Tag Archives: Russia

Will Snowden be Trumps ‘Bin Landen’ scalp?

Cnt4_Fr53-1.jpg

We are just hours away from President-Elect Donald Trump taking the oath of office and becoming officially the 45th President of the United States.

I can only imagine how Ed Snowden is feeling right now.  There must have been a part of him which was hope for a Presidential pardon from the outgoing President Obama – alas, it wasn’t to come.  And so what now for America’s highest profile whistleblower and exile who has just been given leave to remain in Russia for another three years?

Well, like most things Russian – there is no such thing as a guarantee and if I were Snowden I’d be very very nervous right now.  The Russian’s will have obtained everything they need or wanted from Snowden and in fact, his presence there was merely Putin sticking a pin in the side of Obama.

If we enter into a thawing of USA/Russian relations, an easy win for Trump would be getting Snowden back to face the music for releasing millions of confidential documents.

Snowden has tweeted that he would rather be “without a state than without a voice” – soon, he may find himself in Russian state custody – whilst awaiting extradition back to the United States – facing the rest of his life in prison and finally losing the voice he cherishes so much.

In 2016 I spoke to the author James Bamford who has met and interviewed Ed.

 

Advertisements

Global travellers’ destinations 2016

10509523_10152961872093443_8145558862061237516_n.jpg
Brighton Beach, 2015

If you haven’t ever caught the train down to Brighton to eat fish & chips on the pier, 2016 is definitely the year to do it. Because TripAdvisor has announced the world’s leading destinations for 2016, according to feedback from millions of TripAdvisor travellers – and Brighton has been named sixth trendiest holiday spot on the planet.

Top spot was claimed by the somewhat sunnier and arguably slightly more glamorous resort town of Tulum, Mexico. Other trending destinations include Cartagena, Colombia, and its Caribbean beaches, and Portugal’s second largest city, Porto.

And while you might struggle to justify a trip a two-week holiday in Mexico this summer, there’s really no excuse for failing to make it down south in the next 12 months. If you haven’t been, it’s time to tick Brighton off your bucket and spade list. Start planning your 2016 summer hols now.

11021146_10152730243198443_8201131641832843854_n.jpg
India, 2015

 

Global travellers’ choice destinations on the rise in 2016

1. Tulum, Mexico (+74% booking interest YoY) Las Palmas Maya, £92 per night

2. Cartagena, Colombia (+49% booking interest YoY) San Lazaro Art Lifestyle Hotel, £87 per night

3. Porto, Portugal (+39% booking interest YoY) Moov Hotel Porto Centro, £36 per night

4. Gatlinburg,Tennessee (+67% booking interest YoY) Zoders Inn & Suites, £74 per night

5. Moscow, Russia (+27% booking interest YoY) Mercure Moscow Baumanskaya, £46 per night

6. Brighton, United Kingdom (+60% booking interest YoY) Artist Residence Brighton, £123 per night

7. New Delhi, India (+28% booking interest YoY) bloomrooms @ Link Rd, £38 per night

8.Banff, Canada (+43% booking interest YoY) Rundlestone Lodge, £104 per night

9. Lima, Peru (+33% booking interest YoY) Hotel Vila Santa Miraflores, £51 per night

10. Foz do Iguacu, Brazil (+34% booking interest YoY)

Syria: The Complexities Of Bombing

_81592310_syria_refugees_12_mar_2015_624.gif

We are in the middle of a heated debate in the UK as to whether we should or should not use our armed forces to bomb Syria.  Whether we do or wether we do not will be decided by a vote of our MPs on Wednesday.

Let’s be clear.  If Paris had been London – the discourse would be very different and it is important that we take this opportunity to be thankful that we make such decisions with a cool head and not as a reaction to horrific events.  That said – we need to realise the real dangers we face as British citizens – like the horrors that we saw on a beach in Tunisia – or that of in France.  The Russian flight that was blown up over Egypt’s Sinai desert could well of been a British flight.  Wether we like it or not – we are targets – wether or not we bomb in Syria.

There are those who are totally opposed to bombing.  I understand their concerns.  However, the truth is that bombing HAS worked.  It decimated their high command; helped halt their advance and in many cases pushed them back;  spreads fear and dread throughout the ranks of Daesh who worry that every time they step outside or jump into a vehicle – they could be killed or maimed.  That in turn helps disrupt their mobility and ability to hold gatherings outside of their strong hold and if they need to communicate over long distances – they take a chance with their lives or use technology which can be intercepted and used against them.

 

Drone-1-571x400.jpg

Bombing Has Limitations

That said, bombing has limitations.  We know already that there is a complex network of tunnels and command centres placed underneath the houses and hospitals of innocent Syrian people.  The extremists use these dug outs knowing that if and when they get bombed – they survive but the innocent men, women and children above ground die; their deaths then captured and edited into slick horror videos distributed to easily suggestible men and women around the world who do not comprehend the context of how they actually died.

The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is not just whether we should bomb Syria.  Whether we do or do not will not make much of a difference. This fact we know. We also know Daesh will be defeated in Syria and Iraq.  Maybe not next week, next month or next year. But they will.  And we know this because – they are a death cult. They are only interested in death.  And before they die they want to ensure they subjugate, kill, terrorise  and torture anyone under their control. This is not something desired by the masses – no matter how deep rooted they are to a religion.  Daesh has limited appeal.

 

kobani-afp.jpg

Even the use of the word “defeat” is a simplification.  Like defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan!

So, when we say “defeat” what we actually mean is turn them from a group which controls large swathes of a country and its population – into a small group of bandits and guerrillas who still hold the same ideology but terrorise on a much smaller scale and are dealt with at a local level before eventually being replaced with some other ideology and becoming a footnote in history.

The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is: What do you think Syria will look like in 1, 3 & 5 years time and what do you base this on?  (as apposed to what do you want it to look like). What is our end game?   When Daesh is defeated – what could fill the vacuum?  Who are they? What are their aims? How far are you prepared to go militarily – understanding that bombing has its limits?  Weapons? Training? Our soldiers?

The West is adamantly opposed to Russian backed President Bashar al-Assad – yet backs the free Syrian army – which is adamantly apposed by Russia and President Bashar al-Assad.  In order to root out Daesh we may need to work with Russia and Assad – how do we feel about this?  Will  we need to adjust our policy to Assad – what about the thousands and millions killed or made refugees by his Government – what are our “lines to take” when answering their questions?  Can we feasibly have two opposing policies operating at one time?  With Assad – but against? With Russia, but against?

 

PA-24782399.jpg
Prime Minister David Cameron speaking about the Paris attacks in the House of Commons (PA) – flanked by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

And when Daesh are finally sent scurrying off into the desert – who will replace them?  Do we know? Do we think we know? Have we post-Daesh plans?  What do we do if Assad tries to reclaim control of the country? If we commit to side fully with the free Syrian army and this group of 70,000 militants ready to rout out Daesh from places such as Raqqa – what happens if they are then bombed by Assad or Russia?  What if we find ourselves backing an army which finds itself fighting against Assad and Russia.  Where are the lines drawn? When do we STOP?

So, whether we bomb or do not bomb Syria will probably turn out to be of less importance than wether we are or are not prepared for the end of Daesh control in the region and whether we finally find the stomach to square up to President Putin – when he tries to exert control in the region.

Let us not forget the lessons from history.

 

20140628_blp504.jpg
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife leaving the town hall in Sarajevo moments before they were assassinated – which in part, led to the start of WW1.

 

 

 

 

Edward Snowden face to face with James Bamford

James Bamford Edward Snowden

When American Edward Snowden released thousands of pages of highly classified government documents in 2013 – he also released the full fury of the American government and in varying degrees the American people.

Edward fled and ended up in Russia. James Bamford, author, journalist, and former Navy intelligence analyst is one of the few who have met Edward face to face and talks about that encounter and the theory that Ed Snowden is NOT the only NSA leaker.

Elton John hoaxed by Russian pranksters

Dmitry Medvedev, Elton John...Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, listens to English musician Elton John after his concert in Moscow on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. Medvedev's wife Svetlana smiles at center. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)
Dmitry Medvedev, Elton John…Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, listens to English musician Elton John after his concert in Moscow on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. Medvedev’s wife Svetlana smiles at center. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)

The Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus appeared on Russian TV to release the conversation, in which Sir Elton was asked to discuss gay rights.  I’d imagine Elton was genuinely hurt when he found out it was a hoax because he sounds like he thought he could of made a difference.

But the thing about Putin and his stance on gay people – and I’m sure Elton gets this – is that President Putin doesn’t care about people being gay – he cares about his own popularity.  By attacking minority groups & saying that they are the root of Russia’s problem – it distracts from the real issue – of his failing government and the corruption that surrounds it and props it up.  I hope that this audio was played in Russia – because as far as prank calls go – it wasn’t particularly funny – but it does show how much Sir Elton cares about Russian people – more, it could be said – than Vladimir Putin.

I wonder if Vovan and Lexus thought about carrying out the same type of prank or President Putin?  Or, if they decided they didn’t fancy a long spell in a Russian prison – worse still – getting a bullet in their head – a fate that has befallen many a Russian journalist – because that is how politics works over there.

MH17 AIRLINE CREW RECALLS HAPPY VOYAGERS BOARDING FLIGHT

140720mh17-jpg

An airline ground crew member who checked passengers in at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for the doomed flight MH17 has made an emotional post on Facebook, recalling sending off holidaymakers, children and grandparents with wishes for “a pleasant flight”.

 

Renuka Manisha Virangna Birbal recounted her memories of the passengers

 

She wrote

A smile, a greeting, a happy face ..

At the transfer desk, I get two football fanatics, one is checked in and the other not, “can you check me in Love”. They were not seated next to each other in the business compartment , “would you like to sit together sir?” Any doubt,, I want a few hours of rest joked the other one. ‘’cheers’’

A loving family of six with their 10 pieces luggage that I had to put in the system. “After long time we’re returning home”

It was busy at the check in desk, so I went there to help my colleagues.
A child smiling and waving at me.

They thank me for my help so she could sit together. excited children “mom when do we see our luggage again?”

The crew running towards me waving and signalling.  They were ready to drop their luggage at the odd size belt.

A man who is about to start a new life in Malaysia.

A family get dropped off by their grandparents, kids first holiday far away.

Grandma makes photos of how her children and grand children check in. This time I do not mind that I am in the picture.

Arriving at the gate G03 a young man asked if he has time to buy something quickly. “Of course, sir, if you only ensures that you are back here at 1130”

My colleague helps an elderly woman inside, all the way to her seat in row 21, she had difficulty walking and traveling alone. The lady had the same name (one letter difference) as the son of my colleague and said that she would remembered the name.

I appeal to everyone to go to the toilet before they enter the gate because there are no toilet facilities at gate G03. A few passengers went back out of the line.

A woman traveling with her husband and her mother still asks her mother a few times if she had to go to the toilet, the elderly lady has a bladder problem. I allowed them to wait outside and they can come inside the priority line when their ready.

A newly married couple, on the way to their honeymoon.

A beautiful little girl hold by her mother, her father behind them pushing the stroller. What is she beautiful, a half Dutch half Malaysian with beautiful big eyes. She kindly smiled at me.

A man who could still join the flight to be on time for the funeral of his mother.

Grandchildren traveling with their grandparents.

Suddenly I see a familiar face, it is our colleague from the MH ticket counter

He proudly shows me his son, wife and daughter. With a big smile he waved “See you soon”

A woman want to go out of the gate unable to go to the toilet, unfortunately, we have already begun boarding and nobody can go out. “May I board first then?” of course.

I walk quickly along with the last two passengers who may eventually join the flight, and what are they happy …

A final farewell to the crew, till next time!

And then we removed the bridge.

Passengers traveling for business, on the way home, on the way to family, on the way to their holiday, on the way to a new beginning …

Group travel, families, couples, individuals, infants, children, grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, partners, uncles, aunts, colleagues, friends, neighbors, acquaintances.

The last time I saw them, talked to them and wish them a pleasant flight the passengers of flight MH017 on 17jul14.

One last smile, one last salute, a happy face …

+ Rest in peace dear passengers & crew +

On behalf of the ground handling agents of flight MH017 on Thursday 17-07-2014

 

 

farewell_2

Taming the Russian Bear

Map of Crimea

If the Crimean crisis has taught us anything about how we deal with Russian’s, it is that they don’t seem to react positively to considered and measured negotiations or weak and insignificant threats.  The Russian bear is not for hugging.

To deal with the Russian’s you have to be blunt but meaningful.  There is only one way to deal with the Russians…

a) kick them in the bollocks
b) know that they WILL kick you right back

When you next resume negotiations – not only will you have their respect, strange as it might seem – they will greet you, listen and come to a mutually agreeable settlement.

So PM David Cameron – the next time you meet President Putin you know what to do?

Just a thought.

 

12345
Go on David…get one in quickly!!

Russia Today Anchor Liz Wahl Quits

Russian President Putin speaks on state funded Russia Today
Russian President Putin speaks on state funded Russia Today

Another Russia Today journalist Liz Wahl has spoken out over the ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ challenges she faced as a presenter on the state funded news network and went further than her colleague Abby Martin by resigning.

It all started on the 4th March at the end of the show “Breaking the Set”  when Abby said she “wanted to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military occupation of Crimea” and that “What Russia did is wrong” and “military intervention is never the answer”.    She returned to the air the following night and according to RT wasn’t reprimanded.

Abby’s statement is below.

Of Liz Wahl’s statement and resignation, RT America commented on their youtube video page  “When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt”.

You can judge for yourself!

Wahl went on to CNN and spoke to their journalist  Anderson Cooper  “RT is not about the truth; it’s about promoting a Putinist agenda.”  Liz went on to say “And I can tell you firsthand, it’s about bashing America.”

Do you have vertigo? Yes, to the top of Shanghai Tower!!

Russian’s, as can be seen from the many dashboard CAM crash videos, are a crazy yet hardy lot.  The Russian version of a 3-a-day involves cigarettes, vodka and spitting.

Living up to that hardy reputation are Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov who have filmed the moment that they scaled China’s new tallest building – the second tallest in the world.

I actually get butterflies in my stomach from just watching this video.  Ok, maybe it’s because they are  “young” or maybe just “foolhardy” or maybe it’s because put simply…they are “Russian”. Whatever the answer, whatever the reason – I do have to admire their balls.

Oh and by-the-by 650 meters equates to 2,132ft!

On his blog Vadim writes: “Aware of the strict Chinese law, we prepared carefully and picked an appropriate date, the Chinese New Year day. At that time the security was less watchful, workers were on vacations, and cranes did not work. We got to the crane at around midnight. It took us almost two hours to get on the 120th floor by foot. And also, we spend almost 18 hours on top of the building, sleeping and waiting for better weather. The result you can see in our new video.”

His  blog is worth checking out, just for the pictures:

Vadim Raskalov’s blog 

Top of the Tower
Top of the Tower