Minister for Economic Development, Sir Joe Bossano, travels to Cuba as part of UK trade mission

The Minister for Economic Development Sir Joe Bossano is travelling to Cuba this weekend as part of a UK trade mission, supported by the British and Cuban governments.

The trade mission aims to strengthen UK /Cuban relations following the Cuban President’s visit to London and the visit to Cuba by the Prince of Wales.

It's also being seen as an opportunity to explore post Brexitrelationships and identify potential economic relationships that could increase trade with new partners.

Sir Joe will be accompanied by Albert Poggio and returns to Gibraltar next week.

  • Published in Cuba

Rolling Stones' Iconic Havana Gig To Be Relived In Kentish Town

In March 2016, just days after Barack Obama was the first sitting US president to visit Cuba in 88 years, the Rolling Stones played a massive free concert in Havana. It's thought 500,000 locals turned out to watch the band play hits like Jumpin' Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

Now, an immersive experience invites Londoners to experience the Havana Moon gig themselves — featuring a backdrop of Cuban dancers and Latin vibes, while footage of the concert is blown up on a supersize ultra HD video projection (hopefully to your Satisfaction).

The show takes place at Kentish Town Forum on 27 October

  • Published in Culture

Oops! New York Times corrects Skripal story, says no ‘dead ducks’ or ‘sick kids’ from ‘Novichok’

The New York Times has corrected a report that UK officials had shared photos with the CIA depicting children and animals who’d been exposed to the so-called Novichok nerve agent after coming into contact with the Skripals.

The Times reported on April 16 that the British government had supplied images of “young children hospitalized” and of dead ducks, inadvertently poisoned after interactions with Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia at a park in Salisbury in March of last year. The paper pointed to the “sloppy work of the Russian operatives” who were blamed for what London calls a nerve agent attack last year.

While the original story claimed the images were used to convince US President Donald Trump to expel 60 Russian diplomats from the US in response to the Skripal episode, the Times now says no such photos exist.

“An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the photos that [CIA Director] Gina Haspel showed to President Trump during a discussion about responding to the nerve agent attack in Britain,” reads the correction, issued almost two months after the original story was published.

I made a significant error in my April 16 profile of Gina Haspel. It took a while to figure out where I went wrong. Here is the correction: 1/9

Haspel, instead, presented the president with generic images illustrating the harmful effects of some nerve agents, while the British claims of sick kids and poisoned birds were based on “early intelligence reports,” the corrected story says.

While the Times amended the story and added an editor’s note, the paper apparently forgot to scrub a photo caption describing a “slipshod attack that also sickened children, killed ducks and required careful cleanup.”

Prior to the correction, there were already signs that something was off about the story. Shortly after the Skripal incident, British tabloid the Daily Mirror reported that three children were indeed hospitalized after feeding ducks in a Salisbury park with the Skripals, but blood tests revealed that the children were fine.

One of the boys reportedly even ate some of the bread supplied by Skripal and intended as bird-food. According to UK authorities, Sergei Skripal’s hands were coated in a highly-lethal nerve agent at that moment; it is unclear how the child could have avoided poisoning.

READ MORE: ‘Highly likely’ is the new evidence: Five times Western officials had no proof but media fell for it

This is only one aspect of the Skripal story that does not make sense, but the UK authorities still maintain it could have only been an officially sanctioned assassination attempt by the Kremlin – which Moscow outright denies. The episode has fueled tensions between Russia and the West. Nearly 20 countries, most of them in the EU, moved to expel some Russian diplomats in response to the incident last year, in addition to the 60 ejected from the United States.

Also on rt.com Hospitalized children & dead ducks? The ‘official’ Skripal narrative goes completely quackers...

 
  • Published in World

UK Among Worst In Europe For Press Freedom

Campaigners argue that ‘national security’ is often used as a pretext to trample on the freedom of press.

On Saturday, a ‘Reporters Without Borders’ report published in The Independent ranked the U.K. 33rd for press freedom, behind South Africa and Latvia. It is one of the worst rankings for a European country with activists arguing that ‘national security’ is often used as a pretext to trample on the freedom of press.

RELATED: YouTube Censors Iranian Press, HispanTV, Press TV Targeted

There have been long running concerns about the concentration of media ownership in Britain. A 2015 report claimed that the country’s media is owned by just a few tycoons, threatening media plurality. Two of Britain’s most widely read newspapers, The Sun and the Times, along with the Press Association agency and SKY News broadcast, are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. The U.K.’s next most widely circulated papers such as The Daily Mail are owned by billionaire Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, and The Telegraph by billionaire twins, David and Frederick Barclay.

However, Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders U.K. director, argues that their biggest worry is the British government’s use of ‘national security’ to crackdown on critical reporting. “Too often steps taken in the name of national security trample press freedom," she says.

One area that ‘national security’ issues may hinder reporting on, is over the U.K.’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Fears have grown since it was revealed that London is a hub for Saudi government PR spending.  

A report from the Pew Research Center found that less than a third of U.K. citizens ‘trust’ their national media, with just 5% claiming to trust it ‘a lot’. This number is compared to the Netherlands where 67% trust their national titles, with 18% claiming to do so ‘a lot’.

There are also concerns about press freedom in other western countries. The Canadian government recently banned teleSUR English from reporting on the so called ‘Lima Group’ meeting held in Ottawa in early Feburary 2019. The Russian embassy in Canada has also complained that Russian journalists are routinely presented with difficulties in carrying out their  professional role.

  • Published in World

Brexit Deal Rejected For Third Time By British Lawmakers

London, United Kingdom: British MPs on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal for a third time, opening the way for a long delay to Brexit -- or a potentially catastophic "no deal" withdrawal in two weeks.

Lawmakers in parliament's lower House of Commons defied May's plea to end the political deadlock that has plunged Britain into crisis, and defeated her withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286.

It is yet another blow to a prime minister who has all but lost control of her government and the Brexit process -- particularly after she offered to quit if MPs backed the deal.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 "Independence Day", but faced with chaos in Westminster, May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to return in the coming days to explain what happens next, with speculation in Brussels of an emergency summit on April 10 or 11.

The EU has set a deadline for April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

May has said it would be "unacceptable" to ask voters to take part in forthcoming European Parliament elections, three years after they voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

But while "no deal" remains the default legal option, MPs have repeatedly voted against this, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan in place.

DUP holdouts

The failure by parliament to agree the terms of its exit from European Union has left Britain in limbo, with business leaders and trade unions warning of a "national emergency".

Voters are divided, many of them anxious and angry, and May blames MPs -- but they in turn accuse her of refusing to countenance any alternative to her unpopular deal.

"She is, frankly, unable to govern," opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, urging her "either to listen and change course or to go".

Tired of waiting, MPs this week gave themselves unprecedented powers to vote on a range of options for Britain's future relationship with the EU.

A prosal for a new customs union got close to passing in a first round on Wednesday, as did a plan for a referendum on May's deal, with more voting planned next Monday and Wednesday.

The risk that MPs decide to agree closer ties to the EU, or even stop it altogether, has focused the minds of some Brexit supporters, who reluctantly agreed to back May's deal.

Her offer on Wednesday to quit if it passes also helped persuade some of her staunchest critics, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson.

But others refused, including May's Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which says planned arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit are unacceptable.

"We are not prepared to see our constitutional position altered by Brussels in a fit of pique for daring to leave the EU," said MP Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman.

Snap election?

May's offer to quit fired the starting gun on an informal race for the leadership of her Conservative party.

Her resignation was dependent on getting the divorce deal passed -- and she might try one last time to get her deal through.

Even so, her days are numbered.

Getting another vote on a deal would be tricky, as parliament speaker John Bercow has already warned he will not let her bring the same deal back again and again.

Under an agreement struck with EU leaders last week, Britain would have left on May 22 if MPs approved the deal this week.

Officials believe there is still a chance that, if she can get it through before April 12, this date is still possible.

However, speculation is also growing that the only way out of the impasse is a snap election.

  • Published in World

‘Challenging’ Russia in the Arctic: Political posturing or a war in the making?

As Russia bolsters its efforts to secure and tap the Arctic, both the UK and the US have been vowing to meet its “challenge” – a premise that could lead to war, experts say, if their naval powers could muster the capabilities.

“It’s nobody’s lake,” said US Admiral James Foggo in a recent interview with US media – the latest in a string of American warnings against Russia’s northward push. His concern is primarily for “Arctic Council nations – of which we are a member,” and which are not interested in the Northern Sea Route being exploited by adversary powers like Russia and China.

UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson recently joined the chorus of warnings, saying Britain would “stay vigilant to new challenges” by “sharpening our skills in sub-zero conditions, learning from longstanding allies like Norway or monitoring submarine threats with our Poseidon aircraft.”

But Russia is better positioned both legally and physically to oversee the Arctic and, while still dangerous, the bellicose statements carry little weight for the reality on the ice, experts have told RT.

Bravado for domestic consumption

Williamson’s promise to defend NATO’s northern flank from Russia must be viewed “in the context of current UK domestic politics,” believes security analyst and former UK army officer Charles Shoebridge. With Brexit just around the corner, Williamson is drumming up the Russia and China threats so that other European nations aren’t “tempted to turn to the EU for its security, but must continue to rely on the US and UK through NATO.”

Ultimately, he could be aiming just for political gain.

With the UK in political turmoil it often appears that Williamson is even positioning himself as a future candidate to replace Theresa May as PM.

Likewise in the US: James Foggo's “nobody's lake” comment was tellingly lacking in detail as to how exactly the US is going to keep Russia out of the Arctic, says retired colonel Mikhail Khodarenok.

“James Foggo’s statements at this point are of a purely political nature. It’s telling that he never clarified how exactly the US Navy is going to accomplish that task. Are they going to create naval groups in the Arctic Ocean, seize important coastal areas, channels, naval bases and ports? But that means war with a nuclear power, one which would see unrestricted use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Dangerous free-for-all

War can be averted, the experts believe, though the danger of escalation is very real. The situation, according to Khodarenok, is complicated by the vagueness of international law regarding the Arctic.

James Foggo’s statement is a fresh indication that the Arctic is becoming an arena of global rivalry over transport lanes and natural resources,” Khodarenok said.

World history knows no precedent of such a rivalry playing out without considering military factors.

Shoebridge, on the other hand, believes that when faced with the danger of an armed incident spiraling into “uncontrolled escalation,” cooler heads will prevail.

“Despite the confrontational language they might use, most leaders of most states want to avoid this,” he said.

Also on rt.com US plans expansion to Arctic in bid to challenge Russia, but can it?...

Questionable claims and capabilities

The US seeks to deny Russia and China the use of the Northern Sea Route – but the lane goes along the Russian coastline, which, under international law, gives Russia a degree of control over it, something Russia should lean on when defending its rights to use the waters, says Khodarenok.

Besides, while Foggo wants Russia and China out of the “nobody's lake,” he admits American companies can’t use it either, since their vessels are too big for local conditions. Besides, Russia is the only world power with a significant icebreaker fleet, which makes it the only one capable of rendering aid to ships that have an emergency while sailing there.
On top of that, Russia has been reviving its military installations that guard the area, including radar arrays and permanent military bases. Abandoning those is not an option, since that would mean losing a vital strategic foothold.

For Russia the Northern Sea Route has defense significance as well, since it provides access to all of the world’s oceans, as well as the ability to maneuver between theaters relying only on the capabilities of the Russian Navy.

At the end of the day the only ones undoubtedly standing to profit from the opening of the Arctic arena are military industrial contractors – with the US 2nd Fleet revived for the sole purpose of containing Russia’s Arctic ambition, Navy contracts are bound to follow.

Also on rt.com Cold War is good for business: US contractors rejoice at the new Red Scare...

  • Published in World

We must be ready to use ‘hard power’ against Moscow and Beijing – UK defense chief

The UK must be ready to use ‘hard power’ against Russia and China, defense chief Gavin Williamson has said. The remark has raised eyebrows in Moscow, which calls it “irrelevant” to reality and aimed at securing a larger budget.

The UK needs to strengthen its "lethality" and must be ready to "use hard power" to uphold it interests against nations like Russia and China, Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson said on Monday.

Delivering a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London, he accused "resurgent" Moscow of boosting its "military arsenal" to bring former Soviet states like Georgia and Ukraine "back into its orbit."

Also on rt.com Britain’s ‘backyard’? UK wants to deploy 800 troops to defend ‘interests’ in the Arctic...

The UK defense chief lashed out at Beijing as well, warning the audience that China is "developing its modern capability and commercial power."

We have to be ready to show the high price of aggressive behavior, ready to strengthen our resilience.

The politician made the remarks as London prepares to send its largest warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the South China Sea on a mission to enforce freedom of navigation rights.

Williamson’s statement was met with a mixed reaction in Russia, with the nation’s embassy in the UK calling it “completely irrelevant” to reality, yet “worrying” in its militaristic spirit.

“Certainly, it’s convenient to threaten society with the so-called ‘Russian threat’, distracting it from the relevant internal and external problems that Great Britain faces today,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Apart from that, the British minister is pursuing a very particular goal with such statements: painting our country as an ‘aggressor’, he is trying to steadily expand the state funding of the UK’s military-industrial complex.”

Williamson, 42, is known for pushing Britain to reassert its role as an influential military power. He also often makes headline-grabbing bombastic statements. In September, commenting on plans to send British troops to the Arctic, he called the region the nation’s "backyard."

At the end of last year, he unveiled plans to build military bases in the Far East and the Caribbean, suggesting that it will help the UK to become a "true global player" after leaving the EU.

During the tensions over the Skripal poisoning case, Williamson went on a fiery tirade against Moscow, saying that Russia should "go away and shut up."

  • Published in World

Cuba To Welcome 5 Million Visitors In 2019

This year could be a banner year for Cuban tourism.

As the Caribbean island continues to court foreign vacationers, the tourism ministry announced that they expect over five million visitors in 2019.

If the island hits their goal, it will be the 12th consecutive year of growth in tourism numbers for the Pearl of the Antilles, with 7.4% growth between 2018 and 2019, said the ministry. Tourism incomes are estimated to exceed 3 billion dollars in Cuba in 2019 , according to the ministry.

Experts say that the expansion of accommodation choices – including five-star hotels in Havana – as well as the increase in competitively priced hotels and casa particulares has resulted in more interest for vacationers. Additionally, in November, Havana will celebrate its 500th year anniversary.

250476 379420972127206 1991888332 n

“Five million is realistic,” said John McAuliff, executive director of Fund for Reconciliation and Development, in an email. “Americans are slowly waking up to the reality that they are still free to travel independently under the Support for the Cuban People license.”

Continuing, he said that “the number could go even higher if Congress ends all restrictions on travel by Americans. Under Democratic control, the House could match bipartisan support in the Senate to allow normal travel and agricultural sales.”

The top two tourism markets remain Canada and the United States, although Americans are still prohibited from visiting Cuba for tourism explicitly. (Americans can still travel to Cuba legally under one of these 12 permitted categories.)

Cuba has also launched promotional campaigns recently to attract more travelers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain as well as emerging markets like China, Vietnam and South Africa.

487470 378674755535161 1831165664 n

Although regulations dictate that Americans are not allowed to go on a ‘typical’ beach vacation while exploring the country, Steve Powers, owner of Hidden Treasure Tours in Long Beach, New York, said during last month's New York Times Travel Show that traveling to Cuba legally remains a great deal as compared to the rest of the Caribbean, thanks to cheap, commercial flights from the US.

In 2018, the island welcomed 4.78 million visitors with less than one million of those travelers arriving by cruise ship.

  • Published in Cuba
Subscribe to this RSS feed