Grassroots or ‘astroturf’? Who’s really behind the anti-Brexit group ‘Our Future Our Choice’

Pro-EU group ‘Our Future Our Choice’, who confronted Jeremy Corbyn with a huge ‘stop backing brexit’ banner during his speech at the recent Labour Live event, is accused of having links with ex-Tory ministers and big cash donors.

Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) pertain to be the grassroots voice for young people and their objective is to help secure a ‘people’s vote’ on the final terms of the Brexit deal. However, questions are being asked by prominent left winger commentators such as Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani and journalist and author Paul Mason as to who exactly is driving their campaign.

In addition, some political commentators on the left are questioning why OFOC seem to be focussing on attacking the Labour leadership instead of Tory remainers that have failed to ‘rebel’ thus far on key Brexit votes.

The four founding members of OFOC, co-presidents Lara Spirit and Will Dry, and the group’s spokesmen Femi Oluwole and Calum Millbank-Murphy, are all registered as directors in the company. Their group made the headlines by promoting a couple of mobile billboards attacking high level Labour figures such as John McDonnell and Diane Abbott for their stance on Brexit.

OFOC is one of a plethora of pro-remain groups that have been set up during or after the EU Referendum in 2016. The group registered the organisation to companies house in February this year and soon after raised £12,762 through crowdfunding in March.

The group’s homepage admits that “OFOC is powered by: Best for Britain, Open Britain, The European Movement, and the GCG [Grassroots Co-ordination Group]”, all large established pro-Remain groups, predominantly funded by Tory, Liberal and former Labour donors. The GCG is chaired by Chuka Umunna MP, a known Corbyn-critic.

They share office space with six anti-Brexit groups; Best for Britain, Open Britain, European Movement, Britain for Europe, Scientists for EU, Healthier IN and InFacts that have been brought together by Umunna’s GCG.

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This decade's Ross and Rachel: But will a new referendum see the UK and EU back together? © Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Best For Britain (BfB), a campaign launched by Gina Miller last year, is the best funded organisation with a staggering £2.4m ($ 3.1m) in funding, £500k ($ 660k) of which coming from billionaire philanthropist George Soros, according to the Guardian. They are looking for a further £3.2m ($ 4.2m) according to Paul Butters, BfB’s director of communications and former spokesperson to Ex- Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron.

According to Red Robin, the Scottish left wing blog BfB spent £353,118 ($ 465k) between June 2016 and June 2017, backed several candidates against Labour candidates in the 2017 General Election, including the Liberal Democrat’s Tom Brake and Ed Davey.

Although BfB claims much of its funding comes from small donors, significant sums have been given to the group by Virgin billionaire Sir Richard Branson (£25k, $ 33k), Liberal Democrat Anatole Kaletsky (£20k, $ 26k), and Tory donor Stephen Peel who told the Observer he was giving the anti-Brexit group £100k ($ 131k) because it was “the most important political issue of a generation and one about which I deeply care”.

The European Movement meanwhile is predominantly funded by former Progress donor, Lord David Sainsbury, who has recently stated he would not be funding political groups anymore, to turn his attentions charitable causes.

RT has reached out for comment from OFCO as to what their connections are to the larger, well funded groups – does “powered by” simply mean supported or financially backed? Certain administrative support would have to be declared to the electoral commission in the event of another referendum. At the time of writing OFOC had not responded to our email.

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'Ex-CIA officer Joshua Schulte case intended to send chilling message to whistleblowers'

Charges against an ex-CIA employee are intended to send a message to potential whistleblowers, warning them that they will have no defense when pursued by the government, the executive editor of 21st Century Wire told RT.

Former CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte is facing charges over what has been described as the largest information leak in the agency’s history.

Prosecutors claim that he unlawfully obtained information on the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the CIA during his time at the agency. He is alleged to have provided the information to an organization for it to be disseminated.
While the indictment does not mention the organization by name, the whistleblower’s lawyers have identified it as none other than WikiLeaks.

If he is convicted on multiple charges, Schulte faces over 100 years in jail.

RT: How serious are the charges brought against this former CIA engineer?

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© Dado Ruvic

Patrick Henningsen: The charges are very serious being brought against Joshua Schulte. What is unclear is how many of these charges will be able to stick in the end. The defense team for Schulte claims that he is innocent of any wrongdoing. And so does his family. Clearly, he is going to be defending himself, sticking up for himself in this case.

The charges are wide-ranging in the indictment but it claims to have multiple violations of the Espionage Act, which is problematic in its own right and how it is being used by the successive administrations in the US to charge and jail journalists and government whistleblowers. Critics will say that this act is out of date, to say the least, it is being used really to stifle information that is in the public interest from coming out and being put through the press, for instance. So, the use of the Espionage Act is a kind of censoring tool and also as a tool of repression by the state.

RT: It has been suggested WikiLeaks may have been the recipient of these leaks… Is that plausible?

PH: WikiLeaks is going to be in the conversation because, for instance, the Vault 7 leaks were leaked out and published by WikiLeaks. There’s also a similar conservation with Snowden leaks as well… The real issue is the US is characterizing WikiLeaks as a spying organization or some organization that is out to destroy US reputation internationally or harm US national security when in fact it is a publishing platform.

The only difference is, I think, now in the age of the internet when things are published on WikiLeaks, they go internationally, they go globally instantaneously within seconds. In the past, when the Espionage Act was written, back in the early 20th century, when things were published [they] could be contained to a degree within certain countries and not go internationally. While the indictment cites national security as the main concern, it is really about national embarrassment. And I think this is why the US government, especially under the Obama administration and continuing under the Trump administration, trying to shut down any of these avenues for whistleblowers, for leakers, and also trying to directly put pressure and shut down the press itself. And WikiLeaks is by definition a publisher, first and foremost.      

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London, Britain, May 19, 2017 © Neil Hall

This conversation in the US press seems to be about “Oh, the CIA needs to secure its hacking tools” and that seems to be the main thrust of conversation, not about why and how these tools are being deployed and for what reason. And I think that is where the conversation needs to be in this story. But unfortunately, it is not. It is really around the process of security again. I don’t think we are going to progress forward on this issue on that basis. I don’t think we can learn anything from these incidents just by looking at them through the lens of national security and clandestine operations security and buttoning it all down, so the public doesn’t know what its government is up to and what it is spending its money on. And let me add that the Vault 7 revealed that the CIA has an operation that is comparable to the NSA in terms of electronic warfare. And that was not known widely before that.

RT: What message does Joshua Schulte’s case send to whistleblowers?     

PH: The general message to whistleblowers is a message of intimidation, it is a message that you will receive no protection; you will not be able to adequately defend yourself. And the other message is that the government doesn’t need to defend itself, it can prosecute all of these cases on arbitrary bases, it can attack journalists, it can attack publishing platforms all under the letter of national security. This does send out a chilling message to any potential government whistleblowers that you will be pursued by the government and that under the letter of national security you have very little defense. I don’t think this is in the interest at all of the public…

RT: It was previously suggested that Russia may have had something to do with the leak, only to be revealed it was actually an inside job. What are your thoughts on this?

PH: Look at what was revealed in Vault 7: one of the real revelations is the nature of the hacking tool. In other words, the CIA has the ability to hack and leave false fingerprints. In other words, make it appear that somebody else had carried out the hack. And this is absolutely relevant in terms of the whole ‘Russiagate’ conversation in the US and the DNC leaks, or the DNC hacks as they are referred to by the Democratic Party opposition.

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Kalashnikov Concern builds futuristic vehicles for Russian police (PHOTOS)

The Kalashnikov Concern unveiled new high-tech cars and bikes designed for the Moscow traffic police. The electric-powered patrol vehicles entered service last week.

The electric car ‘Ovum’, designed by one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers Kalashnikov Concern, weighs half a ton and can reach up to 80kph (50mph) in speed. Kalashnikov promises that the egg-shaped three-wheeler will have a “very smooth drive”. And even if it is involved in a crash, the car, unlike some other electric vehicles, has little chance of bursting into flames, the manufacturer says.

The ‘Pulsar’ electric motorcycle is capable of going up to 100kph (62mph). Its engine is eco-friendly, doesn’t make much noise, and is 12 times cheaper to use than bikes which run on gas, the company says. Aside from helping law enforcement, Kalashnikov plans to design a commercial model of ‘Pulsar’ that will hit the mass market.

Both vehicles were tailored in accordance with instructions from the Moscow Transportation and Roads Department. The local traffic police received 30 ‘Pulsars’ and 4 ‘Ovums’ last week. They are expected to be used in patrols during the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

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Alan Sugar blasted for ‘racist’ tweet comparing Senegal World Cup team to street traders

Lord Alan Sugar, the businessman once at the helm of the UK version of ‘The Apprentice’ TV show, has been condemned online for posting a controversial tweet about the Senegal World Cup team.

READ MORE: Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant sues Trump for defamation, claims sexual harassment

Sugar posted a photoshopped image of the team standing over a row of sunglasses and handbags along with the caption: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi-tasking resourceful chaps.” The line is seemingly a reference to immigrant street-traders operating around Marbella, the resort town on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol.

The post was soon deleted after a number of people took offence, but Sugar was unrepentant. In what could only be described as a classic ‘non-apology apology,’ he said: “I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.”

That tweet has also been deleted. A second apology, this one more solemn in tone, was posted to Twitter an hour later.

READ MORE: Egos collide as Trump gives a ‘world exclusive interview’ to his apprentice Piers Morgan

The tweet was met with fury on Twitter, as commentators compared Sugar’s comments to past ‘Apprentice’ alumni, while a few lone voices have offered some defense of the former Tottenham Hotspur chairman.

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Two former Tory mayors found guilty of child-sex offences in just 48 hours

Two former Tory mayors have been convicted of multiple child-sex offences in just 48 hours. One of them has been found guilty of raping a young girl, while the other admitted to over 20 counts of child abuse.

Former mayor of the Welsh county town of Pembroke, David Boswell, 57, was found guilty of rape and three other indecent assaults against two girls at Swansea Crown Court on Monday.

The jury heard that he raped a nine-year old and indecently assaulted another girl aged around 13 between 1990 and 1994.

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© Michaela Begsteiger

Boswell, who is a still Pembrokeshire county councillor, was cleared of another three indecent assault allegations by two complainants.

He denied the allegations, which he described as “complete lies” and said they “made me feel sick.” He volunteered to take a lie detector test to prove he was telling the truth.

“I can put my hand on the Bible and say I have never sexually assaulted that girl,” Boswell said. “If I had done something, why has it taken so long for it to come out?”

He was remanded in custody by Judge Keith Thomas, who told him he should expect a lengthy jail sentence.

Separately, former councilor and Conservative mayor of Godalming, Simon Thornton, pleaded guilty on Monday to 22 child-sex offences and was subsequently jailed for nine years at Guildford Crown Court.

Thornton, whose offences include possession of indecent photographs and videos, had been in a sexual relationship with a 13-year old.

When he was arrested on October 24 last year at his butcher’s shop in Godalming, Thornton reportedly told police: “You know I’m the mayor of Godalming, you know I have a 10-year-old daughter.”

Investigating officer Police Constable Tamzin Ede said: “Simon Thornton displayed predatory behavior to abuse a child for a prolonged period. He clearly believed he would get away with this offending, given how long it carried on, and has now rightly been jailed for his abhorrent crimes,” Get Surrey reports.

“Simon Thornton’s crimes have impacted the victim through her childhood and into adult life, the offending against her have caused low confidence, depression and difficulties in building new trusted relationships.

“The victim in this case has shown real courage in reporting and supporting the police investigation,” Ede added.

Thornton, of Abraham Way in Borden, Hampshire, will be placed on the Sexual Offenders Register and will also be indefinitely subjected to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

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Homeland Security chief chased out of Mexican restaurant amid immigration uproar (VIDEO)

A group of activists sabotaged Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen’s outing to a Mexican restaurant, in protest against the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexican border.

The Department of Homeland Security chief sat down for a pleasant fajita at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC on Tuesday – but maybe considering her department’s actions it wasn’t the best idea. Nielsen had her immigrant-cuisine feast cut short by a group of activists from the Democratic Socialists of America. According to videos tweeted out by the group, they apparently thought it was untoward of the DHS chief to enjoy a meal at a ritzy Mexican restaurant while the United States government separates children from their parents at the US-Mexican border and then places them in detention centers.

One protester shouted: “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The f***ing gall.”

Videos of the confrontation – and Nielsen’s retreat from restaurant – were posted to Twitter.

DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton described the incident as “a work dinner” where Nielsen and her colleagues “heard from a small group of protesters who share her concern with our current immigration laws that have created a crisis on our southern border.”

“The hubris of this administration is the stuff of legend,” commented journalist Ken Klippenstein in response to the video showing a “concerned” Nielsen fleeing to the safety of her SUV.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Nielsen had simply built a wall around her Mexican restaurant table.

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Israeli court fails to rule on whether 'enhanced interrogation' is torture

An Israeli court has failed to decide if so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ used by Israeli security services constitutes torture, but threw out a confession by a Jewish minor, made under duress, in a Palestinian firebombing case.

The two young Jewish Israeli suspects are charged with launching Molotov cocktails at the home of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in 2015.

The attack in the West Bank town of Duma killed a toddler and his parents.For months the police and the security agency Shin Bet made no apparent progress in resolving the case but later arrested Amiram Ben-Uliel, who is alleged to have prepared and thrown the bombs, and an unnamed minor who allegedly assisted him in planning the arson.

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© Ammar Awad

The Central District Court in Lod in Central Israel rejected a confession made by the minor but abstained from condemning Shin Bet of physically abusing him.

Ben-Uliel’s confession was partially admitted because judges decided enough time had passed between the ‘enhanced interrogation’ and his admission of guilt.But the court did not rule on whether Shin Bet’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods are legal or constitute torture.

Shin Bet, who questioned the suspects, hasn’t concealed using harsher methods of interrogation, in line with the procedures for so-called ‘ticking time bombs’.The term is used when the person is suspected of planning further attacks and posing a danger to Israeli lives.

In 1999, the High Court of Justice prohibited the use of torture but left a loophole when it came to ‘ticking time bombs’, allowing for “moderate physical pressure”.

Shin Bet first admitted, in 2015, to using harsh methods during interrogation of a Palestinian suspect in 2007. They claimed their actions made him confess and prevented a terror attack.

But questions over whether these harsh methods constitute torture remain. The court failed to provide an answer and did not question or censure the Shin Bet’s interrogation methods.

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Russian police officer wows fans with football juggling skills (VIDEO)

A local police officer has amazed passing spectators in the World Cup host city of Rostov with his impressive football skills, cannily juggling a ball dozens of times.

The law enforcement official named Oleg bounced the ball more than 40 times, leaving a huge crowd of football fans who gathered around him open-mouthed.

READ MORE: Cutest World Cup moment? Brazil stars’ kids play with traditional Russian dolls (VIDEO)

The video showing Oleg’s juggling talent went viral, making the policeman a new internet star & proving that World Cup fever has taken over Russia.

Rostov-on-Don, one of Russia’s 11 World Cup host cities, was awarded the right to stage five games during the month-long football tournament. With the Brazil-Switzerland match already being played Rostov Arena will host four more matches, including a quarter-final between the winner of group G and group H runner-up.

READ MORE: Jubilant Russians fill streets after World Cup win over Egypt (VIDEO)

Brazil and Switzerland attracted 43,109 spectators to the stadium, posting the venue’s new attendance record.

 

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South Korea wants railroad link to Russia through North Korea

Seoul, Moscow and Pyongyang can implement several major trilateral infrastructure and energy projects if stability is reached on the Korean peninsula, according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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© menonsstocks

One such project could be a railway that will be able deliver goods from Russia to South Korea through North Korea. “Once the Trans-Korean Main Line is built, it may be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway. In this case, it will be possible to deliver goods from South Korea to Europe, which would be economically beneficial not only to South and North Korea but to Russia as well,” Moon Jae-in said in an interview with Russian media ahead of his state visit to Moscow.

A gas pipeline coming from Russia to North Korea to be extended to the South is another possibility, he said. “We can also build a gas pipeline via North Korea, so that not only South Korea will receive Russian gas but we will also be able to deliver it to Japan,” the South Korean president said.

The project to unite the Korean Peninsula with a gas pipeline has been discussed for a long time, but official talks started in 2011. The negotiations were frozen after relations between Seoul and Pyongyang deteriorated. Last week, Russian energy major Gazprom announced it resumed talks with Seoul over the construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia with North and South Korea.

The countries could also connect their electricity grids, Moon Jae-in said. “We can also establish a powerline that would allow us to receive electricity from Russia. It could also be delivered not only to South and North Korea but also to Japan.”

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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Head of Duma Family Committee proposes Father’s Day holiday in Russia

The head of the lower house Committee for Women, Family and Children has proposed that Russia institutes a separate holiday honoring fathers, in addition to Mothers’ Day, which was introduced 20 years ago.

The draft bill submitted to the State Duma by MP Tamara Pletneva provides that, starting from 2019, Russia would celebrate Father’s Day on the last Saturday of October.

In an explanatory note attached to the bill, the lawmaker wrote that the measure would add some balance to the situation by which Russia has celebrated Mother’s Day for 20 years, but fathers don’t have their own holiday.

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Participants of the May1 demonstration in the Russian city of Simferopol © Aleksey Malgavko

Fathers need a holiday too because women have various holidays and men only have February 23, but it is not for all men, it is the holiday honoring the Defenders of the Motherland. But the roles of the defender of the family and the bringer-up of children are equally important,” she wrote.

The official also wrote that the move was supported by the “Union of Fathers of Russia” movement and the participants of the “Strong Family” project, backed by parliamentary majority party United Russia.

A poll conducted by the state-run public opinion research center VTSIOM in mid-2017 revealed that 62 percent of Russians supported the idea of having a special national holiday for fathers. Respondents said that another holiday would help citizens to remember family values, give them time and opportunities to spend more time with their families, and to thank them for caring and supporting them.

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