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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo Credt: Tasnim News Agency

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Turkey for inflaming the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave by arming the Azeris. 

Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes on Friday, defying hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting.

Pompeo said Turkey had worsened the conflict by providing resources to Azerbaijan. A diplomatic resolution was needed, rather than “third-party countries coming in to lend their firepower to what is already a powder keg of a situation,” he said in an interview with broadcaster WSB Atlanta.

Ankara accuses Armenia of illegally occupying Azeri territory. Armenia says Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to pursue a military solution to the conflict, putting Armenian civilians in danger.

Turkey has increased military exports sixfold this year to its close ally Azerbaijan.  There were further signs on Friday that a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreed upon  last Saturday to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed had all but broken down.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.

Greece expressed concern over Turkey’s “meddling,” as the Greek foreign minister visited Yerevan to back Armenia. “Turkey’s meddling in the Karabakh conflict causes us concerns,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in Yerevan, speaking alongside his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.

Armenia and Greece “have a “shared problem — Turkey,” Dendias said, accusing Ankara of “ignoring the EU’s calls to respect international law.”

Turkey’s confrontation with Greece in the east Mediterranean has intensified, following accusations from powerful EU member states that Ankara was “provoking” Brussels with its acts.

Its decision to resend its vessel, Oruc Reis, to contested waters off Greek islands to resume gas exploration has infuriated the EU, and the bloc’s leaders discussed the crisis.

“The European Council urges Turkey to reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions in a consistent and sustained manner,” a final meeting report said.

“Turkey remains consistent in its aggressive behavior,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had missed a good opportunity by sending back the Oruc Reis.

“By doing so he snapped the EU and particularly Germany that put so much into bringing Greece and Turkey back from confrontation into discussions,” he said. 

“They will still give Ankara time, possibly to the start of December, to return to the original plans and commence discussions with Greece. This is the preferred way forward by the EU but, if aggressive actions continue beyond that, then the EU will be forced to act.”

The article Pompeo Says Turkey Is Inflaming Situation In Nagorno-Karabakh appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Multi-National Cooperation In The Middle East – OpEd

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Hope is flourishing in the Middle East.  Many believe that the historic normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will broaden into increased cooperation across the whole region, leading to growing prosperity. If this is indeed the happy outcome, the groundwork is already laid. Certain well-structured organizations have been highly active, some for decades, sponsoring a multitude of humanitarian, financial and developmental programs. The problem is that they have been operating under the radar, and that very little is known about them.

For example, how much is generally known about the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)?  Supported by a wide range of institutional partners, project promoters, international financial institutions and the private sector, the UfM works proactively to achieve greater levels of integration and cooperation in the region.  Believing strongly that security depends upon development, since 2012 the UfM has sponsored no less than 59 regional cooperation projects with a budget of more than €5 billion. 

The membership of the UfM consists of all 27 member states of the European Union together with 15 regional nations bordering the Mediterranean including Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA or, as it has designated itself, “the State of Palestine”). Libya has observer status, and Syria, once a member, has been suspended.  

Euromed (the European Institute of the Mediterranean) is another rather shadowy body.  Like the Ufm, it sprang from an EU initiative back in 1995 aimed at strengthening relations with the Arab nations of north-west Africa known as the Maghreb, and those bordering the western Mediterranean and its hinterland, known as the Mashriq.  That EU-convened conference, held in Barcelona, aimed at encouraging cooperation between these nations, and in particular at constructing an economic and financial partnership between them and the EU leading eventually to a free trade area.  The initiative came to be known as “the Barcelona Process”.

Despite the best of intentions, the Process failed to take flight.  By its tenth anniversary in 2005, it had not come anywhere near advancing its program.  The document it issued after its conference that year was not even endorsed by the partnership as a whole. The disagreement turned on what was to be understood by “terrorism”.  The PA, Syria and Algeria wanted to exclude what they called “resistance movements against foreign occupation”– “foreign occupation” being code for Israel’s existence anywhere in Mandate Palestine.  

In the lacklustre performance of the Barcelona Process, France’s then-president, Nicolas Sarkozy, perceived a political opportunity.  He conceived the grandiose concept of a “Mediterranean Union”, paralleling the European Union.  This project formed part of his manifesto during the French presidential election campaign in 2007. 

Once elected, Sarkozy invited all heads of state and government of the Mediterranean region to a meeting in Paris, to lay the foundations.  Unfortunately for him, his ambitious concept failed to inspire the EU.  Some European leaders felt that it would not be sensible to duplicate institutions already in existence via the Barcelona Process. The European Commission thought that a better idea would be to use the existing Barcelona structure to build a more effective organization.  

Sarkozy modified his proposal accordingly, and obtained EU agreement for a project built upon the existing Barcelona Process.  No longer a Mediterranean Union, but a Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), it would include all EU member states and be dedicated to supporting socioeconomic developments in the region.  Currently it is overseeing scores of such projects spread right across the Mediterranean area.  One such, supported by both Israel and the Palestinians, is the €500 million Desalination Facility project for the Gaza Strip, endorsed by all 42 member states of the UfM. 

While no one could reasonably object to the encouragement of projects designed to bring improvements to the lives and living standards of the peoples of the Mediterranean, the exact relationship between Euromed and the UfM is somewhat puzzling.  Both claim the Barcelona conference of 1995 for their foundation and the Barcelona Process as their inspiration, and both aim to achieve economic and developmental advances across the region.  Their spheres of activity, however, are not clearly delineated. The Union, essentially project-driven, works by proactive involvement;  Euromed describes itself as aiming “to promote economic integration and democratic reform across the EU’s neighbours to the south in North Africa and the Middle East”.  

Then, in 2018 a third body emerged.  Self-supporting and self-sufficient, PRIMA  (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area) is the most ambitious joint programme to be undertaken in the frame of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.  In the light of climate change, unsustainable agricultural practices and over-exploitation of natural resources, it was set up specifically to develop more sustainable management of water and agro-food systems in the Mediterranean region.  PRIMA currently consists of 19 participating countries including Israel but not the Palestinian Authority. 

The main factor leading to the failure of the Barcelona Partnership – political instability – is as potent in 2020 as it was in 2005.  What is new is the deal between Israel and the two Gulf states, and what it may lead to.  An organization titled “The Union for the Mediterranean” might seem the expression of a far distant, possibly unattainable, vision – and yet there it is, active and flourishing, alongside its comrades Euromed and PRIMA. 

A sensible way ahead?  Amalgamation of the three existing bodies into one effective organization, rationalisation of its operations, perhaps expansion of its activities beyond the Mediterranean region to embrace the Middle East as a whole, and – since public awareness of the existing bodies and their activities is minimal to the point of secrecy – better promotion of its purposes and achievements, for there is every reason for the good work to continue. 

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Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum hosts the first Special Dialogue with Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide of Japan. Photo Credit: World Economic Forum

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum hosted on Friday the first Special Dialogue with Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide of Japan.

Over 130 business leaders from the World Economic Forum’s community participated in the “Special Dialogue with Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide”.

“Japan has been a leader in the COVID-19 pandemic response,” said Professor Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. “We heard directly from Prime Minister Suga on global cooperation and Japan’s priorities and we look forward to the dialogue ahead.”

In the virtual session, the Prime Minister outlined the policy priorities for the Government of Japan including regulatory reform and promotion of digitalization. Strategies for the post-COVID recovery were discussed.

In the opening remarks, the Prime Minister Suga referred to Chairman Schwab’s book and agreed with his view that it is in the face of the crises that we need to transform our economic and social systems, and that there is an opportunity to do so.

He also highlighted Japan’s contributions to the international community especially in the field of global health, rule-making for free and fair global-economy and advancing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) among other issues.

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Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Turkey Punching Above Its Weight On World Stage – OpEd

turkey flag recep erdogan

Current Turkish foreign policy may be best illustrated by former US President Theodore Roosevelt’s big stick diplomacy proverb, only in reverse. That is, walk loudly and carry a small stick. Under the ultra-nationalist leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions have become increasingly confrontational, reckless, and overambitious. Its insistence on challenging territorial boundaries, disavowal of international norms and laws, unchecked unilateralism, and courtship of unsavory non-state actors have earned it the alienation of its neighbors, unprecedented diplomatic isolation, and the rebuke of erstwhile allies. These ill-advised initiatives have left it with fewer strategic partners and a growing number of geopolitical adversaries. 

A recent flare-up in hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has drawn in Turkey, who has thrown its political and diplomatic weight behind Baku, a fellow Turkic-dominated state who benefits from Turkish-made drones in the ongoing conflict. Ankara has also shipped Syrian mercenaries to the Azerbaijani side to tip the scales against archenemy Armenia, although it denies doing so. This escalation has likely irked Russia, who is not only the traditional regional power broker, but also maintains a security pact with Armenia. On October 10th, Russia brokered a tenuous ceasefire that lasted less than 24 hours. Shortly thereafter Turkey issued a statement calling on Armenia to completely withdraw from the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a precondition for peace talks.

This position complicates the Russian-led mediation effort not only because it supports a radical departure from the 30-year status quo, but also highlights Turkey’s intransigent stance on the conflict. On October 13th, Turkish politician Devlet Bahçeli insisted that “Armenia was the side that violated the ceasefire as expected. Negotiating with the killer returned as bullets and bombs. Nagorno-Karabakh should not be taken on the table [through diplomacy], but should be taken via hitting Armenia in the head.” Bewildering as it may sound, deconfliction through heightened hostilities appears to be Ankara’s modus operandi at large.   

Turkey has also been at odds with Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt over gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. These maritime territorial disputes stem from Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge the UN-mandated Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), an international, maritime regime demarcating Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) up to 200 miles offshore. Turkish-Greek relations in particular have plummeted as a result of Ankara’s dismissal of UNCLOS, and the rival states have engaged in military brinkmanship and traded barbs.

In a September 5th statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lambasted his adversaries in Athens, stating “They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences.”  On October 12th, Turkey ratcheted up tensions when it dispatched a ship just south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo to conduct seismic surveys. In addition to Greek, French, and European Union (EU) statements admonishing the move, the US State Department lent its voice to the choir in an October 13th release. “Coercion, threats, intimidation, and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece. Unilateral actions cannot build trust and will not produce enduring solutions,” the statement read.   

Turkey has become entrenched in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars opposing militarily superior Russia in both instances. In Libya, Ankara’s endgame is extracting energy resources from the beleaguered Government of National Accord’s (GNA) EEZ in exchange for arms and diplomatic backing. But as Turkey ramps up its military involvement in Syria, expect the same from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, France, and Egypt, who back the Benghazi-based Libya National Army Government under General Khalifa Haftar. Despite its initial success in turning the momentum in the GNA’s favor, Turkey cannot compete against the combined forces of the four aforementioned militaries in a protracted conflict.

This is a lesson it failed to learn in Syria, where after almost 10 years of involvement Turkey has failed to secure a 20-mile buffer zone in Northern Idlib province, due largely to Russia’s backing of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). And while Ankara has been successful in driving Kurdish militias from the northern border regions, it must contend with millions of Syrian refugees who are a constant drain on its economy.   

In August of this year, Turkey allegedly activated one of its Russian-made S-400 air defense systems to track a Greek F-16, angering not only Greece, but multiple other NATO members. Chief among these was the United States, who views the S-400 purchase as a threat to its fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter jet. The larger concern is that Turkish activation of the system, which Russia can monitor, will expose critical data on NATO weapons systems. After acquiring the vaunted anti-aircraft system last year, Ankara was barred by Washington from purchasing its F-35 jet fighter. In the meantime, the US and other NATO member nations have considered sanctioning Turkey as punishment for undermining its security obligations to the military alliance. Ultimately, Turkey must decide where its loyalties lie, because its NATO membership may eventually be at stake.    

While Turkey’s force projections beyond its borders are meant as a show of ascendant military strength, these campaigns have yielded little in terms of substantive geopolitical gains. The reason being Ankara has little appetite for fully investing its own resources to realize its geostrategic goals.  Instead, foreign mercenaries and jihadis have been entrusted to secure Ankara’s foreign interests. Nearsighted, band aid solutions like these underscore a failure to assess the complexities of the civil wars and regional geopolitical powder kegs in which Turkey has become ensnared. 

The steady stream of provocative, bellicose rhetoric from Turkey’s leaders is likely a diversion from the struggling economy and erosion of democratic institutions. But the international community’s patience has worn thin of this tactic. In order for the Turkish state to salvage its legitimacy, it must scale back the polarizing policies and cavalier attitudes that are ostracizing it at a rapidly increasing rate. The sooner Ankara realizes the scope of its foreign policies are not sustainable, the sooner it can forego its ill-advised adventurism and mend regional and global ties.  

*Andrew Leonard is a freelance writer covering foreign policy and international politics. He has previously worked as a sportswriter and also served as a special interest columnist while in college. 

The article Turkey Punching Above Its Weight On World Stage – OpEd appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Has Chinese Government Financed Biden Campaign Through Hunter? – OpEd

Hunter Biden and former US vice-president Joe Biden. Photo Credit: Fars News Agency

In a tit-for-tat response to the New York Post’s explosive report alleging Hunter Biden introduced a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm he was working for to his vice president dad, the Daily Beast has come up with a scoop [1] that the hard disks in which Hunter’s emails were found were provided to Rudy Giuliani by a Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui on behalf of dissident members of Chinese Communist Party.

According to the report, “Weeks before the New York Post began publishing what it claimed were the contents of Hunter Biden’s hard drive, a Sept. 25 segment on a YouTube channel run by a Chinese dissident streamer, who is linked to billionaire and Steve Bannon-backer Guo Wengui, broadcast a bizarre conspiracy theory.

“According to the streamer, Chinese politburo officials had ‘sent three hard disks of evidence’ to the Justice Department and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi containing damaging information about Joe Biden as well as the origins of the coronavirus in a bid to undermine the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping …

“While Guo’s ties to Steve Bannon have long been known—Bannon was arrested for defrauding donors in August on a 152-foot-long yacht reportedly owned by Guo—the billionaire appears to have also joined forces with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in the former New York mayor’s relentless anti-Biden dirt-digging crusade.”

Besides posting pictures of Rudy Giuliani and Guo Wengui “cavorting and smoking cigars together” and leveling unsubstantiated allegations that Giuliani has stakes in Guo’s fashion lineup, the Daily Beast hasn’t challenged the authenticity of Hunter’s emails but only questioned the source of origin of hard disks containing irrefutable evidence of the Biden family’s murky financial dealings and made a paradoxical claim that dissident members of Chinese Communist Party are trying to sabotage Joe Biden’s electoral campaign on Trump’s behalf.

Nevertheless, the report raises startling questions that why Chinese dissidents would form “a government-in-exile” in the United States and allegedly support the Trump campaign against Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency unless the Biden campaign has received financial support from the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping whom the Chinese dissidents vociferously oppose.

The report further alleges: “Guo Wengui has been in the Trumpworld orbit pretty much from the beginning, paying the $200,000 initiation fee to become a member of the president’s Florida golf resort Mar-a-Lago, which Trump has dubbed the ‘Southern White House.’ But Guo’s membership soon became a headache for the administration in the run-up to Trump’s first summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017, due to Guo’s fugitive status in China.

“At one point, Trump had reportedly considered deporting Guo after the Chinese government called for his extradition in a letter delivered to Trump by casino mogul Steve Wynn in 2017. After presenting the letter during a policy meeting, the president reportedly said, ‘We need to get this criminal out of the country,’ only for aides to remind him that Guo was a Mar-a-Lago member, eventually talking him out of the decision and ensuring the deportation was scuttled …

“Guo has framed himself as a stalwart critic of the CCP and China’s corrupt elite, but his efforts have divided China’s exile community. Guo has enthusiastically attacked other critics of Beijing as jealous poseurs, including most recently a Texas Christian pastor and Tiananmen protester named Bob Fu—who was imprisoned in China for his faith before escaping to the U.S.—whom Guo accuses of being a secret agent for the CCP. Fu has lobbed the same charge back at Guo and his followers.”

Instead of debunking Trump’s witty remarks that “the Biden family treated the vice presidency as a for-profit corporation,” the information contained in the Daily Beast article lends further credence to the two bombshell reports in which Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge of the New York Post have leveled damning allegations of Hunter Biden’s sleazy financial dealings with Ukrainian and Chinese oligarchs.

Although it was the first report [2] published on Thursday, October 14, and titled “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” that gained most attention on the mainstream media, it was the second report [3] published on Friday, October 15, in which the authors have furnished documentary evidence of Hunter Biden’s illicit financial dealings, amounting to millions of dollars and stakes in equities and profits of a private Chinese oil company doing business in Africa, with a Chinese billionaire Ye Jianming that raises serious questions whether the Biden campaign received funds from the Chinese government through Hunter.

It’s noteworthy that the name of Ye Jianming came up in the recently released Johnson-Grassley report, too. “The Suspicious Activity Reports of the Treasury Department flagged millions of dollars in transactions from the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, a Russian oligarch named Yelena Baturina, and a Chinese businessmen with ties to Beijing’s communist government,” the Senate report said.

The Johnson-Grassley report further alleged: “Hunter Biden had business associations with Ye Jianming, Gongwen, and other Chinese nationals linked to the communist government and the People’s Liberation Army. Those associations resulted in millions of dollars in cash flow.”

Corroborating the Senate investigation, Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge noted in the second report of the New York Post: “Another email — sent by Biden as part of an Aug. 2, 2017, chain — involved a deal he struck with the since-vanished chairman of CEFC, Ye Jianming, for half-ownership of a holding company that was expected to provide Biden with more than $10 million a year ‘for introductions alone.’

“‘The chairman changed that deal after we me[t] in MIAMI TO A MUCH MORE LASTING AND LUCRATIVE ARRANGEMENT to create a holding company 50% percent [sic] owned by ME and 50% owned by him,’ Biden wrote.

“A photo dated Aug. 1, 2017, shows a handwritten flowchart of the ownership of ‘Hudson West’ split 50/50 between two entities ultimately controlled by Hunter Biden and someone identified as ‘Chairman.’

“According to a report on Biden’s overseas business dealings released last month by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a company called Hudson West III opened a line of credit in September 2017.

“Biden’s email was sent to Gongwen Dong, whom the Wall Street Journal in October 2018 tied to the purchase by Ye-linked companies of two luxury Manhattan apartments that cost a total on $83 million.

“The documents obtained by The Post also include an ‘Attorney Engagement Letter’ executed in September 2017 in which one of Ye’s top lieutenants, former Hong Kong government official Chi Ping Patrick Ho, agreed to pay Biden a $1 million retainer for ‘Counsel to matters related to US law and advice pertaining to the hiring and legal analysis of any US Law Firm or Lawyer.’

“In December 2018, a Manhattan federal jury convicted Ho in two schemes to pay $3 million in bribes to high-ranking government officials in Africa for oil rights in Chad and lucrative business deals in Uganda. Ho served a three-year prison sentence and was deported to Hong Kong in June.”

Actually, it was the mainstream media that first broke the story of the murky dealings between the Biden family and Chinese billionaire Ye Jianming in December 2018. According to a New York Times report [4], Ye Jianming had made inroads with Joe Biden’s brother James Biden, as well as Hunter Biden, as the Chinese tycoon sought to build influence in the United States. In early 2018, Hunter Biden was paid $1 million to represent Ye’s aide while he was facing the federal bribery charges in the United States.

In August 2017, a subsidiary of Ye’s company wired $5 million into the bank account of a US company called Hudson West III, which over the next 13 months sent $4.79 million marked as consulting fees to Hunter Biden’s firm, the report said. Over the same period, Hunter Biden’s firm wired some $1.4 million to a firm associated with his uncle and aunt, James and Sara Biden.

Washington Post report [5] further elaborates the allegations of illicit financial transactions with foreign companies and nationals conducted by Hunter Biden during his father’s tenure as the vice president contained in the Johnson-Grassley report:

“The Senate GOP report suggests that while his father was vice president, companies associated with Hunter Biden received $3.5 million from Russian tycoon Yelena Baturina, who is the widow of former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and is a member of Kazakhstan’s political elite.

“The records in the report also detail a number of transactions involving Ye Jianming, a Chinese oil tycoon who was taken into custody by Chinese authorities in 2018 after one of his top aides was convicted in a US federal court of bribing officials in Chad and Uganda for oil contracts.”

In a 2019 interview [6] with the New Yorker, Hunter Biden said he was working with Ye to identify investments in the United States, including a substantial liquefied natural gas investment in Louisiana. But he said the deal fell through after Chinese authorities detained Ye.

Hunter Biden told the New Yorker he did not consider Ye to be “a shady character at all” and said the situation was “bad luck.” Although Hunter Biden didn’t consider Ye Jianming “a shady character at all,” he was such a swindler that when he “disappeared” in early 2018, Chinese authorities assessed that his wealth had mushroomed from $35 million in 2009 to $37 billion in 2016, a time period incidentally coinciding with Joe Biden’s vice presidency.

After reading all this revelatory information regarding illicit financial transactions between the Biden family and the “disappeared” Chinese billionaire, it becomes abundantly clear that Ye Jianming, most likely a pseudonym, was a frontman for the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping who was sent on a clandestine mission to nurture business relations with the Biden campaign through Hunter, and later made to disappear after his cover was blown once his aides were charged with criminal offenses in the US courts.

The US intelligence community has assessed that three countries are currently vying to interfere in the US elections. While Russia allegedly supports the Trump campaign, China and Iran favor Joe Biden because Trump initiated a trade war with China and cancelled Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.

With his anti-globalist and protectionist agenda, Trump represents a paradigm shift in the global economic order. Trump withdrawing the United States from multilateral treaties, restructuring trade agreements and initiating a trade war against China are a revolution against globalization and free trade of which China is the new beneficiary with its strong manufacturing base and massive export potential.

Thus, it’s only natural for the Chinese government to try to oust Trump from the presidency with all available means, including providing financial support to his Democratic rivals, favoring globalization and free trade, in the upcoming US presidential elections.

The article Has Chinese Government Financed Biden Campaign Through Hunter? – OpEd appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Fire Building Firefighter

Despite most college students being at very low risk of becoming seriously sick from coronavirus, much less dying from it, colleges across America have implemented extreme, often prison-like, restrictions on campuses in the name of countering coronavirus. These restrictions can make college a drag. The restrictions even can put students at risk of serious injury or death arising from a fire in their dorms or other campus buildings.

A Thursday article at Spiked discusses two instances where colleges, one in America and one in Great Britain, advised students to follow, when evacuating a building, rules supposedly designed to reduce the spread of coronavirus even though doing so could put the students at greater risk of death or injury. The article points to Manhattan College in America advising students to “social distance” when evacuating a building and the University of York in Britain advising those students who are required under coronavirus rules to self-isolate to “‘stay in your room for one minute’ if fire alarms go off, allowing those who are not self-isolating to exit the building” first.

Oh brother. In a supposed effort to protect students from a way overblown threat from coronavirus that is unlikely even to be transferred due to close proximity of people in the short amount of time it takes to evacuate a building, colleges can put students in real danger from fire.

As long as universities keep up their coronavirus restrictions nonsense, they could at least advise that, when students think health or lives are in danger — from fire or another threat, students should disregard all the coronavirus restrictions that could impede acting to protect themselves and others. That direction would be in line with really seeking to advance students’ health and safety.

This article was published by RonPaul Institute.

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Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: China’s High-Carbon Plans Clash With Climate Pledge – Analysis

pollution smoking chimney

 By Michael Lelyveld

China has yet to explain how it can reconcile plans for thousands of high-polluting projects with President Xi Jinping’s pledge to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions before 2060, energy and environmental experts say.

So far, the government has continued to allow investment in coal-fired power plants and energy-intensive infrastructure despite Xi’s recent promise that China will reach peak emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral less than four decades from now.

Xi has won international plaudits for upgrading China’s climate targets in his video address to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 22.

In 2015, China committed to reaching a peak in emissions of carbon-dioxide (CO2) “around 2030” under the Paris climate accords. Last month, Xi moved the deadline up to “before 2030” while setting a goal of eliminating net CO2 releases before 2060 for the first time.

But the ambitious net-zero objective, which would require sweeping restructuring and a virtual end to coal consumption, was covered in a single sentence without elaboration or interim benchmarks to explain how it would be achieved.

“The one-sentence announcement leaves plenty of space for different readings, the least ambitious being that there’s still another decade of time to build more fossil fuel infrastructure and increase emissions,” wrote environmental campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta on the website of the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Indeed, Xi’s sketchy outline of action may be designed to deliver the best of both worlds, offering hope to climate activists for long-term carbon solutions while leaving room for economic stimulus to recover from the COVID-19 crisis in the near to medium term.

“This is a landmark announcement as China has set out an ultimate end-point emissions target,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of the London-based Climate Group.

“Leaders from across the world will be keen to understand the details of how China will progress in achieving these actions,” Clarkson said, as quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

Philip Andrews-Speed, senior principal fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute, said the government’s “not-so-green recovery package” and energy consumption trends appear to be incompatible with Xi’s climate goals.

“It is difficult to reconcile these with Xi Jinping’s rhetoric,” said Andrews-Speed.

‘A cunning plan’

This week, a group of leading researchers issued a roadmap of proposals, outlining how China could reach the 2060 goal. It called for tough cuts in emissions mainly after 2030 and an “enhanced mitigation scenario” before then, according to an article on the website of China Dialogue, an independent NGO dedicated to China’s environmental challenges.

But the article cautioned that the plan is not yet official, adding that “this does not mean China will immediately fast-track deep decarbonization.”

Details of China’s climate measures could be forthcoming in the government’s 14th Five-Year Plan for 2021-2025, which may be outlined later this month before its expected release next March.

Until then, it will be hard to evaluate the conflicting effects of Xi’s targets and economic stimulus measures.

“Either his speech was just point-scoring aimed at the United States, knowing that anything can happen over the next 40 years, or there is a ‘cunning plan’ about to be rolled out,” said Andrews-Speed.

“If the latter, the investment currently underway will either be unused and stranded with consequent financial loss, or the measures to pursue carbon neutrality will have to be more vigorous than would have been the case if announced early in 2020,” he said.

Michal Meidan, director of the China Energy Program at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said that Xi’s climate pledges “seem to have taken the domestic bureaucracy by surprise to a certain extent.”

“The various provincial and ministerial officials will now need to translate those announcements into concrete policies, and it remains to be seen whether this level of ambition will be visible in the 14th Five-Year Plan, especially as it relates to coal,” Meidan said.

Last week, international consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd. estimated that meeting the net-zero target would cost China over U.S. $5 trillion (33.5 trillion yuan) in investment for new electrification capacity and technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

In its annual World Energy Outlook this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that some countries have already set targets for carbon neutrality by 2050 or earlier in keeping with the IEA’s “sustainable development scenario,” with the goal of making net-zero emissions worldwide by 2070.

Countries including Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have committed to meeting the 2050 or earlier deadlines by law.

“To reach net-zero emissions, governments, energy companies, investors and citizens all need to be on board — and will all have unprecedented contributions to make,” the IEA said.

But so far, China’s priority has been economic recovery. The country has faced growing international criticism for its plans to build more coal-fired generation despite overcapacity and under-utilization of plants it has already built.

Despite low electricity rates and losses, local authorities have continued to push coal power projects to spur economic growth and new jobs.

In July, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres blasted the practice during an online forum for students at Tsinghua University.

“It is deeply disturbing that new coal power plants are still being planned and financed, even though renewable offer three times more jobs, and are now cheaper than coal in most countries,” Guterres said.

A study released in September by the U.K.-based website found that China’s economic recovery plans are likely to have climate impacts that go far beyond the effects of the unneeded coal plants.

The analysts found a total of 4,348 projects listed in the plans of eight leading provinces with a combined value of 19.9 trillion yuan (U.S. $2.93 trillion).

Of the total, 6.2 trillion yuan (U.S. $913 billion) has been earmarked for energy and transport. Fossil fuel and railway projects each account for about one-third, or 2.1 trillion yuan (U.S. $309 billion), the analysts said.

The study found that planned spending for fossil fuel-related projects was three times higher than that for low-carbon projects.

The low-carbon development includes renewable energy projects like solar and wind, as well as nuclear power, electric vehicles, batteries and energy storage.

But the low-carbon budgets would be dwarfed by spending for high-impact projects in sectors like oil refining, coal-to-chemical development, coal transport, coal power generation and natural gas pipelines, the study found.

In all, 13 percent of planned spending could be categorized as low-carbon, while fossil fuel-related projects account for 35 percent with an additional 10 percent devoted to road building, it said.

Drivers of infrastructure spending

While the report cautions that provincial listings are no guarantee that the projects will proceed, Premier Li Keqiang made clear in a teleconference with Communist Party members in September that the central government will continue its policy of promoting economic growth by delegating approval authority to lower levels and cutting red tape.

The policy of shifting approval power for new coal-fired plants to the provinces in 2015 has been blamed for a wave of new projects, which the central government then tried to stop.

Xi’s net-zero commitment seems to imply that Beijing will eventually have to revisit the issue of local authority or drastically change the incentives for local officials. But with 2060 still far in the future, it is unclear whether the 14th Five Year Plan will lay the groundwork for meaningful change.

The study of provincial plans serves to highlight China’s addiction to carbon-emitting projects as a source of economic growth, regardless of where the approval authority lies.

Environmental advocates argue that low-carbon investments and renewable power are reliable sources of new jobs, but the provincial plans are a sign that transition is not as simple as flipping a switch.

China’s economy has been wedded to infrastructure-building for expansion, and an analysis last month by Moody’s Investors Service sees little chance of change in the coming recovery years.

“The Chinese government aims to use infrastructure investment to boost economic growth, and has announced a series of stimulus policies that will support infrastructure projects by reducing finance costs, broadening funding channels and easing fiscal constraints on regional and local governments and state-owned enterprises (SOEs),” said Ivy Poon, a Moody’s vice president and senior analyst.

“While innovative and green infrastructure investment is a new focus, traditional infrastructure projects, such as on major transportation and water conservancy, will continue to be a key driver of infrastructure spending,” ET Net News Agency quoted Moody’s as saying.

Unless the 14th Five-Year Plan lays out a clear path for progress toward net-zero emissions, Xi’s pledge for 2060 may prove to be little more than an attempt to extend his influence over China for decades to come.

The article China’s High-Carbon Plans Clash With Climate Pledge – Analysis appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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Trump and FBI – News Review from Michael_Novakhov (10 sites): Counterintelligence from Michael_Novakhov (51 sites): Eurasia Review: Philippines: Lifting Of Moratorium Won’t Hinder Sea Exploration Projects With China

South China Sea. Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Wikipedia Commons.

By Aie Balagtas See

A Philippine decision to lift a moratorium on energy exploration in the South China Sea was a unilateral move but Chinese firms could still participate with Manila in extracting oil and gas resources in the disputed waterway, the country’s energy secretary said Friday.

Meanwhile, Beijing said it hoped to work with Manila to make additional headway on joint exploration projects in the sea region that were framed through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries in 2018.

Lifting the 2014 moratorium was necessary because the country needed to ensure it had an independent energy source, Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.

“There is no prohibition in [lifting the moratorium] unilaterally. What we have done is a unilateral action on our part to ask those licensees to restart activities in the West Philippine Sea,” Cusi said at a media briefing, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

“Chinese corporations and our licensees can still join together and participate in the development.”

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision on Thursday to lift a 2014 moratorium came about a month after he strongly defended a 2016 international arbitration tribunal’s award that struck down virtually all of China’s claims in the disputed waters.

The Philippine decision to resume exploration on the South China Sea would not affect the 2018 memorandum with China, Cusi said.

In fact, it “will even help expedite the MoU,” he said.

The Philippines imposed the moratorium six years ago amid a territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea. In 2016, an international tribunal verdict ruled in favor of Manila in the dispute.

The lifting of the moratorium will pave the way for the resumption of at least three projects, and the award of new service contracts, according to Cusi.

“We need to address our energy security. We need to harness the resources available in the West Philippine Sea. The president said this is for the future of our economy,” Cusi said.

He added that contractors had been given a “resume-to-work” notice to “begin addressing their investment commitment to explore the resources at the West Philippine Sea.”

2018 MoU

Responding to Duterte’s decision to lift the moratorium, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said China wanted to join Manila in exploring energy projects in the region.

“China and the Philippines have reached [a] consensus on joint exploration of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea and set up relevant consultation and cooperation mechanisms,” Zhao told a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday, according to transcripts released by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We hope the two sides will work together for new progress in the joint exploration.”

Cusi said he was confident that Philippines could “do our activity freely as the country that has economic rights” over the areas of exploration. He was referring to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

The waterway can be “an oasis of peace where we should be able to do our exploration activities peacefully,” Cusi said.

Since being elected in 2016, Duterte has been moving closer to Washington’s rivals, Beijing and Moscow, a development that has not pleased everyone in the Philippines.

In 2018, when the two countries signed the oil and gas exploration MOU during a visit by Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, anti-China protestors took to the streets saying Duterte was “selling out the Philippines to China.”

“We are here to tell Xi that not all Filipinos are subservient to him like Duterte. Not all of us concede China’s possession of our waters, nor seek joint ownership and use of our exclusive economic zone,” said Neri Colmenares, one of the protest leaders.

Complete details of the MoU on oil and gas exploration were not released at the time it was signed in November 2018, but BenarNews saw a copy then. It stated that both countries had agreed to a sharing deal, under which the Philippines would get a 60 percent stake in resources extracted from the Reed Bank and China would get the remaining 40 percent.

Analysts said that joint exploration in the area would go against the Philippine constitution.

The Reed Bank lies within Manila’s EEZ, and is believed to sit atop vast untapped natural resources.

Apart from the Philippines, five other Asian governments – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam – have territorial claims or maritime boundaries in the South China Sea that overlap with China’s. While Indonesia does not regard itself as a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of the sea that overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The article Philippines: Lifting Of Moratorium Won’t Hinder Sea Exploration Projects With China appeared first on Eurasia Review.

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