop new tactics in order to remain an active participant in the changing climate on the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea could be useful, the paper writes.

 

RBC: Weaker ruble to benefit Russian federal budget, exporters

Black Monday’s market carnage sent the ruble into its deepest plunge in two years. The collapse was due to investors’ psychological response to risks from US sanctions, but no further downturn is expected if there are no geopolitical factors, experts questioned by RBC said.

Russia’s federal budget and exporters will benefit from the weakening ruble, analysts said. The falling ruble rate creates very suitable conditions for exporters of raw materials, said Evgeny Nadorshin, chief economist at the Moscow-based PF Capital. The current ruble rate is beneficial for the budget. The ruble price for oil after the falling rate is more than 4,000 rubles per barrel, the analyst said, while the price of 3,300 rubles per barrel is considered to be more than acceptable for the budget, the analyst noted.

A weaker ruble will bolster exports, Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-finance minister Alexei Kudrin said. “A number of sectors are likely to profit due to this rate. So, in general, the balance [of payments] will be good and this won’t significantly affect economic growth.”

Alexandra Suslina of the Economic Expert Group said, “If the current situation does not result in falling oil prices and does not lead to restrictions on the volume of exported goods, oil and gas revenues will increase.”

However, if the foreign currency rate grows more, it will hit the budget, the economy and the citizens’ welfare, she warned. The current tensions on the markets are a threat to stable development and a decrease in the broad taxation bases, the expert said.

Under the current climate, investors may lose interest in Russia over high risks, Nadorshin cautioned. “Then, all plans for economic development – boosting growth, increasing efficiency and industry 4.0 – will go unfulfilled,” he stressed.

The falling ruble rate will mostly affect companies that import goods, Oleg Shibanov, professor of finance at the New Economic School, told the paper.

 

Izvestia: Russia gears up to greet new diplomats after expulsions

Russia is ready to welcome new diplomats in exchange for those expelled in retaliation for the Western diplomatic demarche in the wake of the poisoning episode of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel-turned-British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK. According to a high-ranking diplomatic source, Moscow did not cut the overall number of staff members in diplomatic missions of foreign states, Izvestia writes. The United Kingdom is the only country, which cannot fully restore its pre-crisis number of diplomats.

“In the UK’s case, we equaled the number of their staff members with those working in our diplomatic missions. So, instead of 73 expelled staff members London will be able to replace just 23 people. In turn, we also plan to replenish our diplomatic personnel,” the source said.

The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic and the US Embassy in Russia confirmed their plans to the paper to send their diplomats to Russia.

Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow told Izvestia that all requests on diplomatic accreditation would be considered on an individual basis. Russia has not notified the embassy of its plans to cut the number of staff members in the US diplomatic mission in Russia, she said.

The Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry noted that when a country decides to expel diplomats, this does not mean that their positions are “frozen” and new people cannot fill these posts.

“All countries face a similar situation, not only between Russia and the Czech Republic. That’s why Russia may fill 60 positions with new diplomats in the US, for example, or vacant diplomatic posts in the Czech Republic. Prague will also seek to fill vacancies in Russia as in general we have few people there,” Spokesperson for the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry Michaela Lagronova said.

 

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