In Historic Shakeup Saudi King Removes Crown Prince, Names Son As First Heir

In a shocking development, on Wednesday Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman (his eldest son from his third wife) as crown prince, placing him as first-in-line to the throne and removing his nephew, 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef – the country’s counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington – from the royal line of succession, relieving him of his post as Interior Minister, and stripping him from all his titles.

Bin Salman already controls the Kingdom’s defense, oil and economic policies; today’s announcement merely consolidates his power. He was also credited with arranging Trump’s “successful” trip to Riyadh.

Al Arabiya television reported that the promotion of the prince was approved by the kingdom’s Allegiance Council with 31 of 34 members approving, and that the king had called for a public pledging of loyalty to Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday evening in Mecca. The surprise announcement follows 2-1/2 years of already major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching a war in Yemen, cutting old energy subsidies and in 2016 proposing partly privatizing state oil company Aramco.

As AP further reports, in a series of royal decrees carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the monarch stripped Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had been positioned to inherit the throne, from his title as crown prince and from his powerful position as the country’s interior minister overseeing security.

The newly announced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman already oversees a vast portfolio as defense minister and head of an economic council tasked with overhauling the country’s economy. And while he had previously been the second-in-line to the throne as deputy crown prince, numerous royal watchers had suspected his rise to power under his father’s reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

The young prince was little known to Saudis and outsiders before Salman became king in January 2015, although he quickly rose to prominence when he emerged as the dominant voice in the OPEC production cut negotiations. He had previously been in charge of his father’s royal court when Salman was the crown prince. The Saudi monarch awarded his son expansive powers to the surprise of many within the royal family who are more senior and more experienced than Mohammed bin Salman.

King Salman also reinstated all allowances and bonuses that were canceled or suspended to civil servants and military personnel, SPA reported.

While the backroom negotiations that resulted in today’s stunning announcement will likely remain unknown indefinitely, today’s dramatic overhaul of the Saudi royal succession was previewed here as recently as December, when we discussed that the present Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the last of the sons of the first Saudi king, Abdul Aziz al Saud, who will ever sit on the Saudi throne. After Salman dies, Saudi leadership will pass to a new generation of Saudi royals. But not all the descendants of the first Saudi king are happy about how the future succession may turn out.

Salman named his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince after firing his half-brother, Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz, as crown prince after the death of King Abdullah in 2015. For good measure, Salman also named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, who is little-known outside the kingdom, as deputy prime minister. The 30-year old Mohammad bin Salman is seen by some as the eventual crown prince after King Salman figures out some way to ease Mohammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and close friend of the United States, out of the position of heir apparent to the throne.

 

More and more power has been concentrated into Mohammad bin Salman’s hands, including control over the Defense Ministry, the Council of Economy and Development, and the Saudi government-owned Arabian-American oil company (ARAMCO). The deputy crown prince and defense minister is the architect of Saudi Arabia’s genocidal military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and continued Saudi support for jihadist guerrillas in Syria and Iraq, as well as military support for the Wahhabist royal regime in Bahrain in its bloody suppression of the Shi’a Muslim majority population. Mohammad bin Salman is also the major force in Saudi Arabia seeking a military confrontation with Iran.

 

There is a schism within the Saudi royal family that has created a real-life «Game of Thrones» within the kingdom.

Finally, while it remains unclear what domestic consequences the King’s decision will have, a decree which an official said was “due to special circumstances”, that this major power move comes at a time when OPEC and Saudi Arabia are both reeling, as a result of plunging oil prices leads one to believe that the current deteriorating state of the Saudi economy, coupled with plunging oil revenues, may have been a catalyst in today’s announcement.

Live feed from Saudi TV:

Bitcoin Surges Back Above $2700 As India “Legalizes” Cryptocurrency

After crashing 30% last week, Bitcoin is now up over 33% in the last few days helped by a surge in demand from India exchanges after the India government ruled Bitcoin as legal in India

Yet another big rebound… this time as India – the world's second most-populous nation rules in favor of regulating Bitcoin…

As CoinTelegraph reports, over the past three years, the big three Indian Bitcoin exchanges including Zebpay, Coinsecure and Unocoin operated with self-regulated trading platforms with strict Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering systems in place, despite the lack of regulations in the digital currency industry and market.

The efforts of the Bitcoin exchanges in India to self-regulate the market allowed the Indian government to reconsider the Bitcoin and digital currency sectors, regardless of the criticisms by several politicians that significantly lack knowledge in cryptocurrency.

On March 24, Cointelegraph reported that Kirit Somaiya, a member of parliament of the ruling BJP in India, was harshly criticized for his description of Bitcoin as a Ponzi scheme.

In a letter to the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India, Somaiya explained that Bitcoin is a pyramid Ponzi-type scheme. However, Somaiya was criticized for his inability to understand the structural and fundamental difference between a Ponzi scheme and Bitcoin.

The legalization of Bitcoin in India

In spite of the negative attitude of certain politicians, the Indian government has come to a decision to regulate the market and provide an even playing field for Bitcoin exchanges that have allocated a significant amount of resources to standardize the market and industry.

Back in April, Mohit Kalra, CEO of Coinsecure, one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in India, told Cointelegraph in an interview that the Indian government has finally started to take Bitcoin seriously and are considering the possibility of regulating the market.

Kalra said:

“Finally, something positive for the industry. Authorities are now taking this technology seriously. We have been trying to get their attention for years now. I am glad it's all happening at the right time. At Coinsecure, we are seeing a massive increase in the number of users and volumes. We are positive with what will happen in these coming three months.”

On June 20, CNBC India announced that the Indian government committee has ruled in favor of regulating Bitcoin and is currently establishing a task force to create various regulatory frameworks with the aim of fully legalizing Bitcoin in the short-term.

Prior to the announcement of the Indian government, Chris Burniske, ARK Invest’s crypto lead, noted that the trading volumes in India have been on the rise. Burniske previously revealed that the Indian Bitcoin exchange market is responsible for processing around 11 percent of Bitcoin-to-USD trades.

Execution By Firing Squad: The Militarized Police State Opens Fire

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”—Journalist Celisa Calacal

Legally owning a gun in America could get you killed by a government agent.

While it still technically remains legal to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at and killed.

This same rule does not apply to government agents, however, who are armed to the hilt and rarely given more than a slap on the wrists for using their weapons to shoot and kill American citizens.

According to the Washington Post, 1 in 13 people killed by guns are killed by police.”

Just recently, for example, a Minnesota jury acquitted a police officer who shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter witnessed the entire exchange.

Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

Continuing its own disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, a unanimous Supreme Court recently acquitted police who recklessly fired 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering. Incredibly, the Court ruled that the shooting was justified because Angel was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats.

What these cases add up to is a new paradigm in which legally owning a gun turns you into a target for government sharp-shooters.

Ironically, while America continues to debate who or what is responsible for gun violence—the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture—little has been said about the greatest perpetrator of violence in American society: the U.S. government.

Violence has become the government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents.

You want to reduce gun violence? Start with the government.

The government’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy. Under the auspices of a military “recycling” program, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990.

In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become accepted instruments of tyranny, routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.

This lopsided, top-heavy, authoritarian state of affairs is not the balance of power the founders intended for “we the people.”

The Second Amendment, in conjunction with the multitude of prohibitions on government overreach enshrined in the Bill of Rights, was supposed to serve as a clear shackle on the government’s powers.

To founders such as Thomas Jefferson, who viewed the government as a powerful entity that must be bound “down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution,” the right to bear arms was no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution: it was intended to stand as a bulwark against a police state.

As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, without any one of those freedoms, we are that much more vulnerable to the vagaries of out-of-control policemen, benevolent dictators, genuflecting politicians, and overly ambitious bureaucrats.

Writing for Counterpunch, journalist Kevin Carson warns that prohibiting Americans from owning weapons would “lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail.”

This is exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution feared: that laws and law enforcers would be used as tools by a despotic government to wage war against the citizenry.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I do not believe that violence should ever be the answer to our problems. Still there’s something to be said for George Orwell’s view that “that rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

The Second Amendment serves as a check on the political power of the ruling authorities. It represents an implicit warning against governmental encroachments on one’s freedoms, the warning shot over the bow to discourage any unlawful violations of our persons or property.

Certainly, dictators in past regimes have understood this principle only too well.

As Adolf Hitler noted, “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that starting in December 1935, Jews in Germany were prevented from obtaining shooting licenses, because authorities believed that to allow them to do so would “endanger the German population.”

In late 1938, special orders were delivered barring Jews from owning firearms, with the punishment for arms possession being 20 years in a concentration camp.

The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it is a history that we should be wary of repeating.

House Republicans Block Russia Sanctions Bill

After recruiting Trump, the KGB and Moscow have clearly also managed to make all House Republicans their puppets, because the Senate bill that passed last week and slapped new sanctions on Russia (but really was meant to block the production on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia and which Germany, Austria and France all said is a provocation by the US and would prompt retaliation) just hit a major stumbling block in the House.

At least that’s our interpretation of tomorrow’s CNN “hot take.”

Shortly after House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said that House leaders concluded that the legislation, S. 722, violated the origination clause of the Constitution, which requires legislation that raises revenue to originate in the House, and would require amendments, Democrats immediately accused the GOP of delaying tactics and “covering” for the Russian agent in the White House.

“House Republicans are considering using a procedural excuse to hide what they’re really doing: covering for a president who has been far too soft on Russia,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “The Senate passed this bill on a strong bipartisan vote of 98-2, sending a powerful message to President Trump that he should not lift sanctions on Russia.”

And, if the House does pass it, a huge diplomatic scandal would erupt only not between the US and Russia, but Washington and its European allies who have slammed this latest intervention by the US in European affairs… a scandal which the Democrats would also promptly blame on Trump.

That said, the bill may still pass: Brady pushed back against Democrat suggestions that House GOP leadership is trying to delay the bill, stressing that he thought the Senate legislation was sound policy.

“I strongly support sanctions against Iran and Russia to hold them accountable. We were willing to work with the Senate throughout the process, but the final bill and final language violated the origination clause in the Constitution,” Brady told reporters on Tuesday. “I am confident working with the Senate and Chairman [Ed] Royce that we can move this legislation forward. So at the end of the day, this isn’t a policy issue, it’s not a partisan issue, it is a Constitutional issue that we will address.”

Or maybe not.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the Senate bill cannot be considered in the House its current form” according to The Hill. She added that Ryan strongly supports sanctions and “we will determine the next course of action after speaking with our Senate colleagues.” An aide for Sen. Bob Corker who was deeply involved in negotiating the Senate deal, said that the House has raised “concerns with one of the final provisions” of the bill.

“The House has always, in a bipartisan way, followed protocol to avoid Origination Clause violations. It’s the Constitution. It’s pretty straightforward,” a senior GOP aide added.

And yet, despite the clear procedural issues, Democrats would just not let it go and warned that Republicans are trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.

As usual, Schumer lambasted the move, arguing they’re using the procedural roadblock to cover for Trump, “who has been far too soft on Russia.”

“Responding to Russia’s assault on our democracy should be a bipartisan issue that unites both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. The House Republicans need to pass this bill as quickly as possible,” he said.

Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, added that Republicans could easily work around the violation by introducing an indention House bill. “[But] I predict this isn’t the last excuse we’ll hear for trying to slow this bill’s momentum, but make no mistake, anything short of an up-or-down vote on this tough sanctions package is an attempt to let Russia off the hook,” he said.

Another Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin stressed that he didn’t think the Senate bill actually had a “blue slip” issue, but echoed Engel noting they it could be “easily corrected” by using a House bill.

* * *

Under the bill which was voted 98-2 in the Senate, new Russia sanctions could be levied on entities engaging in “malicious cyber activity”, perhaps like those which gave Republican Handel the victory in Georgia. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort according to Bloomberg.

And, of course, the most controversial issue, the legislation would also put into law penalties that were imposed by the Obama administration on some Russian energy projects, a move in 2014 that came in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. It is over this part of the legislation that America’s European “allies” have threatened the US with retaliation.

The White House has said it is committed to existing sanctions and hasn’t taken a formal position on the Senate bill.

Clinton Faces Loss Of Security Clearance After State Begins Probing Her Mishandling Of Classified Intel

The State Department confirmed months of speculation on Tuesday when it leaked to Fox News that it had opened a formal inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information on her private email server. Clinton, who has repeatedly blamed the FBI’s handling of the inquiry for her embarrassing defeat in November, is now facing the possibility of having her top-level security clearance revoked – a penalty that echoes the investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

President Donald Trump repeatedly promised to investigate the Clinton’s, so the probe could see the president fulfilling yet another campaign promise. As Fox reports, “during the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of top-secret and classified information on her private server, former FBI Director James Comey said there were seven email chains on Clinton’s computer that were classified at the “Top Secret/Special Access Program level.”

Another 2,000 emails on her private server were found to have contained information deemed classified now, though not marked classified when sent. In addition, the server also contained 22 top-secret emails deemed too damaging to national security to be released.”

To paraphrase Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that violations of statutes concerning the handling and dissemination of classified materials occurred.

Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell said he believes Clinton and her “circle of national security criminals” should not have access to any classified information for any reason. 

“Their conduct has cost them that privileged position of special trust and confidence,” Farrell said.

Here’s Fox:

The department’s investigation aims to determine whether Clinton and her closest aides violated government protocols by using her private server to receive, hold and transmit classified and top-secret government documents. The department declined to say when its inquiry began, but it follows the conclusion of the FBI’s probe into the matter, which did not result in any actions being taken against Clinton or any of her aides.

 

Depending on the outcome of the current State Department inquiry, Clinton and her aides could have their access to sensitive government documents terminated.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed to Fox News the department’s formal inquiry.

 

Meanwhile, Grassley’s committee launched its own inquiry into Clinton’s handling of emails, an inquiry that began in March. Grassley cited among his concerns the July 5 statement of former FBI Director James Comey that the agency found Clinton and her staff members were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

A response from a Clinton spokesman suggests that the Clinton camp hasn’t learned from its mistakes during the campaign.

In the statement, Clinton’s top spokesman, Nick Merrill told Fox that a final judgment of Clinton has already been reached. “Nothing's been more thoroughly dissected. It's over. Case closed. Literally,” said Merrill.

Former FBI Director Comey announced that the bureau had closed its investigation in July 2016, before turning around and announcing that it had been reopened following the discovery of emails from Clinton on a laptop owned by former Congressman Anthony Weiner.