Russia writes off 90% of Cuba’s debt ahead of Putin’s ‘big tour’ to L. America (Source RT)Russia has written down $32 billion of Cuba’s Soviet era debt. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law ahead of his official visit to Latin America, with Havana as his first stop. The agreement was first signed in October 2013 and draws a line under a twenty-year dispute. Cuba is now required to pay back $3.2 billion over the next 10 years. The first payment from Cuba is expected in October, and the money will be transferred to an account of the Russian Bank opened at the National Bank of Cuba. The agreement was signed into a law on Friday ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Latin America, where Cuba comes the first.
Cash-strapped Cuba has been feverishly trying to restructure its debt to jump start its economy and attract investment. Three years ago it restructured $6 billion it owes to China, and in 2012 Japan forgave about $1.4 billion. Mexico recently forgave $478 million of Cuban debt, and Havana agreed to pay back $146 million over 10 years. Cuba’s total debt was officially estimated at $13.6 billion in 2012 which is described s “active”. Other debt collected prior to its default in 1980s is referred to as “passive”. Cuba remains a strong ally of Russia, with trade between the two countries at about $200 million last year. After the Soviet Union broke up Russia became the legal successor to Cuba’s loans. Cuba in turn rejected this, saying that the debt was in a currency that no longer existed, and was to a country that had vanished.
GAZA DEATH TOLL SOARS AS ISRAEL INTENSIFIES BOMBING CAMPAIGN (Source Common Dreams) Israeli soldiers drive a tank to a position near Israel Gaza Border, Thursday, July 10, 2014. With rockets raining deep inside Israel, the military pummeled Palestinian targets Wednesday across the Gaza Strip and threatened a broad ground offensive, while the first diplomatic efforts to end two days of heavy fighting got underway. Israel’s assault on the people of Gaza “dramatically escalated” overnight as hundreds of missiles bombed the civilian population living in the walled-off territory. According to the Ma’an new agency’s latest reporting, the airstrikes “killed 30 Palestinians overnight Wednesday and Thursday, including a family of eight, bringing the total death toll to 81.” Updating their tracking of the number of children killed during the assault, Defense of Children International-Palestine reports on Thursday that a “total of 14 Palestinian children, including four toddlers, have died in airstrikes since Israel launched a major military offensive on the Gaza Strip Tuesday.” Critics of Israel’s widescale assault—which is using warplanes, naval ships, aerial drones, and ground forces lined up on the border—say the operation, like others before it, is clearly disproportionate.
Italian EU presidency backs South Stream (Source euobserver.com) The Italian EU presidency is in favour of a controversial Russian pipeline, South Stream, which would circumvent Ukraine to bring gas to south-east Europe. “We think South Stream should go ahead, as it would improve the diversification of gas routes to Europe,” Italy’s state secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said on Thursday (10 July) during a press event in Brussels. He echoed statements made by Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini who visited Moscow on Wednesday and met with her Russian counterpart. She said the pipeline was “very important for the energy security of our country, as well as that of the entire European area”, but stressed that the project should comply with EU law. She also invited Russian leader Vladimir Putin to a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Milan in October. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said during that Mogherini press conference that Italy and Russia “confirm our goal on completing the construction project of the South Stream gas pipeline … and to continue active work in order to remove all issues that may arise, including in regard to the dialogue with the European Commission.” Work on the South Stream pipeline was halted in Bulgaria last month after the EU commission said it was in breach of the bloc’s energy and public procurement laws. Energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger said at the time that the ongoing Ukraine crisis has also made the EU wary of going ahead with the project. South Stream would deprive Ukraine of transit revenues from the gas pipelines that cross its territory and bring about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to EU countries. It would also enable it to cut off supplies to Ukraine to exert political pressure, without affecting its EU gas clients.
Germany asks top US intelligence official to leave country over spy row (Source theguardian.com)
Diplomatic relations between Germany and the US plunged to a new low after Angela Merkel’s government asked the top representative of America’s secret services in Germany to leave the country. While not formally amounting to a full expulsion, the move nonetheless sends a dramatic signal: after a year-long dispute triggered by the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Merkel seems to have finally run out of patience with Washington’s failure to explain itself. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the US embassy staffer who has been asked to leave is a CIA “chief of station” who coordinates secret service activity in Germany, and who emerged as the key contact for two German officials recently arrested for allegedly spying for the US.
According to German media reports, such drastic action had previously only been thinkable when dealing with “pariah states like North Korea or Iran”. Clemens Binninger, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who chairs the committee that oversees the intelligence services, said at a press conference in Berlin that the action came in response to America’s “failure to cooperate on resolving various allegations, starting with theNSA and up to the latest incidents”. It follows two reported cases of suspected US espionage in Germany and the year-long spat over reported NSA spying in the country, includingclaims that Merkel’s phone was tapped.
US ‘kidnaps’ Russian MP’s son to ‘exchange him for Snowden’(Source Ria Novosti) A Russian MP claims the US kidnapped his son from the Maldives on bogus cyber-fraud charges and may be preparing to offer him as bait in a swap deal for Edward Snowden. Roman Seleznyov, 30, was arrested at Male international airport as he was about to board a flight to Moscow. He was forced by US secret service agents to board a private plane to Guam and was later arrested. The Russian ministry slammed his detention as “a de-facto kidnapping.” Moscow considers the kidnapping “a new hostile move by Washington,” and accused the US of ignoring proper procedure in dealing with foreign nationals suspected of crimes. In an interview to RT Russian MP Valery Seleznyov, Roman’s father pointed to the illegality of the US kidnap. “For all I know they may be demanding a ransom tomorrow. Or try to exchange him for [NSA whistleblower Edward] Snowden or somebody. One can only wonder.” He cannot contact his son and claims American authorities are denying Roman his rights. “They took him to Guam because American law is not fully applicable there,” the lawmaker explained. The MP said that his son has scant computer skills and could not be involved in any sort of hacking.
‘REMOTE-CONTROL’ CONTRACEPTIVE IMPLANT DEVELOPED BACKED BY BILL GATES (Source London Telegraph) A remote-controlled contraceptive computer chip which would be implanted under the skin has been developed with the backing of Bill Gates. The chip, which would last for 16 years, would release levonorgestral daily, a hormone which is used to prevent pregnancy.
The 17,000 Dow Jones: Surging Towards a Financial Disaster (Source globalresearch.ca) The rise of Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average to an all-time high above 17,000 last week is another sign of the explosive contradictions building up within the American and global financial system. Since hitting its low point of 6,547 on March 9, 2009 following the financial crash of September 2008, the Dow has climbed by more than 10,000 points, and is now over 250 percent what it was barely five years ago. At the same time, following the official recession of December 2007 to June 2009, US gross domestic product has experienced its worst “recovery” of any comparable period since World War II, with output falling by almost 3 percent in the first quarter of this year. Investment in the real economy remains stagnant as corporations pile up cash rather than expand productive activity, and use the money to fund share buy-back operations, mergers and acquisitions and other, essentially parasitic, financial operations. Even though it is still experiencing growth rates of around 7.5 percent, China is widely regarded as being highly vulnerable to the bursting of the financial bubble created by the massive expansion of credit following 2008. It is estimated that in the past six years, credit has increased by an amount equivalent to the finances of the entire US banking system. And yet, amid this worsening situation, US and global stock markets, fuelled by the injection of ultra-cheap money from the major central banks, keep powering upwards. This process cannot continue indefinitely. The endless accumulation of wealth, as money seemingly miraculously transforms itself into even greater amounts of money, is inherently unsustainable. The entire financial system resembles a kind of inverted pyramid in which massive financial wealth rests upon a narrowing real economic base, making the whole system extremely vulnerable to even a small disturbance.
Russia attacks U.S. oil and gas companies in massive hack (Source CNN Money) The Cold War didn’t end in the 1990’s. It simply moved online. That much is clear after a security firm reported this week that Russian hackers have launched unprecedented, highly-sophisticated attacks on Western oil and gas companies. The cyber operation nicknamed Energetic Bear is the latest example of an ongoing battle between all-seeing American and British cyber spies on one side — and intellectual-property-stealing hackers in China and Russia on the other. The report by Symantec (SYMC, Tech30) described how hackers have sneaked malware into computers at power plants, energy grid operators, gas pipeline companies and industrial equipment makers. Most of the targets were in the United States and Spain. The rest were across Europe. The malware was used to steal documents, usernames and passwords. In the best-case scenario, the hackers only took valuable and sensitive information. At worst, they gained the ability to hijack controls — and even sabotage the nation’s energy supply.
EU’s united front on Russia falling amid gas needs (Source Associated Press) A clutch of countries is breaking ranks with the EU’s efforts to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia over Ukraine and building a pipeline meant to carry huge amounts of Russian gas to their doorstep. Russian natural gas already accounts for around a third of the EU’s needs. The South Stream pipeline could increase Russian supplies to Europe by another 25 percent, potentially boosting Moscow’s leverage long after the Ukraine crisis fades. Adding to the skein of Russian pipelines already ending in Europe, South Stream would go through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and Italy in one leg and Croatia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey in a second. The European Commission, the EU executive, has ordered a construction moratorium over concerns with Russia’s dual role as pipeline owner and gas supplier. It has also delayed some political talks on the pipeline amid the crisis in Ukraine. “Developments in Ukraine and Russia have demonstrated that the EU’s priority is to diversify its energy sources,” says spokeswoman Sabine Berger of the EU Energy Commissioner’s office. But Austria, Hungary, and Serbia — the first two EU members, the third a candidate to join — have said they will build their sections of the project and others may follow, to the displeasure of the EU and United States. In the wake of Austria’s decision last month, Washington urged it to “consider carefully” whether that contributed to “discouraging further Russian aggression.” Moscow says such arguments by the U.S. are driven by business concerns. In Vienna recently to lobby for Austrian support for South Stream, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “our American friends … want to supply Europe with gas themselves.” In Slovenia Tuesday for discussions that included South Stream, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov challenged the EU Commission’s moratorium as “not in accordance with norms of international law.” European reaction has been generally muted. Many countries in central and eastern Europe already get much of their gas from Russia, making them ill-placed to criticize South Stream. Those further west, like France, have seen their lucrative business relations with Russia untouched by sanctions against Moscow. “Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow seems to be in the cards for a long time to come,” says Michael Klare, author of “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, the New Geopolitics of Energy.” ”Moscow is not going to give up its dominant position easily.”
DANGEROUS RULING: JUDGE LETS MICROSOFT SEIZE & REDIRECT NO-IP DOMAINS WITHOUT NOTICE (Source TECH DIRT) Microsoft posted a somewhat self-congratulatory blog post yesterday about how it was taking on a “global cybercrime epidemic” and effectively targeting systems used by malware. Of course, part of the details were that Microsoft totally misrepresented the nature of No-IP and how dynamic DNS solutions work. No-IP’s parent company, Vitalwerks Solutions, was painted by Microsoft as being something of an accomplice to the malware epidemic, allowing Microsoft to convince a judge to seize a bunch of very popular No-IP domains without any notice or immediate recourse. Microsoft claims that it’s just stopping malware, but the collateral damage from grabbing those domains is immense. According to No-IP: Unfortunately, Microsoft never contacted us or asked us to block any subdomains, even though we have an open line of communication with Microsoft corporate executives. We have been in contact with Microsoft today. They claim that their intent is to only filter out the known bad hostnames in each seized domain, while continuing to allow the good hostnames to resolve. However, this is not happening. Apparently, the Microsoft infrastructure is not able to handle the billions of queries from our customers. Millions of innocent users are experiencing outages to their services because of Microsoft’s attempt to remediate hostnames associated with a few bad actors. AS NO-IP FURTHER NOTES, MICROSOFT COULD HAVE EASILY CONTACTED THEM, AND THE COMPANY WOULD HAVE TAKEN ACTION: Had Microsoft contacted us, we could and would have taken immediate action. Microsoft now claims that it just wants to get us to clean up our act, but its draconian actions have affected millions of innocent Internet users.