Thursday, April 26, 2018

Today's links

Readers comments--- Russiagate is nothing more than Clintonism in its death throes.

From the WSWS___(The idea of)  transforming the political sewer of the Democratic Party, infested by billionaires, spies and union bureaucrats, into a “party of the people” is truly a fantasy.

1--The growing threat of an Israeli war against Iran

In the shadow of US-French discussions on the Iranian nuclear deal, Israel is preparing for a military confrontation with Iran, threatening to ignite a regional and even global war.

Iran is a target because, as a regional power, it presents an obstacle to the US drive to exert undisputed hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East. Iranian influence, including in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, has been strengthened by the catastrophic consequences of a quarter-century of US wars in the region.Israeli Defense...

 Minister Avigdor Lieberman then flew to Washington on Wednesday for talks with US officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton. The agenda, according to the Israeli government, was countering Iran’s “expansion” in the Middle East, and especially in Syria.

2--Addressing US Congress, Macron backs neocolonial carve-up of Middle East

Emmanuel Macron’s address to a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday was one of the most belligerent public statements ever made by a French president.

Emmanuel Macron’s address to a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday was one of the most belligerent public statements ever made by a French president. Hailing the unprovoked bombing of Syria on April 14 by Washington, London and Paris as a model for a new world order in the 21st century, Macron declared his support for US war threats against Iran, North Korea and beyond....

They are inter-imperialist conflicts rooted, as the great 20th century Marxists explained, in the violently clashing interests of rival nationally based capitalist ruling classes....

The better way, Macron claimed, is to “build a 21st century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism.” As an example of this, he said: “In Syria, we work very closely together. After prohibited weapons were used against the population by the regime of Bashar al-Assad two weeks ago, the United States and France, together with the United Kingdom, acted to destroy chemical facilities and to restore the credibility of the international community. This action was evidence of this strong multilateralism.”

Macron’s hailing of the April 14 bombing of Syria as a model for the future constitutes a warning to workers and youth internationally. Behind empty rhetoric about democracy and the rule of law, the ruling classes in the imperialist centers act ruthlessly, with utter contempt for international law, in order to assert and maintain their dominant world position against their geostrategic rivals such as China and Russia....

Macron’s argument is a hypocritical fraud. On the one hand, he gave a blank check to Trump, who has threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” and is backing Israeli threats of military action against Iran; on the other, he insisted that he did not support the war that flows from such policies. Then he tacked on an impotent appeal to avoid repeating “past mistakes,” that is, imperialist wars and military occupations in the Middle East over the last 25 years, without saying what these were.

Following the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the imperialist powers were freed from any effective military counterweight to their neocolonial interventions in the Middle East. A series of bloody imperialist wars in the strategic and oil-rich region—from Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya and Syria—claimed millions of lives and forced tens of millions to flee their homes. The class interests driving these wars were obscured, however, by imperialist lies that they were motivated by the need to fight terrorism and save democracy. The Big Lie of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction set the pattern for the succeeding neocolonial wars....
The geopolitical crisis provoked by these decades of war is escalating into a military confrontation between the major world powers

 3-- Comey, Mueller and the poisonous tree (by Mark Penn!)

Rosenstein wrote a critical memo supporting the Comey firing and then appointed a special counsel after the firing. By doing this, combined with the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein set up a government within the government, with a super broad charter and practical immunity from being removed. The Mueller investigation then operated without any independent supervision from outside the agency, review by any elected officials or contemporaneous judicial review....

The FBI’s stonewalling of the document starting the Russia investigation engenders similar suspicions, especially since House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has seen it, has reported it has no intelligence from official channels. The farther the investigators get from all this initial wrongdoing, the more they believe that their work product and witness interviews are free from being thrown out as fruits of a tree of illegal actions, which explains the endless foot-dragging....

 if runaway investigations are going to be corralled, then it will take judges who hold special counsels to the strictest possible standards in all their actions and limit any exemptions because such prosecutors have vast, largely unsupervised and unchecked power along with unlimited budgets....

The best way to end all this is not to fire Mueller and Rosenstein or wait for them to wrap it up but to challenge this entire process in court as irretrievably tainted. If Mueller does not agree to end the investigation in exchange for presidential interrogatories, then it may be time to try to block the whole thing in court, with full discovery into whether its foundation was so corrupted — and the stonewalling actions so blatant — that the doctrine of the fruits of a poisonous tree can be invoked to stop this national distraction.

4---Russia Sends More Pantsir-S Air Defense Systems To Syria – Reports

5--Russia and the War Party/

It turns out that the myriad claims, charges, and allegations set forth by Isikoff and Corn amount to little of substance – surely nothing to prove that Putin has been conducting warfare against the U.S., or that Russians had decisively influenced the 2016 presidential election.  Evidence that Trump conspired in any way with Putin or his imagined assemblage of henchmen, former KGB agents, cyberwarriors, and oligarchs is similarly lacking.   Yet, for the authors the only way Hillary Clinton could have lost the presidency that was rightfully hers was because the Russians intervened, with help from the treacherous Wikileaks, the authors writing: “Never before had a president’s election been so closely linked to the intervention of a foreign power.”

6--Democratic Party Organizers Want the Party Leadership to Shut up About Russia

   “I’m not saying it’s not important — of course it’s important — but do they honestly think that people that were just laid off another shift at the car plant in my home county give a shit about Russia when they don’t have a frickin’ job?”

Betras says that Trump and Russia is the "only piece they've been doing since 2016. [Trump] keeps talking about jobs and the economy, and we talk about Russia."

the Democratic Party’s attacks on Trump, especially when it comes to Russia, could even backfire in states Trump won handily — like Ohio, where the focus on taking the president down has kept some voters on the president’s side. -BuzzFeed

“I wouldn’t have our candidates spending the fall talking about Russia or the suit or anything like that,” Pepper David Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party said

“They should be focused on health care, education, student debt. We shouldn’t divert the message from those topics to talk about Russia.”

7--SICKO--CAPTURED: Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist is a Former Cop

The decades-old cold case, subject of a recent HLN documentary, seems to be finally solved with the DNA-guided arrest of 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo in Sacramento overnight.  DeAngelo was a cop for two California departments while committing 12 homicides, 45 rapes, and 120 home invasions/burglaries from 1974 to 1986.

Contra Costa County cold-case investigator Paul Holes, who had worked on this case for decades, told NBC’s Megyn Kelly last month that the serial killer would follow the news accounts of his crimes and kept a step ahead of the police by changing the way he targeted his victims.“He covered his trail very well,” Holes said. “What he didn’t account for was DNA technology.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today's links

Yeah, right  ...

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): ...the Democrats have to be hyper-focused on an economic message that tells people that the Republican Party is all about economic growth for millionaires and billionaires. And the Democratic Party is about economic growth for everybody.

1--Democrats escalate anti-Russia witch hunt with lawsuit linking Trump and Assange as Russian agents


This lawsuit is just the latest among many examples of the Democrats’ unflinching resort to abusing institutions of our government for their cheap partisan chicanery and nefarious scheming. It should come as no surprise to anyone...We now know that some of the highest officials of the Obama regime, as well as intelligence and law enforcement agencies, criminally abused the most sensitive possible national security powers to spy on a major party presidential candidate and his campaign, during and after the election, using a salacious “dossier” they had fabricated in collusion with foreign spooks, paid for by Hillary Clinton herself....

The DNC’s harassment legal action is...just politically-motivated litigation smear campaign by degenerate partisans willing and ready to, yet again, abuse the justice system for their sordid purpose."

3--DNC Lawsuit Text

4--The CIA Democrats vs. Julian Assange

5--Facebook codifies its censorship regime

6-- A majority says the Democratic Party stands for nothing."

Whatever Trump’s struggles, the poll shows clear risks of Democrats’ opposition to Trump. Some 37 percent say the party currently stands for something, while 52 percent say it mainly stands against Trump. Even among Democrats, over one-quarter say their party primarily stands in opposition to Trump rather than for their own agenda.

7-- Democrats Sue Russia And Trump Campaign, Alleging Conspiracy In 2016 Election

8--  China, Feeling Left Out, Has Plenty to Worry About in North Korea-U.S. Talks

9-- North Korea’s pledge to suspend all nuclear testing could be a trap ahead of potential summits with the South Korean and US leaders. This is what President Trump’s aides told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity. Sputnik discussed this with Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

10-- Geoffrey Rush defamation case: Australian judge dismisses newspaper’s latest defence

11-- Why American LNG is no substitute for Russian gas in Europe

 12-- Trump’s secret diplomacy with North Korea

 It is by no means certain that a Trump-Kim summit will produce a deal between the two countries. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, Trump told the media that the summit would be a “great chance to solve a world problem,” adding: “We’ll either have a very good meeting or we won’t have a good meeting. And maybe we won’t even have a meeting at all, depending on what’s going on.”...

Significantly, Trump chose to reveal Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang in the middle of his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Abe. Just as Nixon blindsided Japan in announcing his trip to Beijing in 1972, Trump kept Abe in the dark—firstly over his announcement of a summit with Kim and now with his “extremely high level” secret diplomacy. Abe who has been just as bellicose toward North Korea as Trump, using its missile-testing as a pretext for remilitarisation, confronts the possibility of a Pyongyang-Washington deal that cuts across Japanese strategic interests.

Trump’s shift on North Korea is bound up with his acute political crisis at home, as well as external geo-political considerations. Facing multiple scandals and ongoing attacks over his failure to take a tougher stance against Russia, Trump might see the opportunity to answer his critics by orchestrating a diplomatic coup to solve “a world problem”—to Washington’s advantage. His move is certain to provoke determined resistance from Trump’s factional opponents in ruling circles, as already indicated by the initial hostile reaction of the New York Times to Pompeo’s secret trip...

The very fact that Trump has chosen Pompeo, who only last year hinted that the CIA had plans to “separate” Kim from his nuclear arsenal via assassination, is a warning that the pendulum could rapidly shift toward wa

More Links---

mad dog to the rescue?

On Tuesday, the Times published a report based on statements by anonymous military and administration officials that Defence Secretary Mattis had urged Trump to seek congressional approval for the bombing, but was overruled by the president. The article states that “in several White House meetings last week, he [Mattis] underscored the importance of linking military operations to public support—a view Mr. Mattis has long held.”

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today's links

1--  ‘US will say they saved the world’ while peaceful Russian approach on N. Korea won – Moscow

Pyongyang’s move to halt nuclear and missile tests is more the result of collective efforts, including that of Russia and China, than US threats to “wipe off the map” North Korea, a top Russian senator says.

On Friday, the North Korean leadership announced it is freezing the nuclear and ballistic missile programs and scrapping a major test site. The development could be the “news of the year,” head of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, believes.
Yet, it is not the end of the long-running crisis in the region which was once “at the threshold of a nuclear conflict”. Much more lies ahead – from North Korea returning to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, to Washington abandoning its aggressive rhetoric

2--America Can’t Be Trusted Anymore, Stephen Walt

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of people who trust U.S. leadership has dropped from an average of 64 percent at the end of the Obama administration to roughly 22 percent during Trump’s first year in office. Even more remarkably, a larger percent of people around the world have confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin will “do the right thing in world affairs” than the current U.S. president....

 America’s handling of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea does not inspire confidence in its trustworthiness either. There is no question that North Korea violated the agreement by secretly working on an alternative enrichment path, but the United States never lived up to its commitments either. In particular, it failed to lift economic sanctions as promised, and the light-water power reactors it had pledged to provide were delayed for years and ultimately never arrived. As Stephen Bosworth, the veteran U.S. diplomat who headed the multinational effort to implement the agreement, later put it, “The Agreed Framework was a political orphan within two weeks after its signature.”

And then there’s the checkered history of U.S. policy toward Libya. Building on a successful multilateral sanctions program, the Bush administration successfully convinced Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi to let American inspectors enter the country, dismantle his entire weapons of mass destruction program, and cart it away. To get the agreement, however, Bush promised Qaddafi that the United States would not attempt to overthrow his regime. It was a clear quid pro quo: Qaddafi gave up his weapons programs, and the United States promised not to do to him what it did to Saddam Hussein. But then a few years later, President Barack Obama’s administration ignored that earlier pledge and collaborated in Qaddafi’s overthrow.

But wait, there’s more! The multinational operation against Qaddafi was authorized by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, and Russia agreed to abstain on the resolution because its stated purpose was preventing Qaddafi from attacking civilians in Benghazi, not toppling the regime. However, as Stephen R. Weissman has shown in an important article, regime change was on U.S. officials’ minds from the get-go, and they soon blew right past the terms of the resolution. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates later recalled, “The Russians felt they had been played for suckers on Libya. They felt there had been a bait and switch.” And they were right. So, if you’re ever wondering why Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly blocked Security Council action over the disaster in Syria, there’s at least part of your answer.

Needless to say, the lessons of Libya have not been lost on other countries. North Korean media have repeatedly invoked this example to justify the country’s nuclear weapons program and to warn against ever trusting assurances from the United States. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. If you were Kim Jong Un, would you rather pin your survival on a nuclear deterrent of your own or promises from the United States?

3--Putin Has a Plan to Avoid War With North Korea and It Does Not Involve Trump

4-- Democrats Sue Russia And Trump Campaign, Alleging Conspiracy In 2016 Election

5--Top Russian, NATO generals hold rare face-to-face meeting

6--Memos don't prove 'obstruction' — they further cement Comey's legacy as a leaker

7--More trouble for Comey--video

8--Jihadists hide chemical weapons in Syria

9-- Iran warns NK on dealing with US  

10--More on the Comey memos

11--Comey memos

Friday, April 20, 2018

Today's Links

House Permanent select committee on Intelligence:

Overview Following a more than yearlong, bipartisan investigation into Russia active measures targeting the 2016 U.S. election, the House Intelligence Committee has completed a draft report of 150+ pages, with 600+ citations.  The draft report addresses, in detail, each of the questions within the agreed parameters of the investigation, as announced in March 2017.

....We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians

1--Donald Trump Will Likely Get U.S. Into a War, Majority of Americans Think

2--Syria: proposal to replace US troops with Arab force comes with grave risks 

3--Top Russian, NATO generals hold rare face-to-face meeting

4--Nunes, Gowdy, Goodlatte Statement on Comey Memos

5--Thousands of US Troops Amass on Syria’s Border in Jordan for Military Drill

6--Majority of Americans worried Trump will get US into a war

7--German parliament condemns US-led strikes on Syria as illegal

8-- US, allies 'bombed' Syria peace talks by recent strikes: Lavrov

9-- Putin, Trump Will Never Allow US-Russia Armed Conflict, Lavrov Says


10-- Trump not Putin is greater threat to world peace – German poll

More than 90 percent of Germans want better relations with Russia, while more than three-quarters think US President Donald Trump represents a greater threat to world peace than Vladimir Putin, a new poll says.

11-- Democrats Sue Russia And Trump Campaign, Alleging Conspiracy In 2016 Election
The party alleged that top officials in Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton

12--Rosenstein Tells Trump He’s Not a Target in Mueller probe 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or the probe into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein, who brought up the investigations himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said

13-- Capitalism remains the world’s pre-eminent system primarily because of military power combined with CIA covert actions. It’s that combination that irredeemably crippled socialist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, the Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Angola, Grenada, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Albania, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, El Salvador, etc., etc., etc.

We’ll never know what kind of societies would have resulted if these movements had been allowed to develop without US interference; which of course was the idea behind the interference....

I personally believe, without any proof to offer, (although no less than is offered re Russia’s guilt in the UK poisoning) that Hugo Chávez was indeed murdered by the United States. But unlike the UK case, I do have a motivation to offer: Given Chávez’s unremitting hostility towards American imperialism and the CIA’s record of more than 50 assassination attempts against such world political leaders, if his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA was not doing its job.

14--Mad Dog to the Rescue?

On Tuesday, the Times published a report based on statements by anonymous military and administration officials that Defence Secretary Mattis had urged Trump to seek congressional approval for the bombing, but was overruled by the president. The article states that “in several White House meetings last week, he [Mattis] underscored the importance of linking military operations to public support—a view Mr. Mattis has long held.”

The intelligence agencies have been assisted by a corrupt and servile media. A study released yesterday by Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting, a media watchdog, reveals that of the top 100 US newspapers by circulation, not a single editorial board opposed the bombing of Syria.

(Brookings plan redux)The recklessness of the American ruling elite was expressed in an op-ed column published yesterday in the New York Times by Susan Rice, who served as ambassador to the UN and then national security adviser under Obama.

In the column, Rice categorically opposes any withdrawal of American troops. She calls for the Trump administration to indefinitely maintain its occupation of roughly a third of Syrian territory along the country’s northern and eastern borders with Turkey and Iraq—a region that includes the country’s petroleum resources. This is in line with calls being made in the US media with increasing frequency and openness for a permanent carve-up of the country.

Rice writes that Washington and its allies must “help secure, rebuild and establish effective local governance in liberated areas.” These are code words for establishing neo-colonial control over the territory and using it as a base for operations against the Assad regime and Russian and Iranian forces.

Dispensing with the fraudulent chemical weapons pretext used to justify the US and allied bombing, Rice points to the aims of such an intervention: “This will allow the United States to thwart Iranian ambitions to control territory spanning Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; retain influence in major oil-producing areas, and deny Mr. Assad a substantial portion of Syrian territory, pending a diplomatic solution.”

15--Hillary's Sociopathic Wikileaks Emails: Kill Assad, Destroy Syria - Deep State Goal for 10 Years

The best way to help Israel deal with Iran's growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. Negotiations to limit Iran's nuclear program will not solve Israel's security dilemma....

For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries.

What Israeli military leaders really worry about -- but cannot talk about -- is losing their nuclear monopoly....

Libya was an easier case. But other than the laudable purpose of saving Libyan civilians from likely attacks by Qaddafi's regime, the Libyan operation had no long-lasting consequences for the region. Syria is harder. But success in Syria would be a transformative event for the Middle East. Not only would another ruthless dictator succumb to mass opposition on the streets, but the region would be changed for the better as Iran would no longer have a foothold in the Middle East from which to threaten Israel and undermine stability in the region....

Russia will never support such a mission, so there is no point operating through the UN Security Council. Some argue that U.S. involvement risks a wider war with Russia. But the Kosovo example shows otherwise. In that case, Russia had genuine ethnic and political ties to the Serbs, which don't exist between Russia and Syria, and even then Russia did little more than complain. Russian officials have already acknowledged they won't stand in the way if intervention comes....

Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that "the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran.... It's the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world...and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza." Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel's security, it would also ease Israel's understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly.

16--More on the fake chemical attack

17-- US military-intelligence apparatus presses for further strikes on Syria

the Democratic Party is pressing for an escalation of the US war in Syria. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference Thursday revealing that the House Democratic Caucus had held a meeting the day before to discuss how to unite the US Congress around the drafting of a new authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) to replace the one passed in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. That legislation, directed against Al Qaeda, clearly does not cover military operations against the Assad government in Syria, which has been battling US-backed Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Democrats, along with the predominant layers among Congressional Republicans, are pressing for the Trump White House to pursue a more aggressive military confrontation with both Syria and its principal allies, Russia and Iran, and to abandon Trump’s recent pledge to “bring the troops back home” from Syria.

“The policy is clear, the ability to achieve it is not,” said the House Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington in a C-SPAN interview Thursday. “I don’t think lobbing missiles once a year, saying ‘mission accomplished’ and calling it good is going to achieve that policy objective.”

The “policy” Smith referred to is the overthrow of the Assad government in furtherance of the unfettered US domination of the oil-rich and strategically vital Middle East. With over 2,000 US troops—supplemented by proxy forces recruited from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia—occupying a third of Syria, including its main oil and gas fields, decisive layers within the US political establishment, spearheaded by the Democrats, are demanding a far more aggressive military policy that threatens to unleash a massive war with devastating consequences for humanity.

18-- Criminal referral filed against former FBI deputy director

19-- Syria Sitrep - Cleanup Around Damascus Continues - WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack

Notes and links---

"This is 100-percent fake. How is it that dead kids are moved from place to place, if the key goal is to confirm the fact that the attack occurred? Because in order to spread fake evidence they needed emotional coloring, so they were tasked with diverting attention from factual inconsistencies," she pointed out.

Pompeo said the aim would be “an agreement...such that the North Korean leadership will step away from its efforts to hold America at risk with nuclear weapons” and that Pyongyang should not expect rewards until it takes irreversible steps (In other words, put down the gun and no one gets hurt)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Today's Links

1---When do you know you're old enough to die? Barbara Ehrenreich has some answer

Ehrenreich, who is divorced, has talked to her children – Rosa, a law professor, and Ben, a journalist and novelist – about her realisation she is old enough to die, but “not in a grim way”. That wouldn’t be her style. While a sombre subject, she chats about it with a matter-of-fact humour.

“I just said: ‘This is bullshit. I’m not going to go through this and that and the other. I’m not going to spend my time, which is very precious, being screened and probed and subjected to various kinds of machine surveillance.’ I think they’re with me. I raised them right,” she laughs.
“The last time I had to get a new primary care doctor I told her straight out: ‘I will come to you if I have a problem, but do not go looking for problems.’”

2--The Retail Real Estate Glut Is Getting Worse

Stores have announced the closing of 77 million square feet of shopping space so far this year.

The White House appears to be on board, too, with President Trump confirming that South Korea has his blessing to end the war.

Another key goal for North Korea would be the end of US threats to attack them. Though the US threats have reduced markedly in recent months, peace presumably would all but end talk of a unilateral US  strike, and could set the stage for a deal withdrawing US troops from the area.

That would presumably be done in return for the primary US goal, North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s rapidly advancing program, with missiles that could conceivably reach US soil, raised serious concerns.

North Korea has always said the only reason they need nukes is to deter a US first strike. Peace greatly reduces that risk already, and makes a deal very achievable. This would be a real peace dividend.

Clearly, finalizing a peace treaty would take some time, after 68 years of war. There is so much to be gained, however, that it seems set to be a major focus of bilateral diplomacy going forward

4--Mark Zuckerberg Is Either Ignorant or Deliberately Misleading Congress

5--Withdraw US troops from Korea?

8--Assad speaks

10-- As lies on Syrian gas attack unravel, US and UK shift to claims of Russian “cyber war”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

More Links

1--  Are the Big Banks Putting a Gun to the Head of the U.S. Consumer – Again? 

Last Thursday, President Trump told a union crowd in Ohio that the U.S. is enjoying “the greatest economy we have ever had.” If that is so, why is Trump piling on more national debt to boost the economy through fiscal spending? The answer appears to rest in the fact that much of the economic growth in the United States is being financed by consumer debt. The serious threat to that economic growth is that interest rates are rising on big chunks of that consumer debt with virtually no restraints on what the mega Wall Street banks can charge to struggling Americans.

According to the 2017 year-end study on “Household Debt and Credit” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, household debt has increased for 14 consecutive quarters and now stands at $13.15 trillion, an historic milestone that eclipses the former peak of $12.68 trillion that occurred in the third quarter of 2008, in the midst of the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression. The report notes two troubling trends: credit card balances that are more than 90 days delinquent have “been increasing notably from the last year” and student loans that were 90 or more days delinquent or in default in the fourth quarter of last year reached 11 percent of student loan debt outstanding.

The most recent report from the Federal Reserve on consumer debt (excluding debt tied to real estate such as mortgages and home equity loans) raises more alarm bells. That report shows that from the end of 2013 to the end of January 2018, consumer debt went from $3.095 trillion to $3.855 trillion on a seasonally adjusted basis. Approximately one-quarter of that debt is on credit cards and the interest rates on those credit card debts are rising dramatically with no restraints being placed by bank regulators or Congress.

At the end of 2013, the average interest rate being assessed on credit card accounts was 12.95 percent according to the Fed report. As of November 2017, according to the latest data released by the Fed, that rate had increased to a whopping 14.99 percent, which is a full percentage point higher than six months earlier.

For an already tapped out consumer, this kind of credit shock presents both a direct danger to the U.S. economy and an outrage to the American public that belatedly learned in 2011 that these mega banks had been bailed out by the Fed to the tune of $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans during the financial crisis.

While the Fed reports show the average interest rates being charged on credit cards, it is still true, as Sanders says, that millions of Americans are paying credit card interest rates of 20 percent or higher. No society that values the equitable distribution of wealth or the well being of its citizens should ever tolerate these kinds of poverty-inducing interest rates.

The same mega Wall Street banks that are being allowed to charge 15 to 20 percent on credit cards are holding trillions of dollars in U.S. deposits on which they are paying less than two percent interest. These deposits come cheap to these banks because they are FDIC-insured, a Federal program that is backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer.

Why should the mega Wall Street banks be receiving a taxpayer subsidy on their deposits while ripping off the American public with onerous interest rates. It’s an insult to the democratic ideals of representative government that Congress allows this predatory financial system to survive and prosper.

2-- Trump’s Rise to the White House: Cambridge Analytica Targeted “Inner Demons” 

Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in the spring of 2016 and “paid it more than $6.2 million,” according to a Reuters report.

A Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, told the Observer that “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”
According to the reports, the “inner demons” were unleashed through personalized political advertisements after the personal information was collected through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” The app was built by a Cambridge University academic, Aleksandr Kogan, who is also reported to have been an “associate professor at St Petersburg State University, taking Russian government grants to fund other research into social media,” according to a report in the Guardian...

In 2015, Politico reported that Cambridge Analytica “provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting” and that the company had “boasted of its ability to help foment coups.” The article indicated that the company was owned, “at least in part” by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

On November 20, 2016, Wall Street On Parade published an investigative report on “The Right Wing Group Behind Donald Trump’s Rise Aims to Keep Fear Alive.”  We reported that Robert Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer, sat on the Trump Transition Team’s executive committee. That committee was heavily involved in selecting Trump’s cabinet and key staff. We documented that many of the same corporate front groups being funded by the Charles and David Koch foundations were also funded by the Mercer Family Foundation....

The draft report released by the Democrats after belatedly learning that their Republican colleagues had abruptly ended the [Trump-Russia] probe, included this paragraph:

‘Donald Trump’s finances historically have been opaque, but there have long been credible allegations as to the use of Trump properties to launder money by Russian oligarchs, criminals, and regime cronies. There also remain critical unanswered questions about the source of President Trump’s personal and corporate financing. For example, Deutsche Bank, which was fined $630 million in 2017 over its involvement in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme, consistently has been the source of financing for President Trump, his businesses, and his family. We have only begun to explore the relationship between President Trump and Deutsche Bank, and between the bank and Russia.’ ”

3-- “The Fed did nothing.”

The Fed actually was doing something. Unknown to the public and Congress, the Federal Reserve was secretly using its so-called emergency lending authority from 2007 to at least the middle of 2010 to provide a cumulative $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans to some of the most corrupt banks in the United States and Europe to bail them out of a financial crisis of their own making. It did this while the Federal government provided crumbs to desperate families struggling to keep a roof over their children’s heads....

And it opens the door to a weakening of oversight of foreign megabanks operating in the U.S. – the same banks that have repeatedly violated U.S. laws. Let’s run through a few of their rap sheets:
Santander: illegally repossessed cars from members of the military that were serving our country overseas.

Deutsche Bank: manipulated the benchmark interest rates used to set borrowers’ mortgages.
Barclays: manipulated electric energy prices in Western U.S. markets.
Credit Suisse: illegally did business with Iran.

UBS: sold toxic mortgage backed securities.
They’ve catalogued 300 years of history of bank deregulation efforts all across the globe. You know what they found? We deregulate, the economy explodes, we put in protections, the economy gets better, and we deregulate again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Sanders also reminded his colleagues of the devastation
n Wall Street had unleashed on the country just a decade ago. He said:

“Thousands of Americans set up tent cities in Sacramento, Fresno, Tampa Bay and Reno because they had no place left to live. As a result of the illegal behavior of Wall Street, American households lost over $13 trillion in savings which shattered retirement dreams, wiped out life savings, and made it impossible to send kids to college. That is what Wall Street did 10 years ago. And against my strong opposition then, Congress and the Federal Reserve provided the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world to these huge banks because they were too-big-to-fail.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren has also released a video warning about the dangers of this legislation. Warren says that the proposed legislation “takes about 25 of the 40 largest banks in this country and just moves them off the special watch list and treats them like they were tiny little community banks that just couldn’t do any harm to the economy.” Warren adds: “Those exact same 25 banks that are being taken off the watch list got about $50 billion in taxpayer bailout money during the last crash.”
Cable news has failed all Americans when it ignores momentous legislation like this and gives the Wall Street lobbyists a free ride.

4--Stockman: $1.8 Trillion in New Treasury Debt Will Hit Bond Pits “Like a Tornado” 

... the Federal Reserve has pivoted to Quantitative Tightening (QT) “and they will be dumping $600 billion” of their bonds into the market at the same time as the government is pumping up debt issuance. (The Federal Reserve began trimming back its purchases of Treasury bonds in October of last year in order to normalize its bloated balance sheet that resulted from the financial crisis. That trimming, which is an effective tightening of monetary policy, will expand this year.

The Fed’s $600 billion combined with the $1.2 trillion from the government means that $1.8 trillion in Treasuries “will be looking for a home” in Fiscal 2019 said Stockman

5--Rumors Grow that the U.S. Fed is Propping Up the Stock Market 

Green also reminded the Congressional members present that the “unregulated OTC derivatives market was at the heart of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which cost 8.7 million Americans their jobs, 10 million families their homes, and eliminated 49 percent of the average middle-class family’s wealth compared with 2001 levels.”...

6--Just How Big a Player Is the Federal Reserve in the Stock Market? 

During Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s September 17, 2014 press conference, in response to a question from Ylan Mui of the Washington Post, Yellen said: “If we were only to shrink our balance sheet by ceasing reinvestments, it would probably take—to get back to levels of reserve balances that we had before the crisis—I’m not sure we will go that low, but we’ve said that we will try to shrink our balance sheet to the lowest levels consistent with the efficient and effective implementation of policy—it could take to the end of the decade to achieve those levels.”

n July 31 of last year, Thomas Hoenig, the Vice Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), sent a stunning letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. Hoenig explained that the 10 largest banks in the country “will distribute, in aggregate, 99 percent of their net income on an annualized basis,” by paying out dividends to shareholders and buying back excessive amounts of their own stock. If those 10 banks had retained a larger share of the earnings they earmarked for dividends and share buybacks in 2017, said Hoenig, they would have been able “to increase loans by more than $1 trillion, which is greater than 5 percent of annual U.S. GDP.”...

Hoenig included a chart showing payouts on a bank-by-bank basis. Highlighted in yellow on Hoenig’s chart is the fact that four of the big Wall Street banks are set to pay out more than 100 percent of earnings: Citigroup 127 percent; Bank of New York Mellon 108 percent; JPMorgan Chase 107 percent and Morgan Stanley 103 percent.

Hoenig adds that if just the share buybacks were retained by the banks instead of being paid out, the banks could “increase small business loans by three quarters of a trillion dollars or mortgage loans by almost one and a half trillion dollars.”

7--Nomi Prins’ New Book: Central Banks Have Become the Markets 

Prins convincingly shows that colluding central bankers have effectively become the markets through a never-ending flow of cheap money to the mega banks which have deployed that cheap money to buy back and inflate their own stock – with a green light from their own regulator and money pimp (our term, not hers) – the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Prins correctly points out that what these central banks are doing is providing artificial stimulus to markets – the opposite of what free markets are all about.

The 2007-2009 financial crash was equivalent to a financial World War and the Fed’s emergency money-pumping measures, justified by it as essential to saving the system until it repaired itself, have become instead an opioid-like addiction within U.S. and global markets according to Prins. After failing miserably as a regulator of the biggest Wall Street banks and allowing banks holding insured deposits to be housed under the same roof with casino-like investment banks, the Fed has now effectively become a cheap-money drug dealer to Wall Street and the markets...
Sanders pursued the matter further and was able to attach an amendment to the D
odd-Frank financial reform legislation which forced the Fed to disclose that it had made an astounding $16 trillion cumulatively in almost zero-interest loans to the largest Wall Street banks and their foreign counterparts from 2007 through the middle of 2010. The banks which received the bulk of this largess were simultaneously charging struggling consumers over 20 percent interest on credit cards – courtesy of the Federal Reserve.

8--Putin quote 

we also see and realise that the political situation in the United States is influenced by those who have lost the elections but refuse to accept their defeat, and who continue to use the anti-Russia card and various allegations most actively in the political infighting. This is why we are in no hurry, we are ready to wait, yet we strongly hope that Russian-US relations will become normal again sometime in the future. ...

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Western politicians told us (it was not documented on paper but stated quite clearly) that NATO would not expand to the East. Some German politicians at the time even proposed creating a new security system in Europe that would involve the United States and, by the way, Russia.

If that had been done, we would not have the problems we have had in recent years, which is NATO’s expansion to the East up to our borders, the advance of military infrastructure to our borders. Perhaps, the United States would not have unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

This treaty was a cornerstone of current and future security. The missile defence facilities in Europe – in Poland and Romania – would not have been built, which, undoubtedly, creates a threat to our strategic nuclear forces and disrupts the strategic balance – an extremely dangerous development for international security. Perhaps all this would not have happened. But it did, and we cannot rewind history, it is not a movie.

We have to proceed from the current situation. In this respect, we need to think about what we want from the future. I think we all want security, peace, safety and cooperation. Therefore, we should not build up tensions or invent fictional threats from Russia, some hybrid warfare etc.

You made these things up yourselves and now scare yourselves with them and even use them to plan your prospective policies. These policies have no prospects. The only possible future is in cooperation in all areas, including security issues.

What is the major security problem today? Terrorism. There are bombings in Europe, in Paris, in Russia, in Belgium. There is a war in the Middle East. This is the main concern. But no, let us keep speculating on the threat from Russia....

I have already spoken to three US Presidents. They come and go, but politics stay the same at all times. Do you know why? Because of the powerful bureaucracy. When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits, just like mine, except for the red tie, since they wear black or dark blue ones. These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes. This is what happens with every administration.

Changing things is not easy, and I say this without any irony. It is not that someone does not want to, but because it is a hard thing to do. Take Obama, a forward-thinking man, a liberal, a democrat. Did he not pledge to shut down Guantanamo before his election? But did he do it? No, he did not. And may I ask why not? Did he not want to do it? He wanted to, I am sure he did, but it did not work out. He sincerely wanted to do it, but did not succeed, since it turned out to be very complicated.

This is not the main issue, however, even though it is important, since it is hard to fathom that people have been walking there in chains for decades without trial or investigation. Can you imagine France or Russia acting this way? This would have been a disaster. But it is possible in the United States and continues to this day


Turkey will be responsible for NATO’s rapid response unit in a couple years, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“I welcome the fact that for instance, Turkey in a couple years will be responsible for VJTF, the so-called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO created the VJTF during the 2014 Wales Summit in the United Kingdom as a “spearhead force” within the NATO Response Forces against risks and threats that might arise in Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

“NATO is ready to deploy on short notice and that is part of our adaptation to a more uncertain and unpredictable security environment,” he said regarding the task force.

11--Turkey's interests differ from washington's or Moscow's

Turkey wants the al-Assad regime toppled and on that point it differs from Russia and Iran. At the beginning, the U.S. also wanted al-Assad removed from power. However, because of developments at later stages that stopped being the U.S.’s main objective. Turkey’s main objective is preventing the PKK from establishing a state-like structure in northern Syria and opening up a corridor stretching toward the Mediterranean. With its Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, Turkey managed to achieve this goal. However, threats from the PKK/YPG/PYG still exist. The U.S. strike on Syria is therefore not a move that is likely to change Turkey’s policies; as long as the U.S. stands by the PKK, Turkey will stand against the U.S.

Links --Zukfest

at JPMorgan Chase and other mega Wall Street banks. In 2014 when JPMorgan Chase was experiencing bizarre worker deaths, including leaps from its buildings, Wall Street On Parade reported that Wall Street’s big banks are ghoulishly benefiting from the death of workers. If that’s not monetizing the worker as a “product” to be exploited, we don’t know what is. We wrote at the time:

“The series of strange deaths has brought unwelcome attention to the fact that mega banks like JPMorgan Chase are allowed to secretly collect life insurance proceeds on the lives of their employees, and former employees, without disclosing the amounts to the families, or the public, or their shareholders. (Other corporations are likewise engaged in this practice.) The payments are a closely guarded secret between the companies and the insurers who collect the lucrative premiums.

“The death benefits among all U.S. corporations may now exceed $1 trillion and are growing annually. The practice is called Bank-Owned Life Insurance (BOLI) where banks are involved and Corporate-Owned Life Insurance (COLI) for other corporations. As we reported last month, just four of Wall Street’s largest banks (JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup) hold a total of $68.1 billion in Bank-Owned Life Insurance assets. According to Michael Myers, an expert on BOLI and COLI and a partner in the Houston, Texas law firm McClanahan Myers Espey, L.L.P., those assets could potentially mean that just these four banks are holding $681 billion in face amount of life insurance on their workers, or possibly even more.

Today's links

1-- Russia Says Douma Chemical Attack Was ”Planned Provocation” By British Intelligence

According to the Russian envoy to the OPCW Aleksandr Shulgin, Russia has “irrefutable proof” that the so-called Douma chemical attack was a “false-flag” orchestrated by British intelligence services with possible support from the US.

“Therefore, we have not just a “high degree of confidence,” as our Western partners claim, but we have incontrovertible evidence that there was no incident on April 7 in Douma and that all this was a planned provocation by the British intelligence services, probably, with the participation of their senior allies from Washington with the aim of misleading the international community and justifying aggression against Syria,” Shulgin said at a special meeting of the UN chemical watchdog’s executive council.

“Things unfolded according to the pre-written scenario prepared by Washington. There’s no doubt, the Americans play ‘first fiddle’ in all of this,” he said adding that the Douma incident was staged by “pseudo-humanitarian NGOs,” which are sponsored by opponents of the Syrian government.
“Among them, are the notorious ‘White Helmets,’ which some delegations are so fond of praising,” Shulgin added.

2-- Major showdown between US and Russian backed forces in Deir Ezzor as both sides commit reinforcements

Syrian military sources in the provincial capital of Deir Ezzor reported that the build-up of SDF troops near Khasham comes just 48 hours after the Russian military constructed a bridge near the Konoko Gas Field and Al-‘Umar Oil Field.

It appears that both sides are preparing for an attack, with the US-backed forces facing the most to lose if they fail to hold onto the gas and oil fields along the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
He also noted that Russian military specialists had found “not a single piece of evidence” confirming the claims about the alleged chemical attack. In turn, the Russian specialists reportedly found local witnesses who said that the video allegedly showing the aftermath of the perceived attack was staged...

“Not a single witness, not one poisoned person in the hospital could be found. No remains of chemical weapons were found. But we have managed to find direct participants in the filming of the production video, which was presented as ‘proof’ of the chemical attack,” Shulgin said. “Everything has been developing according to the script that was prepared in Washington.

3--US building new base in oil rich area in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province

The US is reportedly continuing its military buildup in Syria. Local online news portal the Euphrates Post has published video evidence showing what appear to be two US Coalition Blackhawk helicopters consolidating the US presence in an oil-rich area in Deir ez-Zor province.

According to the resource, a new US Coalition base is being built in the area east of the city of Mejadin, near al-Omar, Syria’s largest oil field.

Col (ret.) Alexander Zhilin, head of the Moscow-based Center for the Study of Applied Problems of National Security, said that there was an obvious trend for the Pentagon to create new facilities in and around Syria’s largest oil and gas fields. Speaking to the Federal News Agency, the retired officer said this trend makes it clear that the US has no plans to leave Syria any time soon, and that their intervention has nothing to do with establishing order or fighting against terrorism.

“Over the space of several years, the US has deployed 25 military facilities in Syria, and are continuing to build new ones. In general, they try to act in such a way as to establish control of oil-rich areas and energy resources. At the same time, they don’t believe they should be accountable to anyone,” the analyst noted.

4--Deir Ezzor

Before the civil war, the city served as the oil capital, where the Syrian regime struck deals with Western oil giants including Shell, and Total. Daesh took control of most parts of the province in April 2014. According to the Syrian Gas Company in Deir Ezzor, Daesh controlled nearly 80 percent of oil fields and most gas deposits in the province until September 2017.

5--America’s seven year regime change war on Syria has left nearly 13 million people displaced, and without a home

While the stock market seems to believe the worst is over, one-and-done-and-everyone-crawls-back-in-their-hole, we suspect the ordeal that the Syrian people are dealing with is far from over and could lead to an even greater spike in the number of displaced Syrians, 13 million of whom are now scattered all over the world.

That’s according to a Pew Research Center analysis published in January. Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes that Pew’s analysis found that over 6 million Syrians are displaced within their own country and they account for 49 percent of all Syrians displaced worldwide

6---Pseudo-left parties promote US-French-British bombing of Syria

A number of political parties that call themselves socialist proved they are nothing of the sort by lending support to Friday night’s illegal US, French and British bombing of Syria.

Groups like the American International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and the French New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) are pro-war organizations. They are participating in a propaganda campaign with the capitalist press organs and the intelligence agencies to spread the lie that the bombings are justified on a “humanitarian” basis and that additional military force is required. Socialists reject these attempts to cover imperialist intervention in a fraudulent “left” veneer.

7---Backlash against illegal missile strikes

Labour MP Chris Williamson accused the UK government and its allies in the US and France of intervening in Syria against President Bashar Assad on the basis of “hearsay” rather than concrete evidence.

Hitting back at Prime Minister Theresa May’s claims that the strikes fired in the early hours of Saturday morning were in the national interest, as well as legally and morally right, the MP told RT: “What we’ve seen here really is a bunch of saber-rattling warmongers who acted precipitously without real evidence, and the evidence they are citing is even more flimsy than the ‘dodgy dossier’ [on Iraq in 2003].

“I mean what they’re relying on it seems to me is social media reports and hearsay,” the Derby North representative told RT’s Bill Dod.

8--North & South Korea may announce official end to war – local media

9--'Oxygen starvation, not gas’: Veteran UK reporter Fisk doubts MSM narrative on Douma ‘chem attack’

Veteran UK reporter Robert Fisk went to Syria’s Douma and heard that residents shown in notorious “gas attack footage” actually suffered from oxygen loss due to hiding in trash-filled shelters, and not from chemicals.

They were “overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation” because they had to live in rubbish-filled underground shelters in order to survive the perils of fighting. The doctor told the Independent reporter that on the night of April 7, when the alleged attack supposedly took place, “there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived.”

Patients began to arrive in his subterranean hospital suffering from hypoxia and oxygen loss, Dr Rahaibani continued. “Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted “gas!” and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other.” He added:

10--Mattis caves in or the "good soldier"?

In an article titled “Mattis: US Wants Proof Before Striking Syria for Chemical Attack,” reported: “Currently, the U.S. and its allies ‘don’t have evidence’ that the Syrian regime carried out the attack last Saturday in the Damascus suburb of Duma that reportedly killed at least 40, Mattis said.”

Right after his testimony on Capitol Hill, Mattis attended a “closed-door White House meeting.” According to The New York Times, at this meeting, “Mattis pushed for more evidence of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in the suspected chemical attack …” Evidently, Mattis was overruled. Trump was already committed

The Pentagon conducted a briefing immediately after the US strikes the next day, on April 13. One reporter asked: “What’s your evidence it was delivered by the Syrian regime? Are you quite clear it was?” Mattis dutifully responded: “I am confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people in this last week, yes. Absolutely confident of it.”

Another reporter queried: “So up until yesterday, and I’m going to quote you here, you said, ‘I cannot tell you that we have evidence.’ So when did you become confident that a chemical attack happened?
Mattis: “Yes, yesterday

Monday, April 16, 2018

Today's Links

   "The World Socialist Web Site condemns the strikes against Syria carried out Friday night by US, French and British forces. The attack is a flagrant and illegal act of aggression. The administrations of American President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May are guilty of a war crime, which poses the danger of triggering a conflict with nuclear-armed Russia." WSWS issues lone condemnation of Trump's airstrikes on Syria

1--US and Russia Are Talking Around the Clock to Choreograph Trump’s Coming Syria Strikes

2-- Russia was tipped off?

Russia was told where we were going to strike. Russia in turn warned the Syrians. Both the Syrians and the Russians evacuated key personnel and equipment from the target sites. Any claim by the United States that we caused devastating damage or destroyed essential capabilities is total fantasy.

3--US and imperialist allies launch strikes against Syria

A column in the German journal Die Welt provided one indication of the homicidal nature of what large sections of the imperialist ruling class internationally want unleashed against Syria. It declared: “War against Assad should be guided by one goal… Can the Assad regime be exterminated (auslöschen) with a missile strike?” In using the term “auslöschen” to refer to the Syrian president, the German publication adopted a term associated with the extermination of the Jews under the Nazis—that is, using language that could have appeared in Hitler’s Völkischer Beobachter

4--Assad's Death Warrant (archive)

“Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria.”
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria, Politico

5--Iran is the real target

Both Turkey and Russia know that the real target of the West is now Iran and its presence in Syria. If a political solution is forced in Syria soon, through Geneva, it would be the best not only for the majority of Syrians who want to live in peace in their own lands, but also for many people and countries across the region.

6--The US ambassador to Russia said that the US strikes were coordinated with Russia to avoid a great power confrontation.

7--Jaish al-Islam?

Detailed information about Jaish al-Islam appears in a Stanford University source. At one point, the leader of the group “… expressed a desire to cleanse Damascus of all Shiites and Alawis.” This provides another possible motive. In addition, this source states “The group also allegedly has access to chemical weapons.”

According to Wikipedia “On 1 November 2015, an opposition media outlet, Shaam News Network, posted a video showing Jaysh al-Islam militants had locked people in cages and spread out 100 cages containing about 7 captives each through Eastern Ghouta, northeast of Damascus, to use them as human shields against Syrian government air raids. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the caged people being used as human shields were captured Alawite military officers and their families who had been kidnapped by Jaysh al-Islam two years ago outside Adra al-Ummaliyah, a government-held neighbourhood in Eastern Ghouta.” [Emphasis added].

8--Proof of chemical attack?

The only 'proof' for a 'chemical attack' in Douma are dubious videos of stacked bodies, staged pictures with babies added for extra effect. Claims from the White Helmets, a mainly British financed propaganda organization, and by SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society which is a Muslim Brotherhood outlet financed by the CIA offshoot USAID.
UN personal in Damascus, the Syrian Red Cross, journalists on the ground and Russian military police have checked the place where the incident allegedly happened as well as local hospitals. They found neither casualties nor witnesses confirming such an attack....

The terrorist group Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), which held Douma when the incident happened, received Saudi and British money and in 2016 used chemical weapons and commit war crimes against a Kurdish suburb of Aleppo. Of the 3,000 men, women and children it abducted from Adra in 2013 only 200 survived. It is not beyond them to kill dozens for propaganda purposes.
Why would anyone believe such sources like the terrorists supporting SAMS and White Helmets? Why should the Syrian government uses an illegal weapon in the very moment it is winning the battle and shortly after Trump said that he wants to retreat from Syria? It makes no sense at all.

9--Putin speaks 

I have already spoken to three US Presidents. They come and go, but politics stay the same at all times. Do you know why? Because of the powerful bureaucracy. When a person is elected, they may have some ideas. Then people with briefcases arrive, well dressed, wearing dark suits, just like mine, except for the red tie, since they wear black or dark blue ones. These people start explaining how things are done. And instantly, everything changes. This is what happens with every administration.  Putin

Extra links and notes--

Friday, April 13, 2018

Today's links

1--Jeffrey Sachs "must see" analysis of Syria troubles

"We know that sent in the CIA to topple Assad...7 years has been a disaster under Obama and then under Trump...Get out...We've done enough damage...These 600,000 deaths are not incidental. We are responsible. We started a covert war to topple the regime." (Timber Sycamore)

2--Fake News-- Russian top brass reports it has proof of UK’s involvement in Douma chemical incident

..., the so-called White Helmets were pressed by London in a period from April 3 to 6 to hurry up with the implementation of the planned provocation. "The White Helmets were told that in a period from April 3 to 6 Jaysh al-Islam militants would conduct a series of massive artillery bombings of Damascus. It would provoke a retaliation operation by government forces and the White Helmets were to use it to stage a provocation with an alleged use of chemical weapons," he said

According to Konashenkov, officers of the Russian defense ministry spoke with two Syrian who had taken part in filming the framed-up attack. Both have medical diplomas and work with the emergency department of Douma’s hospital. The two men do not conceal their names. They told Russian officers that all those who had been taken to hospital during the filming had no symptoms of exposure to toxic agents.

"When the patients were receiving first aid unidentified people burst into the hospital, some were holding video cameras," the spokesman cited them as saying. "These people started shouting, fanning hysteria. They carried hose and douched all present with water crying out that all of them had been exposed to poisonous agents."

"Beijing will play the appeaser – for instance, by opening up its financial sector to foreign investment, including the removal of foreign ownership caps for banks.
Yi Gang, the newly appointed governor of the People’s Bank of China, promised at the Boao Forum that Beijing will allow foreign investors to take a maximum 51% equity stake in brokerage firms, futures companies and fund management firms, and will remove foreign equity ceilings in all these sectors by 2021."

I hope it goes without saying that Russia has absolutely no way to win in Syria should its forces enter into a full scale regional conflict with CENTCOM...

If on the other hand it is the US that attacks without warning – for instance, including Khmeimim in its upcoming Tomahawk barrage – then Russia would be lucky to get even just a dozen kills. The Kilos and Bastions might still be able to sink a few a ships.
A third scenario, and I suspect the likeliest one, is a mistake or “mistake” in which Russian air assets or air defenses gets targeted by a sweep of Syria by coalition air forces after the initial Tomahawk barrage – perhaps by an incompetent Saudi airman, or Israelis seeking to provoke a major escalation that would lay the groundwork to finish off Assad once and for all.

In this scenario, Russia’s air defense systems will be partially depleted from knocking down the initial Tomahawk barrage, and its responses will be confused rather than planned

In any case, the ultimate outcome is clear and near certain: The Russian military presence in Syria will be eradicated within a week (mostly within the first two days).
Furthermore, US and EU sanctions will be drastically stepped up in the following weeks. In particular, I expect the latest US sanctions against the companies of Deripaska, which bar US nationals from any dealings with them, compel US nationals to sell any shares they have in them, and freeze their US based assets, to be extended to all the major Russian corporations – with their consequent expulsion from the wider Western financial system. And I also expect this to be the point at which Russia gets cut off from SWIFT

7--The $$ and agenda behind Trump: Sheldon Adelson

As we’ve documented on LobeLog, Trump dramatically changed his message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in particular. At the outset of his campaign, for example, he pledged to be “sort of a neutral guy” between the two sides and even suggested that Israeli policies were themselves a major obstacle to reaching a settlement. ‘

As he closed in on the Republican nomination, eventually securing Adelson’s support for his general election campaign in spring 2016, all that had changed. Among other things, Trump had promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, to depart from decades of U.S. policy opposed to Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, and to “dismantle the disastrous (nuclear) deal with Iran” as his “number one priority....

War with Iran?

The Iran nuclear deal is another issue near and dear to Trump’s biggest campaign backer and may have played a crucial role in Bolton’s appointment. Adelson’s ultra-hawkish views on Tehran are remarkably close to Bolton’s.

In 2013, Adelson called for Washington to detonate a nuclear bomb in an “Iranian desert.” If that did not persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, he said, the U.S. should drop an atomic bomb on Tehran, a city of more than 12 million people.

Two years later, Bolton, who has long favored a military solution to Iran’s purported nuclear aspirations, penned an oped titled “To Stop Iran, Bomb Iran,” in which he argued:

The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.

Adelson got his wish to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but he still hasn’t succeeded in pushing the U.S. into a military confrontation with Iran. Trump and the GOP’s biggest donor may now have installed their man in what is perhaps the most powerful foreign-policy position in the U.S. government, besides the presidency itself. As a result, the likelihood of a new U.S. war of choice in the Middle East has risen dramatically.

8--Let's see the evidence first, Ray Mcgovern

It is essential that the United States have complete and compelling evidence before taking any decisive action. We therefore strongly recommend that you await the findings of the OPCW team which is now on its way to Douma to investigate at the actual site of the alleged attack.  A competent, objective group of experts needs to conduct a thorough on-the-ground investigation and collect evidence that will either implicate the Government of Syria or exonerate it.

We have, as you have noted, been down this road before with the Iraq WMD debacle in 2003.  Let us not repeat this mistake. By launching a war in Syria, we will be entering a military and political morass involving Iran and Russia that could have fatal consequences for the entire planet, especially if any of the parties feel compelled to resort to nuclear weapons.

“In our view, US interests would be best served by a Sunni regime controlled by business-oriented moderates. Business moderates would see a strong need for Western aid and investment to build Syria’s private economy, thus opening the way for stronger ties to Western governments.”

10--Knowing that the US never really abandoned a regime-change policy in Syria informs our understanding of the question of US military intervention in Syria today. It shows us that the US is not an innocent victim of circumstance, having to consider the use of force because diplomacy has been exhausted; rather, the US faces a situation that it helped create, by pursuing regime change for years and never fully switching to diplomacy.

11-- Nothing has changed--Brookings sticks with plan to partition Syria

Finally, to pursue a strategy built largely around helping autonomous zones rule themselves (at least temporarily), we need a better answer to the Kurdish question that addresses Turkey’s security concerns while also preventing Kurdish positions in Syria’s north from being overrun. In additional to promoting a ceasefire between the Kurdish PKK in Turkey and Ankara, we should condition most aid to Kurds in Syria on a return of the heavier weapons given to them to fight ISIS, once that battle is truly over. Washington should declare that we will never support an independent Kurdish state in Syria (or elsewhere) and that we also oppose a single, formal Kurdish autonomous region within Syria. To access aid, Syrian Kurds will also need to allow non-Kurdish towns within their broader areas of control a degree of additional local autonomy.

12-- After years of shameless lying to justify predatory wars, the mainstream media has lost the public’s support. According to a recent poll by Monmouth University, “More than 3 in 4 Americans believe that traditional major TV and newspaper media outlets report ‘fake news.

Every predatory war launched by the United States against a weaker country has been waged under false pretenses. The Mexican War of 1846 was begun with the lying declaration by President Polk that Mexico “invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.” The Spanish–American War, which led to the bloody conquest of the Philippines, was egged on by the Hearst press in the textbook definition of “yellow journalism.”
The escalation of the Vietnam War was justified by lie that an American ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The invasion of Afghanistan was justified by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks—carried out by individuals close to the Saudi monarchy, America’s key Arab ally in the Middle East, who were actively monitored by the US intelligence agencies as they took flight lessons and prepared their plot. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, which cost the lives of more than one million people, was justified by Colin Powell’s lies to the United Nations and the “dodgy dossiers” cooked up by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on April 7 followed by only a few days the collapse of claims by the British government that Russia carried out a chemical weapons attack on British soil. The supposed victims of a nerve gas ten times more powerful than Sarin have not only recovered, but are being blocked by British authorities from making public statements. The incidents in Salisbury and Douma, as with the entire anti-Russia campaign, are part of a carefully orchestrated propaganda offensive aimed at legitimizing a military attack on Syria and escalation against Russia....
The Trump administration, however, is under intense pressure from powerful sections of the American political and media establishment to carry through on its threats against Syria, regardless of the consequences. The real motive is not punishing the Assad government. It is to assert American influence in the Middle East, which has been weakened by the Russian and Iranian actions that stymied its regime-change intrigues in Syria.
More fundamentally, it is part of the broader US conflict with Russia, which is now formally classified as a “strategic competitor” of US imperialism.
The American ruling class is not prepared to accept that Russia can use its possession of a vast nuclear arsenal to defy the US attempt to maintain its waning global economic and strategic dominance. By inflicting a major humiliation on Putin in Syria, the US military-intelligence apparatus calculates it will encourage opposition to his government within the Russian ruling elite.
Exerting immense political, economic and military pressure on Russia, the US aims to establish a compliant regime in Moscow. Washington's full focus would then be concentrated on confrontation with China, which is deemed the main “great power” rival of American imperialism

According the Jen, the “calm the world has enjoyed was the result of Herculean policy efforts that will have negative consequences in the quarters ahead. The calm will probably be followed by a storm.”
Jen was referring to the injection of trillions of dollars into the global monetary system by the US Federal Reserve and the other major central banks, which has played the key role in fuelling stock market speculation, above all in the US. But with banks seeking to “normalise” monetary policy by lifting interest rates, this could lead to a collapse of the financial bubble.
Significantly in her Hong Kong speech, Lagarde said that, as a result of easy financial conditions, global debt—public and private—had now reached an all-time high of $164 trillion.
Private debt made up two-thirds of the total, with public debt reaching levels not seen since World War II. Lagarde said if present trends continued, “many low-income countries will face unsustainable debt burdens.”
“The bottom line is that high debt burdens have left governments, companies and households more vulnerable to a sudden tightening of financial conditions. This potential shift could prompt market corrections, debt sustainability concerns, and capital flow reversals in emerging markets.”
It was necessary to use the current “window of opportunity” to prepare for the challenges ahead by “creating room to act when the next downturn inevitably comes.”
Another “downturn,” however, will not be a simple fluctuation in the business cycle but a major crisis because none of the underlying contradictions that produced the financial meltdown of 2008 has been resolved. In many ways, as the debt figures show, they have been intensified under conditions where the entire international trading and economic order is, in Lagarde’s words, “in danger of being torn apart.”

16-- Americans and Russians are talking. Intensely. Putin’s spokesman has told the press the hotline the two militaries established to “deconflict” their parallel Syria interventions against ISIS, is still active and “being used by both sides”, which sounds like both sides are interested in talking.
Meanwhile Putin has, today of all days, thanked the Jordanians for their previous help in “deconflicting” US and Russian operations in southern Syria which probably means they’re still serving in a similar capacity. The Turkish press proudly reports Turkey is mediating as well.

Pentagon passing Moscow coordinates of precise targets

16--Trump Puts off Syria Strike Decision After Bolton and Mattis Clash

Asked what worries him most about possible military action in Syria, Mattis said: “On a strategic level, it’s how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you catch my drift on that.”

It appears that both sides are preparing for an attack, with the US-backed forces facing the most to lose if they fail to hold onto the gas and oil fields along the eastern bank of the Euphrates River

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:55 P.M.) – A mysterious militia calling themselves “The People’s Resistance of East Syria” released a new video on Thursday, claiming that they targeted a U.S. base in the northern part of the province.

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