The United States and Cuba have ended decades of cold war hostility by agreeing to normalise diplomatic and travel relations after 18 months of secret talks on prisoner releases brokered by the Vatican. The surprise breakthrough came after a 45-minute phone call between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro on Tuesday finalised the release of Alan Gross, a US government aid contractor held for five years in Cuba, which accused him of being a spy. But as he was dramatically flown back to the US on Wednesday accompanied by three congressmen, it became clear that a far larger deal had been agreed between the two countries, not just to release other prisoners and spies, but to restore ties between the countries that have been frozen since 1967.
The Russian Central Bank has seemingly lost control of the ruble, which lost more than 20% in just hours on Tuesday. Currency interventions and interest rates both have failed to save the ruble. The next major step could be limiting the cash flow. ● After the Russian ruble fell to 1998 lows on Monday, the Central Bank met late into the evening and hiked the main lending rate to 17 percent to offset the tailspin ruble. It worked- for about four hours, then the ruble against nosedived against the dollar, euro, and sterling. On November 10, the bank introduced the ruble's free floating policy- which meant it would stop directl financial support, and would instead let the markets guide it. Before that, the Central Bank tried interventions, and after burning through $80 billion in foreign reserves, the ruble still went bust. The markets took it to to new depths and lows. On Tuesday the euro nearly touched 100 rubles and the US dollar 80 rubles, both more than this time last year.
RT.com: Ruble tempest, tries to make ground after traumatic turmoil
Itar-Tass: Russia has resources, market instruments to rectify economic situation — Medvedev
Russia Insider: Sergey Glazyev Blasts Russia Central Bank in Economic Manifesto
Vineyard of the Saker: Sergei Glaziev: Stupidity Is Worse Than Theft
BNE: Russia Central Bank Is Protecting Foreign Reserves. That's Why It Can't Defend the Ruble
Zero Hedge: China, Russia Dump US Treasurys In October As Foreigners Sell Most US Stocks Since 2007
Itar-Tass: Russia’s Finance Ministry ready to sell $7 billion on market to prop up ruble
Andrea Peters ■ Russian ruble collapses amidst mounting social and political tensions
According to LifeSiteNews, a Catholic publication, the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association is charging UNICEF and WHO with sterilizing millions of girls and women under cover of an anti-tetanus vaccination program sponsored by the Kenyan government. The Kenyan government denies there is anything wrong with the vaccine, and says it is perfectly safe. The Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, however, saw evidence to the contrary, and had six different samples of the tetanus vaccine from various locations around Kenya sent to an independent laboratory in South Africa for testing. The results confirmed their worst fears: all six samples tested positive for the HCG antigen. The HCG antigen is used in anti-fertility vaccines, but was found present in tetanus vaccines targeted to young girls and women of childbearing age.
So there you have it, a real symbol of the holiday spirit: missiles; i.e. 'Holy War' ● A pretty spot-on metaphor for the American-Israeli relationship: U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro holding a menorah in the shape of the Iron Dome missile system. A State Department official emails to say that the menorah was presented to the ambassador at a staff holiday party. It was made with “an empty box of coffee capsules, an old VHS cassette, paper clips, and heavy-duty tape,” among other materials. By the looks of it, a lapel pin does double duty as a flag.
A news broadcast by German ZDF station on September 8 showed soldiers of the Ukraine Azov Battalion near Mariupol with Nazi symbols on their helmets. ● The Azov Battalion, ascribed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs is led and commanded by members of the neo-Nazi Social-National Assembly and its paramilitary wing “Patriots of Ukraine”. ZDF Moscow correspondent Bernhard Lichte used pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the “SS runes” of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps and another one with a swastika. The footage had been shot by Norwegian team from TV2 station. “We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,” Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the private television station, told NBC News. Norwegian TV station TV2 also broadcast the footage as part of a report on Norwegian volunteers going to fight in Ukraine (see here).
Harry J. Bentham ■ Ukraine: The great lie of our time || In Ukraine, the United States has carried out a total U-turn from supporting democracy to justifying military dictatorship. If nothing else does, this should prove to everyone that the United States is concerned least with democracy or freedom and most with installing dictatorial strongmen to back up its military dominance in each region.
At least 130 people, most of them students as young as 12, have been killed and at least 122 others injured in a Taliban seizure of a military-run school in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan, according to provincial authorities. ● The numbers of dead and injured may still rise as the casualties of the assault are counted. Some 500 students and teachers were in the Army Public School on Warsak Road at the time of the attack. Pakistan’s military said most of the civilians escaped, but some had been taken hostage by the assailants. According to media reports, as many as 10 militants dressed in Pakistani military uniforms entered the school compound on Tuesday at around noon. They torched a car at the site and proceeded with a raid on the facility. “
Seven to eight people attacked us, then an army soldier came to us and he asked [the] principal and teachers to take the children out of compound from the back gate. There were thousands [of] students in college. They were moved to auditorium, they can’t come out until the fight is ended,” Arshad Khan, a student at the school, told RT's Ruptly.
At least eight people have been killed in a US assassination drone strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nuristan along the Pakistani border. ● Security officials said on Tuesday that the attack was launched by pilotless aircraft firing missiles at a target in the Wanat Waygel district in Nuristan Province. According to local officials, the victims were Taliban militants. The US-led forces have increased their air raids against civilian areas in Afghanistan in recent months. The United States regularly uses drones for assassination strikes and spying missions in Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border. The Taliban militant group has vowed to escalate the attacks on Afghan forces and US-led troops, their bases, diplomatic missions, and vehicle convoys before the foreign forces exit the country at the end of 2014.
Tom Carter ■ This is the first of three articles summarizing the contents of the unclassified executive summary of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report on the CIA torture program, released last week. The US Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s “enhanced interrogation program” exposes the CIA as a globe-spanning enterprise of criminality, deceit, and violence—as well as rank incompetence, petty intriguing, and porno-sadistic depravity.
Rick Noack ■ In a country that is still haunted by World War II, the protests have come as a shock to many politicians and left-leaning activists. In an interview on Monday, Germany's justice minister Heiko Maas called the movement "a shame for Germany" and warned of a new "level of escalation of agitation against immigrants and refugees." About 6,500 human rights campaigners joined two separate counter-demonstrations on Monday that were organized in opposition to the anti-foreigner movement. The protests have revealed a deep divide between many citizens and their political elite. Half of Germany sympathizes with the anti-Islam protesters, according to a ZEIT ONLINE-YouGov poll that was released on Monday. Supporters can be found all over the country, but protests in western Germany have so far failed to attract large numbers of supporters. In eastern Germany, however, the rallies against immigrants have quickly gained steam – despite the fact that only few foreigners currently live there.
Mike Head ■ A 16-hour police siege of an inner Sydney café culminated in a full-scale assault by para-military commandos just after 2 a.m., leaving two hostages dead, as well as the lone hostage-taker. The bloody outcome also left many unanswered questions about the entire incident, including the fatal decision to storm the building. Police and security officials kept reporters far away from the scene throughout the siege, making it impossible to view what happened, but long-distance footage showed heavily-armed units storming the building, firing stun grenades and semi-automatic weapons. Just minutes earlier, at least 5 of the 17 hostages fled the building, as did 5 last night. Soon after the siege was ended, Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a statement commending the “courage and professionalism” of the police and other emergency services involved. Yet the official justifications offered for sending in commandos, resulting in three deaths, were full of contradictions.
Peter Symonds ■ Without providing any justification, the Australian government yesterday seized on an isolated incident involving a deeply disturbed individual in the Sydney CBD to activate the entire “counter-terrorism” apparatus and impose a state of siege in the centre of the country’s largest city—with tragic consequences. What would ordinarily have been dealt with as a serious, but relatively straightforward, police matter—an armed gunman taking hostages in a city café—was escalated into a major national crisis by the intervention of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with the full support of the opposition Labor Party and the Greens, state governments and the entire media. [...] No rational reason has been offered for this massive police operation. Police determined relatively quickly that the hostage-taker was Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee well-known to police. He had no connection to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Qaeda or any other Islamic extremist organisation. He was a troubled individual, with a history of erratic actions, on bail for alleged involvement in the murder of his ex-wife. Likewise, no coherent explanation has been given for the decision to storm the café in the early hours of this morning. The NSW police commissioner initially declared that officers charged into the building in response to shots heard inside, then declined to repeat his statement. The outcome is that the hostage-taker is dead, along with two innocent people—the café manager and a mother of three—and four others are injured.
xymphora ■ There is almost nothing new in the Torture Report, except perhaps for demonstrating how obsessed the CIA is with the male butt. I wonder if they have some kind of 'fruit machine' to determine whether someone is qualified to join the CIA interrogation squad. Don't you know your queen? [...] We could even go further back to the Executive Intelligence Review News Service, 2005: "DIA Proof Of Cheney's Lies Released" (based on the CIA's President's Daily Briefing of September 21, 2001, before Ibn Shaykh al-Libi had been captured and interrogated by the Americans, and before his rendition to Egypt, where torture created his testimony of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection). This means that the intelligence community knew the stories they were creating using torture were lies. The newest revelation, separate from the Torture Report, is that Levin has details from the classified March 2003 - just before the American attack on Iraq started - CIA cable warning that the allegation that Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague was false. Ironically, it appears that Brennan has released this in order to attempt to protect the CIA's reputation by emphasizing that Bush/Cheney/Powell had been given due warning from the CIA that the propaganda basis for the American attack on Iraq was a lie.
The Central Bank of Russia raised interest rates following a record fall in the ruble during trading on Monday. ● The Russian Central Bank announced an immediate hike rise in interest rates to 17% on Monday night in order to protect the currency after the ruble made rapid losses during trading on Monday. The rise comes after a previous announcement made by the Bank on Friday which raised rates from 10.5% to 11.5%. It is the largest single increase since 1998. "This decision is aimed at limiting substantially increased ruble depreciation risks and inflation risks," the Central Bank said in a statement posted on its website. The announcement led to a jump in the value of the ruble on Tuesday morning on the Moscow Exchange. At 10.26 the dollar was trading at 61.47 rubles, down 2.97 cents, while the Euro was 76.50 rubles, down 2.23 cents. The figures represent a strengthening of the currency after Monday's fall, when the dollar rose above the 60 ruble mark for the first time. At close on Monday on the Moscow Exchange the US dollar was 64.45 rubles, up 6.27 rubles, while the euro was valued at 78.87, up 6.59 rubles.
Bloomberg: Congress Sends Obama Measure Pushing for More Russia Sanctions
RT.com: Slumping ruble should push Russia to ‘live in new reality’ – Bank chief
Itar-Tass: Central Bank chief says Russian ruble fundamentally undervalued
(Translation: Alice, S, Gideon, Marina. Editing: D.M. Pennington, Michael, Peter, Heather, Bernie, Patricia, Tom, Kristin.) Why did the Central Bank raise the interest rate and let the ruble flow? ● Another increase in key interest rates on loans issued by the Bank of Russia, for the purpose of refinancing commercial banks, made loans completely inaccessible for the majority of enterprises of the real sector of the economy. When the average profitability of the manufacturing industry is 7.5-8%, credit issued at rates of 10% or higher cannot be used by most businesses, either for investment or for replenishing working capital. Such decisions cut off the real economy, with the exception of some sectors of the oil, gas, and chemical-metallurgical sector, from credit issued by the State. ● Prior to that, the consumer lending boom drove millions of citizens into a 10-trillion ruble debt and the real economy lost the savings of the population, becoming a net debtor. Also, the Government withdrew pension savings from the economy. Sanctions imposed by NATO countries deprive the economy of the bulk of external credit. Most businesses have only their own funds to finance working capital and investments, which is clearly not enough to provide even simple reproduction, never mind an expanded one. The amount of profit of enterprises this year (taking into account the fall in the prices of export goods) will be no more than 10% of the required rate of investment of 25-30% of GDP. It’s no surprise that as a result of such decisions amidst the economic recovery in almost all countries of the world this year, Russia is experiencing an unexpected decline in investment and production. ● According to the Central Bank’s report, On the key rate of the Bank of Russia, October 31, 2014, its decision to raise interest rates was made because of external circumstances: “In September-October the external environment has changed significantly: oil prices dropped significantly while there has been a tightening of sanctions imposed by individual countries to a number of large Russian companies. The ruble has been weakening in this environment, which, against the backdrop of August’s restrictions on import of certain food products, led to a further acceleration of growth of consumer prices”. To support its previous decision to raise interest rates, the Central Bank argued that “inflationary risks had increased, including rising geopolitical tensions and their possible impact on the dynamics of the course of the national currency, as well as changes in the tax and tariff policy.” In the same policy statement, the Central Bank explained its decision to raise interest rates by “a stronger than expected effect of exchange rate dynamics on consumer prices, rising inflation expectations, as well as the unfavorable trends in the market for certain goods.” ● This reasoning does not stand up to criticism.
Obama decision to withhold 'thousands' of pictures of prisoner torture abuse to be challenged in court
Photos allegedly depict soldiers raping and sexually abusing prisoners. ● Thousands of images depicting U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan may be released this week following the Senate's 'torture report'. The images, part of a collection from 203 investigations into detainee abuse by U.S. military, are said to depict horrifying methods of torture. One photo reportedly shows an American soldier raping a female prisoner, while other pictures allegedly depict sexual assaults on prisoners with truncheons, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Some of the photographs were initially set to be released in 2009, but were blocked after President Obama backtracked, stating that it could pose a safety risk to troops on the ground. In May 2009, Obama claimed publishing the pictures would inflame anti-American feeling in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A Victoria police officer is under investigation after a 76-year-old man accused him of using excessive force during a traffic stop. ● The officer, Nathanial Robinson, 23, was placed on administrative duty Friday pending the outcome of an internal investigation into whether he violated the use of force policy when he tased Victoria resident Pete Vasquez, said Chief J.J. Craig. The officer was hired after graduating from the police academy two years ago. The incident happened Thursday after Robinson saw an expired inspection sticker on the car Vasquez was driving back to Adam's Auto Mart, 2801 N. Laurent St., where he helps with mechanical work.
ISIS™ nabs a chocolate shop in Sydney, right across from Channel 7! ■ As of 10 PM Central time on the 14th (which is the 15th in Australia) an "Islamic terrorist" has taken over a Lindt chocolate shop in Sydney Australia and held 50 people hostage. But there are serious problems with this story. The first problem? A sign the hostages reportedly were forced to hold up against the windows which read "We sacrifice ourselves for you, O Mohamed" was shown via a blurry photograph and had incomplete text. This would be expected of a hack doing this, no Muslim would get the text wrong. The second serious problem is that this is purportedly an ISIS action. But it appears to be a lone gunman doing it all, which reeks to high heaven of a pre programmed CIA drone doing this according to what ever script was washed into his head especially with the sign being apparently half baked in appearance. The third serious problem? As of 10 PM CST, absolutely nothing about this has been released on anything other than twitter. Nada on Drudge, CNN or anywhere else.
Stephen Lendman ■ Knee-Jerk Reaction to Sydney Hostage Siege
AP/Big Story: Police say Sydney cafe hostage situation over
Sputnik News: Sydney Opera Evacuated After Reports of Suspicious Package
Itar-Tass: Five hostages escape from cafe in Sydney, negotiations underway
PressTV: Five hostages escape from Australia cafe
‘They need to know that they’ll run into severe trouble’ if they enter Europe. Wolfgang Kaleck represented Khaled El Masri, who was tortured by the CIA. ● A leading German human rights lawyer has called on prosecutors across Europe to “get active” and prepare to seize any CIA agents and US officials involved in torture who enter their territories. Wolfgang Kaleck said the US Senate committee report on CIA torture was giving new impetus to European resolve to hold those in positions of power responsible for the use of unacceptable interrogation techniques. “We’re preparing reams of dossiers, and demanding of prosecutors that they do the same for those who are named in the report and those known as the higher-ups who directed and conducted this system,” said Kaleck, the director of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin. “If these people enter European territory, they need to know that they’ll run into severe trouble,” he told the Guardian. The Senate intelligence committee concluded that the CIA misled the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the public over a torture programme, launched in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, which was both ineffective and more brutal than the agency disclosed.
The BRussells Tribunal ■ Torture: Accountability - YES. Impunity - NO (Petition)
Matthew Schofield ■ Yet no apology: CIA’s mistaken detention destroyed German man’s life
RT.com: Cheney defends CIA torture, calls interrogators heroes
PressTV: UK parliament inquiry mulls summoning Blair, Straw
The Daily Mail: Now put Blair and Straw on trial for torture
Patrick Martin ■ Cheney on CIA torture: “I’d do it again in a minute”
Washington's Blog ■ US Government Officials Admit: We’ll Torture Again, Unless You Prosecute Us
Robert Fisk ■ Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
RT.com: 'Stripped naked, kept in solitary': Manning tortured like terrorist
American investigative historian Eric Zuesse has said that the United States is using the crisis in Ukraine to wage an all-out war against Russia. ● “Washington isn’t out to help the Ukrainian people; it’s solely using Ukraine as a launching-pad for WWIII against Russia,” he wrote in an article published by Global Research on Sunday. The famous author explained that President Barack Obama was expected to sign the “congressional authorization for war against Russia” and the Pentagon was shipping “military supplies into Ukraine for use against Ukraine’s ethnic Russians.” Zuesse also noted that Moscow would respond to Washington’s measures against the Kremlin after a leading Russian parliamentarian said Americans wanted to turn Ukraine into a fighting platform against his country. The historian finally urged the American people to question US authorities about the reason that they voted to approve sending weapons to Ukraine.
Both Christian and Islamic Eschatology provide startling and dramatic evidence of a Russian tryst with destiny. It remains an abiding mystery that the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism both seem to be either unaware of this subject, or lack interest in it. ● Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) prophesied that the Malhama (i.e., Armageddon) will be followed by a conquest of Constantinople. The Ottoman (so-called) Islamic Empire waged unjust war on RUM (i.e., the Eastern Orthodox Christian world) for almost 500 years in a futile effort to sabotage that End-time alliance of Muslims with RUM which will conquer Constantinople. ● The conquest of Constantinople indicates that Russia will survive the Malhama and that the Russian navy is destined to play a significant role in the liberation of the Holy Land from Zionist godlessness, decadence and oppression. ● We have built the foundation of this lecture on the Qur'an. When Ahadith are in harmony with that foundation from the Qur'an, they are embraced and they then expand our understanding. But when they are in disharmony, or in conflict, with that foundation from the Qur'an, then such Ahadith cannot be preferred to the foundation derived from the Qur'an.
Stephen Lendman ■ The bubble of all bubbles. A house of cards waiting to collapse, says Paul Craig Roberts. A great unraveling looms. America's economy based on market manipulation. Rigging things one way. Smoke and mirrors deception. Money printing madness. Privatizing profits. Socializing losses. Upside down reality. Shifting wealth in unprecedented amounts. More than what's comprehensible. To monied interests. From ordinary folks. Stealing them blind. Creating ruler/serf societies. Notably in America. Enforced with police state harshness.
Paul Craig Roberts ■ On the Brink of War and Economic Collapse
Russia will take counter measures if Washington imposes new sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday. ● The U.S. Congress has readied new sanctions on Russian weapons companies and investors in the country's high-tech oil projects, but U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to sign a corresponding bill into law. "We will not be able to leave that without an answer," Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying. He did not say what form of counter-measure Moscow might take.
Patrick L. Smith ■ These Are Lies The New York Times Wants You to Believe About Russia
Norway’s prime minister and members of parliament may be subject to secret surveillance by means of fake mobile base stations in the centre of Oslo. ● Investigations made by Norwegian daily Aftenposten during the past weeks have revealed a number of fake base stations on several locations, in and around the Norwegian capital. They were detected around the parliament building Stortinget, near several ministries and the prime minister’s residence in Parkveien. Conversations and data may be monitored - The fake mobile base stations, known as IMSI-catchers, may be used for listening in on conversations and monitoring all kinds of mobile activity in the areas affected. The person running the equipment may in principle register anyone entering parliament or the government offices. The operator can easily select certain persons for eavesdropping. National Security Authority also found «something» - After being alerted by Aftenposten the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) started their own investigation. On Friday they confirmed that they had found traces of «something».
Aftenposten: Stortinget og statsministeren overvåkes - Video
Alex Lantier ■ The defense of CIA torture by Marine Le Pen, the president of France’s neo-fascist National Front and 2017 French presidential hopeful, testifies to the bankruptcy and criminality of Europe’s political establishment. ● Asked about the US Senate’s torture report on BFM-TV, she said the United States should stop “giving morality lessons to the whole world,” but defended the CIA: “I am not going to condemn this ... On such subjects, it is pretty easy to come on television and say ‘Oh my God, that’s awful.’” Asked if one could use torture, she replied: “Yes, yes, of course, it has been used historically. I think people who take care of terrorists and therefore of getting information out of them that saves civilian lives are responsible people.”
Le Monde: Torture: les propos de Marine Le Pen, dans la lignée de son père
DW: CIA morale 'deeply hurt' following Senate report
Malaysia Insider: US may have had ‘black site’ in Romania, says ex spy chief
The Guardian: US hid UK links in CIA torture report at request of British spy agencies
Wayne Madsen ■ U.S. Senate Torture Report Exposes Eastern European Torture Lackeys of Washington
Melvin A. Goodman ■ Torture Report Exposes Sadism and Lies
Scott McPherson ■ Torture Report Reveals Brutality, Dishonesty
The UN says the death toll from fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine has exceeded 4,600 in nearly eight months. ● The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Saturday the conflict has left more than 300 people dead in less than a month, taking the overall toll to 4,634. The statement said some 10,243 people have been wounded since the fighting erupted in mid-April. Moreover, it said, more than 1.1 million people have since been displaced. According to the statement, as many as 488,466 people have fled to Russia. It also said that some 5.2 million people live in war-torn areas. In its last report on November 20, the UN rights office put the number of fatalities at 4,317.
Washington and New York City are getting ready for what is expected to become the largest protests over police brutality towards black Americans in series of rallies that recently hit the US. ● Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets of Washington on Saturday in protest of the killings of unarmed black Americans by the US police. ● In New York City, a well-known anarchist group Anonymous is staging a so-called "Day of Anger", calling for the "Millions March" to hit the streets in the city center. "A million would be nice, at the moment we have 45,000 people RSVP’d on the Facebook page. One million would be amazing, but optimistic. One of the schools in Massachusetts is sending three buses down so we’re hoping the numbers are bigger," co-organizer Umaara Elliott told Sputnik.
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