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Thu, 23 Nov 2017
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Kindergarten on LSD: Sanctions, smoke and mirrors in Washington

The latest US sanctions and the Russian retaliatory response have resulted in a torrent of speculations in the official media and the blogosphere - everybody is trying to make sense of a situation which appears to make no sense at all. Why in the world would the US Senate adopt new sanctions against Russia when Russia has done absolutely nothing to provoke such a vote? Except for Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, every single US Senator voted in favor of these sanctions. Why?! This is even more baffling when you consider that the single biggest effect of these sanctions will be to trigger a rift, and possibly even counter-sanctions, between the US and the EU. What is absolutely clear is that these sanctions will have exactly zero effect on Russia and I don't think anybody is seriously expecting the Russians to change anything at all in their policies. And yet, every Senator except Paul and Sanders voted for this. Does that make any sense to you?

Let's try to figure out what is going on here.

First, a simple reminder: like all US politicians, from the county level to the US Congress, Senators have only one consideration when they vote - "what's in it for me?". The very last thing which any US Senator really cares about are the real life consequences of his/her vote. This means that to achieve the kind of quasi unanimity (98%) for a totally stupid vote there was some kind of very influential lobby which used some very forceful "arguments" to achieve such a vote. Keep in mind that the Republicans in the Senate knew that they were voting against the wishes of their President. And yet every single one except for Rand Paul voted for these sanctions, that should tell you something about the power of the lobby which pushed for them. So who would have such power?


Report suggests Scaramucci had one purpose - get rid of Priebus - before being escorted out of the White House

The New York Times on Monday reported - along with several other outlets - that former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was hired for one reason and one reason alone: to get rid of former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Scaramucci was removed from his position of communications director on Monday after being appointed just a week prior.

The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, encouraged the president to hire Scaramucci as a ploy to force Priebus out of his position as chief of staff.

"Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, and Jared Kushner, her husband, had pushed the president to hire Mr. Scaramucci, seeing him as a way to force out Mr. Priebus, the former national Republican committee chairman, and his allies in the West Wing," the New York Times reported on Monday after Scaramucci's White House departure.

Additionally, Axios claimed that "Jared and Ivanka were instrumental in bringing in Scaramucci, primarily to take out Reince Priebus."

Comment: Scaramucci was reportedly escorted off the premises of the White House, which CNN's Brooke Baldwin says isn't necessarily unusual.
Zeleny also intimated that Scaramucci was removed from his position by new Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was displeased over Scaramucci's "lack of discipline."
The New York Times reported that the decision to remove Scaramucci as communications director came at Kelly's request. President Donald Trump was reported to have given Kelly "full authority" upon him assuming the reins of day-to-day operations at the White House.
According to press secretary Sarah Huckabee, "the president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position."


Insane war-maniac Lindsey Graham says the US should "destroy North Korea itself"

The top US Senate Democrat has called on President Donald Trump to block Chinese business deals until Beijing gets more aggressive toward Pyongyang, while a leading Republican hawk is talking about destroying North Korea itself.

Foreign policy in the US is squarely in the domain of the executive branch. However, the Senate recently sought to limit Trump's options by passing a bill imposing sanctions on North Korea, Iran, and Russia that the president could not undo without congressional approval.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-North Carolina) is now saying that Trump told him personally he would be willing to go to war in North Korea.

Comment: Graham is making it clear as day who the madman is. When an individual incites violence on a local scale, he's hauled off to jail. When a politician does it, he's given a national platform from the media and consistently re-elected. These guys deserve a padded room!


Sunday School at the White House: "Most evangelical" cabinet in history attends weekly Bible studies program

A spiritual awakening is underway at the White House.

Some of the most powerful people in America have been gathering weekly to learn more about God's Word, and this Trump Cabinet Bible study is making history.

They've been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history - men and women who don't mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible.

Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries told CBN News, "These are godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture."

They're all handpicked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

"I don't think Donald Trump has figured out that he chained himself to the Apostle Paul," Drollinger laughed.

Comment: It probably wouldn't be such a bad idea if Trump chained himself to Paul - but the Paul of his actual letters, not the creation of the evangelists. For example: "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). Paul probably would have had some choice words for modern evangelicals were he around today. People like Drollinger are convinced they are doing "God's work", but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and chances are if you think you know "God's will", you're deluding yourself. The result is just another ponerogenic movement, like the Dominionist "C Street Family".


Iran delegation: US violated nuclear deal, advises "appropriate response"

The Iranian committee monitoring the JCPOA implementation came up with a detailed plan on Monday to take measures in response to a bill the US Congress has passed to impose new sanctions on Tehran.

The Iranian delegation monitoring the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany), convened in Tehran on Monday to discuss a recent US Congressional bill imposing new sanctions against Iran.

Senior Iranian officials in the meeting, chaired by President Hassan Rouhani, were briefed on reports by the Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) about the latest status of the US bill and its consequences.


After CIA stops funding, terrorists defect to Assad's army

© REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki
The ending of the Central Intelligence Agency's covert bankrolling of Syrian insurgent groups has produced a truly bizarre development - a number of rebels have defected to President Bashar al-Assad's forces, in a clear demonstration of just how fundamental US taxpayer dollars were to the war.

A number of fighters hailing from the Revolution Commando Army - formerly the New Syrian Army - abandoned their posts and defected to the government side during the week commencing July 24.

The group not only received CIA funds, but was also trained by US special operations personnel, under the direction of Pentagon.
The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.....

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
CIA backing of the NSA/RCA was long-suspected - in 2016, observers noted fighters belonging to the group were equipped with US-made small arms and tactical terrain vehicles other rebel groups typically lacked - although it was only when US President Donald Trump canceled the program it was effectively officially confirmed.


Qatar: Complaint filed with WTO, challenges Gulf trade blockade

A wide-ranging legal complaint has been filed by Qatar with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday to challenge the trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, according to the director of Qatar's WTO office Ali Alwaleed al-Thani. Al-Thani told Reuters "we've given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result."

By formally "requesting consultations" with the three countries, Doha triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

"We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute," al-Thani added.

Comment: Qatar is responding with the tools that are available. A two-year period for litigation may prod the players to find wisdom and circumstances to modify. Whatever the outcome, this rupture has created a defining moment not easily navigated nor forgotten.

Eiffel Tower

Nowhere to 'go': France mandated to provide sanitation facilities to Calais migrants by Conseil d'Etat

© Daily Sabah
The French government must provide migrants sleeping rough in the city of Calais with water and sanitation facilities, the country's highest administrative court has ruled. Authorities have warned that could lead to emergence of new 'Jungle'-type camp.

The Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) upheld a June 26 ruling by a lower court in Lille, which ruled that the state must supply migrants with running water, toilets and showers.

The Interior Ministry and the city of Calais previously appealed the court's ruling, claiming that providing such services would lead to new 'Jungles', referring to the notorious migrant camp that was bulldozed in the port city last October.

The Council of State said in a Monday statement that poor conditions currently being experienced by migrants in the city "reveal a failure by the public authorities that has exposed these people to inhuman or degrading treatment," Reuters reported. "These shortcomings are a serious and unlawful infringement on a fundamental freedom," it continued, stating that the lower court had been within its rights to rule that the government must provide migrants with water and sanitation facilities.

Comment: You break it, you fix it or at least take responsibility for it. Have the French forgotten their part in creating the migrant problem? Have they stopped colluding with Western imperialism that does Israel's bidding? Have they yet to understand that the refugee and migrant exodus is part of a plan to destabilize Europe? Providing toilets are the least of their problems. The whole situation is one big flusher.


Sports must go on: Qatar to be ready for 2022 World Cup despite blockade

© Ibraheem Al Omari / Reuters
It's all a game.
Doha says the Saudi-led economic and political boycott will not affect the country's preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup even though the coalition has cut off construction supplies.

The emirate now needs to invest more than projected in replacing neighboring suppliers, catching up with an ambitious plan to erect eight stadiums, rail roads and build a brand new city before the world's most watched tournament.

"For every challenge we face, there are solutions that keep popping up. We are working with our contractors to make sure we actually deliver long-term supply chain solutions, and alternatives," Secretary General of the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Hassan Al-Thawadi said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Qatar has reportedly replaced Saudi steel with Malaysian, while Oman provides materials initially ordered in the UAE. Chinese suppliers have stepped into the breach with a broad range of construction materials with Qatar building facilities to build bleachers. At the same time, suppliers from boycotting countries are reportedly rerouting supplies via Oman.

''The World Cup is a do-or-die project for Qatar. It's a matter of prestige, and national pride and they are fully invested in it, so I don't see work for the project being stopped," said Adel Abdel Ghafar, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, as quoted by the agency.

Comment: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have shot themselves in the economic foot while other countries are stepping into a windfall. Win or lose, all we know for sure is the games are afoot and they will play out - be the field level or not.


CNN goes down in flames with 'exclusive' report on Russia arming the Taliban

© CNN Screenshot
On July 25, CNN published an alarming report: Two videos obtained exclusively by the cable news network appear to suggest that the Russian government is covertly arming the Taliban fighters that have slowly returned to Afghanistan since the end of NATO combat operations there in 2014.

The report, authored by Nick Paton Walsh and Masoud Popalzai, states that two separate groups of Taliban fighters have received "improved weaponry ... that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government," including heavy machine guns, sniper rifles, and the ubiquitous Kalashnikov assault rifles that are a staple of black markets across the planet. If authenticated, these "exclusive videos" of unknown origin obtained by CNN would confirm growing accusations from U.S. and Afghan military officials that Moscow is arming the very enemy it spent a decade fighting during the Soviet-Afghan War.

The news ricocheted across the media ecosystem, shared indiscriminately and uncritically by many highly influential journalists and researchers; veterans organization VoteVets even shared the story with the sober assessment that "Trump's good buddy Putin appears to be arming the Taliban in Afghanistan with upgraded weapons."

There's only one problem: CNN's report falls apart after the headline.
Screenshot from CNN report suggesting Russia is providing arms to the Taliban.

Comment: Another CNN grandstand based on a desired outcome rather than logic, investigation and facts. Fantasy, written as current events and left unchallenged, eventually rewrites history according to the believer.