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Sat, 27 Aug 2016
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Snakes in Suits

No crisis goes to waste: U.S. officials using Paris attacks to justify racist & dishonest agendas

© Thierry Orban/Getty Images
The aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks has now devolved into a dark and dishonest debate about how we should respond: let's ban encryption, even though there's no evidence the terrorists used it to carry out their crime, and let's ban Syrian refugees, even though the attackers were neither.

It's hard to overstate how disgusting it has been to watch, as proven-false rumors continue to be the basis for the entire political response, and technology ignorance and full-on xenophobia now dominate the discussion.

First, there's the loud "we need to ban encryption" push that immediately spawned hundreds of articles and opinions strongly pushed by current and former intelligence officials the day or two after the attacks, despite the government quietly admitting there was no evidence that the attackers used encryption to communicate. It was a masterful PR coup: current and former intelligence officials got to sit through a series of fawning interviews on television where they were allowed to pin any of their failures on Edward Snowden and encryption - the bedrock of privacy and security for hundreds of millions of innocent people - with virtually no pushback, or any critical questions about their own conduct.

Comment: This 'theater' U.S. politicians are engaging in looks a lot like entertainment education:
[Entertainment Education] messages are more effective than traditional persuasive messages because viewers are involved with their narrative structure (Moyer-Gusé, 2008). This involvement with narrative is often called transportation (Green & Brock, 2000). Furthermore, viewers are involved not only with the storyline, but also with the characters. Moyer-Gusé (2008) identified five types of involvement: identification with characters, wishful identification (a viewer wishes to be like the character), similarity (the extent to which a viewer feels that he or she is similar to the character), parasocial interaction (a pseudo relationship between a viewer and a media figure), and liking (having a positive attitude toward the character) (Moyer-Gusé, 2008).

The most frequently employed theory to explain EE is social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986, 2004). According to the theory, people learn by observing others' action and its outcome, and this observational learning is motivated by outcome expectancies and self-efficacy (Bandura, 2004). Therefore, a person who observes a model whose behavior is rewarded is more likely to model that behavior. Similarly, observing an accomplishment of a model similar to a viewer can increase the viewer's self-efficacy and self-confidence to perform the behavior (Bandura, 2004). In addition, the extended elaboration likelihood model (Slater & Rouner, 2002) posits that a viewer's engagement in the narrative and identification with characters reduces counterarguing. Moyer-Gusé (2008) extended these theories and developed the entertainment overcoming resistance model. The model illustrates how each type of involvement (e.g., identification, similarity) overcomes various types of resistance and thus leads to attitudes and behaviors consistent with EE.
These vile and despicable politicians are using the Paris attacks to normalize even more vile and despicable behaviors. Also see:


Stock Down

Saudi Arabia's economy is coming apart at the seams thanks to depressed oil prices

© Reuters
It's common knowledge that the economy is a fickle mistress and the touchstone of any government, dictating its policy, finances and ambitions. This tenet has become more significant in our day and age, whether a country is among the very poor, the average or the formerly rich oil producers. This is an adequate frame of reference from which to observe and analyze the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia.

Saudi rulers adopted an ill-conceived policy to steeply lower the price of oil and provide the country with a global monopoly. This policy has unleashed a frenetic campaign to bolster the financial, political and propagandist aims of terrorists in Syria and other countries, an adventure evidently inspired by the blazing sandstorm that has sparked a war against fellow Arab country Yemen and offers no easy way out. The huge sums spent to burnish Saudi Arabia's global image, along with feckless expenditures on the royal court, are forcing the Saudis to ponder not merely belt-tightening but the imminent collapse of their economy. According to IMF estimates, Saudi Arabia's treasury will be depleted within five years if the global oil price stays around $50 per barrel over that period, and this year it faces a deficit of 20% of GDP. Saudi Arabia cannot balance its budget unless the price of oil is at least $106 a barrel, IMF analysts have determined. Tim Cullen, the chief of the IMF mission in Riyadh, said that "the fall in oil prices is leading to a substantial reduction in the kingdom's export and budget revenues."

In July, Riyadh began to dip into its reserves. As of August 2014, they fell from $740 billion to $ 654.5 billion in one year, according to the country's central bank. As a consequence, a bond issue was announced for the first time since 2007, and the bonds were bought by Saudi banks. In July, talk was of a $4 billion intake. It was later revealed that Saudi Arabia is banking on receiving up to $27 billion by the end of the year. However, the bond yield is not helping the kingdom maintain its high level of government spending. In September, Barclays predicted that if the oil price holds at $50, the Saudis' gold reserves will last until 2019 if spending continues at the current pace.

In September, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf acknowledged that many domestic projects will have to be abandoned. A case in point was the halt placed on construction of a world-class shipyard. A memorandum signed in 2013 outlined a huge shipyard where offshore drilling platforms and various maritime vessels were to be developed, assembled and repaired. Problems arose most likely because of the yawning budgetary hole that opened as a result of oil prices. According to official statistics, the deficit this year will be about $39 billion. However, these data contradict IMF estimates, which say the number could reach $130 billion.

Comment: If it weren't for the Saudis complying with the US' demands to depress the price of oil in an attempt to destroy the Russian economy, Saudi Arabia wouldn't be in such an economic bind. Seems like every attempt to thwart Russia's economic viability has become a gift that keeps on giving.


Rocket

Russia hits ISIS from Caspian Sea fleet, taking out 7 targets and over 600 terrorists

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© Vasily Botanov / Sputnik
The Russian fleet in the Caspian Sea has launched 18 cruise missiles, hitting seven terrorist targets in Syria on Friday, Russian Defense Minster Sergey Shoigu has reported to President Vladimir Putin.

"On November 20, the warships of the Caspian Fleet launched 18 cruise missiles at seven targets in the provinces of Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo. All targets were hit successfully," he said.

The last time the Caspian Fleet took part in the anti-terror operation in Syria was on October 7.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) are suffering huge losses as a result of the Russian offensive, Shoigu said, adding that data on the ground shows that the flow of terrorists arriving in Syria has decreased, while more and more militants are fleeing the warzone to head north and south-west.


Bizarro Earth

US Government remains silent about American journalist murdered for exposing Turkey's ties to ISIS

Image
Wow. If this was an ISIS propaganda video, the American government would be exploiting it to the hilt in every mainstream media outlet across the country... but when a Western ally kills an American journalist for uncovering ties between that ally and ISIS... crickets.

Comment: This 'information war' clearly has casualties:


Bomb

Turkish FM alleges, without evidence, that Russian airstrikes hit civilians in Syria

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© Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday issued a note of protest with Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov over Russian anti-terrorist airstrikes in Syria.

Russia launched airstrikes against the Islamic State jihadist group and other extremist targets in Syria at the request of its president, Bashar Assad, on September 30.

The note of protest, obtained by RIA Novosti, cites an alleged Russian Aerospace Forces strike on a Syrian Turkmen settlement in northern Syria.

Comment: Is Turkey's Foreign Ministry jumping on the anti-Russia bandwagon here? It certainly looks like it - after all, Russia has been conscientiously avoiding the deaths of civilians. But the terrorists they are meticulously targeting are Turkey's brainchildren too.

Read more:


Heart - Black

The EU lacks the resources and will to respond effectively to ISIS

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© REUTERS/ Christian Hartmann
Following the deadly attacks in Paris, European leaders appear to be determined to do all it takes to defeat ISIL, but the continent's "geopolitical impotence" - the lack of political will and resources - will prevent them from actually delivering on their promises, journalist Matthew Karnitschnig maintains.

"Amid all the bellicose rhetoric, it might be difficult not to conclude that Europe was on the verge of marching into Syria to take on ISIL toe-to-toe. Yet nothing could be further from the truth," he noted.

Firstly, Europe's strategy aimed at defeating the brutal group, which took responsibility for the massacre in Paris, has been largely formulated in Washington.

Comment: The EU's 'geopolitical impotence' is apparently by design. This is why, for those serious about ensuring that ISIS receives justice, joining Russia's anti-ISIS coalition is the most intelligent option. Russia has proven again and again that they are more than capable of checking the terrorist threat, while Washington has repeatedly betrayed the EU for its own geopolitical ambitions.

Check out:


Chess

Washington won't let EU have its own army, despite calls from European Commission

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© AFP 2015/ PATRICK HERTZOG
The European Union needs its own army, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said. According to military expert Vladimir Kozin, Washington would oppose the initiative, and the EU may find other ways to maintain security.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, has again raised the question of creating the EU's own defense policy. Earlier this year, he called for creating a European Union army, but the proposal was criticized.

According to Juncker, now it is time to invest in establishing real military forces to protect Europe.

Comment: South Front: EU political system in crisis (plus Middle East updates)


TV

South Front: EU political system in crisis (plus Middle East updates)

Foreign Policy Diary - Instability in Southern Europe (Nov. 20)


Blackbox

Pepe Escobar: Paris terror attacks — who profits?


Most seem unaware of the vicious role France played in the military intervention in Libya, about France’s very hawkish policy line on Syria from the beginning of the civil war, meaning support for the anti-Assad terrorists.
Up to the very gloomy day when the "soldiers of the Caliphate" hit "the capital of abomination and perversions" - as ISIS/ISIL/Daesh framed its attack on Paris - French President Francois Hollande and his insufferable poseur of a Prime Minister Laurent Fabius were adamant: Assad must go.

For the Elysée palace, Assad equaled Daesh.

A measure of the incongruence of Hollande's administration is that none of his ENA-formed advisors told him he was becoming even more irrelevant than usual.

Russia and Iran were proving their point with the "4+1" (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah) actions on the ground and skies in Syria fighting all shades of Salafi-jihadism, "moderate" or otherwise.

And even the Obama administration - after multiple meetings between Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov - was correcting its course. That culminated in those pregnant-with-meaning 35 minutes of Obama and Putin face-to-face in a side table at the G-20 in Antalya on Sunday.

Comment: Escobar posted an early version of this article on his Facebook page (available here). This updated and expanded version is no longer available on the Asia Times website. For updates on the Paris attacks since Escobar wrote this piece, see:


Bomb

New ISIS video threatens to blow up White House; turn it 'black'

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© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
The Whitehouse
Islamic State has released yet another video message. In this one, it threatens to blow up the White House - the second time this week ISIS has vowed to attack Washington. The terrorists had already posted a video threatening to blow up New York.

In a one-minute video titled Paris before Rome, a bearded man in a turban menaces the US with threats of suicide attacks and car bombings. Speaking in Arabic on behalf of fellow jihadists, he warns that other states will face attacks similar to the ones carried out in Paris should they follow the example of French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama.

Comment: Just in time to lend support for a new bill making Syrian refugee admission almost impossible. How convenient.