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Tue, 12 Dec 2017
The World for People who Think


Council on Foreign Relations calls for COINTELPRO-style actions against Americans who hold "unacceptable views"

Foreign Policy, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, has reposted an article by Daniel Byman, a government insider and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Byman's article, Should we treat domestic terrorists the way we treat ISIS?: What works-and what doesn't, calls for a police and surveillance state focus on domestic "rightwing terrorist" individuals and organizations.

Byman's point of departure is Stephen Paddock, the millionaire accused of killing 58 people attending a country and western festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The government has yet to establish a political or religious motive for the attack, and yet Byman writes Paddock fits "a stereotype of a right-wing terrorist more than a jihadist one."

From there Byman conflates Paddock's alleged violence with that of James Alex Fields Jr., the "white supremacist" who drove a car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville. "Fields' use of a car to drive through a crowd resembles nothing more than the vehicle attacks that we've seen in Barcelona, Berlin, London, Nice, and other cities in the past two years," Byman argues.

From there Byman wanders far afield. He pairs the 2015 attack on a Planned Parenthood Clinic and a black church in Charleston to the sniper attack in Las Vegas. He argues the government should treat domestic terrorism incidents the same way it treats attacks by the Islamic State.

Alarm Clock

Secret Pentagon report reveals West saw ISIS as strategic asset

Comment: Given recent developments in the Middle East, with Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Syria all making official, public statements about U.S. support for ISIS and other terror groups, we want to bring readers' attention back to the declassified 2012 DIA memo that admits as much. Despite official denials, the U.S. has been a covert and overt supporter of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere, the same terrorists who have carried out attacks in Europe and around the world.

A declassified secret US government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, despite anticipating that doing so could lead to the emergence of an 'Islamic State' in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to the newly declassified US document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the 'Islamic State' as a direct consequence of the strategy, but described this outcome as a strategic opportunity to "isolate the Syrian regime."


Las Vegas Gunshot Victim Says There Were Multiple Shooters, Exits Were Closed Off, Hemming People In

One of the victims in Sunday's Las Vegas mass shooting claims the onslaught felt like it was carried out by more than one person, and says he has the evidence to support it.

The Blast spoke with Rocky Palermo, who has 30-40 pieces of bullet shrapnel still inside his body after taking a .223 round to the pelvis. He says the bullet was inches from paralyzing or even killing him.

Palermo strongly believes there were between 3-5 active shooters during the attack because as he ran away from the initial gunfire, he describes bullets not only raining down, but flying horizontally at the crowd.

Palermo - an avid hunter familiar with guns and ballistics - says the different trajectories of gunfire was extremely evident, even in the midst of chaos.


Video suggests there may have been multiple shooters in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas shooting

mandalay bay
While there is certainly no shortage of bogus images and false claims surrounding the horrifically violent shooting in Las Vegas this weekend, there are some very serious inconsistencies that need addressing. A major one of those inconsistencies has to do with the myriad of reports of multiple shooters. While some of the claims have been proven false, a video, confirmed to be taken by a Las Vegas cab driver appears to capture and confirm the presence of multiple shooters.

Cori Langdon, taxi driver, and resident of Las Vegas was in the taxi lane at Mandalay Bay when the shooting began. At first, Langdon didn't know what was going on, but when the shots began, she quickly realized and began filming. What she captured could be considered the most important evidence in regards to the reports of multiple shooters.

In the video, shots begin to ring out. At first, the shots are far away and then, all of the sudden, they are right on top of her. This happens several times during the first two minutes of the video.

At first glance, the two shooting distances sound like it could just be an echo. However, as the video progresses, we here the distant shots originate first and with different patterns. As Langdon continues filming, the shooting becomes clear that it is coming from two different spots and Langdon even confirms this by saying, "It is now coming from further away."

Comment: TFTP is right to be cautious, but they are also right about this: the video raises disturbing questions. At 0:04.2 there is a loud string of 8 shots, followed by 8 muffled shots after a 2.07-second delay. At 1:08.1 there is another loud string of 13 shots followed by a string of muffled shots (some not very audible). But the loudest spikes are 2.08 seconds apart, implying that we're hearing echoes. Unless a second shooter almost perfectly mimicked the original shots in number and duration, with a near-identical delay each time, that is the best explanation.

However, at 0:46.1 we hear a string of 13 muffled shots (and a few muffled bursts around 0:52), without any loud bursts. In other words, no echo. This would seem to suggest that these shots were indeed from another source. Without a more in-depth analysis, there are probably two possibilities: 1) a second shooter, 2) the same shooter, but from a slightly different shooting position, e.g. further back in the room, away from the window, or through a different window.

And in 1), the other shooter(s) could be firing from different buildings. Of the 4 hotels looking out onto the Village concert venue, the Luxor (pyramid) has the best vantage point. According to police scanner audio, that hotel was evacuated due to a bomb alert called in at the time of the shooting. The Tropicana hotel was also on lock-down, in that case due to an 'active shooter', also reported on police scanner audio. In fact, active shooters were reported at four hotels other than the Mandalay.

Then there is this video:

At one point in the analysis you can hear a steady stream of automatic fire. But during that fire, you can also hear 2 small bursts of suppressed gunfire on top of the existing automatic gunfire. Short bursts from close-range rifles can be heard while machine guns spray the target area from further afield.

For more updates, see: More than 50 dead, 500 wounded in Las Vegas concert shooting - UPDATES


Catalonia heads to the polls for independence referendum amid violent police measures - UPDATES

catalonia police
© PAU BARRENA / AFP - Getty Images
Some people in Catalonia, a rich and culturally distinct area in north-east of Spain, want to secede from the larger country. According to polls (pdf) less than half of the people in the area support the move. The local government prepared for a referendum and called for a local vote.

Polling stations were set up for today. But Spanish laws do not allow for such polls or a separation. Catalonia, like other Spanish regions, already has a good degree of autonomy. If Catalonia were to secede the Basque areas in the north would likely follow. Spain would fall apart. Under Spanish law the referendum is illegal. The central government sent police to prevent the procedure. Street melees ensued.

Comment: Spanish police have been filmed firing rubber bullets on unarmed civilians (more videos here). Another video shows a police officer slamming a young woman to the ground. The Catalan government says 38 people had been treated for injuries inflicted by police early this morning, pinning the responsibility on Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy. A few hours later, that number was 337. The reaction should have been predictable. Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont made that clear:
"The unjustified, disproportionate and irresponsible violence of the Spanish state today has not only failed to stop Catalans' desire to vote ... but has helped to clarify all the doubts we had to resolve today".
Police have destroyed at least one polling station, and seized ballot boxes in an attempt to stop the referendum. But 90+% of polling stations are open, according to Catalan sources (Spain says it shut down 50%). Would-be voters have been forcibly removed from polling stations by police.

Puigdemont says Catalonia could declare independence within 48 hours if "yes" wins. Jeremy Corbyn and Belgium's PM have condemned the Spanish police's violence.

Julian Assange has been tweeting about Spain's tactics:

Update: The number of injured is now over 460, 2 seriously injured.

Update: Catalan police defended polling stations and were forced into several standoffs with Spanish police. Catalans showed an outpouring of support for the Catalan police, bringing some of them to tears. At the end of the day, over 840 Catalans were injured by Spanish police (more footage here). The Spanish FM defended the police actions, calling them "proportionate":
"You may think people were peacefully exercising their right to vote but the problem is this so-called referendum had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court," Alfonso Dastis told SkyNews on Sunday.

Dastis denounced the referendum as "sham voting," accusing the organizers of bringing in rigged ballot boxes, full of pre-planted votes. The official did not provide any proof for the allegations, though.

Spain's FM dismissed allegations of excessive police violence. "I don't agree with you that this is an extraordinary level of violence," Dastis said.
The lack of reaction towards the referendum clashes on the part of EU leaders, according to Dastis, is due to them waiting on "reliable information" as evidence of the violence to be distributed by the "defenders of the so-called" referendum, and which might contain "fake photos." The official urged to "wait and see" until this "reliable information" of sorts emerges.

When asked about the Spanish government reaction should the Catalonia actually declare independence, the official took on the same expectative approach, stating that it should happen first and then talk about it.
It's pretty stunning how detached from reality Dastis is. We guess all those videos of Spanish police beating grannies at the polling stations were fake. Spain's PM journeyed even deeper into La La Land, announcing that "no referendum has been held in Catalonia today". He too defended police, saying they "performed their duty", apparently unable to foresee the internet memes that will undoubtedly result from such a statement. He added that voting (in the referendum that didn't take place) only damaged Spain's "coexistence" and "served to sow division". Police beating grannies no doubt played no part in that.

By contrast, the Catalan government's responses look sane:
Announcing a two pronged response strategy, officials added that a process to institute anti-Madrid sanctions in the EU is already underway.

"We will initiate formalities to activate the mechanisms of sanctions... We think that the actions of the Spanish state that the whole world is witnessing, put the image of the EU as a guarantor of democracy and human rights at risk," Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raul Romeva told a news conference in Barcelona Sunday.

Catalan officials have initiated contact with various EU institutions, including the European Parliament and the European Commission, along with representatives of EU member states "in order to launch measures to penalize and control" Madrid, he added.

The minister referred to the EU's Article 7, a law that can suspend a member state's voting rights and impose sanctions on a country believed to have fundamentally violated human rights.

Having accused Spanish authorities of such violations, another Catalan government official, Jordi Turull told reporters that Madrid should be held accountable in international courts for its actions during the poll.
The referendum now complete, Puidgemont says the official results will be announced in a few days. His message: "On this day of hope and suffering, Catalonia's citizens have earned the right to have an independent state in the form of a republic."

Despite Puidgemont's statement, however, the Catalan government has already issued results (we assume they are preliminary results, and that official ones are forthcoming):
Over two million Catalans, or 90.9 percent of those who voted said 'Yes' in Sunday's referendum, regional authorities said. Only 7,87 percent, or 176,565 voters said 'No' when asked if they want to attain independence from Madrid.

The Catalan government said the result reflects only the ballots that "were not seized" during police raids on polling stations throughout the day.

"What kind of a democracy steals ballot boxes?" asked Vice President Oriol Junqueras, standing next to government representatives, Raul Romeva and Jordi Turull.
Of Catalonia's 5.34 million voters, this represents a turnout of around 42.3 percent, excluding those whose ballots were confiscated and people who were prevented from voting by police.

The massive police crackdown "prevented" an estimated 770,000 people from voting, Catalan government board member Turull said during the vote result announcement.
Update (Oct. 2): Madrid has vowed to do "everything within the law" to prevent Catalonia from declaring independence:
Asked if the central government would use Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which would allow it to practically suspend the autonomous powers of the northeastern region, Catala said: "That is a tool that is there."

"We have always said that we will use all the force of the law, all the mechanisms that the constitution and the laws grant the government," he added.

"We are not here to divide Spaniards, we are here to serve the general interest, therefore if we have to use certain measures that worry us and may hurt, we will do it. It is important to guarantee that Spain has rule of law, that laws are fulfilled," he said.
The European Commission finally commented on the police crackdown:
"We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue," the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.

"Violence can never be an instrument in politics," it said, adding that it is incumbent on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy "to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein."
Some EU Parliament parties have already decried the violence during the Catalonian referendum. The Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left wants to raise the issue during the Monday meeting, calling on the body to protect the rights of Catalans.

The president of the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament, Gabi Zimmer, said that the EU cannot ignore "the shocking scenes" and tolerate "attacks on democracy."

Greens in the European Parliament also strongly condemned the attacks on peaceful voters.

The UN also responded to the violence in Catalonia on Monday as High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad called on the Spanish government to resolve the Catalan question "through political dialogue with full respect for democratic freedoms." He also wants the authorities to investigate "all acts of violence" related to the referendum.
Most leaders of EU member states have not offered any reaction to the situation in Catalonia. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among the earliest to condemn the police brutality, saying it was "shocking" and "unnecessary" and calling on Madrid to let people"vote peacefully."
On Monday, Germany also stressed the necessity of dialogue between Spanish central and regional governments, urging the sides to "keep calm." "The images that reached us yesterday from Spain show how important it is to interrupt the spiral of escalation," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, according to Reuters.
As Republican Left leader on the Barcelona City Council Alfred Bosch told RT:
The fact is that they have prevented - in a very hostile manner - people from voting. They have prevented people from voting who want independence; however, they also prevented those who wanted to vote 'No' to independence and were against independence like themselves. That is very undemocratic.
It is backfiring right now. Just look at how people have been voting in the thousands, they have been showing up in all the voting stations. Just look at how the international press is covering what is going on here. And just see how people back in Russia, or Europe or anywhere in the world are watching these shocking images and thinking what on earth is going on in Spain? Has this government of Mr. Rajoy turned absolutely crazy? Have they gone back to the Middle Ages? Or to General Franco's military dictatorship?
Like the local police, local Catalan firemen stepped in to protect voters and polling stations from Spanish police. The local response? They were greeted as heroes. Again, the Spanish government seriously miscalculated the public perception of their response to the vote.

The Catalan government plans to set up a commission to look into Spain's violation of fundamental rights. (893 people were injured, 72 of whom have filed formal complaints against Spanish police.)
Puigdemont demanded the withdrawal of the National Police and Civil Guard from the territory of Catalonia, and said that his government will be taking steps to carry out their mandate for independence in the next few days, following the victory of the 'yes' vote.
Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, while not a supporter of the independence movement, has echoed Puigdemont's calls for a thorough examination and explanation of what happened on Sunday, accusing police officers of carrying out not only beatings but sexual assaults. Colau has also called on Prime Minister Rajoy to resign, arguing that the EU should take over the talks.

Meanwhile students have been holding a silent protest against the brutality that took place on Sunday at the Plaza de Cataluna, the central square in Barcelona, while other protesters gathered outside the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya which houses the Catalan government.

A general strike has been called in Catalonia on Tuesday as two of Spain's biggest unions, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a powerful pro-independence civil association, and 41 other groups have called on their supporters to protest against "the grave violation of rights and freedoms." As a major hub of the Spanish economy, the strike could have significant ramifications across the whole country.
Despite pre-vote polls showing a fairly even split between yes/no (both sides failing to show a clear majority), it looks as if yes sentiments surged in past weeks as Spain's heavy-handed tactics were put into effect. See this last-minute poll published by the National:
catalonia poll
Update (Oct. 3): As Catalonians strike and protest today, France's president Macron took heat for siding with Spain. A source says he "underlined his support for Spain's constitutional unity" directly to Spanish PM Rajoy. No comment on whether or not he condemned the Spanish police response to the referendum.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Spanish police were evicted from hotels in Catalonia today. Hotel owners made the call after Sunday's police brutality:
A lawyer acting for the police has pledged legal action against the hotel owner and local council he claimed had pressured him into serving the expulsion order, a claim town hall chiefs have angrily denied. ...

Police have claimed on social media that waiters at some of the hotels they were staying at called in sick after being pressured to skip work, prompting staff shortages.

They also said some distributors had cut food supplies to the hotels "off their own backs or because they were being pressured".

One message, said to be circulating on a closed police WhatsApp group but flagged up by several Spanish newspapers, said: "The director of the hotel I was staying at received several calls, one of them saying that they were going to burn it down, others threatening to kill his parents and reminding him that he had young children."
Right, "pressure". Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that you guys royally messed up and are now hated by more Catalonians than did just a few days ago.

To evade authorities and avoid violence, one priest allowed activists to use his church to count ballots there:
I have a very good relationship with the neighbors and before the violence in other towns, I offered the temple to them,"he explained.

"It was also bigger and so more people could follow the scrutiny. I'm happy to have welcomed them."

Star of David

By the grace of Israel: Kurdish independence and the Barzani clan

Lt. Colonel Sagi with Mustafa Barzani
© Yossi Zeliger
Lt. Colonel Sagi with Mustafa Barzani
The Kurdish region in Iraq held a "referendum" about splitting off from Iraq to form an independent state. The referendum was highly irregular and the outcome was assured. That such a referendum was held now had more to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence. The referendum was non-binding. It is now onto Barzani to declare independence or to leave the issue aside (in exchange for more money).

We first wrote about the Kurdish problem and Kurdish ambitions in Iraqi back in December 2005(!). The problems of an independent Kurdish region we then pointed out are still the same:
A landlocked Kurdish state of some kind could produce a lot of oil, but how would this oil reach the markets, especially Israel? The neighbors Turkey, Iran and Syria all have Kurdish minorities and have no reason to help a Kurdish state to enrich itself and see that money funneled to their unruly minorities. After [Kurdish] grabbing [of] Kirkuk, the Arab rest of Iraq will also not support pipelines for then Kurdish oil.
Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests.

Ice Cream Bar

Empire Idiots: Postcard from post-terror Catalonia

refugees europe
© Linh Dinh
Tarragona, Spain, 2017
In Catalonia, there's a summer drink that combines beer with lemon soda. In Barcelona, it's called "clara." Further South, it's dubbed, most charmingly, a "champu," as in Head and Shoulders. Champu is quite good at eliminating the dandruff inside your skull.

© Linh Dinh
Cambrils, 2017
It is late summer, and I'm in Cambrils, drinking my second champu in Hawaii, a beach bar. The tables around me are mostly empty. I face the ocean. There are few bodies on the sand, and fewer in the water. It is peaceful here.

In 2001, Mohammed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, of 9/11 fame, were in Cambrils, however, and just 2 1/2 weeks ago, five Muslim "terrorists" were killed by police a few hundred feet from where I'm sitting.

It is said that at 1:15AM on August 18th, these Muslims drove their car through a police checkpoint outside the yacht club, then ran over six people, three of whom were cops. The three civilians were an old couple, and the woman's sister. The wife, 61-year-old Ana Maria Suarez, died.

Gold Seal

Eva Bartlett's Syria War Diary Part II: Civilians recount horrors of rebel rule as order returns to Madaya and Al-Waer

syria children vegetables
© AP/Hassan Ammar
Syrian children buy vegetables in the town of Madaya in the Damascus countryside, Syria, May 18, 2017
In revisiting Madaya and al-Waer after their reclamation by the Syrian army, it soon became clear from Bartlett's conversations with residents just how distorted the reporting of corporate media about their fate under "rebel" control had been.

In the last year, the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Madaya have become familiar to the international community as they have become subjects of heavy propaganda amid corporate media coverage to justify a so-called "humanitarian" war. Another area used in the war propaganda was al-Waer, a district of Homs occupied by the Western armed and financed "moderates" of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria), Ahrar al-Sham, and terrorists showing allegiance to Daesh (ISIS).

When I again visited Syria in June 2017, Aleppo, Madaya and al-Waer had been restored to peace, following the evacuation of these armed groups. I was able to visit these areas and speak to residents about the reality of life under the rule of these factions.

In Part I of my coverage August 2017 article focused on Aleppo and the life of civilians there under "rebel" occupation - which included many dangers, deprivations, and horrors, not the least of which was susceptibility to extra-judicial trials and executions.

Here, I look at Madaya and al-Waer, again from on the ground, to give a voice to Syrians who have been marginalized by the Western corporate media, which has instead glorified the insurgency.

Comment: Previously: Eva Bartlett's Syria War Diary: What Life Is Like Under "Moderate" Rebel Rule

Eye 2

The insanity of the Generals: They think they can 'win' Armageddon

US flag world burning
© New Eastern Outlook
In a room, somewhere deep inside the Pentagon generals and admirals met recently in order to prepare an assessment for the United States Senate Armed Services Committee. Present at the metering were General Mark Milley, the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, the Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller, and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. At such a meeting there's no doubt that Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford attended seeing he's the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The agenda for this meeting was serious as a heart attack - America's most brilliant and powerful military men gathered that day to discuss Armageddon.

The minutes of this fateful meeting are top secret. Only a handful of people will ever know what was discussed. But the end result of the strategy session was revealed on September 15, 2017 before the people of the United States. The top generals of the most powerful nation on Earth advised congress that America could in fact win an all-out war with Russia and China. It must have been a scene right out of Director Stanley Kubrick's classic Cold War film, Dr. Strangelove. I was not there, so I can only imagine the gathering of war hawks, the stoic expertise and military intellect, and the obtuse arrogance being conveyed across the congressional forum that day. The vision makes me wonder, "Who in the hell ordered such an assessment in the first place?" But I think we all know the answer.



US proxy forces tried to capture 29 Russian troops in Syria... and instantly regretted it

Spetsnaz (Russian Special Operations)

Spetsnaz (Russian Special Operations)
Now this is something you won't see on NBC nightly news.

The Russian military spokesman in this briefing, General Sergei Rudskoi, in a matter-of-fact deadpan, explains that 'US Secret Services', and their Al Qaeda proxies, had a very, very bad day yesterday.

Americans love bombing small, defenseless countries into the stone age, it's part of their culture like baseball, apple pie, and morbid obesity. One of the things they never do, however, is pick on a country that can fight back.

Comment: See also: Russian General Staff reports 850 jihadists killed as Russian warplanes help Syrian Army repel Idlib offensive

Today Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed at a press conference that the attack was instigated by U.S. intelligence.