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feria-enemigo-21019Raúl Capote is a Cuban. But not just any Cuban. In his youth, he was caught up by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They offered him an infinite amount of money to conspire in Cuba. But then something unexpected for the US happened. Capote, in reality, was working for Cuban national security. From then on, he served as a double agent. Learn his story, by way of an exclusive interview with the Chávez Vive magazine, which he gave in Havana:

Q. What was the process by which you were caught up?

It started with a process of many years, several years of preparation and capture. I was leader of a Cuban student movement which, at that time, gave rise to an organization, the Saiz Brothers Cultural Association, a group of young creators, painters, writers, artists. I worked in a city in southern-central Cuba, Cienfuegos, which had characteristics of great interest to the enemy, because it was a city in which an important industrial pole was being built at the time. They were building an electrical centre, the only one in Cuba, and there were a lot of young people working on it. For that reason, it was also a city that had a lot of young engineers graduated in the Soviet Union. We’re talking of the last years of the 1980s, when there was that process called Perestroika. And many Cuban engineers, who arrived in Cuba at that time, graduated from there, were considered people who had arrived with that idea of Perestroika. For that reason, it was an interesting territory, where there were a lot of young people. And the fact that I was a youth leader of a cultural organization, which dealt with an important sector of the engineers who were interested in the arts, became of interest to the North Americans, and they began to frequent the meetings we attended. They never identified themselves as enemies, or as officials of the CIA.

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1369987959_usaidOur government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people. Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.
The USAID routinely makes “incentive” payments to lawmakers to pass legislation or enact policies throughout the world. Even policies that benefit their own people, like granting rights to women or protecting the democratic process, are secured by greasing the palms of corrupt officials. In doing so, the United States perpetuates the rampant corruption in these countries and enriches officials who will only act if it benefits them personally.

Consider the $15 million forked over to Afghan lawmakers in 2013 to get them to pass a law prohibiting violence against women. Remember these payments were made at the very time that the CIA was being hammered for publicly assuring Karzai that his regular delivery of suitcases of cash would continue despite an outcry from critics. USAID defended buying lawmakers by telling Congress that the lawmakers would not have protected women if they were not paid off. Such a law would be have deemed “unpalatable” without the effective bribes.

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shutterstock_111482507-600x401When I first began investigating the minimum wage a couple of years ago, one of my early surprises was its sharp decline across the decades, having fallen by roughly one-third in real value since its 1968 peak.

This drop was greatly magnified when we considered the economic growth of American society given that our per capita GDP had roughly doubled during that same period, meaning that the minimum wage had declined by almost 70% relative to average income. A 70% drop in a crucial parameter of our wage structure is quite remarkable and clearly explains why lower wage workers could generally support their families a few decades ago, but today subsist in desperate poverty despite massive government social welfare subsidies. I emphasized some of these statistics in my December 2013 New York Times piece on the subject, pointing out that even raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would merely make up a fraction of this long lost economic ground.

I was hardly the first person to note these remarkable facts, and earlier that same year Sen. Elizabeth Warren had pointed out that if the minimum wage had merely kept pace with the growth in average per capita income, it would have reached a rate close to $22 per hour. Given such figures, the increases to $9 or $10.10 advocated by the Democratic leadership in Congress stood revealed as the paltry and pusillanimous goals that they were.

The devastating power of this simple economic point is easily apparent to the business lobbyists tasked with blocking an increase, and they have regularly suggested that this argument is totally misleading because it ignores that the gains in national economic output have hardly been uniform across all sectors. The doubling in real per capita GDP has been driven almost entirely by increases at the high end, in sectors such as computer software, finance, and biotechnology, with little of it due to changes in the value of the work produced by janitors and waitresses. They argue that wages must follow productivity and if the output of nannies is roughly unchanged from forty years ago, it is absurd to expect their real hourly wages to double or triple. On the face of it, this rejoinder seems quite telling, and I have never seen an effective rebuttal provided in the numerous articles and columns by liberal wage advocates I have read on the subject.

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531347-01-08After weeks of rumors and unsubstantiated information, a royal decree has put an end to countless political rumours. Bandar bin Sultan is out of the picture, and this time for good. It is a pivotal occasion, which sheds new light on the past and opens the door to speculation about the future.

“Upon his request:” This phrase not only terminates Bandar bin Sultan’s job as chief of Saudi General Intelligence, it also marks the end of his political career. The royal order did not come as a routine administrative procedure, instead it was part of the fierce power-sharing disagreements between the various factions of the House of Saud.

The royal decree appointed General Youssef bin Ali al-Idrissi to carry out the duties of the general intelligence chief. The decree suggests that Prince Sultan’s faction in the royal monarchy is completely out of the power equation. Bandar bin Sultan and Khaled bin Sultan, who had been relieved from his position as deputy defence minister earlier, will be followed by current deputy Defence Minister Salman bin Sultan. He is getting ready to hand over his position to one of the sons of Prince Salman, the crown prince and defence minister.

Frequently the man who carried out dirty jobs, Bandar bin Sultan surrounded himself with strict regulations in relation to the royal family and its allies, especially the US. It should be remembered that Bandar was absent from major political decisions on more than four occasions since being appointed as general secretary of the National Security Council in 2006. His absence each time was due to a conflict within the royal family or the failure of a mission warranting the suspension of his political activity. His return in July 2012, alongside former CIA Director David Petraeus, was his final bet on the success of his political future.

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simonovich-300x191Portions of the UN’s forthcoming human rights report on Crimea, to be released Tuesday, have been leaked to Foreign Policy magazine, and its findings are far from objective. Indicating yet another instance of institutional bias against the Russian Federation and its interests, Ivan Simonovic, the UN’s Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, has filled the so-called report with bias, misleading reporting, important omissions, one-sided analysis, and in some cases, outright false statements. Considering his history of “biased, prejudiced and nonobjective assessment”, this should not come as a surprise, but it is surprising that such opinions are institutionalized into a nominally neutral organization’s reporting. A brief overview of the leaked document will prove that certain UN “representatives” are more emblematic of NATO’s information objectives than they are of objectivity.

Foreign Policy’s exclusive report on the document begins by addressing supposed Russian “propaganda” activities in the run-up to the referendum. Through selective omission, it neglects to mention that Russia has the international right to broadcast its media to Ukraine, and when Crimea was part of that country, it was no exception. It may be that Simonovic has taken to the trend of calling any media coming from Russia “propaganda” because Russia’s “chief propagandist”, Dmitry Kiselyov, has been the first journalist to ever be sanctioned by the EU as punishment for exercising his right to free speech (which is supposedly also a “European value”). The report conveniently forgets to mention that Ukraine has banned select Russian media from broadcasting into the country, a move that set a precedent for Lithuania and Latvia’s later censorships.

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James_F_JeffreyA former U.S. diplomat and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, James Jeffrey, is calling for U.S. ground troops to be injected into the brewing civil war in Ukraine. Jeffery is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a beltway think tank controlled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and associated with the neocon wing of the Republican Party.

“The best way to send Putin a tough message and possibly deflect a Russian campaign against more vulnerable NATO states is to back up our commitment to the sanctity of NATO territory with ground troops, the only military deployment that can make such commitments unequivocal,” Jeffrey writes for The Washington Post, an establishment newspaper often used by neocons to push pro-war propaganda and the concept of American exceptionalism, the philosophical basis for imperialism and warmongering.
Jeffrey believes a relatively small number of U.S. ground troops deployed to Eastern European nations would result in a generalized mustering of troops in those countries. This would likely result in heightened tension and the possibility of confrontation with Russia.

Few in Congress have suggested sending troops into Ukraine. Arizona Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, however, have suggested supporting the coup government by sending weapons.

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541898-schapelle-corby-039-s-backers-and-stabbers-300x218Six people, including four employees at the San Diego International Airport, appeared in US Federal Court on the morning of March 18. They were accused of smuggling illicit drugs through airport security at Lindbergh Field. Four baggage handlers from the international airport were charged with smuggling cocaine and methamphetamine. They were able to pass the drugs through security screenings. They were arrested in a federal agent sweep after years of trafficking drugs through the airport.

In another unrelated incident, on April 4, three former airport employees of King Airport, in St Thomas, were sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of drug trafficking out of the island airport. According to the federal indictment, the airport employees used their positions at the airport to transport cocaine. One of them was a baggage handler. He marked checked luggage containing narcotics with coloured scarves to facilitate the baggage passing through security.
On March 27, journalist Renee Viellaris in Queensland’s Courier Mail reported that a crime syndicate “exploited serious security failures at major domestic airports to fly more than two tonnes of cannabis on domestic flights bound for Brisbane.”

Viellaris reported, “Police will allege that since November, a cashed-up crime gang packed about 22kg of cannabis into everyday baggage boarding about 40 flights from Victoria to Brisbane.”

Viellaris reported that Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss “refused to comment”, dropping a cone of silence much in line with the ten year long silence on alleged airport corruption since the arrest of Schapelle Corby.

More than ten years ago former Australian customs officer and investigator, Allan Kessing found huge security breaches and rife airport corruption and drugs trafficking at Sydney airport, and he argued that this was indicative of all major Australian airports. Mr Kessing told me that at the time of the arrest of Ms Corby he believed her release would only be a “formality” as Australian Governments were fully aware of the extensiveness of drugs trafficking through our airports. He believed that the Australian Government would scrub up with the truth but this was not to be. Months after the arrest of Ms Corby, and with the Government’s silence now solid, Mr Kessing’s 2002 and 2003 Sydney Airport security reviews found their way to media outlets. In an unprecedented first for Australia, Mr Kessing was charged and prosecuted for the “leaking” of his two reviews.

Mr Kessing’s reviews had been “suppressed” so not to damage commercial imperatives associated with the lucrative industry that is passenger travel. Mr Kessing said that more than 50,000 passengers fly out each day from Sydney Airport alone.

When I first began to inquire and report on Schapelle Corby’s predicament I wrote, “The story of Ms Corby threatens to draw attention to myriad layers of corruption – corruption of process, Government corruption, corruption within our airports and within Customs. A royal commission should be held into the Australian Government and of its agencies into their conduct in all matters relating to Schapelle Corby.”

I have now dug so deep into finding out the truth that the statement you just read can no longer capture the despicability of a human life thrown to the wolves, her reputation pilloried at every turn.

“Truth is no defence,” said Mr Kessing. Mr Kessing’s reports are a must-read and his interview with me, a must-listen.
The Interview with Mr Kessing – here:

Ms Corby was let down by the Australian Government which did not come to her defence, nor admitted to our nation’s corrupted airport services. The Indonesian Government had wanted Australia to own up to and then do more about remedying airport services corruption, which would mean less illicit drugs trafficked into Indonesia. Ms Corby was victimised by political expediency, but such bartering of human dignity and even life, by one’s own Government, shames to no end our Government. No paltry excuses such as national security, geopolitical reasons, nor the line of Indonesian ‘sovereignty’ wash. Every Prime Minister, Minister, senior bureaucrat, every head of any relevant Government, who knew of the extent of the rife airport corruption and drugs trafficking and who has not spoken up should be who should have languished in Kerobokan, till they sorted their moral compass.

Last year, WikiLeaks Publishing Organisation released ‘The Global Intelligence Files’ – over five million emails – from the Texan-based global intelligence analytic giant Stratfor. One of the emails was from Stratfor intelligence tactical analyst, Marko Primorac.

“Moving marijuana through international borders is big business.” Throughout the email Mr Primorac reports that random passengers’ luggage are picked out to stash illicit substances – unknowing drug mules. Mr Primorac reports that this practice is commonplace throughout airports.

In reference to Ms Corby, Mr Primorac stated, “Several baggage agents can work together to ensure packages are placed in an unsuspecting mule’s luggage. These smuggling teams place packages in luggage belonging to uninvolved passengers like Schapelle Corby, who did not even know the marijuana was in her bag. Unscrupulous? Yes. However, this is how millions of pounds of marijuana get shipped in the US and around the globe. It’s bad news if the unwitting mule gets jail time. If the pot is intercepted, as it was in Schapelle Corby’s case or if the mule figures out what’s going on and keeps the goods.”

Last year some members of a small crime syndicate were sentenced for drugs trafficking through Sydney Airport. One of those sentenced was a corrupted Sydney Airport customs officer, Paul Katralis. Little did he know that the Australian Federal Police would catch him out in Operation Mocha. But this sting to catch him out is only one straw of the bale according to Mr Kessing and to Mr Primorac and according to other independent reviews. In 2004, on the day Ms Corby went through Sydney’s airports – domestic and international, the NSW Crimes Commission anti-drugs surveillance drugs squad were at Sydney Airport, with Operation Mocha in place, waiting to bust a cocaine shipment from South America. The airport baggage handlers were spooked and did not retrieve the cannabis planted in Ms Corby’s luggage at Brisbane Domestic. The head of Operation Mocha, was disgraced NSW Crimes Commission assistant-director Mark Standen, now jailed for up to 20 years for drugs trafficking. To note, Operation Mocha missed catching out the cocaine shipment from South America!

Then there is the United Nations 2007 World Drugs Report. Mr Kessing said to me, “In my 15 years as a customs officer I have never heard of any report before or since Schapelle Corby of anyone trying to traffick cannabis to Indonesia. It’s like sending coals to Newcastle, it just does not happen.” The UN report found the average Australian street price per gram of cannabis at $26.20 USD while the average Indonesia street price per gram of cannabis was reported at 20 cents USD. That is a $26 USD differential. 4.2 kilograms of cannabis was found in Ms Corby’s boogie board bag. The Australian street value would have been $110,040 USD while the Indonesian street value would have been $840 USD. That the news media bypasses this vital fact should disturb everyone.

The UN report includes the conclusion, “Sale of cannabis purchased in Australia would be a profitable business model (approx. 423 per cent return on investment) whereas the same business model applied to Indonesia would result in substantial losses and would be unsustainable as a business.”

It is a national disgrace and shame that there is no public national inquiry into the extensiveness of corruption and drugs trafficking through Australian airports. It is long overdue, not just for Ms Corby but also for what is right in the common good.

The Australian Crimes Commission should stand up and do its bit and publicly expose the extensiveness of the corruption within airports and the fact of unwitting drug mules. The Australian Crimes Commission should also expose every Australian Government parliamentarian, past and present, and every major agency’s high-end officers and commissioners who knew of the extensiveness of the airport corruption, and then indict them for suppressing this vital public interest information.

Министр иностранных дел России Сергей ЛавровIf Kiev uses force in the southeast of Ukraine, a four-party meeting on the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis will be foiled, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone on Saturday, April 12, Itar-Tass reports.

Lavrov warned Kerry that “if Kiev’s threats to use force against people driven to despair in the southeast are carried out, prospects for further cooperation on the Ukrainian issue, including a planned four-party meeting in Geneva, will be foiled,” he said.

“The secretary of state voiced concern over protests in the south-eastern regions of Ukraine, stating that this is a result of ‘incitement’ and nearly direct interference by Russia. However he could not give any concrete facts and only repeated that Russia must remove its people from the southeast,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Lavrov drew Kerry’s attention one more time to the fact that “the acute political crisis in Ukraine in general and in its south-eastern regions in particular was caused by the present Kiev authorities’ failure to take into account the legitimate needs and interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population,” the ministry said.

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s22645Two war-mongering women who represent the West’s foreign policy apparatus, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and EU official and onetime British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament activist Catherine Ashton, have seen their secret agenda for Ukraine revealed as a result of leaked phone conversations. Ashton, whose phone conversation with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was the second revealing phone call to be leaked, holds the lofty titles of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union and the quite feudalistic and meaningless Baroness Ashton of Upholland.

Ashton’s supporters have an exaggerated view of her accomplishments. As the EU’s de facto foreign minister, Ashton was caught on video in 2012 at the EU’s Brussels headquarters in a fluster because neither she nor her British envoy to the Balkans, Robert Cooper, knew what the president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, looked like moments prior to their official welcoming ceremony for him in Brussels. Ashton is married to former British journalist Peter Kellner. Kellner is an executive of the British polling company YouGov, which feeds not only political polling numbers but also polls on favorites to win on such inane British television programs as Pop Idol and X-Factor to a panting infotainment media.

In a February 26 phone call between Paet and Ashton, the Estonian foreign minister told her that Ukrainian protesters and policemen were shot by the same snipers. Paet visited Kiev on February 25 during violent clashes said to be between protesters and government security forces on Maidan Square. It is now apparent that the violence was fueled by snipers and other provocateurs, including neo-Nazi gangs and foreign mercenaries, on the payroll of the Ukrainian political opposition.

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CHINA_TURKMENISTAN_PIPELINE_(399_x_239)The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized in his letter to European leaders that there will be an increasing risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine’s territory if Gazprom has to cease gas deliveries to Ukraine for lack of payment. Instead of returning to a reasonable dialogue with the Kremlin, Washington’s European lackeys will use the opportunity to argue for turning to other gas suppliers. Although it will take years before the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) opens the Southern Gas Corridor, some people in Brussels are convinced that the Southern Gas Corridor is the solution and refuse to give up on the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. Never mind that this project could trigger a military conflict with Russia. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are improving their relationship for the sake of the Trans-Caspian pipeline and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has already given his blessing. Unfortunately, the Turkmen leader has a knack for supporting the wrong pipeline projects:

Turkmen President: 2015 Start for Pipeline Work

Turkmenistan’s president has demanded that construction work begin in 2015 on a pipeline that will carry natural gas from his energy-rich country to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov said all the agreements required for the project’s launch should be completed this year, state media in the Central Asian nation reported Friday.
A memorandum of understanding between the four countries linked by the TAPI pipeline was signed in 2010 and a supply deal was completed in 2012.

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