Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Today's Links

"There is no satisfactory plan that is put before us concretely yet...Of course we are loyal to our agreements, our promise is a promise. But our patience is not limitless...If the terrorists do not leave Manbij in a few weeks, then our patience will end. The United States must keep Turkey's data on Syria's promises, otherwise Ankara itself will take steps to eliminate the threats to national security."  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

"Is Venezuela your instrument? There the president came through elections, what right do you have to appoint another? And where is democracy, how can this be accepted? And the EU immediately agreed. You are talking about democracy, but you are in favour of a wrongful decision. We do not accept the world where the one who is stronger is right, we are against such an imperialist position, "   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

“They tie us on the force-feeding bed, and then they put a lot of liquid into the tubes, and the pressure is immense so we end up vomiting it out..We can’t talk properly, and we can’t breathe properly. The pipe is not an easy process, but they try to push it down our noses and throats.” Migrant prisoner force fed at ICE detention facility


1--Withdrawal???  What withdrawal? The number of American troops in Syria has actually increased in recent weeks to more than 3,000

The American military has started withdrawing some equipment, but not yet troops, officials said on Sunday. The number of American troops in Syria has actually increased in recent weeks to more than 3,000 — a standard practice to bring in additional security and logistics troops temporarily to help protect and carry out the process of pulling out — three Defense Department officials said.

2--Venezuela in crisis--Temir Porras Ponceleon was chief of staff to Nicolás Maduro from 2007 to 2013.

Donald Trump’s election, also played a fundamental role in deepening Venezuela’s political polarisation. The US and its allies started treating Venezuela’s Chavismo as a criminal rather than a political organisation, and Venezuela’s government as an enemy rather than an adversary. Sanctions were imposed and, in August 2017, the country was virtually banned from international capital markets, accelerating the decline of its oil industry. Yet this confrontational approach failed to deliver on its objectives, as it emboldened Maduro in his claim of being subject to imperialist aggression, and disincentivised rather than promoted the emergence of challengers to Maduro within Chavismo, especially among the military....

The idea that Maduro has managed to remain in office during the past six years solely through corruption and the use of force is a gross misrepresentation. It ignores that, beyond the president, the Chavismo social movement counts millions of supporters, primarily from lower-income communities, and is strongly embedded within the Venezuelan military.

3--The Davos set are cosying up to the far right – and scared of the left

Howard Schultz. Schulz likes to present himself as being against both the far right and the left, but most of his critique is directed at Democrats, not Trump. In particular, his ire is focused at new Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose proposal for a maximum tax bracket of 70% he described as “not American”. His main political enemy is clearly on the left, not the right....No doubt the Koch brothers would agree....

Concretely, the Koch network and its donors are not so much afraid of Bernie Sanders, but of his political offspring, like Ocasio-Cortez, who could construct the political alliance that could not only overthrow the current rightwing (populist) powers, but also the liberal elites within the opposition.
In short, neoliberal elites from Davos to Seattle do not oppose the rightwing populist agenda. They are trying to shape the post-Trump world, in which big business can amass profits unopposed by largely privatized and underfunded states. Neoliberal elites like the Koch brothers try to build up the “centrist” opposition, including the “pro-business” camp in the Democratic party, by seducing them with much-needed cash for the undoubtedly brutally competitive 2020 Democratic primaries. And they try to convince both elites and masses that “extremist” ideas like Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% tax rate or Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” will drive away “moderate” voters and, therefore, enable Trump to be re-elected....

the Davos class .... will take a rightwing populist over a leftwing one any day.

4--Bank of Japan's stealth taper , Classic manipulation to keep dollar strong


5--Breaking: Erdogan threatens to invade Manbij in ‘few weeks’ if terrorists don’t leave


If the terrorists do not leave Manbij in a few weeks, then our patience will end. The United States must keep Turkey’s data on Syria’s promises, otherwise Ankara itself will take steps to eliminate the threats to national security,” he said.

Despite Erdogan’s threats, the Syrian Arab Army has effectively blocked their path to Manbij, which may cause some friction between Ankara and Moscow.

6--Senate opposes withdrawal from Syria and Afghanista


7--Turkey blamed for failure of US-backed offensive against ISIS


One of the things the report revealed is that the US-backed militia was presumably on the brink of crushing the last IS holdout in the Euphrates Valley, but had to halt their operation when Turkey threatened to intervene against the Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish YPG militia makes up more than two thirds of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US have used as the main proxy against IS in northeastern Syria. With the YPG busy against the Turks, the Arab component of the SDF was “unable to conduct” offensive operations, and actually lost ground to IS in late October and November, when bad weather prevented coalition airplanes from flying.

It was only in mid-November, when the YPG was back in the fight, that the SDF was able to roll back IS gains, the report said, describing the YPG “paramount to stability and efforts to defeat ISIS.”

The report was also skeptical of Turkey’s offer to take over the battle against IS, noting that with the exception of the 2016 Al-Bab operation, “Turkey has not participated in ground operations against ISIS in Syria since 2017, nor have Turkish forces participated in the fight against ISIS in the MERV, which is approximately 230 miles away from al Bab and the Turkish border.”

Let Syria finish the job?

IS will remain an issue unless Sunni “socio-economic, political, and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria,” the soldiers and diplomats argue. Left unsaid is that these grievances are a product of upheaval caused by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the US support for sectarian rebels in Syria starting in 2011

8--US “border security”: Troops, torture, barbaric prisons

Trump hinted that he might declare the national emergency in his State of the Union speech. “I don’t want to say it, but you’ll hear the State of the Union, and then you’ll see what happens right after the State of the Union,” he blustered. Whether or not that is the case, he is likely to center the speech on demands for the wall and warnings about crime and drugs supposedly associated with immigrants and refugees.

Congressional Democrats, while opposing a permanent structure or wall, largely on the grounds of its proven ineffectiveness, continue to offer vast sums for the CBP, ICE and other repressive measures against immigrants, under the rubric of “border security.”

This includes the mobilization of troops without any significant Democratic opposition, but also the abusive treatment of tens of thousands of immigrants held in ICE and CBP facilities in the border region, some operated directly by the two agencies, others by contractors, some of them billion-dollar companies that are making vast profits operating what amount to concentration camps.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, issued last week, found that ICE detention facilities don’t meet national standards for prisons, despite billions in outlays to build and operate the camps. According to the report, over a 33-month period ending in June 2018, “ICE paid contractors operating the 106 detention facilities subject to this review more than $3 billion

9--Integrity Initiative: UK interference in Norway

By Bjørn Halvorsen
5 February 2019
Hacked Integrity Initiative (II) documents have exposed the scale of the UK’s anti-Russia foreign interference activities in northern Europe. Norway has been targeted, with the II operating a secret “cluster,” whose stated aim is to overturn the views of the Norwegian public that are deemed “soft” on Russia.

The Integrity Initiative is a network of UK military and intelligence operatives, academics and journalists spreading anti-Russia propaganda and fake news. It includes “specialist Army Reserve units” linking to “very senior civilian experts” including “hedge fund managers” and “senior bankers” who have volunteered as “patriots.” The group’s existence was made public by the Anonymous hacking collective in November.

Among a fourth trove of documents leaked by Anonymous last month is a memo by Chris Donnelly, who co-ordinates II’s activities from a basement office at 2 Temple Place in London. He details sinister operations in Norway, including psy-ops targeting the Norwegian public. The II is financed by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In August 2016, Donnelly visited Oslo and outlined the “current situation” in Norway: “The Norwegian public are generally inclined to be soft on Russia as a near neighbor in the North (where there is a tradition of freindship [sic] and a good working relationship). Although the public can be hard-nosed about Putin and Moscow’s policies, their scepticism of US/western politics can lead to their being less critical of Russia’s position at times.” This problematic public attitude to Russia was expressed in a 2017 Sentio poll, which found that 76 percent of north Norwegians think authorities should do more to improve Norway’s relationship with Russia.

The leaked memo included Donnelly’s packed itinerary. He attended meetings with Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice and Police officials. At a workshop on “Fighting the Information War” chaired by the Defence Research Institute’s Henning-Andre Sogaard, they discussed how “the project” could be “generated in Norway nationally, across Nordic states, and internationally. Building the cooperation between the classified and unclassified world, keeping in mind that one of the main targets is the hearts and minds of the public.”

The Anonymous leaks expose an anti-democratic conspiracy aimed at subverting public discourse and shifting the political climate in a right-wing militarist direction.
Despite evidence of such top-level intrigue, Norway’s mainstream media and political parties have been virtually silent on the matter. The online newspaper ABC Nyheter was alone in publishing an article, in which the named Norwegian cluster members denied involvement (echoing the response of those contacted in the UK). The Norwegian left-radical news blog, having probed more deeply, was able to establish the likely involvement of those named.

The Integrity Initiative leaks follow last year’s “The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3” report by the Atlantic Council, a US-backed partner to the II. The report alleged “Russian Influence in Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden” and denounced Kremlin “allies” among politicians, journalists and public servants. “[T]he Kremlin’s tentacles do not stop in Ukraine, Georgia, or East Central Europe,” the Atlantic Council claimed. “They reach far and deep in the core of western societies.” The report targeted three Norwegian parliamentary parties—the Socialist Left, the Red Party and the far-right Progress Party—whose representatives had questioned aspects of US/NATO policy or were insufficiently hostile to Russia....

The public’s well-founded “scepticism” in Norway towards “US/western politics” has nothing whatsoever to do with “Russian interference.” It is fueled by the bloody reality of US-led wars and regime change operations from North Africa to the Ukraine. It is these sentiments that the UK’s Integrity Initiative and the CIA-backed Atlantic Council have targeted as their chief obstacle to securing Norway as a frontline state in the West’s offensive against Russia

10--Boston jury hears testimony of how Insys Therapeutics pushed opioid painkiller and killed hundreds

By Kate Randall
5 February 2019
A trial beginning in Boston last week heard testimony of how executives at Insys Therapeutics, Inc. pushed prescription narcotics through bribing doctors to subscribe an addictive fentanyl nasal spray. Prosecutors told jurors that the defendants were guilty of running a “criminal enterprise” contributing to the opioid overdose epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years.

Assistant US Attorney David Lazarus told jurors in federal court in Boston that John Kapoor, 75, and the company he created, Arizona-based Insys, ran what amounted to a kickback and conspiracy scheme that bribed doctors to routinely subscribe Subsys. An addictive fentanyl nasal spray that is far more powerful than morphine, Subsys has only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to alleviate the pain of advanced cancer.

In 2017, a record 47,600 people died of opioid-related overdoses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Boston trial is the first prosecution of a pharmaceutical company chief executive linked to the national opioid epidemic. Kapoor and the other defendants are facing as long as 25 years in prison. The trial is expected to last three months....

Insys has reported to the FDA that more than 900 people died while taking Subsys since it was approved for use in 2012. These deaths do not include those who may have moved on to heroin, which is now often tainted with fentanyl. These deaths are included among the hundreds of thousands who have fallen victim to the opioid crisis.

There were more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths of all types in the US in 2017, according to CDC estimates. The translates into about 200 drug overdose deaths every day, or about one every 8 minutes. Politicians of both big business parties support and facilitate the deadly practices of Insys and the pharmaceutical giants and champion the for-profit delivery of health care, resulting in misery and destitution for vast swaths of the US population.

n the United States, it is perfectly legal for drug companies to pay doctors to hype the virtues of opioid painkillers—and other prescription drugs, for that matter—to their colleagues at education dinners. While the majority of promotional expenditures are aimed at physicians, direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) has been legal in the US since 1985.

The US pharmaceutical industry spent $6.1 billion on advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers in 2017, according to ProCon.org. American consumers are bombarded on a daily basis with TV ads for prescription drugs that treat high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, pain, erectile dysfunction and other conditions. They are advised in these commercials, in small print across the bottom of the screen and in quickly spoken disclaimers, of potential side effects from the advertised drugs, often including serious conditions and even death.

The Boston trial is one of numerous trials planned this year prosecuting Big Pharma in connection with the opioid crisis. In May, Oklahoma is due to be the first state of more than 40 suing Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, along with other companies, claiming they hid the addictive properties of their drugs.

In October, three trials will begin in a multi-district litigation case before a federal court in Cleveland, bringing together more than 1,200 lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies from county and city governments across the country.

11--Erdoğan reiterates YPG warning over Syria’s Manbij

Turkey and the U.S. agreed on June 4 over a road map for the withdrawal of all YPG troops from Manbij to the east of Euphrates and for the establishment of a new city council by local Arabs, however, the deal has not been completely implemented.
On Dec. 19, Trump announced Washington’s decision to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Trump later said Erdoğan has assured him that Turkey will finish off ISIL.

Erdoğan signaled earlier this month that a cross-border operation against the YPG will happen soon. Since 2016, Ankara has carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria with the help of Free Syrian Army members.
Although a military operation seems to have been shelved for now following Trump’s surprise decision, Turkey has made clear that it will never tolerate the presence of the YPG on its borders even if it comes to an agreement with the Syrian regime to maintain control of the east of Euphrates River.

12--Turkey demands control of safety zone

"Control [of the safety zone] should be maintained by Turkey, not another force.
"All the relevant departments of the Turkish Republic, the military and intelligence units, have proved to date that they have the capability to provide security for everyone in Afrin and Idlib [Syria]."
Kalın said Turkey should have control of the area east of the Euphrates River - where a Turkish counter-terror operation is planned - to be able to implement a similar model.
"No matter what name they have, SDF or PYD/YPG, Turkey will never allow [a model] to be a shield or camouflage for the terror groups," Kalın said.



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