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Wed, 29 Mar 2017
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FOIA lawsuit filed against federal government after border searches of electronic devices grow five-fold in one year

© Mike Blake / Reuters
A report provided by DHS found searches of electronic devices carried out by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents grew five-fold in one year, from fewer than 5,000 searches in all of 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.
Dramatic increase in border searches of electronic devices prompt FOIA lawsuit against Trump administration

A group of First Amendment attorneys has filed suit against the federal government after a surge in electronic device data searches at US border crossings.

On Monday, the the Knight First Amendment Institute (KFAI) at Columbia University filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seeking "statistical, policy, and assessment records regarding the government's searches" involving electronic devices.

Comment: Border crossings: Electronic media searches increase worry

Black Magic

Loony Congresswoman Waters plays race card in questioning patriotism of Trump supporters

Note to Donald Trump supporters: Maxine Waters is a bigger patriot than you are.

At least that's what she thinks.

During a screed on the House floor Monday night, Waters played the race card and the patriotism card against supporters of the president.

"Mr. Speaker, my position against this president and his administration is clear. I oppose this president. I do not honor this president. I do not respect this president," Waters said during a nearly 9-minute speech.

Comment: Apparently this latest rant is rather mild for the unhinged Ms. Waters.


The media army arrayed against truth

Why can't 21st century media just report news and separate opinion? Maybe straight news that allows readers, viewers, and listeners to discern the truth is just inefficient. Maybe the few who own all our information channels are trying to save the people from thinking too much? US President Donald Trump has made headlines for revealing so-called "Fake News" - but what's behind the new media madness? Here's a look at the lily pads floating in the swamp a US president claims he'll drain, and the oh so many croaking frogs drowned out truth.

Small Time Henchmen

This Guardian piece disgruntled Russian journalist and notable Putin hater Alexey Kovalev is a fine example of frog-croaking. Most readers of NEO would simply blow off "In Putin's Russia, the hollowed-out media mirrors the state" as just another fake news bit attacking Putin and Russia. But Kovalev, the former RIA Novosti editor (turned globalist freedom fighter) provides contrast for my story today. In the west the neo-liberal media lambasts Russia and independent media as "propaganda", when in reality it's the mainstream that is propagating the lies about Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Farage, or anybody in opposition to a system of control that is, quietly frankly, unbelievable. WikiLeaks revelations about massive CIA and intelligence community surveillance scarcely makes headlines in America, but Donald Trump slicing a wedge shot at one of his golf courses is a Russian conspiracy. It's all sensational, unbelievable, crazy, and scary. But the craziness gets even scarier once we see how it's all planned, rather than simply grass roots activism and idealism.

Light Saber

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responds to US decision to block advance of Syrian army

Lavrov says US should not exploit fight against terrorism in Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on a U.S.-led operation that has blocked the Syrian Army's advance on Raqqa

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on Monday about the U.S.-led operation to block the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from marching on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

Responding to a journalist's question about the development, Lavrov stated that Russia supports any international efforts to combat Islamic State, but warned the U.S. "to fight terror rather than gain geopolitical advantages in Syria":
[N]umerous uninvited players [are in Syria]: the US-led air force coalition, Turkish servicemen, and commandos from the United States and a number of European countries. All of this creates a rather motley picture, but we are confident (and have advocated this for a long time) that the main criterion should be our common concern in the fight against terrorism.


So far, coordination leaves much to be desired. We have reason to believe that our partners, including the Americans, are beginning to realise the need for remedying this situation. Let us hope that all of us will be driven by the well-understood priority to fight terror rather than gain geopolitical advantages in Syria.

Lavrov seems to be keeping his cards close to his chest, but it's clear that he's less than thrilled about Washington's posturing around Raqqa. It could be as simple as a "lack of coordination" — but let's be honest: There's very likely a lot more at play here. Any attempt by Washington to prevent Syrian forces from liberating their own country from Islamic State should be seen as extremely worrying.

Comment: See also: US forces block Syrian Army advance in preparation for Syria's 'balkanization'

Star of David

Israel Surprised! Trump administration demands limit to settlements

© The Times of Israel
Israeli outpost of Amona in the West Bank, January 31, 2017.
The Trump administration is pushing a hard bargain with Israel to limit its settlement activity because it knows that Palestinians and the Arab states won't support a peace process without that concession, analyst and former Israeli civil servant Dan Arbell told Radio Sputnik.

US President Donald Trump is keen to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians and the White House has been discussing the issue with the Israeli government in recent weeks. Last month, the US President broke with decades of US policy by saying that Washington will not insist on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but wants to achieve a solution that "both parties like."

At a press conference with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump called on Israel to reduce its settlement-building on Palestinian land."I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit," he told Netanyahu.

On Saturday, Israel's Channel 2 reported the details of negotiations between the Trump administration and the Israeli government delegation in Washington on the issue. The proposed deal would allow Netanyahu to fulfill his promise to build a new settlement for the residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in January. In exchange, the Israeli government would restrain settlement construction elsewhere, Channel 2 reported. However, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the report was "incorrect," the Jerusalem Post reported.

Comment: Which is more important to Israel: Continuing settlements on Palestinian land, or Donald Trump, the peace process and 2-state solution? Consider how many solution-makers have fallen by the wayside and how often the 2-state proposal made it to second base. One state? (Israel has that now!)


Le Pen: 'EU will die', globalists will be defeated

Marine Le Pen waves to supporters at the end of a political rally in Lille, France on Sunday.
The European Union will disappear, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen told a rally on Sunday, promising to shield France from globalisation as she sought to fire up her supporters in the final four weeks before voting gets underway.

Buoyed by the unexpected election of Donald Trump in the United States and by Britain's vote to leave the EU, the leader of the eurosceptic and anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party, told the rally in Lille that the French election would be the next step in what she called a global rebellion of the people.

"The European Union will die because the people do not want it anymore ... arrogant and hegemonic empires are destined to perish," Le Pen said to loud cheers and applause. "The time has come to defeat globalists," she said, accusing her main rivals, centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon, of "treason" for their pro-EU, pro-market policies.

Opinion polls forecast that Le Pen will do well in the April 23 first round of the presidential election only to lose the May 7 run-off to Macron. But the high number of undecided voters means the outcome remains unpredictable and motivating people to go to the polling stations will be key for the top candidates.

Its opposition to the EU and the euro currency underlines an anti-establishment stance that pleases the FN's grassroots supporters and attracts voters angry with globalisation. But it is also likely to be an obstacle to power in a country where a majority oppose a return to the franc.

Comment: See also:


AG Sessions: Sanctuary Cities - Obey the law, or govt won't fund you

© Yuri Gripas / Reuters
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Moments ago Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at Sean Spicer's daily White House press briefing to announce that his DOJ will be taking steps to not only require that so-called "sanctuary cities" enforce federal immigration laws but would also be seeking to claw back past DOJ awards granted to those cities if they refuse to certify compliance.
"Today, I'm urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws. Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for DOJ grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition for receiving those awards."

"This policy is entirely consistent with the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs guidance that was issued just last summer under the previous administration."

"This guidance requires jurisdictions to comply and certify compliance with Section 1373 in order to be eligible for OJP grants. It also made clear that failure to remedy violations could result in withholding grants, termination of grants and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants."

"The DOJ will also take all lawful steps to claw back any fines awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates Section 1373."
Sessions also called on states like Maryland and California to scrap their plans for becoming a sanctuary state.
"That would be such a mistake."

"I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it's not good policy."
Sessions' full comments can be viewed below:


Iraqi President admits civilian deaths in Mosul are miscalculations and mistakes

© Stringer / Reuters
Though civilians are being killed in Mosul as Iraqi special forces supported by US-led airstrikes retake the city from jihadists, Iraq's president explained in an interview that those deaths are the result of "miscalculations" and "unintended mistakes."

"There is coordination between the US coalition and Iraqi security forces, but sometimes it fails. Even after American troops arrived on the ground in Iraq, an incident happened where a group of Peshmerga fighters was killed and their commander survived, but can no longer walk or speak. It was reportedly friendly fire," Fuad Masum told RIA Novosti.

"For instance, in the old city there are no proper streets, only paths maybe two meters wide or less. Armor cannot go there and neither can cars. And IS is using this terrain, using people as a human shield," he explained, adding that the terrorists "fire at planes from rooftops and their snipers shoot at Iraqi troops from there. And if we hit them with airstrikes, many people would die."

Comment: Why isn't Mosul getting the attention Aleppo did? Sorry, obvious answer: Amnesty says residents were specifically told by Iraqi authorities not to leave their homes. They complied. Then they were bombed.
"Evidence gathered on the ground in east Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside," said Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser who carried out field investigations in Mosul.

She noted the increasingly high civilian death toll "suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law."

The fact that the Iraqi authorities repeatedly told civilians not to flee the war-ravaged city in the midst of fighting, "indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties," the organization said, adding that "disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes."

Wa'ad Ahmad al-Tai, a resident of eastern Mosul, said these instructions were delivered via radio and through leaflets dropped from military aircraft. "The government ... told us [to] stay in our homes and avoid displacement," he added.
The UN Human Rights Chief says 307+ have been killed and 273 wounded in just over a month. RT spoke with some of the refugees:

Those who managed to escape the Mosul crossfire suffer a complete nervous breakdown, recalling how entire families, ill-advised to stay home instead of fleeing, often ended up under the rubble of their homes bombed by the US-led coalition.

Unable to handle the psychological pressure of serving as the terrorists' human shields amid the daily US-led coalition bombings of Iraq's second largest city, those lucky enough to escape the crosshairs often suffer meltdown once they reach the relative safety of the outer city.

Finding themselves inside the overcrowded refugee camps, the escapees are haunted by the merciless reality of war they witnessed in Mosul. Many remain worried about friends and relatives trapped in Mosul as fighting to liberate the western portion of the city continues despite mounting civilian casualties.

"She had a nervous breakdown. Imagine the stress - being here with half your family, and with the other half left under ISIS in Mosul. Contrary to what it may look like — the people you see here — are the lucky ones. They made it out alive," an elderly man told RT's Murad Gazdiev after his companion collapsed.

"We did not expect to survive. There were 9 families in a single room, and ISIS were shooting from our roof," said a man with a child in his arms, explaining that in Mosul that amounts to a death sentence.
People who fled the carnage have been telling RT that the bulk of the casualties indeed come from the airstrikes targeting terrorists but ignoring the civilian presence in the area.

"If a pilot sees an ISIS fighter on a roof, of course, he'll fire — it's a target. He doesn't see the civilians inside," one refugee explained.

Meanwhile, an RT crew on the ground has learned that Iraqi forces are barring journalists from visiting certain areas of Mosul, which have been severely bombed to avoid the negative coverage of their actions in the media.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, criticized the US-led coalition's rules of engagement in Mosul, saying the operation is claiming "more and more civilian lives." He went on to cite humanitarian pauses and corridors set up during the liberation of eastern Aleppo in Syria, as an example of a more responsible approach.

"A corridor was organized for all the militants, including the members of the terrorist groups [to leave eastern Aleppo]. Many seized this opportunity, thus reducing the need for the use of military force for the liberation of that part of the city," Lavrov said, emphasizing that "we did it with the sole purpose of saving lives."


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Russia can use Iranian military bases 'on case by case basis'

© Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik
Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers
Russia can use Iranian military bases for airstrikes targeting terrorists in Syria on a "case by case basis," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters.

"Russia doesn't have a military base [in Iran], we have good cooperation, and on a case by case basis, when it is necessary for Russians fighting terrorism to use Iranian facilities, we will make a decision," Zarif said.

Russia used the Hamadan Airbase in Iran to launch attacks in August 2016 against militants in Syria. Tehran then granted Russia permission to deploy an undisclosed number of Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighters.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said at the time that the Russian deployment was temporary, but would last "as long as needed."

Comment: See also: Iran's perspective on Russians in Hamadan: Russia is our ally

Snakes in Suits

Need more war: Top US general in Europe urges arming Ukraine

© Francois Lenoir / Reuters
U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti
Washington must do more to deter "Russian aggression," including sending lethal weapons to the government in Ukraine and engage in information warfare across the board, the top US commander in Europe told lawmakers.

"I personally believe that we need to consider lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine," General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of the US European Command (EUCOM) told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

"I haven't discussed that specific issue with most of our partners," Scaparrotti admitted when he was asked about the NATO allies' opinion on arming Kiev. The general is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR).

"Russia seeks to undermine this international system and discredit those in the West who have created it," Scaparrotti argued in his opening remarks, calling for "demonstrating strength in every area" when it comes to dealing with Moscow.