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Thu, 25 Aug 2016
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US budget deficit expands to $590 billion, public debt reaches 77% of GDP

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Slower revenue growth and large spending will expand the US budget deficit to $590 billion in the fiscal year ending September 30, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The deficit is expected to be $152 billion more than last year and $56 billion larger than CBO's forecast in March and will equal 3.2 percent of the country's economic output.

Such a budget deficit is more than the GDP of Sweden, Poland or Iran. In July, the US posted a $113 billion budget gap, bigger than the economies of Ukraine or Slovakia.

The largest deficit America has seen is $1.4 trillion in 2009, which dropped to $485 billion in 2014. US public debt will continue to grow and is projected at 77 percent of the country's GDP by year-end.

Vader

Washington 'Galvanized' Kurds in Hasakah to turn on Syrian Army

© Rodi Said/Reuters
A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) carries his weapon as he stands past a tank in the Ghwairan neighborhood of Hasaka, Syria, August 22, 2016.
The US has pitted the Syrian Kurds against Damascus-led forces in the northeastern city of Hasakah in a bid not to lose regional influence should Turkey, Russia and Iran create an alliance to resolve the Syrian conflict, analyst and journalist Hüsnü Mahalli told Sputnik, adding that recent clashes are part of the West's "geopolitical games."

"Up until now Russia and Iran have helped to maintain cordial relations between the Syrian Kurds from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Damascus. The PYD made a mistake when it opted to cooperate with the US," he said.

Kurdish militias, assisted by the US, have been trying to push radical groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front from northern Syria and secure the porous border with Turkey. At the same time, the Kurds have established a de-facto autonomy in the areas under their control.

Mahalli emphasized that any efforts on the part of the PYD and the People's Protection Units (YPG) to create an independent state will be a mistake that could not be undone.

"The Americans have repeatedly said that they have a Plan B for Syria. Perhaps, this is what they meant. I'm afraid that the US has decided to drag the Kurds into a large-scale bloodbath," he added.

Comment: U.S. policy in Syria is veering further and further into fantasy. The current line in "thinktankland" is to carve out a state for the Kurds, that would provide a U.S.-controlled buffer between Russia and the West. The problem is that this insane idea involves chunks of the sovereign countries of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. They are hardly likely to go along with the plan.
© Unknown



Handcuffs

Gitmo tortured prisoner who was never charged with a crime finally allowed to make case for release after 14 years

© Wikipedia
Abu Zubaydah
A Guantanamo detainee, who the CIA tortured as a suspected top leader of Al-Qaeda but never officially charged, has made his case for release. Abu Zubaydah appeared in public for the first time in 14 years of his detention. His first-ever hearing was made via video feed from Washington's Cuba-based prison and on his behalf. Addressing a Periodic Review Board through a uniformed soldier who read his message, Zubaydah said that he "has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country."

"He has been respectful to us in all of our meetings and dealings with him, and he has come to believe that he might have a chance to leave Guantanamo through this process," his opening statement reads. He said he would want "to be reunited with his family" while also "begin the process of recovering from injuries he sustained during his capture" in Pakistan in 2002.

"He has some seed money that could be used to start a business after he is reintegrated into society and is living a peaceful life," his representative read. A Saudi-born Palestinian, Zubaydah is one of three men that the CIA has admitted to have waterboarded at an unknown prison in Thailand. According to the so-called "torture report" released in 2014, Zubaydah was the first prisoner to endure the harsh CIA interrogation program.

Ark

France and Germany seek to invade the privacy of millions who use digital messenger services under the guise of combating terrorism

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
Privacy advocates have been alarmed by calls of French and German interior ministers, who proposed a law that would make it compulsory for digital messenger services to offer unencrypted records of users' conversations to security services. France's Bernard Cazeneuve and Germany's Thomas de Maiziere shared a platform, as they spoke to the press following a Paris meeting on combating terrorism.

Cazeneuve said the countries were "not questioning the idea of encryption" - the ability to send messages digitally that cannot be easily intercepted and deciphered by outsiders - but nonetheless pushed for a new law to be discussed by EU leaders during next month's meeting in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava.

"If such legislation was adopted, this would allow us to impose obligations at the European level on non-cooperative operators," said the French minister. Additionally, Cazeneuve and de Maiziere called for a bolstering of external EU borders, better information sharing between member states, and implementation of facial recognition software that could identify suspects in public places.

Cazeneuve specifically drew attention to Telegram, a fast-rising messenger service, founded three years ago by Russian tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov. Legally domiciled in several countries around the world, Telegram prides itself on extra security measures, functions such as self-destructing messages, and not kowtowing to governments.

Comment: Criminals who use technology to impose real threats to our society are not using Facebook and Viber to mastermind their schemes. Sure, some of the more stupid and impulsive criminals may use such platforms, but as seen in the Telegram example above, such crimes are not against governmental security. As usual it is the normal people of the world who are shocked into accepting the invasion of privacy under a false meme.


War Whore

Top US commander skeptical of Russia-US cooperation in fight against ISIS

© REUTERS
The top U.S. commander for the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said Monday that he is skeptical of any additional military cooperation with Russia in Syria, and that he believes he can get the mission done without it.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said that any decision to cooperate with Moscow is one for the Obama administration to make.

But, "as a soldier, I'm fairly skeptical of the Russians," Townsend told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Baghdad. "I'm not sure how much I'm inclined to believe that we can cooperate with them."

Townsend's comments on Russia reflect a broader U.S. military reluctance to work more closely with Moscow on operations in Syria, despite requests from Russia to the U.S. to join forces against ISIS in Syria. The U.S. is reluctant to cooperate with Moscow because of its alliance with President Bashar Assad; the U.S. is backing rebels who are fighting ISIS but who are also in Assad's sights.

Last week, U.S. aircraft scrambled twice to protect American commandos because Syrian government warplanes were bombing nearby.

Snakes in Suits

The alternate reality of NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

© Virginia Mayo / Reuters
Reading through a recent interview with former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, it becomes clear that his world is one in which US foreign policy has only ever made us all safer and the biggest risk we now face is diminished US power.

The entire premise of his argument throughout the interview is that if the US steps back from playing global policeman, the "bad guys" will win. Simple as that.

Dollars

Divide and conquer: Saudi Arabia proposes financial aid to Kurds for fight against Syrian army

© AP Cagdas Erdogan
According to the Lebanese As Safir newspaper, the proposal was made via official channels during a meeting of representatives of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly proposed to support Kurdish combat actions against the Syrian army and the main condition for getting the aid is a continuation of fight all across Syria, where the Kurdish fighters are present, the newspaper reported, citing PKK sources.

Dollars

'The grayest legal campaign loophole': Trump spent $7.7 million in supporter donations to buy services from his own companies

© Free Thought Project
According to a new filing with the Federal Elections Commission, Donald Trump's kids have been profiting handily from his campaign — to date, his children and companies have been paid $7.7 million in campaign contributions — and that figure is on the rise.

Roughly 20 percent of Trump's campaign spending in May, $1.1 million, went directly to his children — and another $800,000 did so in July.

It would seem the ostensible itinerant business mogul has discovered the grayest legal campaign loophole on which to opportunistically capitalize.

"Campaign finance laws on the topic are hazy and contradictory, largely because no candidate for federal office has ever had such a sprawling business empire that could be employed for a campaign," wrote Vice News' Alex Thompson. "The FEC allows candidates to rent themselves their own office space — as the Trump campaign does at Trump Tower — but bans them from collecting royalties on any memoirs purchased by the campaign. Money ultimately flows back to the candidate in both cases but the FEC has issued divergent rules."

Trump's complex web of interconnected businesses and services — coupled with extensive family involvement — makes this known gray area in campaign finance law a bit shadier than would ordinarily be the case.

"The extent of Mr. Trump's use of his own companies for goods and services during the campaign is unprecedented," explained Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert and Deputy Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center, as quoted by Thompson. "It has the potential to transfer donations to himself and his children."

Chess

Putin preparing for war? Russia conducts armored train drills for first time in 15 years

One could only conclude that Putin is not playing around anymore. Instead, Russia is out and out prepared for war. It is likely enough that we should expect it, too. Can you feel things heating up?

These drills appear to be very serious training for the mobilization of a major force that intends to bring in vast numbers and superior equipment under cover from fire.

Watch carefully as this force readies to protect Putin's army during transport to the point of conflict:

The Russians have been flaunting their latest equipment for communications jamming, which allows them to literally dominate and control an area; they have been flexing their ICBM mobile trucks and they have been giving every sign that they will not be pushed around by NATO, rightly or wrongly.

Bad Guys

U.S. imperialism on tour in East Africa - Kerry makes the rounds championing military interventions

© US State Department
US Secretary of State John Kerry with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Secretary of State visits Kenya with initiatives on South Sudan and Somalia

Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Nairobi, Kenya on August 22 for meetings with President Uhuru Kenyatta and foreign ministers from several regional countries in East Africa.

Washington's top envoy focused attention on the fractious political situation in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia.

In the Republic of South Sudan a split between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar in December 2013 was never fully resolved. The agreement brokered by the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sought to create a coalition aimed at the re-integration of military forces from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) headed by Kiir and the SPLM/A in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) led by Machar.

The former Vice-President Machar returned to the capital of Juba in April under the presumption that he would be placed back into his position held prior to the December 2013 fighting which took on the dimensions of an ethnic conflict between the Dinka and Nuer groups. The fighting over the last two-and-a-half years has worsened the humanitarian crisis inside South Sudan with reports of atrocities committed by the military forces of both factions and the displacement of two million people impacted by the conflict.

Despite the agreement for a coalition government, clashes erupted during mid-July after which Kiir appointed another Vice-President Taban Deng Gai prompting Machar to flee the capital and the country. Deng, a former negotiator for the SPLM/A-IO, has apparently broken ranks with Machar.

Comment: So Kerry is on a tour, waving the flag of U.S. concern for the poor Africans who can't get their act together on terrorism or anything else for that matter. Or is it is to lean on the leaders of as many countries in the region as possible to counter increasing influence from China, who promise real economic development?