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U.S. Sends Reconnaissance Planes Over Black Sea; Russia Intercepts

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The Russian defense ministry stated in a press release that it had sent a Su-27 fighter plane on Monday to intercept a U.S. surveillance plane over the “neutral” Black Sea that it said was approaching the Russian border, Reuters reported.

The US plane, identified as a P-8 Poseidon, changed its course away from the Russian border after the interception, the ministry added.

The U.S. and Russia have been playing dry dogfighting games without firing bullets, buzzing aircrafts, and flying over each others’ air space for months. In fact, there were two encounters in mid-April, one of which saw a Russian fighter jet fly what the US Navy described as an “inverted maneuver” 25 feet in front of a P-8A. There was also an encounter in March as well, in which U.S. military intercepted Russian aircraft that got within 50 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast, though the latest interceptions have occurred even closer.

Last month in June, Russia released a video of Russian fighter jets intercepting several U.S. military aircrafts, Navy and Air Force reconnaissance planes, and a tanker aircraft over the Black Sea, Business Insider reported.

Around the same time period, U.S. F-22 stealth fighter aircraft scrambled to intercept four Russian reconnaissance planes off Alaska, according to NORAD, the U.S, and its counter-part Canadian defense organization. Shockingly that was the 10th time this year alone that Russian military aircraft had been intercepted off Alaska, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) stated to Reuters. In fact, this was just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region.

The U.S. also recently taunted Russia by sailing through the Barents Sea, for the first time in more than 30 years in May.

This effort seemed to heat up even more after the U.S. walked out of an Open Skies Treaty (OST) with Russia as well the same month, marking the third withdrawal from an international treaty, The Guardian reported. Ironically, Russia is now legally allowed to fly over U.S. bases in Europe but the U.S. is supposed to not legally be allowed to observe Russia. However, as is displayed with this week’s instance of observing Russia with spy planes that’s not the case. Russia flew four times over the border of Alaska in just the month of June, only one month after Trump walked out the treaty.

In total, Stars and Stripes state that there was 12th this year in June worldwide involving U.S. and Russian aircrafts. This recent one in July marks 13 separate incidents between Russia and the U.S.

The OST is the third arms control agreement Trump has left. He took the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty in 2019.

The primary reason behind these long-range incursions, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply put training. In order to be able to execute these long-range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian and American pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold. It’s not just Russia and America either, its every country including NATO countries themselves who conduct drill missions.

It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long-range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long-range flights.

Those war drums are beating loudly do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of conflict and these flyovers make us numb to the news desensitizing us, if something were ever to go live we wouldn’t be the wiser, because no one seems to be paying attention to what’s happening above us in the sky.

Alex Baldridge is an activist and freelance journalist from the midwestern United States who was inspired to become a writer after watching the development of the Wikileaks story and the persecution of Julian Assange. Alex is especially interested in topics like surveillance, the rise of automation, foreign policy, prison reform, and the legal system.

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Colombian Govt Wants To Legalize Cocaine And Then Sell It

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This article was originally published On Dec 3, 2020

Colombia is one of the most notorious producers of cocaine in the world, despite the fact that the country has gone to great lengths in hopes of diminishing the trade of the drug trade within its borders.

Now, some members of the Columbian government are proposing a new approach. They are calling for the drug to be legalized and for the government to take control of the industry for themselves.

In a new bill first proposed earlier this year, senators Iván Marulanda and Feliciano Valencia call for the Colombian government to take total control of the cocaine industry to bolster public funds and cut violent cartels out of the trade.

In a recent interview with VICE, Marulanda explained that the government would purchase coca at market price from the 200,000 farming families that are believed to be involved in the trade.

The senators argued that it would actually be cheaper for authorities to buy the crop from the farmers than it would for them to destroy their crops. It costs the government roughly $1 billion every year to destroy coca crops, while it would only cost about $680 million to buy it.

The thing is, we have to recover control over the state. We’re losing control of the state to corruption, narcos in politics. They’re in municipalities, in departments and in congress. All the way to the highest echelons of government,” Marulanda explained.

From here, the state would supply cocaine to users and research groups looking to study its use for painkillers, but it would not be sold recreationally. However, cocaine use is already legal in Columbia, after a court ruled that personal consumption was a human right.

Marulanda is not sure if his bill will make an impact, or how long it will take to gain traction, but he is hoping to make it a major election issue in 2022.

‘The first big obstacle is to open up the conversation among public opinion. This has been a giant taboo. Colombians are born and raised under this assumption that drug-trafficking is a war. There’s no information about coca and cocaine. So, with this bill we hope to open the conversation,” he explained.

In recent years, the government has stepped up their military-police-style enforcement of the industry, and yet cocaine production continues to grow in the country.

Coca cultivation reached 212,000 hectares last year, a rise of nearly 2% from 208,000 hectares the year before, according to figures released by the White House in March. Potential pure cocaine production, meanwhile, rose to 951 metric tons, an 8% increase, according to the Associated Press.

“It’s pretty remarkable that they manually eradicated 100,000 hectares last year and didn’t move the needle,” Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America think tank said earlier this year. “I guess it means replanting has at least kept pace.”

It seems that no matter what the government does, the cocaine keeps on coming, so politicians are willing to try things that may drastic. However, as Marulanda pointed out in his interview with Vice, cutting out the criminal middlemen will reduce the violence seen in the country’s drug war, and also make the drug safer for the people who use it.

UPDATE: Historic win for coca/cocaine regulation Bill in Colombian Senate – 22nd April 2021

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Another Little Black Book That Once Belonged To Epstein With New Names Is Found

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It is well-known that the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein kept detailed records of all the powerful people that he stayed in contact with. There is a notorious “little black book” that was published by Gawker in 2015, which exposed many of the powerful people in his circle. This book is believed to contain the contacts that he most frequently called around 2004 and 2005. However, a new list of contacts, recently published by The Insider, reveals new names that were friends with Epstein in the 1990s.

The new black book has the names of 349 people, many of whom did not appear in the list that was previously released to the public.

Among the names on the list are Suzanne Ircha, who’s married to Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, famous wall street investor Carl Icahn, supermarket owner John A. Catsimatidis, actress Morgan Fairchild, former New Republic owner Marty Peretz; and Cristina Greeven, the wife of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

The new black book was made public through a strange twist of fate. A woman initially found the book in the late 1990s and saved it for many years until she finally sold it on eBay.

Denise Ondayko, the woman who found the book, said she was walking down Fifth Avenue in the mid-’90s when she spotted a black address book on the ground. She said that she didn’t realize it was Epstein’s book at the time, because he was pretty much unknown to the public, but she did realize that it had a lot of famous names and figured that it might be worth something, so she held onto it.

Last year, Ondayko was cleaning out an old storage unit where she was keeping some of her things and she stumbled upon the book. Now that Epstein was all over the news, the information contained in the book was much more obvious to identify.

Ondayko said she reached out to everyone in the media that she could, including John Oliver, Rachel Maddow, and The New York Times, but none of them ever got back to her, so she eventually just put it up for sale on eBay.

The buyer was Chris Helali, an aspiring politician from Vermont. He purchased the book for $425.

Helali also tried reaching out to the media, including journalists that were already reporting on Epstein, but none of them seemed interested. Finally, Nick Bryant, the reporter who wrote the original Gawker black book story forwarded the book to the Insider who decided to publish.

Insider hired Dennis Ryan, a former forensic document examiner and laboratory supervisor for the Nassau County Police Department, to verify the authenticity of the book. Ryan says that the book is definitely from the late 90s, and many of the dates and addresses match up perfectly with Epstein’s properties and known contacts at the time.

The Insider also reached out to dozens of contacts listed in the book who had never previously been publicly associated with Epstein. Fourteen acknowledged on the record that they knew or had met Epstein in the ’90s.

There are over 120 names that appear in both books, including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Some of the other names included, Steve Rattner, Beth Anne Bovino, Dominique Bluhdorn, Jill Harth, Ted Field, Robert Nunnery, Stanley Shopkorn, Steve Ruchevsky, Ellen Susman, William and Ann Nitze, Les Gelb, Ron Daniel, Sandy Warner, Cyril Fung, Marius Fortelni, Michael Cutlip. Many of these names aren’t necessarily famous, but they are very powerful people in business and finance.

The address book is now available in a searchable database on the Insider, but it is unfortunately hidden behind a paywall.

 

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Ghislaine Maxwell’s Lawyers Cite Cosby Case As Precedent To Have Her Released From Prison

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Last week, former actor Bill Cosby was released from prison on a technicality, despite the fact that he admitted to drugging and assaulting multiple women, and was accused by many others. After his release, legal experts warned that the ruling could set a dangerous precedent that attorneys in similar cases would use to get their clients released as well.

Now, just a week later, Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers are arguing that she should have her case thrown out on the same grounds, according to The Guardian.

Cosby was released because the prosecutor involved initially didn’t press any charges, and claimed that Cosby would not be facing any legal trouble, so when Cosby later confessed, his confession was called into question and no longer admissible in court. The judge also ruled that Cosby had no chance of a fair trial because evidence that was not admissible was so freely available in the media that the jury was unable to make a judgment without considering those facts.

Photo: AP

Maxwell’s case is similar because the first time that Epstein was arrested for human trafficking, he was given a sweetheart deal by Alex Acosta, a friendly prosecutor. The deal helped Epstein avoid any serious jail time, but it also gave him and his associates legal protection from being held accountable for any future crimes.

Obviously, it is not possible to shield a criminal from the consequences of actions that they will take in the future, so Epstein was arrested again many years later after it was discovered that he continued his crimes long after his initial arrest. If Epstein and his friends did have any kind of immunity from that deal, it ended when they continued to commit crimes after the deal was made.

Still, Maxwell’s lawyers are optimistic after Cosby’s recent release.

“The government is trying to renege on its agreement and prosecute Ms Maxwell over 25 years later for the exact same offenses for which she was granted immunity,” Maxwell’s lawyers wrote in a statement to Judge Alison Nathan.

However, the judge has previously ruled that the deal did not apply to the current case.

In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Maxwell’s attorney David Oscar Markus wrote that releasing Bill Cosby from prison was the right decision, and that Ghislaine Maxwell should be released as well. Markus argued that prosecutors should have to keep the promises that they make to suspects, because people will sometimes incriminate themselves if they think they have immunity.

However, many times prosecutors are corrupt and make promises that are against the best interests of the public, as we saw in Jeffrey Epstein’s first “sweetheart deal” with Alex Acosta while he was district attorney in Southern, Florida. Prosecutors are lawyers, they aren’t the judge and jury, and they shouldn’t hold this much power in a case this serious.

Judge Alison Nathan has not yet responded to the recent request, but she did condemn the recent opinion piece that was published by her lawyers in the New York Daily News earlier this week.

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