Monday, March 27, 2017

1--Syria--Not a revolution (14 min excellent summary)

2--Surveillance State Goes After Trump

FBI special agent Coleen Rowley: I think the Chairman Nunes said [Wednesday] that Trump was monitored instead of wiretapped. ....” Wiretapping itself is almost obsolete. It means tapping into a wire, that’s the old way, when the way communications used to go over wires and now they’re digital and they… Snowden, if you remember, all of the disclosures from Edward Snowden, and other NSA whistleblowers, there’s something going on now called collect it all, massive surveillance. And that is done, there are some targets, but then lots and lots of Americans are incidentally monitored… they aren’t monitored but their conversations, and their phone numbers that they’re dialing and their e-mails that they’re e-mailing are collected....And, of course, when Trump was under investigation it would be natural that they would have some… not his… not necessarily him personally, but his campaign staff obviously, that’s going to mean surveillance of those people.
DB: Now, monitoring, does that mean that Obama was in fact, surveilling? Is that a good word? Was Trump being surveilled? Were his claims essentially correct?...

CR: I think Trump is vindicated, again he didn’t understand the terms that he was using. And he did misuse the term, so when Comey said “No”… that that tweet about being wiretapped, we have found no evidence of that.” Comey was able to be honest because a wiretap has a specific meaning. But, you notice, in five hours Comey never said that there’s been no surveillance of anyone connected to the Trump campaign. In fact, he implied the opposite. He implied that the Trump campaign, some persons, he didn’t mention names, but some of them have been investigated since this summer.

a lot of the communications from the Trump people, in Washington, also, at Trump Tower,  even though it wasn’t wiretapped, it was monitored.

CR: It (communications) was collected. And, again, this isn’t necessarily about Trump personally, just cause it’s not about Obama, personally ordering. What this is about is if there are even members of Trump’s campaign staff, or even associates, that could even be a little bit distant from the actual campaign, but just associates. It may be that they were the actual targets. And, still, might be the targets. But, then incidentally Trump could have ended up being, himself, intercepted.

These are leakers who seem to be high level, as opposed to somebody like Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, at a lower level, who is motivated for the public good. I think that the leaks that you’ve seen in the past couple of months, or three months, have actually come from high levels, top appointees, and political partisanship are the motivations. They’re not saying this is for the public good

DB--In terms of what we know. Do they got Donald Trump? Is he owned by the Russians? What have you been able to confirm?
CR: Well, I don’t think there has… and it’s not just myself, it’s really most of our veteran intelligence professionals, retired CIA, retired NSA, we’ve all been conferring for a while on this. And we have asked, we actually put out a…memo asking for evidence. Because it’s just been assertions and innuendoes, and demonization…
We see a lot of demonization of the Russian T.V. channel. But we have not seen any actual evidence of Russians… and there’s a lot of reasons to think that this would be illogical...

our mainstream media is owned by what?…half a dozen big conglomerates, all connected to the military industrial complex, they continue with the scenario of that old movie… the Russians are coming!…the Russians are coming! And unfortunately the Democrat Party has become the war party, very clearly.   ... Our mainstream news is saying that, what you said at the beginning, the Russians own Trump, and basically that this has undermined our democracy and our electoral process. That part of it we have seen no evidence of. And, Trump is partially vindicated, because obviously whether he was personally targeted, his campaign at least seems to have been monitored, at least in part....

to Comey’s credit he did say this a couple of times that these media accounts are not accurate. And, I think that, again, we… there’s been a lot of “sources” anonymous sources which I do not think are whistleblowers. But these anonymous sources seem to have come from political operatives, and even higher level people. I’m guessing some of this came from the Obama administration appointees, not Obama, of course, personally.

3--Exposing Shabby Intelligence (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity speak out)

More recently, VIPS has raised serious questions about the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “Russian hacking” designed to destabilize American politics and, if possible, put Donald Trump in the presidency. The group called on President Obama to release solid evidence of this, even if it creates difficulty for ongoing intelligence operations. The former security officials suggested the evidence released by the government thus far “does not pass the smell test,” and they noted particularly the lack of any public evidence linking the Russians to WikiLeaks, which published the bulk of the information in question.
“We urge you to authorize public release of any tangible evidence that takes us beyond the unsubstantiated, ‘we-assess’ judgments by the intelligence agencies,” said the VIPS statement, addressed to Obama. “Otherwise, we … will be left with the corrosive suspicion that the intense campaign of accusations is part of a wider attempt to discredit the Russians and those—like Mr. Trump—who wish to deal constructively with them.”

4--Turkey worried US will create Kurdish state in e Syria

As preparations for the liberation of Daesh's Syrian capital of Raqqa continue, many observers are becoming increasingly anxious as to what the next stage of Kurdish-US cooperation will be, and whether Washington may attempt to use the Kurds as a tool to dismember Syria...

"The US have been trying to divide Syria from the very beginning," Mustafa suggested. "This is an American project. We, Syrian Turkmen, are against this. Syria's territorial integrity must be preserved. In addition, it must be the Syrians themselves, not external forces, who decide the form of government in the country. The Syrian people must decide whether there will be a federal form of government, or some other form."

5--Partition of Syria

U.S. Special Forces and Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters have just captured a "strategic air base" from Islamic State in northern Syria; in doing so, they have also "blocked" the advance of the Syrian Army as it approaches Raqqa from the west:
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Sunday that they captured the Tabqa air base, 45km west of Raqqa, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group's de facto capital in Syria.
Earlier this week, US forces airlifted SDF fighters

behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault, and on Friday the alliance reached one of the dam's entrances.
SDF forces were within 10km of Raqqa from the north, and aimed to effectively surround the city before launching an assault. 

6--Washington state of Greater Kurdistan to be created in Syria and Iraq  (important map)

According to the documents at our disposal, the U.S. authorities and the Syrian Kurds reached an agreement past week on the boundaries of the Kurdish autonomy in the territory of Syria, which had been guaranteed to Kurds in case of capturing Raqqa and Al-Tabqah (34 miles to the West of Raqqa). This confirms the reports about the U.S. plans to divide Syria.

In addition, Washington has already defined the boundaries of the new state of the Great Kurdistan on the territory of Syria and Iraq. It is to be created after ISIS defeat and the final collapse of Syrian Arab Republic. According to the U.S. military, Kurds remain the only force capable of defeating ISIS....The U.S. government intends to capture Raqqa by April and to eliminate ISIS in Syria and Iraq this summer. The implementation of these plans requires making concessions to Kurds. This is why the U.S. promises them an independent state in case of victory.

7--A Correction Now Might Not Be So Bad, Some Investors Say

After the postelection rally, many say a 10% retreat is overdue and would be healthy for the market

Analysts see earnings for S&P 500 companies growing 9.1% in the first quarter of 2017 from the year-earlier period, according to FactSet, down from their Dec. 31 estimate for the quarter of 12.5%.

Companies in the S&P 500 traded last week at an average of 21.5 times their past 12 months of earnings, ahead of the 10-year average of 16.5 times, according to FactSet. A March survey of portfolio managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found 34% said stocks were overvalued, the most who said so since the survey began in 2000.

Some analysts play down those concerns, wagering that Trump administration priorities like tax cuts, deregulation and increased infrastructure spending will over time boost profits at businesses ranging from lenders to barge firms.
But the administration’s ability to push through such business-friendly policies was called into question last week, a shift that in part led to Tuesday’s 1.2% decline in the S&P 500, the largest percentage drop since October. ...

Other investors have seen signs of weakness beneath the surface of improving economic data. Real average weekly earnings decreased 0.3% in February from the prior year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oil prices have fallen around 11% in March, echoing a drop that helped spur the early 2016 selloff.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow tracker is forecasting economic growth for the first quarter at a 1% pace. Prior to its increase this month, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates five times since 1987 in quarters where GDP growth was 1.2% or below, according to research from UBS. After all five times, stocks fell between 3% and 12% over the following three months...( a 12% dip on the Dow would be 2,460 points putting the Dow at 18,040)

The investor euphoria that accompanied Mr. Trump’s election has shown signs of waning. Investors are taking money out of stocks and moving into safe haven assets. Bond funds posted $7.8 billion in inflows in the week through Wednesday, while gold funds notched their largest inflows in five weeks, according to data from EPFR Global. U.S. equity funds posted their largest outflows in 38 weeks, with investors withdrawing $8.9 billion in the week through Wednesday.

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