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Fri, 24 Mar 2017
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Eye 2

ISIS pulls back from Deir Ezzor - Syrian army captures Deir Hafer, closes on Raqqa

ISIS reported to be withdrawing fighters from Deir Ezzor to defend Raqqa as apocalyptic battle for its 'capital' looms.

Reports are circulating in the Middle East that over the last few days ISIS has started pulling back some of its fighters from Deir Ezzor to its 'capital' Raqqa, which is coming under increasing threat from the Kurdish militia and the advancing Syrian army.

This news comes after reports that a senior Syrian government official has recently visited Deir Ezzor to inspect the defences of the encircled town and presumably to give some encouragement to its population and defenders.

There have also been reports that the Russian air force has been successfully air dropping supplies to the Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor and its airport.

Health

Freedom Caucus balks after White House 'final offer' on Obamacare replacement - says 'not enough votes'

The White House gave the House Freedom Caucus a final offer as it tries to win support for a bill to repeal and replace parts of Obamacare, but the conservative group's leader said no deal was reached by Thursday afternoon.

The lack of an agreement throws more doubt on a planned Thursday night vote on the crucial legislation. The conservative contingent has threatened the bill's passage, as its members have said the GOP plan does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

President Donald Trump met with the caucus earlier as he and House GOP leaders aimed to rally enough support for their proposal. Following the meeting though, Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters "there are not enough votes" to push the legislation through.

Comment:


Family

Trump, when out of the spotlight

© Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
Donald Trump is a racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobe -- did I miss anything? The left and the media launch these hideous kinds of attacks at Trump everyday; yet, nothing could be further from the truth about the real estate mogul. As an entertainment journalist, I've had the opportunity to cover Trump for over a decade, and in all my years covering him I've never heard anything negative about the man until he announced he was running for president. Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump for a living so a scandalous story on the famous billionaire could've potentially sold a lot of magazines and would've been a "yuge" feather in my cap. Instead, I found that he doesn't drink alcohol or do drugs, he's a hardworking businessman and totally devoted to his beloved wife and children. On top of that, he's one of the most generous celebrities in the world with a heart filled with more gold than his $100 million New York penthouse.

In 2004, the first season of The Apprentice aired and at that time I worked as an entertainment columnist for the "RedEye Edition of the Chicago Tribune" and as a freelancer for US Weekly. I had a gut feeling that Chicago contestant, Bill Rancic, was going to win the reality show. So I contacted him and covered the hit show the entire season. I managed to score an invite to New York for the show's grand finale and after-party. This is where I first met Trump and got to ask him a few questions. That year, Rancic did win The Apprentice. I attended The Apprentice finale the next two years in a row. Between that and the frequent visits Trump and his family made to Chicago during the construction of their Trump International Hotel & Tower, I got a chance to meet most of his family too and I've had nothing but positive experiences with them. Since the media has failed so miserably at reporting the truth about Trump, I decided to put together some of the acts of kindness he's committed over three decades which has gone virtually unnoticed or fallen on deaf ears.

Book 2

David Ray Griffin reviews The Lost Hegemon: Whom the Gods Would Destroy

© F. William Engdahl
F. William Engdahl, who is well known for books and articles in geopolitics, has recently published a book entitled The Lost Hegemon: Whom the Gods Would Destroy. The subtitle refers to a dictum by Euripides, "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad."

This book describes how the U.S. has been going mad since the fall of the Soviet Union, thereby destroying itself. The madness involves the method through which the United States tried to prevent the loss of its global hegemony. Engdahl writes that the method was based on a scheme devised by Zbigniew Brzezinski, while he was serving as President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor.

The scheme was to destroy the Soviet Union's economy by luring it into an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The method for doing this was for Osama bin Laden, working for the CIA, to invite fundamentalist Muslims in Saudi Arabia and other countries to Afghanistan, where the U.S. military would arm and train them (Operation Cyclone). Engdahl believes that the weakening of its economy led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over. How would the United States respond?

Smiley

CNN troll master class: Kiev Is a 'NATO Member', Western Ukraine Is 'Occupied'

© CNN
They know Porky. They know.
Western Ukraine is "occupied", according to CNN. An earlier version of this amazing article claimed that Ukraine is a NATO member. Sure, why not?

CNN's newsroom is either staffed by turnips or master-level trolls.

"Since assuming office the Trump administration has taken a much harder line on the occupation of the western part of Ukraine, a partner of NATO," writes CNN.

Fake news, but also: True news? We are very confused.

Eye 1

Top Democrat calling for GOP House Intelligence Committee chair investigated after Trump briefing

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-CA)
A top House Democrat is calling for an investigation into Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes after he told the White House about new information that President Donald Trump and his associates might have been caught up in government surveillance.

"A credible investigation cannot be conducted this way," Schiff said.
Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) told CNN on Thursday that the intelligence panel is a "very special committee."

"They are privileged to information that most members of Congress may never see and so you expect them to be extremely confidential," Cummings said. "What he did was basically go to the president, who's being investigated, by the FBI and by the intelligence committee, to give them information."

Comment: See also:


Map

Syrian war updates: U.S./YPG move on Taqba dam may complicate political situation in Syria

Turkey is at a dead end in Syria. Erdogan's dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.

Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the northwest, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.
© Islamic World News

Comment:




Snakes in Suits

Lavrov: Russia will judge Israel's 'actions, not words' in Syria

© Unknown
In a suggestive but somewhat cryptic statement, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Moscow would take note of Israel's actions — not words — in Syria, and respond accordingly.

Lavrov said on Wednesday that:
Russia "will judge how accurately this arrangement is carried out by our Israeli partners not on the basis of what they say but how they act," Lavrov stressed.

"During Israel's prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu's] second to latest visit to Moscow he and President [of Russia Vladimir] Putin achieved a clear agreement about the way Russian and Israeli militaries could cooperate in relation to the situation in Syria," Lavrov said, commenting on last week's Israeli strikes on the Syrian Armed Forces posts near Damascus.
We reported earlier this week that Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar Jaafari said that Syria's use of anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli fighter jets was a "message" from Putin.

Israel's ambassador was summoned by Moscow after Friday's airstrikes, and reports have emerged that Russian military advisors were operating just a few kilometers from the area that was targeted by Israeli strikes; so there's certainly circumstantial evidence to back up Jaafari's claim.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists the exact opposite — that Putin understands that "if there is a feasibility from an intelligence and military standpoint - [Israel will] attack [targets in Syria]".

Lavrov's statement suggests that the Russia and Israel have some kind of agreement concerning Syria — and that Moscow is unpleased with how it's being carried out. The question now is: What does this agreement entail?

Comment: It has been a Russian trademark to value actions over words. There is always truer meaning regarding what is done, versus the ambiguity of what is said. As they say, "Actions don't lie."

See also:


Attention

OPEC stymied as Goldman Sachs expects another oil glut in 2018

© Nigerian Pilot
Oil prices are heading down again on swelling US crude oil inventories, with Brent dropping below $50 per barrel for the first time this year.

The OPEC deal that has taken more than 1 million barrels per day of oil off the market has not succeeded in reversing this bearish trend for inventories. And with the deal at its midway point, focus is shifting towards an extension of the cuts through the end of the year.

But OPEC's usual strategy of jawboning the market back up ahead of these negotiations seems to be wearing thin amid record high crude oil inventories. "OPEC has used up most of its arsenal of verbal weapons to support the market. One hundred percent compliance by all is the only tool they have left and on that account they are struggling," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank. "OPEC's market intervention has not yet resulted in significant visible inventory drawdowns, and the financial markets have lost patience," investment bank Jefferies said in a research note.

Although projections from Wall Street banks tend to vary quite a bit, there is a growing chorus warning about another slide in crude prices. At this point, the big variable is whether or not OPEC decides to extend the deal when it meets in May - an extension would likely stabilize prices and might even push them back up into the mid-$50s or higher. No extension and oil could fall much further into the $40s.

Comment: Not "well-come" news for OPEC.


Binoculars

House Intel Chair Devin Nunes: Admits skeptical legality of surveillance on Trump team

© Los Angeles Times
Rep. Devin Nunes of California briefed US President Donald Trump at the White House on surveillance that had been conducted on some members of Trump's circle, which Nunes said may have been legal. Nunes was skeptical if the surveillance was morally right.

Surveillance reports included the names of some individuals on Trump's team, Nunes said, which is "perhaps legal." He quickly followed up by saying, "but I don't know if it's right. I think the President is concerned and he should be," Nunes added. The committee still needs more time to investigate, but some of the espionage activity "seems to be inappropriate."

The individuals subject to surveillance "appear" to be under FISA warrants, adding that multiple FISA warrants are "out there." The NSA is cooperating very well with the investigation, Nunes commented. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, was not briefed by Nunes.

The FBI has rejected allegations that surveillance was conducted against Donald Trump prior to November 8. The data was collected in November, December, and January, Nunes explicated. Trump had taken to Twitter to blast the "bad (or sick)" President Barack Obama for "wiretapping," which Trump maintained could include broad forms of surveillance. Nunes confirmed that Trump himself was not the subject of an investigation.

Nevertheless, Nunes "confirmed" that not once, not twice, but "on numerous occasions" US intelligence agencies "incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition." The individuals' names were explicitly stated in intelligence data, potentially constituting a legal violation, he said. "I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show the president-elect and his team were at least monitored and disseminated in what appears to be intelligence reporting channels," the representative said. "None of the surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities," he noted.

Comment: US intel agencies collected info on the transition team numerous times - perhaps legal, but perhaps illegal. Aren't they supposed to be definitive on this aspect? And, as stated, the Trump Tower wasn't wiretapped. But, was there other surveillance of a covert kind? Nunes did not volunteer it...nor deny it.