'No logical reason: US sanctions on Moscow about internal politics, not Skripal case'

Although the US says it is sanctioning Moscow over the Sergei Skripal case, the measures are actually due to internal US politics which have led to a “sanctions war” in Washington, writer and journalist Neil Clark told RT.

“It’s quite incredible, it’s completely wrong that the US has taken this step, because the UK has yet to produce any real evidence regarding the Skripal case, which took place in March,” he said.

“I guess what it’s about is the internal politics in the US, that Donald Trump of course has been under a lot of pressure at home for talking about wanting to meet Vladimir Putin again and his policy is a reflection really of how his business operates – he says one thing one day, one thing the next, to try to keep the various factions happy.

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© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

“I think that’s the way we have to understand this…there’s actually no logical reason for them to do this now,” he said, noting that the UK hasn’t produced any new evidence or information about the Skripal case which would have prompted the sanctions.

Clark went on to call the Skripal case a convenient excuse, saying the US has a history of finding reasons to sanction Moscow no matter what. “If the Skripal case had not happened…then the US would still be doing this. There would be something else they would use as an excuse. No matter what Russia does, it will be sanctioned unless [it] does exactly what the US wants it to do in foreign policy,” he said, noting that such a policy would include allowing Washington to do what it wants in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

The current situation in Washington appears to represent a “sanctions war,” Clark said, as there are clearly “competing elements of the US state.” He went on to describe it as a “kind of game where everyone has to show how tough they are on Russia.”

When asked about the next expected move by the UK, Clark said he fully expects London to follow Washington’s lead.

“We’ve seen time and time again that the UK has responded very quickly; normally when the US introduces sanctions on a country or citizens of a country, the UK is normally pretty closely following that.”

The UK has a good reason for sanctioning Russia at this time, according to Clark. “Keeping these sanctions going is always a very good diversion from the government. The British government has got a lot of problems at the moment, it’s close to failing…so it would not surprise me in the least to see a new anti-Russian drive coming very shortly.”

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'No logical reason: US sanctions on Moscow about internal politics, not Skripal case'

Although the US says it is sanctioning Moscow over the Sergei Skripal case, the measures are actually due to internal US politics which have led to a “sanctions war” in Washington, writer and journalist Neil Clark told RT.

“It’s quite incredible, it’s completely wrong that the US has taken this step, because the UK has yet to produce any real evidence regarding the Skripal case, which took place in March,” he said.

“I guess what it’s about is the internal politics in the US, that Donald Trump of course has been under a lot of pressure at home for talking about wanting to meet Vladimir Putin again and his policy is a reflection really of how his business operates – he says one thing one day, one thing the next, to try to keep the various factions happy.

Read more

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

“I think that’s the way we have to understand this…there’s actually no logical reason for them to do this now,” he said, noting that the UK hasn’t produced any new evidence or information about the Skripal case which would have prompted the sanctions.

Clark went on to call the Skripal case a convenient excuse, saying the US has a history of finding reasons to sanction Moscow no matter what. “If the Skripal case had not happened…then the US would still be doing this. There would be something else they would use as an excuse. No matter what Russia does, it will be sanctioned unless [it] does exactly what the US wants it to do in foreign policy,” he said, noting that such a policy would include allowing Washington to do what it wants in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.

The current situation in Washington appears to represent a “sanctions war,” Clark said, as there are clearly “competing elements of the US state.” He went on to describe it as a “kind of game where everyone has to show how tough they are on Russia.”

When asked about the next expected move by the UK, Clark said he fully expects London to follow Washington’s lead.

“We’ve seen time and time again that the UK has responded very quickly; normally when the US introduces sanctions on a country or citizens of a country, the UK is normally pretty closely following that.”

The UK has a good reason for sanctioning Russia at this time, according to Clark. “Keeping these sanctions going is always a very good diversion from the government. The British government has got a lot of problems at the moment, it’s close to failing…so it would not surprise me in the least to see a new anti-Russian drive coming very shortly.”

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Rampaging mudslides wreak havoc in village in Swiss Alps (VIDEO)

Scenes of mudslides hitting an alpine village in Switzerland may seem like something out of a disaster movie, but a spate of heavy downpours across the country in recent days has made it all too real for local residents.

READ MORE: At least 44 dead, dozens missing as heavy rain causes floods & landslides in Japan (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

The village of Grugnay in the municipality of Chamoson in Valais, southwest Switzerland, was struck by a gush of sediment, triggered by a series of heavy rainfalls on Tuesday. The mudslide rushed through waterways and roadways, overcoming crash barriers and pouring out onto the asphalt as panicked local residents looked on.

READ MORE: Giant mudslide covers Italian village (VIDEO)

Videos were filmed by François Voeffray and Nathan Coudry. There were no injuries reported but some streets were blocked off as the clearing-up process began, according to Swiss broadcaster RTS.

 

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First they came for Alex Jones… Now Facebook bans Venezuela news site

Days after the purge of Alex Jones from social media, Big Tech seems to have found another suitable target for apparent censorship. Facebook has banned the page of a prominent leftist news site writing about Venezuela.

Venezuelanalysis.com, a left-leaning news site that writes from a pro-Bolivarian revolution stance, has been around since 2003. Critics, including the US government, brand it as a propaganda outlet of the government in Caracas. The site says it is funded by donations and lists as its team Western-born journalists and filmmakers, as well as endorsements from dozens of Western intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone.

On Thursday, its Facebook page was suspended in what Venezuelanalysis described as a “flagrant act of political censorship.” It suggested that the ban may have been timed to suppress a “brilliant piece” on how the Western media covered the drone assassination attempt on Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. The banned site also asked for public support in the face of the suspension.

The suspension comes just days after controversial commentator Alex Jones was kicked off of  several online platforms, including Facebook. That decision was cheered by many in the US, including Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who demanded even more censorship in the name of “saving democracy.”

Others warned that Jones, with his record of bullying and toying with conspiracy theories, was simply a convenient target for Silicon Valley to start normalizing the censorship of undesirable voices on social media, and that more bans would soon come.

Nor has it gone unnoticed that Facebook recently partnered up with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-backed think tank, to “protect democracy” and root out “misinformation and foreign interference” on the platform. Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia became a NATO “global partner” in June, the first and only Latin American nation to do so.

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‘No surprise if Moscow recalls ambassador’: Russia will lash out against new sanctions, say experts

Washington’s latest sanctions have left no room for a constructive response from Moscow, analysts explain, but opinions differ widely on how much the measures will affect relations between the two countries.

All interviewed by RT railed against the framing of the sanctions, nominally prompted by the alleged use of chemical weapons against the Skripals in the UK back in March. Russia will be punished with a first set of measures from August 22, and is given 90 days to assure Washington that it will no longer deploy chemical weapons, and to open up its chemical production facilities to international inspectors.

One problem: Russia denies that it has used chemical weapons in the first place and says that it had already disposed of its stockpile in accordance with international treaties. So, to use the proverbial example, the US is asking Russia: “When will you finally stop beating your wife?”

READ MORE: Sanctioning Russia for false link to UK poisonings ‘unacceptable & unlawful’ – Kremlin

“Russia can’t admit what it hasn’t done. It’s as if the US is asking Russia, ‘Show us your Yeti’ and if you don’t we will punish you. There are literally no facilities to even show,” Vladimir Kornilov, a political analyst for RIA news agency, told RT.

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© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

“The very way that the conditions of dropping the sanctions are posed by the US –we will abandon them if you confess your sins and repent– is so humiliating and unacceptable that any response will have to be very firm,” said Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council.

Leonid Polyakov, from the Higher School of Economics, says that Washington must be aware that the Kremlin would never agree to its conditions, so setting them in the first place is a cheap pretense at diplomacy.

“Historically, under the current leadership Russia can never do two things. It can never move from officially stated positions on certain international issues and incidents – for example, on Skripal. Russia is not going to turn around and say ‘Sorry, we actually did poison him,’” he told RT.

“And secondly, Vladimir Putin will never agree to any unilateral concessions. Any previous offers Moscow has made are always on a quid-pro-quo basis,” Polyakov pointed out, citing the recent offer by the Russian president to allow the questioning of its citizens involved in alleged election-meddling, but only in exchange for William Browder and others being interviewed by Moscow’s investigators.

US ‘showing who’s boss’ or playing to home audience?

All three experts agreed that not only will the sanctions be rejected, but they are unlikely to have any indirect effect on Russia’s international policies, or its economic outlook.

So, why implement them at all?

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© Regis Duvignau

Kortunov says this is an attempt to claw back international prestige, particularly in the wake of the US failure to impose its will in Syria, fraying relations with Europe and China, and Donald Trump’s perceived softness in negotiating with Putin in Helsinki last month.

“This is an attempt to make a statement from the US establishment – to show who is boss in international politics. Over the last two or three years the role of the US as the commander-in-chief of world affairs has been cast into doubt, and Russia has been chosen as the whipping boy as Washington tries to reassert control,” Kortunov said.

For Polyakov, this is all about “looking strong on Russia” ahead of October’s mid-term elections.

“The people putting these sanctions forward aren’t aware of the international consequences. First and foremost, they are driven by a desire to play to their domestic audience, particularly with the midterms coming up. Showing you are not beholden to Russia is a campaign move,” he said to RT.

The professor of political science adds that a lack of ideas over how to corral a feisty Russia is pushing American officials to press the sanctions button again and again.

“As the saying goes, when you don’t know what to do, do what you know. The international situation is such that no side can expect to back down without losses. Everyone knows that sanctions don’t work. But it is a simple tool, easy to understand, and one that has been widely used before by the US. It is almost a reflex reaction by now.”

Yet Kornilov believes that sanctions are not just a shield for a beleaguered establishment, but an offensive weapon.

“It is clear that if it wasn’t going to be the Skripals, it would be something else. Sanctions have become a tool in economic and trade wars, and no one is bothering to hide this,” he said.

Can things get worse?

Since hostility between Moscow and Washington is at a post-war high as it is, Polyakov believes it will be impractical for the two nuclear powers to escalate tensions still further, beyond the headlines.

“Any proposed downgrading of diplomatic relations will likely be more symbolic than practical, as there is constant contact between Moscow and Washington that doesn’t go through diplomatic channels, but directly between government departments, for example as in Syria,” he said, referring to the military hotline that has allowed the two countries to operate side-by-side during the ongoing conflict there.

Kortunov is less sanguine.

“I would not be surprised if the Russian ambassador from Washington is recalled as a counter-measure,” he says, adding that this could detonate all tentative plans between the two countries negotiated at the Helsinki summit.

But Vladimir Kornilov isn’t just worried about the State Department steps, but also about a proposed new legislative initiative that aims to stop Russian banks from operating with US clients, and plans to designate the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“This isn’t just about worsening relations, this is going to be tantamount to a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington. This will be beyond the pale. I hope Americans come to their senses and step back from the brink,” said the analyst.

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‘I thought she was 15’: Accused pedophile priest says ‘the devil’ made him molest a child

An Italian priest accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl in a car has said that he thought the child was older, and that he did what he did because “the devil gave him a trip.”

Father Paolo Glaentzer, 70, was arrested last month for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl in a car. The court did not jail the priest, but he is currently being held on house arrest as an investigation continues.

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PC Dean Roberts, 48, © South Wales Police

The disgraced priest told an Italian newspaper that he is “very sorry” about what happened, but argued that “the devil tripped me” into abusing the girl.

Glaentzer said that the encounter was “an exchange of affection” that got out of control, and added that the victim seemed “much more mature than she was.”

“I found out she was 11 years old…I thought she was at least 15,” he told the newspaper. Even if Glaentzer’s victim was 15, the priest would still have broken the law. Italy’s age of consent is 16 when one partner holds some kind of power and influence over the other, like a priest or teacher does.

The priest, who the interviewer noted seemed totally unbothered by the ongoing criminal case, said that he has “entrusted myself to Jesus and Mary.”

The Catholic church has been rocked by a series of scandals recently. Last year it was revealed that almost 550 children in a choir led by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI were abused, with 47 of them raped.

Last month, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington DC, resigned, facing a litany of sex abuse allegations, including sexual abuse of an altar boy and rape of two young trainee priests.

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Make C-word great again? Kiwi MP baffles public with call to reclaim obscenity for women

A Kiwi MP has baffled the public as she’s come up with a bizarre way of emboldening women – namely by “reclaiming” the word “c**t”. The word is currently regarded the most offensive insult in New Zealand.

Marama Davidson, the co-leader of the New Zealand Green Party, made headlines when she repeatedly used the C-word during a public event on Friday.

After being grilled by some fellow MPs over what was branded as her “terribly degrading” language, Davidson doubled down on her stance saying: “I stand by using that word. That word is a powerful word for women and shouldn’t be used as abuse,” Davidson told Newshub.

“I think it’s a word that we have to disarm and reclaim.”

The C-word is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “vulgar slang” for “the female genitals”, as well as “an unpleasant or stupid person.”

Following up on her remarks, Davidson tweeted that it is time to reclaim the word from those who use it against women in death threats.

Despite being renowned for her progressiveness, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would not adopt the term, while her deputy Winston Peters said the Green Party MP’s language was “appalling”.

Other political figures and commentator also joined the choir of opposition on Twitter.

The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority recently found the C-word is the most offensive insult in the country, followed by the N-word. Meanwhile, 63 percent of New Zealanders believe the word is unacceptable in all scenarios.

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