Labour to challenge May on Brexit deal and will trigger general election if it fails – Corbyn

By ethan / September 22, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn says the Labour party will call for a national election if any Brexit deal struck by Prime Minister Theresa May with Brussels fails to meet his party’s ‘six tests.’

“We will challenge this government on whatever deal it brings back on our six tests, on jobs, on living standards, on environmental protections,” Corbyn  said at a rally in Liverpool, confirming an earlier report that his party plans to call for an election if the deal is defeated in the parliament.  

“And if this government can’t deliver, then I simply say to Theresa May the best way to settle this is by having a general election,” he said.  

On Friday Theresa May demanded that the EU bring to the negotiating table a new set of proposals to break the “impasse,” declaring she will not “overturn the result of the referendum nor will I break up my country.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain would not “capitulate” to the EU’s demands and urged the bloc to engage with May’s proposals. 

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Russia’s largest energy companies preparing to substitute petrodollar in settlements

By ethan / September 22, 2018

Oil firm Surgutneftegas has joined a list of Russian energy companies that are ready to get rid of the US dollar in favor of the euro and other currencies in international settlements, Reuters reports.

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© Thomas Mukoya

According to a message sent by Surgutneftegas to one of its customers, the oil company wants to “avoid any possible problems with payment in USD,” the news agency reports. “We do not comment on our commercial activity,” replied the company, Russia’s fourth largest by output.

The reported move comes in line with the recent comments from the Kremlin. Last month, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia could reject the greenback in oil trade.

“It is not ruled out. We have significantly reduced our investments in US assets. In fact, the dollar, which was considered the global currency, becomes a risky instrument for settlements,” he told Russian TV.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said that the government is considering the possibility of oil settlements in national currencies, especially with Turkey and Iran.

Who else is ready to cut dollar dependence in Russian oil sector?

Gazprom Neft

Surgutneftegas is not the only Russian energy company that is reported to be working to reduce dependence on the dollar. A Reuters source in Gazprom Neft, Russia’s third-biggest oil company by output, said its contracts already have a clause to trade without the US dollar. Gazprom’s oil subsidiary has not commented on the issue yet.

Rosneft

The largest Russian oil company Rosneft is also interested in diversifying. The firm has opened banking accounts in Hong Kong dollars and Chinese yuan. Rosneft has also prepared itself for the shutdown of SWIFT interbank cash transfer services, should Russia be shut out of the system as part of Western sanctions. A Russian equivalent of SWIFT was tested by Rosneft in December.

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'Poisonous connection' of big tech: Google staff confer over anti-Trump search tweak

By ethan / September 22, 2018

News that Google staff brainstormed over tweaking its search engine algorithms to counter Trump’s travel ban is part of an “ongoing problem” of liberal bias in big tech, the editor of a media watchdog has told RT.

In what she described as a “poisonous connection” between liberal political bias and Silicon Valley’s biggest tech firms, Carrie Sheffield, national editor of the conservative-leaning Accuracy in Media (AIM), called it “chilling” that politically conservative voices were being silenced.

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Alex Jones, founder of Infowars. ©Jim Bourg

“There is a dearth of conservative and libertarian thought that is openly expressed in Silicon Valley and is quite often suppressed,” she claimed citing data from the Lincoln Network, a conservative organization based in Silicon Valley.

Author and journalist Eric Burrows argues that the Google discussions represented a wider effort by social media companies to control the way all users used their platform.

“In my view, it’s the continuation of big tech companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Skype, and all the rest of them continuing to show their bias, but also to exert their control over the way regular folk use the internet,” he told RT.

Burrows and Sheffield’s comments come after messages seen by the Wall Street Journal document discussions between Google staff over potentially “leveraging” its search engine algorithm to suggest ways of countering President Trump’s travel ban, after he imposed immigration restrictions on a number of Muslim-majority countries in January 2017.

Ideas suggested by staff but never implemented included tweaking “Islamophobic, algorithmically-biased results from search terms ‘Islam,’ ‘Muslim,’ ‘Iran,’ etc.”

“Prejudiced” search results using terms such as “Mexico,” “Hispanic,” and “Latino,” could also be altered, the email chain suggested.

READ MORE:‘It looks like spam’: Facebook hit with more claims that it unfairly censors conservatives

Also discussed in the email chain were ways of promoting search results to suggest donating to progressive organisations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and towards content that keeps “people abreast of how they can help as well as the resources available for immigrants [sic] or people traveling.”

Another report claimed that the company twigged its algorithms so that when users entered “California Republican Party” into Google, the term “nazism” joined “conservatism” and “market-liberalism” as the party’s ideologies.

READ MORE: Censorship or battle against hate & abuse? Infowars Twitter ban fuels free speech debate

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has denied that the company engages in any political bias, calling the stories “absolutely false.”

The Google revelations come at a time when several of the world’s biggest tech firms have been accused of censoring conservative voices on their platforms.

A poll by Pew Research in June founds that 64% of Republicans and 28% of Democrats believed that big tech in the US had a liberal bias.

The matter of anti-conservative censorship online is also set to be the topic of discussion when US Attorney General Jeff Sessions meets state attorneys next week.

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Americans save $9 on sushi but aren't ready to demand for affordable healthcare – RT’s Keiser Report

By ethan / September 22, 2018

US citizens are joining up to save a few bucks on food, but when it concerns unity over affordable healthcare they call it socialism, says Max Keiser of Keiser Report. He thinks they are brainwashed by the mainstream media.

In this episode of the Keiser Report, the show’s hosts, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, discuss the storm brewing over poor elderly citizens in the US and how Latin America blames the US for Chinese entry into the region.

In the second half, Max interviews Domenic Thomas of Worbli.io, ‘where fintech and blockchain meet,’ about the EOS network and why his company is building on it rather than Ethereum.

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Ex-Trump aide and CNN pundit accused of drugging lover with abortion pill

By ethan / September 22, 2018

US news network CNN is facing calls to drop ex-Trump aide Jason Miller from its pundit roster, after court documents were leaked accusing him of drugging with an abortion pill a pregnant woman he had an affair with.

The court documents obtained by the website Splinter come from the custody battle between Miller and another Trump aide, AJ Delgado, with whom he had a child with in 2017.

Supplied by Delgado’s legal team, the documents allege that Miller had previously engaged in another extramarital affair with a Florida-based woman he met at a strip club.

Upon finding out that she was pregnant with his child, Miller called to the woman’s apartment with a smoothie, which unbeknownst to her was laced with an abortion pill.

Known only as Jane Doe, the woman claims Miller’s actions resulted in the termination of the pregnancy and almost resulted in her own death.

READ MORE: READ MORE: Asia Argento reportedly axed from Italian X Factor over child sex assault scandal

Fearing for their own child’s safety, Delgado wants the court to order Miller—whom the filing says has “unsupervised time” with their child—to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Miller, who was hired by the Trump campaign as a senior communications adviser, was also in line to be the White House communications director.

READ MORE: Fast Times at Feinstein High: Dems ambush Brett Kavanaugh with last-minute sex assault charges

However, he later turned the position down citing a desire to put his family before his career. His Twitter bio states he is the managing director at Teneo Strategy and a political commentator on CNN.

Those angry at the scandalous allegations are voicing their concerns on Twitter, with many demanding that CNN drop Miller as a pundit. Others call into question the network’s choice of other pundits who have had run-ins with the law.

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Daredevil raccoon climbs high-rise, drops from about 8 stories (VIDEO)

By ethan / September 22, 2018

In the style of Spiderman, a raccoon climbed up the wall of a high-rise near the Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ. After making it about eight stories up, the critter falls off the wall, spreading its body like a parachute suit.

The video, captured by South Carolina resident Micha Rea, shows dozens of spectators looking up mesmerized. Shock spreads through the crowd as the raccoon is seen pushing off the wall and falling to the ground.

Although the impact from the fall looks hard, the animal immediately gets to its feet and runs away. 

Raccoons have strong claws that allow them climb. In June, another daredevil critter climbed a 25-story office building in St. Paul, Minnesota, probably making MI’s Ethan Hunt envious.

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Iran: We won’t let OPEC boost production

By ethan / September 22, 2018

It’s about that time again. WTI hits $ 70 per barrel and the tweet-rage is back. OPEC does have a meeting in the coming days in Algiers to assess the state of the oil market, and decide on next steps.

But one of the largest near-term challenges for OPEC is balancing the oil market in the wake of lost barrels from Iran – a key factor driving up prices and also a fact that seems to be lost on the American President.

There are no clear solutions for OPEC+ that leave the oil market satisfied while also maintaining group cohesion.

The obvious course of action is to allow for higher production levels. But there is no way to do this while also getting all parties on board. Iran’s oil minister said that any change to Tehran’s allotment would be blocked.

Read more on Oilprice.com: Mexico aims to become the energy hub of Latin America

“I will definitely veto any decision that threatens our national interest,” Bijan Zanganeh said in an interview with reporters from S&P Global Platts and Bloomberg News. “Anyone who says they will compensate for the shortfall in the market is speaking against Iran. This is a 100 percent political statement, not economic.”

Because any OPEC agreement requires unanimous consent, Iran could block any changes to the formal oil production cut deal.

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© Gleb Garanich

Iran still holds a little bit of leverage because the specifics of the June agreement, which called for increased production on the order of one million barrels per day (mb/d), were not hammered out. In all likelihood, Saudi Arabia and Russia would realistically take on a greater share of output, mostly because they are the only ones that have the ability to choose to produce substantially more.

But formalizing those increases is politically tricky. After all, Iran is taking tangible losses because of US sanctions. Those missing barrels have to be made up elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, Russia and a few Gulf States are the only countries that can increase output on a large scale. But even if Riyadh can physically replace the gap left over by Iran, Iran would never vote in favor of such a scenario.

“No consensus on this issue is likely,” Commerzbank wrote in a note.

Nevertheless, a de facto increase in Saudi production in lieu of supply losses from Iran is the only realistic outcome. The end result could be no formal agreement on specific allotments that take into account falling production from Iran and Venezuela. But the shift in market share may happen anyway, whether or not OPEC+ approves it.

It amounts to a sort of co-presidency between Riyadh and Moscow, the two largest producers within the OPEC+ group, but it certainly will diminish group cohesion.

“They are sacrificing OPEC, they are destroying OPEC and slowly, slowly, without directly saying so, they want to gather some names together to create a forum to replace OPEC and manage the market,” Zanganeh said.

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© Nick Oxford

He also said that Saudi officials should fess up to their real motivations. “If they want to produce excessively, we cannot stop them,” Zanganeh said. “There is no forcible instrument in OPEC. But they shouldn’t do it in the name of OPEC. They should come out and say, ‘The US has phoned and told me to increase output. And I have no other way but to do so.’”

Not only are Saudi Arabia and Russia taking on a greater role in the current moment to ensure market stability, but they are also looking to institutionalize the arrangement for the long-term.

In the near-term, the US seems to be counting on Saudi Arabia and Russia, along with American shale drillers, to offset the losses from Iran. Saudi Arabia has added about 400,000 bpd since May, while Russia has added about 300,000 bpd. But covering the accelerating losses from Iran won’t be an easy task. Iran could lose as much as 1.4 mb/d by the end of the year, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Venezuela could lose another 250,000 bpd.

Saudi Arabia is the only country with the ability to increase production on the scale of what we are talking about here, but any ramp up in production necessarily cuts into spare capacity, which is already at relatively low levels. The oil market will welcome more barrels from Saudi Arabia, but oil traders will nonetheless grow jittery as spare capacity dwindles.

Read more on Oilprice.com: Tesla ‘Headed for the graveyard’ – ex GM boss

Reports from earlier this week that Riyadh was content letting oil prices rise above $ 80 per barrel are perhaps a sign that Saudi officials are acknowledging the challenge of keeping a lid on prices at a time when Iran is seeing significant disruptions. As a result, it won’t be surprising if Saudi Arabia increases output in the months ahead, but that the effort fails to prevent oil from moving higher. 

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Russia to become China’s top supplier of gas soon

By ethan / September 22, 2018

One of the world’s longest gas pipelines – the Power of Siberia – which is being created to deliver natural gas from Russia to China, is almost complete. The sides are now getting ready to ink a contract on another major pipeline.

Agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 or the ‘Western Route’ for the supply of Russian gas from the Far East to China might be signed in the first half of 2019, according to Nur Bekri, director of the National Energy Administration of China. The new pipeline will deliver 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.

“We continue consultations… If we agree on the ‘Western Route’, then it will be more than 80 billion cubic meters [for all supply routes, including LNG – Ed.] a year. This means that Russia will take the first place among gas suppliers to China,” Bekri told TASS.

Russian energy giant Gazprom’s CEO, Alexey Miller, said earlier that Russia and China have agreed to get approval for gas supplies via the ‘Western Route’ in the shortest possible time.

Demand for Russian gas supplies is increasing in China, and according to Miller, by 2035 it could reach 80 – 100 billion cubic meters a year.

A recent report by the US Energy Information Administration showed that the world’s second-biggest natural gas importer, China, will account for at least a quarter of all global natural gas consumption growth between 2015 and 2040.

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© Chen Aizhu

Supplies via the ‘Eastern Route’ (the Power of Siberia) are expected to start by the end of next year. Initial volumes will stand at 5 billion cubic meters, reaching 38 billion cubic meters per year by 2024.

The 3,000-km (1,900-mile) pipeline will be longer than the distance between Moscow and London. The deal on the ‘Eastern Route’ took more than a decade to negotiate. In May 2014, Gazprom and CNPC signed a $ 400-billion, 30-year framework to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to China annually.

In 2017, Gazprom invested 158.8 billion rubles ($ 2.4 billion) in the project. This year it plans to invest another 218 billion rubles ($ 3.25 billion).

Russia’s Arctic region will also be a major source of gas supplies to China. At the moment, Russian gas producer Novatek is working (in cooperation with CNPC) on the implementation of Russian-led energy project Yamal LNG. China has already purchased the first two batches of liquefied natural gas from Yamal.

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Facebook to stop ‘embedding’ staff in political campaigns

By ethan / September 22, 2018

Presidential candidates in 2020 won’t be able to rely on ‘embedded’ Facebook staff, the Menlo Park company declared. Hillary Clinton’s campaign declined this help in 2016, letting her rival Donald Trump leverage it to victory.

Facebook will still offer technical support to candidate headquarters, as well as basic training on how to use the platform, but will not have any staffers “embedded” in campaigns as it did in 2016, Bloomberg reported.

This kind of support helped then-candidate Trump spread his message in 2016, his digital director Brad Parscale said in an interview, referring to Facebook staff as “embeds.” Facebook has quibbled with his choice of words and eventually decided to scrap the program, under tremendous pressure from Congress to “do something” about its influence over US elections.

Clinton’s surprise defeat led to accusations of “Russian collusion” and “meddling” in social media, with numerous news outfits leading the witch hunt for “Russian bots and trolls” on Facebook and Twitter. After CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Congress in April, Facebook said in its follow-up response that it offered the same support to the Clinton camp as it did to Trump, but that the Democrats declined.

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© Thomas White

Facebook also concluded that the Trump campaign was simply better at using Facebook, and “better leveraged” the platform to its advantage, according to an internal analysis reported by Bloomberg. The Trump campaign also spent more money on Facebook ads, coughing up $ 44 million between June and November 2016, as opposed to Clinton’s $ 28 million.

Amid Democrat-led furor over a handful of ads purchased by ‘Russians’ in 2016, Facebook has been touting its new security measures in the run-up to this November’s midterm elections. As well as improving account security and verification for political groups, Facebook said in a blog post on Monday that it will be “detecting and removing fake accounts, working to prevent the spread of false news, and setting a new standard for political and issue ads transparency.”

In preparation for the elections, Facebook announced earlier this month that it would be building a physical war room,” where its crack team of experts will monitor the platform for “bad actors” in the hours leading up to the vote.

Facebook did not elaborate on what sort of “experts” it has been teaming up with, but its partnership with the Atlantic Council is a good indication of precisely how ‘unbiased’ one can expect them to be. The Council is basically an academic arm of NATO which frequently hosts lively debates between assorted Russophobes. The Digital Forensics Lab, an offshoot of the Atlantic Council, currently helps Facebook weed out ‘Russian bots.’ And if this leads to censoring alternative media, dissident Democrats, and even Clinton partisans – well, that’s just the cost of doing business, right?

Facebook’s efforts to police content that might offend someone, somewhere, at some point has drawn ire from Republicans, with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hinting that Congress might start seeing the platform as a publisher, and therefore not shielded by laws granting public forums immunity from being sued over their content.

Keen to avoid further accusations of bias, Facebook said it will offer support globally, through an online portal instead of in person, and will help political candidates and groups with routine tasks like navigating Facebook and having ads approved from now on.

Google and Twitter, who also assigned staff to work on both campaigns in 2016, have yet to indicate whether they will withdraw their support in 2020. Parscale, who is now Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, has not yet commented on Facebook’s decision.

In May, Parscale and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote a letter to Facebook and Twitter, asking for assurances that “transparency, neutrality, and protection of all speech will be core tenets of Facebook and Twitter operations, now and in the future.” There was no word if they ever got a response.

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Trump threatens China with more tariffs if Beijing retaliates against latest $200bn package

By ethan / September 22, 2018

Donald Trump has threatened to impose even more tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing dares to impose tit-for-tat measures in response to Washington’s latest package of levies targeting some $ 200 billion of Chinese exports.

Trump has cautioned the world’s second-largest economy to think twice before engaging in a trade war in which, he claims, the US has “more bullets.”

“We will come back with more, if they retaliate. And we have a lot more to come back with,” Trump told a packed rally for Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley in Missouri.

China said it will institute new tariffs on US goods worth $ 60 billion from September 24, after the US administration slapped new levies on Beijing’s exports.

READ MORE: China to impose new tariffs on US goods worth $ 60 billion effective September 24

While both the Chinese and US measures are set to go into effect Monday, Trump previously noted that the initial 10 percent tariffs would rise to 25 percent on January 1, 2019. The world’s two largest economic superpowers have already applied tariffs on $ 50 billion of each other’s imports.

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