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Israel defends fake Lebanon military buildup map as Hezbollah’s ‘war crime illustration’

RT | December 10, 2016

czaou5zxaae89anA “declassified” map of an alleged Hezbollah military buildup in southern Lebanon shared by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been exposed by Twitter users as a fake, forcing the IDF to admit the picture was just a “visual illustration” of the militant group’s “war crimes.”

The map titled “Declassified map of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure in Lebanon” was posted on the official IDF Twitter account on Tuesday, highlighting 85 towns and villages in the southern part of the country.

Spots, showing civilian settlements were surrounded by numerous multicolored dots, labeled with names such as “weapon warehouse” or “rocket launcher” and other military facilities.

The tagline of the image said “Hezbollah’s hiding behind Lebanon’s civilians,” while the tweet’s caption was the simple and rather dramatic statement, “this is a war crime.”

Such a level of detail and awareness of alleged Hezbollah activities would be truly impressive, if the map had not turned out to be a fake. Some Twitter users pointed out that it was unlikely the image was a “declassified map,” since its history showed that it had been created using Google Maps via an IDF spokesperson account. The dots, marking the alleged “military buildup,” even featured a repetitive pattern.

IDF later said the map had been an “illustration,” and users simply misinterpreted it as a piece of declassified intelligence. The map’s title, tagline and caption were presumably “illustrative” too.

“The illustration reflects how Hezbollah has positioned its terrorist infrastructure within the civilian arena,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

The map, despite its ”illustrative” nature, has been shown to almost every foreign diplomat visiting Israel, to demonstrate that while Hezbollah participates in the Syrian civil war, it continues preparations for conflict with Israel and hides among civilians located near the border, according to a Channel 2 report. … continue

The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration

By Renee Parsons | CounterPunch | December 9, 2016

There is no doubt that the 2016 Presidential election may ultimately be declared the most divisive and the most problematic election in American history, indeed the beginning of an unwelcome but perhaps necessary watershed event.

As the 2016 election approached, the importance of the Electoral College was never an unknown obscurity of American politics. Everyone knew the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Certainly that fact should have been of uppermost importance in the HRC and Trump campaigns. As should be completely obvious, a campaign based on reaching that Electoral College number is a very different campaign than one conducted simply to achieve the highest total of popular votes. That is Lesson #1 in Elementary Presidential Campaign Organizing 101 but HRC never grasped that she could not manipulate the final result, whatever the outcome.

My first indication that there would be an ultra-upset with the results was a very late election evening call from an east coast Dem-Lib friend who had supported Bernie… continue

Pentagon to deploy 2,300 more US troops to Afghanistan

Press TV – December 9, 2016

The United States military says it will deploy an armor brigade and an aviation brigade totaling about 2,300 soldiers to Afghanistan this winter.

The Pentagon made the announcement in a statement released on Thursday, saying 1,500 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan this winter, in addition to another 800 troops that will be deployed in support of a training mission known as Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. … continue

Obama orders ‘full review’ of election hacks, results not to be made public

RT | December 9, 2016

President Obama has ordered US spy agencies to prepare “a full review” of election-linked cyberattacks, but the public may never see it. The report should be ready before Obama vacates office and it is likely to be disclosed only to “a range of stakeholders.”

“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process,” presidential aide Lisa Monaco told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. She said the review’s aim is “to capture lessons learned from that.”

“That’s going to be first and foremost a determination that’s made by the intelligence community,” she said.

Despite the headline-capturing hacking, which the US intelligence authorities blamed on Russia, the public may never have a chance to review the findings.

According to Monaco, the results will be only available “to a range of stakeholders to include Congress.” … continue

Ex-Trump adviser: Ukraine, Crimea coverage is example of ‘fake news’

RT | December 9, 2016

Carter Page, a businessman who advised Donald Trump on foreign policy matters during his presidential campaign, has arrived in Moscow to discuss strengthening business ties and normalizing relations between Russia and the United States.

Page, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday, said he would be in the city until December 13 to meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.” In an interview with RIA Novosti, Page said he believes it is extremely important to address the narratives that led to the sanctions stemming from the Ukraine crisis, and normalize relations between Russia and the West.

“The recent history of Ukraine in general and Crimea in particular over the past several years may be among the most egregious examples of ‘fake news’ in recent memory,” he told RIA Novosti.

“The level of misinformation which has guided related decisions by outside actors and their impact on this country is tragic. I am confident that there will be new possibilities to resolve these misperceptions and the wrong direction it has created for Ukraine.” … continue

Amid crackdown on Palestinian activism, Israel renews detention of Palestinian journalist

383525cOther Palestinian journalists and media workers are also being held in administrative detention

Ma’an – December 9, 2016

BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities Thursday renewed the administrative detention order of Palestinian journalist, human rights activist, and the media coordinator of prisoners rights group Addameer Hasan Safadi for an additional six months.

According Addameer, Israeli forces initially detained Safadi as he crossed the Allenby bridge between the occupied West Bank and Jordan at the start of May, keeping him under Israeli military interrogation for forty days before sentencing him to six months of administrative detention — the controversial Israeli policy of internment without trial or charge. … Full article

Hundreds of torture complaints against Shin Bet, no investigations

MEMO | December 9, 2016

Hundreds of complaints of torture against Shin Bet agents have produced not a single criminal investigation, according to a report in Haaretz.

Of the 598 complaints filed between 2001 and 2008, every single case was closed by the Israeli authorities without a criminal investigation.

A department within the Ministry of Justice, Mivtan, is responsible for handling such complaints, yet employs just one investigator.

According to Haaretz, “the unit does not interfere with the Shin Bet’s work, even though complainants have reported harsh and prohibited forms of torture – including severe beatings and extensive sleep deprivation.”

The paper adds that while “Mivtan does not reveal how many complaints it receives, only how many inquiries it conducts; however, attorney Efrat Bergman-Sapir of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel said her organisation had submitted more than 1,000 complaints since 2001.”

US to sell $7bn worth of military aircraft, missiles to four Arab states

Press TV – December 9, 2016

dd4efbe2-9027-409f-8876-36cf71a6f953The Pentagon has given the go-ahead for the sale of $7 billion worth of military aircraft and missiles to four Arab states, the bulk of which is to head to Saudi Arabia.

It announced the approval on Thursday of a $3.51-billion contract to sell 48 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters with spare engines and machineguns to the kingdom.

Another deal envisages the transfer of $3.5-billion in 27 AH-64E Apache helicopter gunships and support equipment to the United Arab Emirates. […]

Also on the list of US arms recipients as per the recently-announced contracts are Qatar, which has requested eight C-17 military cargo jets and spare engines in a pair of contracts totaling $781 million, and Morocco, which is slated to take delivery of 1,200 TOW 2A anti-tank missiles for $108 million. – Full article

Saudi rocket, aerial attacks against Yemen kill seven, injure 11

Press TV – December 9, 2016

Saudi rocket and aerial attacks have reportedly killed seven civilians and injured 11 others in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada.

Rocket attacks by Saudi forces against the city of Haydan in the Telan district of Sa’ada on Friday killed five residents and wounded eight more, local al-Masirah TV network reported.

Saudi airstrikes also targeted the al-Nazir region of the city of Razeh in the same province, leaving two residents killed and three more wounded.

Saudi Arabian warplanes also bombarded the regions of al-Mandaba, al-Thu’ban and al-Baha in Sa’ada Province as well as al-Hoban district in Ta’izz Province. However, no casualty figures were reported from those strikes.

A Saudi drone separately crashed in the al-Qavia region of the country’s Jizan Province.

Yemeni army and Popular Committees staged retaliatory attacks against Saudi military positions in Asir, Jizan and Najran provinces of Saudi Arabia, killing 10 Saudi troops. … Full article

Syria Ready to Resume intra-Syrian Dialogue without External Interference or Preconditions: Foreign Ministry

Al-Manar | December 9, 2016

The Syrian Arab Republic is ready for resuming the intra-Syrian dialogue without external interference or preconditions, an official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said Friday in response to the statements of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in New York.

De Mistura did not set a date for the resumption of this dialogue since it was stopped last May, the source said in a statement to SANA.

Terrorists blocking civilians from leaving Aleppo: UN

Press TV – December 9, 2016

The UN human rights office says foreign-backed militants are blocking civilians from fleeing eastern parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo to the government-held sector.

“Some of the civilians who are attempting to flee are reportedly being blocked by armed opposition groups,” rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

The statement came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Syrian government troops suspended their active operations in Aleppo to allow the evacuation of civilians. … Full article

US-led Coalition’s Bombing of Raqqa Leaves 20 Syrian Civilians Dead – Reports

Sputnik – 09.12.2016

Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported that as a result of the US-led coalition bombing of Raqqa, 20 civilians were killed. According to SANA, the US-led coalition attacked residential areas in the north of the Raqqa province on Thursday, leaving dozens killed and injured.

“A new attack launched by the US-led coalition on residential areas in the northern Raqqa province on Thursday caused a massacre, leaving dozens of civilians dead or injured,” the news agency reported.

The bombing took place in al-Msheirfeh near the city of Raqqa. The civilian death toll is expected to rise as many people are in critical condition, SANA reported.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned coalition’s airstrikes in Raqqa on December 7 that left 18 civilians dead. Moscow stated that it is hard to understand statements about “errors” and “negligence” from those whose military operation in Syria had not been requested by the country’s legitimate authorities.

To err is Human, to Intervene and Destroy is Policy

By Salman Rafi Sheikh | New Eastern Outlook | 09.12.2016

The nature of international politics is often considered to be such that it continuously defies clear and absolute judgement; however, notwithstanding the complexity of inter-state relations, very often we come across such instances where understanding of the policy of a state, or of an alliance, does not defy understanding and judgement. From the very beginning of the crisis, it has been absolutely clear that the US and its allies are pursuing a regime-change policy in Syria—a policy that not only is still valid but also continues to define their strategy. Materialization of this objective pits the US against Syria and its allies and engages both parties in war—and in war soldiers are killed. Therefore, the US clarification about striking Syrian soldiers due to the so-called “human error” is only an attempt on its part to mystify the actual nature of its objectives in Syria. Nothing else can better explain the strike that killed around 80 soldiers than the fundamental reason for the US’ military engagement in Syria i.e., execution of regime change policy in Syria.

While one strike in itself was, and always is, far from sufficient to achieve this objective, a strike, however, does convey to its targets and to those who observe it the objective being pursued. In this case, the immediate objective was to inflict heavy damage on the Syrian army and render it vulnerable to attacks by other, western supported, militant groups. The objective was, to an extent, achieved. This is evident from the developments taking place immediately after the US-led strike. A weakened Syrian army unit enabled an ISIS advance on a hill overlooking the air base, which was specifically targeted by the US-led coalition. While the objective of this co-ordinated operation was to quickly capture the base, it was thwarted by timely action on the part of Russian warplanes that were called in to hit ISIS positions. … continue

US trying to hinder Syria advances in Aleppo: Kevin Barrett

Press TV – December 9, 2016

Russia says Moscow and Washington are close to reaching an understanding over the crisis in Aleppo. The Western side is pushing for a ceasefire in eastern Aleppo just as Syrian troops are coming close to liberating the city.

Kevin Barrett, author and Middle East expert from Madison, told Press TV on Thursday night that the US-led front and media are waging a propaganda campaign to force Syria to stop retaking eastern Aleppo.

Barrett said since the United States needs to continue its proxy war in Syria, Washington resorts to any kind of tactics to impede the annihilation of the foreign-backed terrorists who are besieged in eastern Aleppo.

“These folks (the US and allies) who are dedicated to keeping this war going as long as possible and destroying Syria as long as possible find that very convenient to call for a ceasefire right at the moment that the [Syrian] government is taking the city,” he said.

Barrett said Syria’s “legitimate government has been targeted for overthrowing and regime change by a group of countries that created this horrific extremist ISIS-style mercenaries.”

“The US empire with its Zionist controllers are destroying Syria in an act of aggression,” he said, adding “the biggest winner of all of this destabilization of course is the expansionist [regime] in Tel Aviv.”

“This is an intentional destruction and destabilization of Syria along a kind of US imperial and Zionist doctrine that calls for the actual destruction and Balkanization of the Middle Eastern countries to make them more penetrable by the empire and to make them less of a potential long- and immediate-term threat to Israel,” Barrett added. … continue

Lavrov: US easing restrictions on arms to Syria won’t seriously affect situation in East Aleppo

RT | December 9, 2016

The US’ decision to ease restrictions on military aid for foreign forces and other fighters supporting the US in Syria is unlikely to affect the situation in eastern Aleppo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at an OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg.

“I don’t think this will significantly change the situation in eastern Aleppo, because the rebels are encircled and they are unlikely to receive reinforcing,” Lavrov said.

Russia is looking for a solution that involves as few casualties as possible, Lavrov said.

“I think everyone understands that the militants in east Aleppo are agonizing. We don’t want to support those who would gladly finish off those militants at any cost without any talks. We are ready to solve these problems in a way that would spare us additional casualties and destruction,” Lavrov explained.

On Thursday, the Syrian Army put its active combat operations in eastern Aleppo on hold to evacuate some 8,000 civilians, Lavrov said earlier.

“I didn’t say that the combat actions ended. I said they were suspended for a certain period so that civilians could leave the area… After the humanitarian pause, the military operation will continue until the militants leave eastern Aleppo,” Lavrov noted on Friday, when asked about Thursday’s statement.

On Friday, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria reported that, in the last 24 hours, 10,724 civilians have fled areas of eastern Aleppo controlled by the militants, including 4,015 children. Meanwhile, 30 militants surrendered and were granted amnesty. … Full article

Conflict instigators must foot humanitarian crises bills – Russian Emergencies Minister to UN

RT | December 9, 2016

The head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry has proposed a new economic model of humanitarian assistance and reparation payments to victims of war zones, recommending that initiators of conflict pay for the destruction and suffering caused by their policies.

“The Russian Federation proposes to build a new economic model of international humanitarian aid,” Vladimir Puchkov told the UN General Assembly in New York. The model is quite simple, according to Puchkov, who said that nations which initiate, incite and sponsor conflicts in other states should be “obliged to bear primary responsibility, including financial” for providing aid to refugees and persons internally displaced as a result. … continue

Big Media’s Contra-Cocaine Cover-up

Consortium News | December 9, 2016

Twelve years ago, a campaign of character assassination by the major U.S. newspapers drove an honest journalist to suicide. Now those papers claim to be paragons of truth-telling, says Robert Parry. – Read article

Disgraced ex-NBC ‘fake news’ journalist Brian Williams on crusade against false reporting

RT | December 9, 2016

Journalist Brian Williams has become the latest person to slam ‘fake news,’ claiming it influenced the US election. But there’s some irony in his apparent defense of quality journalism, as he was let go from his NBC gig last year for… reporting fake news.

“Fake news played a role in this election and continues to find a wide audience,” Williams said on MSNBC on Wednesday night.

He went on to mention retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn – President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser – for promoting links to fake news stories on his Twitter account. … continue

NYT Recasts EPA Pick from Fossil Fuel ‘Ally’ to Climate ‘Dissenter’ to ‘Denialist’ in 24 Hours

By Ashley Ray Goldenberg | mrctv | December 8, 2016

In the span of a few hours, the New York Times changed its characterization of President-elect Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency pick from a fossil fuel “ally,” to a “climate change dissenter,” and then a “climate change denialist.”

An archive of New York Times reporter Coral Davenport’s original story on Scott Pruitt, dated Dec. 7 and timestamped 20:47:29 UTC, describes Pruitt in the headline as an “Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry”.

The headline of the article as it appeared at 00:46:58 UTC on Dec. 8, however, calls Pruitt a “Climate Change Dissenter”.

The most recent version of the article, which is currently still live on the New York Times website, calls Pruitt a “Climate Change Denialist”.

According to the timestamps from archives, the article’s title went through three revisions in the span of five hours. The edits came as Eric Lipton was added to the byline.

It’s not just the headlines of the articles that changed. The description of Pruitt and his ideology became more sensationalist and editorialized between the first version of the article and its subsequent revisions.

The lede in the original article claims Trump picking Pruitt is “signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change.”

However, in the two subsequent versions of the article, the authors write Trump’s choice of Pruitt is “signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change — and much of the E.P.A. itself.”

After describing Trump’s position on climate change, the new versions of the article added, “Mr. Pruitt has been in lock step with those views.”

The new versions of the article refer to a piece Pruitt wrote for National Review about how “dissent is not a crime,” which appear to earn Pruitt the titles of “dissenter” and “denialist”:

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.” … Full article

Clinton to Congress: Take action against ‘epidemic of fake news’

Press TV – December 9, 2016

Defeated US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called on Congress to take action against the “epidemic of malicious fake news” that she said represents a “danger” to the “lives of ordinary people.”

“Let me just mention briefly one threat in particular that should concern all Americans,” Clinton said on Thursday speaking at a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, honoring retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. “Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike — especially those who serve in our Congress.”

“The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year — it’s now clear the so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” she added. … continue

NYT, WaPo Fake News Still Bringing Real Guns to Iraq, Killing Thousands

By Robert Barsocchini | Blacklisted News | December 8, 2016

Fake news propagated by the US government and collaborating organizations such as the New York Times and Washington Post helped create an environment in which the US was able to illegally invade Iraq in 2003, killing at least one million and possibly upwards of two million people, including the deaths of some 4,500 US soldiers, according to a meta-study by Nobel-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Just this November, nearly 6,000 people were killed in Iraq thanks to the conflicts that are still raging due to the invasion (which is ongoing), and it was not an atypical month – even more were killed in October.

Regarding the fake news that laid the groundwork for the US war of aggression, award-winning journalist Robert Parry notes that, for example, Judith Miller of NYT and Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt “repeatedly stated the ‘fact’ of Iraq’s hidden WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the ‘group think.’”

Parry also traces the use of fake news by these outlets and the government to the present, raising interesting legal questions about whether and how the individuals who perpetrate fake news should be punished, and to what extent they are protected by the US first amendment.

Trevor Timm of The Atlantic cites a Supreme Court decision which ruled that speech is protected unless it “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action”. … continue

2017 NDAA ups aid to Ukraine, gives arms to Syrian rebels & lets Trump sanction the world

RT | December 8, 2016

Congress has authorized $618.7 billion for the 2017 military budget. The bill ups aid to Ukraine by $50 million and allows the transfer of missiles to Syrian rebels. However, it omits controversial provisions about drafting women or religious exemptions for contractors.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in the Senate on Thursday with 92 votes in favor and seven opposing. It already cleared the House last Friday in a 375-34 vote. … continue

Obama grants waiver for military support of foreign fighters in Syria – White House

RT | December 8, 2016

President Barack Obama has ordered a waiver of restrictions on military aid for foreign forces in Syria, deeming it “essential to the national security interests” of the US to allow exceptions from provisions in the four-decades-old Arms Export Control Act.

A White House press release Thursday announced that foreign fighters in Syria supporting US special operations “to combat terrorism in Syria” would be excused from restrictions on military assistance.

“I hereby determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing U.S. military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States,” President Obama affirmed in the presidential determination and waiver. … Full article

Rasmea Odeh’s new trial is a ‘game changer’

By Yasmeen Abdellatif | Palestine In America | December 7, 2016

Federal Judge Gershwin Drain, of the Eastern District of Michigan, ruled on Dec. 6 that Rasmea Odeh will be granted a new trial.

The decision came just a week after the judge canceled Odeh’s Daubert hearing, which is a hearing used to challenge the validity and admissibility of expert testimony.

Muhammad Sankari of the Rasmea Defense Committee explained that the committee is elated by the news of a new trial, but they also know that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Odeh was convicted of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization in 2014 for not disclosing on an application for citizenship that she had been arrested by Israeli authorities in Palestine. Last year, Odeh was sentenced to 18 months in prison. … continue

Israeli police say singing event was organized to ‘sympathize with terrorists’

Ma’an – December 8, 2016

407309cJERUSALEM – Israeli forces raided the Palestinian National Theatre in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah Thursday evening, preventing organizers from holding an event titled “Sing with Us” for allegedly being organized by the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in order to “sympathize with terrorists.”

Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli special forces, police, and intelligence raided the theater, also known as al-Hakawati Theater, during the event, which was organized by the Milad Fund for University Education.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy signed an order on Thursday “to prevent holding a conference for the terrorist PFLP group,” citing Article 9 of the newly minted anti-terrorism law of 2016 — that members of Israel’s parliament have referred to as “draconian and unacceptable.”

“The chief’s decision was made after receiving intelligence information that the aforementioned terrorist group plans to hold a conference in order to sympathize with terrorists and other issues,” al-Samri’s statement continued… continue

Israeli police raid media center, detain Palestinian journalist

Palestine Information Center – December 8, 2016

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli Special Forces stormed the headquarters of a Palestinian media center in occupied Jerusalem Thursday afternoon and arrested a female journalist.

Speaking to Quds Press, the journalist Yasmin Adila affirmed that Israeli Special Forces stormed and violently searched the headquarters of Ilia media center.

Three lap tops and important office documents were confiscated during the raid, she added.

Israeli forces also arrested the female journalist Lama Ghusha and took her to a nearby investigation center.

Two Palestinians killed in Gaza lifeline tunnel collapse

Press TV – December 8, 2016

Two members of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, have been killed and three gone missing, after a lifeline tunnel collapsed in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s armed wing, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, on Thursday named the two killed as Rami Muneer al-Arier and Ismail Abdul Kareem Shamali, saying they lost their lives “following the collapse of a resistance tunnel.”

At least five people were in the tunnel when it collapsed. A source close to the Brigades said efforts were underway to find and rescue the other three.
File Photo shows the two Palestinians who were killed in a Gaza tunnel collapse on December 8, 2016.

The population in Gaza relies on underground routes to bring in basic commodities.

The development comes as Israeli and the Egyptian army forces have launched a campaign to destroy the tunnels. … Full article

Israeli wildfires expose Netanyahu’s burning hatred

By Yvonne Ridley | MEMO | December 8, 2016

photo%252020140904103634As wildfires tore through large swathes of the land a week or so ago, some Israeli politicians used the disaster as an opportunity to fan the flames of hatred against Palestinians by calling it a “fire intifada”. Foreign firefighters from many countries came to Israel’s assistance, but it seems that those politicians had different priorities; they rushed to judgement in newspaper columns and appeared to show scant concern for the tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

This was a time for politicians to demonstrate leadership and calm the people; to reassure the wider world that everything was being done to protect and save life. Legend has it that the reckless Roman emperor Nero fiddled as a blaze raged through ancient Rome for seven nights in 64 AD; while Benjamin Netanyahu picked up neither lyre nor violin, he did seize the moment to orchestrate a burning campaign of hatred against the Palestinians.

Never one to miss such an opportunity, the Israeli prime minister blamed “terror” as courageous firefighters from Italy, Croatia, Russia, Cyprus, Turkey and even the neighbouring Palestinian Authority risked their lives to help their exhausted Israeli colleagues. Words of support instead of hateful rhetoric should have been the order of the day, but from Netanyahu there was very little.

Now, though, as Israelis are beginning to count the true cost of the forest fires, the words and motives of Netanyahu and his cabal are being scrutinised more closely. … continue

Israel rejects, Abbas embraces France conference

Press TV – December 8, 2016

Israel has rejected outright a French proposal for a multilateral conference aimed at reviving talks with the Palestinians, who have welcomed the prospect.

France had gathered world’s foreign ministers in June to discuss the potential relaunch of the process in the absence of Israelis and Palestinians. This time, it has been pushing to hold a conference with their inclusion that would be followed by a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, however, asserted on Wednesday that he would only meet with Abbas if Paris abandoned the initiative for the conference.

“Netanyahu told [French President Francois] Hollande that if there will not be an international conference in Paris, he will come to meet Abu Mazen (Abbas) for direct talks without preconditions,” the Israeli premier said in a statement.

“Israel will not participate in an international conference that will not contribute to achieving peace,” it added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, however, said, “We are determined more than ever to do everything to implement our initiative. The sooner the better.”

Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the Palestinians welcomed “any French effort to salvage the faltering political process.”

Previous talks between the two sides have invariably foundered on Israel’s insistence on expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Netanyahu’s hardline Likud party has, meanwhile, forwarded a hugely-controversial proposed legislation to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that would legalize some 4,000 settler units built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank upon ratification by the lawmakers. … Full article

UN resolution demanding that Israel rescind its Golan annexation decision

Inside Syria Media Center | December 8, 2016

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) reiterated its demand that Israel comply with the Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution no. 497 for 1981 which declared Israel’s decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws and jurisdiction on the Syrian Golan as “null and void and without international legal effect”.

004During a session on Tuesday, the UNGA adopted a resolution titled “Occupied Syrian Golan” after it was endorsed by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (the Fourth Committee).

The resolution was adopted with 163 in favor out of 193 countries, 1 against (Israel), and a number of abstentions, including the US and Canada.

The resolution called upon Israel to rescind its decision of annexing the occupied Golan, and to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, as these measures are null and void, asserting that all relevant provisions of the Regulations annexed to the Hague Convention of 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, continued to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

It also called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on Syrian citizens and to stop its provocative measures against them.

The resolution called upon the UN member states to not recognize the Israeli measures and procedures adopted in the occupied Syrian Golan as they constitute a breach of the international law.

Syrian Army suspends active military operation in Aleppo – Russian FM

RT | December 8, 2016

Syrian government forces have suspended “active military activities” against militants in eastern Aleppo to enable the withdrawal of civilians from the city, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced while speaking in Hamburg, Germany.

Lavrov was speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of a meeting of ministers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The Russian foreign minister also urged the UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to “stop sabotaging” the Geneva Syria peace talks.

Speaking to reporters, he also expressed hope that those responsible for the recent attack on a Russian mobile hospital in western Aleppo will be brought to justice. The assault happened earlier this week and left two female paramedics dead and one chief pediatrician severely injured. … Full article

US Coalition Strikes Hospital Building in Mosul – Central Command

Sputnik – 08.12.2016

The US-led coalition against Daesh carried out a requested strike by Iraqi forces on a hospital building in Mosul that was used by the terrorist group, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a report.

CENTCOM explained that on December 6, Iraqi Security Forces attempted to seize Daesh-used Al Salem hospital complex in Mosul that served as a base of operations and command and control headquarters for the terrorists.

“On Dec. 7th, after Iraqi forces continued to receive heavy and sustained machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from ISIL [Islamic State] fighters in a building on the hospital complex, they requested immediate support from the Coalition,” the release said on Wednesday. “In support of the Iraqi Security Forces, Coalition aircraft conducted a precision strike on the location to target enemy fighters firing on Iraqi forces.”

The operation to liberate Mosul, which was occupied by Daesh in June 2014, has been ongoing since mid-October. The offensive is led by Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and is backed by the US-led coalition.

Philippines ‘will likely not allow US to launch South China Sea patrols from its territory’

Press TV – December 8, 2016

The Philippines says it is highly unlikely that it will continue to allow the US military to use the Southeast Asian country as a springboard for its so-called freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea.

Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana made the remarks on Thursday, suggesting that the US ships and aircraft could use bases in Guam — territory near the Philippines that is administered by the US — and the Japanese island of Okinawa, or its warplanes could be dispatched from aircraft carriers to conduct patrols in the contested waters.

Before incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in late June, some US aircraft and ships used to stop in the Philippines on their way to patrols in the disputed South China Sea, where China has large-scale territorial claims. The patrols are meant to signal to China that the US does not recognize the Chinese claims.

China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, which is also partially contested by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

The US’s military presence in the region — halfway around the world — has also led to worries of an increasing risk of accidental collisions that could spark a consequential wider conflict.

Washington presumes it would be limiting China’s maritime influence in the sea by invoking “freedom of navigation” rights. Furthermore, the US has been taking sides with several of China’s neighboring countries in their territorial disputes in the busy sea, in which five trillion dollars in ship-borne trade [almost all Chinese] passes annually.

China has, in response, accused Washington of meddling in regional issues and deliberately escalating the situation in the region. … Full article

German lawmaker warns Facebook to censor “hate speech” or face consequences

By Alex Christoforou | The Duran | December 8, 2016

The German neo-liberal class of lawmakers continue to push the “hate speech” agenda, which is really just the beginning of the German government (and eventually the entire European Union) censoring speech that they deem inappropriate in terms of their world view and agenda.

Who defines what “hate speech” is? Where does hate speech end, and full on government censorship begin? German lawmakers could never answer these questions, nor do they want to. They simply want to get the ball rolling on curbing dissenting voices, so as to have complete control of the media and social narrative.

Expecting Facebook to be judge, jury and executioner when defining “hate speech” is unrealistic, and sets a very dangerous precedent. It is also intrinsically anti-internet. The web was founded on freedom of expression. Germany lawmakers wish to break a core function of what makes the internet work.

Speaking at a party conference of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Volker Kauder suggested German politicians were running out of patience with efforts by social media companies to censor hate speech. … continue

Twitter and Facebook Censorship and Mainstream Media Denial

By Craig Murray | December 8, 2016

I had never heard of ghost banning until I was ghost banned by twitter. That of course is the idea – they censor you without you realising that you are censored. People no longer get notifications when I post, and the tweet only turns up in the twitter line of followers who happen to be logged in at the time my tweet goes out. Those logging in later will no longer see tweets I issued while they were away. Most of my tweets no longer show up on twitter searches, and further restrictions are applied when people retweet my tweets.

Since ghost banning, traffic to my website from twitter has fallen 90%.

As twitter do not inform you that you have been ghost banned, it is hard to know exactly what prompted it, but I believe it immediately followed this tweet… continue

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter Become the Gatekeepers

By Phil Butler – New Eastern Outlook – 08.12.2016

News that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will collaborate to censor their definition of terrorism on their collective networks signals Orwellian times to come. New EU legislation, hints at McCarthyism in America and Europe, and the proven collusion in between Silicon Valley and governments should signal a counter-revolution. Here’s a look at why.

A couple of years ago my colleagues and I helped uncovered a Ukraine “kill list” supported by NATO, the British Embassy in Ukraine, and by neo-Nazis bent on condemning pro-Russians in the Ukraine civil war. The so-called “Peacekeeper” movement was traced to NATO servers in 2015. Since that time we have all witnessed a dizzying barrage of lies, propaganda, and a controlled message of unprecedented scale. WikiLeaks revelations from the Clinton and Podesta files showed the world the depth of collusion, graft, and draconian measures on behalf of the elites in control of western society. Google and the others as tools of the security machine cannot be controverted. And now the same people who tried to buy the presidency of the United States, who fueled the Arab Spring, ISIL, the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, and endless war, they’re out to close the gates on a billion free people. Twitter’s blog post from yesterday gives us the underpublicized announcement. … continue

Journalism Fail: Washington Post Story on ‘Fake News’ Was Fake

Sputnik – 08.12.2016

Following public backlash, legal threats, and sustained mocking, the Washington Post has added an editor’s note distancing the newspaper from a shadowy website called PropOrNot which they had preciously endorsed as “experts” on “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.”

In an ironically fake news article about “fake news” by Craig Timberg the Washington Post claimed that Russian propaganda helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election. A large part of the basis for the piece was centered on evidence the paper presented that was gleaned from an aggressively anonymous website called PropOrNot, which lists over 200 websites that they accuse of peddling what they call Russian propaganda, and other false narratives. Popular news websites on all sides of the political spectrum are listed, including The Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, TruthOut, Sputnik News, and WikiLeaks.

The Washington Post has now added the following editor’s note to the article… continue

Witch Hunt: “Fake News” Software Touted by CBS News

Creator Admits He Made Up Who Went on Hit List

Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism | December 7, 2016

One of most pernicious means underway to crush independent news sites is the release of software tools that brand them as unreliable. This means that hidden developers and the parties that fed them information are beyond any accountability, yet would serve as censors.

Last week, the Financial Times described efforts to use software to designate certain sites as suspect … continue

What The Weather Channel Doesn’t Want You To Know About Glaciers

Weather Channel deliberately misleading Americans

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | December 7, 2016

At the bottom of that rather flawed article from the Weather Channel is a series of photos of glaciers, all designed to suggest that they have been melting rapidly… continue

Steve McIntyre’s comment to Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, on climate “experts”

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | December 6, 2016

Dilbert creator, Scott Adams wrote a post on his blog yesterday that is well worth reading in entirety: The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science

Adams notes:

It seems to me that a majority of experts could be wrong whenever you have a pattern that looks like this:

1. A theory has been “adjusted” in the past to maintain the conclusion even though the data has changed. For example, “Global warming” evolved to “climate change” because the models didn’t show universal warming.

2. Prediction models are complicated. When things are complicated you have more room for error. Climate science models are complicated.

3. The models require human judgement to decide how variables should be treated. This allows humans to “tune” the output to a desired end. This is the case with climate science models.

4. There is a severe social or economic penalty for having the “wrong” opinion in the field. As I already said, I agree with the consensus of climate scientists because saying otherwise in public would be social and career suicide for me even as a cartoonist. Imagine how much worse the pressure would be if science was my career.

5. There are so many variables that can be measured – and so many that can be ignored – that you can produce any result you want by choosing what to measure and what to ignore. Our measurement sensors do not cover all locations on earth, from the upper atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean, so we have the option to use the measurements that fit our predictions while discounting the rest.

6. The argument from the other side looks disturbingly credible.

One of the things that always fascinated me about jury trials is that attorneys from both sides can sound so convincing even though the evidence points in only one direction. A defendant is either guilty or innocent, but good lawyers can make you see it either way. Climate science is similar. I’ve seen airtight arguments that say climate science is solid and true, and I’ve seen equally credible-looking arguments that say it is bunk. From my non-scientist perspective, I can’t tell the difference. Both sides look convincing to me. … continue

Sanctions Used More Frequently For Political Purposes in Competition – Putin

Sputnik – 07.12.2016

Sanctions and economic pressure are increasingly frequently being used for political purposes in competition, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday at a meeting of the country’s Security Council.

“We need to also think about all threats we will talk about today… Competition for markets, technologies, capitals is increasing with each year. Economic restrictions, pressure, sanctions are more and more often used for political purposes… in competitive struggle,” Putin said.

Palestinian economy suffers due to Israeli custom officer strike at Allenby crossing

Ma’an – December 7, 2016

BETHLEHEM – The fragile Palestinian economy suffered serious losses in the past three weeks as Israeli custom officials at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan launched a strike, forcing imports and exports to a near standstill in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Hebron Muhammad Ghazi al-Hirbawi told Ma’an that Israeli custom officials started the general strike 20 days ago to demand a salary increase for what they called a “risky job.”

The strike has had a disastrous effect on the Palestinian economy, al-Hirbawi said, saying that “several factories have suspended work, particularly plastic factories, due to lack of raw materials.”

Al-Hirbawi added that the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce has contacted both Palestinian and Israeli officials to try and work out a solution to an issue that has “exhausted the Palestinian economy.” […]

About 150 truckloads of goods used to cross the Allenby Bridge into the West Bank every day, al-Hirbawi explained, but since the strike only 10 truckloads have entered the West Bank. … Full article

Palestinian circus trainer held for almost one year without charge or trial

toulousesakha5Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – December 7, 2016

Palestinian circus trainer Mohammed Abu Sakha, 25, is approaching the one-year anniversary of his imprisonment in Israeli jails without charge or trial. Held under administrative detention since 14 December 2015 when he was seized by occupation forces as he traveled to work in Bir Zeit, he appealed his imprisonment to the Israeli Supreme Court after it was renewed arbitrarily in June 2016.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association lawyer Mahmoud Hassan represented Abu Sakha in a public hearing before the Supreme Court on 5 December, only to withdraw the petition after the court stated that the “secret file” – which has reportedly not been updated since December 2015 – indicates that Abu Sakha “poses a threat to the security of the state.”

Abu Sakha’s case has drawn widespread international attention and support; his work with the Palestinian Circus School is well-known around the world and he has participated in multiple tours along with the children with whom he works. He has been part of the Circus School since 2007. is six-month detention order was renewed in June for an additional six months, and will expire on 12 December. … Full article

Russia Awaits From Germany Specific Details on Arms Control Deal Initiative

Sputnik – 07.12.2016

MOSCOW – Russia expects from Germany specific details on an initiative on a new agreement on arms control in Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

“We expect from the German side the concretization of its initiative and formation of a concept of dialogue. The reaction to the initiative of NATO steps by whose efforts arms control dialogue was brought to a dead end and frozen is important. Russia is open for discussion of issues of international security on the basis of equality and mutual consideration of interests,” the statement read.

On Wednesday, 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will convene for its 23rd two-day Ministerial Council in Hamburg hosted by its current chair Germany. One of the topics that Germany has pushed for the broad discussions this week under the OSCE framework is new arms control agreement with Russia.

Iran takes fight to UN in strongly-worded letter as US extends sanctions

RT | December 7, 2016

Iran has lodged an official complaint with the UN over Washington’s extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, which Tehran deems a “violation of US commitments” made last year.

In a strongly-worded letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Ambassador Gholamali Khoshrou wrote: “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the recent US Congress approval on renewal of anti-Iran sanctions as blatant contradiction to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and violation of the US commitments under the nuclear agreement.”

5847d7a5c4618872648b4602The US Congress voted to extend the sanctions by 10 years.

According to Iran state news agency IRNA, Khoshrou then reminded the UN chief of the commitments the US made last year under the nuclear deal established under the ISA and the JCPOA, while urging the UN chief to note the alleged violation in his upcoming report to the UNSC. He also stressed that the US will be to blame for any consequences resulting from the extension.

The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) was first adopted in 1996 to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, which Washington feared were aimed at creating an atomic weapon, in return for lifting Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The Act itself is largely symbolic, and bears no direct relation to last year’s deal between Tehran and the 5+1 powers. However, its extension could give the Trump Administration the tools it will need to prolong the existing sanctions, or even change the terms of the JCPOA altogether. Iran has always denied that it is, or has ever, tried to develop nuclear weapons.

Outgoing President Barack Obama is yet to sign the extension into law. … Full article

Obama ‘Involved US in Four Ongoing Wars’

Sputnik – 07.12.2016

Barack Obama was elected on a promise to limit America’s engagement in overseas conflicts, but the nation is currently involved in several ongoing wars, including crises in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan, not to mention covert military operations elsewhere, Dr. Gregory Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs, told Radio Sputnik.

“President Obama has involved the United States in four ongoing wars as he leaves office,” he said, referring to the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. The analyst then mentioned that Afghanistan should also be on that list. “These are actual conflicts that the US continues to be involved in not to mention the ‘light’ stuff they are doing in Somalia and the like. … They all show no signs of abating.”

This comes in sharp contrast to Obama’s campaign promises.

The outgoing president “came into office with two wars winding down and saying he was going to get out of them,” Copley added. “I think [Obama] is interested in passing the buck for some of this to the next administration and trying to keep the next administration [involved in] conflicts which are on his personal agenda.”

Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association, expects the Trump team to be more reserved when it comes to foreign policy. “In the Trump administration you will see a far more cautious approach to interventionism around the world than what we have seen under the Obama administration. President-elect Trump understands that his overriding goal is to rebuild the US economy and start rebuilding US prestige internationally. That means not getting engaged in situations which are ongoing processes without results,” he said.

In Copley’s opinion, Trump favors a goal-oriented foreign policy.

“We saw that with the recent very careful maneuver which he conducted with China,” the analyst said, referring to a telephone conversation between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. … Full article w/audio

Trump vows to end overseas ‘intervention & chaos,’ rebuild ‘depleted’ US military

RT | December 7, 2016

Donald Trump has laid out a military policy which he says is aimed at ending “intervention and chaos” overseas. He promised to build up the “depleted” military, but said it would be done with prevention in mind, rather than aggression.

Speaking at the latest stop on his “thank you” tour of swing states, President-elect Donald Trump told a crowd in Fayetteville, North Carolina that he wants to “strengthen old friendships and seek out new friendships,” stressing that the US will “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”

“We don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that we shouldn’t be fighting in. It’s not going to be depleted any longer,” he said during the Tuesday event.

He spoke of the need to spend money “on ourselves” rather than continuing to run up an extremely costly tab in the Middle East.

“We’ve spent, at last count, $6 trillion in the Middle East, and our roads have potholes all over, our highways are falling apart, our bridges are falling, our tunnels are no good, our airports are horrible like third world countries,” Trump said. … Full article

UK PM vows deeper military ties with Persian Gulf allies

Press TV – December 7, 2016

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for deeper military cooperation with members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council.

Addressing the GCC’s annual summit in the Bahraini capital Manama on Wednesday, May said Britain planned to invest more than $3.7 billion in the region over the next decade.

“As part of the renewed relationship that I want to forge with you, the United Kingdom will make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the [Persian] Gulf,” she told leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“Gulf security is our security,” she said. “In challenging times you turn to your oldest and most dependable friends.” … Full article

UK think tank covertly funded by Bahrain royal family – leaked papers

RT | December 7, 2016

The International Institute of Strategic Studies, an influential UK diplomacy and security think tank run by prominent military, political, and business figures, has received over $38mn in secret donations from Bahrain.

Bahrain, a former British colony and oil-rich Arab country which accommodates the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, had secretly donated more than $38 million (£30 million) to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), a reputed UK think tank which positions itself as a leading global military and security research consultancy, according to human rights group Bahrain Watch.

The donations, which the IISS received over the course of five years, were said to form around a quarter of the think tank’s budget, or over $7.6 million (£6 million) per year, Bahrain Watch said citing confidential documents it obtained in cooperation with the Guardian. … continue

US Policymakers Propose Working Closer with ISIS’ Sponsors

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 07.12.2016

US-based corporate-financier funded policy think tank, the Brookings Institution, published a particularly incoherent piece titled, “Should we work with the devil we know against the Islamic State?” The piece’s author, a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, Daniel Byman, claims (emphasis added):

Saudi Arabia has proven a major source of terrorist recruits and financing, while the Syria-Turkey border was a major crossing point for Islamic State recruits. Both countries [Saudi Arabia and Turkey] still have much to do, but that’s the point—if the Trump administration alienates them, the Islamic State problem will get much worse. With the United States on the other side in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia might send anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian rebels and otherwise escalate the fighting in ways dangerous for international terrorism—actions that, so far, the United States has helped reduce.

In essence, Byman is admitting what the rest of the world already long ago concluded – the vast fighting capacity the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) possesses is not only a result of immense state sponsorship, it is sponsored by two of America’s closest allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and NATO-member Turkey. … continue