Thursday, March 30, 2017

Today's Links

1---Interesting factoids from Margaret Kimberley

Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm which specializes in using social media to maximize get-out-the-vote efforts. They claim an ability to use the information freely given on Facebook to target undecided voters, which turned the tide for Brexit and for Trump too. The firm is owned by Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who saved the Trump campaign. Trump strategist Steve Bannon was a Cambridge Analytica board member. Cambridge Analytica not only uses technology but has a history of old-fashioned disruption and fraud in nations as disparate as Latvia and Nigeria...

Another Trump ally is Roger Stone, the champion Republican Party dirty trickster. Stone sent a mob to stop the Florida 2000 vote recount which led to George W. Bush being declared the winner. Stone was involved in the exposure of New York governor Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitution ring. Months before that story broke Stone predicted that Spitzer “wouldn’t serve his full term.” Stone also funded Al Sharpton’s 2004 presidential campaign and used it to help bring down one-time Democratic front runner Howard Dean.
Stone bragged about communicating with Assange and knew that a “motherlode” of leaks were on the way from WikiLeaks...

Intelligence agencies are now political pawns and Democratic bloviating about an “act of war” by Vladimir Putin could very well lead to the real thing.
The democrats have said nothing about what is far more likely than Putin choosing sides in an American campaign. Investigating a likely scenario doesn’t suit their purposes at all. If the DNC hack ends the Trump administration it will not be for noble purposes.

2--The State of the Climate in 2017: "Truly Uncharted Territory"

State of the Warming Climate in 2016: 'Truly Uncharted Territory'

World Meteorological Organization reveals extent of global warming's impacts last year, including epic Arctic melting, drought and extreme weather

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of Global Climate report on Tuesday, noting a year of broken records and extreme weather events—climate change trends that are continuing into 2017.

"This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. That temperature rise marks a 0.06 degrees Celsius increase over the record set in 2015. The Paris climate agreement commits the world's nations to holding the atmospheric temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, to try to stave off potentially catastrophic global warming.

Average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit a record high, at 400 parts per million, and projections for 2017 are even higher. The U.K. Met office recently forecast that this year's monthly CO2 level at Mauna Loa could reach nearly 410 parts per million in May, and the 2017 average could be 2-3 parts per million higher than last year.

"The influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident," wrote Taalas in the report's foreword. "This influence is increasingly being demonstrated by attribution studies for some of the most critical weather and climate extremes, in particular extremes related to heat."

3-- Dennis Kucinich: I'm no fan of Trump's but he's got a point about wiretapping

Kucinich was bugged in 2011

4--Russiagate produces no hard evidence of collusion Senate intel committee admits

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday they cannot yet conclude whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, adding that their teams are "within weeks" of finishing reviewing thousands of documents related to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In a news conference, Republican Chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democratic Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia aimed to show their probe as a measured, bipartisan effort amid recent turmoil on the House intelligence panel. The senators said they wanted to finish the investigation in a "timely" fashion but stressed they did not want to rush it, steering clear of reaching conclusions about possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.
"We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation," Burr told reporters

5--Putin says 'no interference in US elections

Speaking at a CNBC-moderated panel, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again said that accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential elections are "lies" used for "domestic American politics."

"We said on numerous occasions and I reiterate that we are confident … And know for sure that opinion polls in the Unites States show that very many people are … friendly towards the Russian Federation and I'd like to tell these people that we perceive and regard the United States as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations," Putin said and added "All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies. All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside."

Putin refuted the findings of a January ODN report which in January found that "Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report said, adding that intelligence agencies have "high confidence" in that assessment, although have yet to release any of the facts backing the assessment.

FInally, Putin explicitly denied that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections. Putin quoted George Bush when asked if the "Russian government had ever tried to influence the outcome of the US presidential election, and there will be no evidence found?" to which he responded "Watch my lips, no."

6--Majority of Americans Believe Mainstream Media Report Fake News

survey, conducted at the beginning of March and released on Wednesday by Monmouth University, found that 60 percent of Americans believe that traditional mainstream media outlets report fake news and 40 percent of them believe that it is done so to advance a specific agenda.

When questioned about nontraditional online news outlets, 80 percent of Americans believe that they report fake news either regularly or occasionally. Additionally, 54 percent believe that false reports are published deliberately with an agenda.

7--Lavrov Gets Biblical: God Will Judge Obama For What He Did to Syria

In an interview published by the National Interest yesterday, Sergei Lavrov insisted that the U.S.-led "anti-terrorism" coalition in Syria "never touched" Islamic State oil convoys, which helped to finance the spread of terrorism in the region...

What I can attest to is that one year into the creation of this [U.S.-led] coalition, it was very sporadically using the air force to hit some ISIL positions. They never touched the caravans who were smuggling oil from Syria to Turkey and, in general, they were not really very active. This changed after we responded to the request of President Assad, who represents, by the way, a legitimate government member of the United Nations.

8--Majority of GOP think Obama wiretapped Trump

9--Solving the foreclosure crisis created the problems with lack of MLS inventory today

The foreclosure crisis stopped when lenders quit foreclosing and forced homeowners to wait until they had equity to sell the property. Many homeowners are still waiting, so MLS inventory is quite low

(Footdragging by the banks) Daren Blomquist, SVP of ATTOM Data Solutions, recently wrote in Housing News Report, ATTOM’s monthly newsletter of industry news, on the distressed property crisis in areas of the country most affected by foreclosure. Citing the ATTOM Solutions 2016 Year-End Foreclosure Market Report, Blomquist noted that New York properties foreclosed in Q4 2016 have taken an average of 3.5 years to process, and that 31,838 loans actively in foreclosure originated between 2004 and 2008

10--Top US general calls for military action against Iran

11--Conflict over Trump-Russia probe reaches stalemate in Washington

The committee held a nationally televised hearing March 20 at which FBI Director James Comey confirmed for the first time publicly that the agency was investigating both alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
That hearing was to be followed by a second, scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, with public testimony from three top officials of the Obama administration—former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

However, Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, cancelled the hearing March 24 without giving any explanation, saying that he first wanted to hear from Comey and the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, in a closed-door setting where they could answer questions they had declined to discuss in public.

There were indications that Nunes was coordinating his actions with the White House, which sent a letter to Yates’s attorney, warning him that Yates should not testify about her communications with the White House about then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose telephone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak were monitored by US intelligence agencies.
Only hours after Yates’s attorney informed the White House that Yates would testify despite attempts to invoke “executive privilege” to gag her, Nunes cancelled the hearing at which she was to appear...

Meanwhile both the rhetoric from the Democratic Party and the media headlines about supposed ties between Trump aides and Russia became more strident. USA Today published a lengthy report Wednesday on alleged ties between the Trump Organization and no fewer than 10 Russian mobsters who the newspaper claimed had invested in Trump properties and businesses.

12--Market turbulence fuels warnings on health of global economy

13--Syrian Army preparing massive offensive inside Deir Ezzor

14--Trump expands and deepens military involvement across the ME, central asia and N Africa

The United States launched more airstrikes in Yemen this month than during all of last year. In Syria, it has airlifted local forces to front-line positions and has been accused of killing civilians in airstrikes. In Iraq, American troops and aircraft are central in supporting an urban offensive in Mosul, where airstrikes killed scores of people on March 17.
Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames.

Rather than representing any formal new Trump doctrine on military action, however, American officials say that what is happening is a shift in military decision-making that began under President Barack Obama. On display are some of the first indications of how complicated military operations are continuing under a president who has vowed to make the military “fight to win.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the commander of United States Central Command, said the new procedures made it easier for commanders in the field to call in airstrikes without waiting for permission from more senior officers

Robert Malley, a former senior official in the Obama administration and now vice president for policy at the International Crisis Group, said the uptick in military involvement since Mr. Trump took office did not appear to have been accompanied by increased planning for the day after potential military victories.
“The military will be the first to tell you that a military operation is only as good as the diplomatic and political plan that comes with it,” Mr. Malley said.
The lack of diplomacy and planning for the future in places like Yemen and Syria could render victories there by the United States and its allies unsustainable.
“From harsh experience, we know that either U.S. forces will have to be involved for the long term or victory will dissipate soon after they leave,” he said.
Others fear that greater military involvement could drag the United States into murky wars and that increased civilian deaths could feed anti-Americanism and jihadist propaganda...

The shift toward greater military involvement extends into one of Mr. Obama’s central legacies: the prolonged American presence in Afghanistan, where more than 8,400 American soldiers and 5,924 troops from NATO and other allies remain, and where the Taliban have been resurgent.
Plans have been announced to send 300 United States Marines to Helmand Province, their first deployment there since 2014. And the American commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., told Congress in February that he would like another “few thousand” American and coalition troops.
But the changes have also been notable in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, all home to overlapping conflicts in failed states where jihadist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have taken advantage of the chaos to step up operations....

Under Mr. Obama, the United States provided military support to the Saudi-led coalition, but halted the sale of precision-guided munitions over concerns that airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies were killing too many civilians.
But since Mr. Trump took office, his administration has advanced some arms deals for coalition countries, while approving the resumption of sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, according to an American official familiar with Yemen policy....

Mr. Trump’s more muscular approach has been hailed by Gulf leaders, who felt betrayed by Mr. Obama’s outreach to Iran and who hope that they now have an ally in the White House to help them push back against their regional foe....

So far this month, the United States has also launched more than 49 strikes across Yemen, most of them during one five-day period, according to data gathered by the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. That is more strikes than the United States had carried out during any other full year on record....

The United States faces a similarly complex set of overlapping conflicts in Syria, where a brutal civil war opened up opportunities for Al Qaeda to infiltrate the rebels seeking to topple the government while the Islamic State seized an area of territory that extended over the border into Iraq.
While intervening covertly to support the rebels, the United States has ordered airstrikes on the jihadists — alone in the case of Al Qaeda and as part of a coalition against the Islamic State. It has also built ties with the Iraqi security forces, and with Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria to battle the jihadists on the ground....

This month, American officials also said they would send an additional 400 troops to Syria to help prepare for the assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, nearly doubling the total there.

15--Yes, Obama's People Were Spreading Classified Intel on Trump by Publius Tacitus

But the real news is the emerging evidence that Obama Administration did obtain classified intelligence reports that mentioned Donald Trump and members of his campaign and distributed that information.  House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes already has confirmed in writing and in interviews that the Obama Administration conducted the following activities against President-Elect Trump and his team between November 2016 and January 2017
  • On numerous occasions, the Intelligence Community “incidentally” collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.  
  • Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming Trump administration -- details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value—were widely disseminated throughout the government, and apparently leaked to Obama administration allies in the media.  Those leaks are felonies. 
  • Names of Trump transition team members were “unmasked” – their identities revealed and circulated – again, more felonies.   
  • None of this surveillance was related to Russia or any investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team. 
The revelations about Farkas, Pinchuk and Alperovitch provide strong circumstantial evidence that the effort to take out Donald Trump is part of a broader anti-Russian propaganda campaign.

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