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Wed, 28 Jun 2017
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Lavrov: 'We have evidence US and its allies are secretly providing cover for al Nusra/Tahrir al Sham terrorists'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed hope that the next round of Astana talks on settlement of the Syrian crisis will succeed in clarifying the joint vision as regards de-escalation zones, while also noting that some of the players on the Syrian geostrategic chessboard are playing a dishonest and dangerous type of game.
"A significant decline in military activities and terrorist violence has been recorded in particular areas of Syria, thanks to our new memorandum on establishing de-escalation zones within Syrian territory. I hope that the next round of the Astana talks will positively affect our common efforts, aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis and initiating the UN-sponsored talks that are planned to be held in Geneva, following the Astana meeting, in the first half of July," Lavrov was heard saying during a joint press conference with his Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu in Moscow, on Monday.


Senator Bob Corker: No more US weapons for Gulf Arab states until Qatar spat resolved

© Naseem Zeitoon / Reuters
Any further US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia or other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will be on hold until the current dispute with Qatar is resolved, said the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tennessee).

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday, Corker said he
"could not have been more pleased" by President Donald Trump's recent trip to Saudi Arabia and the summit meeting with heads of other Gulf Arab states.

However, the GCC "did not take advantage of the summit and instead chose to devolve into conflict," Corker wrote, referring to the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar initiated three weeks ago.

"Before we provide any further clearances during the informal review period on sales of lethal military equipment to the GCC states, we need a better understanding of the path to resolve the current dispute and reunify the GCC," Corker wrote.


Fusion GPS, the sketchy firm behind the even sketchier Trump "dossier" stonewalls congressional investigators

A secretive Washington firm that commissioned the dubious intelligence dossier on Donald Trump is stonewalling congressional investigators trying to learn more about its connections to the Democratic Party.

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.

What is the company hiding? Fusion GPS describes itself as a "research and strategic intelligence firm" founded by "three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters." But congressional sources say it's actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-Trump agenda.

"These weren't mercenaries or hired guns," a congressional source familiar with the dossier probe said. "These guys had a vested personal and ideological interest in smearing Trump and boosting Hillary's chances of winning the White House."


Russian FM urges Tillerson to 'prevent provocations' against Syrian forces

Russia says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told his American counterpart to "take measures to prevent provocations" against Syrian government forces.

The Foreign Ministry said that during a June 26 telephone call Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed on the need to reinforce the fraying cease-fire in Syria, "to step up the fight against terrorist groups, and prevent attempts to use toxic agents."

"Lavrov urged Washington to take measures to prevent provocations against Syrian government troops conducting operations against terrorists," the ministry said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department.


White House: 'No new bill' on Russia sanctions, Senate violated procedure

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
President Donald Trump will disregard the recent Senate bill imposing new sanctions on Russia because it violated the constitutional requirement that revenue legislation originate in the House of Representatives, the White House has said.

On June 15, the Senate voted 98-2 to impose new sanctions against Russia and codify the existing ones into law, in order to tie Trump's hands when it came to the sanctions policy. In doing so, however, they apparently violated the origination clause of the US Constitution, which requires that any bill raising revenue originates in the House.

"There is no new bill at this time," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday, asking if they were referring to the bill that "the Senate parliamentarian ruled didn't follow proper procedure."

Comment: Wow, that has to be so embarrassing for the Senate to not know how the Constitution works!

Heart - Black

University of Delaware cuts ties with professor who said 'Otto Warmbier got what he deserved'

© WikiCommons
Otto Warmbier
An anthropology professor at the has been fired after saying that Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being held captive in North Korea for 17 months, "got exactly what he deserved."

"The University of Delaware has announced that Katherine Dettwyler, who last taught in the spring as an adjunct faculty member, will not be rehired to teach at the University in the future," the university said in a statement posted on their website.Dettwyler, who has since deleted the Facebook post, said "Otto Warmbier got exactly what he deserved."

"He went to North Korea, for f---'s sake, and then acted like a spoiled, naive, arrogant, US college student who had never had to face the consequences of his actions," Dettwyler wrote, according to reports. "I see him crying at his sentencing hearing and think 'What did you expect?'"

Dettwyler also reportedly asked for "a few moments of thought" for all the other people who suffer at the hands of the North Korean regime — and are "not U.S. citizens."

Comment: Warmbier was guilty of petty theft, but as detailed in the following articles, the manner in how his detention and death were handled is murky, confusing and rife with political gamesmanship.


George Galloway: DUP is milder form of Klu Klux Klan

© Oli Scarff / AFP
Northern Ireland's hard-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is a "milder form" of the US-based Klu Klux Klan, which once terrorized and murdered black citizens, Respect Party leader George Galloway says.

The former MP was part of a panel discussion on the Tory-DUP confidence and supply arrangement in which the party pledged its ten MPs to the Tories in exchange for over £1 billion pounds worth of spending in Northern Ireland. The deal was finalized on Monday.

The DUP are known for their hard right positions, which include creationism, anti-abortion, and anti-LGBT views, as well as climate change denial.


Russian submarine test-fires ICBM across Asian continent

© Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
File photo of Russian ICBM test.
A Russian submarine has successfully launched a missile from the Barents Sea near Norway to a test site in the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East, the Russian Defense Ministry reports.

"The strategic Borey-class nuclear submarine, Yuri Dolgoruky, has successfully fired the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from a designated area in the Barents Sea to the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka," the MoD said in a statement.

"The launch was made from an underwater position in accordance with the combat training plan."

"According to the confirmed data from mission control, the ICBM units completed the full flight program and successfully hit the targets in the range."


Some House Democrats mulling giving Pelosi the boot as leader

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
A dozen or so House Democrats want Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to go after a dispiriting loss in a House election in Georgia. They just don't know how to make it happen.
"We can't keep losing races and keep the same leadership in place. You have a baseball team that keeps losing year after year. At some point, the coach has got to go, right?" said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., on Friday.
The frustrated Democrats met in Rice's office a day earlier to discuss their options as they face long odds of knocking out the woman who has led the Democratic caucus for nearly 15 years from minority to majority and back, raised tens of millions of dollars and has had multiple legislative successes. Their action plan: Keep talking. Keep raising the concern that something needs to change within the ranks of the party's leadership.

It's about all they can do.

Comment: The Democratic Party continues its steady, systematic decline. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!


Electronic concentration camp - The age of no privacy

"We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government." ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, dissenting in Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 341 (1966)
© The Anti-Social Media
The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers "inconvenient laws" aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn't suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting "internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans."

It's extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it's surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as "traffic shaping" —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans' emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn't even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to "[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans."

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans' data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.