More NK sanctions on China and Russia

How to win friends and influence people – sanction them until they drop out of the WTO and form their own trade grouping.  I can foresee the world splitting into 2 trade blocs, and many of the countries like Australia being forced to choose between its main export markets and its main military alliances.

Treasury Slaps Sanctions On China, Russia Entities And Individuals Over North Korea

In a move that is certain to infuriate China further and result in another deterioration in diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing, moments ago the United States slapped both Chinese and Russian entities and individuals with new sanctions in the Trump administration’s escalating attempts to pressure North Korea to relent and stop its nuclear program and occasional missile launches.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it would target 10 entities and six individuals who help already sanctioned people who aid North Korea’s missile program or “deal in the North Korean energy trade.” The U.S. also aims to sanction people and groups that allow North Korean entities to access the U.S. financial system or helps its exportation of workers, according to the Treasury:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 10 entities and six individuals in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), violations of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolutions, and attempted evasion of U.S. sanctions.  Today’s sanctions target third-country companies and individuals that (1) assist already-designated persons who support North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, (2) deal in the North Korean energy trade, (3) facilitate its exportation of workers, and (4) enable sanctioned North Korean entities to access the U.S. and international financial systems.

As a result of the latest action, “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”

Speaking on today’s sanctions, Steven Mnuchin who, or rather whose wife today is in the news for an entirely different reason, made the following statement:

“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region.  We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”

Among the companies sanctions in regards to North Korea’s “WMD program” are the following:

OFAC designated China-based Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co., Ltd. for its support to UN- and U.S.-designated Korea Kumsan Trading Corporation, an entity OFAC previously designated for being owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the UN- and U.S.-designated General Bureau of Atomic Energy, which is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program.  Dandong Rich Earth Trading Co., Ltd. has purchased vanadium ore from Korea Kumsan Trading Corporation.  UNSCR 2270 prohibits North Korea’s exports of vanadium ore, and requires member states like China to prohibit the procurement of vanadium ore from North Korea.

OFAC designated Gefest-M LLC and its director, Russian national Ruben Kirakosyan, for support to the UN- and U.S.-designated Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, also known as Korea Kuryonggang Trading Corporation, which is subordinate to the UN- and U.S.-designated Second Academy of Natural Sciences, an entity involved in North Korea’s WMD and missile programs.  Gefest-M LLC, a company based in Moscow, has been involved in the procurement of metals for Korea Tangun Trading Corporation’s Moscow office.

OFAC also designated China- and Hong Kong-based Mingzheng International Trading Limited (“Mingzheng”).  Mingzheng acts as a front company for UN- and U.S.-designated Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), and it has provided financial services to FTB by, among other things, conducting U.S.-dollar denominated transactions on behalf of FTB.  FTB is North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank; it was designated by the United Nations on August 5, 2017 as part of UNSCR 2371.  OFAC designated FTB in 2013 for facilitating transactions on behalf of North Korea’s proliferation network, including for UN- and U.S.-designated Korea Mining Development Corporation and Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation.  On June 29, 2017, OFAC designated Mingzheng’s owner, Sun Wei.

The Treasury also designated three Chinese coal companies collectively responsible for importing nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of North Korean coal between 2013 and 2016.  Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Materials Co., Ltd. (“Zhicheng”), JinHou International Holding Co., Ltd., and Dandong Tianfu Trade Co., Ltd. have sold, supplied, transferred, or purchased coal or metal, directly or indirectly, from North Korea, and the revenue may have benefitted the nuclear or ballistic missile programs of the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea.  JinHou International Holding Co., Ltd. and Dandong Tianfu Trade Co., Ltd. also were designated for operating in the mining industry in the North Korean economy.

Meanwhile, top U.S. officials have said they do not want to take military action against North Korea unless it is a last resort, and as a result getting China to cooperate is seen as a key part of a diplomatic solution.

Of course, what this latest round of sanctions will achieve, is to further anger Beijing and the local population, in the process making a diplomatic solution even more unlikely and “forcing” America’s ruling Generals, Kelly and McMaster to launch the first “preemptive” shot against Pyongyang.

Russian retaliatory sanctions?

RT has published an opinion piece by Bryan McDonald, wondering what the reaction to Washington’s sanctions might be. They have held off doing this until now.

Cut the Americans off from space? Here’s how Russia might respond to new US sanctions

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia
3 Aug, 2017

Things boiled over on Wednesday evening when the Russian Prime Minister took to Facebook to chide Trump as “impotent.” A clearly angry Dmitry Medvedev writing how “the hope of improving our relationship with the new American administration is over,” adding the sanctions amounted to “a full-fledged economic war on Russia.” Medvedev held little back as he noted a change in “the balance of power in US political circles” with representatives dictating to the president in matters of foreign policy.

Medvedev’s invective seemed to confirm that the Kremlin will respond forcibly to the new measures. And Moscow has plenty of retaliatory options.

One favored by some opinion formers in the Russian capital is the idea of reducing diplomatic cooperation with the Americans to the bare minimum. After all, they say, if relations can’t be normalized, what is the point of both sides keeping hundreds of officials at their respective embassies? Such a proposal would see Russia pare back its staff levels in Washington to a few dozen essential personnel and force the US to operate within the same constraints at their locations here. A move like this would have significant repercussions for cross-cultural exchanges, visa issuing and, notably, espionage. But in a climate where even speaking to Russians is toxic in US politics, the Kremlin may feel it has little to lose.

Other analysts have suggested Moscow might withdraw cash invested in US Treasury securities and divert it to German or Chinese bonds instead. For instance, by May this year, Moscow held around $100 billion in T-bonds and might have more stored away in places like Switzerland and Luxembourg. However, a fire sale has potential risks for Russia itself and may prove financially foolhardy if alternatives prove less secure.

Another possible rejoinder is the prospect of canceling fertilizer exports to the US agriculture industry. That could damage Russian producers, who probably wouldn’t be able to divert all the excess to China. The same goes for notions of restricting uranium supplies where Russia is responsible for about twenty percent of American nuclear power plant needs. Here, Rosatom has previously said it wouldn’t countenance halting supplies based on “long-term contracts subject to strict implementation.”

There is one area where the Kremlin can markedly damage Washington’s interests, without much economic pain. And that’s in the realm of space. Because since the shuttle Atlantis staged its last flight, in 2011, NASA has been entirely reliant on Soyuz launchers to reach the cosmos. Should Putin decide to cancel agreements where Americans hitch a ride on Russian-led trips, for the first time in decades, US astronauts will be completely earth bound.

Also, the cost to Russia wouldn’t be much. At $80 million a seat, dropping Americans from the flights won’t break the bank. Plus, to make matters worse for the US, Boeing, which is developing its own proposed rival to Soyuz, is reliant on Russian rocket engines. But the implications for the International Space Station might rule this reprisal out.

North Korea is another area where Moscow can hurt Washington. Right now, the White House needs the Kremlin’s approval to punish Pyongyang through the UN Security Council. And while Putin agrees North Korea represents a danger, he has recently agreed on a joint approach to the issue with China which runs contrary to Trump’s plans.

There’s also the pharmaceutical industry, where the Kremlin could ban direct imports of American medicines, forcing the likes of Pfizer and Eli Lilly to use Russian-made options, or partner with more local firms to maintain market share. That would damage a $560 million trade-line, which favors the Western partner.

Of course, there’s another route Putin could take. And that’s do nothing. At least for now. Instead, taking the moral high ground and watching the chasm between Trump and his legislature widen. All the while, waiting and watching to see if a split emerges between the EU and the US on existing sanctions. However, Medvedev’s talk of a “trade war” makes this unlikely. We can probably expect a move from Moscow and, knowing Putin; it could be something completely unexpected, but biting.

The Next Escalation: Pentagon Offers To Arm Ukraine, McCain Delighted

The Next Escalation: Pentagon Offers To Arm Ukraine, McCain Delighted

Tyler Durden
Jul 31, 2017

When we reported yesterday about Putin’s surprisingly harsh response to last week’s House legislation to launch new sanctions against Russia, which also binds Trump from unilaterally removing sanctions without getting Congressional approval, we concluded that “now we await the US re-retaliation in what is once again the same tit-for-tat escalation that marked the latter years of the Obama regime, as the US Military Industrial Complex breathes out a sigh of relief that for all the posturing by Trump, things between Russia and the US are back on autopilot.”

We didn’t have long to wait.

The WSJ reports that, in what appears to be the next gambit by the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex (or “deep state” for those so inclined) to force Trump to “prove” that he did not, in fact, collude or have any ties with Russia or Vladimir Putin, Pentagon and State Department officials have devised plans to hit Russia where it hurts the most, and supply Ukraine with antitank missiles and other weaponry, and are now seeking White House approval at a time when ties between Moscow and Washington are as bad as during any point under the Obama administration.

American military officials and diplomats say the arms, which they characterized as defensive, are meant to deter aggressive actions by Moscow, which the U.S. and others say has provided tanks and other sophisticated armaments as well as military advisers to rebels fighting the Kiev government.

Ukrainian national guardsmen are instructed on the proper technique for
using a grenade launcher by an American soldier, on April 21, 2015

The question of course is, “why now?” Since the start of the Crimean conflict, which in turn was the byproduct of a State Department-facilitiated presidential coup in Ukraine, the US has been supporting Russian-speaking insurgents in the country’s east however Washington, wary of escalating the conflict, has largely limited its support for Kiev’s military to so-called non-lethal aid and training.

So one attempt at “why now”, is because with Trump reeling, and having already caved on the latest Congressional anti-Russia bill, why not push the president to escalate the Russia conflict to a point where not even his predecessor dared to take it. For now, Trump is unaware of the plan:

A senior administration official said there has been no decision on the armaments proposal and it wasn’t discussed at a high-level White House meeting on Russia last week. The official said President Donald Trump hasn’t been briefed on the plan and his position isn’t known.

Of course, that will change once the president, now with a veteran general by his side as new Chief of Staff reads the WSJ report, and starts debating whether it is worth to further deteriorate Russian relations if it means getting Mueller of his back, by showing just how committed Trump is to “containing Russian aggression.”

Meanwhile, setting the stage for the escalation, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, said the U.S. has not “ruled out the option” of providing “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has endorsed the plan, according to U.S. officials quoted by the WSJ.

Going back three years, when the Obama administration considered supplying arms to Ukraine – and ultimately refused to do so – it faced considerable opposition from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other allied leaders and instead provided Kiev with short-range radar, night-vision goggles and other equipment.

So, ironically, just as Trump’s imminent signing into law of the Congressional sanctions against Russia, which as we explained before, have already infuriated Europe, so any further escalation in Ukraine will likely add to Europe’s animosity toward the US.

Germany and France remain deeply skeptical about providing arms to Ukraine, fearing that such moves would raise tensions and deepen the conflict there. But U.S. officials said they expect allies, possibly including the U.K., Canada, Poland and Lithuania to be open to increased military support.

“It is really important we don’t inflame the situation,” said British National Security Adviser Mark Sedwell. “There has been quite a lot of agitation from across the border in the east.”

Alas it may be too late for that. Enter, the US warhawks, who now feel that after being shut out for nearly a year, it’s their turn to shine.

As the WSJ notes, U.S. officials say they “worry” that the conflict has intensified, with a rising number of cease-fire violations as progress on peace efforts has faltered. “The level of violence is up a bit of late,” said Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top U.S. and NATO military commander. “The Russians provide equipment, some of their most modern equipment, and they provide proxy forces with advisers.”

Meanwhile, NATO continues to deploy even more troops to countries in the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe, something which Russia has warned it takes as an act of aggression. Over weapons deliveries to Ukraine rebels may be just the spark that finally launches an armed
And another amusing detour: the WSJ writes that “U.S. and European officials are divided on how Moscow would respond to new arms shipments. Some believe it would push Moscow back to the bargaining table and others think it would prompt the Russian military to escalate the situation further.”

Spoiler alert: it would be the latter, and most likely with devastating consequences. John McCain, for one, is delighted.

How to do End-to-End Encryption using GPG4USB (Part 2)

by Palloy

Part 1 described how to use the basic functions of GPG4USB – the minimum to get up and running. However the application can do more than that, including coping with situations where some other entity is trying to interfere with things.

The problem

Suppose someone sends an email to you, purporting to come from me, but actually coming from them and giving incorrect information. (Faking the From field in an email is easy – it is the basis of much spam and phishing attacks, as I’m sure you already know.) So how do you know the message actually came from me?
And how do you know that the message hasn’t been tampered with on its way from me?

The solution

The solution is to add something to the message that is based on my Private Key, which only I have access to.

That “something” is called my Digital Signature, and GPG4USB generates it for you at the same time as your Private and Public Keys. I won’t try to explain how it does it- just be assured that it is foolproof so long as you don’t lose the privacy of your Private Key.

Signing your message

And because the signature is wrapped around (and effectively includes) the message, it also ensures the message hasn’t been changed from the original while in transit.

So the process starts off like before, you type your message into GPG4USB:

Then make sure your checkbox is checked, and click on Sign.
This wraps your Digital Signature around your message:

Then continue as before with: check the Recipient, Encrypt, Select All, Copy, Paste into email, Send.

When the Recipient gets the email, as before, they Select All, Copy, Paste into GPG4USB, Decrypt,
and seeing the message is signed, they will click on Verify:

The green verification message at the bottom indicates that I really sent the message, it hasn’t been changed along the way, and that the Recipient isn’t going to find themselves mugged by The Mob out the back of the Silhouette Club and sent to sleep with the fishes.

On a more mundane level, this is the way that you can be sure that a software update is the real thing, from the real software developers. All Linux software has this Digital Signature Verification process built in automatically for every component of the system.

Encrypting Files

Another thing GPG4USB can do is encrypt files.

Check the box for the Recipient, and Click on File then Encrypt File, and a new window will open where you can either type in the location of the input (clear text) file, or you can click on the “…” button and navigate to the file. If you leave the output (encrypted) filename blank, the new filename will be the input filename plus “.asc”. This might not be such a good idea if the file is called “leaked_government_doc.pdf” as “leaked_government_doc.pdf.asc” is still a bit of a giveaway, even if it can’t be decrypted.

The encrypted file can be sent as an email attachment, or by any other means.

I think you can guess what the Recipient has to do with the file, yes, File then Decrypt File.


By keeping the encryption/decryption process separate from the actual sending of the message, you are not only keeping all your key details away from other applications having access to them, but also you can use ANY messaging application, not just email.

This makes GPG4USB the ideal application to use for end-to-end encryption. And if the WhatsApp service has to be withdrawn because of Government regulations, you can still keep your privacy.

In fact if this became the standard way of doing encryption, Governments would realise how pointless their regulations are.

How to do End-to-End Encryption using GPG4USB

by Palloy

The problem

When you have something secret to pass on by email, like a username/password combination for some account, you cannot rely on the third party mail servers (yours and the recipient’s) not to leak the information, even if your connection is encrypted with SSL/TLS, because that only encrypts the message while it is in transit to/from the servers. The mail servers can, and do, scan your messages, building up a profile on you. And the mail servers may handle the message in clear text when sending between themselves.

Ed Snowden exposed that Google, Microsoft etc are forced to co-operate with NSA’s snooping, and to deny everything, under the PRISM program.

Source: Washington Post

The solution

The solution is to use end-to-end encryption using software which conforms to the OpenPGP standard. This involves the basic principle:
1. Everybody has a pair of keys, a Public Key and a Private Key.
2. The sender encrypts the message using the Public Key of the recipient.
3. The recipient decrypts the message using their Private Key.

So the mail servers only get to handle already encrypted messages.

When I first tried to get started with end-to-end encryption using Thunderbird’s plug-in Enigmail, it was very confusing because although Enigmail does work in simple cases, didn’t seem to be able to cope with the changes to the settings on all my existing email accounts. In the end I uninstalled it in frustration.

A simpler and better alternative to Thunderbird-Enigmail is to use GPG4USB. This is a stand-alone application for Windows and Linux 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, and only does the encryption/decryption. It has all the functions Enigmail has, only there is not the complication of embedding the plugin in Thunderbird’s already complicated interface.

So, with only the additional steps of copy-pasting the message between the two applications, it will work with ANY email client. It also works nicely with any web browser reading/sending webmail, and instant messagers, SMS, Dropbox, or anything.

So the BASIC process goes like this:


Type your message into the GPG4USB window.

Check the checkbox for the Recipient (and yourself, the Sender, if you want to be able to read the message again later).
Click on the Encrypt button.
The contents of the GPG4USB window changes to the encrypted message.
Click on Select All, then Copy.

Go to your New Email Message window, and Paste (Ctrl-V) the message into the Body of the email.
Fill in the From, To and Subject fields in the usual way (these are not encrypted).
Click Send.


Receiving encrypted messages is the reverse: From your email application, open the message.
Select All (Control+A) and Copy (Control+C) the encrypted message,
then go to GPG4USB, Paste it, make sure your checkbox is checked, and click Decrypt.
If it asks for it, enter the password that controls your keys.
The message can then be read, while the encrypted email message stays in your Inbox.

Key Management

When GPG4USB starts for the first time, it doesn’t have any keys.
It will ask you if you want to have your Keys generated. Say “Yes”.
It will ask for some details that will help identify the keys, and a password to control access to the keys.
Choose a strong password otherwise the whole thing is pointless.
Wait for it to do that, it can be quite slow.

There will be two keys generated – a Private Key that stays on your computer, and a Public Key which you can publish for anyone to see. At the very least, you will have to distribute your Public Key to one person, so they can send encrypted messages to you that only you can decrypt with your Private Key.

Exporting Keys

To distribute your Public Key, in GPG4USB click on Manage Keys.
Click on Export to Clipboard, then Paste it into an email and send it,
or Export to File, then Attach the file to an email and send it,
or you can also upload it to a Public Key Server such as ,
or you can upload it to your website. If you give the page the Title “your name PGP”, then anyone can find it by searching for “your name” and “PGP”.

Importing Keys

Similarly, you will need to have the Public Keys of all the people who you want to send encrypted messages to.
If they send you their Public Key in an email as text, copy it and in GPG4USB click on Import Key then Clipboard.
If they send you their Public Key as a file, in GPG4USB choose Import Key then File.
You can also search for people’s keys on a public key server, with Import Key then Keyserver.

Downloading the GPG4USB package

GPG4USB is free and open source software, and uses GnuPG software libraries. GPG4USB is just a graphical interface to make it easier to use.
Snowden used the GnuPG software libraries for his encrypted communications when on the run:

screenshot from “Citizenfour”

You can download GPG4USB from
and since we are being serious about security,
check the sha1 checksum of the downloaded .zip file matches the value on the website, to make sure the package hasn’t been tampered with.

Unzip the file to a folder called “gpg4usb” in your user area (like “Documents”).
In that folder there will be 3 files called: “start_windows.exe”, “start_linux_32bit” and “start_linux_64bit”.
Launch the appropriate one for the computer you are working on in the usual way (like double-clicking it, or making shortcuts).
They are completely self-contained, requiring no software to be already installed on the computer.
So if you want to, you can save the folder on a USB stick, and have GPG4USB available on any computer.
(Just remember your password, and DON’T lose the stick!)

That’s it for the basic stuff!

More things you can do with GPG4USB in Part 2

US Navy Patrol Ship Fires Warning Shots At Iranian Vessel

US Navy Patrol Ship Fires Warning Shots At Iranian Vessel

by Tyler Durden
Jul 25, 2017

One day after a US spy plane had to take “evasive action” over the East China Sea after a Chinese fighter jet showed off its Top Gun skills and appeared 90 meters in front of the interloper, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots toward an Iranian vessel near the northern Arabian Gulf on Tuesday after the vessel came within 150 yards (137 meters).

Reuters, which confirms the report, quotes an official who said the USS Thunderbolt fired the warning shots after the Iranian vessel ignored radio calls and the ship’s whistle. The Thunderbolt was being accompanied by several U.S. Coast Guard vessels.


The official also said that the Iranian vessel appeared to be from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The IRGCN boat was coming in at a high rate of speed. It did not respond to any signals, they did not respond to any bridge-to-bridge calls, they felt there was no choice except to fire the warning shots,” the defense official told AFP.

The incident comes as tensions in the Arabian Gulf remain elevated throughout the Qatar crisis, with Iran backing up the small kingdom against the Saudi-led Arab bloc. Additionally, Iran lashed out at the US following the latest sanctions and even though Trump’s administration recently declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, he warned that Tehran was not following the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it.

Similar incidents have happened periodically, the last in January when a U.S. Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.

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One day after a US spy plane had to take “evasive action” over the East China Sea after a Chinese fighter jet showed off its Top Gun skills and appeared 90 meters in front of the interloper, a US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots toward an Iranian vessel near the northern Arabian Gulf on Tuesday after the vessel came within 150 yards (137 meters).

Reuters, which confirms the report, quotes an official who said the USS Thunderbolt fired the warning shots after the Iranian vessel ignored radio calls and the ship’s whistle. The Thunderbolt was being accompanied by several U.S. Coast Guard vessels.


The official also said that the Iranian vessel appeared to be from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The IRGCN boat was coming in at a high rate of speed. It did not respond to any signals, they did not respond to any bridge-to-bridge calls, they felt there was no choice except to fire the warning shots,” the defense official told AFP.

The incident comes as tensions in the Arabian Gulf remain elevated throughout the Qatar crisis, with Iran backing up the small kingdom against the Saudi-led Arab bloc. Additionally, Iran lashed out at the US following the latest sanctions and even though Trump’s administration recently declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, he warned that Tehran was not following the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it.

Similar incidents have happened periodically, the last in January when a U.S. Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.

US House of Representatives approves new sanctions against Russia

US House of Representatives approves new sanctions against Russia

25 Jul, 2017

The House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to pass new sanctions against Russia, and require congressional approval before US President Donald Trump can ease or remove existing ones. The bill also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea

Lawmakers voted 419-3 to approve legislation seeking to punish Russia over a host of issues, including its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, its support for the Syrian government and alleged support for the rebels in Ukraine, as well as Crimea’s accession to Russia.

8 European separatist groups
September 12, 2014

These 8 European separatist groups are totally inspired by Scotland right now

OIARTZUN, Spain — The surge in support for Scotland’s independence ahead of the Sept. 18 referendum is firing separatist emotions all over Europe.

Here’s a look at those who might be tempted to follow if the Scots end up voting to break away from the UK.

1. Catalonia

Catalans calling for independence. AFP/Getty Images

Regional Prime Minister Artur Mas insists Catalonia will hold an independence referendum of its own on Nov. 9, despite opposition from the national government in Madrid that says the vote would be unconstitutional.

At least several hundred thousand Catalans gathered in Barcelona on Thursday to mark the region’s “national day” by forming a giant V in the center of city. The V stood for “vote” and “victory” because Catalans are subtle like that.

The region of 7.5 million lies in Spain’s northeastern corner bordering France. It has a distinct language and culture and enjoys a degree of autonomy from the central government.

Catalan nationalists say they will launch a campaign of civil disobedience if Madrid blocks the referendum. The Spanish government might save itself trouble by letting them vote — a poll last week said just 27 percent of Catalans support independence. According to the results published in Madrid’s El Pais newspaper, 42 percent would prefer to stay in Spain, but with increased powers for regional authorities.

2. Flanders

An Flemish independence activist in Belgium. AFP/Getty Images

Belgium’s elections last May were won by a party whose ultimate goal is to break up the country and form an independent republic in Flanders — the country’s Dutch-speaking north.

Not surprisingly the New Flemish Alliance has struggled to form a government with parties from the French-speaking south. Coalition talks have dragged on while a caretaker administration tries to run the country.

Differences between the 6 million Flemish- and 4 million French-speakers have bedeviled Belgian politics for generations, with resentment over taxes subsidizing the poorer Francophone region of Wallonia fueling Flemish separatism.

An imminent break is unlikely, however, because the Flemish don’t want to loose Brussels. Flemings view the Belgian capital as part of their historic homeland that is vital to the economy, but the city’s inhabitants are overwhelmingly French-speaking and little inclined to join a breakaway Flanders.

For the moment, the New Flemish Alliance says it’s content with a “confederal” solution that keeps Belgium alive but gives most powers to the regions. However, the party is keeping a close eye on Scotland’s progress. “There’s a lot at stake for Flanders in Scotland, it’s an important precedent,” said lawmaker Piet De Bruyn.

3. Veneto

The president of the Veneto region of Italy has big ideas. AFP/Getty Images

Canals, gondoliers, cappuccinos on the Piazza San Marco — surely Venice is the very heart of Italy?

Not according to an unofficial referendum that was held in March. Organizers of the vote declared 89 percent backed independence for Venice and the surrounding Veneto region.

There were doubts about the validity of the referendum, but subsequent polls have suggested a majority of Veneto’s 5 million citizens would say goodbye to Italy if given the chance.

Regional Premier Luca Zaia is backing bills calling for Veneto to claw powers from the government in Rome and for an official independence referendum.

The Venetian Republic was a major seafaring power in the Mediterranean until Napoleon deposed the last doge in 1797. After rule by France and Austria, Venice was incorporated into the new Italian state 150 years ago.

4. Greenland

Greenland. Wow. AFP/Getty Images

The harsh economic reality that keeps Greenland under Danish rule could be about to change.

Grants from Denmark of $650 million a year keep the budget of the world’s largest island afloat, making up about half of the Greenland government’s budget. Now, global warming is making it easier to unlock the mineral riches long hidden under Arctic ice.

Last year, Greenland elected its first woman prime minister, Aleqa Hammond, who supports opening up the island to mining so it can stand on its own feet economically and make the break with Denmark.

The territory of 57,000 people would be one of the world’s smallest countries in terms of population, but the 12th largest by size. Greenlanders already enjoy a high degree of self-rule, but Denmark still controls defense and foreign policy.

5. The Basque Country

Basque protesters calling for independence. AFP/Getty Images

In 2011, the violent separatist group ETA declared a permanent ceasefire in a conflict with Spanish authorities that killed more than 1,000 people.

This beautiful region straddling Spain’s northwestern border with France is still struggling with the legacy of that bloodshed, which goes some way to explain why the Basque Country is not rushing to join Catalonia’s bid for a quick break from Madrid.

Still, posters in support of independence are common in Oiartzun and other Basque towns. The Basque Nationalist Party, which runs the regional government, is negotiating for greater autonomy for the region of just over 2 million, but many of its supporters have not given up the dream of long-term independence.

Regional Prime Minister Inigo Urkullu is giving his backing to Catalonia’s referendum and looks to the vote in Scotland as a model for other breakaway regions.

6. Bavaria

The Bavaria region of Germany. AFP/Getty Images

This may be a bit of a long shot, but the 2.1 percent won by the Bavarian Party in last year’s state elections represented the separatists’ best result in more than 50 years — a sign perhaps that this land of lakes, dirndls and fairytale castles is getting fed up with Berlin.

“We wish our Scottish friends victory in the referendum with all our hearts,” party leader Florian Weber told The Local Germany website this week. “For us in Bavaria [a Scottish
‘yes’] would be a real boost and it would no longer be so easy for our media to negate or ridicule this topic.”

The 12 million Bavarians are mostly Catholic and tend to think of themselves as something of a race apart from the cold Protestants to the north. Many look back fondly to the days before defeat in the war of 1866 led to the Kingdom of Bavaria being incorporated into the Prussian-dominated German Empire.

7. Wales

The Prince of Wales. AFP/Getty Images

Welsh nationalists are looking with hope and not a little envy at the referendum in Scotland.

While the Scottish Nationalist Party mustered its majority in the Scottish Parliament to call the vote on independence, the Party of Wales controls barely one-in-six of the lawmakers in the Welsh National Assembly.

Undaunted, party leader Leanne Wood is hoping a vote for Scottish independence will spur on the Welsh to cast off London’s rule — or at least vote her to power in 2016.

“Everyone is sitting up and taking notice of Scotland because the people of Scotland elected a government … that has put the people in command of their own future,” she said Thursday. “Until Wales does the unexpected, there is no impetus for London to take any notice.”

The green, hilly land to the west of England is home to 3 million people, a fifth of whom speak the distinctive Welsh language.

8. South Tyrol

A hotel owner works in her garden in South Tyrol. AFP/Getty Images

This is Italy, but not as we know it. Cafes serve pork dumplings and apple strudel, waiters sport lederhosen, and the sound of yodeling rolls down mountainsides.

South Tyrol was ceded to Italy after World War I, but it retains a distinctly Austrian feel.

Around 60 percent of the province’s half-million citizens speak German, which is an official language alongside Italian. Dissatisfaction with rule from Rome is widespread — a poll last year showed 46 percent would back secession. Italy’s prolonged economic crisis is adding to the ranks of malcontents in the country’s richest province.

“Independence for Scotland, but also for South Tyrol, would be for the benefit of the people,” Bernhard Zimmerhofer, a provincial legislator for the South Tyrol Freedom Party, said Wednesday. “It’s not only feasible, it’s imperative!”

Ukrainian aircraft losses

Date Location Losses Sources
26 Apr 2014 Kramatorsk airfield 1 helicopter Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says a grenade fired from a launcher caused an explosion in a helicopter at an airfield outside the eastern city of Kramatorsk, wounding a pilot. (April 26)
2 May 2014 Slovyansk 2 Mi-24, 1 Mi-8 Pro-Russian forces in Slovyansk have shot down two Ukrainian helicopter gunships after Kiev launched an operation against the separatist stronghold that was condemned by Russia.Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said on Friday “unknown groups” had shot down two Mi-24s, while an Mi-8 transport helicopter was also damaged. Mi-8 damaged
5 May 2014 Slavyansk 1 Mi-24 A Ukrainian helicopter has been shot down over the pro-Russian stronghold of Slavyansk as the security situation in the country continues to worsen. Ukraine’s defence ministry said the pilots survived. The helicopter, an Mi-24, came under fire from a heavy machine gun and crashed into a river.
29 May 2014 Slavyansk 1 Mi-24 (transport) A Ukrainian military [transport] helicopter has been shot down in Slovyansk, killing 14 people including an army general, as rebels and government forces continued fierce battles in the country’s east.
3 Jun 2014 Slavyansk 2 helicopters Ponomaryov also said two Ukrainian army helicopters had earlier been downed by the self-defense forces. The Ukrainian armed forces have confirmed that two of their helicopters were forced down. 4 June 2014, 11:11 GMT
3 Jun 2014 Slavyansk 1 Antonov AN-30/26, 1 Su-25 Self-defense fighters in Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine, downed two Ukrainian army jets on Tuesday, according to people’s mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov. “Yesterday evening, around 10 pm (local time), a second Ukrainian jet was downed. It’s not yet clear which exactly. It fell somewhere near a brick factory,” Ponomaryov said, adding the pilot managed to eject from the aircraft and escape from self-defense forces.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s “Anti-terrorist operation” or ATO, later confirmed a plane had been shot down but said it was an An-26 transportation plane carrying humanitarian aid.
4 Jun 2014 Semyonovka near Slavyansk. 1 helicopter According to Ponomaryov, Another helicopter was shot down on June 4 after a regular air strike on the settlement of Semyonovka near Slavyansk.
5 Jun 2014 Yampol, near Krasny Liman 1 Mi-24 The self-defense forces of Slavyansk have shot down a fourth helicopter belonging to the Ukrainian army in the last three days, the commander of Slavyansk self-defense forces, Igor Strelkov, told RIA Novosti. “The Mi-24 was shot down Thursday near the village of Yampol near the town of Krasny Liman, where the militia and the army are fighting,” he said. 5 June 17:53 GMT
14 Jun 2014 Lugansk Il-76 jet – Illyushin heavy transport self-defense forces took down a Ukrainian military Il-76 jet as it was landing in Lugansk, news website reported, citing an army source. 14 Jun . The killing of the 40 soldiers and nine crew was the deadliest strike on Ukrainian forces since separatists seized government buildings on April 6. The IL-76 aircraft went down as it approached Luhansk airport at 1:10 a.m. local time under anti-aircraft and machine-gun fire, authorities including the Kiev-based Prosecutor General’s Office said today.
14 Jun 2014 Horlivka 1 Su-25/24 Rebels claimed to have shot down an SU-25 fighter jet over Horlivka, according to Russia’s Interfax news service. The pilot ejected and was captured, it said. forces in eastern Ukraine have allegedly downed another plane – a SU24. The pilot is alive and currently being taken for questioning, RIA Novosti reports. 14 June 2014, 09:48 GMT
19 Jun 2014 Yampol, near Krasny Liman 1 Su-25 Self-defense forces of the Donetsk’s Republic claim to have taken down a Ukrainian Su-25 plane in the battle for the village of Yampol in the north of Donetsk region, militia headquarters told RIA Novosti. June 19 22:36 GMT
21 Jun 2014 Kharkiv region 1 Mi-8 Ukranian authorities are investigating a helicopter crash that killed three crew members over the weekend. They were involved in a military operation against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The reason for the accident in the Kharkiv region remains unknown. The Mi-8 vanished from radar screens on Saturday but was only found on Sunday. (Euronews)
24 Jun 2014 Bylbasovka, near Slavyansk 1 Mi-8 The technicians had been returning from setting up specialised equipment when their Mi-8 cargo helicopter was struck by a rebel missile near Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine, government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said. “There were 9 people on board. According to preliminary information … all those on board were killed,” Igor Strelkov: 19:45 [The downing of the helicopter] has just been confirmed. This is the tenth helicopter destroyed by our forces.
1 Jul 2014 Snezhnoye, Donetsk 1 bomber jet Near the village of Snezhnoye, a Ukrainian bomber jet was shot down by an anti-aircraft battery, militia claimed. Andrey Lysenko, chairman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, denied the claim, saying all military hardware is “in good shape and performing combat duties.”
1 Jul 2014 Luganskaya, Lugansk 2 fighter jets 19:02 GMT: Self-defense forces say they have shot down two government strike-fighter jets during an engagement in Lugansk. “Five government planes flew over the Cossack settlement of Luganskaya and dropped bombs,” said Vladimir Inogorodskiy, the press secretary of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk. “After we brought down two of them, the other three managed to get away.” Earlier, separatist units in the Donetsk Region claimed they also shot down a government plane.
11 Jul 2014 Perevalsk, Lugansk 1 Su-25 14:32 GMT: Self-defense forces downed a military aircraft on Friday near the town of Perevalsk, in the eastern Ukaine’s Lugansk region. It was supposedly an attack plane, a spokesperson for the Lugansk People’s Republic said.
13 Jul 2014 Kozhevnya 1 Mi-24 July 13 08:33 GMT: Ukrainian troops deny earlier reports by self-defense forces, claiming they downed a Ukrainian MI-24 military helicopter near the village of Kozhevnya. “All aircrafts – planes and helicopters – engaged in the operation, are in working condition. None of them have been shot down over the last three days,” Andrey Lysenko, spokesman at the information center for Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, told RIA Novosti.
14 Jul 2014 Davydo-Mykilske, Lugansk 1 An-26 transport July 14 15:40 GMT: The crew of a Ukrainian Antonov An-26, which was “shot down while fulfilling tasks as part of the active part of the anti-terrorist operation” has established contact with the General Staff, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Geletei reported to President Petro Poroshenko.
14 Jul 2014 Krasnodon and Lisichyansk, Lugansk 2 Su-25 July 14 11:13 GMT: Self-defense forces of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic have downed two Ukrainian jets, Aleksey Toporov, press secretary of LPR’s Defense Ministry, told RT. An Su-25 fighter jet was downed near the town of Krasnodon, Toporov said. He said he could not yet give details on the second jet, which he said was downed near the town of Lisichyansk.
23 Jul 2014 Dmitrovka, Donetsk 2 Su-25

World Cup riots – 12 June 2014

Brazilian police have used teargas and stun grenades in San Paolo clashing with about 200 protesters angry with the govt overspending on the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This occurred hours before the tournament’s opening game to be held in the city.

There were also reports of rubber bullets that were used against peaceful protesters who were trying to cut off a key venue leading to the Arena Corinthians stadium – the location of the first game of the Cup between hosting Brazil and Crotia.

Many Brazilians are angry with the government spending over the $11.3 billion on hosting the World Cup while the country has been experiencing economic problems.

Demonstrators take part in an anti-World Cup protest in Rio de Janeiro on June 12, 2014.
(AFP Photo / Yasuyoshi Chiba)

(Reuters / Ricardo Moraes)

(AFP Photo / Miguel Schincariol)

(AFP Photo / Miguel Schincariol)

(Reuters / Ricardo Moraes)

(Reuters / Lunae Parracho)

(Reuters / Ricardo Moraes)

(AFP Photo / Laurent Thomet)

(AFP Photo / Miguel Schincariol)