919: We Kill

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 55m
April 9th, 2017
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Executive Producers: Patrick Seymour

Associate Executive Producers: Christopher Dechter Sir Not-Appearing-on-This-Podcast, Sir Roger Boots

Cover Artist: WakWak

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Planet Maynard wins podcast award! - Planet Maynard
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:17
Planet Maynard wins podcast award!Planet Maynard wins the Cast Away Australian Podcast Award on Saturday night for Comedy & Entertainment, surprising his parents, his neighbour and his agent.
Saturday night the ''who's who'' of ''who's that?'' in the Australian podcasting scene turned out for the inaugural Cast Away Australian Podcast Awards, after welcoming a large group of podcasters on the mini red carpet Maynard thanked the holy trinity in his acceptance speech, Adam Curry, Tim Ferguson & John C Dvorak (the Holy Ghost).
The other shortlisted podcasts in the category The Ginni Show & We Facted Up were strong competition as they seem to know what they are doing.
Maynard's acceptance speech went something like this:
I never thought I'd be accepting an award from an ABC employee.
ABC management told me my podcasts were ''over produced and self indulgent''. Have you heard the 702 Drive show?
I'd like to thank the Holy Trinity; Adam Curry, Tim Ferguson and the Holy Ghost, John C Dvorak.
The Ginni Show and We Facted Up are both really good shows which makes this award even more surprising.
Thanks also to The Skeptic Zone, What Double J Should Sound Like, my Patreon supporters & Byson & Hume for keeping Planet Maynard's lights on.
We all know why we podcast. Bicurious males and chicks dig podcasters.
My advice for podcasters everywhere? Two things, never throw away your archives, ever. And always try to enter an Awards show the first year it's held.
Full list of finalists and winners so you can have your own awards night
Syria
NYT Retreats on 2013 Syria-Sarin Claims '' Consortiumnews
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 22:29
Exclusive: Even as The New York Times leads the charge against the Syrian government for this week's alleged chemical attack, it is quietly retreating on its earlier certainty about the 2013 Syria-sarin case, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
The New York Times, which has never heard an allegation against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it hasn't immediately believed, has compiled a list of his alleged atrocities with a surprising omission: the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus.
A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.
Why this omission is so surprising is that the sarin incident was the moment when the Western media and the Washington establishment piled on President Barack Obama for not enforcing his ''red line'' by launching military strikes against the Syrian government to retaliate for Assad ''gassing his own people.''
The retaliation, which would have pummeled the Syrian military, was hotly desired by neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who were obsessed with achieving another Mideast ''regime change'' even if that risked turning Syria over to Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State. The story of Obama's supposed ''red line'' retreat has become a treasured groupthink of all the ''important people'' in D.C.
So, for the Times to compile a summary of alleged Assad atrocities, which included a separate section on ''chemical attacks,'' and to leave out the August 2013 case suggests that even The New York Times cannot sustain one of the most beloved myths of the Syrian war, that Assad was at fault for the sarin attack.
Previously, the Times backed away from one of its front-page reports '' published about a month after the sarin attack '' that used a ''vector analysis'' to place the site of the sarin missile launch at a Syrian military base about 9 kilometers from the two impact zones. That analysis was considered the slam-dunk proof of Assad's guilt, but it collapsed when it turned out that one of the missiles contained no sarin and the other rocket, which did have sarin, had a range of only about 2 kilometers, placing the likely firing location in rebel-controlled territory.
Hersh's Findings
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh further demolished the Assad-sarin myth in an article that traced the chemicals back to Turkish intelligence, but the mainstream U.S. media was so hostile to any dissenting view on the Assad-did-it groupthink that Hersh had to publish his findings in the London Review of Books. Later, Turkish police and opposition officials corroborated much of Hersh's findings '' and I've been told that U.S. intelligence analysts now agree, at least generally, with Hersh's conclusions.
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh
But the Times never directly repudiated its earlier accusations against Assad's military, thus allowing the groupthink to be sustained that Assad was responsible for the 2013 attack. That history became important again on Tuesday when another incident '' also apparently involving sarin or a similar poison gas '' claimed lives in an Al Qaeda-dominated area of northern Syria.
The U.S. mainstream media (along with President Trump and his top aides) immediately blamed Assad again, with Trump and his team threatening to launch a retaliatory military strike even without the approval of the United Nations Security Council. The 2013 case loomed large in the background with Trump implicitly referencing Obama's presumed failure to enforce his ''red line.''
Prominent U.S. news personalities, such as MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, also have cited the old Assad-was-guilty-in-2013 conventional wisdom to buttress their new rush to judgment over the Tuesday incident. Indeed, the 2013 sarin case has become a perfect example of how the major U.S. media often jumps to conclusions and then refuses to back down regardless of the ensuing evidence.
But now we have the Times' list of alleged Assad atrocities, compiled by Russell Goldman, a senior staff editor on the International Desk, that doesn't allege that Assad or his forces were responsible for the 2013 sarin attack.
Goldman reports: ''In the latest attack on civilians, more than 100 people, including children, were believed to have been killed by chemical weapons in a rebel-held town in Idlib Province on Tuesday. A doctor there said the victims' pupils were reduced to pinhole-size dots, a characteristic of nerve agents and other banned toxic substances.
''The United States put the blame for the attack on the Syrian government and its patrons, Russia and Iran, and suggested that the salvo was a war crime. While the attack was among the deadliest uses of chemical weapons in Syria in years, it was far from an isolated case.
''During the war, the Assad government has been accused of regularly using chlorine gas, which is less deadly than the agent used on Tuesday and is legal in its commercial form. According to the Violations Documentation Center, an antigovernment watchdog, more than 1,100 Syrians have been killed in chemical weapons and gas attacks.''
The reference to the anti-Assad group's claim about the 1,100 Syrians allegedly killed by chemical weapons would presumably include the 2013 sarin incident, although local medical personnel put the death toll much lower, at perhaps several hundred. But note how the Times used a passive tense in describing those deaths '' ''more than 1,100 Syrians have been killed'' '' without attribution of who did the killing.
And nothing specific at all about the 2013 sarin case and who was responsible.
The Chlorine Cases
The chlorine-gas cases have resulted in only a few fatalities, which also undercuts the claims that the Assad government was responsible for them. Why would Assad risk more outside military intervention against his government by using a chemical weapon that has almost no military value, at least as allegedly deployed in Syria?
The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21, 2013 Sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base.
U.N. investigators '' under intense pressure from the West to find something that could be pinned on Assad '' agreed to blame him for a couple of the chlorine allegations coming from rebel forces and their civilian allies. But the U.N. team did not inspect the sites directly, relying instead of the testimony of Assad's enemies.
In one of the chlorine cases, however, Syrian eyewitnesses came forward to testify that the rebels had staged the alleged attack so it could be blamed on the government. In that incident, the U.N. team reached no conclusion as to what had really happened, but neither did the investigators '' now alerted to the rebels' tactic of staging chemical attacks '' apply any additional skepticism to the other cases.
In one case, the rebels and their supporters also claimed to know that an alleged ''barrel bomb'' contained a canister of chlorine because of the sound that it made while descending. There was no explanation for how that sort of detection was even possible.
Yet, despite the flaws in the rebels' chlorine claims '' and the collapse of the 2013 sarin case '' the Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets report the chlorine allegations as flat-fact, without reference to sourcing from the U.N. investigators whose careers largely depended on them coming up with conclusions that pleased the majority of the five-member Security Council '' the U.S., Great Britain and France.
If this fuller history were understood, much greater skepticism would be warranted by the new allegations about Assad ordering a new sarin attack. While it's conceivable that Assad's military is guilty '' although why Assad would take this risk at this moment is hard to fathom '' it's also conceivable that Al Qaeda's jihadists '' finding themselves facing impending defeat '' chose to stage a sarin attack even if that meant killing some innocent civilians.
Al Qaeda's goal would be to draw in the U.S. or Israeli military against the Syrian government, creating space for a jihadist counteroffensive. And, as we should all recall, it's not as if Al Qaeda hasn't killed many innocent civilians before.
[For more on the mysterious 2013 sarin case, see a memo from U.S. intelligence veterans, ''A Call for Proof on Syrian-Sarin Attack.'']
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
H. R. McMaster Manipulating Intelligence Reports to Trump, Wants 150,000 Ground Soldiers in Syria
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:41
Current National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond ''H. R.'' McMaster is manipulating intelligence reports given to President Donald Trump, Cernovich Media can now report. McMaster is plotting how to sell a massive ground war in Syria to President Trump with the help of disgraced former CIA director and convicted criminal David Petraeus, who mishandled classified information by sharing documents with his mistress.
As NSA, McMaster's job is to synthesize intellience reports from all other agencies. President Trump is being given an inaccurate picture of the situation in Syria, as McMaster is seeking to involve the U.S. in a full scale war in Syria.
The McMaster-Petraeus plan calls for 150,000 American ground troops in Syria.
Many special operations veterans including General Joseph Votel have raised serious concerns about McMaster's plans for Syria.
Sources also suggest that McMaster is sharing classified information with Petraeus, whose security clearance was revoked.
Petraeus' influence in the NSC remains strong.McMaster was called Petraeus' golden child by some commenters, noting the strong influence Petraeus had over McMaster. Petraeus was considered for the position of NSA, but withdrew his name from consideration once McMaster's name was included on the short-list. McMaster's appointment allowed Petraeus to maintain control over the NSC without bringing his considerable baggage to the position.
Derek Harvey, the top Middle East adviser in the NSC, has close ties with Petraeus and is close with McMaster. (Harvey reportedly faces a massive EEO complaint from subordinates, although that investigation remains open.)
Harvey and McMaster have been trying to subvert Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis and Dunford support working with our allies in the fight against ISIS. Harvey and McMaster are advocating for a massive American-only ground force.
Two men were standing in between another U.S.-led war in the Middle East'Š'--'ŠGeneral Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon.
Flynn was removed after Susan Rice unmasked classified information concerning him. Bannon's role within the White House was weakened by McMaster, who demanded Bannon be removed from his advisory position at NSC.
McMaster's friends in the media, as part of a broader strategy to increase McMaster's power, have claimed Jared Kushner and Bannon had a major falling out. In fact Kushner and Bannon are united in their opposition to McMaster's plan.
If McMaster and Petraeus have their way, America will find itself in another massive war in the Middle East.
'-- -
Mike Cernovich is the journalist who broke the Susan Rice unmasking story.
US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:47
US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 8, 2017, 7:28 PM (IDT)
New US air bases in Syria
Several US engineering teams are working round the clock to build a big new air base in northern Syria after completing the expansion of another four. They are all situated in the Syrian borderland with Iraq, debka file 's military forces report.
This was going on over the weekend as senators, news correspondents and commentators were outguessing each other over whether the US missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base Friday, in retaliation for the Assad regime's chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, was a one-off or the start of a new series.
As the White House parried those questions, the Trump administration was going full steam ahead on the massive project of preparing to pull US air force units out of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, in active American use since 2002. Those units were in the middle of a big moving job to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. Their hub is to be Tabqa, which is just 40km west of the Islamic State's Syrian capital, Raqqa. The other five are Hajar airport in the Rmelan region, two small air fields serving farm transport in Qamishli, which have been converted to military us; and a fifth in the Kurdish Kobani enclave north of Aleppo near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Tabqa is also becoming the main assembly-point for the joint US, Kurdish, tribal Arab force that is coming together in readiness for a major charge on Raqqa.
When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.
The site of the Tabqa air field was captured as recently as late March by the Syrian Democratic Force (Kurdish-Arab fighters) which were flown in and dropped there by the US Air Force's Air Mobility Command. It was quickly dubbed ''Incirlik 2'' or ''Qayyarah-2'' after the US command center running the Iraqi military offensive against ISIS in Mosul.
Tabqa is designed to accommodate the 2,500 US military personnel housed at Incirlik. Like the Americans, the German Bundeswehr is also on the point of quitting Incirlik and eying a number of new locations in Cyprus and Jordan. The Germans are pulling out over the crisis in their relations with Ankara. The Americans are quitting because President Donald Trump wants to chill US ties with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and cooperation with the Turkish army.
The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump's three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran's land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.
Seymour Hersh Says Hillary Approved Sending Libya's Sarin to Syrian Rebels
Thu, 06 Apr 2017 20:05
The great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in two previous articles in the London Review of Books ( Whose Sarin?>> and The Red Line and the Rat Line>>) has reported that the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria's Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria; and Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn't come from Assad's stockpiles. Hersh also said that a secret agreement in 2012 was reached between the Obama Administration and the leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, to set up a sarin gas attack and blame it on Assad so that the US could invade and overthrow Assad. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi's arsenals into Syria>>. Hersh didn't say whether these arms>> included the precursor chemicals for making sarin which were stockpiled in Libya, but there have been multiple independent reports that Libya's Gaddafi possessed such stockpiles, and also that the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a rat line>> for Gaddafi's captured weapons into Syria through Turkey. So, Hersh isn't the only reporter who has been covering this. Indeed, the investigative journalist Christoph Lehmann headlined on 7 October 2013, Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria>> and reported, on the basis of very different sources than Hersh used, that Evidence leads directly to the White House, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, CIA Director John Brennan, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar, and Saudi Arabia´s Interior Ministry>>. And, as if that weren't enough, even the definitive analysis of the evidence that was performed by two leading US analysts, the Lloyd-Postal report, concluded that, The US Government's Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT>>. Obama has clearly been lying.
However, now, for the first time, Hersh has implicated Hillary Clinton directly in this rat line>>. In an interview with Alternet.org, Hersh was asked about the then-US-Secretary-of-State's role in the Benghazi Libya US consulate's operation to collect weapons from Libyan stockpiles and send them through Turkey into Syria for a set-up sarin-gas attack, to be blamed on Assad in order to 'justify' the US invading Syria, as the US had invaded Libya to eliminate Gaddafi. Hersh said: That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody, who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there's no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel>>.
This was, in fact, the Syrian part of the State Department's Libyan operation, Obama's operation to set up an excuse for the US doing in Syria what they had already done in Libya.
The interviewer then asked: In the book [Hersh's The Killing of Osama bin Laden, just out] you quote a former intelligence official as saying that the White House rejected 35 target sets [for the planned US invasion of Syria] provided by the Joint Chiefs as being insufficiently painful to the Assad regime. (You note that the original targets included military sites only '' nothing by way of civilian infrastructure.) Later the White House proposed a target list that included civilian infrastructure. What would the toll to civilians have been if the White House's proposed strike had been carried out?>>
Hersh responded by saying that the US tradition in that regard has long been to ignore civilian casualties; i.e., collateral damage of US attacks is okay or even desired (so as to terrorize the population into surrender) '' not an 'issue', except, perhaps, for the PR people.
The interviewer asked why Obama is so obsessed to replace Assad in Syria, since The power vacuum that would ensue would open Syria up to all kinds of jihadi groups>> ; and Hersh replied that not only he, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nobody could figure out why>>. He said, Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period>>. This has actually been the case not only since the Party that Assad leads, the Ba'ath Party, was the subject of a shelved CIA coup-plot in 1957 to overthrow and replace it; but, actually, the CIA's first coup had been not just planned but was carried out in 1949 in Syria, overthrowing there a democratically elected leader, in order to enable a pipeline for the Sauds' oil to become built through Syria into the largest oil market, Europe; and, construction of the pipeline started the following year. But, there were then a succession of Syrian coups (domestic instead of by foreign powers '' 1954, 1963, 1966, and, finally, in 1970), concluding in the accession to power of Hafez al-Assad during the 1970 coup. And, the Sauds' long-planned Trans-Arabia Pipeline has still not been built. The Saudi royal family, who own the world's largest oil company, Aramco, don't want to wait any longer. Obama is the first US President to have seriously tried to carry out their long-desired regime change>> in Syria, so as to enable not only the Sauds' Trans-Arabian Pipeline to be built, but also to build through Syria the Qatar-Turkey Gas Pipeline that the Thani royal family (friends of the Sauds) who own Qatar want also to be built there. The US is allied with the Saud family (and with their friends, the royal families of Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman). Russia is allied with the leaders of Syria '' as Russia had earlier been allied with Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Hussein in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, and Yanukovych in Ukraine (all of whom except Syria's Ba'ath Party, the US has successfully overthrown).
Hersh was wrong to say that nobody could figure out why>> Obama is obsessed with overthrowing Assad and his Ba'ath Party, even if nobody that he spoke with was willing to say why. They have all been hired to do a job, which didn't change even when the Soviet Union ended and the Warsaw Pact was disbanded; and, anyone who has been at this job for as long as those people have, can pretty well figure out what the job actually is '' even if Hersh can't.
Hersh then said that Obama wanted to fill Syria with foreign jihadists to serve as the necessary ground forces for his planned aerial bombardment there, and, if you wanted to go there and fight there in 2011-2013, 'Go, go, go'... overthrow Bashar!' So, they actually pushed a lot of people [jihadists] to go. I don't think they were paying for them but they certainly gave visas>>.
However, it's not actually part of America's deal with its allies the fundamentalist-Sunni Arabic royal families and the fundamentalist Sunni Erdogan of Turkey, for the US to supply the salaries (to be paying for them>>, as Hersh put it there) to those fundamentalist Sunni jihadists '' that's instead the function of the Sauds and of their friends, the other Arab royals, and their friends, to do. (Those are the people who finance the terrorists to perpetrate attacks in the US, Europe, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, India, Nigeria, etc. '' i.e., anywhere except in their own countries.) And, Erdogan in Turkey mainly gives their jihadists just safe passage into Syria, and he takes part of the proceeds from the jihadists' sales of stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil. But, they all work together as a team (with the jihadists sometimes killing each other in the process '' that's even part of the plan) '' though each national leader has PR problems at home in order to fool his respective public into thinking that they're against terrorists, and that only the 'enemy' is to blame. (Meanwhile, the aristocrats who supply the salaries>> of the jihadists, walk off with all the money.)
This way, US oil and gas companies will refine, and pipeline into Europe, the Sauds' oil and the Thanis' gas, and not only will Russia's major oil-and-gas market become squeezed away by that, but Obama's economic sanctions against Russia, plus the yet-further isolation of Russia (as well as of China and the rest of the BRICS countries) by excluding them from Obama's three mega-trade-deals (TTIP, TPP & TISA), will place the US aristocracy firmly in control of the world, to dominate the 21st Century, as it has dominated ever since the end of WW II.
Then, came this question from Hersh: Why does America do what it does? Why do we not say to the Russians, Let's work together?>> His interviewer immediately seconded that by repeating it, So why don't we work closer with Russia? It seems so rational>>. Hersh replied simply: I don't know>>. He didn't venture so much as a guess '' not even an educated one. But, when journalists who are as knowledgeable as he, don't present some credible explanation, to challenge the obvious lies (which make no sense that accords with the blatantly contrary evidence those journalists know of against those lies) that come from people such as Barack Obama, aren't they thereby '' though passively '' participating in the fraud, instead of contradicting and challenging it? Or, is the underlying assumption, there: The general public is going to be as deeply immersed in the background information here as I am, so that they don't need me to bring it all together for them into a coherent (and fully documented) whole, which does make sense? Is that the underlying assumption? Because: if it is, it's false.
Hersh's journalism is among the best (after all: he went so far as to say, of Christopher Stephens, regarding Hillary Clinton, there's no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel>>), but it's certainly not good enough. However, it's too good to be published any longer in places like the New Yorker. And the reporting by Christof Lehmann was better, and it was issued even earlier than Hersh's; and it is good enough, because it named names, and it explained motivations, in an honest and forthright way, which is why Lehmann's piece was published only on a Montenegrin site, and only online, not in a Western print medium, such as the New Yorker. The sites that are owned by members of the Western aristocracy don't issue reports like that '' journalism that's good enough. They won't inform the public when a US Secretary of State, and her boss the US President, are the persons actually behind a sarin gas attack they're blaming on a foreign leader the US aristocrats and their allied foreign aristocrats are determined to topple and replace.
Is this really a democracy?
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Syrian rebels used Sarin nerve gas, not Assad's regime: U.N. official - Washington Times
Thu, 06 Apr 2017 22:07
Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said Monday.
Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were ''strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,'' that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.
But she said her panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons, according to the BBC, but she added that more investigation was needed.
PHOTOS: Say hello, Assad: See the Navy warships off the coast of Syria
Damascus has recently facing growing Western accusations that its forces used such weapons, which President Obama has described as crossing a red line. But Ms. del Ponte's remarks may serve to shift the focus of international concern.
Ms. del Ponte, who in 1999 was appointed to head the U.N. war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, has sometimes been a controversial figure. She was removed from her Rwanda post by the U.N. Security Council in 2003, but she continued as the chief prosecutor for the Yugoslav tribunal until 2008.
Ms. del Ponte, a former Swiss prosecutor and attorney general, told Swiss TV: ''Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals. According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.''
SEE ALSO: Syria to Secretary of State John Kerry: You're lying
She gave no further details, the BBC said.
The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established in August 2011 to examine alleged violations of human rights in the Syrian conflict which started in March that year.
It is due to issue its next report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.
Rebel Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad denied that rebels had use chemical weapons.
''In any case, we don't have the mechanism to launch these kinds of weapons, which would need missiles that can carry chemical warheads, and we in the FSA do not possess these kind of capabilities,'' Mr. Almokdad told CNN.
''More importantly, we do not aspire to have (chemical weapons) because we view our battle with the regime as a battle for the establishment of a free democratic state. '... We want to build a free democratic state that recognizes and abides by all international accords and agreements '-- and chemical and biological warfare is something forbidden legally and internationally.''
Russia warns of 'negative consequences' if U.S. targets Syria | Reuters
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 04:43
Thu Apr 6, 2017 | 8:50 PM EDT
UNITED NATIONS Russia's deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, warned on Thursday of "negative consequences" if the United States carries out military strikes on Syria over a deadly toxic gas attack.
"We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise," Safronkov told reporters when asked about possible U.S. strikes.
When asked what those negative consequences could be, he said: "Look at Iraq, look at Libya."
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sandra Maler)
Seymour M. Hersh · The Red Line and the Rat Line: Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels · LRB 17 April 2014
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 18:29
In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the 'red line' he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.[*] Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad's offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
Obama's change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn't match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army's chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn't hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria's infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.
For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria's neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. 'We knew there were some in the Turkish government,' a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, 'who believed they could get Assad's nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria '' and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.'
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration's public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page 'talking points' briefing for the DIA's deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was 'the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida's pre-9/11 effort'. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: 'Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW '... Al-Nusrah Front's relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group's CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.' The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: 'Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,' it said, 'were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.' (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: 'No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.')
Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey's ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered 'sarin' was merely 'anti-freeze'.
The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had 'self-identified' as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the 'ANF emir for military manufacturing'. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided 'price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors'. Abd-al-Ghani's plan was for two associates to 'perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria'. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the 'Baghdad chemical market', which 'has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004'.
A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN's activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN's activities said: 'Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.'
In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. 'Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,' the former Defense Department official said. 'One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks' '' he snapped his fingers '' 'it's no longer there.' The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.
The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president's red line: 'The joint chiefs asked the White House, ''What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?'' They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president's reasoning.'
In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, 'the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently ''painful'' to the Assad regime.' The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into 'a monster strike': two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. 'Every day the target list was getting longer,' the former intelligence official told me. 'The Pentagon planners said we can't use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria's missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we'll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.' The new target list was meant to 'completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had', the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.
Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron's bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force '' a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya '' was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; Fran§ois Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.
By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. 'H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,' the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.
At this stage, Obama's premise '' that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin '' was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: 'Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.' MI6 said that it doesn't comment on intelligence matters.)
The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was 'a good source '' someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy'. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies 'made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used '' and its source', the former intelligence official said. 'We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA's baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn't know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.'
The process hadn't worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence 'were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word ''sarin'' didn't come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president's red line.' By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, 'the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that ''sarin'' from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, ''It had to be Assad.'''
The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: 'We're being set up here.' (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: 'It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.') By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.
The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration's argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad's guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. 'There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,' the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that 'there's a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.'
Dempsey's initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria '' under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack '' would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout '' the story the press corps told '' was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he'd been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence 'that the Middle East would go up in smoke' if it was carried out.
The president's decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush's gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: 'When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways '' wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president's red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn't behind the attack.' The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, 'to talk through the options'. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn't asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.
Obama's move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. 'Congress was not going to let this go by,' the former intelligence official said. 'Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.' At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. 'And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.' At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: 'The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.' But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: 'Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week '... But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously.' As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn't change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. 'There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,' the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. 'They could not afford to say: ''We were wrong.''' (The DNI spokesperson said: 'The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.')
*
The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a 'rat line', a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: 'The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.')
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report's criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi's arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn't always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)
The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a 'finding', submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress '' the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.
The annex didn't tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. 'The consulate's only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,' the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. 'It had no real political role.'
Washington abruptly ended the CIA's role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. 'The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,' the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. 'The Obama administration,' Warrick wrote, 'has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.' Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels' possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.
By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. 'Erdoğan was pissed,' the former intelligence official said, 'and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.' In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government '' through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation '' was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. 'The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training '' including training in chemical warfare,' the former intelligence official said. 'Stepping up Turkey's role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics '' the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan's hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn't respond in March and April.'
There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad 'needs to go'. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, 'it is important for us to make sure that we're able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.' The red line was still intact.
An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks' insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey's foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.
The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: 'We know.' Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: 'We know.' At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, 'But your red line has been crossed!' and, the expert told me, 'Donilon said Erdoğan ''fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House''.' Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: 'We know what you're doing with the radicals in Syria.' (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn't respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn't respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. 'Beyond that,' she said, 'I'm not going to read out the details of their discussions.')
But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country's ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a 'golden loophole': gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.
The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. 'The middlemen did what they always do,' the former intelligence official said. 'Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.' The illicit skimming flared into a public 'gas for gold' scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.
Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but 'lobbied to make sure the legislation '... did not take effect for six months'. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to 'accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime'.
*
The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. 'One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,' the former intelligence official said. 'It can't come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can't come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon '' you can't be sure who you'd meet on the other side.' Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, 'Erdoğan's dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we're the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him '' where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.'
A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described 'the acute anxiety' of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels' dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed 'the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response'. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August 'sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.'
As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. 'We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan's people to push Obama over the red line,' the former intelligence official said. 'They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors' '' who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas '' 'were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey '' that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.' Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. 'Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.' Erdoğan's problems in Syria would soon be over: 'Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.'
The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. 'Nobody wants to talk about all this,' the former intelligence official told me. 'There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can't say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can't go back and blame Erdoğan.'
Turkey's willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan's spoke of creating a provocation: 'Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That's not a problem. Justification can be created.' The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.
Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey's meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. 'I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan's continued support for the rebels, especially now that it's going so wrong,' the former intelligence official told me. 'The answer was: ''We're screwed.'' We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They're a Nato ally. The Turks don't trust the West. They can't live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan's role with the gas, it'd be disastrous. The Turks would say: ''We hate you for telling us what we can and can't do.'''
4 April
WW3 - Russia says Trump plotted Syria missile strike BEFORE chemical hit | World | News | Express.co.uk
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:12
A staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said he regarded the US action as "aggression against a sovereign nation" on a "made-up pretext''.
And he savaged the ''cynical attempt'' to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq, according to spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Related articles World map: Where is Syria and why is there a war in Syria? Syria: Will Russia go to war with the USA over missile strikes? Just hours after the strikes, he announced the attacks had seriously damaged ties between Washington and Moscow - which a spokesman claims was already ''in tatters''.
Adding the missile strike broke international law, Russia's foreign ministry also said it was ''obvious'' that the US strikes had been prepared before the chemical attack.
REUTERS 'GETTY
Putin and Trump have clashed over the controversial missile strike REUTERS
Two US warships fired 59 cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea Two US warships fired 59 cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the Syrian airbase today following a poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday.
At least 70 people, many of them children, were killed in the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun - but the Syrian government has denied it was behind the atrocity.
Now the US has launched its toughest direct action so far during Syria's six-year-old civil war.
DONALD TRUMP ANNOUNCES SYRIA AIRSTRIKES - SPEECH IN FULL
Fri, April 7, 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against Syria in response to its chemical attack on its own civiliansGetty/Reuters
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Trump ordered a massive military strike against a Syria
Washington's step will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov
And the move has left Donald Trump facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since his inauguration, further heightening tension with Russia and Iran.
Announcing the attack, President Trump said: "Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.''
US officials said they informed Russian forces ahead of the missile attacks and took great pains to avoid hitting Russian troops at the base.
GETTY
Syria has been devastated by airstrikes GETTY
Two US warships fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syria airbase Related articles Russia THREATENED Donald Trump with 'negative consequences' How far is Cyprus from Syria? Is it still safe to travel to Cyprus? But Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has lashed out at the controversial decision - which Trump claims was in America's ''vital national security interest''.
Kremlin and pro-Kremlin lawmakers have since suggested the missile launch had dealt a significant blow to any hopes of doing business with Trump.
Mr Peskov said: ''Putin views the U.S. strikes on Syria as aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law and on a made-up up pretext.
"Washington's step will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties.''
REUTERS
US officials said they informed Russian forces ahead of the missile attacks He added Russia did not believe that Syria possessed chemical weapons and that the move would cause a serious obstacle to creating an international coalition to fight terrorism.
Russia is now expected to call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the matter.
Iran also denounced the "destructive and dangerous" strike, the Students News Agency ISNA quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
Mon, March 13, 2017 Devastating images show the horrifying aftermath from the on-going war in SyriaREUTERS
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Still image shows Russian Bastion coastal missile launchers launching Oniks missiles at unknown location in Syria
The spokesman added: ''Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes ... Such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria ... and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region.''
However Britain gave its backing to the military action in the beleaguered region.
A government spokesman said: ''The UK government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime and is intended to deter further attacks.''
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Lawmaker who met with Assad blasts Trump strikes | Fox News
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:13
A Hawaii congresswoman who took heat for a recent meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is blasting President Trump for taking military action in the war-torn country.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who met with Assad in January, slammed the president for the administration's decision to launch an attack of 60 Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian air base Sharyat on Thursday, in response to a chemical weapons attack.
''It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government'--this escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia'--which could lead to nuclear war,'' Gabbard said in a statement.
''This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning.''
Despite her harsh reaction to the administration's decision to take action in Syria, Gabbard said she would ''be the first'' to call for Assad to be executed if he was found guilty of ordering the chemical attack on civilians early this week, killing almost 80 Syrian men, women and children.
''If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court,'' Gabbard said.
Gabbard met with Assad in January on a seven-day trip to Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut. According to Gabbard's office, the trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee, as required by House rules, and was not taxpayer funded.
But Gabbard's decision to meet with Assad drew criticism from both sides of the aisle.
''An elected official, a representative of the United States, went on a secret trip to meet with the brutal dictator who had murdered nearly half a million of his own people'--it's reprehensible and cannot be justified,'' Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said in January. ''The actions of Congresswoman Gabbard have put our nation's reputation and foreign policy concerns at high risk and I couldn't be more disgusted.''
Meanwhile, Trump's strikes reportedly have angered some on the alt-right fringes. Richard Spencer, a far-right white nationalist who supported Trump's campaign, even hinted at supporting Gabbard as a 2020 candidate, according to The New York Times.
Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.
Doctor in Syria stood trial on terror offences | Daily Mail Online
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:56
A UK-trained doctor, who was hailed a hero for treating gas attack victims in Syria, stood trial on terror offences and allegedly belonged to the group that kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie.
At least 86 people, including 20 children, died in Tuesday's attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province. Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.
Dr Shajul Islam, from East London, published a video of the patients on his Twitter account after the attack. He said his hospital took care of three victims all with narrow, pinpoint pupils that did not respond to light.
The University of London graduate was arrested and charged with kidnapping two journalists - Mr Cantlie and Dutch reporter Jeroen Oerlemans - in 2012 but was released after the trial collapsed when neither of the prosecution's witnesses were able to give evidence.
Dr Islam, worked as a doctor at St Bart's hospital, is currently removed from the medical register after a fitness to practise hearing at the General Medical Council in March
A medical doctor going by the name of Dr. Shajul Islam on Twitter said his hospital in Idlib province received three victims, all with narrow, pinpoint pupils that did not respond to light
Dr Islam was accused of kidnapping Western journalists in Syria in 2012, but was cleared when the case collapsed
Dr Islam (pictured in a court sketch from 2012) stood trial on terror offences and allegedly belonged to the group that kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie
The University of London graduate was arrested and charged with kidnapping two journalists - Mr Cantlie (pictured) and Dutch reporter Jeroen Oerlemans - in 2012 but was released after the trial collapsed when neither of the prosecution's witnesses were able to give evidence
He has always protested his innocence, saying he went to Syria to use his medical skills to treat victims of the civil war.
Dr Islam, worked as a doctor at St Bart's hospital, is currently removed from the medical register after a fitness to practise hearing at the General Medical Council in March.
After the criminal case against him collapsed, and he was found not guilty, he faced close monitoring by the security services.
According to a GMC report, a secret tribunal panel heard the disciplinary case against Dr Islam in March this year and banned him for misconduct. The hearing was held in private so the details of the misconduct are not publicly known.
At the time of his 2012 prosecution Dr Islam, then 28, and a second man, Jubayer Chowdhury, then 24, were the only alleged British jihadists charged with kidnapping Westerners in Syria.
The pair '-- held in high security Belmarsh prison '-- walked free from court after all charges were dropped.
Cleared: The prosecution was forced to fold when their two key witnesses were unable to give evidence
At the start of the hearing in November 2013, prosecutor Mark Dennis QC told the court that all evidence against the brothers rested on the two victims, who were unable to be called, and therefore could not proceed with the case.
A verdict of not guilty was recorded for the charge of kidnapping.
Media reports later suggested Islam may have held the key to the then unknown identity of Jihadi John, who was later unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi.
In his YouTube video of the toxic attack on Tuesday, Dr Islam said: 'The patients keep just flooding in from this chemical attack,' he says in a Twitter video , purportedly taken inside a Syrian hospital this morning. 'Every one - every one - has got pinpoint pupils'.
'The patients keep coming, we've run out of ventilators,' the humanitarian aid added.
'We don't have enough ventilator space, so we're now taking out the transport ventilators we have in our ambulances and we're going to try to modify them to see if we can use them for our patients.'
Dr Islam said that it was 'definitely not a chlorine attack', suggesting that the more severe sarin was used.
Footage from his hospital shows adults and children lying on hospital beds unresponsive, as medics work to save their lives.
'I will show you the evidence again and again, but you know what? The world doesn't care and no-one is doing anything,' says Dr Islam.
'We urge you to put pressure on your government - put pressure on anyone - to help us.'
Dr Islam said that his hospital in Hama, which is a short drive away from Khan Sheikhoun, received several victims of a suspected sarin attack
Dr Islam said that it was 'definitely not a chlorine attack', suggesting that the more severe sarin was used. Footage from his hospital shows adults and children lying on hospital beds unresponsive, as medics work to save their lives.
Doctors at the facility were using basic equipment, and attempting to revive patients who were not breathing following the attack
Dr Islam, who trained in the UK and now works in northern Syria, said that seriously ill patients were still 'flooding' into his hospital
An AFP journalist in Khan Sheikhun saw a young girl, a woman and two elderly people dead at a hospital, with foam still visible around their mouths.
Doctors at the facility were using basic equipment, some not even wearing lab coats, and attempting to revive patients who were not breathing.
A father carried his dead little girl, her lips blueish and her dark curls visible, wrapped in a blue sheet.
As doctors worked, a warplane circled overhead, striking first near the facility and then hitting it twice, bringing rubble down on medics and patients.
In a video posted online by Idlib's local medical directorate, a doctor described patient symptoms as he treated a child.
'We are seeing unconsciousness, convulsions, pinpoint pupils, severe foaming, and lack of oxygen,' he said.
Dr Islam hit the headlines last summer, when he appeared in another YouTube video, filmed in Idlib, claiming to be providing medical help to the victims of Syrian and Russian airstrikes
The video for citizen journalist site On the Ground News, shows Islam wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope
Dr Islam hit the headlines last summer, when he appeared in another YouTube video, filmed in Idlib, claiming to be providing medical help to the victims of Syrian and Russian airstrikes.
The video for citizen journalist site On the Ground News, shows Islam wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope.
He tells American journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem that he is one of very few foreign doctors treating civilians injured in air strikes in north Syria.
Asked why he has come to Syria, Islam replies: 'I'm a doctor. There's a serious shortage of doctors.
'Anyone who is a doctor needs to be here. I don't understand why anyone who is sitting in England or Europe or America isn't here.'
Lame Cherry: The Smoking Gun in Syria was TURKISH TERRORIST WMD
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 23:05
As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
Cheri Berens who resides in Egypt is reporting that Syria attacked an al Qaeda landmine production shop which was placing poison chemicals inside the mines. The problem with Ms. Beren's site is she is even more toxic than I am in even a search for her content places her 12 links down even with a name, and it will not produce her story.
The point in this which matters, which is not going to Trumped away is we know for CERTAIN that Turkey has it's own terror group in Syria, separate from the John McCain terrorists who compete with the Syrian group and that Syrian group is AL QAEDA as was reported here days ago.
This is important, because Turkey was the one providing forensic evidence blaming Syria, and when I did an inquiry into the matrix, voila it was reported that it was Turkey who was providing these poison chemicals to their terrorists.
That is the real story behind this, and it is going to take some time as the propaganda steamroller, trolls, minders and MOGS are going full bore, while this little blog was in shut down in not being able to post, until someone sort of found away to post alerting the public what was taking place.
Once again this is a precarious situation this blog is in and thank you to those who have supported and not been dickweeds and asstards attacking me nor thinking this was all over when Trump was in the White House.
The fact is Russia knew that Turkey was dumping these poison bombs into Syria, but Russia needs Turkey, so it can not come out with the evidence, and America can not blame NATO Turkey, so the crooks there get away with their terrorism as John McCain now has President Trump advocating for ISIS terrorists.
Americans were promised a few months ago a comprehensive plan to destroy ISIS, and to stop regime change, and now fighting terrorism has stopped, and America is wasting a fortune on another failed attempt to remove President Assad.............
And now we have nuclear armed Russia responding and no longer trusting President Trump or Americans. For the asstards who do not understand this, this is serious as Russia and a hosts of others who have had enough of Yankee Run and Gun, are going to impede everything America is going to attempt.
Take a very long look at the above photo, and see how much pleasure this group has in getting aroused over bombing Syria.
The smoking gun in Syria is now proven, in it was Turkey's terrorists and Turkey was the source of the chemical weapons. When you get done cheering, you now have Russia shadowing US warships, Russia upgrading missile defense in Syria, Russia ceasing all cooperation with the United States and America with Europe being one event away from a nuclear war with Russia.
You just wait around until the Eurasians make you pay for Mr. Trump's Tomahawks and then figure out if there was anything to cheer about.
agtG
Was Trump's Syria Strike Illegal? Explaining Presidential War Powers - The New York Times
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 04:18
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, in a briefing with reporters, invoked Syria's violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a related Security Council resolution from 2013, saying, ''The use of prohibited chemical weapons, which violates a number of international norms and violates existing agreements, called for this type of a response, which is a kinetic military response.''
However, while the resolution said the Security Council would impose ''measures'' if anyone used chemical weapons in Syria in the future, it did not directly authorize force. The chemical weapons treaty does not provide an enforcement mechanism authorizing other parties to attack violators as punishment.
Mr. Trump's attack was different from the United States' bombings targeting the Islamic State in rebel-held areas of Syria. The United States has justified those airstrikes as part of the collective self-defense of Iraq, which asked for help against the group. But Syria did not use its chemical weapons against the United States or an ally like Iraq.
Could the strike be justified as a humanitarian intervention?Some human rights advocates have argued that customary international law, which develops from the practices of states, also permits using force to stop an atrocity. Others worry that accepting such a doctrine could create a loophole that would be subject to misuse, eroding important constraints on war. The United States has not taken the position that humanitarian interventions are lawful absent Security Council authorization.
Still, in 1999, the United States participated in NATO's air war to stop the Serbian ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosovo, even though the operation lacked a Security Council authorization. The Clinton administration never offered a clear explanation for why that operation complied with international law. Instead, it cited a list of ''factors'' '-- like the threat to peace and stability and the danger of a humanitarian disaster '-- without offering a theory for why those factors made that war lawful. In a seeming acknowledgment that this was dubious, the administration said the Kosovo intervention should not serve as a precedent.
Did Trump have domestic legal authority to attack Syria?The answer is murky because of a split between the apparent intent of the Constitution and how the country has been governed in practice. Most legal scholars agree that the founders wanted Congress to decide whether to go to war, except when the country is under an attack. But presidents of both parties have a long history of carrying out military operations without authorization from Congress, especially since the end of World War II, when the United States maintained a large standing army instead of demobilizing.
In the modern era, executive branch lawyers have argued that the president, as commander in chief, may use military force unilaterally if he decides a strike would be in the national interest, at least when its anticipated nature, scope and duration fall short of ''a 'war' in the constitutional sense,'' as a Clinton administration lawyer wrote in the context of a contemplated intervention in Haiti.
Video Trump's Syria Missile Strike: Here's What HappenedPresident Trump retaliated against the Assad government for a chemical attack in Syria that killed more than 80 civilians.
By ROBIN LINDSAY and DAVE HORN on Publish Date April 7, 2017. Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy. Watch in Times Video >>On Thursday, Mr. Trump said, ''It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.'' He also invoked the Syrian refugee crisis and continuing regional instability.
Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who led the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in the Bush administration, wrote that this criteria for what is sufficient to constitute a national interest was even thinner than previous precedents and would seemingly justify almost any unilateral use of force.
''The interests invoked '-- protecting regional security and in upholding or enforcing important treaty norms '-- will always be present when the president is considering military intervention,'' he wrote. ''Taken alone '-- and they are all we have here '-- these interests provide no practical limitation on presidential power.''
Did Trump violate the War Powers Resolution?In 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War, Congress tried to reclaim some of its eroding authority by enacting the War Powers Resolution, overriding President Richard M. Nixon's veto of the law. It says a president may only introduce forces into hostilities with congressional authorization or if the United States has been attacked. But, confusingly, it also requires presidents to terminate deployments after 60 days if they lack authorization, which could suggest that one-off strikes and brief operations are allowed. Presidents of both parties have acted beyond the statute's purported constraint about when they may launch an attack, seeing it as unconstitutionally narrow.
Just because other presidents have done it, does that make it legal?Congress has repeatedly acquiesced to unilateral military deployments by presidents, and courts have generally stayed out of disputes about them, creating an ambiguous situation that has fueled recurring debates.
On Thursday, after news broke of Mr. Trump's attack, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, wrote on Twitter, ''The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution.''
But earlier in the day, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, maintained on MSNBC that Mr. Trump would not need permission from Congress to strike Syria for using chemical weapons, citing as a precedent the Reagan administration's 1986 airstrikes against Libya after it was linked to the bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by American soldiers.
Notably, in 2013, when President Barack Obama appeared to be on the verge of striking Syria for using chemical weapons, Mr. Trump embraced Mr. Paul's view, writing on Twitter: ''What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.''
What did the Obama legal team think about the legality of a Syria strike?After Mr. Obama had warned Syria in 2012 that using chemical weapons in its civil war would cross a ''red line,'' his legal team produced an unsigned, 17-page memo that worked through whether he would have legal authority to strike if that happened. I described that still-secret memo in my 2015 book, ''Power Wars: Inside Obama's Post-9/11 Presidency.''
In the memo, the Obama legal team struggled to come up with a rationale for why a strike against Syria in such a circumstance would be lawful. It suggested pointing to Kosovo as a precedent and came up with potential ''factors'' to invoke, such as assessments that using force would prevent further use of chemical weapons against civilians and that not taking action would lead to ''unconscionable follow'‘on consequences.''
Still, while the legal team stopped short of saying it would be legally necessary, it urged Mr. Obama to seek authorization from Congress, a step he had not taken in 2011 before participating in NATO's air war over Libya.
When Syria did cross Mr. Obama's red line in 2013, the case his team had anticipated was weakened because NATO decided not to participate in any strike, as the earlier memo had assumed it would do. Still, Mr. Obama's legal teamsaid that a unilateral strike would be lawful.
In the end, Mr. Obama took its advice and asked Congress to authorize a punitive strike against Syria, even as he insisted that he had ''the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.'' Congress did not act on his request, and the immediate crisis was instead resolved without strikes after Russia brokered a deal in which Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and give up all its stockpiles '-- a pledge it apparently broke.
Follow Charlie Savage on Twitter @charlie_savage.
A version of this article appears in print on April 8, 2017, on Page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Was Missile Attack on Syria Illegal? Explaining Presidential War Powers.
Continue reading the main story
F-Russia
Panic Sparked Over Russian Navy Approaching U.S. Naval Vessels
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 15:59
first published on April 7, 2017 by Josh
It has been reported by both Fox News and Breitbart that U.S. Naval vessels are being threatened by Russian ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Is this worth worrying about?Last night the United States of America conducted a retaliatory attack against the Assad Regime in Syria by dropping 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles onto the Shayrat Airbase. It was reported that there were Russian Troops in an advise and assist role, similar to the exact role the American ground troops are playing for Syrian rebels, on the base. Of the three governments involved, two had mixed reports. The United States Defense Department released an official statement saying that they knew about the Russian troops and gave them ample warning to evacuate the area, while Russian state run television released a drastically different statement saying that the troops on the ground had no warning whatsoever.
Today, one day after the Tomahawk missiles were fired, the media is still in an uproar over all of the mixed signals. This prompted Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier to release a tweet saying that a Russian Warship entered the Mediterranean Sea, and was on a path directly towards the two American ships that launched last night's attack. The tweet was then reposted by Breitbart news with a headline that read Report: Russian Warship Heading for U.S. Navy Destroyers that Launched Syria Attack.
The obvious conclusion one would draw from this headline is that a Russian Warship was on a direct path to attempt to sink American ships in the Med. This however, could not be further than the truth, as the ship was already on a routine mission back into the Mediterranean after conducting a replenishment at sea.
From Russia's TASS news agency.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet's frigate The Admiral Grigorovich, currently on a routine voyage, is to enter the Mediterranean later on Friday, a military-diplomatic source in Moscow told TASS, adding that the ship would make a stop at the logistics base in Syria's port of Tartus.
''The Russian ship armed with cruise missiles Kalibr will visit the logistics base in Tartus, Syria,'' the source said.
The Admiral Grigorovich is currently near the Black Sea straits. It is scheduled to enter the Mediterranean at about 14:00 Moscow time. The ship left on a voyage after replenishing supplies at Novorossiisk and taking part in a joint exercise with Turkish ships in the Black Sea.
Which essentially means the ship is on a routine operation in the area, and would have been there regardless of last night's strike. There is no reason to believe that the Admiral Grigorovich is in anyway in the area because of the events prior to its arrival.
Always dig deeper when you are presented with these types of stories and headlines. Never stop at just the headline, and share it without getting further into the article. This type of misinformation media is one of the largest problems we face in this day and age.
Russia deploys warship to Mediterranean after US destroyers fired from sea on Syria | TheHill
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:48
Russia is deploying a missile-armed frigate to the Mediterranean Sea, where two U.S. destroyers fired missiles targeting a Syrian airbase Thursday night.
Russian news agency Tass reported Friday that the Admiral Grigorovich was heading to the Mediterranean on what it described as a ''routine voyage.''
Fox News, citing an unnamed U.S. defense official, reported Friday afternoon that the Russian ship had cross the Bosphorus Strait ''a few hours ago'' from the Black Sea and was heading toward the direction of the U.S. warships.
In a background briefing to reporters, a senior U.S. military official did not specifically address the warship, but said in general that ''there was no indication the Russians were changing their behavior toward the U.S. in response to the attack.''
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A spokesperson for U.S. European Command, under whose purview the Mediterranean falls, did not respond to a request for comment.Tass, citing a ''military-diplomatic source,'' said the Admiral Grigorovich would visit a Syrian logistics base.
''The Russian ship armed with cruise missiles Kalibr will visit the logistics base in Tartus, Syria," Tass quoted the source as saying.
On Thursday night, the USS Porter and the USS Ross launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean at a Syrian airfield. The bombing was in retaliation to a chemical attack that U.S. officials say was carried out by the Syrian administration of President Bashar Assad that killed more than 70 civilians, according to The New York Times.
Russia, a Syrian ally in its ongoing civil war, responded by condemning the bombing as an ''act of aggression.''
The Foreign Ministry also announced Russia's intent to suspend a communications line set up in order to avoid midair incidents between Russian and U.S. aircraft in Syria.
'-- Ellen Mitchell contributed.
Russian frigate heads to Mediterranean on Syria mission : source - Business Insider
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:48
The Russian Navy's frigate Admiral Grigorovich sails in the Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul Thomson Reuters
SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (Reuters) - The Russian frigate Admiral Grigorovich left the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on Monday for the Mediterranean where it will join the country's naval forces deployed near the Syrian coast, a Russian source told Reuters.
The source did not provide further details. A Reuters witness saw the ship leaving its moorings in the naval port of Sevastopol.
The frigate was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea last November as part of Russia's naval task force to Syria where it launched cruise missile strikes against Islamic State targets.
The Russian navy was not immediately available for comment.
The Admiral Grigorovich is the first in the class of six frigates commissioned by the Russian navy in 2010 for its Black Sea Fleet.
(Reporting by Moscow Newsroom; writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2017. Follow Reuters on Twitter.
Russia Threatened to Shut Down the "Deconfliction" Hotline. Here's Why That's Terrifying. | Mother Jones
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 16:09
Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Following the US attack on a Syrian airbase overnight, Russian officials expressed outrage. Russia, which is allied with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, denounced the missile strikes as a "violation of the norms of international law." Russia also took an even more ominous step, announcing that it would be shutting down the "deconfliction" hotline it shares with the United States.
The deconfliction hotline may sound obscure, but it's actually a key channel through which the two countries communicate about their military activities in Syria. The US and Russia are backing different sides in Syria's civil war; the US and its allies are attacking ISIS (and now Assad), while Russia is attacking Syrian rebels. This creates the potential for an unintended incident between US and Russian forces to escalate into a larger conflict between the two powers. The hotline helps prevent that from happening by allowing both sides to coordinate their planes in Syria's crowded airspace, avoiding collisions.
"This would have a very real impact on the US strategy against ISIS in Syria."
After the US missile strikes'--which President Donald Trump ordered in response to Assad's latest chemical weapons attack on civilians'--Russia declared that it was suspending the hotline. "While previous initiatives of this kind were presented as efforts to combat terrorism, now they are clearly an act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. Actions undertaken by the US today inflict further damage to the Russia-US relations," said a statement issued Friday morning by the Russian Foreign Ministry. "Russia suspends the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria signed with the US."
But on Friday afternoon, US military officials speaking anonymously to the Associated Press said that Russia and the US were still in regular communication. Referring to the deconfliction line, a senior official told reporters at the Pentagon that for now, it remained operational. "Our communication line is still open and they are answering on the other end," the official said, according to The Hill.
It is unclear what will happen with the hotline in the coming days. But experts says that if it does shut down, it could lead to heightened conflict between the US coalition and Russia.
"How this actually evolves remains to be seen, but the risks of escalation are pretty huge," said Olga Oliker, the director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That's especially true now that the US has positioned itself in direct opposition to Russia in Syria, says Oliker. Prior US airstrikes in the war-torn country had been directed at ISIS. But the latest US strike, which involved 59 cruise missiles fired at a Syrian airbase, was a direct attack on the Russia-backed Assad regime.
"When both sides were saying they were going after ISIS, deconfliction made it possible for them to collaborate. If you're on the same side, deconfliction also has that important purpose," Oliker says. "But if you're on opposite sides, then it prevents things from getting worse." (Russia initially claimed it was entering the Syrian conflict to fight terrorist groups; US officials have said the vast majority of Russia strikes have targeted moderate anti-Assad rebels rather than ISIS.)
In addition to the escalation issue, gutting the deconfliction agreement could hurt US efforts in Syria to target ISIS, a top goal of the Trump administration.
Having to operate with constant concerns about potential collisions or other run-ins with Russian forces would complicate US missions, says Nicholas Heras of the Center for New American Security.
"It boxes in the US ability to move against targets of opportunity," Heras said. "This would have a very real impact on the US strategy against ISIS in Syria."
Heras calls the US missile strikes a "red line" event that has created a "delicate dance" for the administration going forward as it tries to mount the counter-ISIS campaign that Trump has long prioritized.
"President Trump has said that the US wants to conduct a counter-ISIS campaign with Russian and Assad buy-in," Heras says. "So how do you send messages in one area of the country in the context of that civil war, while being allowed to have a relatively free hand in another part of the country that you've stated is your policy priority?"
Pentagon to investigate Russia's role in Syrian chemical attack - source
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 17:05
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A hazard sign at a site hit by an airstrike on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria. Source: Reuters
The U.S. Department of Defense is looking into whether Russia had any role to play in the recent chemical attack in Syria's Idlib, the Hill quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying.
The Russian and Syrian militaries have strongly denied their involvement in the attack.
"We have no knowledge of Russian involvement in this attack, but we will investigate any information that might lead us in that direction," the paper quoted a senior official as saying during a background briefing at the Pentagon. "We're not done."
He also said the U.S. had no information on who and why carried out a reported drone attack on a hospital where, according to The Hill, victims of the attack were being treated.
"We don't know why somebody or who struck that. We don't have positive accountability yet, but the fact that somebody would strike the hospital potentially to hide the evidence of a chemical attack, about five hours after, is a question that we're very interested in," the official said.
On April 4, Reuters cited the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that an airstrike on Syrian's town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the Idlib province, had killed 58 people, including 11 children. Reuters alleged that the chemical attack could have been carried out by "Syrian government or Russian jets."Russia's Defense Ministry later said that on April 4, the Syrian air force had delivered an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun to destroy militant facilities used to produce chemical bombs. These bombs were sent to Iraq and were also used in Aleppo.
Spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told the U.S. the entire international community had been involved in elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.
"Russia is related to it as much as, for example, the U.S.," she said in an interview with the Rossiya 1 television channel in a comment on the speech by the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, claiming Russia failed its obligations on elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. "Why control only from the Russian side? The entire world was involved in that work on chemical demilitarization of Syria, the work was based on a resolution of the UN Security Council."
Source: TASS
Caliphate!
During the police press briefing after the attack, the representative of the security police stated that they were well prepared, as they had trained for such an incident during the preceding week.
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 13:38
Truck is hijacked and driven into Stockholm department storeMan 'arrested and claims responsibility for attack'At least four dead and 15 injuredSwedish Prime Minister: Everything indicates this is terrorismCrash comes after trucks used in Nice and Berlin atrocitiesSuspect reported to be 39-year-old Uzbek father of fourHow a terrorist brought carnage to the streets of StockholmA suspected terrorist targeted young children as he drove a hijacked lorry into a crowded shopping street in Stockholm, witnesses claimed last night.
Infants' buggies were sent ''flying through the air'', one Swedish broadcaster reported, as the vehicle zigzagged along the pedestrianised Queen Street shopping district and embedded itself in the window of a department store.
''It swerved from side to side. It didn't look out of control, it was trying to hit people,'' a second witness, Glen Foran, an Australian tourist, told Reuters. ''It hit people, it was terrible. It hit a pram with a kid in it, demolished it.''
Swedish police said on Saturday morning that they believe a 39-year-old suspect was behind the truck attack which left four dead and 15 injured, but declined to comment on reports that the suspect was a father-of-four from Uzbekistan.
The unnamed suspect reportedly confessed to the attack after being detained in Marsta, which is around 25 miles north of the Swedish capital.
Some reports suggested he had previously posted jihadist propaganda on his Facebook page and had images of people injured in the explosion at the Boston marathon in April 2013.
P olice found explosives in the truck used in the attack in Stockholm, Swedish television said on Saturday citing multiple unnamed police sources.
E ight victims, including children, remain in hospital, according to Swedish media. Three of the victims died at the scene, a report said, while one died after arriving at the hospital.
Sweden's prime minister, Stefan L¶fven, said everything indicated the incident was terrorism.
It happened less than two weeks after the Westminster Bridge attack and stirred up memories of the attacks in Nice and Berlin where Islamist sympathisers used lorries as weapons '' a tactic first suggested in a 2010 directive from al-Qaeda commanders to their supporters.
The attack also came less than two months after Donald Trump provoked a row with Sweden after suggesting that immigration had led to rising crime in the country.
Television footage showed hundreds of shoppers and office workers fleeing the scene after the lorry careered down the pedestrian precinct, killing a dog and crushing flowerpots and litter bins as it went.
''We stood inside a shoe store and heard something'‰ and then people started to scream. I looked out of the store and saw a big truck,'' Jan Granroth told Aftonbladet.
A nother witness said: ''When I came out, I saw a lorry standing there, with smoke coming from it, and there were loads of bits of cars and broken flowerpots along the street.''
Annevi Petersson, a photographer, ran out from a store when she heard screaming coming from outside. ''I saw a woman had a partly severed foot. People screaming in panic, others ran. I saw people laying bloody on the street and got out of there.''
S tockholm was put on lockdown, with the metro and mainline trains closed, as police fanned out across the city in pursuit of the suspect. Stockholm city council announced that it was opening public buildings for those stranded by the train and bus closures.
The attack, which used a truck hijacked from a Swedish brewing company as it made its deliveries yesterday morning, drew condemnation and condolences from around the world.
B oris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said he was ''deeply concerned''. ''Britain's thoughts are with the victims, their families and the whole of Sweden,'' he added.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, expressed his sympathies, saying his city shared a ''steely determination with the people of Stockholm that we will never allow terrorists to succeed''.
The European Union and countries across the continent added their voices of support, led by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Fran§ois Hollande, the French president, who expressed ''outrage'' at the attack in a statement from the Elys(C)e Palace. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said that Europe would face down terrorism.
Truck drives into crowd in Stockholm, killing four people | World news | The Guardian
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 15:58
Four people died and 15 were injured after a truck drove into pedestrians on Stockholm's busiest shopping street and crashed into a department store, in what police were treating as an act of terrorism.
''Sweden has been attacked. Everything points to a terrorist act,'' the Swedish prime minister, Stefan L¶fven, said shortly after the tragedy on Friday afternoon.
Stockholm was swiftly locked down as armed police cleared the area and launched a manhunt for the suspected driver. Central streets and railway stations were evacuated and warnings were broadcast urging people to flee.
A man was arrested on Friday night after a police operation in M¤rsta, a suburb of Stockholm near Arlanda airport.
Early on Saturday, prosecutors ordered the man arrested on suspicion of ''terrorist crime'' through the act of murder. But it was not clear whether he was the driver of the truck.
According to the Swedish public broadcaster SVT, a second man, linked to the first, was arrested later in the northern suburb Hjulsta.
A photo issued by Swedish police of a man they want to trace in connection with Friday's attack. Photograph: Swedish police/PASwedish police had earlier issued a picture of a person they said was of interest in connection with the attack. Mats L¶fving, the head of the national operations department, said the image, which appeared to be from CCTV footage, was taken close to the time of the incident in the vicinity of the attack.
''I have a picture of a person who has been seen at the location at this point in time. We want to get in contact with this person,'' L¶fving told a news conference.
Lars Bystr¶m, a police spokesman, said: ''We want to talk to everybody who knows anything about this,'' Bystr¶m said. He added that nine of the 15 injured people were seriously hurt.
Witnesses described their terror as the truck careered through the city centre. ''I was terrified. I am still shaking. I saw a woman who had lost her legs '' it could have been me,'' one told Swedish news channel SVT. ''The truck went at high speed. It crushed everything in its path.''
Another witness said: ''He mowed down eight people and I saw four bodies a little further away. A woman with a small child became completely paralysed and just stood still. I grabbed her and another woman and threw us all into a stairwell.''
mapSmoke billowed from the spot where the beer delivery truck ploughed into the upmarket …hlens department store in the Drottninggatan area. The vehicle had been hijacked shortly beforehand, when a masked man jumped into the empty cab and drove it away, the truck's owner told reporters.
After public transport was shut down, Swedes launched the Twitter hashtag #openstockholm for anyone in the city willing to open their home to stranded commuters.
The terror risk remained high, police said, but the threat level for Stockholm was not raised after the attack.
Swedish political leaders expressed sympathy for relatives of the dead and injured, while urging people not to jump to conclusions about the attacker's motives. ''It is a horrible attack in Stockholm, lots of thoughts for the families of the victims, very important to avoid speculation and let police and others do their jobs,'' tweeted Anna Kinberg Batra, the leader of the centre-right opposition Moderate party.
Smoke billows from building after truck crash in Stockholm - video''Let our thoughts go to the victims and their relatives,'' said Jimmie …kesson, the leader of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, now neck and neck with the Moderates as the largest opposition party on the right.
The attack, just hours after the US launched cruise missile strikes on military targets in Syria, appears to follow a deadly pattern that has emerged in Europe over the past year. ''Steal a lorry or a car and then drive it into a crowd. That seems to be the latest terrorist method. Berlin. London. Now Stockholm,'' tweeted Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister.
European politicians expressed solidarity, with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, saying it was an ''attack on us all''.
A spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: ''Our thoughts go out to the people in Stockholm, to the injured, their relatives, rescuers and police '... We stand together against terror.''
The French president, Fran§ois Hollande, voiced his ''horror and indignation'' over the assault.
Two weeks ago, 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London, killing four. The attacker fatally stabbed a policeman before he was shot dead by police. A fifth person died after her life support was turned off on Thursday.
People running from scene after Sweden truck crash - videoIn December, 12 people died after a Tunisian man drove a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin. Eighty-six people were killed and more than 400 injured after a 31-year-old Tunisian man ploughed a truck into a crowd of people on the promenade in Nice, France, last July.
Islamic State, the Islamist militant group that has seized swaths of Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for those attacks.
The Stockholm killings come two months after the US president, Donald Trump, was widely ridiculed for referring to a non-existent terror attack in Sweden.
Trump's remark prompted a fierce international debate over the consequences of Sweden's 2015 open-door refugee policy, which led to 163,000 people claiming asylum after fleeing wars in the Middle East, north Africa and Afghanistan. Early in 2016, Sweden reversed its position and the flow of asylum seekers has drastically fallen.
However, in the country's cities, which are highly segregated, Islamist ideas have found a hearing among small numbers of disaffected young people with immigrant backgrounds.
Since 2012, nearly 300 people have travelled from Sweden to join violent Islamist groups, according to Swedish security services, making the country second only to Belgium as the largest contributor of Islamist militants from Europe.
Emergency services at the scene after truck crashes in Stockholm '' videoSome 50 people have died in the fighting and more than 150 have returned. Last year Marilyn Nevalainen, a white, Swedish 14-year-old who fell in love with a north African refugee, was rescued from Isis militants in Mosul after she followed the man to war.
Many of the young Swedish recruits come from vulnerable backgrounds and have low or no incomes, according to Magnus Ranstorp, an extremism expert at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm. Some of the girls joining Isis are merely impressionable and following their boyfriends, while others are groomed online and want to rebel against patriarchal restrictions in their families.
The flow of Islamist fighters from Sweden has slowed and travel to Syria and Iraq has now virtually ceased, according to Anna Carlstedt, the country's national coordinator against violent extremism.
But the government has faced criticism for failing to put in place structures for reintegrating radicalised returnees into Swedish society. Liberal politicians last week accused ministers of being ''paralysed'' in their attempts to deal with violent extremism.
Police assist people on the streets of Stockholm. Photograph: IBL/Rex/ShutterstockIf the Stockholm incident is a terror attack, it will be the first in Sweden since an Iraqi-born Swedish man exploded a bomb in the city during the Christmas period in 2010, killing himself but injuring no one. Nearby he had packed a car with explosives.
''An attack on any of our [EU] member states is an attack on us all,'' Juncker said on Friday. ''One of Europe's most vibrant and colourful cities appears to have been struck by those wishing it '' and our very way of life '' harm.''
14 July 2016: Nice, France
Eighty-six people were killed and 434 were injured after a 19-tonne cargo truck drove into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. The driver was a French resident of Tunisian origin, 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who was shot dead at the scene by police. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack. The following day, Hollande extended France's state of emergency, which was due to be lifted after being put in place after the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
19 December 2016: Berlin, Germany
A hijacked truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 56. Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, 24, who had had his application for refugee status rejected, took control of the truck and sped into locals and tourists visiting the market. The truck's original driver was found shot dead in the passenger seat. After the attack, Isis released a video of Amri pledging allegiance to the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
8 January 2017: Jerusalem
A Palestinian attacker killed four people and injured 15 after driving a truck into a group of uniformed Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers. The attack took place in east Jerusalem, as a group of soldiers were disembarking from a bus. The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed Isis for the attack, which was then claimed by an unknown Palestinian group called the Martyr of Baha Alyan Collective, which stated political motives.
22 March 2017: London, UK
Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. Masood then abandoned the car, proceeded to the Houses of Parliament and stabbed to death an unarmed police officer, Keith Palmer. A fifth person, Andreea Cristea, 31, died on Thursday. A total of 50 people were injured, including local residents and tourists. Masood is believed to have followed online terror manuals guiding attackers to use large vehicles as weapons and to stab people. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack but no evidence has been found to support this. Hanna Yusuf
SJW BLM LGBBTQQIAAP
MTV Movie and TV awards go gender neutral - BBC Newsbeat
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 20:49
MTV's scrapped the male and female categories for its movie and TV awards show.
The network has announced separate awards for best actor and actress will be replaced by "non-gendered" prizes.
It means Emma Watson competes with Hugh Jackman and James McAvoy for best actor in a movie.
Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown and Emilia Clarke from Game Of Thrones go against The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan for best actor in a show.
Most of the big award ceremonies, like the Oscars and Baftas, still have separate categories for men and women.
But some have already changed their rules - or, like the Grammys, never had separate awards in the first place.
Is it time to scrap gender specific awards?
The National Television Awards changed its best actor and actress categories to "best drama performance" and "best serial drama performance" in 2008.
It switched back to best male and best female in 2012 and 2013, but apart since then has gone back to non-gendered categories.
There's also been a debate around the Emmys, where organisers asked Asia Kate Dillon to choose which category to be considered for.
The Billions star was born female but doesn't identify as male or female.
Dillon chose best supporting actor category, arguing "actor" is generally seen as a non-gendered word.
Organisers say "anyone can submit under either category for any reason".
It's also the first time MTV's allowed TV shows and streaming services to be nominated at the awards, as well as movies.
Horror film Get Out has the most nominations with six, including movie of the year and best movie actor for British star Daniel Kaluuya.
Beauty And The Beast and Stranger Things are both up for four awards.
Atlanta, Game Of Thrones and Hidden Figures are up for three, as are Logan, Moonlight and This Is Us.
Comedian Adam Devine will host the show in LA in May.
Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat
Fack Base
Google News battles era of spin with fact check label | PCWorld
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 01:34
Google is making it easier to cut through Internet nonsense with a new Google News tag purpose-built for our era of discontent, fake news stories on social media, and flat-out lies.
The search giant says you will soon see a ''Fact Check'' tag next to appropriate news stories in the expanded story box on Google News. The new tag is rolling out to the U.S. and U.K. editions of the Google News website, as well as the Google News & Weather apps for Android and iOS.
The new Google News tags are just like the others you already see on the site, such as ''Highly Cited,'' ''In Depth,'' and the more recent ''Local Source,'' which rolled out in May. For sites to be considered for the ''Fact Check'' slot they need to be using schema.org's ClaimReview metadata markup, and ''follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks.'' Google's ''commonly accepted criteria'' is explained in greater detail on its help pages. The most important thing, however, appears to be adding proper markup to a webpage.
An example of Google's new Fact Check tag in Google News.
While Google doesn't explicitly spell it out, there must also be some kind of human curation to determine whether sites are following the ''commonly accepted criteria'' for fact-checking.
If it's just a matter of properly formatted markup then any partisan website could add that to their stories in order to build a ''Google Bomb'' to unfairly earn ''Fact Check'' tags. That would be a disaster since the whole point of a ''Fact Check'' tag is to instill confidence that what we're reading is the straight story without any spin.
The story behind the story: It's no coincidence that the new ''Fact Check'' tags are rolling out first to the U.S. and U.K. Both countries are currently embroiled in very divisive public conversations. The presidential election in the U.S. has become a haze of spin, deception, and an ''us vs. them'' mentality. Meanwhile in the U.K., anti-immigrant fervor after the Brexit vote is fueling all sorts of reports of draconian measures under consideration by Parliament or the Prime Minister's Office.
On top of all that, Facebook's supposedly trusty trending news section has become a hive of fake news stories. Ever since the social network fired its human news editors, top stories have included parodies, conspiracy theories, and other false fodder, as The Washington Post recently reported.
To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.
Ministry of Truthiness
The New York Times Accidentally Referred to Ivanka Trump as Donald Trump's Wife | Teen Vogue
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 16:13
It happens: online publications make mistakes. All writers have been there. And yesterday (Wednesday, April 5), The New York Times printed a correction that caught the attention of a lot of people online (even earning a Twitter moment in the process).
In an article about President Trump's visits to his own properties, The Times offered the following correction at the bottom of the piece: "Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified Ivanka Trump as President Trump's wife. His wife is Melania. Ivanka is one of his daughters."
Again, it's not the first time a correction has been printed online and it certainly won't be the last. And for The Times itself, there have been other corrections that made headlines, like the time where the website mistakenly ran a photo of the film Good Burger in their story about Alex from Target. It just goes to show that everyone makes mistakes...and sometimes the best remedy is simply to laugh.
Related:Ivanka Trump Didn't Know What "Complict" Meant, So the Dictionary Looked It Up For Her
Check This Out:
Conservative talker Tomi Lahren sues Glenn Beck, The Blaze '' Boston News, Weather, Sports | WHDH 7News
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 16:51
DALLAS (AP) '-- Conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren has filed a lawsuit against Glenn Beck and his online platform, The Blaze, alleging wrongful termination.
Lahren was ousted from her program after she said she was in favor of abortion rights while appearing on ABC's ''The View'' on March 17.
In the 27-page lawsuit filed Friday in Dallas, Lahren's attorney said nothing in his client's employment contract prohibited Lahren's comments on ''The View.''
The Blaze took her off camera but offered to pay her contract if she remained silent on social media. Since then, attorney Brian Lauten asserts Beck and others at The Blaze ''embarked on a public smear campaign'' and interfered with her business relationships.
The lawsuit wants a judge to rescind her employment contract and declare that she may speak her mind freely.
Representatives for The Blaze have not immediately responded to messages.
(Copyright (c) 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
Maxine
Poverty Pimp Posters Hit Maxine's Out-of-District Mansion
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:20
Maxine Waters is a ''Poverty Pimp'' with dollar signs in her eyes, say street artists based in Los Angeles.
''Niggas better have my money!'' says the background of the anti-Maxine Waters posters that began appearing around Inglewood and tony Hancock Park.
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp posters in front of her Hancock Park Estate
Waters lives outside of the district she represents''in a mansion in Hancock Park.
The anonymous artwork went up early Thursday morning.
It wasn't produced by the artist known as Sabo but by an independent anonymous art collective.
The group promises more art hitting in swing states over the next few days.
Maxine Waters Hancock Park Mansion Screenshot from Google Streetview
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp Posters in front of iconic Randy's Donuts in Los Angeles
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp Poster Detail
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp Posters hang in front of Inglewood High School
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp Poster at Manchester and the 405
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp posters in her ghetto Congressional District
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp posters in front of the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp posters on Manchester Blvd in the Los Angeles Ghetto
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp poster on 6th Street in Los Angeles
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp posters on Manchester Blvd in Inglewood
Maxine Waters Poverty Pimp Posters Florence and Normandie
Maxine Waters posters at 6th and Arden in upscale Hancock Park
Gotnews.com founder and editor-in-chief Charles C. Johnson is an investigative journalist, author, and sought after researcher. He was a contributor to the Daily Caller and the Blaze, and his work is frequently featured on Drudge Report. He is author of Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President and The Truth About the IRS Scandal. Charles is an award-winning journalist who has also written for Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, American Spectator, Daily Beast, National Review Online, PJ Media, and Weekly Standard. Charles has appeared on Fox News with Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, and Lou Dobbs and numerous radio programs, including Rusty Humphries, Dennis Prager, Larry Elder, and Mark Levin. He is at work on a new book about the researcher community and Barack Obama.
Brexit
Gib 'will have to think again on co-sovereignty' says Hain '' Gibraltar Chronicle
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:53
Former Labour Europe Minister, Peter Hain, the Minister at the centre of the Joint-Sovereignty proposals in 2002, has asserted this is still the best way forward and that Gibraltar ''will have to think again''.
In an opinion in the Guardian yesterday he suggested, that having tried to negotiate a co-sovereignty arrangement with Spain, Britain should now revisit the long-shelved plans to share sovereignty over Gibraltar with Spain in order to help solve the problem of the Rock being excluded from the EU against its will.
Mr Hain insisted the co-sovereignty deal was and still could be a ''win-win for all parties to the dispute''.
''The only concession Gibraltarians would have to make is a Spanish flag flying on the Rock alongside a British one. Their cherished British citizenship, traditions, customs and way of life would be unchanged '' except for the better because being under siege from Spain would disappear.
''Pints of beer would still be served in British-style pubs. Gibraltarians would keep their institutions '' self-government, an elected house of assembly, courts and police service,'' he wrote in the Guardian.
He called on the UK to think again about ''resurrecting co-sovereignty today'' which he said ''would doubtless provoke a similar reaction on the Rock even though ''it's in a much worse place than 15 years ago because of likely exclusion from the EU against its will.''
But he believed it would give Gibraltarians much more freedom and security than ever historically
''It's surely time to dust down those files, and for politicians in Gibraltar, Britain and Spain to show some real leadership,'' he emphasised.
He called on today's Conservatives, please pay heed.
''Though co-sovereignty was only officially endorsed by our Labour government in 2002, former Tory Europe minister Tristan Garel-Jones has confirmed that ''this is what we were trying to do under the Thatcher and Major governments'','' he wrote.
He added: ''In 2002 our new deal for Gibraltarians was roundly rejected in a referendum. They were stuck, wanting to remain where they were, yet hating where they were. One of their cheerleaders, rightwing Tory backbencher Andrew Rosindell, desperately asked: ''Why can't you just reintegrate Gibraltar and make it part of England?''
Related
Trump Transition
Report: Jared Kushner Hires Top Hollywood Publicist for White House Post
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:56
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Raffel '-- the 32-year-old communications chief for horror production company Blumhouse Productions (The Purge, Insidious) and a veteran of New York City-based PR firm Hiltzik Strategies '-- will reportedly join the White House Office of American Innovation, according toVariety.
The outlet notes that Raffel is well-respected among entertainment industry journalists for his ''sane, sensible style, and his wit.''
The Washington Postreported in March that Kushner had been tasked with overseeing the Office of American Innovation, a new White House office that will reportedly be focused on overhauling the federal bureaucracy by taking ideas from the business world and applying them to government. The office will reportedly be staffed by former business leaders and will report directly to President Trump. Among the notable names in the business world who have already participated in meetings are Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
''We should have excellence in government,'' Kushner told the Post last month. ''The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.''
Raffel will reportedly move to Washington, D.C. to begin his new job in the coming weeks. He will be replaced at Blumhouse by former Universal Filmed Entertainment Group spokeswoman Teri Everett.
Kushner has quietly become a major force in the Trump administration, as the president has entrusted the young advisor with duties ranging from negotiating a potential Israel-Palestinian peace deal to maintaining a healthy diplomatic relationship with Mexico.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum
$500 Billion fraud at HUD
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:25
Ben Carson was the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins, so, he's kind of a super hero.
But apparently, he's also not a bad accountant.
President Trump picked Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose budget grew by leaps and bounds under Barack Obama.
In one of his first acts as HUD Secretary, Carson ordered an audit of the agency. What he found was staggering: $520 billion in bookkeeping errors.
"The total amounts of errors corrected in HUD's notes and consolidated financial statements were $516.4 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively," the auditors wrote.
But there were plenty of other problems, too.
There were several other unresolved audit matters, which restricted our ability to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to express an opinion. These unresolved audit matters relate to (1) the Office of General Counsel's refusal to sign the management representation letter, (2) HUD's improper use of cumulative and first-in, first-out budgetary accounting methods of disbursing community planning and development program funds, (3) the $4.2 billion in nonpooled loan assets from Ginnie Mae's stand-alone financial statements that we could not audit due to inadequate support, (4) the improper accounting for certain HUD assets and liabilities, and (5) material differences between HUD's subledger and general ledger accounts. This audit report contains 11 material weaknesses, 7 significant deficiencies, and 5 instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations.
The same problems were detailed for each of the last three audits, and the auditors say the continued problems ''were due to an inability to establish a compliant control environment, implement adequate financial accounting systems, retain key financial staff, and identify appropriate accounting principles and policies."
So, look for Carson to get out his scalpel and start operating. Or perhaps he'll use a machete.
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NA-Tech News
Welcome to Mastodon '' Hacker Noon
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 12:50
My name is Eugen Rochko and I'm the creator of Mastodon, a free, open-source federated social network. The flagship instance mastodon.social has over 24,000 users and is growing fast.You can check it out here.
You have arrived at the place its users endearingly call ''fluffy elephant site''. The default user interface reminds you of TweetDeck, you notice that you can write short notices.. Seems familiar. But what is different?
One of Mastodon's fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone's private e-mail inbox. Mastodon's federation is similiar: users from different sites (let's call them ''instances'') establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.
You have likely come across the instance mastodon.social, which I run. It is not all of Mastodon, but just one point of entry into the network, one potential home. Your username is unique on that particular instance, that means your full identifier, just like an e-mail address, must include the username part and the domain part. For example, I am Gargron@mastodon.social, and my friend who runs icosahedron.website, another instance, is halcy@icosahedron.website. (Of course if you wish to find or mention a user from the same instance as yours you can omit the domain part, it's implicit).
What federation means for you is that:
You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is availableYou can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledgeUsers are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderateNo monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don't have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instanceAnother fundamental difference is that unlike Twitter, Mastodon is free, open-source software. You might think that unimportant, but I think differences between ethical design oriented towards users and design oriented towards revenue are becoming more apparent. The ''free'' in ''free software'' stands for freedom of the user, not for the value of money it costs (which only coincidentally is zero in most cases). Mastodon isn't built for selling your eyeballs or analytics to advertisers. Allowing anyone to inspect its code and submit improvements means that it's built for people, by people, under the scrutiny of people.
Mastodon's 500 character limit allows for more nuanced conversations and less ''tweetstorming''. Mastodon features public timelines'Š'--'Šsomething Twitter used to have, but it stopped being useful to everyday users and became useful to data mining companies. However, since individual Mastodon instances are small, and repeated posts and conversations are filtered out, public timelines stay readable. Of course, having a readily available public timeline can be a curse as much as a blessing, so you can opt-out of appearing on it. In terms of privacy and dealing with abuse, Mastodon has got a lot of granular privacy features that I have described in depth in another article.
Not wanting to go into precise details, I believe this should be a succinct primer on Mastodon's strengths. There are lots of smaller goodies that you will discover over time.
If you'd like to get started someplace other than mastodon.social run by me, here are two instances run by people I trust:
Enjoy your stay!
P. S. The source code, documentation, more technical FAQs, lists of instances and available apps, are all available through the project's GitHub repository
Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the Web, Plots a Radical Overhaul of His Creation | WIRED
Thu, 06 Apr 2017 21:13
Thirteen years ago the Queen of England dubbed Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web, a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Today he received what in the tech world counts as a much higher distinction: a Turing Award.
The prestigious prize, presented each year by the Association for Computing Machinery, amounts to the Nobel Prize of computing and comes with a million dollars. Berners-Lee received the award for creating the technology that underpins the web 28 years ago. But he sees his creation as the work of countless other people'--and believes that work is far from over.
''I have to accept it on behalf of thousands of people who have helped make web standards and helped protest when net neutrality was threatened,'' he says.
A tipping point could be reached where people will realize 'that data belongs to me.' Tim Berners-Lee
When Berners-Lee created the web, it was a decentralized platform. Anyone could publish a website and link to any other site. But as the web has grown from an obscure research-sharing tool for the scientific community into a global medium for commerce, communication, journalism, and entertainment, the power dynamics have shifted. Today, huge companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix dominate the web. These corporate giants enjoy an enormous amount of control not only over what people see and do online but over users' private data. These days, Berners-Lee is working to reverse that trend as the co-lead of the Decentralized Information Group at MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (CSAIL).
On the better web Berners-Lee envisions, users control where their data is stored and how it's accessed. For example, social networks would still run in the cloud. But you could store your data locally. Alternately, you could choose a different cloud server run by a company or community you trust. You might have different servers for different types of information'--for health and fitness data, says'--that is completely separate from the one you use for financial records.
''It's kind of like when you had floppy disks and you had one disk for the application and another the storage,'' he says.
Berners-Lee is working to make this a reality through an open source project called Solid. He hopes to create an open technology standard that different applications can use to share data, regardless of what that data is or what type of application needs to read it. Such a standard would enable applications'--your hospital's record-keeping software or a social network'--to read and write data from the servers you choose and control, rather than the servers that belong to an individual company.
The idea that people will eventually migrate from today's tech giants to more decentralized systems may seem like a stretch. But last year at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco, Berners-Lee pointed out that in the early days of the internet, many people thought proprietary online services like America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy'--all of which sought to tame the chaos of the web and the open internet'--would dominate the mainstream market. Eventually the web won out. ''You can make the walled garden very very sweet,'' he said at the event. ''But the jungle outside is always more appealing in the long term.''
That could happen again, Berners-Lee argues, as projects like Solid and other decentralized systems become more mature, and as people become more fed up with having so little control over their data. ''A tipping point could be reached where people will realize 'that data belongs to me,''' he says. And now that the Federal Communications Commissions internet privacy rules have been repealed, we might be inching closer to that tipping point.
More Than Just CodeBut centralization isn't the only problem the web is facing. ''We thought it used to be enough to keep the net neutral and the world would be able to use it to build wonderful system that which would produce democracy and truth in science,'' he says.
''I think people have looked at the last 12 months and said actually there's evidence that the web has been more of a purveyor of untruth than of truth because of the way the adverting revenue model encourages people to put things online which will be clicked on.''
You might argue that hoaxes and ''fake news'' are a good reason for centralization. If Facebook and Google could filter out the misinformation and clickbait, perhaps everyone would be more informed. But Berners-Lee points out that putting just a few companies in charge of deciding what is or isn't true is a risky proposition. Instead, he thinks openness still has a role to play in making the web more truthful. He points to Wikipedia, which still allows anyone to edit almost every entry on the site. Wikipedia's not perfect, he acknowledges, but says that ''the net good of Wikipedia is huge.''
The key to Wikipedia success, he points out, isn't just the technology. It's the governance of the site, the process of coordinating countless volunteers and hashing out what is or isn't true.
It's a reminder that the web itself isn't just technology, either. It didn't succeed because of the software Berners-Lee wrote to make publishing and browsing webpages possible. It succeeded because of the work he and so many other put into stewarding it as a platform. That's the reason Berners-Lee deserves a Turing Award, and the million bucks that comes with it. The future of the web will depend just as much on that sort of stewardship in the future as it does on new technology fixes.
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Morgan Stanley corrected Snapchat research to lower earnings forecast
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:28
Snapchat cofounders Bobby Murphy, left, and Evan Spiegel at the company's IPO in March. Richard Drew/AP On March 27, Morgan Stanley published an equity research note on Snap, the social media company it helped take public, putting a $28 price target on the stock.Almost a day later, the bank issued a correction, changing a range of important metrics in its financial model but not the $28 price target.That has some on Wall Street raising doubts about the research and equity research more broadly.Imagine the following scenario.
A Wall Street investment bank has just led the biggest tech initial public offering in years but makes a mistake in the first research note it publishes on the stock.
The error means the bank overstated the forecasted earnings over a five-year stretch by nearly $5 billion. Yet when the bank issues a correction and updates its earnings models, its price target on the shares remains the same.
How does that happen?
The answer says a lot about the weaknesses in Wall Street analyst research and the closely watched price targets published by big banks. Those numbers can move markets and underpin the Street's buy or sell recommendations on the shares. But they're also dependent on highly subjective calls by the research analysts, which often are themselves worth scrutinizing.
The bank in question is Morgan Stanley, and the company is Snap. Morgan Stanley led Snap's IPO, a $3.4 billion share sale deemed a huge success by Wall Street standards.
On March 27, nearly a month after the stock debuted, the bank published its first research note on shares of the newly public social media company, slapping a $28 price target on them. That's 23% above where the shares ended trading the week before, and the bank's advice to clients was to buy.
The note, written by Brian Nowak and his team, was a part of a flood of positive analyst commentary on the company, much of it from the investment banks that worked on the offering. The shares, which by then had lost some of their post-IPO glow, popped on the bullish sentiment.
About 22 hours later, Morgan Stanley issued a second note that on the first read looked nearly identical. But the new note lowered estimates for Snap's future earnings and included several other changes in the analysis.
Toward the bottom of the second page, in italics, the analysts wrote:
"We have corrected a tax calculation error in our model that overstated adjusted EBITDA in 2021-2025. We have updated the text and charts in the following note to reflect our estimate changes. Note that our revenue forecast and fundamental top-line drivers (DAUs, ad load, etc.) remain unchanged."
One other thing that didn't change, despite some significant adjustments to the financial model Morgan Stanley published? That $28-a-share price target.
Morgan Stanley's revised numbers cut Snap's adjusted EBITDA '-- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization '-- for 2021 through to 2025. In 2025 alone, the change amounted to a cut of $1.7 billion in estimated adjusted EBITDA.
Future earnings estimates are often a key determinant of an analyst's estimate of a company's current value. A lower earnings estimate, then, ought to lead to a revision in the price target, even by a small amount. It didn't work that way in Snap's case because Morgan Stanley also corrected some other assumptions in its model '-- changes that left the model out of sync with those used by others on Wall Street.
"It almost feels that they're backing into the numbers," said Charles Lee, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "It just so happens that the two work out so that they don't have to change their price target.
"It's almost humorous," Lee added. "And, of course, it can be totally innocuous, and it just so happens they found two offsetting errors, and that's their opinion, and the price target should be unchanged. One has to sort of chuckle because there seems to be so much play in the numbers that they could have put anything in."
It's true analysts make many assumptions that may or may not prove accurate, but that they were changed with no material effect on the conclusion makes them unreliable, according to some.
"If the price target can be manipulated so easily, then they are not valuable and likely should not be relied upon," Lee Bressler, a portfolio manager at the hedge fund Carbon Investment Partners, told Business Insider.
Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
How it happenedThe tax-calculation error significantly affected Morgan Stanley's estimates for margins, adjusted EBITDA, and free cash flow.
In the first note, Morgan Stanley said it saw "companywide adjusted EBITDA margins reaching 40% by 2025." In the second note, it said it expected margins to hit 30% by 2025.
Similarly, financial models had to be updated. Here's the model for discounted cash flow from the first note, with a breakdown of adjusted EBITDA for 2015 through 2025. Morgan Stanley put Snap's expected adjusted EBITDA at $6.57 billion and free cash flow at $4.05 billion in 2025.
The estimates from Morgan Stanley's first note. Business Insider
Here's the second, with the revision to the expected adjusted EBITDA. In the updated note, Morgan Stanley forecast adjusted EBITDA to be $4.92 billion in 2025.
In other words, the revisions to the model cut Snap's 2025 adjusted EBITDA by about $1.7 billion. Free cash flow dropped to $2.42 billion, a decrease of $1.6 billion.
Morgan Stanley's revised financials. Business Insider
Despite those changed calculations, the price target did not change because Morgan Stanley also updated a range of other metrics. In the same italicized section of the updated research report, Morgan Stanley said:
"We have also corrected our discounted cash flow calculation so that it is consistent and comparable across our US internet coverage. More specifically, we are lowering our SNAP equity risk premium from 5.59% (an estimated pre-IPO rate) to 4.29% (consistent with other companies in our group). This change lowers our WACC to 8% (from 10%). On an aggregate basis, our price target is unchanged at $28/share."
What is WACC?WACC is the weighted average cost of capital, a measure that takes into account the cost to a company of issuing equity and borrowing. It is one of many highly subjective numbers that analysts plug into their models.
In the model for discounted cash flow that Morgan Stanley used to value the company, WACC is used to adjust the value of future cash flows. The higher the WACC, the higher the discount applied to future cash flow and the lower the value of those future cash flows. A higher WACC would lower the value of the company.
The updated DCF assumptions. Morgan Stanley
The flip side is that when you lower the WACC, you raise the equity value.
In the original research report, Morgan Stanley put Snap's WACC at 9.7%. In the second report, Morgan Stanley lowered the WACC to 8%.
The effect? The negative effect of having to correct adjusted EBITDA was canceled out by the positive effect of correcting the WACC.
Morgan Stanley included a table in the second report showing the effect of changes in the WACC to the equity value. With a WACC of 8% and a long-term growth rate of 3.5%, Snap had an estimated equity value of $39.6 billion.
With a WACC of 9%, lower than Morgan Stanley's 9.7% original estimate, Snap's equity value would drop to $31.2 billion. That would mean a much lower price target than $28 per share.
Morgan Stanley
Morgan Stanley's changed assumptions about Snap's WACC are in line with the figures it uses in research on other internet companies that have been public for some time.
For example, it lowered the WACC for Priceline in January to 8% from 10%, and it made a similar move with Expedia, lowering it to 7% from 9%.
It uses a WACC of 8% for Alphabet and Etsy and a 7.7% WACC for Amazon. It uses a 9% WACC for Facebook.
Still, the change put Morgan Stanley out of sync with its peers on Wall Street. Not every bank that worked the deal included a WACC in its research. However, most of those that did used a WACC significantly above the 9.7% and 8% figures that Morgan Stanley used.
Here are some of the relevant estimates from banks that worked on the deal:
Credit Suisse: "We have used a weighted average cost of capital of 11% and a terminal growth rate of 3%."Deutsche Bank: "We use a WACC of ~16% in our DCF which assumes no debt in the capital structure."Jefferies: "Our $30 PT is based on 10-year DCF (12% WACC, 3.5% LTGR)."RBC Capital Markets: "Our $31 price target is also supported by a DCF, based on an 11% WACC and a 5% long-term growth rate."Atlantic Equities, a bank that wasn't on the Snap deal, used an 11% WACC in its model.
It also means that Facebook, a $410 billion company that generated $10.2 billion in net income in 2016, has a higher WACC than Snap, a $26 billion company that hasn't yet turned a profit. One investor took issue with that, saying Snap should have a higher cost of equity than Facebook.
Morgan Stanley's $28 price target is on par with that of many of its peers, though. Goldman Sachs had a target of $27, Credit Suisse $30, and RBC Capital Markets $31.
Still, Morgan Stanley's changes to its assumptions that didn't change Snap's price target raise questions about the right valuation for Snap. It also raises important questions about the value of these models, especially when it comes from a bank that has an interest in the success of the IPO, Lee said.
"If you're an investor, anybody who really cares about the long-run value of this bet, you probably want to discount this [report] more than the others, given their affiliation" as IPO underwriter, he said.
Get the latest Snap stock price here.
Welcome to Mastodon '' Hacker Noon
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 12:50
My name is Eugen Rochko and I'm the creator of Mastodon, a free, open-source federated social network. The flagship instance mastodon.social has over 24,000 users and is growing fast.You can check it out here.
You have arrived at the place its users endearingly call ''fluffy elephant site''. The default user interface reminds you of TweetDeck, you notice that you can write short notices.. Seems familiar. But what is different?
One of Mastodon's fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone's private e-mail inbox. Mastodon's federation is similiar: users from different sites (let's call them ''instances'') establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.
You have likely come across the instance mastodon.social, which I run. It is not all of Mastodon, but just one point of entry into the network, one potential home. Your username is unique on that particular instance, that means your full identifier, just like an e-mail address, must include the username part and the domain part. For example, I am Gargron@mastodon.social, and my friend who runs icosahedron.website, another instance, is halcy@icosahedron.website. (Of course if you wish to find or mention a user from the same instance as yours you can omit the domain part, it's implicit).
What federation means for you is that:
You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is availableYou can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledgeUsers are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderateNo monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don't have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instanceAnother fundamental difference is that unlike Twitter, Mastodon is free, open-source software. You might think that unimportant, but I think differences between ethical design oriented towards users and design oriented towards revenue are becoming more apparent. The ''free'' in ''free software'' stands for freedom of the user, not for the value of money it costs (which only coincidentally is zero in most cases). Mastodon isn't built for selling your eyeballs or analytics to advertisers. Allowing anyone to inspect its code and submit improvements means that it's built for people, by people, under the scrutiny of people.
Mastodon's 500 character limit allows for more nuanced conversations and less ''tweetstorming''. Mastodon features public timelines'Š'--'Šsomething Twitter used to have, but it stopped being useful to everyday users and became useful to data mining companies. However, since individual Mastodon instances are small, and repeated posts and conversations are filtered out, public timelines stay readable. Of course, having a readily available public timeline can be a curse as much as a blessing, so you can opt-out of appearing on it. In terms of privacy and dealing with abuse, Mastodon has got a lot of granular privacy features that I have described in depth in another article.
Not wanting to go into precise details, I believe this should be a succinct primer on Mastodon's strengths. There are lots of smaller goodies that you will discover over time.
If you'd like to get started someplace other than mastodon.social run by me, here are two instances run by people I trust:
Enjoy your stay!
P. S. The source code, documentation, more technical FAQs, lists of instances and available apps, are all available through the project's GitHub repository
NWO
Schaamteloos: supporter Boudewijn Poelmann sponsort Feyenoord met Postcodeloterijgeld | Quote
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:42
Boudewijn Poelmann is niet alleen de oprichter en eigenaar van de Postcodeloterij, maar ook Feyenoordfan. Nu energiemaatschappij Qurrent Feyenoord gaat sponsoren, roept dat nogal wat vragen op. Qurrent is namelijk een 100% dochter van de Stichting Doen, de investeringsmaatschappij van de Postcodeloterij.
Boudewijn Poelmann heeft met zijn Goede Doelen Loterijen een unieke machtspositie gecreerd. Feitelijk is hij de ongekozen permanente minister van Ontwikkelingshulp en Duurzaamheid. Met de honderden miljoenen die hij jaarlijks ophaalt, is hij (C)(C)n van de grootste donateurs van de wereld. Wat veel mensen echter niet weten, is dat dat geld niet alleen naar goede doelen gaat. De Postcodeloterij investeert via de Stichting Doen namelijk in 'groene' bedrijven. Deelnemers aan de Postcodeloterij denken dat hun geld naar panda's en hongersnood gaat, maar een deel van hun inleg gaat naar risicovolle investeringen in bedrijven waarvan de kwalificatie 'goed doel' op z'n minst discutabel is.
Qurrent, een energiebedrijf dat volgens critici niets anders doet dan concurrenten, werd in 2011 gekocht door Stichting Doen, de participatiemaatschappij van de Postcode Loterij. Een opvallende move; waarom een heel bedrijf kopen en waarom juist d­t bedrijf? De concurrenten weten het wel: vriendjespolitiek. Qurrent is niet de eerste investering van Stichting Doen die scepsis ontmoet. Ook het Tendris en Lemnis van Ruud Koornstra, een goede vriend van Boudewijn Poelmann, kon lange tijd op royale steun rekenen, die uiteindelijk niets opleverde. Tendris en Lemnis zijn zieltogend en hebben de Stichting Doen alleen geld gekost.
De gerenommeerde advocaten van Allen & Overy maakten al eens een rapportje over deze praktijken. Daarin valt te lezen: 'Ondanks het feit dat Stichting Doen als aparte stichting naast de Postcode Loterij is geplaatst, bestaat de kans dat, gezien de nauwe betrokkenheid van de Holding Nationale Goede Doelen Loterij N.V. en de Nationale Postcode Loterij N.V., mislukkingen bij participanten en overige begunstigden van Stichting Doen afstralen op eerstgenoemden. Dit kan het vertrouwen van de consument in de loterij schaden.'
Nu gaat het nog altijd niet winstgevende Qurrent ('‚¬6 miljoen negatief eigen vermogen) dus Feyenoord sponsoren. Dat gaat niet om wisselgeld; daar zijn miljoenen per jaar mee gemoeid; miljoenen die dat bedrijf niet heeft. En gaat er dus rechstreeks geld uit de goedendoelenpot naar een voetbalclub. De voetbalclub waarvan de eigenaar en oprichter van de Postcodeloterij al jaren supporter is. Laten we het zo zeggen; als Ajax-supporter of dierenliefhebber zouden wij onze deelname aan de Postcodeloterij heroverwegen.
Meer lezen over de Stichting Doen en de vreemde investeringen van de Postcodeloterij? Lees ons grote verhaal 'Stichting Poen'.
IRS
Indian police arrest alleged kingpin of U.S. tax scam | Reuters
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 14:47
MUMBAI Indian police said on Saturday they had arrested the suspected mastermind behind a call center scam run out of a Mumbai suburb that targeted thousands of Americans and netted more than $300 million.
Sagar Thakkar, 24, also known as Shaggy, was arrested at Mumbai's international airport in the early hours of Saturday after he flew in from Dubai, Mukund Hatote, a police officer on the case, told Reuters.
In October, the U.S. Justice Department charged more than 60 people in India and the United States with participating in the huge scam where call center agents impersonated Internal Revenue Service, immigration or other federal officials and demanded payments for non-existent debts.
The department said at least 15,000 people had been targeted by the telefraud that was run out of India.
The scam - which ran for more than a year - was blown open in early October, when Indian police raided a host of call centers in the Mumbai suburb of Thane and detained over 700 people suspected of involvement in defrauding Americans. Other call centers involved in the scam that operated from the western city of Ahmedabad were also raided and shut down by authorities.
At a news conference on Saturday evening, Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said Thakkar, who was charged in December along with others, had fled to Dubai in October following the raids and that he had also spent some time in Thailand over the last six months.
Thakkar, wearing blue jeans and a checked shirt, was presented to media on the sidelines of the press conference, but his face was covered with a black cloth.
Singh said he had interrogated Thakkar and was "impressed with his knowledge of the U.S. and Indian system." Singh said Thakkar had confessed to his involvement in the scam.
Singh said Thane police have so far charged 400 people in the case, and about a dozen of them are in custody.
Thakkar was listed as a call center operator and payment processor in the U.S. Department of Justice indictment that charged the defendants with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the indictment, call center operators threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties.
Payments by victims were laundered by a U.S. network of co-conspirators using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, often using stolen or fake identities, the indictment said.
U.S. and Indian authorities have been working together on the investigation. The United States had said it would be seeking the extradition of the alleged scamsters based in India.
Indian police have previously said that Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting five-star hotels and driving around in expensive cars.
(Writing by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Euan Rocha, Richard Pullin and Ros Russell)
Next In World News Iran's Rouhani condemns U.S. attack on Syria, chides Gulf ArabsDUBAI Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday condemned as "flagrant U.S. aggression on Syria" a U.S. missile strike on a on a Syrian air base this week and criticized Gulf Arab states for supporting it, state television reported.
Al Shabaab car bomb outside Mogadishu army base kills at least 15: militaryMOGADISHU A car bomb targeting senior officials leaving a military base in Mogadishu killed at least 15 people and destroyed a minibus carrying civilians, the Somali military said on Sunday, an attack claim by Islamist al Shabaab militants.
War on Drug$
Pine Bluff Animal Control Facility Missing Substantial Supply of
Thu, 06 Apr 2017 23:38
PINEBLUFF, Ark.- The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to figure out what happened to a supply of a sedatives that went missing from an animal control center.
Tuesday morning DEA agents did an audit of the Pine Bluff Animal Control Facility. The audit consisted of records from April of 2016 to December of 2016.
During the audit the DEA says a "notably substantial supply of Ketamine and another drug were missing from their inventory."
At this point it's unclear how the drugs went missing.
Pine Bluff police are now involved in this investigation.
CLIPS AND DOCS
VIDEO - GOP Representative stuns CNN anchor - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:51
VIDEO - Delta Implements New Rule For Guns in Checked Bags: Sources | NBC 6 South Florida
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:35
Delta Airlines quietly implemented a new rule for passengers carrying weapons in checked baggage, airlines sources exclusively told NBC 6. Luggage with weapons inside will go through an extra secure process during pick up.
The new policy was installed weeks after a gunman opened fire inside the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, killing five people and injuring six others. Accused shooter Esteban Santiago, 26, got off a Delta flight when he allegedly went to the restroom to retrieve his weapon and ammunition from his checked luggage.
The airline will now have special tags to alert ground handlers to not put bags carrying weapons on the general carousel.
The baggage will go directly to a baggage service agent who is required to perform an ID check on the passenger who picks up the luggage, sources told NBC 6. The agent must then use zip ties to secure the bag.
Woman, 2 Teens Arrested After Middle School Students Eat Drug-Laced Gummies: Coconut Creek PoliceA police officer will be at the location when the passenger picks up the baggage. Aviation consultant Scott Patterson said this will add another level of security.
''Now, there's a police presence there when there's a weapon that's checked and the police officer can monitor the weapon leave the building satisfactorily,'' said Patterson.
NBC 6 reached out to Delta for comment on the new policy. The airline sent the following statement:
''Delta is committed to the safety of our customers and employees. Every day we look for ways to refine processes and procedures with the goal to improve safety and the overall travel experience.''
RAW Video Shows Woman Being Robbed in MiamiThe federal government said Delta implemented the new policy on its own and the TSA rules have not changed. NBC 6 did not find any another airlines who have made similar changes.
Published at 9:24 PM EDT on Mar 30, 2017 | Updated at 9:43 PM EDT on Mar 30, 2017
Download the AppAvailable for IOS and AndroidFollow NBC 6
VIDEO - McCAIN IN SUPPORT OF UDGE NEIL GORSUCH TO U.S. SUPREME COURT 4-7-17 - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:28
VIDEO - Body Language: Trump on Bombing Syria - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 05:50
VIDEO - DWS: Ivanka Trump is Fighting Women - Not Fighting for Women - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 05:35
VIDEO - Bombing Both Sides | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 05:26
VIDEO - "There Is A Danger We Have Effectively Acted As ISIS Air Force!" - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 05:15
VIDEO - Disgusting: MSNBC's Corn, Matthews Rule Action in Syria Is Distraction from Russia Probe | MRCTV
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 04:55
See more in the cross-post on the NewsBusters blog.
The Sarin gas attack on Tuesday in Syria was one of the worst atrocities this generation has ever seen, but when it came to the U.S. fighting for those affected, all MSNBC's maniacal hooligans Chris Matthews and David Corn could think of is how any military strikes would distract from the Russia investigations.
Speaking on Hardball to Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley (Ill.) and Corn (who's D.C. bureau chief for the far-left rag Mother Jones), Matthews turned to Corn to hit him ''with real cynicism'' which was really conspiracy theories.
VIDEO - CNN's Fareed Zakaria Questions If US 'Acted as ISIS's Air Force' | MRCTV
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 04:43
***To read the full blog, please check out the complete post on NewsBusters***
In the wake of the U.S. missile strikes against Syrian military targets late Thursday, speculation swirled about what the next step was and what the country's Syria policy would be going forward. One such speculator was CNN's resident plagiarist Fareed Zakaria who had a plethora of questions for President Trump. He warned that the strikes could be aiding ISIS. ''Are we now saying we're against Assad? Do we want to strengthen ISIS? Do we want the Assad regime to fall,'' he wondered.
''If so, are we willing to commit ourselves to that goal,'' he continued to ask, ''If not, we've just thrown bombs in the middle of one of the most complex civil wars in the country and now we're going to step back and say, 'Well that's it, we're done.'''
Zakaria agreed on a base level with the strikes saying, ''there is a kind of morally affirming element to this act'--this military act.'' But he couldn't figure out if the Trump administration had a long-term political strategy he was trying to achieve:
But you know military strategist Samuel Huntington used to say ''military force is not a good instrument of communication, it is an instrument of compelance.'' You have to have something you are trying to get the other side to do. A political strategy that you're using the force for. What is our political strategy?
'...
But what is the political strategy behind it? Are we now going to try and topple the Assad government? If so, that means tens of thousands of troops on the ground. If not, what exactly have we active?
...
VIDEO - 'Dictator!': The View Goes Nuts Over Trump's Strike on Syria | MRCTV
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 04:34
Friday morning on The View, the show started off with a fiery exchange over the U.S. missile strike in Syria last night. The panel was strictly divided, with conservative hosts Paula Faris and Jedediah Bila fiercely disagreeing with liberal hosts Joy Behar and Sunny Hostin that the missile strike was unconstitutional.
Read more on Newsbusters here.
VIDEO - Dr. Sebastian Gorka on The Laura Ingraham Show (4/7/2017) - YouTube
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 23:23
VIDEO - Malibu officials condemn prank 'sanctuary city' sign | fox5sandiego.com
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 21:16
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MALIBU, Calif. '' City officials say a sign posted on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu that drew quite a bit of attention was a mean prank, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The sign, complete with official city and California seals, read: "Official Sanctuary City 'Cheap Nannies and Gardeners Make Malibu Great!' (Boyle Heights Not So Much.)"
Malibu city officials said the sign was not put up by the city.
A California State Parks employee reported the sign to authorities Tuesday, Malibu Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal said. The sign had already been taken down by the time deputies showed up to investigate.
VIDEO - Voted "BEST FLAT EARTH PROOF 2017" - YouTube
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 19:16
VIDEO - Russia Killing Babies!- Escalation: US Media Calls For War With Russia - YouTube
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 18:02
VIDEO-Bolivia UN Envoy on Syria Attack: 'History Teaches Us' US Lies to Justify Wars
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 17:02
"Now the U.S. believe that they are investigators, they are attorneys, judges and they are the executioners," the Bolivian ambassador said.
Lambasting the United States' aggression against Syria, Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations Sacha Llorenti compared the basis for the unilateral move to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous 2003 presentation to the body, when fraudulent evidence of an alleged Iraqi weapons program was presented to justify the U.S. war on Iraq.
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Holding up an enlarged photo of Colin Powell's ''weapons of mass destruction'' speech, Llorenti made an impassioned plea to hold the U.S. to account for Thursday's unprovoked attack on Syria, noting the U.S. history of imperialist interventions in other nations, including Latin America.
"Now the United States believe that they are investigators, they are attorneys, judges and they are the executioners. That's not what international law is about."
The Andean nation currently holds a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
"I believe it's vital for us to remember what history teaches us and on this occasion (in 2003), the United States did affirm, they affirmed that they had all the proof necessary to show that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but they were never found '... never were they found," the Bolivian envoy told the emergency Security Council meeting on Friday.
On Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary Powell presented fabricated ''proof'' that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, including deadly nerve agents. The presentation has since been widely discredited, as no evidence of a weapons program was ever discovered. Powell himself expressing regret over what he termed ''a great intelligence failure'' '-- a failure that originated in his own exaggerated and doctored interpretation of intercepted Iraqi communications.
The U.S. launched dozens of tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base in Homs Thursday night. The Russian Defense Ministry claims that only 23 of 59 missiles reached the intended target, with the remainder landing in nearby villages. Syrian media sources are reporting that nine civilians died in the attack, four children.
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The attack was a response to an alleged Sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. The incident claimed 89 lives, including 33 children and 18 women, according to local opposition authorities.
Syrian government representatives have denied that it would use such weapons, stating that the alleged proof of a Syrian military role is, in fact, propaganda fabricated by opposition groups like Jabhat al-Nusra. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Putin considers the strikes to be ''aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a false pretext.''
Arguing that the U.S. acted unilaterally and in flagrant violation of the U.N. charter, the Bolivian envoy called for a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
"The United States was preparing once again and carried out a unilateral attack," Llorenti said. "The missile attack, of course, is a unilateral action. They represent a serious threat to international peace and security."
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley denied the request. The U.S. holds the presidency of the Security Council this month.
VIDEO - DVF Calls Tucker Carlson A 'White Man With A Small Penis' | The Huffington Post
Sat, 08 Apr 2017 16:05
NEW YORK '• On the last day of Tina Brown's Women in the World Summit, fashion designer and activist Diane von Furstenberg did not hold back when giving her opinion about Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson.
During the event's ''Designing Disruption'' panel, which also featured ''Black-ish'' actress Tracee Ellis Ross and Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth, Von Furstenberg responded to the February news clip that featured Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca defending her piece, ''Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,'' to Carlson.
As Duca defended writing a political op-ed for a magazine with a teenage girl audience, Carlson snapped at the time: ''You should stick to thigh-high boots. You're better at that.''
Von Furstenberg's response?
''It's only the vengeance of the white man with a small penis.''
Michael Loccisano via Getty Images
Diane von Furstenberg and Tracee Ellis Ross speak at Tina Brown's Women in the World Summit in New York City on April 7. Carlson's tone-deaf comments to Duca must have struck a nerve for von Furstenberg, a certified badass whose parents survived the Holocaust, and who has spent her entire adult life as both a fashion designer and activist '• something Carlson, apparently, doesn't think is possible.
Check out von Furstenberg's hilarious burn in the video above.
VIDEO - CNN Commentator Compares Syria Bombing To Kentucky Basketball - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:57
(CNN) -Yes. You read that headline correctly. During Thursday night's breaking coverage of the U.S. airstrikes on Syria, an analyst told Anderson Cooper that the operation was not like Kentucky basketball. Specifically, the commentator said, " This isn't like Kentucky Basketball - one and done. This is a series of operations." Wait. What? Okay, this is a weird comparison. pic.twitter.com/WRcMc5JVDz '-- C.M. Tomlin (@CM_Tomlin) April 7, 2017 The U.S. airstrike tar...
(CNN) -Yes. You read that headline correctly. During Thursday night's breaking coverage of the U.S. airstrikes on Syria, an analyst told Anderson Cooper that the operation was not like Kentucky basketball. Specifically, the commentator said, " This isn't like Kentucky Basketball - one and done. This is a series of operations." Wait. What? Okay, this is a weird comparison. pic.twitter.com/WRcMc5JVDz '-- C.M. Tomlin (@CM_Tomlin) April 7, 2017 The U.S. airstrike tar...
VIDEO - First on CNN: Secret Service agent on VP's detail caught after meeting with prostitute at Maryland hotel - CNNPolitics.com
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:32
Story highlightsPolice stopped the agent after exiting the hotel, a source saidHe self-reported his arrest to the Secret ServiceThe police responded to a call from the hotel manager who became suspicious of activity in one of the rooms. The source said this was not a sting.
The agent was arrested and was charged with solicitation. He then self-reported his arrest to the Secret Service, the source said.
At the time of the incident, which occurred late last week, the agent was off-duty and did not present himself in his official capacity, according to law enforcement sources.
A Secret Service spokesperson, speaking on the record, acknowledges "an alleged incident" occurred and says it involved an off-duty Secret Service employee and said that the matter is under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility to determine the facts.
According to the spokesperson, the employee was required to surrender his weapon and official gear and was placed on administrative leave. The employee's security clearance and access to all Secret Service facilities has also been suspended.
"We are exploring the full range of disciplinary actions," the Secret Service spokesperson said.
VIDEO - Hillary Clinton Explains Why She Really Lost to Trump - NBC News
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 12:33
Almost four months after her stunning defeat, Hillary Clinton on Thursday primarily blamed her loss to President Donald Trump on four factors that were beyond her control.
The former Democratic presidential candidate cited Russian meddling in the election, FBI Director James Comey's involvement toward the end of the race, WikiLeaks' theft of emails from her campaign chairman, and misogyny.
Clinton's comments came during her first post-election interview at Tina Brown's eighth annual Women in the World Summit in New York City. She was questioned by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.
She largely cited these factors for her defeat:
- Russia. "A foreign power meddled with our election," she said, labeling it "an act of aggression." She called for an independent, bipartisan investigation into the Kremlin's involvement and said the probe should examine whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.
- Misogyny. "Certainly, misogyny played a role. That has to be admitted," she said. Clinton added that "some people '-- women included '-- had real problems" with the idea of a woman president.
- Comey. Clinton cited as damaging to her campaign his unusual decision to release of a letter on October 28, less than two weeks before Election Day, that said he was looking at additional emails related to the FBI probe of the former secretary of state's use of a private server.
- WikiLeaks. Weeks of disclosures of stolen emails from the personal account of then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, were particularly harmful, Clinton said, adding that it "played a much bigger role than I think many people yet understand."
She said the combination of Comey's actions and the WikiLeaks' revelations "had the determinative effect."
About her own role, she said, "There were things I could have done better."
While Clinton said there were "lots of contributing factors" to her failure to secure the nation's highest office, she called Russia's interference the "weaponization of information."
"I didn't fully understand how impactful that was and so it created doubts in people," Clinton said. "But then the Comey letter coming as it did '-- just 10 days before the election '-- really raised questions in a lot of people."
Two days before the election, Comey announced that none of the emails would lead to criminal charges '-- leaving in place the FBI's determination from July. Officials told NBC News that nearly all of the emails were duplicates of emails that had been examined already.
Kristof also asked Clinton about Trump.
"I don't understand the commitment to hurt so many people that this administration, this White House, seems to be pursuing," Clinton said, pointing to the immigration ban, the slashing of U.S. funding for the UN Population Fund, and the failed health care bill.
"What they did or tried to do on the health care bill, which I will confess to this '-- having listened to them talking about repeal and replace for 8 years, or 7 years now, and they had not a clue what that meant," she said. "They had no idea. I don't know that any of them had ever even read the bill."
Clinton, who is writing a book that she said would examine her defeat last year, said she doubted she would ever seek public office again.
"Devastating," was how she described her loss.
Watch the full Clinton remarks here:
VIDEO - Syria missile strike: Trump authorizes action - CNNPolitics.com
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 05:50
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.
The strike is the first direct military action the US has taken against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US' military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said during short remarks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago, where he ordered the strike just hours earlier. "It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
He added: "There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically."
Shift in policy
Trump's decision marked a dramatic shift in his position on whether the US should take military action against the Syrian President's regime -- which Trump opposed during his campaign for president -- and came after the President was visibly and publicly moved by the images of this week's chemical weapons attack.
The strike took place at 8:40 p.m. ET (3:40 a.m. local time), when there would be minimal activity at the base, and targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and "the things that make the airfield operate," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government's ability to deliver chemical weapons," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Briefing reporters late Thursday night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the strike did not represent a "change in our policy or our posture in Syria," even though the Thursday night strike marked the first time the US had decided to take military action against the Syrian government.
"There has been no change in that status," he said. "It does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line ... and cross the line in the most heinous of ways."
Tillerson said the administration felt the strike was "proportional because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical attack."
The US military also showed reporters Thursday night an image of the radar track of a Syrian airplane leaving the airfield and flying to the chemical strike area Tuesday. A second image of bomb damage craters at the airbase was also shown to reporters at the Pentagon.
Tillerson said the US has a "very high level of confidence" that the Syrian regime carried out at least three attacks in recent weeks -- including on Tuesday -- using Sarin and nerve gas.
The strikes represented not only an escalation of the US role in Syria, but could have a ripple effect on the US' relations with the Syrian regime's powerful backer, Russia.
Russians were present at the base the US struck Thursday night, a US defense official said, though the role of those Russians was not immediately known.
Tillerson confirmed that the US military contacted their Russian counterparts about the attack ahead of time, in accordance with deconfliction policies between the US and Russia over military activities in Syria.
Congressional reaction
Lawmakers generally supported Trump's decision to strike back against Assad Thursday night, but cautioned the President against unilaterally starting a war without first consulting Congress. A pair of defense hawks -- Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- who have frequently been critical of Trump, roundly praised his decision Thursday night.
"Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin's Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs," McCain and Graham said in a joint statement.
But Sen. Rand Paul called on Trump to consult on Congress.
"While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked," Paul said. "The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate."
The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.
The order
Trump met with his national security team before his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, where he made the decision to pull the trigger on the biggest military action of his presidency, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said.
He sat through dinner with Xi as the action was under way.
The decision came two days after he was "immediately notified" of the chemical attack in Syria and asked his team to determine who was responsible. After it became clear Assad was responsible, Trump asked his team to develop options -- and settled on one Thursday after "a meeting of considerable length and far-reaching discussion," McMaster told reporters.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has been updating Trump about the missile strikes in Syria following his dinner with Xi, according to a US official.
Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster were with Trump at Mar-a-Lago at the time. Vice President Mike Pence remained in Washington, where he returned to the White House after dinner.
Trump's order to strike the Syrian government targets came a day after he said the chemical attacks -- whose grisly effects were broadcast worldwide where videos captured in the immediate aftermath -- "crossed a lot of lines for me" and said he felt a "responsibility" to respond.
"I will tell you it's already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much," Trump said.
"When you kill innocent children -- innocent babies -- babies -- little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines," Trump said.
'Red line'
Trump's decision to launch the strikes, the most significant military action of his young presidency, came nearly four years after the US first concluded that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in Syria.
The Obama administration concluded that Syria had violated the "red line" Obama had set a year earlier in discussing the use of chemical weapons, but ultimately decided against military action against Syria in favor of a Russian-brokered deal to extricate the country's chemical weapons stockpile.
Trump at the time said the US should "stay the hell out of Syria" and urged Obama on Twitter to "not attack Syria" in the wake of the 2013 chemical attack.
"There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your 'powder' for another (and more important) day," he tweeted in September 2013.
Trump repeatedly criticized Obama during his presidential campaign for not acting on his "red line" threat, but the real estate mogul also argued against deepening the US' military involvement in Syria, particularly as it related to Assad.
Trump argued last May in a TV interview that he would "go after ISIS big league," but said he did not support targeting Assad's regime, arguing the US has "bigger problems than Assad."
Syria's six-year civil war has claimed the lives of at least 400,000, according to a United Nations estimate released a year ago. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6 million more have been displaced internally, according to UN agencies.
2016 rhetoric
But guided by his "America First" ideology and rejection of the US' propensity for "nation-building," Trump did not argue in favor of stepped-up US intervention during his campaign for president.
Instead, he signaled the opposite: He argued that the US should remain laser-focused on defeating ISIS and vowed to try and partner with Russia, which has heartily backed Assad's regime, in order to defeat ISIS and bring the conflict to an end.
Those views appeared steeped in his longstanding criticism of the Iraq War, which he called a "stupid" decision, lamenting the billions of dollars funneled toward that war effort instead of on domestic programs, like infrastructure spending.
While Trump rejected the isolationist label some placed on him during the campaign, he made clear that his preference was for limiting the US footprint around the world and refocusing US foreign policy around core national security interests.
VIDEO - Parallel - Clinton on Russian election meddling: 'More effective theft even than Watergate'
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 04:49
(CNN) Hillary Clinton referred to Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election as an "act of aggression" on Thursday, in her most extended comments yet about a controversy that has consumed the earliest days of Donald Trump's presidency.
"I am deeply concerned about what went on with Russia," Clinton said at the "Women in the World" summit in New York City. "A foreign power meddled with our election and did so in a way that we are learning more about every single day."
The Russian hackings, she said, appeared to be a "more effective theft even than Watergate."
Accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to "sow distrust and confusion, as well as influence, our election," the former secretary of state also said she supports an independent investigation into whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Russians "will be back time and time again" if the United States doesn't take bipartisan "action together to hold whoever was involved accountable," Clinton warned.
Thursday marked Clinton's first public interview since Election Day. The wide-ranging question-and-answer session was conducted by the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof. In front of a friendly audience at a packed auditorium at the Lincoln Center, Clinton was forthcoming about the parallel universe in which she had hoped to be president.
"You know what? I'm doing pretty well, all things considered," Clinton said, when Kristof asked how she was doing. The past few months, she said, have been filled with long walks in the woods, spending quality time with friends and family, and at times, convincing herself to "get out of bed."
"The aftermath of the election was so devastating," she said.
She reflected on what it has been like to observe the climate that has surrounded her former political opponent: "As a person I'm OK. As an American, I'm pretty worried."
"I don't take any pleasure in seeing the kind of chaotic functioning," she said.
But one moment of dysfunction for the Republican Party was an exception: The GOP's failure to take a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"You know, health care is complicated. Right?" Clinton said in a jab at Trump. "That was somewhat gratifying."
Clinton also had sharp words on the situation in Syria, where a chemical attack -- believed to be perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad -- killed more than 70 people earlier this week.
"I really believe that we should have and still should take out (Assad's) air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them."
The lingering disappointment among her supporters in the room was clear. Comedian Samantha Bee, who introduced Clinton onto the stage, said, "It's actually hard to know what to say today. I should be lauding Hillary for making time to be here despite her busy schedule as president."
In the immediate aftermath of her loss to Trump in November, the two-time presidential candidate largely stayed away from the limelight.
But in recent weeks, Clinton has appeared increasingly willing to speak out in public, even wading into politics.
At a diversity conference hosted by the Professional BusinessWomen of California last week, Clinton took on what she said were "indignities," "sexism" and "structural barriers" that women confront today.
One person Clinton singled out in that speech: Sean Spicer. The White House press secretary had had a contentious back-and-forth with American Urban Radio Networks correspondent and CNN political analyst April Ryan, culminating in a condescending request for Ryan to "please stop shaking your head."
"She was patronized and cut off as she tried to ask a question," Clinton said of Spicer's comment to Ryan.
Days after the California appearance, Clinton delivered pointed criticism of the Trump administration. In remarks at Georgetown University, she blasted the President's budget blueprint, which proposed deep domestic spending cuts and reductions in foreign aid.
While Clinton's closest associates are inclined to reject speculation of the former candidate's interest in pursuing public office again, rumors have continued to swirl nonetheless. Local media have floated her name as a possible New York City mayoral candidate.
Clinton aides say that she is still mulling over what she would like to do in the coming years, and has been reaching out to friends, donors and other associates to keep the lines of communication open.
Asked if she would ever run for office again, Clinton said more than once that she is set on finding "interesting things" to do with her life -- without outright rejecting the suggestion of another political campaign.
"I am looking at doing interesting things. I don't think that will ever include running for office again," Clinton said. "I have no plans. I have no plans at all other than trying to find some interesting things to do."
VIDEO - Anonymous - What They Aren't Telling You... (I-85 Bridge Collapse Cover Up TRUTH) - YouTube
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 04:44
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VIDEO - Inside the White House, paranoia and unrest among top staff - CNNPolitics.com
Thu, 06 Apr 2017 21:09
More than a dozen officials -- all in frequent contact with the White House and Trump himself -- described to CNN a tumultuous moment for Trump and his staff.
In the Trump White House, top aides obsess over face time with the President, often joining him for meetings rather than working on a parallel track to execute his agenda.On a given day, the line outside Trump's Oval Office can stretch to dozens of people, including aides, diplomats and outside visitors -- some scheduled to meet with the President and others brought in on a whim.
"They take everybody in and (take) every meeting, and it slows down the process," said one source close to the President.
Top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner's rising prominence is more a symptom of West Wing dysfunction, according to two sources familiar with his thinking, than a sign of his desire to control all aspects of Trump's agenda.Even there, however, sources concede that gaining accurate insights into Trump's plans amounts to a game of educated guesswork: While Trump may vent frustrations to some friends in late-night phone calls, he is just as likely to arrive in the Oval Office the next morning without any hints that a shakeup may be afoot.
Priebus, Bannon hit headwinds
Priebus, ostensibly Trump's top aide, has weathered storms of speculation about his standing even before stepping into the West Wing on January 20. Yet even as the White House continues to insist that the chief of staff is secure in his post, the swirl of theories about his and other top aides' places within Trump's orbit remains unending. Some even say that the President doesn't even ask Priebus for advice.
Bannon, meanwhile, is quickly finding his role diminished in the West Wing. Trump's decision Wednesday to remove his chief strategist from the National Security Council reflected a demotion for the polarizing figure, and a signal that staffing decisions made just months ago are being rethought at the highest levels. Two senior Republicans close to the White House pointedly said the decision to remove Bannon from the committee is the first public diminishing of his power inside the West Wing.
Priebus, these officials said, appears more uncertain in his post than ever as Trump grows impatient with how his presidency is being viewed. Bannon, a former executive at the conservative website Breitbart whose appointment in the West Wing drew widespread consternation, has also found his standing with the President compromised after a string of strategic losses.
Health care failure
Last month's health care meltdown proved both eye-opening and humbling for a former chief executive, accustomed to acting unilaterally and getting his way. People who spoke with him afterward said he expressed regret at attempting to push through a health care repeal effort before working on tax reform or an infrastructure package -- both areas in which he's better versed than health care.Trump, in both public and private, has avoided laying explicit blame for the health care debacle on House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was the public face of the replacement plan that ultimately failed to gain support among conservatives. But he has lamented his decision to follow the House speaker's lead in attempting to push through a plan that lacked sufficient support from his own party.Priebus, in Trump's mind, is inherently linked to Ryan through their tenure atop the Republican establishment -- Ryan as House speaker, Priebus as chairman of the Republican National Committee. On Monday evening, Priebus was on Capitol Hill alongside Vice President Mike Pence to try and resuscitate momentum toward a new repeal-and-replace effort, based this time on a White House plan.
But according to several people familiar with Trump's thinking, if this latest health care gambit fails, Priebus is likely to catch the blame -- and could be shown the door.
According to people who have interacted with Priebus in recent days, the chief of staff's unease is palpable as Trump continues to demand that elements of his agenda be handled differently. There remains a sense among aides that Priebus cannot find any way to please his boss, who remains deeply frustrated at the pitfalls his administration has encountered since taking office.
Kushner ascendant
The rising stature inside the West Wing of Kushner, the influential senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, the President's daughter, has consolidated power even more among the Trump family, Republicans close the White House say.
Bannon's ouster from the National Security Council Wednesday was only the latest sign of Kushner's rise, sources said. While H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, has been working for weeks to find a way to rid the White House foreign policy operation of Bannon, it was ultimately Kushner's influence that led to Bannon's departure from the panel, sources said.
Another official stressed that a new power center has emerged in the West Wing that pointedly does not include Bannon. Instead, a pair of former Goldman Sachs executives -- Gary Cohn and Dina Powell -- appear to be in favor. Cohn acts as Trump's chief economic adviser and Powell is a deputy national security adviser. Both are viewed internally as close to Kushner, a dynamic that rankled those in the White House close to Bannon -- who have come to term Cohn as "Globalist Gary," an insult for those aligned with the Bannon's populist views.Kushner is "absolutely" taking charge, said one person with direct knowledge of administration proceedings.
The rise of Trump's son-in-law has only further isolated Priebus, who himself has grown touchy about the constant questions about his competence and stature in the White House. The sensitivity has extended to the Republican aides whom he helped bring along to the administration.
Shake-up?
The low-grade pall of paranoia was heightened last week when Katie Walsh, a colleague of Priebus at the RNC who joined him at the White House as deputy chief of staff, departed the administration for a top posting at a pro-Trump outside political group.
The White House took pains to cast Walsh's departure as a jointly agreed-upon move meant to bolster Trump at a key moment. Kushner joined Priebus and Bannon in Priebus' West Wing office to tell a small group of reporters that the staffing decision was made in Trump's best interest.
"I'm very supportive of Katie and the sacrifice she's making," Kushner said.
But in the days after her departure, people who know Walsh said she fought hard for a White House job after last year's election, and said it was doubtful she left of her own volition. Instead, they suggested her exit from the White House amounted to her getting pushed out, and reflects poorly on Priebus' ability to protect his hires, or himself.
A Republican close to Priebus, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained Walsh's departure like this to CNN: "It was a shot across the bow to Reince -- to strip him of his protector and top aide."
Another Republican familiar with the situation said the some of the early Trump loyalists were looking for someone to blame on the heels of the health care failure.
"I think they got their hide," the source said, providing Priebus a momentary reprieve.
A critical issue, according to this Republican, is that Priebus isn't sure of his own standing from day-to-day or week-to-week, creating a climate of uncertainty in his corner office of the West Wing.
Asked squarely whether Priebus was the next to go, a White House official last week said he was not. And pressed during the daily White House briefing whether a larger staff shakeup was looming, press secretary Sean Spicer said simply: "No."
But those answers stopped neither outside observers nor Trump himself from mulling the makeup of his staff.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump's counselor who managed his campaign, has largely been sidelined, after serving as a once ubiquitous surrogate on cable television. White House aides say she's still determining where to best focus her attention from her second-floor suite of offices.
On the foreign policy front, McMaster has moved to hire a more traditional slate of aides for the National Security Council. Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who's been a critic of President Vladimir Putin, began as director for European and Russian affairs this week. And KT McFarland, who joined the staff under fired adviser Michael Flynn, is said to have been offered an ambassadorial posting in Singapore.
Bannon's accession to the National Security Council in February demonstrated the breadth of his power inside the White House, signaling that the former head of Brietbart News' influence extended beyond politics and domestic policy. His demotion, officials said, is a signal that McMaster is starting to win more influence in a White House rife with internal controversy.
Chief of staff staying close
Through it all, Priebus has remained at or near Trump's side. Two sources described Priebus as intently involved in managing Trump's schedule on a minute-to-minute basis -- a departure from the practices of his predecessors, who used the bulk of the day to convene meetings, acting separately from the President to manage a White House staff of hundreds.
In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt last week, Priebus described his daily routine, which he said includes early morning conversations with Trump and check-ins throughout the day.
"I usually talk to the President before my 8 a.m., and then usually meet with him on the calendar before he starts his tick-tock throughout the day," Priebus said. "But generally, you know, if it's something I have to be in, I'm in it. Otherwise, I'm back running the operation."
"It's sort of a 'care and feeding' of the President," he said, "but it's also sort of the strategic planning for the future and making sure that all those things are being done in a timely way."
But to some Republicans outside the White House, Priebus is spending an inordinate amount of time managing Trump's whims, and not enough time molding a coherent administration agenda. Increasingly that job appears to have fallen to Kushner.
Hazarding a guess at the mercurial President's plans is roughly as fruitful as predicting an earthquake, a person in close touch with the White House said: "Equal parts science and art."
"Who the hell knows?" another senior Republican source in frequent contact with the White House said. "It's Donald Trump."
CNN's Dana Bash and Sara Murray contributed to this report.
VIDEO - GOP Representative stuns CNN anchor - YouTube
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:51
VIDEO - Afghanistan dangles lithium wealth to win Trump support - ABC News
Fri, 07 Apr 2017 21:57
The Afghan government is trying to grab the attention of President Donald Trump and gain greater U.S. support by dangling its massive and untouched wealth of minerals, including lithium, the silvery metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries that is considered essential to modern life.
But tapping into that wealth, which also includes coal, copper, rare earths and far more that estimates say could be worth from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, is likely a long way off.
Security has worsened in Afghanistan the past year, with Taliban insurgents seizing territory and inflicting increasing casualties on Afghan forces. The regions with the greatest lithium deposits, for example, are currently too dangerous to enter.
So far, Trump's policy on Afghanistan remains unknown.
He has said little about America's longest-running war, beyond saying on the campaign trail that he wishes the United States were not involved in Afghanistan. Last month, the top U.S. military commander called for an increase in American forces to help bring security, a call Kabul enthusiastically backed. But the White House has not said which direction it will go '-- toward beefing up the American role, drawing it down further or something else entirely. There are currently around 8,400 U.S. troops in the country, involved in training Afghan forces and in counter-terrorism operations.
Kabul clearly hopes the promise of mineral wealth will entice Trump into making a greater commitment.
"Afghanistan can be an appropriate place for U.S. industry, and specifically the mining sector, to look at opportunities for investment" because so few potential deposits have been mined, said Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, chief adviser to Afghan president on infrastructure, human capital and technology.
"Afghanistan has always been interested in the U.S. investing in many areas, specifically the mining area. Within mining, there are some areas that are strategic materials such as lithium," Qayoumi told The Associated Press.
President Ashraf Ghani spoke with Trump in December, and they discussed the mineral wealth. "There was a quite good matter of interest from President Trump's administration," Qayoumi said. The two leaders spoke again in February for the first time since the inauguration in talks that focused on the security situation.
A White House official said the U.S. sees sustainable economic development as "essential" to Afghanistan's stability, including in the mining sector. He said the U.S. will work with Afghan businessmen and officials on reforms that "enhance private sector development" and contribute to development. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Mineral resources have been touted as potentially transformative for Afghanistan, a key to lifting it out of poverty and bringing major wealth for development.
Interest was particularly spiked by a 2007 report by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Afghan government that found the country's deposits of a wide variety of minerals were much larger than had been known from surveys decades earlier by the Soviets.
The mountainous, land-locked nation has huge, largely untouched reserves of copper, iron ore, chromite, mercury, zinc, gems, including rubies and emeralds, as well as gold and silver. Particularly alluring is its lithium, crucial to laptop and cellphone batteries.
But getting those minerals out of the ground '-- and doing it in a way that actually benefits the country as a whole '-- has been elusive.
The war has scared away investors. Also, corruption is rife, and many of the mines that do exist are controlled by local warlords who reap the profits. The Taliban are believed to earn millions from illegal mining.
In 2016, anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness warned that the mining sector was fueling the war. It pointed to lapis lazuli '-- a blue stone found almost exclusively in Afghanistan '-- saying local strongmen, lawmakers and Taliban insurgents were all in a violent competition over control of the mines, earning $20 million a year from illegal mining and in the process destabilizing northeastern Badakhshan province.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan said in a 2015 report that the great majority of more than 300 mining contracts awarded so far "may have been exploited by local strongmen under the protection of warlords." It examined five mines and estimated the government was losing tens of millions of dollars from those mines alone because of corruption that means taxes, rents and royalties are not collected.
The main lithium deposits are in three regions '-- Ghazni province in the east and Herat and Nimroz provinces in the west. Herat and Nimroz are the scene of regular fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban, and the areas of Ghazni where the lithium is located have a strong Taliban presence.
The government's mines and petroleum ministry has also been in disarray. The minister's post has been empty for nearly a year since the resignation of Daud Shah Saba, who often complained of "powerbrokers" controlling the mineral resources. Finally, last week, the government named Nargis Nehan, a prominent rights and anti-corruption campaigner, as acting minister.
Introducing her, Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh vowed action to reform the sector, "sever the hands of traitors" controlling minerals and bring "balanced development."
Wahidullah Shahrani, who served as mines and petroleum minister from 2010 to 2013, said that at that time there was a major push by the government and international partners to lay a path for developing the sector. They worked out a clear timeline and strategy. Lithium was identified as a priority.
But since then, the security situation has dramatically worsened as U.S. troops '-- numbering more than 100,000 in 2011 '-- began to withdraw and hand over the fight against the Taliban to Afghan forces. Multiple areas that were once considered safe have fallen into turmoil.
Shahrani said the priority now is for the ministry to clean up management of the mineral sector and draw up a plan going forward.
The U.S. can play a major role in helping that.
"The government of Afghanistan right now doesn't have either the financial or the technical resources," he said.
'--'--'--
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

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