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US-Backed Syrian-Kurdish Fighters Destroy Turkish Military Vehicle

Sputnik – 22.08.2017

US-aligned Kurdish fighters in Syria have released several videos of their destruction of a Turkish military vehicle with a guided anti-tank missile during a skirmish between the rival militaries.

The footage depicted fighters with Jaysh al-Thuwar (Arabic for “Army of Revolutionaries”) facing off with Turkish soldiers, with one fighter firing what is either a US BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile or an Iranian Typhoon anti-tank guided missile at a Turkish tractor.

The footage was subsequently uploaded to the Facebook page of Jabhat al-Akrad (“Kurdish Front”). Kurdish Front is a subfaction of the Army of Revolutionaries, which is in turn a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the Americans. It’s unclear when the event actually occurred.

Earlier this month, a video surfaced showing YPG fighters destroying another Turkish tank operated by rebel groups.

The bulk of SDF fighters are Kurds aligned with the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara claims that the YPG are a terrorist group, and a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish independence movement based in Turkey (and outlawed there). Both Turkey and the US consider the PKK to be a terrorist group, but the US denies any connection between the PKK and the YPG. … Full article

Tillerson praises North Korea for restraint

RT | August 22, 2017

North Korea has not taken provocative actions lately and it could be a sign that Pyongyang is ready to show restraint, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, opening the possibility of a dialogue with Pyongyang

“We have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution,” Tillerson said, referring to a vote on August 5 to impose more sanctions against North Korea following its ballistic missile tests in July.

“We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for – that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue,” Tillerson said on Tuesday.

The remarks came the day after the US began large-scale military exercises with its ally South Korea near the North’s border, which Pyongyang views as a threat to its security. The US claims the drills are meant as a deterrent to a potential aggression by the North. … Full article

Two Palestinian homes demolished in Negev

Palestine Information Center – August 22, 2017

NEGEV – The Israeli police forces, along with a number of military bulldozers, stormed Wadi al-Naam town in Negev on Tuesday and demolished two Bedouin homes before razing a nearby agricultural land.

The local activist Khaled Abu Khurma affirmed that two homes owned by al-Walidi family were demolished for being allegedly built without “Israeli permit.”

A nearby agricultural land in Khashm Zana village was also razed during the raid, he added.

Last year, more than 1,000 Palestinian houses were demolished in the Negev under the same Israeli pretext.

Nearly 50 Bedouin villages in the Negev are not recognized by Israel and have been targeted with demolition in preparation for building Jewish-only towns.

Israeli police prevent Palestinian textbooks from entering Al-Aqsa schools

Ma’an – August 22, 2017

JERUSALEM – Israeli police stationed at the Lions’ Gate entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem prevented textbooks from being delivered to Palestinian schools located inside the walled holy site on Tuesday, a day before the first day of school.

Ahad Sabri, head of one of the schools awaiting the textbooks, the Al-Aqsa Sharia School for Girls, told Ma’an that the Israeli police prevented the books from entering on the grounds that they were printed with the logo of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Sabri said that 100 textbooks, destined for students in the 7th and 12th grade, were being held on the floor outside the compound. According to PA-owned Wafa news agency, the books were headed to three Palestinian schools, two high schools and a kindergarten. … continue

Palestinian Authority shows its ‘authoritarian’ face through Cyber Crimes Law

Ma’an – August 22, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer has joined a growing chorus opposition to the Palestinian Authority (PA) — which the NGO described as “an ever increasingly authoritarian regime” — for a new far-reaching law that effectively criminalizes “any form of digital dissent.”

The decree, issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 24, has been described by rights groups as “draconian” and “the worst law in the PA’s history,” for imposing jail time, hard labor, and fines for creating, publishing, and sharing information deemed dangerous by the PA.

In a statement last last week, the leftist PLO faction the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) called the law “a repressive tool” against all who disagree, oppose, and “confront the misdeeds” of the PA.

The PFLP said the law’s passage came as “the (Israeli) occupation is waging a frantic campaign against journalists, including prosecutions, arrests and attacks, sometimes amounting to direct physical targeting leading to the death and injury of dozens of journalists,” and that that PA “is seeking to prosecute and arrest the same journalists.”

In detailed breakdown of the new law published Sunday, Addameer, which provides legal support to Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel and the PA, explained that the vague and far-reaching law could mean prison time, hard labor, and/or hundreds of dollars in fines for journalists, leakers, meme-sharers, and someone “watching Game of Thrones using a VPN.”

“The most troubling aspects of this document are its vague definitions of what constitutes a punishable offence, its extension of punishment to any individual who assists or agrees with what the decree considers a felony, and the clear attacks on dissenters, journalists, and leakers,” the prisoners’ rights group explained. … continue

Another Palestinian, an American Citizen, Deported. No Homeland.

By Barbara Nimri Aziz | Radio Tahrir | August 20, 2017

Rasmea Odeh is either on an airplane out of her country. Or she’s in a federal holding cell in Detroit or New York awaiting deportation from the USA.

Odeh’s departure marks the end of a bizarre life, one that can evoke admiration. As a young Palestinian, Odeh fought against Israeli oppression. Now after a valiant legal battle in this country, her new homeland, she is departing (by force).

Some Americans may recall with satisfaction their support for Russian dissidents in the 1950s and 1960s when the Soviet Union exiled its critics. If they were not sent to Siberia, opponents of the USSR were denied residence in their homeland, involuntarily banished. However much the US and UK welcomed them and even lionized them, banishment is a hard punishment to bear. Today’s Russia no longer metes out such penalties; which is not to say Russia is completely tolerant of dissent.

In the US, one hardly hears of Americans being banished from these hallowed shores. However rare, it does occur. Often Palestinian Americans are the target of this injustice, with Israeli authorities (somehow, usually) involved in legal cases brought against those Palestinians in U.S. courts. … continue

TSA facial biometric body scanners and government watchlists being used in train stations

MassPrivatel | August 22, 2017

… According to an article in ‘The Guardian’, the start-up company Evolv Technology is pilot testing high speed body scanners at the Los Angeles’s Union Station, Union Station in D.C., and the Denver international airport.

Evolv has taken a page right out of the TSA playbook citing safety concerns and fear of terror to justify their usage.

Evolv CEO Michael Ellonbogen said, “I think we need to change our entire take on physical security and knit it into the flow of our daily lives”.

“It’s an unfortunate trend, but physical security is morphing and the problem is worsening”, said Lux Capital’s Bilal.

Corporations are using Americans fears of terror to make huge profits. Evolv stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars if commuter train stations install their body scanners. A single scanner will cost taxpayers $60,000, while Bill Gates who helped fund Evolv Technoloy makes a nice profit. … Read full article

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins and Outs of the Right to Protest

By John W. Whitehead | Rutherford Institute | August 22, 2017

… we seem to be witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech.There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.

Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums.

Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything America is supposed to stand for.

Indeed, we should be encouraging people to debate issues and air their views. Instead, by muzzling free speech, we are contributing to a growing underclass of Americans—many of whom have been labeled racists, rednecks and religious bigots—who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.” … Read full article

Bahraini rights groups slam use of torture by regime’s NSA against dissent

Press TV – August 22, 2017

Three Bahraini human rights groups have slammed the Persian Gulf monarchy’s National Security Agency (NSA) for its systematic use of torture against all citizens, including activists and human rights defenders.

The Persian Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and Salam for Democracy and Human Rights said in a joint report, entitled “Chambers of Death”, on Tuesday that the “repressive” agency had intensified its targeting of dissenting civilians since the beginning of this year.

It also said both the NSA, founded in 2002, and its predecessor, the General Directorate for State Security Investigations, established in 1966, have been employing excessive force against people since their creation in the country.

The NSA adopted these extreme measures in order to “increase its authority and use it to carry out systematic torture, and also to intimidate the general population with inhumane methods,” said Javad Firooz, the chairman of the Salam for Democracy and Human Rights group, in the report.

Giving examples of a number of abuse cases, it said that female rights activist Ebtisam Alsaegh was tortured and sexually assaulted in the course of an interrogation by the NSA in May.

The report also named Adel Marzooq, an opposition official, who was also arrested in May, and tortured by the NSA members as they had been “stripping him of clothes, pouring cold water several times on him, threatening him with rape, forcing him to repeat the slogans ‘I am a traitor to the homeland’ and forcing him to quit his legal activism.”

The NSA, not being formally part of the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior, had no power to arrest until 2008, when it was granted with such a power by a Royal Decree. It lost the power in 2011, again by another Royal Decree, only to be granted with the power to arrest again in early January by the direct order of the king. … Full article

US Treasury Adds 1 Russian, 5 Chinese Companies to North Korean Sanctions List

Sputnik – 22.08.2017

The US Treasury Department has expanded sanctions on North Korea and added 5 Chinese and 1 Russian company to the list.

The United States sanctioned five Chinese entities under an executive order targeting North Korea, the US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said on Tuesday.

China-based Dandong Rich Eart Trading Co., Ltd, Dandong Tianfu Trading Co., Ltd., Dandong Zhicheng Metallic Material Co., Ltd. and Jinhou International Holdings Co., Ltd. were added to the OFAC specially designated nationals list on its website. Mingzheng International Trading Limited, based in Hong Kong, was also added.

The United States added the Moscow-based company Gefest-M LLC to its North Korea sanctions list as it is allegedly linked to the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation.

Moreover, 4 Russian nationals and 1 Chinese have been included in the sanctions list.

Russian individuals Irina Igorevna Huish, Ruben Ruslanovich Kirakosyan, Mikhail Yurevich Pisklin and Andrey Serbin were added to the North Korea designated nationals list of US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) website. A Chinese national, Chi Yupeng, was also included.The sanctions freeze all of the individuals’ and entities’ assets subject to US jurisdiction and generally prohibit US persons from doing business with them.

The news comes amid an escalation on the Korean Peninsula as the joint US-South Korean Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drills are underway. The military exercises, in which about 17,500 US servicemen and about 50,000 South Korean troops are participating, have been harshly criticized by Pyongyang.

In July, Russia and China proposed a “double freeze” scenario, where North Korea would cease its nuclear missile tests, while US-South Korean military drills would be simultaneously halted. The initiative was rejected by the United States. … Full article

Afghanistan is ripe for proxy war

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | August 20, 2017

Russia has hinted in the past that the United States is covertly sponsoring the Islamic State in Afghanistan. On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson raised the bar by alleging that “foreign fighters” who were transferred by “unknown helicopters” have perpetrated a massacre of Hazara Shias in the Sar-e-Pol province in northern Afghanistan. The spokesperson said:

  • We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country… Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded. For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army’s 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province. It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.

From the above, it appears that sections of the Afghan armed forces and the NATO command (which controls Afghan air space) are hand in glove in these covert operations. No doubt, this is a very serious allegation. The attack on the Hazara Shias must be taken as a message intended for Tehran. Historically and culturally, Iran has affinities with the Hazara Shia community in Afghanistan. Possibly, the Trump administration, which has vowed to overthrow the Iranian regime, is opening a ‘second front’ by the IS against Iran from the east. … continue

US military constructing new base in Iraq’s Kurdish region: Report

Press TV – August 22, 2017

The US military is reportedly building a new permanent base in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region as part of attempts to perpetuate its occupation of the conflict-ridden Arab country indefinitely, regardless of all opposition from religious figures and people from all walks of life.

Iraq’s Kurdish-language Rudaw television network reported on Tuesday that the base is being constructed in Kariz village of Zummar district, located 60 kilometers northwest of Mosul, stressing that 60 percent of the work has already been done.

The report added that 120 US soldiers and 300 long-range artillery systems have also been stationed in the area.

Hassan Khalo Ali, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official, said the base is being built on an area of ​​20 acres of land, local people can see helicopters continuously taking off and landing and entering the base is prohibited in every way to ordinary people.

The new US base would mark the fifth of its kind in Iraq’s Kurdish region. … continue

Israel’s Alarm over Syrian Debacle

Consortium News | August 22, 2017

Meddling by the U.S. and its allies was supposed to topple the Assad regime in Syria and give Israel a freer hand, but instead has brought Iran and other adversaries to Israel’s border, a risky moment, says Daniel Lazare. – Read article

UN ‘deeply concerned’ about US-led Raqqa airstrikes that reportedly killed dozens of civilians

RT | August 22, 2017

The UN has expressed “deep concerns” over the mounting number of civilian casualties in Raqqa inflicted by US-led coalition airstrikes, condemning “any attack directed against civilians or civilian infrastructure.”

“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us they are deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports of a high number of civilians killed by airstrike in Raqqa city over the last 24 hours,” Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters at a daily briefing Tuesday.

“In recent days and weeks scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and injured in Raqqa due to airstrikes and shelling and up to 25 thousand people remain trapped in the city,” Dujarric said.

At least 78 civilians have died in the al-Sakhani and al-Bado streets and al-Tawasuaeh neighborhood in Raqqa city as a result of the US-led coalition airstrikes over the past 24 hours, Syrian news agency SANA reported earlier Tuesday, citing local and media sources.

“The UN condemns any attack that is directed against civilians or civilian infrastructure. We urge all parties fighting in Raqqa and across Syria to take every possible measure to spare and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as in line with obligations under international humanitarian law.”

“Yesterday unconfirmed reports indicate that over 30 people were reportedly killed in the Al-Sakhani neighborhood, while eight internally displaced people from the same family were killed in a separate attack in another part of the city. These attacks, if confirmed, are a shocking reminder that civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in many parts of Syria.”

Scotland ‘wholly unprepared’ for nuclear weapons accident on its roads – report

RT | August 22, 2017

Nuclear warheads surrounded by explosives are regularly transported on British roads, yet authorities are “wholly unprepared” to handle an accident, a damning report has revealed.

A “critical gap” in the protection of Britons has been identified by Nukewatch UK, amid claims public safety is being put at risk by the Scottish Government.

The report, ‘Unready Scotland’, reveals weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are driven across the country around eight times every year, without police accompanying them and without public knowledge. … continue

Tillerson: Taliban May Receive Legal Status Through Talks

Sputnik – 22.08.2017

WASHINGTON – The Taliban movement will be unable to achieve a military victory in Afghanistan, however, it may receive a legal status by means of talks, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said Monday.

“Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines. We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war,” Tillerson said in a statement published by the State Department.

The State Secretary also said that the United States will support talks between the Afghan government and Taliban movement without preliminary conditions.

“We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions. We look to the international community, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbors, to join us in supporting an Afghan peace process,” Tillerson said in a statement published by the State Department.

Tillerson’s comments come after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new US strategy in Afghanistan which included expanded authorities to target terrorists. However, Trump said that the United States would not reveal the number of troops or any future military action plans in Afghanistan.

Israel demolishes kindergarten in Bedouin community near Jerusalem

Ma’an – August 21, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces have reportedly demolished a kindergarten in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba in the outskirts of al-Eizariya in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported Monday that the Israeli Civil Administration is threatening to destroy a number of homes in Jabal al-Baba and the nearby Bir al-Maskub area, despite an order by the Israeli Supreme Court forbidding the demolitions until the court determines whether the communities, which have been living there for decades, can be “legalized” in the eyes of the Israeli state.

Bedouin communities such as Jabal al-Baba have been settled in Jerusalem’s outskirts, now within the so-called E1 corridor near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, since they were forcibly displaced from their villages in Beersheba during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

According to a report from Jerusalem-based al-Quds News and corroborated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the kindergarten in Jabal al-Baba was dismantled early Monday morning.

Large numbers of Israeli soldiers and forces from the Israeli Civil Administration raided the community as Israeli bulldozers began to raze the school to the ground.

According to al-Quds, Israeli forces confiscated property from inside the kindergarten before the demolition and ripped apart European Union flags that were posted in the building — an indication that the structure had been built with EU funds.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for COGAT, the larger Israeli entity of which the Civil Administration is part, told Ma’an : “Today an illegal tin and wood shed was caught in Eizaria, that was established over the past two weeks without receiving the required permits. The shed was confiscated by virtue of the procedure to confiscate caravans and in accordance to the law. We would like to emphasize that the construction was not in use.”

In addition to reports from al-Quds and OCHA, Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency also cited witnesses as saying the structure demolished was a kindergarten. … Full article

US Navy announces ‘operational pause’ after McCain incident

RT | August 21, 2017

The US Navy has called for an “operational pause” in all fleets following the collision of the guided missile destroyer USS John S McCain with a merchant ship off Singapore. The Navy also ordered a review of “root causes” of a series of incidents at sea.

“This is the second collision in three months, and the last in a series of incidents in the Pacific theater. This trend demands more forceful action,” Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson said on Monday. “As such, an operational pause will be taken in all our fleets around the world.”

Five sailors were injured and 10 were reported missing after the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain was struck by an oil tanker near Singapore on Sunday evening. The ship suffered “significant damage to the hull” and had to put in for repairs. […]

Commissioned in 1994, the McCain is named after Senator John McCain’s (R-Arizona) namesake father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals. The destroyer is based at the 7th Fleet’s home port in Yokosuka, Japan. Earlier this month, it sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, as part of a US “freedom of navigation” operations in the region. … Full article

US visa move resembles logic of color revolutionists, says Russia

Press TV – August 21, 2017

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has censured a US decision to reduce its visa services in Russia, saying the measure brings to mind the logic of the masterminds of “color revolutions.”

“The first impression is that the American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow on Monday. “It’s a well known logic … this is the logic of those who organize color revolutions.”

The top Russian diplomat made the remarks after the US embassy announced that it was suspending all “non-immigrant visa operations” in Russia as of August 23 and that it would also cancel all scheduled appointments for visa applicants in retaliation for the Russia-imposed restrictions on its staff.

Lavrov further said Moscow would first examine the measures adopted by the US embassy in Russia before making a decision on retaliatory steps, promising not to direct its anger at ordinary Americans.

“As for our response, as I have already said, it is necessary to study in detail the decisions that the Americans have announced today. We will see,” he noted. “I can say only one thing – we won’t take it out on American citizens.” … Full article

Will Britain’s crackdown on internet trolls undermine freedom of speech?

RT | August 21, 2017

New measures designed to crack down on hate crime could have a “chilling effect” on freedom of speech, warn civil liberties campaigners.

Fresh guidelines issued on Monday by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would see online abuse treated with the same “robust and proactive” approach used to address offline offending.

However, in this attempt to protect users from abuse, the CPS risks undermining the fundamental right to freedom of expression, according to Open Rights Group Legal Director Myles Jackman.

“Some offenses employ highly subjective terms like ‘grossly offensive’ and ‘obscene’ which could have a severe chilling effect on the more unpalatable but legitimate areas of free speech, if interpreted strictly,” Jackman said.

The new measures, aimed at protecting people from online trolling, come as part of a bid to crack down on the “corrosive effect” of hate crime on British society. … continue

Beware the “The Cultural Civil War” Narrative: You’re Being Played

By Charles Hugh Smith | of two minds | August 21, 2017

There is always common ground for those who dare to seek it.

Remember the “Russians hacked our election!” hysteria–or have you already forgotten? That entire narrative collapsed under a deluge of factual evidence that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) data release was an insider job, and a compelling lack of evidence of any other Russian hacking.

That failed narrative has now been replaced with a new mass hysteria: “a new cultural Civil War is inevitable.” In this narrative, America has succumbed to us-versus-them divisions divided by all-or-nothing ideological bright lines.

Snap out of it, America: you’re being played, just as you were played by the absurd “Russia hacked the election” mania.

The core strategy here is the destruction of any common ground: once the delusion that there is no common ground left has been cemented by relentless mainstream and social media hysteria/ propaganda, the populace fragments into echo-chamber fiefdoms of ideological conformity that are easily manipulated by the political-financial power structure. … continue

The Lies on Afghanistan

By Matthew Hoh | CounterPunch | August 21, 2017

There has never been progress by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, unless you are asking the U.S. military contractors or the Afghan drug barons, of whom an extremely large share are our allies in the Afghan government, militias and security forces, there has only been suffering and destruction. American politicians, pundits and generals will speak about “progress” made by the 70,000 American troops put into Afghanistan by President Obama beginning in 2009, along with an additional 30,000 European troops and 100,000 private contractors, however the hard and awful true reality is that the war in Afghanistan has only escalated since 2009, never stabilizing or deescalating; the Taliban has increased in strength by tens of thousands, despite tens of thousands of casualties and prisoners; and American and Afghan casualties have continued to grow every year of the conflict, with U.S. casualties declining only when U.S. forces began to withdraw in mass numbers from parts of Afghanistan in 2011, while Afghan security forces and civilians have experienced record casualties every year since those numbers began to be kept by the UN. … continue

Should Anyone Believe U.S. State Department Promises on Syria?

By Sophie Mangal | Inside Syria Media Center | August 21, 2017

… After setting up the military bases in the northern part of Syria, Washington will unlikely hand over them to the Kurdish militia and moreover to the Syrian authorities. Most likely, even after theoretical victory over ISIS, the U.S. will reserve these areas as dividends for ‘fighting terrorism’.

Reserving vast territories in Syria, Washington will continue to wreak havoc and instability in the region by supporting the Kurds and attempting to dissect Syria and create several independent quasi-states on its territory.

The participation of Americans in military campaigns (Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan) shows us that if Washington comes into conflict it rarely leaves. But this pathological pattern can be broken in new geopolitical conditions. – Read full article

Why Damascus Claims on US, UK Supplies of Chemicals to Syria ‘Cannot Be Ignored’

Sputnik – August 21, 2107

Damascus has accused the US and Britain of supplying toxic materials to Syria. According to political analyst Vladimir Shapovalov, the allegations are very serious and should be investigated.

The claims that the United States and United Kingdom supplied militant groups in Syria with toxic agents could be verified by a UN mission, said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Earlier this week, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused the US and the UK of supplying toxic agents to terrorists based on evidence found in Aleppo and a Damascus suburb.

These allegations are putting Washington and London in a situation where they cannot refuse an international probe into the matter, according to Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Center for Historical and Political Studies at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute.

“Russia’s stance in this situation is absolutely reasonable. Moreover, I think that the US and Britain should endorse it. If Washington and London block such an investigation the international community may have the impression that the two countries are responsible [for the deliveries of toxic agents to Syria] and trying to hide the facts,” Shapovalov told Radio Sputnik. … continue

Not a game: ‘Even computer simulation of war with N.Korea is provocation’

RT | August 21, 2017

The upcoming exercise is mostly based on computer simulations, involving 40,000 military personnel from the US and South Korea, as well as other nations, including the UK and Australia, says Gregory Elich of the Korea Policy Institute.

North Korea is on edge as the US-South Korea annual military exercises prepare to kick off on Monday. Pyongyang has said the exercises, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, demonstrate the “most explicit expression of hostility” by outside foreign powers and may “evolve into actual fighting.”

The US maintains the games are solely defensive.

RT:  How provocative, do you think, are the military exercises being conducted by the US and South Korea?

Gregory Elich: It is definitely provocative. I don’t think it is quite as provocative as the military exercises the US conducts in February – March, called ‘Foal Eagle,’ which are large-scale and involve military hardware. The particular exercise coming up is substantially computer simulation. They do involve about 30, 000 military personnel from the US and South Korea, as well as some other nations, including the UK and Australia. These are mainly computer-based simulations, rather than physical exercises. However, what are they simulating? They are simulating a war with North Korea. So that is a provocative step in itself, and right on North Korea’s doorstep.

RT:  So an angry reaction from North Korea. How might it respond once the war games start?

GE: They’ve already sent one response. The Korean central news agency quoted Rodong Sinmun newspaper as saying they will conduct ‘merciless strikes’ if the US shows any signs of conducting a preemptive war. Of course, this is reported in the US media as North Korea threatening ‘merciless strikes.’ They left out that ‘if’ part of that statement. So it is a way of implanting a false narrative in people’s consciousness that North Korea is threatening a unilateral war. So North Korea is going to be probably on high alert through these exercises. But again there is a very low probability of a military conflict as a result of these exercises. It is more of a way of sending North Korea the message that the US is not open to dialogue… And North Korea does want dialogue. During a conference on August 6, the North Korean foreign minister approached the Japanese foreign minister and said North Korea is interested in dialogue with the US. He asked the Japanese minister to act as a go-between. That proposal went nowhere. Pyongyang also said that it would not abandon its nuclear program unless the United States drops its hostile policy. So there is an open door for policy if the US chooses it. – Full article

US guided-missile destroyer collides with merchant ship off Singapore

RT | August 21, 2017

A US guided-missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, has “sustained damaged” after collision with a merchant vessel while on a routine port visit to Singapore, the US Navy has said.

“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” the US Navy said, noting that the incident happened while “the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.”

The US warship reportedly hit AN Alnic MC vessel. A Search-and-rescue mission was under way, the navy added.

Admiral John Michael Richardson, who currently serves as the 31st Chief of Naval Operations, said the Navy’s top priority was “determining the safety of the ship and crew,” promising to share more details of the incident when it becomes available. … Full article

European Floods and Fake Science

By Euan Mearns | Energy Matters | August 20, 2017

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago targeting the BBC for biased reporting on energy and climate issues. It was never published because in writing it I realised that the the problem did not necessarily lie with the BBC but with the climate science fraternity. Another alarmist article appeared in Blowout last week covered by the BBC with the headline “Climate change has shifted the timing of European floods” accompanied by a picture of an Alpine village being swept away. The article in question (Blöschl et al [1] published in Science) does not contain any actual data on European floods. The ten year average of peak annual river flow is used instead which is a meaningless proxy for actual flooding. The authors fail to make an empirical connection between trends in peak annual flow and trends in actual flooding which is a basic scientific error.

The FT also picked up this story citing implications for hydroelectric power and insurers which may well be used as an excuse to raise premiums, yet again. The scientific article in question was published in Science and I decided to have a closer look.

The BBC headline:

In different parts of Europe, rivers are flooding earlier or later because of rising temperatures, say scientists.

And Blöschl et al say in the abstract:

Warmer temperatures have led to earlier spring snowmelt floods throughout northeastern Europe; delayed winter storms associated with polar warming have led to later winter floods around the North Sea and some sectors of the Mediterranean coast […]

When I set out to write a critique on the Blöschl et al paper I thought it would take me a few hours. Instead it has taken me a few days. The paper has 35 authors from 35 different institutions from 35 different European countries. This is commercial and political science on a grand scale.

An academic reviewer would unlikely spend more than a couple of hours on the job, and confronted with 35 leading experts in the field would unlikely choose to be overly critical. Likewise the journal editor.

I have to admit that I feel rather uneasy challenging this work when there are 35 experts ranged against me. But three points appear to be quite clear:

  • No evidence is presented to link the observed trends to Manmade global warming
  • No data on actual flooding is presented
  • No empirical link is made between 10 year averaged mean maximum annual flow (which is measured) and actual flooding events

Furthermore, the fact that some rivers may flood two or three times in a year, and then not flood again for a decade or more is missed by the Blöschl et al approach. And flooding tends to be linked to extreme weather events that may not follow average trends.

The BBC report was written by environment correspondent Matt McGrath who has faithfully reported what Blöschl et al have said. Should we expect McGrath to dig deeper? Of course not. It is not his job to challenge the veracity of science published in top journals.

I view work such as this and many other studies like it as the subversion of science. This I believe is the result of policy driven research conducted by large well-funded international groups. Were Blöschl et al ever going to conclude that they could not find any links between climate change and flooding in Europe? – Full article

Israeli forces shoot and kill 17-year old Palestinian in northern West Bank

IMEMC News – August 20, 2017

A 17-year old Palestinian boy identified as Qoteiba Yousef Zahran from Illar village in the Tulkarem district was killed Saturday at the Za’tara checkpoint by Israeli border control officers.

Israeli authorities claimed that the boy tried to carry out a stabbing attack against the soldiers stationed at the checkpoint, and published a picture of a dull kitchen knife lying on the ground. The picture of the knife showed no blood, and the initial claim that a soldier was wounded by the boy was later rescinded.

A soldier was injured in the incident, but it was from the flurry of bullets fired by the Israeli guards toward the 17-year old, not from the boy himself. In their rush to shoot the boy dead, the guards ended up shooting one of their fellow border guards in the leg.

17-year old Qoteiba Zahran was initially listed as critically injured, but was left untreated at the scene, and died bleeding on the ground.

The soldier, who was mildly wounded by so-called ‘friendly fire’, was treated immediately by medics from the Magen David Adom medical service. The soldier was not identified, but Israeli officials said he was 18 years old. … Full article

Portuguese photographers pledge to boycott Israeli government, cultural institutions

Ma’an – August 20, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Over 40 Portuguese photographers, teachers of photography and photography students pledged on Saturday, which marked World Photography Day, not to accept professional invitations or financing from Israel, and to” refuse to collaborate with Israeli cultural institutions complicit in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid,” according to the official website of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to the statement from the BDS movement, the pledge was the “first of its kind,” as the photographers pledged to boycott Israel “until it complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians.” … continue

Israeli soldiers attacked by Israeli youth who ‘mistook’ the soldiers for Palestinians

Ma’an – August 20, 2017

BETHLEHEM -Two Israeli soldiers were attacked on Friday night in a public park in the town of Pardes Hanna-Karkur, south of Haifa in northern Israel, by a group of young Israelis who allegedly thought the soldiers were Palestinians, according to Israeli media.

Ynet news reported on Sunday that the two soldiers were sitting in the park with a young woman when they were attacked by the group of youth, who according to the soldiers, yelled “you are Arabs” at the soldiers, who were on vacation and presumably not in uniform.

The group of Israeli youth then attacked the soldiers with the end of a hookah pipe and other blunt objects.

Israeli news site Arutz Sheva reported that the soldiers were “lightly injured” and treated at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, while the father of one of the soldiers filed a complaint to the police. … continue

US Wages Cyberwar Abroad Under Cover of “Activism”

By Joseph Thomas – New Eastern Outlook – 20.08.2017

The threat of cyberterrorism has competed for centre stage in American politics with fears of “Russian hackers” disrupting everything from elections to electrical grids. And yet as US policymakers wield threats of cyberterrorism to promote a long and growing list of countermeasures and pretexts for expanding its conflict with Moscow, it is simultaneously promoting very real cyberterrorism globally.

Worst of all, it does so under the guise of “activism.”

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently published a paper titled, “Growing Cyber Activism in Thailand.”

In it, readers may have expected a detailed description of how independent local activists were using information technology to inform the public, communicate with policymakers and organise themselves more efficiently.

Instead, readers would find a list of US-funded fronts posing as “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs) engaged in subversion, including attacks carried out against Thai government websites aimed at crippling them, the dumping of private information of ordinary citizens online and coercing policymakers into adopting their foreign-funded and directed agenda. … continue

Left, You Have Been Duped

By Richard Hugus | August 20, 2017

On August 19, a week after a heavily publicized clash over a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, an estimated 8,000 people converged on Boston Common to protest a speaking event organized by a group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Movement. Who are the Boston Free Speech Movement and what do they stand for? We’ll never know because antifascists, leftists, anti-racists, and progressives of Boston prevented them from even speaking. Some might say this was a good thing — no one wants to hear from bigots (if that’s who they were) — but in fact the left in all its self-righteousness was duped into an assault on the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of free speech, for everyone. The left have been the pawns of much more powerful forces who, if they aren’t organizing these news events and provocations outright, are certainly happy to see precedents set for publicly shutting down free speech by the use of force. First it will be the speech of fascists, then it will be the speech of anybody the authorities don’t like, including leftists.

Suddenly we are being confronted with organizations who claim to know what is or is not appropriate for the rest of us to hear. Now that sides have been established — one which can decide what is and isn’t acceptable speech, and another which is forbidden to speak on pain of attack, all that remains is for the powerful to make sure their narrative is the one that’s allowed. Isn’t this fascism? Aren’t people who claim to be anti-fascist actually doing what classic fascists do?

It’s not a coincidence that just prior to these speaking events being shut down, Google, Inc. asserted its right to decide what is and is not a legitimate news source. … continue

Jews Under Attack By the Washington Post!

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | August 19, 2017

Hard as it may be to believe, Jews–specifically those who serve in the Trump administration–are under attack by the Washington Post.

Post pundit Dana Millbank has published an article accusing Jared Kushner, Steven Mnuchin, and Gary Cohn of “shame” and “disgrace” and of playing the role of “court Jews” in the White House.

“We have seen such a character before in Jewish history: the shtadlan,” says Millbank. “The shtadlan, or ‘court Jew,’ existed to please the king, to placate the king, to loan money to the king.

“He would dress like other members of the court, and he would beg the king for leniency toward the Jews, but, ultimately, his loyalty was to the king,” he added.

So what did Kushner, Mnuchin, and Cohn do that was so contemptible in Millbank’s opinion? They failed to denounce Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville events. Or as the Post writer puts it:

“The three men, the most prominent Jews in President Trump’s administration, could have spoken out to say that those who march with neo-Nazis are not ‘very fine people,’ as their boss claims. Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, and Cohn, the chief economic adviser, were actually standing with Trump when he said it. They said nothing.”

This is not just mild criticism of course. It is a vicious attack. The only mainstream media attacks more vicious than this are those aimed at Trump himself.

Millbank asserts that all three men have expressed privately to unnamed acquaintances that “they are disturbed and distressed by what Trump said,” yet lamentably “none is speaking publicly about an outrage that makes millions of Americans feel as though they are living a nightmare.”

And oh yes, Millbank lets it be known in the article that he is Jewish himself, which of course gives him license to say things about Jews that no Gentile writer would ever dare express. … Full article

Return of Damascus International Fair

Syria Times | August 18, 2017

DAMASCUS – The return of Damascus International Fair and the notable international turn out for the fair has a great meaning as it is a message declaring the end of war in Syria, the defeat of terrorism and the beginning of reconstruction, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, the Presidential Political and Media Advisor has underscored.

In an interview with “al-Mayadeen TV” at the Fair ground On Thursday, Shaaban said that Damascus International Fair and the Book Fair stress that a turning point was achieved. She said that she was optimistic that the determination, which the Syrians enjoy, will lead to a great political, economic development project of which generations will be proud.

Regarding the Lebanese ministers’ visit to Syria and their participation in the fair, Shaaban said that mutual visits must be a normal thing between the Syrians and the Lebanese, because the two countries are linked to each other by history, geography and common interests, stressing that it is normal to have strong and warm relations. … Full article

Several reported injured as rocket fire targets Syria’s 1st international fair since 2011

RT | August 20, 2017

Several people have reportedly been injured by rocket fire that targeted the entrance to the Damascus International Fair venue, where a high-profile business gathering is currently underway.

The news was broken on Sunday by Syrian state television, but no details were immediately reported.

The fair, which opened earlier on Thursday this week and is scheduled to last for 10 days, had been hosted by Syria since 1954 and was among the most prestigious business events in the Arab world before the armed conflict erupted in 2011. … Full article

Netanyahu to meet Putin amid Syrian army advances

Press TV | August 20, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday in the face of the Syrian army advances against militants, including those backed by Tel Aviv.

In a statement released on Saturday, Netanyahu’s office said the two sides would “discuss the latest developments in the region” during their meeting in the Black Sea resort.

The main issues that are expected to be raised at the meeting include Israel’s worries about a ceasefire agreement in Syria and a foothold which Tel Aviv thinks Iran is finding in the Arab country.

Last week, the Israeli premier claimed that Iran was increasing its presence in Syria as the Daesh terrorist group was being driven out of the country. … continue

UK to jail pro-Palestinian protesters

Press TV – August 20, 2017

A group of five pro-Palestinian activists in the UK face possible prison sentences after being arrested during protests outside an Israeli-owned weapons manufacturing company.

Charged with a breach of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Act, the protesters face at least six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000, the media reported Sunday.

They were arrested in July following a protest in the West Midlands town of Shenstone that forced the UAV Engines Ltd plant, a subsidiary of Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, to shut down all operations for two days.

The demonstration saw activists put small coffins outside the factory and lay down next to them to raise awareness about the Israeli regime’s record of killing Palestinian children over the years-long occupation of the country.

Palestine Action, the organization that helped organize the demonstration, said all of the accused would plead not guilty in the case.

“They [protesters] believe that the factory is complicit in illegal activity and that they were preventing a crime,” the group’s Birmingham and Manchester branches said in a statement. … continue