TBT: Russia Stole U.S. Presidency, Pro-Kremlin Politician Claims on Live TV

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, [said,] …“U.S. intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States.”

…Nikonov is not the first Russian lawmaker who appears convinced of Russia’s role in influencing the election. During an interview on state TV earlier in September, the leader of the far-right New Russia Movement, Nikita Isaev, called for compromising information about Trump to be released.

Russia Stole U.S. Presidency, Pro-Kremlin Politician Claims on Live TV

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The country that brought a sea back to life, and its neighbor who chose to let the sea disappear

At more than 67,000 sq km (26,000 sq miles), the Aral Sea was once the fourth-largest freshwater lake in the world. But the Soviet Union’s uncompromising agricultural policies in the 1950s led to water from two rivers – the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya – being diverted away from the sea to irrigate Central Asia’s desert steppes to boost cotton production. Water levels dropped and the once abundant populations of bream, carp and other freshwater fish dwindled with them.

Today, the sea is a 10th of its original size and has almost split in two. Mimicking the shape of a splintered number eight, the North Aral Sea – the top half of the body of water – lies in Kazakhstan. The South Aral Sea, which consist of a strip of water in the west and a dried-out basin in the east, sits in Uzbekistan.

In the 1990s, both bodies of water seemed headed for similar outcomes. But that changed when the World Bank stepped in with an $87m (£66m) rescue project in Kazakhstan.

This included constructing a 12km-long (7.5 mile) dyke across the narrow channel that connects the North Aral Sea to its neighbour to the south, with the aim of reducing the amount of water spilling out into the South Aral Sea. Improvements to existing channels of the Syr Darya river, which snakes northwards from Kazakhstan’s Tian Shan Mountains, also helped to boost the flow of water into the North Aral Sea.

…Raising the dyke walls by another four metres would help to keep an additional 15 billion cubic metres of water in the North Aral Sea, he adds. This would extend the area covered by the sea from 800sq km (300 sq miles) to 400sq km (150 sq miles).

….Plans to do this were put forward as part of a second phase of the World Bank project, but it has recently stalled. According to the World Bank the project is currently awaiting approval from the Kazakh government to move forward.

…Across the border in Uzbekistan, the story is very different. While the World Bank has worked on some projects to restore the existing lakes around the South Aral Sea, such as Lake Sudoche, it has had less success. The main obstacle appears to be the demand that Uzbeks have for it, as the Amu Darya river flows are used upstream for agricultural purposes and does not have enough water flow to fill up the South Aral Sea.

Greater reliance on cotton production for income has also hindered attempts to restore the South Aral Sea to its former glory. From 1930 to 1990, Uzbekistan provided more than two-thirds of the cotton produced in the Soviet Union. It ranked fifth out of 90 cotton-producing countries, and it was the second-largest exporter of cotton fibre to the US. Today, Uzbekistan is still the fifth-biggest cotton exporter in the world after the US, India, Brazil, and Australia.

…In 2015, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea completely dried up and the water never returned.

BBC – Future – The country that brought a sea back to life

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Russian Mariia Butina charged as foreign agent who eyed NRA, pols

…The FBI said in court papers Butina sought to establish relationships with a “gun rights organization.” The organization was not named but a senior U.S. official confirmed it was the National Rifle Association, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

…Butina also attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2016 and 2017 and told an unidentified American that the other Russians there were handpicked by her and Torshin and “are coming to establish a back channel of communication,” the FBI wrote.

A criminal complaint shows that the FBI obtained Twitter messages and emails between Torshin and Butina in which they plotted strategy.

…The unsealing of the charges against Butina came within hours of a stunning press conference in Helsinki in which President Donald Trump refused to say he accepted the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community over Putin’s denials that Russian had meddled in the election.

Butina is a gun-rights advocate who cozied up to conservatives in the nation’s capital. In February 2017, the Daily Beast reported that she was close to Republican activist Paul Erickson, who appeared at her birthday party months earlier dressed as Rasputin. Public records show she and Erickson registered a corporation in South Dakota together in 2016.

Russian Mariia Butina charged as foreign agent who eyed NRA, pols

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Bernie Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine turns up 16 times in evidence against Paul Manafort

The former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump and Devine worked together nearly a decade ago for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Kremlin Party of Regions, and the pair remained in contact until at least 2014.

According to the new court filing, Manafort and Devine communicated by email through June 2014, about five months before he joined the Sanders campaign that November.

…The evidence in the upcoming trial shows Manafort communicated with Devine about their work for Yanukovych, who fled to Russia following his ouster, and other issues related to the Ukraine political activity.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine turns up 16 times in evidence against Paul Manafort

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What Helsinki agreements? This is not normal

Three days now have passed since Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki. Russian officials are talking about agreements coming out of that meeting, but Americans have no idea what was agreed. 

…What we do know about Helsinki largely comes from the joint Trump-Putin press briefing, perhaps the most embarrassing post-summit press conference performance ever by an American president. The presidents described the topics they discussed but offered no detail on any agreements.

…The White House has discussed one possible agreement, however. Putin said Special Counsel Robert Mueller could meet with Russian investigators to discuss the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails if Russian investigators could question former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and other U.S. officials regarding the activities of British businessman Bill Browder.

That would yield nothing of value for the United States.

…Bizarrely, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump considered this an “interesting” idea that would be considered. The State Department spokesperson more properly dismissed the idea as “absurd.”

What Helsinki agreements? This is not normal

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Bill Browder: ‘If I were to be handed over to Russia, I would be killed’

In exchange, however, Putin wanted Russian officials to interrogate those whom he accuses of involvement in “illegal actions” on Russian territory, notably Browder, former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and nine others. 

Trump called it an “incredible offer”, sparking widespread and bipartisan outrage. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders [contradicted Trumps own words] on Thursday, saying Trump “disagreed” with the proposal to turn over Americans for questioning.

Bill Browder: ‘If I were to be handed over to Russia, I would be killed’ – France 24

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Why American Spies Worry When Trump Meets Putin

Putin has nonetheless gotten himself trapped. His country is heavily sanctioned, economically weak, overextended, and lacking in allies. His unprovoked land grab in Crimea, attack on neighboring Ukraine, electoral interference in the U.S. and Europe, assassination of opponents, support to Syria’s bloody dictator Bashar al-Assad and constant lies have left him ostracized in much of the developed world. He can no longer offer his people wealth or the vision of a better future. He instead relies on the tools of oppression and scapegoats to blame for his failures. The dynamic is unlikely to change anytime soon.

And yet despite all this, and even with the indictments, Putin walks into the summit with a distinct advantage. Just as Putin has unleashed his intelligence and security services, Trump has kneecapped and undermined his own.

Did Bob Mueller Just Spoil Trump’s Putin Summit? – The Atlantic

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