Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Today's Links

"It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities."  Candidate Donald Trump (before he loaded his cabinet with G-SAX bankers)



1--Consumer confidence soars in March to highest level since December 2000


Consumers' attitudes to current conditions in the U.S. jumped in March, according to a monthly survey out on Tuesday.

The Consumer Confidence Index hit 125.6 in March according to data from The Conference Board, its highest level since December 2000.

Economists expected the Conference Board's consumer confidence index to hit 114 in March, according to a consensus estimate from Reuters.

"Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved considerably," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Consumers' also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects. Thus, consumers feel current economic conditions have improved over the recent period, and their renewed optimism suggests the possibility of some upside to the prospects for economic growth in the coming months," Franco said.

The survey also found that those saying business conditions are "good" rose to 32.2 percent from 28.2 percent. Those saying business conditions are "bad" fell to 12.9 percent from 13.4 percent.


2--Trump's Approval Rating Drops to New Low of 36%


President Donald Trump's job approval rating fell to 36% for the three-day period of March 24-26, following Republican House leaders' failed effort to pass a new healthcare bill that would have replaced the Affordable Care Act.

Trump's three-day reading prior to Friday's events was 41%. His previous low point was 37%, recorded March 16-18. His highest reading was 46% in the week following his Jan. 20 inauguration, and he has averaged 42% for his term to date


3---Cheney: Russia's efforts to sway US election could be 'act of war'


There's no question there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes," he said during his remarks. "In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war."

"I think it's a kind of conduct and activity we'll see going forward. We know he's attempted it previously in other states in the Baltics," he added. "I would not underestimate the weight that we as Americans assign to the Russian attempts to interfere with our internal political processes."


4--Will Donald Trump Escalate the Devastating War and Hunger in Yemen


A UNICEF report shows over 400,000 Yemeni children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and a child dying every 10 minutes from malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory-tract infections.

Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen put the tragedy in human terms. “Fisherman can’t fish, farmers can’t farm, civil servants don’t get paid…people having to make life and death decisions: Do you feed your children or do you pay for medical treatment for your child? And that’s a daily call for many families.”


President Obama supported the Saudis with massive weapons sales during his eight years in office. But just before leaving office in December 2016, when faced with increased pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers after a Saudi strike on a Yemeni funeral killed at least 140 people, President Obama put a halt of the sale of precision-guided munitions to the Saudis.

Trump’s State Department already gave notice to Congress that they have approved a resumption of these sales. If there is no objection from Congress and President Trump signs off on the deal, the deal will go through. Amnesty International urged Trump not to sign off on the sales, saying that new US arms could be used to devastate civilian lives in Yemen and could “implicate your administration in war crimes.”


5--The Ryancare Route -- Winning by Losing?


First and foremost, Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans who, having voted 50 times over seven years to repeal Obamacare, we learned, had no consensus plan ready to replace it.

Moreover, they put a bill on the floor many had not read, and for which they did not have the votes.

More than a defeat, this was a humiliation. For the foreseeable future, a Republican Congress and president will coexist with a health care regime that both loathe but cannot together repeal and replace.

Moreover, this defeat suggests that, given the ideological divide in the GOP, and the unanimous opposition of congressional Democrats, the most impressive GOP majorities since the 1920s may be impotent to enact any major complicated or complex legislation.


6--Lavrov Responds to US Decision to Block Advance of Syrian Army


Any attempt by Washington to prevent Syrian forces from liberating their own country from Islamic State should be seen as extremely worrying. 

According to a trusted Syria expert, preventing the SAA from taking Raqqa signals that Washington is quietly preparing to "Balkanize" Syria — an analysis that we agree with.


7--Consumer confidence highest since dot.com bubble


8--London attack perpetrator was monitored by British intelligence six years ago


9--Saudi Arabia pivots to China


10--As Yemen war enters third year, Pentagon moves to escalate slaughter

The immediate impetus for the call for increased US aid to the Saudi-led war is reportedly a proposed Emirati operation to seize control of the key Red Sea port of Hodeida. The effect of such an offensive would be to cut off the large portion of the country and its population under Houthi control from any lifeline to the outside world. Fully 70 percent of the country’s imports now come through the port. Even before the war, Yemen was dependent upon imports for 90 percent of its food. Aid agencies have warned that a military offensive on the port could tip the country into mass starvation.

The proposed US escalation in Yemen coincides with the second anniversary of the Saudi war on the country, launched on March 26, 2015 in the form of an unending bombing campaign directed largely against civilian targets, along with a halting offensive on the ground.

The anniversary was marked in the capital of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities by demonstrations of hundreds of thousands denouncing the murderous Saudi military campaign. The Houthis have won support that extends far beyond their base in the country’s Zaidi-Shia minority because of popular hatred for the Saudi monarchy and its crimes.

As the war enters its third year, Yemen is teetering on the brink of mass starvation, confronting one of the worst humanitarian crises anywhere on the planet. This war, waged by the obscenely wealthy royal families of the gulf oil sheikdoms against what was already the poorest nation in the Arab world, has killed some 12,000 Yemenis, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, and wounded at least 40,000 more.

11--Raqqa to Join Kurdish-Run Region – Syrian Kurdish Leader

Syrian Kurdish officials decided to add Arab-dominated regions, which were taken by the Kurdish forces, to their semi-autonomous “federalized” region, whose creation has never been negotiated with the Syrian government, the AntiWar information portal reported, citing a statement of co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Saleh Muslim.

On Monday, Muslim said that the continued expansion of the Kurdish region in Syria would include the Syrian capital of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group of Raqqa, which is currently surrounded by the Kurdish forces with an eye toward a full-scale offensive.

He also noted that the efforts on expanding of the federalized region is important for the entire Syrian Arab Republic, as well as stressed that Kurds want Raqqa to stay in friendly hands” in the future.
The website noted that it is still unclear what exactly Raqqa’s residents think about these plans of Syrian Kurds.

At the same time, as AntiWar noted, many of the Raqqa’s local resistance forces, which previously concluded an alliance with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in order to expel the IS from the city, have cut their ties with Kurds, saying that the YPG was trying to dictate terms to them. That might put a crimp into their plans to adjoin Raqqa to the autonomous region


12--Russiagate’s Unasked Questions


Call me confused. Last week’s House Intelligence Committee hearing on possible Trump associates’ collusion with the Russian government, which featured FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, provided very little new information even as it confirmed troubling revelations that had already appeared in the media.

If the FBI began its investigation of team Trump in late July—after the nomination process but before the election—and the Trump campaign office was located in Trump Tower, doesn’t that confirm that Donald Trump is right when he insists that his office was “wiretapped” during the summer even if his word choice was not apt? And given that former Central Intelligence Agency head John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) chief James Clapper have been most frequently cited as the Obama administration’s possible bag men in arranging for the generation, collection, dissemination, and leaking of information disparaging to Trump, why weren’t they also being questioned?...

But as a qualifier for those observations, which really don’t tell us much, one might be better served by paying attention to the comment of Committee Chair Devin Nunes, who observed in his opening remarks: “Let me be clear, I’ve been saying this for several weeks. We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”
Two days later Nunes elaborated: “I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community collected information on U.S. individuals involved in the Trump transition. Details about U.S. persons involved in the incoming administration with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reports.”...

Even former CIA acting director Michael Morell, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter who once described Donald Trump as an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” has now recanted and conceded that, “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all.”
Regarding the FBI investigation itself, someone in the White House had to authorize such a highly sensitive initiative as it is difficult to conceive that the Bureau would undertake such a task on its own without any political cover. Comey, for his part, failed to provide a roadmap and refused to either confirm or deny whether the White House knew or authorized the investigation of the Trump associates—just as he would neither confirm nor deny whether President Obama had received a copy of the transcript of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations. Indeed, the FBI Director spent most of his time refusing to confirm or deny anything.

Comey’s words are significant. One should recall that he is both a lawyer and the head of a federal police agency that has been under fire. He said, regarding Trump tweets claiming that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower, that “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” adding that “no individual”—not even a president—can unilaterally order a wiretap. ...

Take away the CrowdStrike report and there is no publicly available evidence whatsoever that the Russians were behind the hacking. This is not to say they didn’t do it, but it is yet another indication that verification of claims is lacking...

I personally believe, based on what I have observed and read, that no Trumpster did anything indictable; that the Russians were indeed behind the DNC hack but were not trying to destroy our democracy; that Brennan arranged with the Brits to obtain the surveillance information, which he then leaked; and that Obama knew all about the investigation of Trump and probably worked with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to have the Justice Department initiate it. But what do I know?
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.


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