Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Today's Links

2-- Trump Jr--Americans should be concerned 

Years before President Donald Trump explicitly, and illegally, outlawed Venezuela from borrowing or selling assets through the U.S. financial system, President Barack Obama ludicrously declared Venezuela an "extraordinary threat" to the "national security" of the United States.

Obama's belligerence, given U.S. financial clout, would scare away rational investors and deter loans – therefore increasing the stress on an economy already in crisis.

Trump, who has even threatened Venezuela with military assault, has simply unmasked the malevolence of U.S. policy entirely. His illegal financial embargo makes it nearly impossible for Venezuela to restructure its debt, an essential part of an economic recovery; and deprives more Venezuelans of food and life-saving medicines.

Since at least 2002, it has always been about putting U.S. allies in power in Venezuela regardless how many innocent people are hurt in the process

Turkey’s anticipated military operation into Syria’s Manbij will expel the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the city so its “original Arab owners” can be resettled there, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“Mr. Obama did not tell the truth. Trump is also on the same path. They said: ‘We will withdraw from Manbij.’ Why don’t you withdraw? Who have you brought to this city with you? The PYD [Democratic Union Party], the YPG and the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK. You allow them to settle and tell us ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to hand it over to its real owners,” Erdoğan told his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group on Feb. 6.

Manbij, a town in northwestern Syria, has become the focus of a growing bilateral spat between Turkey and the U.S. in the aftermath of the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Obama administration had pledged to move YPG militants to the east of the Euphrates River after ISIL was pushed out.

The U.S. has been partnering with the YPG in the fight against the ISIL despite Ankara’s fierce opposition. Turkey recently launched “Operation Olive Branch” to clear the YPG from the Afrin district of northern Syria, with senior Turkish officials repeatedly vowing that the next target is Manbij.

“Those who equate Turkey with those marauders under the pretext of the anti-ISIL fight have now begun to realize which one is a state and which one is a band of gangs,” Erdoğan said on Feb. 6.
‘Sleeping giant is now awakened’

He also claimed that Turkey has “wasted the last two centuries with sacrifices” and has “lost around 5 million square kilometers” of land once ruled by the Ottoman Empire, suggesting that the “same powers” today consider the current size of the Republic of Turkey to be “too much for Turks.”

“They have forced us so much that in the end they have awakened a sleeping giant. They should know this. The Turkish people are advancing to a new era. No state or international organization can question the power of Turkey any more,” Erdoğan said.

The country’s operations in Afrin and Idlib will continue as planned, the president said, stating that the number of “neutralized YPG terrorists already exceeds 1,000.”

“Thanks to steps we have taken in Jarablus, 135,000 Syrians were able to return to their homes. Our objective is to create the conditions necessary to let the people of Afrin return to their homes. I told this to Trump and Obama. We’ll undertake the construction and you will support us. We will now see their humanitarian assistance,” Erdoğan said.

Time and again Turkey has objected to the U.S.-YPG alliance. With the latest PR disaster on statements about plans for permanent U.S. presence in Syria that triggered the Turkish military operation. Turkey/s move  has hardly come as a surprise to Turkey’s European allies.

Surprisingly, the Belt and Road Initiative has still not really been brought to the fore as a central issue yet. However, the extent to which it may transform the world is obvious to keen observers. Indeed, many projects currently underway in Turkey - such as the tunnel under the Bosphorus and the Kars-Tblisi-Baku railway line - have something to do with the Belt and Road Initiative and Turkey’s ambition to become a central hub within the newly emerging Eurasian trade network.

 8---Turkey-US split??? breaking up is hard to do

Once the U.S. detected that the FSA was most inclined to fighting against Syrian regime forces, Washington changed its alliance and formed the anti-ISIL platform relying on the YPG. This badly affected the trust between Turkey and the U.S. because Ankara believes that those forces were the extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syria.

As attempts in the Geneva peace talks to find a political solution establishing peace and stability continued to fail, Turkey and Russia moved to find a way to bring together the representatives of the Syrian regime and the opposition forces in Astana. That is how the apparent coordination between Turkey and Russia in the Syrian conundrum started.

The Astana process also led to the agreement between Turkey and Russia to put the “de-escalation zone” in Idlib into practice. This agreement, as well as other necessary requirements to coordinate policies in Syria, created the appearance of increased rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. Cooperation in the procurement of a missile defense system also came to fruition, with Turkey deciding to buy S-400s from Russia.

Today, most of Turkey’s allies in the West, including those in NATO and in the EU, see these developments as an indication of growing distance between Turkey and themselves. If Turkey decides to launch an operation towards Manbij further exacerbates concerns about the risk of escalation between Turkey and the U.S.

It is necessary to underline that Turkey’s membership of NATO is a corollary to the enhancement of its national security and complements its national defense strategy. Trans-Atlantic security is equally strengthened by Turkey’s presence in the NATO alliance. As a result, Turkey and the United States should surely be expected to find a political settlement to the dilemma they face in Syria.

Turkey’s coordination with Russia in Syria, on the other hand, is mostly focused on the establishment of “de-escalation zones” and providing a favorable setting for the success of Geneva peace talks. Certainly, Turkish-Russian bilateral relations also require cooperation in many other fields.

While the Fed rate is still relatively low, between 1.25 and 1.5 percent, the move of bond market rates toward 3 percent is regarded with trepidation because of its impact on US firms and its ramifications globally.

According to the findings of a report by London’s Longview Economics, the results of which were cited in the Financial Times, if interest rates in the US rapidly move above 3 percent, the impact will be far-reaching. This is because some 12 percent of US companies are “zombies.” That is, their earnings do not cover their interest payments, and a sudden rise in rates would send them into bankruptcy, so dependent have they become on the continuous supply of ultra-cheap money.

According to a report published by CNBC on research carried out by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, there is a similar situation in Europe, with a significant number of “zombie” firms there dependent on cheap credit. The bank report found that 9 percent of companies in Europe were “zombies” with “very weak interest coverage metrics.” This compares to 6 percent in the period before the crash of 2008 and 5 percent in late 2013.

“The plethora of monetary support in Europe over the last five years has allowed companies with weak profitability to continue to refinance their debt and stave off defaults,” the report noted.

Following the Olympics, the US and South Korea will proceed with massive joint war games known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, which were temporarily delayed. Last year’s exercises involved more than 300,000 troops, along with a substantial naval presence and the most advanced American warplanes, in a thinly disguised rehearsal for war with North Korea. The Pentagon also recently stationed nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 strategic bombers on Guam within easy striking distance of the Korean Peninsula.

As Victor Cha hinted in his Washington Post comment, a “bloody nose” strike is not the only military option under consideration. “There is a forceful military option available that can address the [North Korean] threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans,” he wrote. The only military alternative to a limited attack is an all-out assault with nuclear and/or conventional weapons that would obliterate North Korea’s capacity to retaliate.
While couched in defensive terms, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, relea
sed last Friday, foreshadows exactly such an attack. Any North Korean nuclear attack on the US or its allies, it states, “is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime. There is no scenario in which the Kim regime could employ nuclear weapons and survive.

From the horses mouth

On February 5, the Pentagon announced that it had seen no indication of Turkey planning to extend its operation to Manbij, which contradicts Turkish officials' previous statements. Both Cavusoglu and Erdogan emphasized that Turkish forces would completely clear the region of terrorists, beginning with Manbij and throughout Turkey-Syria border.

Overnight on February 6, a large column of YPG and YBS fighters reportedly arrived Afrin through the government-held area east of Aleppo. The column allegedly included over 1,500 people. [Some sourcecs said that up to 5,000] These reinforcements may mark an important shift in the military situation in the area.
The isolation of Afrin was one of the key advantages of the TAF and the FSA over the YPG. Now, they may lost it.
16-- In summary, the Senators’ memorandum appears to paint an alarming picture in which the Trump Dossier far from being based on information provided to Christopher Steele by his network in Russia was actually a kind of collaborative effort, with lots of people across the US media and in the Clinton campaign involved in producing it.

As it is focused on the FBI and DOJ, there is no speculation about the possible role of senior intelligence officials CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that the two men were involved in obtaining information on Page and it has also been suggested that Brennan sought and obtained raw intelligence from British, Polish, Dutch and Estonian intelligence services, which apparently was then passed on to the Bureau and might have motivated James Comey to proceed with his investigation of the Trump associates. One has to consider that Brennan and Clapper, drawing on intelligence resources and connections, might have helped the FBI build a fabricated case against Trump....

Eleven months ago, shortly after Trump took office, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, speculated on how he had been “…led to believe that maybe even the Democratic Party, whatever element of it, approached John Brennan at the CIA, maybe even the former president of the United States. And John Brennan, not wanting his fingerprints to be on anything, went to his colleague in London GCHQ, MI-6 and essentially said, ‘Give me anything you’ve got.’ And he got something and he turned it over to the DNC or someone like that. And what he got was GCHQ MI-6s tapes of conversations of the Trump administration perhaps, even the President himself. It’s really kind of strange, at least to me, they let the head of that organization go, fired him about the same this was brewing up. So I’m not one to defend Trump, but in this case he might be right.”

Wilkerson is referring to the highly unusual abrupt resignation of Robert Hannigan, the Director of Britain’s version of the National Security Agency (NSA), referred to by the acronym GCHQ, which took place on January 23rd of last year. The British Official Secrets Act has meant that there was at that time little speculation in the U.K. media about the move, but some observers have wondered if it is somehow connected to possible collaboration with U.S. intelligence officers over Donald Trump. That remains an area of inquiry that has hardly been looked at, perhaps because the thought that the country’s top national security agencies were involved in a something like a grand conspiracy to subvert an election is still something that Congress would prefer not to consider.

18-- Republican senators Charles Grassley (Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Monday released a letter they sent to the FBI asking that ex-British spy Christopher Steele be investigated for possible criminal violations.....

Not only that, the newly-released criminal referral says Steele actually incorporated information that was funneled to him through Clinton associates and the U.S. State Department where Clinton had served as Secretary of State from 2009 to early 2013. In a memo dated Oct. 19, 2016, Steele wrote that a foreign source who was in touch with “a friend of the Clintons” passed him material through a U.S. State Department connection.

Even more problematic, the FBI may have violated strict rules — Woods Procedures — that forbid it from presenting even a single unverified fact to the special court, let alone a lengthy dossier full of them.

Dossier author Steele wrote another anti-Trump memo; was fed info by Clinton-connected contact, Obama State Departmen

19-- Documentary: The Neocons BBC

20-- The lies persist-- “No one has ever been able to come up with a bribery charge against Putin.”
Demonization and Reality

From 2001 until today, I’ve watched the U.S. media negatively portray Putin, comparing him to Hitler, and making accusations against him of ordering assassinations and poisonings. Yet no one has come up with any concrete evidence for these allegations.

During this period, I’ve traveled throughout Russia several times every year, and have watched the country slowly change under Putin’s watch. Taxes were lowered, inflation lessened, and laws slowly put in place. Schools and hospitals began improving. Small businesses were growing, agriculture was showing improvement, and stores were becoming stocked with food.

Alcohol controls were strengthened, smoking was banned from buildings, and life expectancy began increasing. Highways were being laid across the country, new rails and modern trains appeared even in far out places, and the banking industry was becoming dependable. Russia was beginning to look like a decent country –– certainly not where Russians hoped it to be long term, but improving incrementally for the first time in their memories.

In addition to St. Petersburg and Moscow, in September 2013 I traveled out to the Ural Mountains, spent time in Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Perm. We traveled between cities via autos and rail –– the fields and forests look healthy, small towns sport new paint and construction. Today’s Russians look much like Americans –– which makes sense considering we get the same clothing from China...
It is astounding to me how much progress Russia had made in the past 14 years since an unknown man with no experience walked into Russia’s presidency and took over a country that was flat on its belly....

 one thing I am quite sure of is that 99% of those who excoriate Putin in mainstream media have had no personal contact with him at all. They write articles on hearsay, rumors and fabrication, or they read scripts others have written on their tele-prompters. This is how our nation gets its “news,” such as it is.

21-- Why the stock market plunged Monday

The Dow industrials tumbled more than 1,500 points at one juncture Monday, the worst intraday fall in market history.

The drop by the Dow was bad enough during most of the trading day, but the dive that happened around 2:40 p.m. ET started to resemble the 2010 flash crash at one point.

The central bank, following its meeting last week, noted that inflation looked to be on the uptick. That put the market on notice, a point that was echoed when the government Friday said average hourly earnings rose 2.9 percent in January, the fastest move of the recovery....

The Dow had soared more than 40 percent since President Donald Trump's election, a period that included an impressive nearly 20 percent rise in the S&P 500 for 2017 and the fastest start ever to a year in 2018.

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