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Bad Guys

Closing in on Assad: Islamic State captures Palestinian refugee camp inside Damascus

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© Reuters / Ward Al-Keswani
Fighters from ISIS have a new base of operations just some 6 km from the residence of Syrian President Bashar Assad, after entering Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus suburbs, amid reports of assistance from the Al-Qaeda-affiliates.

"Credible information from public sources indicate that a variety of armed groups are engaged in fierce fighting in areas where Yarmouk's 18,000 civilians, including a large number of children reside, placing them at extreme risk of death, serious injury, trauma and displacement," said a statement from the UNRWA, the international agency that aids the Palestinians in the region.

Comment: This can't be good for Assad. Will this be the pretext for US strikes in Damascus?


Light Saber

More cracks in the Empire: Latin American countries want to remove all US military bases

© Flickr/US Air Force
Latin American conference will discuss the removal of US airbases from their countries.
Leaders from the United States, Canada and Latin America are gathering April 10-11 at the 7th Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama City, Panama, to talk about a variety of issues affecting the Western Hemisphere, including Cuba's relationship with the United States as both countries thaw out of a decades-long diplomatic freeze.

Another controversial subject some of the member countries want to take up is asking the US government to close all military bases in Latin America.

"That is something that belongs in the Cold War," said Colombian former president Ernesto Samper. "This is growing global economy and we have to leave aside all remnants of the past, especially unilateral politics. The bases are no longer relevant and should go."

This isn't the first time that Latin American leaders have asked the US government to close its military bases in the region, and like previous pronouncements on the subject, it is expected to go nowhere.

The US has several bases scattered throughout Latin America, including in Cuba (Guantánamo Bay), Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Honduras.

Samper and other Latin American leaders also criticized the US for its recent remarks on Venezuela, when the Obama administration declared Venezuela "a security threat."

Comment: The US will oppose this of course, probably oh, so politely, citing all the economic 'benefits' that come from what amounts to an occupation. They must. If Latin America were ever to manage this, imagine the list of countries lining up behind them for the same thing?


Clipboard

Russia and Greece vs. the West: A geo-strategic 'game, set and match'?

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© Kremlin.ru
Vladimir Putin meets yesterday with General Director of Aeroflot Vitaly Savelyev. Are the Greece touristic flights warming up? (Kremlin)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is headed to Russia April 8 to meet President Putin. With Russia and China emerging as an alternative to US-World Bank economics, the safe bet could be on a Russo-Greco bridge.


Greece's Industrial Reform Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Syriza MP Thanasis Petrakos were in Moscow the last two days laying the groundwork for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' meet with Vladimir Putin. As a squirming cauldron of edgy bankers, politicians, and generals west of the Bosporus look on with prescience at the prospects, Russia and China have a singular opportunity. As a caveat, Petrakos told Spiegel Online and other media:
"This visit is very important for Greece. We intend to deepen our relationship with Russia in the energy sector and thereby hope to gain a significant advantage."
A couple of weeks ago I reported on Tsipras' acceleration of his meetup with Putin. With talks in Berlin and with Brussels upcoming, the Greek Prime Minister set out to play his country's economic hand with the cards he had been dealt. Holding a Russo-Greco deal over the bankers' heads, this was not genius, only deal-making 101. The follow up report the other day asking if Brussels had "warmed" to Tsipras' ideas of debt consolidation spoke of potential cooperation between Greece and Russia in terms of commodities like gold, and "collateral" to ensure Russia's "yield" on any deal would be guaranteed. What I did not speak of was long term gain for Russia, and all her investment interests, should Athens cement relations with Moscow. Here are some keen observations for predictive measures on the coming meetup.

Comment: Watch. One week after April 9th a false flag attack will be inflicted on Greece. Or, the U.S./troika will be making lame economic deal overtures towards Greece. Or both.


Cow Skull

The rat jumping ship? Israel latest US ally to apply for membership in Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

© Associeated Press/Charles Dharapak
Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Obama
As the United States continues to beg ally after ally to forgo joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), key nations have, nevertheless, ignored that plea. The UK, Turkey, and Australia have already applied, among others. But the latest application might sting the most, as PM Netanyahu tosses Israel's name into the mix.

47 nations have already applied for membership in the AIIB, a multilateral development bank spearheaded by Beijing. Meant to provide financing for infrastructure projects throughout Asia - and to fill in loan gaps left by the International Monetary Fund - the bank is expected to significantly increase China's influence.

Which is why the United States was largely against it. With a Chinese bank pumping $100 billion into infrastructure projects in the region, Washington will inevitably lose some its own clout. As such, the US has strongly dissuaded its allies from joining, but one by one, countries have flocked to the new institution.

And now the AIIB can add Israel to its list. The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu had signed an application, saying membership would open up opportunities for Israeli companies to enter into one of the fastest growing markets on the planet.

Comment: To apply is not necessarily to be admitted. It will be very interesting to see what actually happens.


Bomb

Russian consulate in Aden damaged by coalition airstrikes

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© REUTERS/ Amer Almohibany
The Russian Consulate General in the Yemeni sea port of Aden has been hit by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, a source in the Russia embassy in Yemen told Sputnik.

"There is not a single intact window left," the source said. A possibility of consulate closure and the evacuation of Russian nationals is currently under review, the source added.

Earlier on Wednesday a Russian plane charted for the evacuation of Russian citizens caught in the conflict had been diverted to Cairo, after the coalition denied it landing in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Comment: Uh oh, poking the bear again!


Light Saber

Russia takes over BRICS chairmanship from Brazil

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© Sputnik
Russia accepted on Wednesday the chairmanship for the BRICS group of major emerging national economies, from Brazil.

During the one-year chairmanship, a series of events will be held, including the July 2015 BRICS seventh summit in Russia's southern city of Ufa on July 8-9.

The official website dedicated to Russia's chairmanship in BRICS has been launched on Wednesday. The address of President Vladimir Putin on Russia's chairmanship has already been released on the website.

Comment: It will be interesting to see how the BRICS develop with Russia playing the leading role.


USA

US economy: Platitudes, Hypocrisies and "Pimpocracy"

© unknown
Let's take a look at how the US economy, money and government have changed since President Nixon ended the gold-backed monetary system in 1971.

It is not pretty.

We already know about the money. Since 1971, it's been a credit-based, not a gold-based, system.

The pre-1971 economy had three key characteristics:
  1. It was healthy — Industry made things and sold them at a profit.
  2. It was fair — Financial progress was fairly evenly distributed.
  3. It was solvent — The US was a creditor, not a debtor, nation.
Americans still say they believe in free markets, democracy and financial rectitude. But only as platitudes and hypocrisies.

Comment: This is where US economy headed in the not so distant future.


War Whore

Criminal behavior: New York Times and Washington Post publish articles calling for the bombing of Iran

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about "aggression," "criminality," "madness," and "behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century."

But when the newspapers are American - the New York Times and the Washington Post - and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles - these incitements to murder and violation of international law - are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

Laptop

Facebook 'breaks EU laws' tracking logged-out users, people with no account via 'like' button

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© Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
A thumbs up 'Like' icon is on the door at the entrance to Building 10 at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 2012. Facebook, the word's most popular social networking website, expects to raise USD 12.1 billion in what will be Silicon Valley's largest-ever initial public offering (IPO) later this week.
Even if you have opted out of the tracking option in Facebook, or don't have account at all, the company is still watching your web movements through the use of social plugins, thereby breaking EU laws, says a report by the Belgian Privacy Commission.

A report commissioned by the BPC has discovered that Facebook tracks everyone, even logged-out users or people who don't have an account at all, primarily through the use of cookies and the 'like' button which is found on more than 13 million websites worldwide.

According to EU law, websites must receive a user's permission before placing any cookies on their computers. The automatic placement of tracking cookies is in "violation of European law," that is why all EU websites ask users to 'allow cookies' on the first visit.

By default Facebook installs tracking cookies - tiny files containing user's settings and previous activity - upon a visit to any page on the facebook.com domain, which translates into tracking users for advertising purposes across non-Facebook websites.

However, as the report found, for non-users or those who opted out, Facebook instead installed a special cookie called 'datr' which still contains a unique identifier and thus could be used to track user during every visit to a website containing a Facebook 'like' button.

Facebook disputed the conclusions of the report, claiming it "contains factual inaccuracies," according to an emailed statement to the Guardian. "The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based," the statement said.

Comment: See also:


Passport

Man claiming to be a US scholar recruited Uygur students at Guangzhou university for terrorist activities

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© SCMP Pictures
South China Normal University in Guangzhou
Man claiming to be researcher showed up at Guangzhou campus and helped members of ethnic minority go to Malaysia, sources say

Uygur students in Guangzhou have been warned to stay away from "outsiders" after several were recruited by a suspected religious extremist and had been missing since last year, various sources told the South China Morning Post.

A man claiming to be a US national conducting social science research visited the campus of the South China Normal University [SCNU] last year. Sources said the man recruited several Uygur students, gave them money and arranged for them to flee to Malaysia.

It is not clear if Malaysia was their final destination, or whether they were headed for Turkey or Syria, as some believe.

The recruiter was believed to be a member of an extremist religious group, according to a source who did not elaborate. A mainland terrorism expert said this was not an isolated case.

He said similar terrorist recruitments had been reported over the past two years at universities in Guangzhou, Beijing and Xian.

"The recruitment network of Islamic State has already spread to Beijing and Xian as well as Guangzhou," said Professor Yang Shu, an expert on Central Asia at Lanzhou University in Gansu province.

The SCNU noticed the absence of some Uygur students but first treated them as missing person cases, sources said. But the authorities later intercepted a Uygur student who tried to leave the campus and join the recruiter. "[The student] was busted on campus and confessed. Their plan was revealed," a source said.

The authorities kept the incident secret. Shortly afterwards, all Uygur students in Guangzhou were issued verbal but stern warnings that they must stay away from strangers and people not belonging to the school.

Comment: Is Guangzhou turning into a new hot spot in China's fight against smuggling and terrorism?