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Russia Suspends US Embassy Use of Diplomatic Properties in Moscow

Sputnik – July 28, 2017

Russia is suspending the use of all warehouses in Moscow by the US embassy starting from August 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“The Russian side is suspending as of August 1 the use by the US embassy in Russia of all warehouses on the Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the dacha compound in Serebryanyy Bor,” the ministry said in a statement.

The move comes following the US Senate’s approval of a new set of sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, which is yet to be signed by President Donald Trump. The bill limits Trump’s ability to lift the restrictions on Moscow.

Moscow also offered to Washington to cut the number of its diplomatic staff by September 1 commensurate to the number of Russian diplomats. The Russian Foreign Ministry offered to the United States to limit the number of its diplomats in Russia to 455 people. … continue

PBS’ Anti-Russia Propaganda Series

Consortium News | July 27, 2017

PBS has joined the anti-Russia propaganda stampede with a five-part documentary series that recycles the false and deceptive claims that have become Official Washington’s dangerous new groupthink, reports Rick Sterling. – Read article

NATO’s New Libya Still Burning

By Ulson Gunnar | New Eastern Outlook | 27.07.2017

In 2011, US and European policy think tanks, which both create and promote policy serving the collective interests of the corporations that sponsor them, promoted NATO military intervention in Libya. Under the guise of a humanitarian intervention, what unfolded was the long-planned overthrow of the Libyan government, then headed by Muammar Ghaddafi.

Unable or unwilling to commit significant ground troops, the majority of the fighting was carried out by militant groups with NATO air and covert ground support. Many of these militant groups would be later revealed as comprised of extremists, including Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

In essence, NATO overthrew a unifying government in Libya, placed entire regions of the fractured nation under the control of terrorist organizations and opposing militant groups, and allowed the nation to slide into chaos ever since.

The consequences of overthrowing the Libyan government in 2011 were well known long before the intervention even took place. Libya’s role as a destination for refugees and migrants fleeing socioeconomic turmoil across Africa was long-established. After NATO’s intervention, Libya has now become a springboard for those fleeing from across Africa, across the Mediterranean Sea, and into Europe. … continue

It is check and mate for Israel in Golan Heights

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 27, 2017

… The US-Russia agreement envisages the supervision of the de-escalation zone area by Russian military police.

It is check and mate for Israel’s interventionist policy in Syria. The Russian monitors will react harshly if Israel plays the spoiler’s role. Plainly put, the Israeli dream of territorial expansion into south-western Syria as part of a ‘Greater Israel’ (even beyond the occupied Golan Heights) has crash landed. Israel’s Plan B was that as part of any Syrian settlement, the international community should at least legitimise Israel’s occupation of Golan Heights. That is also not going to happen.

Netanyahu’s credibility once again takes a big blow. Two years ago, his ‘red line’ over the Iran nuclear programme – that Israel would act on its own militarily against Iran, etc. – turned out to be sheer bluster. Now he has drawn a ‘red line’ in Israel’s northern front regarding Iranian presence in Syria, but lacks the capacity to enforce it. The international community is simply ignoring his tantrums once again. … Read full article

Plot thickens in great game over post-ISIS Iraq and Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 26, 2017

The post-ISIS future of Iraq and Syria has been a topic of animated discussion among American think tankers, the assumption being that the US is staging a military comeback in Iraq and well on the way to establishing a long-term presence in Syria. But political winds are blowing in an opposite direction.

The ‘working visit’ by Iraq’s vice-president Nouri Maliki to Moscow this week signals the revival of Russia’s historical role as Iraq’s key partner. Maliki’s remarks in Moscow are very revealing… continue

UN slams Saudi Arabia for turning back oil tankers from Yemeni port

Press TV – July 27, 2017

The United Nations has hit out at Saudi Arabia and pro-Riyadh forces in Yemen for preventing four oil tankers from reaching the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Thursday that the vessels were turned back last week en route to Yemen’s Hudaydah, which is controlled by the Houthi movement.

The tankers were said to have been carrying just over 71,000 metric tons of fuel, which represents more than 10 percent of Yemen’s total monthly fuel needs.

“At a time when Yemen is facing an unprecedented cholera outbreak and millions of its people are at risk of falling into famine, it is essential that all ports remain open and any delays are avoided,” said OCHA spokesman Russell Geekie. … Full article

Yemeni missile hits Saudi airbase in Ta’if

Press TV – July 28, 2017

Yemeni forces have launched a new missile into Saudi Arabia, successfully targeting an airbase in the southwestern city of Ta’if.

The “Borkan (Volcano) 1” missile fired by Yemeni army soldiers landed in King Fahad Air Base and set parts of it on fire, the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported on Thursday night.

The report came after Saudi sources claimed that the country’s military forces had successfully intercepted an incoming ballistic missile from Yemen. … Full article

Saudi Arabia intercepts Houthi missile ‘targeting Mecca’

RT | July 27, 2017

Saudi Arabian armed forces have successfully intercepted a missile launched by Yemeni Houthi rebels that was targeting the city of Mecca, considered one of the holiest places in Islam, the Saudi coalition said in a statement.

Air defense units stationed in the area of Taif, located not far from Mecca, intercepted a ballistic missile launched by Houthi forces from Yemen that was intended to hit the Muslim holy city, the coalitions said in a statement published by the official press agency. It also specifically mentioned that Taif international airport was not affected by the incident.

In the meantime, Houthi media said nothing about the alleged missile launch targeting Mecca, but instead reported about a missile strike against a Saudi air base located in the same area. … Full article

Study: ‘glaciers don’t need periods of warming to trigger retreat’

New model yields insights into glaciers’ retreats and advances, shows cyclic nature of tidewater glaciers

From the UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS via Eurekalert

A University of Alaska Fairbanks study looking at the physics of tidewater glaciers has yielded new insights into what drives their retreat-and-advance cycles and the role that climate plays in these cycles.

Lead author and UAF geophysics doctoral student Douglas Brinkerhoff said the study in Nature Communications reveals that shifting sediments drive the cycles among tidewater glaciers in temperate climates such as southern Alaska.

The study also reveals that these glaciers don’t need periods of warming within the temperate climates to trigger the glacier’s retreat, as previously thought.

“Tidewater glaciers can advance further into the ocean by riding on top of a pile of their own sediment, but this can get them into trouble,” said Brinkerhoff. “Eventually the glacier snout slows down, but it continues to push that sediment pile further out to sea, essentially pulling the rug out from under itself. When the glacier floats, there’s no resistance at its base holding it back and the whole floating part tends to disintegrate.”

The findings stem from a mathematical model that Brinkerhoff developed to better understand the periodic retreats and advances of glaciers that flow into the ocean. One-third of Alaska’s approximately 60 tidewater glaciers are advancing as part of this cycle, despite the otherwise widespread glacier loss. The advances usually last several centuries, while the retreats take only decades. […]

Brinkerhoff said that many scientists believed that warming periods within the temperate climate triggered the extended glacier to collapse. They thought that the extended part of the glacier was vulnerable to slight periods of warming because it was flatter and at sea level.

But the model shows that the extended portion of the glacier would collapse even without these warming periods because the glacier erodes the pile supporting it. … Full introduction

Adjusting Measurements to Match the Models – Part 1: Surface Air Temperatures

By Roger Andrews | July 27, 2017

In his recent Data Adjustment Bureau post Euan Mearns added a footnote in which he asked for “more examples of climate data being adjusted to make it match the theory.” In previous posts we have addressed a number of such examples individually, and compiling them into a group of posts (there are too many to deal with in just one) struck me as a good idea. So here is Post number 1, which analyzes the adjustments applied to the surface air temperature (SAT) records over the land areas that make up 30% of the Earth’s surface. The conclusions? In previous posts and comments I had said that adjustments had added only about 0.2°C of spurious warming to the global SAT record over the last 100 years or so – not enough to make much difference. But after further review it now appears that they may have added as much as 0.4°C. … continue

Sea levels are falling: NASA data: Sea levels fell in 2016 from Jan 2016 to March 2017

Ice Age Now | July 26, 2017

NASA data reveals: Sea levels fell in 2016 from Jan 2016 to March 2017.

That’s right, according NASA, sea levels are going DOWN!

NASA satellite sea level observations for the past 24 years show that – on average – sea levels have been rising 3.4 millimeters per year. That’s 0.134 inches, about the thickness of a dime and a nickel stacked together, per year.

As I said, that’s the average. But when you focus in on 2016 and 2017, you get a different picture.

Sea levels fell in 2016, and with all of this winter’s record-breaking snowfall, I wouldn’t be surprised if they decline again this year.

I clicked and zoomed on the above chart as NASA suggested, and obtained a closeup screen shot of sea levels from Jan 2016 to March 2017. This clearly shows the decline.

See larger interactive graph: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/

UK Police Spied on Over 1,000 Political Groups Over 40 Years

Sputnik – July 27, 2017

UK undercover police officers who adopted fake identities and infiltrated political groups in deployments often lasting several years spied on more than 1,000 such factions over four decades, the judge-led public inquiry into the scandal has revealed. It’s the first time the number of infiltrated movements has been officially confirmed.

The inquiry, set up to examine into police spying practices since 1968, was launched by then-Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014 following revelations police spies had gathered information on the grieving relatives and friends of Stephen Lawrence and Jean Charles de Menezes, formed long-term relationships with female activists and stolen the identities of dead children to create their pseudonyms.

More than a dozen official inquiries have been announced, but all others are internal and will remain confidential, overseen or carried out by the very forces involved in the scandal. … continue

Declassified Files Show FBI and NSA Routinely Broke Privacy Rules Under Obama

Sputnik – 27.07.2017

The National Security Agency and FBI violated various civil liberty protections under President Barack Obama’s administration, improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on citizens and failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos uncovered by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The documents cover compliance with privacy rules between 2009 and 2016. Released under a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU, they offer extensive detail on the two spying agencies’ apparent inability to obey their own rules. In all, the memos outline over 90 incidents in which the FBI and NSA violated restrictions on data collection, with many episodes involving multiple people and multiple violations over extended periods of time.

The NSA was quick to respond that the missteps documented in the files represent less than one percent of the data it collected during the period, and praised its internal compliance program for rooting out the abuses.

However, such reassurances will likely provide little comfort to privacy advocates, as the data was collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Highly controversial, the provision allows for warrantless surveillance of foreign individuals and powers, and retain data incidentally collected on US citizens (again without warrant).

Moreover, the ACLU stated the two agencies’ privacy protection rules are “weak” and “full of loopholes” — as a result, the scale of effective abuse is likely even higher than that documented. The US’ strict rules on the procurement of warrants before enacting searches and collecting information on private individuals date back to the country’s very founding — and theoretically extend to modern US citizens’ phone calls, emails, and internet browsing in the 21st century.

The memos arguably confirm what civil liberties and privacy campaigners have long suspected, and feared — under Section 702: improperly obtained data on private US citizens was retained, rather than destroyed, the names of innocent Americans were shared within the intelligence community without redaction, data the agencies were precluded from intercepting was intercepted, the NSA repeatedly failed to comply with documentation requests justifying intercepts or searches, “overly broad” queries were used to “overcollect” data, and improper searches of intercepted data were regularly conducted. … Full article

AIPAC threat to free speech

By Ron Forthofer | Dissident Voice | July 26, 2017

There is a Senate bill, along with a companion bill in the House, working its way through Congress with strong bipartisan support, that poses a significant danger to free speech. One would think this bill would be a big deal but, surprisingly, the bill has not received much coverage in the mainstream media. … continue

Israel injures 56 worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | July 27, 2017

Some 56 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli occupying forces as they re-enter Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in two weeks, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Following the removal of security measures implemented by Israeli forces yesterday, the mosque authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for worshippers, who had been staging a sit in outside the mosque, to enter the compound today.

However, they were met with a heavily armed Israeli presence in the mosque’s courtyard. Occupation forces used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the large crowds who were attempting to pray.

Israel has since closed the gates to Al-Aqsa only allowing worshippers out of its grounds while banning others from entry. … Full article

Israeli settlers raid Palestinian home, move in furniture despite court ruling

Ma’an – July 26, 2017

HEBRON – A day after raiding a Palestinian home in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, settlers began moving furniture into the house on Wednesday, in spite of an Israeli court ruling stating that they were not allowed inside the building.

Residents of the Abu Rajab house, located in the Old City of Hebron near the Ibrahimi Mosque, have been embroiled in a legal battle with Israeli settlers for years, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to encourage the establishment of a new illegal Israeli settlement there to be named Beit Hamachpela.

However, Israeli authorities have not granted permission to establish the settlement on the grounds that the settlers have failed to prove their alleged purchase of the Palestinian house, as the Palestinians have accused the settlers of forging the documents.

On Tuesday, settlers escorted by Israeli soldiers had raided the building in an attempt to take it over.

Hazem Abu Rajab al-Tamimi, a resident of the house, told Ma’an that Israeli settlers attempted again to raid the house on Wednesday morning but were thwarted by the Abu Rajab family.

However, the settlers later took over the second and third floors of the building, in addition to raiding the first floor, where the Palestinian family lives.

Al-Tamimi said that Israeli soldiers threatened to detain him and his brothers when they tried to protect their home, as a video shared by NGO Human Rights Defenders showed soldiers manhandling Abu Rajab family members as scores of young Israeli settlers looked on, jeering.

A Ma’an reporter on the scene saw Israeli settlers moving furniture and belongings inside the house under armed protection by Israeli forces, who were deployed around the house, adding that the home had reportedly been turned into a closed military zone. … Full article

Hamas: EU ruling is ‘unjust’

MEMO | July 27, 2017

Hamas has condemned a decision by the European Court of Justice to keep the group on its list of terrorist organisations, according to Mugtama.

In a statement yesterday the Gaza Strip authority said it would continue “challenging unjust political decisions” after the EU’s top court overturned a 2014 recommendation that the group should be removed from the blacklist and sanctions against them lifted. […]

Although the group has not carried out acts of violence in Europe, the EU has imposed a travel ban on all those affiliated with Hamas and froze the group’s assets in 2001. – Full article

Maduro censures new US sanctions on Venezuela as ‘illegal

Press TV – July 27, 2017

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has denounced as “illegal” the new economic sanctions leveled by the United States against Venezuelan officials over a controversial government plan for rewriting the constitution.

“Who do these imperialists in the United States think they are? The government of the world?” Maduro said in a speech on Wednesday, after the White House imposed sanctions against 13 current and former Venezuelan officials. He called the sanctions “illegal, insolent, and unprecedented.”

Among Venezuelan individuals targeted with sanctions were army and police chiefs, the national director of elections, and a vice president for the state oil company PDVSA.

The US government warned that the sanctions were just a start, and the White House was readying tougher measures against anyone supporting Maduro.

The sanctions are supposed to be punishment for Maduro’s plan to hold elections for a controversial new congress that will have the power to rewrite the constitution and override the current opposition-led legislature.

The opposition has been pressuring the Venezuelan president to revoke the decision to hold the vote on July 30. The opposition has boycotted the election and says convening the planned 545-seat Constituent Assembly would institutionalize autocracy in the country.

Maduro, however, has touted the planned rewriting of the constitution as necessary for resolving the widening political crisis in the country, saying that the reforms would also help the nation through the current economic crisis.

Meanwhile, the opposition has called for a two-day nationwide strike starting on Wednesday. It was not clear how many people had heeded the call. … Full article

Seven killed as Saudi forces intensify attacks on besieged Shia town

Press TV – July 27, 2017

Saudi forces have waged a fresh wave of attacks against a besieged town in the kingdom’s Shia-populated Eastern Province, killing at least seven people and injuring several others over the past few hours.

The casualties were reported over the past 48 hours after Saudi regime forces, equipped with artillery and heavy weapons, launched a series of fresh attacks against Awamiyah, located some 390 kilometers northeast of the capital Riyadh.

Human rights activists and media outlets confirmed on Thursday that at least seven local Shia residents lost their lives after they were sprayed with bullets by Saudi forces.

There are reportedly several women and children among those injured in the raids. There are also at least two Indian refugee workers among those injured in the attacks.

The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured are said to be in critical condition. … continue

Ceasefire takes effect on Lebanese-Syrian border: Reports

Press TV – July 27, 2017

A ceasefire has reportedly taken effect on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria near the town of Arsal, where Hezbollah resistance fighters have been combating Takfiri militants over the past week.

Lebanon-based al-Manar television network and the Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) reported on Thursday that the ceasefire in the Juroud Arsal area came into force at 0300 GMT and halted fighting on all fronts.

The NNA said the truce was part of a deal brokered by Lebanon’s general security agency chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim.

Under the agreement, the report said, the remaining al-Nusra terrorists would withdraw from the region to Syria’s Idlib Province, parts of which are controlled by Takfiri militants. … continue

Over a dozen civilians killed as US-led coalition strikes northeastern Syria

Press TV – July 27, 2017

More than a dozen civilians have lost their lives and several others sustained injuries when the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group conducted an aerial assault on Syria’s northeastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

Local sources told Syria’s official news agency, SANA, on Thursday that the airstrike targeted the village of Tayibe in the eastern part of the province, located 450 kilometers northeast of the capital Damascus, leaving at least 18 people dead and another 20 others wounded.

The sources added that the attack also inflicted heavy damage on public properties and residential buildings in the targeted area.

SANA also reported that scores of civilians were killed or wounded as US-led military aircraft struck al-Tayana village near the city of Mayadin, located about 44 kilometers southeast of Dayr al-Zawr, the water station in the village of Marrat and the village of al-Shumaitiyah. … Full article

Khan Shaykhun: We must establish the truth

By Dr Alexander Yakovenko | RT | July 27, 2017

The question of what happened in Khan Shaykhun on April 4 remains unanswered. Russia’s critical attitude to the work methods and the conclusions of the report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria on this matter is well known.

After three months of work, the FFM could only prove the use of sarin, thus confirming the findings of the Syrians themselves, who managed to obtain samples on site.

We believe there are fundamental flaws in the work of the Mission, including the following: the inquiry was conducted remotely, without visiting the scene of the incident; the CWC’s basic chain of custody principle hasn’t been honored. In fact, the central question remains unanswered – under what circumstances, and how was the chemical agent was deployed.

Now the task of finding out what exactly happened in Khan Shaykhun has been passed to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) in Syria; we expect it to conduct a professional, transparent and depoliticized investigation of this incident, which is now being used by some to stir tensions around Syria.

It is important to consider all the versions of what happened in Khan Shaykhun with a primary focus on who, under what circumstances and how was the poisonous substance used. Conducting a full-fledged and unbiased investigation means visiting the scene of the tragedy as well as the Shayrat airbase, where sarin used in Khan Shaykhun was allegedly stored. The JIM has all the necessary reasons to do it, including legal ones.

Provided all the above requirements are met, it could be hoped that the truth will be established and the culprits of this crime exposed.

Israel Declares Abu Rajab Home A Closed Military Zone

IMEMC News – July 26, 2017

After more than 120 Israeli colonists invaded and occupied the Abu Rajab family home in Hebron on Tuesday the army declared the property a “closed military zone.”

The decision was made after Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly asked Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to clarify whether he has any intention to remove the settlers from Abu Rajab home.

Israeli daily Haaretz said that, according to sources close to Netanyahu, the latter instructed Liberman not to remove the settlers from the building, on Tuesday night.

The decision was then made to declare the home a close military zone, off-limits to Palestinians and Israelis, yet, the colonists remained in the property.

The colonist settlers claim that they have “legally purchased the property six months ago, from a Palestinian from area,” but the family is denying the Israeli allegation, and said that even if the claim is true, the building is inherited and owned by several family members, and cannot be sold by just one co-owner.”

This is not the first attempt to occupy the Palestinian home in Hebron; in 2012, a group of Israeli colonists invaded it, under the same purchase allegation, but were later removed under direct orders from then-Defense Minister, Ehud Barak.

Haaretz stated that Israeli military directives in the West Bank require all purchases of real estate buildings to be authorized by the army.

The office of the current Defense Minister, who himself is a colonist settler, has not, so far, decided to whether remove or keep the colonists in the Palestinian home.

Saudi Ignores Palestinians’ Sacrifices, Claims Credit for Zionist Cancellation of Measures at Al-Aqsa

Al-Manar | July 27, 2017

Saudi authorities claimed that it is the effort made by King Salman which led to what they called as the “cancellation of the restrictions” imposed by the Zionist enemy on the worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In a statement, the Saudi authorities ignored the Palestinians’ sacrifices and confrontation of the Zionist aggression, considering that the King’s contacts with the US officials were behind lifting the Israeli restrictions at the holy shrine.

SIRHAN SIRHAN: A “REEL BAD” ARAB?

By J. Michael Springmann | Hausfrau Leaks | July 21, 2017

… Sirhan appeared to fit the parameters of the infamous CIA drug and consciousness-altering program, MK-ULTRA. (Its former director, Sid Gottlieb, destroyed most of the operation’s records in 1973.)

Dr. Daniel Brown, Harvard Medical School, spent nearly 70 hours examining Sirhan through hypnosis and questioning, concluding that the Palestinian Christian had undergone a variety of procedures coupled with drugs to make him controllable.  Notably, Pepper said, this could have occurred while Sirhan had mysteriously disappeared for two weeks before the assassination. Seen as a patsy, he was prepped as a distraction while the real murderer fired the close-up shots killing Kennedy, Pepper continued. Sirhan had apparently had a handler, a woman in a polka dot dress, the attorney remarked. … Read full article

US Air Force Admits to Poisoning Colorado Groundwater

Sputnik – July 26, 2017

On Tuesday, the US Air Force finally acknowledged responsibility for contaminating the water at a east Colorado Springs air base and its surrounding areas.

In a report released Tuesday, service investigators confirmed that groundwater surrounding Peterson Air Force Base had been tainted by perfluorinated firefighting foam chemicals, based on dozens of water and soil tests taken at the base last year.

Several sites where the chemicals had been sprayed directly on the ground by firefighters since the 1970s were highlighted in the report. Despite decades of research noting the danger of using the chemicals, they remained in wide use, and military officials are dealing with similar contamination issues all across the country.

Research has found that laboratory animals exposed to the chemicals suffered low birth weights and cellular and liver damage, according to KKTV.

The levels of perfluorinated chemicals found during testing at the Colorado Springs site were more than 1,000 times higher than the limit put forth by a national health advisory. … continue

Massachusetts jail to ban prisoner visits for video conferencing

RT | July 26, 2017

A jail in Dartmouth, Massachusetts is ending in-person visits to inmates and replacing them with Skype-like video calls. The move is supposed to crack down on drug smuggling, prison officials said.

In the coming weeks, visitors who wish to talk to their loved ones at the Bristol County House of Corrections will be taken to a trailer set up on the prison grounds and outfitted with rows of video conference equipment, according to Boston’s WCVB-TV.

“We want to keep visitors out of the secure portion of our jail,” Bristol County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jonathan Darling told WCVB. He said they’ve had issues with drugs being left in the visitor’s room.

Darling told Quartz that it was also about “convenience” for the families, who now won’t have to go through security to visit their loved ones. He said the visitors weren’t losing any contact with the inmates, because up until now visitors and inmates were separated by glass barriers. … Full article

Jeff Sessions sued over 1970s cannabis law

RT | July 26, 2017

A former NFL star and an Iraq War veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have launched a suit against US attorney general Jeff Sessions over federal cannabis laws.

The pair have teamed with a group advocating the use of cannabis on medical and business grounds and are suing Sessions, the Department of Justice as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency.

In total, the five plaintiffs include former New York Jets football player Marvin Washington, US Army veteran Jose Belen, and an 11-year-old girl who suffers from epilepsy.

They all believe the 1970s Controlled Substance Act (CSA) signed into law by former US President Richard Nixon is unconstitutional.

Under the legislation, marijuana is said to be as dangerous as heroin and N-Ethyl-3-piperidyl benzilate, a chemical which acts on the central nervous system. … continue

House GOP Seeks to Curb Yemen War

By Dennis J Bernstein | Consortium News | July 26, 2017

Republicans are taking the lead in blocking U.S. participation in the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, which has plunged that country to the brink of starvation and sparked a cholera epidemic. Surprising to many, there was a vote by the Republican-led House of Representatives to block U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war. … continue

The Atlantic Council: Experts on the front line of disinformation

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | July 26, 2017

NATO’s academic wing has been warning about disinformation for years. And it’s no wonder when its staff and contributors are so well-versed in the practice themselves.

The Atlantic Council is an organization dedicated to discussion between people who hate Russia and folk who really, really hate Russia. Thus, amid the current hysteria, it’s Christmas every day for its assorted staff and “fellows” or, to use a more accurate term, ‘lobbyists.’

For the uninitiated, it’s difficult to explain what exactly the Atlantic Council does. Essentially, the club exists to influence the information space to justify NATO’s continued existence. It does that by either employing Russia’s opponents directly or offering retainers to journalists and media analysts who can be relied upon to push the outfit’s anti-Russian stance. Which, of course, is its lifeblood.

While the Atlantic Council is set-up to promote antagonism toward Russia, it also needs it. Because if Russia combusted tomorrow, everyone on the payroll would be out of a job. So, it’s like the famous U2 song “I can’t live, with or without you.” But unlike the protagonist of that ditty, these guys don’t give themselves away. Instead, this NATO adjunct is lavishly funded, by a roll call of famous entities.

Such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, Abu Dhabi’s National Oil Company, the Ukrainian World Congress, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Raytheon Company, the US State Department and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which is the plaything of a Ukrainian oligarch.

Some of the more prominent beneficiaries of the resultant money tree include Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins, CNN’s Michael Weiss, Crowdstrike’s Dmitri Alperovitch, Obama advisor Evelyn Farkas and Maxim Eristavi of Ukraine’s Maidan. All of whom are conveniently united by their hostility to all things Russian. … continue

Silenced stones mark hard path to Sri Lankan reconciliation

By Duncan McCargo | Asia Times | July 26, 2017

Security forces have erected numerous monuments celebrating their 2009 victory over Tamil Tiger rebels. No such privilege has been accorded to the Tamil insurgents or civilians who died in the fight… Read article

OAS Appoints Former ICC Prosecutor Ocampo to Look Into Venezuela ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

teleSUR | July 25, 2017

Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, has appointed former International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as OAS special adviser on crimes against humanity.

Ocampo, who also served as a World Bank consultant, is a controversial figure who has been described as erratic and prone to grandstanding performances that undercut his own legal efforts.

According to a statement published by the OAS, Ocampo’s tasks will include analyzing, studying and discussing the situation in Venezuela with all interested parties and, consequently, making suggestions on possible courses of action by the OAS. … continue

ELN Seeks ‘Temporary and Renewable’ Ceasefire in Colombia

teleSUR | July 26, 2017

The chief negotiator of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia’s peace talks, Pablo Beltran, said on Tuesday that the objective of the third round of negotiations is to reach a “temporary and renewable” bilateral ceasefire, a process which he said takes time because it requires “very precise procedures.”

During an interview with TeleSUR on the Enclave Politica program, Beltran said that the ELN is committed to peace talks and the peace process, and that a consensus has emerged among its members that there “must be a bilateral ceasefire.”

The task of the third round of dialogue is “to make the agreement, design the protocols, sign them, and then apply them. This round must be about the bilateral ceasefire that we want to last beyond the visit of Pope Francis,” according to Beltran.

Beltran emphasized that the group’s motto has always been to “be with the people, and that there is a large sector of Colombian society that wants peace.” … continue

The Guardian’s Propaganda on Venezuela

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | July 25, 2017

With the Constituent Assembly elections due to take place on July 30th, the Guardian published a piece titled “Venezuela elections: all you need to know”.

But instead of breaking through the fog of falsehood and misinformation that is typical of the mainstream media’s coverage of Venezuela, the Guardian comes up with another propaganda piece laden with lies, distortions and omissions.

In this article we go through the Guardian’s piece, clarifying the falsehoods, adding the conveniently omitted information and questioning the whole narrative that is presented. … continue

Crossing National Public Radio (NPR) Off My List for Health Care Coverage

By Lambert Strether | Naked Capitalism | July 20, 2017

… I want to thank NPR for consolidating so many liberal Democrat lies myths and shibboleths into a single article. It’s handy! Clearly, however, NPR is not a “safe place” for reliable health care reporting. They’re not trustworthy. – Read full article

SDF Media Center Refutes Reports of LGBT Military Unit Fighting Daesh in Syria

Sputnik – 26.07.2017

On Monday, a Newsweek magazine reported that an anarchist movement The International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF) had announced that a group of international volunteers fighting in Syria established an LGBT military unit, called The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA).

“Social Media today reported about the formation of a battalion of homosexuals within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Raqqa… We in the Syrian Democratic Forces, while emphasizing our deep respect for human rights, including the rights of homosexuals, we deny the formation of such a battalion within the framework of our forces and we consider this news to be untrue,” Bali said in a statement on Tuesday, as quoted by ARA News outlet.

TQILA representative Heval Rojhilat told Newsweek magazine that the members of the unit were already fighting in the Syrian city of Raqqa, but declined to reveal the number of the fighters in the unit. … Full article

Moscow Calls Reports of Russia’s Alleged Arms Supplies to Taliban ‘Groundless’

Sputnik – 26.07.2017

MOSCOW – On Tuesday, CNN claimed that it had exclusive videos purporting to show that the Taliban had allegedly received weaponry in Afghanistan which appeared to have been supplied by Russia, however, presented no proof.

According to CNN, two separate Taliban groups say they got hold of weapons, which were allegedly supplied by the Russian government. One group said it took the weapons after defeating a rival group, while the other claims it got pistols for free that were smuggled through Tajik border. Experts say the weapons have no identification markings hence it is impossible to trace their origins.

“We have repeatedly stated that accusations of a series of Western and … Afghan media regarding Russia’s alleged support of the Taliban movement are groundless… We reiterate, Russia does not support the Taliban movement, and only maintains contacts with the Taliban to ensure the safety of Russian nationals in Afghanistan and to incentivise this group to join the process of national reconciliation,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed that it is impossible to trace the country of origin of the weapons demonstrated in the video, as they were common and manufactured by many countries. … continue

Russia, Iraq call for closer economic, military cooperation

Press TV – July 26, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki have held a meeting, during which they underlined the need for the reinforcement of bilateral “economic” and “military-technical” relations. The meeting took place in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Putin said that Russia and Iraq have set up “an intergovernmental commission” that is currently working “at full capacity.”

He added, however, that “a lot has yet to be done in terms of economic cooperation…, specifically military-technical cooperation. Russia is proactive in this area, and Iraq benefits from its assistance.”

Paying his third visit to Russia, Maliki said, “With every visit, we take yet another step toward the common goal of further improving our relations.”

Moscow and Baghdad have contacts in the energy, economic and the military-technical fields and are engaged in the implementation of a number of bilateral cooperation agreements, he noted.

Maliki also emphasized that Russia and Iraq “have very good potential for [further] cooperation, and our strategic choice is based on an understanding of the importance of the role of Russia in the region and Iraq.”

The Iraqi vice president further hailed Russia’s active role in the fight against terrorists operating in the region.

“Russia has made a tremendous contribution, in particular in Syria and Iraq, to prevent the disintegration of the region,” he said, warning that without Moscow, “the map of the region would have changed for the worse for us.”

Russia took an “honorable stance” when it agreed to the speedy delivery of weapons to Iraq after the rise of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country, Maliki pointed out. … Full article

Turkey Needs Russian S-400 System as Shield Against ‘Western Plan’ in Mideast

Sputnik – 26.07.2017

Russia and Turkey are currently at the final stage of negotiations on the delivery of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system to Ankara. According to Turkish security expert Abdullah Ağar, the deal indicates a major shift in Turkey’s policy. … continue

Saudi regime uses execution to terrify dissent: Analyst

Press TV – July 25, 2017

The growing number of executions Saudi Arabia, especially those targeting anti-government opponents, shows that Riyadh is using the tactic to terrify the dissent, an analyst tells Press TV.

“The monarchy has been using executions to terrify the population,” Ali al-Ahmed, an expert on Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that the tactic has been mostly aimed at the most active population in the Shia-dominated regions east of Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed said the West and the governments in the Middle East have failed to provide enough support to Shias in Qatif to enable them to stand against the Saudi aggression.

“The international community has no standards whatsoever when it comes to supporting the ruling family of Saudi Arabia against its own people who wants freedom,” he said, adding that the West’s inaction is the main reason why the Saudi authorities feel free to execute activists and continue to crack down on people in eastern regions. … Full article

Tillerson to Remain at State Department Despite Reports of Resignation

Sputnik – 26.07.2017

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will remain in office contrary to reports that he was going to resign, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing.

“The Secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at the State Department,” Nauert said on Tuesday.

On Monday, CNN reported that Tillerson was considering resigning from the State Department before the end of the year due to growing frustration with President Donald Trump’s administration.

The report claimed Tillerson was at odds with the White House over several issues including department staffing and Iran policy.

ZOA Calls For Tillerson’s Resignation

By Jacob Kornbluh · Jewish Insider · July 24, 2017

Amid reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is growing frustrated with the White House, even considering stepping down, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on Monday called on Tillerson to resign. The group accused Tillerson of contradicting pro-Israel statements made by President Donald Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“In light of the U.S. State Department’s new, bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel-hating error-ridden terrorism report, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) calls on Secretary of State Tillerson to resign,” the ZOA said in a statement.

The ZOA — headed by Morton Klein — took issue with the State Department’s annual terrorism report listing Israeli settlement construction, violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, and the perception that Israel’s government was changing the status quo on the Temple Mount as “continued drivers of violence.” … Full article

Israeli settlers attempt to take control of Palestinian house in Hebron

Ma’an – July 25, 2017

HEBRON – Dozens of Israeli settlers raided a Palestinian house near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron city of the southern occupied West Bank on Tuesday evening in an attempt to take control of the building, residents told Ma’an.

Residents of the Abu Rajab house have been embroiled in a legal battle with Israeli settlers for years, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his intention to encourage the establishment of a new illegal Israeli settlement there to be named “Beit Hamachpela.”

However, Israeli authorities have not granted permission to establish the settlement on the grounds that the settlers have failed to prove their alleged purchase of the Palestinian house, as the Palestinians have accused the settlers of forging the documents.

Hazem Abu Rajab al-Tamimi, a resident of the house, said that more than 50 settlers raided the house and that Israeli soldiers were assisting the settlers during the raid.

Al-Tamimi told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers and border guards have been deployed in front of the house for the past 48 hours before eventually allowing settlers to raid it on Tuesday. […]

Israeli NGO and settlement watchdog Peace Now released a statement corroborating that some 15 settler families entered the house without authorization.

“The long legal battle over who owns the property has not yet come to an end but that did not stop the settlers from invading it today,” the statement said.

Peace Now explained that the registration committee of the Israeli Civil Administration denied the settlers’ claims of purchase, which the settlers have appealed were waiting to appear before the committee again.

“Thus far, the settlers were unable to prove ownership, and the Palestinians argue that a purchase has not been made. Moreover, the settlers are claiming only partial ownership of the property. Furthermore, even if eventually the settlers will prove their ownership, this does not represent sufficient cause for the establishment of a new settlement in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron,” Peace Now said.

“The establishment of a new settlement in Beit HaMachpela will severely hinder Palestinian freedom of movement and add to the rising tensions in the area,” the statement continued.

“We demand that the government orders the immediate evacuation of the settlers who invaded Beit HaMachpela. After their claims of ownership had been denied, the settlers have decided to take the law into their own hands and establish an illegal settlement that might ignite the region. We call upon the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense to follow the law and the Israeli interest and evacuate the trespassers without delay.” … Full article

MK calls for building synagogue in Al-Aqsa

MEMO | July 25, 2017

Extremist Israeli Jewish MK from the Jewish Home party, Bezalel Smotrich, has called for building a synagogue inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard, Al-Resalah newspaper reported yesterday.

The Palestinian newspaper said that the Israeli TV Channel 7 reported Smotrich saying that the best Zionist response to the Palestinian rejection to the Israeli measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque is to let them understand that they had paid a “high price” for their acts.

He said that the best response would be to build a synagogue in the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque in response to the attack on the settlement of Halamish, where three Israeli settlers were killed.

“I would set up a synagogue on the Temple Mount today, this morning.”

“The Zionist response would largely be to make the other side understand and feel that they have lost. They must understand that they gain nothing from terrorism. They are the only ones who will lose, and this will happen on three levels,” Smotrich told Arutz Sheva. “If I am the Prime Minister – this morning I would close the Temple Mount to Arab prayer and establish a Synagogue for Jews.”

Palestinians have been rejecting Israel’s latest security measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque which include metal detectors and advanced surveillance cameras. The metal detectors were removed late last night however more cameras were setup at the mosque. Mass protests have been held against the latest Israeli policies with occupation forces responding in a heavy handed manner. Seven Palestinians were killed in the ten days since 14 July and 1,090 were injured.

Israel to replace contested Al-Aqsa metal detectors with ‘smart’ surveillance

Ma’an – July 25, 2017

BETHLEHEM – The Israeli security cabinet decided during a meeting late on Monday night to remove metal detectors, which had recently been installed at the entrances of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, only to replace them with more advanced surveillance technology in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. […]

“It’s not about technology, it’s about control,” a resident of Jerusalem told Ma’an. “It’s about who controls the gate of the mosque, which means who controls the mosque.” […]

Jamal Zahalqa, a member of the Knesset and a leader of the Joint List representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, told Ma’an that removal of the metal detectors was one victory amid a larger struggle in East Jerusalem, and that Palestinians would continue to refuse to enter Al-Aqsa until Israel pulls back all of its measures at the holy site.

“(Israeli Prime Minister) Mr. Netanyahu has carried out a provocative action and caused hardship with the metal detectors, and now the so-called smart cameras are a new provocation,” he said. “Al-Aqsa should be under full control of the Waqf, Israel has no right to control the entrance.” … Full article

Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syria War?

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | July 25, 2017

Israel, which has played a precarious role in the Syrian war since 2011, is furious to learn that the future of the conflict is not to its liking.

The six-year-old Syria war is moving to a new stage, perhaps its final. The Syrian regime is consolidating its control over most of the populated centers, while Daesh is losing ground fast – and everywhere.

Areas evacuated by the rapidly disintegrated militant group are up for grabs. There are many hotly contested regions sought over by the government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and its allies, on the one hand, and the various anti-Assad opposition groups and their supporters, on the other.

With Daesh largely vanquished in Iraq – at an extremely high death toll of 40,000 people in Mosul alone – warring parties there are moving west. Shia militias, emboldened by the Iraq victory, have been pushing westward as far as the Iraq-Syria border, converging with forces loyal to the Syrian government on the other side.

Concurrently, first steps at a permanent ceasefire are bearing fruit, compared to many failed attempts in the past.

Following a ceasefire agreement between the United States and Russia on 7 July at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, three provinces in southwestern Syria – bordering Jordan and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – are now relatively quiet. The agreement is likely to be extended elsewhere.

The Israeli government has made it clear to the US that it is displeased with the agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading strong efforts to undermine the ceasefire. … continue

Nusra Front Emir Seeks Mediation to Guarantee Safe Passage: Report

Al-Manar | July 25, 2017

Emir of Takfiri Nusra Front Abu Malek Al-Talli is seeking mediation in a bid to guarantee a safe passage for him and his militants from Arsal outskirts, a report said on Tuesday.

Lebanese Al-Akhbar reported that Al-Talli called on several parts to mediate in order to guarantee a safe passage from Arsal outskirts, where Hezbollah fighters have been launshing a wide-scale operation since Friday to cleanse the area from Takfiri insurgents.

The daily quoted sources as saying that Al-Talli contacted Arsal-based Sheikh Mutafa Hariri, known as Abu Taqiyya, calling on him to head to the outskirts of Arsal in a bid to talk to him and find a way to get out of the battle.

The sources said that such a move “indicates that Al-Talli knows very well that the battle is over, and that he is looking for ways to save his life and the lives of his militants.”

Earlier on Monday, Hezbollah fighters took control of Wadi Al-Khayl, Nusra’s stronghold in Arsal outskirts, where Al-Talli had been operating along with his militants.

Al-Manar Camera Inspects Nusra Commander’s Post in Arsal Outskirts

Al-Manar – July 25, 2017

Al-Manar camera inspected Nusra Fornt commander Abu Malik Al-Talle’s post in Wadi Al-Khayl in Arsal outskirts on Tuesday after Hezbollah soldiers liberated the area from the terrorists.

Al-Manar TV footage shows the well-equipped post which was provided with all the life facilities needed by the terrorist commander to carry out his takfiri ‘duties’ in the area.

The video shows the medical and food stuffs provided by various sides, including the Qatari government, the electric appliances, the razors used by Al-Talle to shave before escaping from the post and more.

‘Police easily startled’: Warning signs erected near spot of fatal Minneapolis shooting

RT | July 25, 2017

Fake street signs warning Twin City residents to beware of police have been erected following the killing of an unarmed woman by a Minneapolis officer.

Posted in several locations across Minneapolis and St. Paul, the signs read: “Warning: Twin Cities Police easily startled.”

The signs are said to be mocking the excuse given by officer Matthew Harrity who said he and his partner, Mohamed Noor, were “startled” by a noise before shooting Justine Damond outside her home on July 15.

The “unauthorized” signs were taken down by authorities shortly after they were erected, police said. […]

A woman, supposedly Damond, slapped the back of the patrol car before walking up to the driver’s side of the vehicle, according to an investigation carried out by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). … Full article

Trident nuclear submarine replacement plans ‘unachievable’ – spending watchdog

RT | July 25, 2017

Multi-billion pound projects to upgrade and renew Britain’s nuclear arsenal have been branded “unachievable” by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) in its report to the Treasury and Cabinet Office.

The watchdog’s report, which was picked up by the Ferret investigative website, found that major projects relating to the nuclear deterrent are poorly managed, over budget, and subject to technical difficulties.

Those projects are the £1.7 billion (US$2.2bn) nuclear reactor manufacturing program and the program to build four nuclear-armed and seven nuclear-powered submarines at a cost of £31 billion and £9 billion respectively.

The reactor manufacturing project, based at Rolls Royce in Derby, picked up the worst possible IPA rating after being marked as “red,” with the author’s warning that “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable.”

“There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. … continue

America’s Militarized Police

Made in Israel?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • July 25, 2017

The horrific execution by police of an Australian woman in her pajamas that took place last week in Minneapolis has again produced a torrent of criticism over killings initiated by law enforcement in situations in which the officers are in no way threatened. America has always been a violent place relative to much of the rest of the world, but even so there has been a noticeable shift in how, since the trauma of 9/11, some policemen believe themselves to be superior to and detached from the society they are supposed to be protecting. And the public is reciprocating, seeing the police frequently as a force that is no longer there to serve the people and instead something that should be feared. Even in the upper middle class predominantly white county that I live in, residents not infrequently discuss the increasingly visible and aggressive police presence. It is widely believed that arguing with cops or showing even the slightest attitude in contacts with them is done at one’s peril.

Even in low crime parts of the country, the police are able to deploy fully armed and equipped swat teams that are more military than civilian in their threatening demeanor as well in the body armor and weapons they carry. Many cities and counties now have surplus military armored vans for crowd control even if they have no crowds. Armed drones are increasingly becoming part of the law enforcement arsenal and it sometimes appears as if the police are copying the military as a model of “how to do it.”

The various levels of government that make up the United States seem to be preparing for some kind of insurrection, which may indeed be the case somewhere down the road if the frustrations of the public are not somehow dealt with. But there is another factor that has, in my opinion, become a key element in the militarization of the police in the United States. That would be the role of the security organs of the state of Israel in training American cops, a lucrative business that has developed since 9/11 and which inter alia gives the “students” a whole different perspective on the connection of the police with those who are being policed, making the relationship much more one of an occupier and the occupied. … continue

Impressions of Iran

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | July 25, 2017

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Iran. I spent time in the capital city of Tehran, the country’s largest city, and Mashhad, a large city in the northern part of Iran. I saw what I expected to see: each was a bustling city. The downtown area of each was crowded and busy, not unlike other cities I’ve visited in different parts of the world.

Where I gained the impression that Iran was a prosperous, modern nation before my visit, I don’t know. Prior to my departure, when I announced to friends and acquaintances that I would soon be visiting Iran, I was met with shocked reactions. Here are some of the questions I was asked at that time… continue

Move to End CIA Support for Syria Rebels Cuts US Losses – Ex-EU Adviser

Sputnik – 25.07.2017

President Donald Trump’s move to end the CIA training program for Syrian rebels finally cuts US losses and acknowledges the failure of efforts to topple President Bashar Assad, former European Union adviser Paolo von Schirach told Sputnik.

On Friday, US Special Operations Command head Raymond Thomas said at a security forum that the administration ended the CIA train-and-arm initiative after assessing the nature of the program and its viability in light of US objectives.

“The chance of overthrowing Assad via military actions is a dream,” Schirach said. “US efforts to force regime change in Damascus by supporting the domestic Syrian opposition through military assistance have failed.”

Schirach, who is also the president of the Global Policy Institute and professor of international affairs at BAU University in Washington, said the decision to end the CIA training program marked a belated recognition by US policymakers that they were not going to be able to topple Assad and his government in Damascus, no matter how many weapons and support they funneled to the rebels.

Trump’s decision showed US policymakers had abandoned a six year effort by the Obama administration to build up military rebel forces in Syria, Schirach claimed. … continue

Russian Military Denies Reports of Airstrike in Syria’s East Ghouta Safe Zone

Sputnik – 25.07.2017

DAMASCUS – The Russian reconciliation center in Syria denied Tuesday the reports of an airstrike on July 24 in the de-escalation zone in eastern Ghouta.

The agreement on operation of a de-escalation zone, envisaging full ceasefire, came into force in eastern Ghouta on Monday. Earlier Tuesday, media reports emerged claiming that an airstrike killed at least eight people in an attack on the town of Arbin the previous evening.

“Western media reports citing the UK-financed White Helmets and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on an alleged airstrike on evening of July 24 in the eastern Ghouta deescalation zone are a complete lie aimed at discrediting the peace process,” a spokesperson of the center said.

According to the spokesperson, local opposition groups “confirmed there were no airstrikes or combat in this de-escalation zone.”

On Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry announced the signing of an agreement on the order Eastern Ghouta de-escalation in Syria following the results of the talks held in Cairo with Syrian opposition, mediated by the Egyptian side. The agreements define the borders of the deescalation zone, the deployment sites and powers of the deescalation control forces, as well as the routes for delivering humanitarian aid and clear passage to the population. On Monday, the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces reported that Russia has set up two checkpoints and four observation posts in the zone.

Chinese interception of US spy plane ‘legal, necessary & professional’ – Beijing

RT | July 25, 2017

The interception of a US spy plane by two Chinese jets over the Yellow Sea was “legal, necessary, [and] professional,” Beijing said, adding that such flights by Washington threaten China’s national security.

“Close-in reconnaissance by US aircraft threatens China’s national security, harms Sino-US maritime and air military safety, endangers the personal safety of both sides’ pilots and is the root cause of unexpected incidents,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.

The actions of the Chinese jets’ pilots were “legal, necessary and professional” and conducted “in accordance with the law and the rules,” he added.

The statement comes after US officials told local media that an American surveillance plane was intercepted by two Chinese jets on Sunday. … Full article

Philippines urges US to return church bells

Press TV – July 25, 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the United States return church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, in another blast at his country’s traditional ally.

American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte said at his annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.”

Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in South Korea.

Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial.

US embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina gave a non-committal reply on Tuesday to Duterte’s demands.

“We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she said in an email to AFP.

Duterte on Monday repeated a Filipino account of the campaign that the commanding general, Jacob Smith, ordered Samar be turned into a “howling wilderness” and that all Filipino males aged 10 or above be killed.

A 1902 US court-martial convicted Smith of a minor offence in relation to the Samar campaign, while 39 other Americans were separately found guilty of torturing and shooting Filipino prisoners there, the US Army War College research paper said.

However none of them were jailed, according to the paper. … Full article

Q & A: The National Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign | Venezuelanalysis | July 24, 2017

Elections for a National Constituent Assembly are being held in Venezuela on July 30th. Here are some common questions – with the answers – that are being asked about the Assembly. … continue

Former CIA Director Calls For A Coup If Trump Fires Mueller

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | July 24, 2017

In the most vocal opposition to president Donald Trump yet, former CIA Director John Brennan said that if the White House tries to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, government officials should refuse to follow the president orders, as they would be – in his view – “inconsistent” with the duties of the executive branch.

“I think it’s the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry that out. I would just hope that this is not going to be a partisan issue. That Republicans, Democrats are going to see that the future of this government is at stake and something needs to be done for the good of the future,” Brennan told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Security Forum, effectively calling for a coup against the president should Trump give the order to fire Mueller. … continue

Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | July 24, 2017

Let’s not mince words.

Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement official, would not recognize the Constitution if he ran right smack into it.

Whether the head of the Trump Administration’s Justice Department enjoys being the architect of a police state or is just painfully, criminally clueless, Sessions has done a great job thus far of sidestepping the Constitution at every turn.

Most recently, under the guise of “fighting crime,” Sessions gave police the green light to rob, pilfer, steal, thieve, swipe, purloin, filch and liberate American taxpayers of even more of their hard-earned valuables (especially if it happens to be significant amounts of cash) using any means, fair or foul. … continue

Red Cross: Yemen Cholera Deaths Expected to Double by Year’s End

Sputnik – July 25, 2017

The forecast for Yemen’s cholera epidemic looks grim, as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warns that by the end of 2017 the number of cholera cases will double, reaching 600,000.

President of ICRC Peter Maurer called the massive outbreak “alarming and growing” on Sunday while on a five-day visit to the country. Zee News quoted him saying, “The great tragedy is that this cholera outbreak is a preventable man-made humanitarian catastrophe.”

He explained that devastation of Yemen’s health system and infrastructure by the ongoing civil war is directly responsible for the health crisis. Maurer said, “I find this needless suffering absolutely infuriating. The world is sleep-walking into yet more tragedy.”

On July 21 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that since the outbreak began in April there had already been 1,828 cholera-related deaths reported.

Since there is a blockade on certain areas imposed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the ICRC is trying to negotiate with different sides of the Yemen conflict to allow its members freedom of movement to places they want to visit, according to Committee spokeswoman in Sanaa Soumaya Beltifa.

The Red Cross reports that since conflict first broke out in September 2014 more than three million people have fled their homes, while 20 million people in Yemen still need humanitarian assistance.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Yemen is on the brink of famine, and cholera is typically more severe for people who are malnourished. … Full article