yYAXssKCQaUWZcXZ79RJTBLvo-c;SfREtjZ9NYeQnnVMC-CsZ9qN6L0 Finance, Economics, Globus, Brokers, Banks, Collateral-Oriano Mattei

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domenica 24 settembre 2017

WASHINGTON -- Paul Manafort was looking for an investor, and Oleg Deripaska was his man. It was 2008, and a famed Manhattan building known as the Drake Hotel was being eyed by the American lobbyist and political adviser Manafort for purchase and development. On June 30, Manafort met with Deripaska, a Russian who had earned his fortune and reputation as a hard-knuckled, take-no-prisoners businessman in the 1990s consolidating control over Russia's metals industry.....

A composite photo of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman (right), and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.


WASHINGTON -- Paul Manafort was looking for an investor, and Oleg Deripaska was his man.
It was 2008, and a famed Manhattan building known as the Drake Hotel was being eyed by the American lobbyist and political adviser Manafort for purchase and development. On June 30, Manafort met with Deripaska, a Russian who had earned his fortune and reputation as a hard-knuckled, take-no-prisoners businessman in the 1990s consolidating control over Russia's metals industry.
According to a memo generated by Manafort's then-partner Rick Gates to two Deripaska associates, the Russian billionaire was definitely interested in investing, telling Manafort "to lock the other financing elements and then come back to him for the final piece of investment."
"Based on the interest in this opportunity expressed by Mr. D during his meeting with Paul, we would like to discuss the parameters of this deal with you further and as soon as possible," said the memo, which was submitted as evidence in a lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court on an unrelated dispute.
The Drake deal, which ultimately fell through, is one of many illustrating Manafort's dealings with Deripaska, whom U.S. officials consider to be a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (file photo)
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (file photo)
Those and other dealings are now under the glaring scrutiny of Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel investigating alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Russian officials and associates of U.S. President Donald Trump. Three different congressional committees are also investigating.
In e-mails handed over to U.S. investigators, Manafort sought through "an overseas intermediary" of Deripaska to initiate "private briefings" in 2016, when Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman, The Washington Post reported on September 20. 
U.S. media reports noted that there is no evidence that Deripaska took Manafort up on the alleged offer.
A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, said on September 21 that the investigations into Manafort's actions are "entirely politically motivated."
An official with Deripaska’s press office denied any interactions between the businessman and Manafort for years prior to 2016. 
“Mr. Deripaska had no communications, meetings, briefings, or other interactions with Mr. Manafort during, after, or in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election. And in fact, Mr. Deripaska had not communicated with Mr. Manafort for years prior to 2016. Thus, any publication suggesting or implying that Mr. Deripaska directly or indirectly communicated with Mr. Manafort in 2016 would be a false statement of fact,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL. 
Aluminum Fortunes
Deripaska has routinely figured on Kremlin invite lists for years, most recently at a gathering of key business leaders announced on September 21 that Russian media suggests was aimed at gauging the economic climate ahead of a presidential election in 2018. 
Deripaska's net worth has been estimated at $5.3 billion by Forbes magazine, a fortune he built largely in the 1990s during a period some Russian media have dubbed the "aluminum wars."

Now 49, Deripaska was trained in physics at Moscow State University and later in economics at the Plekhanov Academy of Economics. Amid the often-haphazard mass privatization of state enterprises undertaken by then-President Boris Yeltsin, he founded a metals-trading operation, and in 1994 took control of a Siberian aluminum smelter. That was the seed for a company that became Basic Element, Deripaska's main investment vehicle.
The Moscow offices of United Company Rusal, one of the world's largest aluminum producers. (file photo)
The Moscow offices of United Company Rusal, one of the world's largest aluminum producers. (file photo)
In 2000, he became director general of Russian Aluminum, which later became United Company Rusal, one of the world's largest aluminum manufacturers. United Company Rusal and Basic Element oversee businesses ranging from aviation to agriculture, as well as metals smelters.
Deripaska has been dogged for years by reports of connections to suspected organized crime groups, including Semyon Mogilevich, a Russian businessman formerly on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List. Mogilevich was among those named in a lawsuit filed by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in which Manafort and Deripaska's possible business venture was detailed. Deripaska has repeatedly denied any criminal ties.
But, beginning in 2006, the State Department denied Deripaska a visa to enter the United States. The visa difficulties reportedly led him to enlist the lobbying influence of former Republican presidential candidate and Senate leader Bob Dole and, later, the work of one of Washington's well-known lobbying firms, BGR, run by a former chairman of the Republican Party.

Deripaska reportedly traveled to the United States in 2009 under what The Wall Street Journal said was a secret arrangement with the FBI.

In fact, one U.S. government official and court documents filed in another U.S. lawsuit assert that Deripaska managed to travel to the United States more than a half dozen times between 2011 and 2014 using a Russian government-issued diplomatic passport, underscoring Deripaska's political connections.
Kyiv Link
Sometime in the mid-2000s, Deripaska connected with a Russian named Konstantin Kilimnik, whose education at Russia's Military University for Foreign Languages has led to speculation that he is employed by intelligence agencies, something he has denied.

Kilimnik began working for Manafort in 2005, when Manafort was representing Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian oligarch who was said to be a financier of the Party of Regions of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's president from 2010 until mass unrest forced him from office in February 2014. 
Reports from a "black ledger" in Ukraine indicating millions of dollars in payments were directed from Yanukovych's party to Manafort contributed to his exit from the Trump election campaign in August 2016.
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov (file photo)
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov (file photo)
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Manafort proposed a plan in June 2005 to Deripaska that was aimed at influencing politics, business dealings, and news coverage across the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet Union in ways that would favor Putin. The AP report, published in March, said Manafort eventually signed a contract worth $10 million with Deripaska. He had a business relationship with him until at least 2009.
Deripaska, who denied the report, later said he would sue AP for libel.
After Yanukovych's election in 2010, Kilimnik told RFE/RL that he spent 90 percent of his time inside the presidential administration, where he assisted Manafort.
In an interview earlier this year, Kilimnik told RFE/RL that, during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, he briefed Manafort on Ukraine issues. But he said he had been on Manafort's payroll since 2014. 
The Washington Post said Manafort's offers to Deripaska were made via e-mails sent to Kilimnik. "If he needs private briefings we can accommodate," the July 7, 2016, e-mail, portions of which were read to the Post along with other Manafort correspondence, reportedly said.
Asked about his conversations with Manafort, Kilimnik told RFE/RL on September 21 that they discussed the U.S. election campaign, but he declined to describe the e-mail in detail or to say whether there was an effort to reach out to Deripaska.
"There were millions of emails. [...] we worked for 11 years. And we discussed a lot of issues, from Putin to women," Kilimnik said via text message.
"Of course we discussed trump and everything," he said in another message. "A lot of things. Our clients owe us money. Is there any violation of the law or proof of my work for KGB or whoever in those discussions?"
"On the political side there is no case that can be made about my involvement in the US elections," Kilimnik wrote in another September 21 message. "They are tough investigators and probably will get manafort for some financial crap. With that many years of international clients no one can be 100% clean."

CMZ And Pericles
Sometime around late 2006 or early 2007, Manafort and Rick Davis established a Cayman Islands-based private-equity fund called Pericles into which, according to U.S. court papers, Deripaska later invested $56 million as part of the abortive effort to buy the Drake Hotel. One of Manafort's business associates in New York was Brad Zackson, who worked in the 1990s as an exclusive broker for Donald Trump's now-deceased father, Fred.
Pericles, along with the Deripaska investment, also played a part in a bid to purchase a Ukrainian cable and Internet company. That effort later collapsed, and a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court in Virginia in 2015 by Deripaska's lawyers accused Manafort of a failure to pay Deripaska $19 million related to the failed investment.
The Drake Hotel real estate is not the only investment Manafort has undertaken that has come under scrutiny. Several townhouses and condominiums in New York and elsewhere are reportedly being examined by U.S. investigators and New York Attorney General's offices, including the loans that Manafort used to buy the properties. 
With contributions by RFE/RL correspondent Christopher Miller in Kyiv

Senatùr, annuncia Brunetta che, se lei deciderà di andarsene dalla Lega ingrata, Forza Italia è pronta ad accoglierla. «Eh, ma non lo dice mica solo Brunetta. Me l’ha detto anche Berlusconi: se vuoi, in lista ti ci metto io». ...

Alleati. Silvio Berlusconi accarezza Umberto Bossi a Montecitorio nel 2011


Senatùr, annuncia Brunetta che, se lei deciderà di andarsene dalla Lega ingrata, Forza Italia è pronta ad accoglierla. «Eh, ma non lo dice mica solo Brunetta. Me l’ha detto anche Berlusconi: se vuoi, in lista ti ci metto io».  

Parola di Umberto Bossi, alle prime uscite pubbliche dopo lo schiaffo di Pontida. Lui, il Fondatore, non invitato sul palco più leghista di tutti, anzi nemmeno nominato da Matteo Salvini. L’occasione per fai sentire è la festa “nazionale” della Lega lombarda, in un capannone di Brescia. E qui, per capire che “il Bossi” è forse sempre nel cuore dei militanti, ma di certo non in quello della gerarchia, basta dare un’occhiata ai manifesti. Ce ne sono tre: il primo pubblicizza il duetto fra Zaia e Maroni di giovedì scorso, il secondo il comizio di Salvini di venerdì, il terzo il “pranzo lombardo” a base di “porchetta bresciana” (sarà la via gastronomica al federalismo?) di oggi. Bossi risulta non pervenuto.  

Invece coraggiosamente perviene, in buona forma, perfino in anticipo sui suoi abituali tempi nottambuli. Cena con uno dei suoi soliti menù pazzeschi, frittura di pesce e Coca-cola, in compagnia degli irriducibili per i quali Roma è ancora ladrona, la Padania un obiettivo e la Lega “nazionale” di Salvini un errore nel caso migliore, un tradimento nel peggiore. Tipo il consigliere comunale seduto al suo tavolo con la maglietta «Padania is not Italy» che fa la domanda retorica: «Sai cosa vuol dire Ncs?». Certo, Noi Con Salvini... «No, Noi Con ’Stoc...», vabbé. E giù selfie, pacche sulle spalle, baci e abbracci di preferenza con le ragazze, meglio se belle. Poi, sì, ci sta anche l’intervista, «però facciamola sui referendum», intendendo quelli fai-da-te del Lombardo-Veneto del 22 ottobre.  

Ma perché sono così importanti?  
«Per dimostrare a Roma che la Lombardia non ne può più. E per salvare la nostra economia. Solo l’anno scorso qui hanno chiuso 100 mila aziende. O teniamo i soldi dei lombardi in Lombardia e dei veneti in Veneto o si rischia che la crisi economica diventi una crisi sociale». 

Anche i leghisti del Piemonte annunciano che, se torneranno al potere in Regione, indiranno lo stesso referendum.  
«I referendum di Lombardia e Veneto sono un modello per il Nord, poi ogni regione farà quello che vuole. Evidentemente anche a Torino ne hanno piene le scatole di dare soldi a Roma». 

Non è un po’ paradossale che un voto atteso da sempre arrivino proprio quando la Lega non parla più di autonomia e poco anche di federalismo?  
«Può darsi. Ma l’occasione di fare finalmente il referendum è talmente importante che non dobbiamo sciuparla. Adesso l’importante è vincerlo». 

Appunto: faccia delle previsioni.  
«Io dico che la gente andrà a votare e voterà sì». 

Più in Lombardia o più in Veneto?  
«Credo più in Veneto, i veneti hanno sofferto di più del centralismo romano, quando era impossibile perfino parlare nella loro lingua». 

A Pontida lei ha detto che potrebbe lasciare la Lega. Va o resta?  
«Per adesso resto». 

Per adesso?  
«Il referendum è così decisivo che tutto il resto passa in second’ordine. Prima vinciamolo, l’importante è questo». 

E poi?  
«Poi si vedrà». 

Insomma, potrebbe anche accettare l’offerta di Berlusconi. Difficile però una Lega senza Bossi...  
«Di certo Berlusconi l’offerta di candidarmi l’ha fatta. Ma credo che alla fine sarò candidato alle elezioni per la Lega». 

Ma nel centrodestra come finirà?  
«Io credo che si troverà l’accordo. Mi fido di Berlusconi, e non dimentico quello che ha fatto. Anche per la Lega». 


di Alberto Mattioni per "lastampa.it"

A businessman from Siberia’s Bitcoin “mining capital” says he regrets not starting earlier, as it saved him from a “terrible crisis.” Others say they gained “freedom,” as well as profits. RT explores the rising popularity of cryptocurrency mining in Russia.....

‘Drugs & arms trafficking not as profitable’: Bitcoin miners tell RT why they bet on crypto profits


A businessman from Siberia’s Bitcoin “mining capital” says he regrets not starting earlier, as it saved him from a “terrible crisis.” Others say they gained “freedom,” as well as profits. RT explores the rising popularity of cryptocurrency mining in Russia.
With every day the cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin and Ethereum (ether) being most popular of them, are gaining momentum. You may either trade these currencies or just “mine” them – give your hardware and power to maintain the cryptocurrency system and take a certain amount of digital currency in exchange. The more operations the hardware does, the more money your get.
Many Russians do not go around like a horse in a mill, as many people across the country rushed to join the mining business. In the wake of the ether boom, Russians were sweeping clean electronics stores, where people tried to buy mining hardware – graphics processing units (GPU) – necessary to mine Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.
Some choose to trade as well as mine, despite the risks involved.
“I began in April and now, before the [Bitcoin] fall, I had $3,000 on the account,” said 72-year-old Valentina Klyoz. An agricultural engineer by training and a former businesswoman, she made around $1,200 by betting on cryptocurrency.
“A year ago, it was a complete mystery to me,” she said, laughing. As all her family is in the business and her granddaughter hosts news shows on the topic, she was willing to find out what is all about.
“Why not try it too, it's so interesting. I have never gambled on the stock exchange," Valentina told RT.
She asked her son to buy the necessary equipment to mine Bitcoin, the so-called miner (which is basically a powerful hardware called ASIC) and she began enjoying the process. Now she reads all the news about it and follows the exchange rates. Even on vacation the woman could not help checking it, as Bitcoin was rapidly rising. She even thought to take out her miner in case it suddenly fell.
Valentina said that her friends are also interested in the topic, but not everybody is ready for it yet or “to lose some money.”
“I think they’ll be ready for it. They are curious how much I have in my [electronic] purse and count my earnings.”
Also, she noted that not everybody has enough money to start, as she spent 130,000 rubles (more than $2,200) to buy the hardware. But the investment has paid off and even gave profits.
Although the technology may seem difficult, cryptocurrencies have gathered a rather heterogeneous audience, comprised of people of different ages, aims and ways of life.
"[The mining ‘target audience’ is large]: from schoolchildren to pensioners, but the most active core audience is from 20 to 50 years old. Currently, the economic situation is far from good, and it’s a real means of earning one’s living very well, even on the European level I’d say," said Valentina’s son, Ilya, a miner from the Siberian city of Irkutsk.
"Our pensioners come to their grandchildren, and give them gadgets for mining as presents. They hold competitions among their grandchildren who will earn most Bitcoins! Essentially, pensioners get their grandkids hooked on mining!"

Cryptokids mine up for the future

While some universities are introducing cryptocurrency technology courses, some sharp-minded Russian kids have already explored this world and started to earn money, even when their parents are suspicious about it.
RT spoke to one of those young businessmen, a 15-year-old schoolboy from Moscow. He has been fond of mining since this summer and chose Bitcoin for himself.
While it was just a hobby at the beginning, Dmitry wants to continue after graduation. “Although cryptocurrency mining has high profitability, big income requires big investments,” he said.
“I believe that mining technologies are very promising. An increasing number of people get involved in this, get new skills and improving old practices.”
The teen noted that many people are still skeptical of mining and nobody from his close circle is involved in it. Even his parents are not excited about it. “Although I have vividly described to them the mining process and the opportunities of mining, they feel suspicious about it. That’s why I have to do this alone,” Dmitry said. 
Some Russian kids have already taken part in a quiz on the technology in Moscow. Many officials came to the event and joined the quiz panel, including German Gref, CEO of Russia’s Sberbank.
The participants later shared their experience with Russian media. They have just looked up the necessary information in the Internet and decided to take their chance. Some of them have already made a small fortune.
“I invested 1,000 rubles ($17) in February. Seven months have passed, and now I have 127,000 ($2,200) in cryptocurrency equivalent,” said 16-year-old Yaroslav, from the Russian city of Voronezh.
However, he is also alone in this interest, as his friends and parents are reluctant to use it.
“I wanted to hook up my friends on it, but no, nobody wants it. They’re just lazy,” he said. “My father is afraid that I’m trading some cryptocurrencies, he thinks that it is illegal and that a juvenile offender lives at home.”

‘Nobody can steal your money’

“As I was told, even drug and arms trafficking don’t give such profitability,” Russian businessman and Bitcoin miner Yuriy Dromashko joked, speaking to RT.
He is also from the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which has sometimes called the Russian mining capital. The city has some huge advantages making mining business more profitable – cheap energy and a cold climate. Dromashko started mining Bitcoin around one year ago as “the terrible crisis did not let me live” and regrets he had not done it earlier.
“This currency will take the place comparable to the mass capitalization of the dollar and the euro. It means that it will be a very meaningful financial tool,” Dromashko told RT.
The businessman believes that Bitcoin’s price will only rise, as Russian authorities as well as other countries are talking about it and adopting laws to give it legal status.
“If it wasn’t worth it, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin wouldn’t talk about it, laws wouldn’t be adopted at the state level by such countries as Japan and Russia,” Dromashko said. Japan was a pioneer in legalizing cryptocurrencies, as it recognized Bitcoin as a legal payment method in April.
Meanwhile, Russia has not still given legal status to cryptocurrencies, despite some companies attempting to take payments.While the government is set to discuss the issue, President Putin has paid great attention to the rapidly growing industry and met with the founder of the second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum (ether), Russian-born Vitalik Buterin, in June. Putin “supported the idea of establishing ties with possible Russian partners” as Buterin described possible opportunities, according to the Kremlin.
The government will “definitely feel the threat from cryptocurrencies, but simultaneously will feel the profits,” Dromashko believes, adding that Russians are involved in many cryptocurrency projects and the country has cheap electricity. The state can also have taxes from those involved in this business when it properly regulates the sphere.
However, Russian officials are split over the cryptocurrency issue. The Central Bank wants tougher regulation, and its chief, Elvira Nabiulina, has described cryptocurrencies as “financial pyramids” and warned of its danger as their anonymity allows to use them for illegal actions and terrorism.
Russia’s former finance minister, Aleksey Kudrin, who currently heads an influential think tank, compared the currencies with a casino,where you can both win and lose.
Meanwhile, the Russian Central Bank CEO has warned that it is necessary to be careful with cryptocurrency regulation, so as not to “stifle” the perspective technology.
Russian miners are apparently optimistic on the cryptocurrencies’ future in the world and in Russia in particular. 
“Things turned to legalization [of cryptocurrencies in Russia], after countries like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam started to legalize Bitcoin. Taking into account German Gref’s attitude to Bitcoin, one shouldn’t worry. Also, Putin’s meeting with [the co-founder of Blockchain and Ethereum cryptocurrency] Vitalik Buterin is also significant,” Ilya Klyoz told RT.
“We also welcome imposing taxes [on Bitcoin operations], nothing bad about that. Those who mine in their basements will continue to do so, and no one will ever catch them.”
Even if Russia follows China’s path and cracks down on the technology or fully bans it, the miners are not going to give up.
“If they ban it in Russia, it will be possible to legally obtain or use your money in another country,” a 28-year old IT specialist from Moscow, who preferred to remain anonymous, told RT.
“This is the advantage of cryptocurrency, if you observe elementary precautionary measures, nobody can take away and steal your money. Cryptocurrency erases boundaries and gives the freedom that public authorities of a country steal from us from time to time.”

da "rt.com"

A soldier in a French Army special reconnaissance regiment was killed in a “combat-related” incident on Saturday somewhere in the Iraq and Syria warzone, the French government confirmed despite the unit officially not being deployed to either of the countries...

First casualty? French paratrooper killed in anti-terrorist op ‘in Iraq/Syria’


A soldier in a French Army special reconnaissance regiment was killed in a “combat-related” incident on Saturday somewhere in the Iraq and Syria warzone, the French government confirmed despite the unit officially not being deployed to either of the countries.
In a statement issued by Élysée Palace on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that that an “adjutant of the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment” was killed while “accomplishing his mission to defend our country, protect our fellow citizens and win the struggle against barbarism.”
Neither the soldier’s identity, nor the exact location or the country where the paratrooper was killed, have been revealed. Former French General Dominique Trinquand, cited by France-24, said it is common for details of special forces missions to be kept secret from the public.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly expressed condolences to the family of the slain soldier, saying that he died “in a battle he led for us all, in the name of freedom and our values,” as cited by Franceinfo.
The serviceman reportedly became the first casualty suffered by the French forces within Opération Chammal, an anti-Islamic State bombing campaign conducted since September 2014 in support of the Iraqi Army and Kurdish militias fighting terrorists on the ground, French military sources told AFP.
In October 2016, it was reported that two French paratroopers from the Task Force Hydra deployed by France to Iraq were injured in a drone explosion near Erbil. The French government later confirmed the injuries. Le Monde reported at the time that the French forces had been engaged in fighting IS for two years alongside Kurdish Peshmerga militia in Erbil.
The French air campaign has been led by Rafale fighter jets, eight of which are stationed in the French airbase in Jordan, some 30 km from the Syrian border, and six in the United Arab Emirates (OAE), according to a report by Le Monde.
But the announcement of the paratrooper’s death is the first public acknowledgement by the French government that the French regiment, based in the southwestern commune of Martignas-sur-Jalle, is on active duty in Syria and Iraq, France-24 reports.
Speaking of the circumstances of the serviceman’s death, Colonel Patrick Steiger, spokesman for the French Armed Forces General Staff, said that the lieutenant was an adviser of a “local force” fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) which came under heavy fire by jihadists who rained down “weapons of all caliber: machine guns, mortars and missiles” on the group early Saturday. Although the Frenchman was not directly involved in repelling the offensive, he was “fatally wounded” and died on the scene.
Defending the decision to not name the location of the clashes, Steiger said, as cited by AFP, that it was made “so as not to reveal it to the enemy.” 
Meanwhile, the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, of which Chammal is a part, also confirmed the casualty, saying that “a French Coalition service member was killed in a combat-related incident in the Middle East [on] Sept[ember] 23.” The statement went on to note that the French government may decide to reveal more details about the incident.
The regiment traces back its origin to the 17th century and is known to have been involved in the Gulf War and in the Kosovo War, among other engagements.
After the spate of deadly terrorist attacks that rocked France in November 2015, the fight against Islamic State has been listed among the top priorities of the French government.
"Restoring peace and stability — Iraq then Syria — is vital priority for France," Macron said last month, designating ISIS as “our enemy.”
The Syrian government has repeatedly accused the forces of the international coalition of operating on its territory illegally, as none of its members received the required approval.

da "rt.com"

sabato 23 settembre 2017

Hundreds of opposition activists attended an anticorruption protest in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. The protest, which has been sanctioned by the municipal government, was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces -- an umbrella organization bringing together some of Azerbaijan's opposition forces......

Azerbaijanis at an opposition demonstration in Baku


Hundreds of opposition activists attended an anticorruption protest in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.
The protest, which has been sanctioned by the municipal government, was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces -- an umbrella organization bringing together some of Azerbaijan's opposition forces.
Baku police said in a statement that some 1,500 people attended the September 23 rally, although the organizers disputed the official figure, saying the actual attendance was higher. Azerbaijan's Turan news agency said thousands participated in the rally held in the Yasamal district of Baku. 
According to the statement, supporters of the Popular Front Party, People's Democratic Party, National Statehood Party, Musavat Party Youth Organization, Muslim Union, and NIDA Movement participated in the action.
No incidents occurred during the rally, the statement said.
However, ahead of the rally, at least three members of the Popular Front Party were reportedly detained by authorities on September 22. It was immmedately unclear whether they were subsequently released. 
At the end of the rally, which started at 3 p.m. local time and lasted for two hours, electricity was cut off in the area. 
The protest, held under the slogan "Return the money stolen from the people," came after an investigative report by a group of international journalists and anticorruption activists called The Azerbaijani Laundromat named state officials allegedly tied to money-laundering operations.
Azerbaijani opposition gathering in Baku
Azerbaijani opposition gathering in Baku
The report alleges the scheme was “a complex money-laundering operation and slush fund that handled $2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies" registered in the United Kingdom.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's press secretary, Azer Gasimov, has called the report "absurd."
Activists accuse Azerbaijan’s government of repressing journalists, civil society activists, and human rights workers.
They have urged Western governments to do more to confront authorities in Baku.
The oil-rich South Caucasus nation has faced growing social and economic problems stemming from falling world oil prices in recent years.


da "Radio Free Liberty"

Despite belligerent rhetoric over Korean nuclear crisis, neither party would win from actual military action, observers say. But there is a risk of a ‘war by mistake’, triggered by some unintentional accident and spiraling out of anyone’s control...

Trump is ‘Kim’s ideal partner for war dance,’ but war in Korea detrimental to everyone’s interest


Despite belligerent rhetoric over Korean nuclear crisis, neither party would win from actual military action, observers say. But there is a risk of a ‘war by mistake’, triggered by some unintentional accident and spiraling out of anyone’s control.
There is no shortage of most threatening signals to Pyongyang coming from senior US officials lately. President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea while addressing the UN General Assembly and branded its leader a “madman” and “rocket man.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis mused about deploying US nuclear weapons in South Korea. And Senator Lindsey Graham even advocated starting a war now, before American lives are at stake in the conflict. 
The American saber-rattling mirrors the statements from Pyongyang, which threatened to “sink Japan”, compared Trump to a barking dogand said may conduct biggest ever nuclear test in the Pacific region.
The aggressive rhetoric on either side of the Pacific, colorful as it is, does not reflect any actual intention to start a war, a professor at the Kookmin University in Seoul, Andrey Lankov, told RT.
“New Zealand’s indigenous people Maori have this war dance called haka. When a conflict emerged, two gangs of really fearsome men gathered and started jumping in front of each other, cursing each other in Maori language and swinging clubs in front of each other’s nose. An observer could think that those people were about to pounce on each other. In reality it was a way of saying ‘hello’ before talks,” he said.
“People in Pyongyang used to dance a sort of haka solo, with lots of swinging of clubs, bulging of eyes and threatening shouts. But now they have a worthy partner in the White House, who does all the right moves. So aesthetically speaking, watching them is much more fun,” he said.
The cost of an actual military conflict on the Korean Peninsula would be too high for everyone involved and would bring too little benefit, if any, to pay it. This has been true for decades, and the current round of high tension, even if more media-worthy than those we saw on regular basis, does not change this.

Cost of war may be in millions of lives

While Washington has repeatedly said that the military option is on the table, there are no practical scenarios, experts agree. Korean geography puts Seoul, a city where roughly half of South Korea’s 50-million-strong population lives, within the range of North’s long-range artillery, effectively making it a hostage city. There is no way the South Korean capital can be protected from retaliation, should Pyongyang chose to launch one after being attacked.
“I don’t see a prospect of a full-scale invasion a la Iraq [in 2003], but I do see a danger of things getting out of control. The most likely military option would be a ‘preventive strike’ by the US against North Korean nuclear facilities. They would do what the Israelis did with Operation Opera in Iraq. But my view is that there would be a response by North Korea,” former MEP from Britain and member of the Korean Peninsula Delegation in the European Parliament Glyn Ford told RT.
Operation Opera was a 1981 surprise Israeli airstrike, which destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor being built by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, allegedly with the help of Iran. A similar operation was conducted by Israel in 2007 against a suspected nuclear site in Syria. Neither country was capable or willing to try to hurt Israel militarily in response, which may not be the case with North Korea.
“There would eventually be a response, unlike with Iraq. So a full-scale conflict may not be by actual design, but not any less deadly,”Ford said.
A worst-case scenario of a new war in the Korean Peninsula would result in millions of deaths, said Brian Becker, director for the US-based anti-war group Answer Coalition.
“The entire peninsula is heavily populated. It would be a catastrophe,”he told RT. “Obviously, North Korea does not pose a threat to the United States, and yet the US is artificially pushing everything to the brink. It’s this kind of brinkmanship that seems like madness and can lead to a horrendous miscalculation.”
He added that Kim Jong-un may have boosted North Korea’s nuclear and rocket development in response to the US announcing the so-called “pivot to Asia” under the Barack Obama administration. Ironically, the reaction in Pyongyang gives the US another pretext to pour in more troops.
“But North Korea doesn’t see it as a pretext. From their point of view as a small country that had been invaded and devastated by the US, [the pivot] is an existential threat. As a consequence, they are escalating their nuclear weapons capacity. And then the US must respond to that,” Becker said.
If Washington does trigger the destruction of Seoul by a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, it will most likely alienate its southern ally for a foreseeable future, said the director of Eastern Asia Studies at the State Institute of Foreign Religions in Moscow, Aleksandr Lukin.
“If the US does it, it would be really stupid. The Korean people will hate them for a hundred years to come. And nobody will remember details, just like today people forget why the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, but everybody remembers that the Americans did it,” he told RT.

Calm, rational people in Pyongyang

If a full-scale war does start despite its cost, Pyongyang would face an overwhelming military force of South Korea and the US, likely with Japan’s help. Global Firepower Index ranks North Korea’s military as 23rd-most powerful in the world. South is ranked 12th and Japan seventh. Pyongyang’s estimated defense budget for 2017 is $7.5, compared to $5.2 billion, which the City of New York spends on its police department.
North Korea has had a joint defense treaty with China since the early 1960s – the only country with such a pact with Beijing. But China made it clear that it would not protect Pyongyang if it starts a war. The elite of North Korea are not suicidal, and nor is Kim Jong-un, said Lankov.
“The country is not ruled by the Kim family alone. There are some 100 to 150 families of the first tier, the so-called Mount Paektu families, and several hundred families of the second tier, the so-called Naktong Offensive families, which have been ruling it for three generations. All these people know a war would be the end for them,”he said.
“They are afraid that they will be attacked, and they have some grounds for it. They are afraid that they will face an uprising supported by foreign powers, and they have even more reasons for this. But they do not want to attack anyone,” he added. “They are regular, rational, calm people.”
He added that if anyone realizes the purely defensive nature of Pyongyang’s nuclear development that would be American generals, who apparently played a major part in scaling down Trump administration’s war plans, which were being discussed in earnest as early as February.
“Ironically, the most ‘dove-ish’ part of the current administration on the North Korean issue is the Pentagon. Those people realize that the war, which politicians may draw the country into out of stupidity, would be a political and military catastrophe, strategically speaking,” he explained.
“No general wants to go to a war, which will turn into a bloody mess in which he would sacrifice a lot of his men for no apparent reason and then be subjected to criticism by the press while his country looks really weak.”

Nuclear North Korea is path forward

Strangling North Korea with economic sanctions is actually not an option too, even though the US is trying that path. Pyongyang sees nuclear deterrence as crucial for its survival, so it would rather allow North Korean people starve than relinquish it. The examples of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein seem to be quite convincing in that regard. And despite Trump’s rants to the contrary, China’s ability to pressure North Korea is limited and apparently does not go as far as making it freeze the nuclear program.
More importantly, neither Russia nor China is interested in the fall of the North Korean government. In the short run it would cause turmoil in the region with mass migration of refugees. In the long run, the Korean Peninsula may be unified under Seoul, placing American troops at China’s and Russia’s border. So it may well be that acknowledging a reality of a nuclear North Korea may be the best outcome, said Asia-Pacific defense consultant Jack Midgley.
Pyongyang’s endgame in pursuing nuclear and rocket industry is a stronger negotiations position with the US, Midgley told RT. The objection to the program from Washington is dictated by that consideration, as well as the military dimension per se, he said, but in the long run talks is what gives the US most benefit.
“In the short run the US interest is containing the North Korean influence. The US wants to make sure that the North does not gain political power from the possession of nuclear weapons,” he told RT. “Over the longer term the US has an interest of bringing North Korea into the community of nuclear powers, containing it with arms control and confidence-building measures. That’s the path forward.”
Ultimately North Korea will need foreign advice on how to properly handle its nuclear arsenal, Midgley added, since countries like China and Russia are years ahead of Pyongyang in working out proper procedures. That would help reduce the threat of starting a war by accident, he explained.
“One of many risks is that there could be a technical accident that causes people to think that an attack is underway. There could be a rogue launch by someone who takes control over those weapons. There could be an accidental detonation during a test.” he said. “All of those things are possible, and that’s why it is in everyone’s interest for North Korea to be brought into the global community of nuclear powers and taught to manage those weapons in a responsible and established way.”

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The US has flown B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by F-15 fighters off North Korea’s coast venturing the “farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone,” separating the two Koreas, in the 21st century, the Pentagon’s spokesperson said....

US flew B-1B bombers just off coast of North Korea (PHOTOS)


The US has flown B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by F-15 fighters off North Korea’s coast venturing the “farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone,” separating the two Koreas, in the 21st century, the Pentagon’s spokesperson said.
The planes took off from Okinawa, Japan and flew over the waters east of the Korean Peninsula.
"This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea's) reckless behavior," said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

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 bombers, fighters fly in international airspace east of , farthest north of the DMZ in 21st century https://go.usa.gov/xRJSq 
The DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula near the 38th Parallel, separating North Korea from South Korea. It was created in 1953, following the armistice which ended the Korean War.
Mission underscores seriousness of DPRK behavior; sends clear message that @POTUS has options to defeat any threat. https://go.usa.gov/xRJSq 
 stands prepared to use our full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies if called upon to do so.

The B-1B Lancer strategic bombers entered service in the mid-1980s. The plane was designed specifically as a bomber strictly for a nuclear war, thus having a limited capability to carry conventional bombs. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the role of a bomber for purely nuclear war became questionable, and the Lancer fleet was grounded. The planes eventually underwent a series of modifications, which bolstered their conventional bombing capacity, but deprived them of their nuclear load.
US today flew nuclear-capable B1-B bomber just off coast of North Korea in show of ‘resolve,’ Pentagon says
The patrol followed a 3.4 earthquake registered in North Korea earlier on Saturday, which prompted fears of a new nuclear test. The seismic event, however, turned out to be a natural occurrence and “unlikely man-made,” according to geology and nuclear weaponry experts.
The show of force reinforced the recent threats voiced by US President Donald Trump, who vowed on Friday that Kim Jong-un “will be tested like never before,” branding the North Korean leader a “madman.”

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