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Arron Banks, a key donor to the Leave.EU Brexit campaign admitted meeting the Russian ambassador in London, only to then brief the US security services on the suggestion of a former chief of staff to David Cameron
Banks was giving evidence to parliament’s so called Fake News Committee in a room where the number of likeable people were in short supply. Banks and his business partner Andy Wigmore were fresh on the grill as the backers and brains of Leave.EU, the Nigel Farage backed group which did as much as anyone to win the Brexit referendum for the Eurosceptics.
Their presence comes in the wake of Banks being accused in the Sunday Times of having links to Russia and suggestions he was used by the Kremlin to influence Brexit, but then again most people who sit before this committee are accused of some kind of links to Moscow. It’s always the bear in the room.
During the session, Banks said: “I like to think I’m an evil genius … that controls the whole of western democracy but clearly that’s nonsense” and Wigmore continuously referred to himself as an “Agent Provocateur” so neither scored too highly on the likeability scale.
But what about those allegations? Banks admitted that he did have three meetings with Russians. Once with the Ambassador, then again following Donald Trump’s election win and another with a businessman about some Russian goldmines which didn’t come to anything.
“What do you think first attracted the Russian embassy to Arron Banks, the biggest political donor in UK history?” asked Ian Lucas MP, looking pretty pleased with his plagiarised line.
Wigmore replied: “I’ll tell you why, because I asked to meet them. We thought it would be nice to meet them.” He then outlined how actually, he was also working in his role as a diplomat to try and help Belize sell its bananas and sugar.
Banks told the committee he had never accepted Russian money and had “no business interests in Russia, I’ve done no business in Russia.”
Pointing out that in the good old days, it was still ok to talk to a Russian without having to explain yourself to a committee of MPs afterwards, Banks said: “What I’m saying is, we’ve now got a full-scale Russian witch-hunt going on, but before that it wasn’t an issue.”
Banks and Wigmore then unexpectedly revealed that they had told the US security services based at the American Embassy in London all about the meetings, and offered MPs the email correspondence to prove it. They did that, they said, on the advice of a former chief of staff to Prime Minister David Cameron. Which poses the question (unasked by these MPs) why does a British national feel the need to explain about meetings in his own country to American representatives? And why did a former high ranking British government official suggest it? We shouldn’t expect a committee hearing on that kind of interference any time soon.
Throughout, Banks managed to land some shots on the MPs. He made the point that the committee was completely made up of ‘Remainers’ with “vested interests in trying to discredit the Brexit campaign” that “haven’t called any witnesses from the pro-EU Remain campaign.” The easiest way to discredit something in the current climate of course is to link it to Russia, in any way possible.
Medium multi-purpose helicopters ‘Mi-8s’ along with larger gunships ‘Mi-24s’ can be seen flying alongside the Baltic Sea coastline and later hitting ground targets with guns and missiles. According to the Defense Ministry, they also trained in evading enemy fire, and completed over 30 flights during the drill.
The helicopters are part of the Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet, which is tasked with securing the nation’s western borders.
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The overall aid for the 314 settlers reached about $500,000 for various needs in farming, like the purchase of agricultural machinery, buying cattle or fodder, the government of Sakhalin Region said.
The Russian government is also seeking to build infrastructure in the areas where the land is given out. There are plans to allocate about $15 million in the next three years to build transport and energy infrastructure.
In the Sakhalin Region alone, more than 7,000 plots of land have been freely distributed to Russians willing to resettle. The program is much greater and also includes the Far East regions of Russia like Yakutia, Kamchatka, Chukotka, Primorye, Khabarovsk, Amur, Magadan, and the Jewish Autonomous Regions.
The land can be used for any lawful purpose, but the new owners cannot rent, sell, or give the land away for five years. Foreigners are also eligible to use the land, but the registration of full property rights is only possible after the recipient becomes a naturalized citizen.
The free land program in Russia’s Far East could be expanded to other regions as well. “Forty-three million hectares of farmland alone are not used for their intended purpose. These are huge, just huge land reserves,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section
Ben Rhodes, one of President Obama’s top national security advisers, acknowledged “we should have done more” to call attention to Russia’s information war during the 2016 election, noting that a much-heralded October statement from the U.S. intelligence community failed to even address a major part of the Russian attack.
“If you look at the October statement from the intelligence community, it doesn’t say anything about fake news,” Rhodes said in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast Skullduggery. “All it talks about is that the Russians hacked and release some of the material, which I think was only a small piece of their information war. … My own view is we could have done more and said more certainly about the information war and fake news dissemination.”
At the same time, Rhodes sharply criticized Facebook for not taking more aggressive steps to block Russian trolls from manipulating its platform and sharing information with the U.S. government.
“And frankly, I don’t think Facebook has had anywhere near the interaction with the government and frankly the scrutiny that is necessary to say, Look, it’s not enough to just mouth words about this,” Rhodes said. “Having your platform essentially hijacked for the purposes of a foreign adversary living in information boards is something we need to deal with just as aggressively as we dealt with ISIS using social media. And I don’t see that happening yet either.”
Rhodes’ comments — a rare on-the-record admission of a lapse by a senior Obama official — came during a discussion of his new book, “The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House.” The book recounts Rhodes’s role as a speechwriter and senior adviser throughout the Obama presidency, complete with fly-on-the-wall accounts of deliberations over the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal, the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and other episodes.
But in its chapter on the Obama response to the Russian attack on the election, Rhodes makes clear he bristled when he was told he was excluded from National Security Council deliberations in the summer of 2016 — purportedly because he was the White House’s designated liaison to the Clinton campaign. When he was told by his boss, Susan Rice, that he couldn’t participate in the debate over Russia, “I walked downstairs to my office and sank into my chair,” Rhodes writes in his book. “For eight years, I’d worked my way up to the place where I thought I’d always be in the room and now I was being kept out of the most important conversation of all. My mind raced with a mix of self-pity and self-blame.”
Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” by Yahoo News
But Rhodes suggested that his exclusion might have made a difference because he — as well as former State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki — had sought to combat how the Russians had manipulated social media during the country’s military intervention in Ukraine, flooding the world with bogus accounts of the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysian airlines Flight 17 and other developments during the crisis in that country.
Obama officials as well as the U.S. intelligence community failed to understand how the Russians were taking their playbook from the Ukraine crisis and now deploying it against the United States, Rhodes said.
“You learn in government who’s in the room kind of dictates what’s on the agenda, and not only was I not in the room,” Rhodes said during his Skullduggery interview, “nobody who focused on communications was in the room.” Instead, “our government kind of put [the Russian attack] in a box of cybersecurity. You know, they hacked something, they released it, we have to protect the election infrastructure.”
“So, I think it’s maybe not just me, but if somebody with that communication perspective had been in the room, there might’ve been more attention on this other set of capabilities that we had been living with from Ukraine for years, that they were deploying in the United States,” Rhodes said. “Because, essentially, they took their war machine that they built in Ukraine and just brought it to America in 2016.”
Whether calling more attention to the issue during the election would have made a difference is another question. When he later raised the issue with Obama directly, and told him, “We’re going to be criticized for not focusing on this,” Rhodes said the president downplayed the issue. “His belief was that, essentially, the Russians had found soft spots in our media and society such that, if we were calling that out, the people who consume that fake news aren’t going to listen to Obama anyway, Trump’s going to say it [the election] is rigged.”
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Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un got “on his hands and knees and begged” for a meeting with US President Donald Trump, suggesting a similar policy towards Palestinians.
Trump abruptly called off the meeting with a letter last month, leading to such reaction from Kim, Giuliani suggested at a conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal initially reported.
“Well, Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in,” he said.
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet on June 12 in Singapore.
Giuliani, who is an attorney for the president, recommended the Trump administration to adopt the same approach with Palestinians.
“They also said they were going to go to nuclear war with us, they were going to defeat us in a nuclear war,” Giuliani said. “We said we’re not going to have a summit under those circumstances.”
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(JTA) — Following a major Spanish city’s vote to boycott Israel, the leader of Spain’s third-largest party called the Jewish state a “criminal country” during an interview aired by a public television broadcaster.
Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of the Podemos far-left party, made the comment in an interview earlier this week on RTVE.
“We need to act more firmly on an illegal country like Israel,” said Iglesias Turrión, whose party in 2015 won 20 percent of the votes in the general election just one year after its creation.
Last week, a motion promoted by a local fraction of Podemos on the City Council of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, was passed declaring a boycott of Israel and Valencia a “Israeli apartheid-free zone.”
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(JTA) — In his historic 2016 run for president, Bernie Sanders was faulted for not having much of a foreign policy beyond reminding folks that his rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, had favored the Iraq War.
A key stumble in that campaign was a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News editorial board prior to the New York primary. The Daily News, then owned by Mort Zuckerman, wanted to hurt Sanders, and all it had to do was run the transcript in its entirety. Sanders was diffident, vague and not sure of his facts. He made a major error when he vastly overstated the number of Palestinians killed in the 2014 Hamas-Israel war, which got the Jewish candidate dinged by Jewish organizations.
The Independent senator from Vermont, 76, is considering another presidential run in 2020, and this time he’s making foreign policy a focus. Among issues where he has taken a lead: blasting President Donald Trump for pulling out of the Iran deal, calling for an end to support for Saudi Arabia in its bombing raids on Yemen — and offering tough criticism of Israel for how it’s responding to Palestinian protesters attempting to breach the fence with the Gaza Strip.
Sanders’ surprisingly effective challenge to Clinton as the flag bearer for the party’s left — he was the first Jewish candidate of a major party to win state primaries — and his focus on Israel is likely to spur more Israel-related debate within the party as the election approaches.
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President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko demanded the immediate release of Russian journalists arrested in Ukraine, the Kremlin press service said Saturday. “Particular attention was paid to humanitarian issues, including the exchange of detainees,” according to the statement. “Putin emphasized the need to immediately release Russian journalists arrested in Ukraine,” the Kremlin said. It added that “an agreement was made” that both countries’ Russian and Ukrainian human rights ombudspersons would visit Russian citizens who remain in custody in Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens detained in Russia.