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U.S./UK paid "White Helmets" are helping to block water to 5 million thirsty Syrians

water supply Damascus wadi barada
© Agence France-Press
Syrians have dubbed the battler for Wadi Barada the 'Water War'

The blockade of water from Wadi Barada to 5 million people in Damascus is taking an interesting turn. The U.S. and UK financed White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it. This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a organized campaign under U.S. command. The campaign is designed to block utilities to government held areas as revenge for the liberation of east Aleppo.

As we described it yesterday:
After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.

On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.

Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.
The Syrian government is ready to send repair teams to rehabilitate the water flow to the millions of civilians in Damascus. But access to the site is denied and the Syrian army is now trying to push al-Qaeda and its allies away from it.

Curiously some "civil" groups today offered access under several (not agreeable) conditions:

Comment: More from The Duran:
As was bound to happen, Al-Qaeda in Syria is pulling out the stops to try to disrupt the Russian-Turkish sponsored ceasefire.

Al-Qaeda is in part doing it by attacking other Jihadi groups which have signed up to the ceasefire. The Iranian news agency Fars reports that there has been fierce infighting between Jihadi groups in Idlib, where Al-Qaeda is in control, whilst Al-Qaeda is continuing to block the evacuation of wounded Shia fighters and civilians from two Shia villages, whose evacuation was agreed as part of the package negotiated by the Russians, the Iranians and the Turks, which led to the withdrawal of Jihadi fighters and civilians from east Aleppo.

The main flashpoint however is the Wadi Barada valley, which provides Damascus with drinking water. Al-Qaeda has taken control there, ousting other Jihadi groups who have been in control of the valley since 2012. Having gained control of the valley, Al-Qaeda is being accused by the Syrian government of poisoning the drinking water supplied to Damascus, forcing the Syrian government to restrict supplies of fresh water to the people of Damascus.

[...]

The point about the incident at the Wadi Barada valley is that it is obliging the Syrian army, which has surrounded the valley, to press home its offensive there in order to regain control of the valley so as to restore the supplies of drinking water to Damascus. Al-Qaeda is using this to claim that the Syrian government is breaking the ceasefire, and has persuaded other Jihadi groups to issue a statement saying they have halted their preparations for the pending peace conference in Astana on that basis.

Latest reports from the area say that the Syrian army has already recaptured one of the springs, and given its importance it is a certainty the whole valley will once again be under Syrian government control before long. It is most unlikely this incident will seriously delay preparations for the peace conference in Astana. It is striking that the Turkish government has refused to weigh in strongly on the side of the Jihadis during this incident.

What the incident once again shows is the utterly implacable opposition the Syrian government has to face from Al-Qaeda in Syria, and the lengths to which Al-Qaeda is prepared to go. Unfortunately it also shows the extent to which Western governments and the Western media continue by their silence to collude in Syria with Al-Qaeda's actions.



Bulb

New York Governor announces free college tuition for qualifying state residents

Cuomo
© NYGovCuomo / YouTube
Any state resident accepted to a city or state university or community college in New York will be eligible for free tuition as long as they or their family earns $125,000 or less per year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced.

Cuomo, a Democrat, announced the plan in Queens on Tuesday alongside Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who championed a similar initiative to provide more access to higher education when he ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination last year.

The plan could impact a million New Yorkers or families in the state with children seeking to attend college, the Cuomo administration said.

"College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success," Cuomo said. "This society should say 'If you need college, we're going to pay for college because you should be successful.' New York State is going to do something about it."

The Excelsior Scholarship, as the program is known, will be funded through supplements to state and federal loan and grant programs already in place, while New York State has around $1 billion in its tuition assistance program, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Handcuffs

Fire chief arrested for trying to prevent idiot cop from making a house fire worse

Christopher Herzog

Christopher Herzog
An Indiana Fire Chief was arrested after a brief altercation with a Cannelton Indiana cop. Cannelton's volunteer fire chief, Christopher Herzog, was the lead firefighter on the scene of a house fire on Tuesday. Thinking he knew better than Herzog, the Cannelton cop, identified as Ryen Foertsch, repeatedly tried to break out a window of the home on fire, a known hazard when fighting fires. Herzog pushed him back and was hit. Foertsch was charged with felony battery of a law enforcement officer.

According to reports, Foertsch and another officer arrived on the scene and cleared two rooms in the house before being forced out by the smoke. After exiting the burning house, Foertsch attempted to smash out the window of the remaining room, to check if there were people inside. While well intentioned, this officer is obviously not trained in fire fighting. Smashing out the window would feed oxygen to the flame and thus cause the fire to intensify. Herzog, being an experienced firefighter, stepped in to prevent this from happening.

According to police, Herzog pushed Foertsch "hard enough to cause him to step back." Foertsch continued to attempt to break the window, causing Herzog to push him back a second time. Herzog yelled at Foertsch to "get off his scene" and was completely correct in doing so. If cops and the fire department arrive at the fire at the same time, the fire chief gets control of the scene. After the initial incident, Foertsch conferred with his supervisors, who thought it would be a good idea to pursue the matter and call in the highway patrol to investigate. Calling in the outside agency would be the right thing to do if a crime had actually been committed and not a fire chief simply protecting his scene from an ignorant cop.

Footprints

Texas elementary school threatens parents with arrest for walking their children to school

bear branch elementary school
Parents have been forced to make their child take the school bus and/or endure pickup car lines for over an hour each day or face trespassing fines and jail time. The end goal, the principal says, is to establish a safe dismissal process for the children.

The Bear Branch Elementary School, for years, has already had safe procedures in place. However, according to FOX 26 news, parents are now removing their children from the school and teachers and staff are resigning for greener pastures.

The new procedure implemented by principal Holly Ray - one that prevents parents walking their children to school - is more an act of bullying than safety, according to parents, and Ray, despite petitions and protests, refused to move from her position.

"This has happened to many parents," Wendy Jarman told FOX 26. "They have been cited. They have been threatened, if they step one foot on school property, they will be arrested and charged with who knows what."

Comment: In a police state, parents have no rights over their children. They belong to the government. This parent speaks out on this school's egregious policy.




Robot

Path to economic extinction? Human jobs to be outsourced to robots

robot handshake
Foxconn might not be a company that is at the forefront of most American minds, but the products they create most certainly are. Christmas might not have been the same without considering purchases of Apple's iPhone, some of Amazon's Kindle products, or Microsoft's Xbox to name but a few. The Taiwan-based company is the world's leader in contract manufacturing of electronics with a market cap north of $100 billion; they have also become the third largest employer in the world with 1.3 million, which makes the following news that much more troubling.

Foxconn first rose to some level of notoriety - indeed infamy - when reports of human rights violations began to surface in the early part of this decade. Foxconn chose to remedy a spike in worker suicides during 2010-2011 at one of their Chinese plants by installing "suicide nets" so those subjected to slave-like conditions could remain on the plantation. Nevertheless, 2,000 workers rioted in 2012 amid charges of abuse by security guards making it doubtful that conditions had improved.

Now with the rise in automation, Foxconn is leading the way toward eliminating the need to deal with human employees altogether, demonstrating that the race to the bottom might end in factories filled exclusively with robots.

Comment: See also:


Cross

Syria: Briton who joined Kurdish YPG killed fighting ISIS

Ryan Lock
© Family handout
Briton Ryan Lock, 20, has been killed fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Syria. He had joined the Kurdish YPG militia with no military experience in August. Lock, a chef from Chichester in Sussex, was killed alongside four other fighters on December 21. He had told his family he was going on holiday to Turkey, but actually continued on to Syria to join the militia.

In a statement seen by the Guardian newspaper, Lock's father, Jon, said: "Ryan was a very caring and loving boy who would do anything to help anyone. He had a heart of gold. We ask for privacy to allow our family to grieve."

The YPG said in a letter: "Ryan joined actively in our offensive against the terror threat that ISIS caused upon Rojava, Kurdistan. "Here, on the dark hours of 21 December 2016, we lost our brave companion Ryan and four other fighters in Jaeber village."

The militia said that Lock's "experience and knowledge" had served as "an example for younger fighters." "While he has reached a vast amount of achievement up in our frontlines, Ryan has served the purpose of a very important bridge between us, the Kurds of Rojava. He crossed continents for the destiny of our people and humanity," the letter said.

It has been reported that the relatives of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, a former Royal Marine Commando killed fighting with the Kurds in 2016, visited Lock's family to pay their respects.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office reiterated that travel to Syria was ill-advised due to the security situation there. "As all UK consular services there are suspended, it is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria. "Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger," the spokesperson added.

Magic Hat

Bremain, bitcoin & other 'outrageous predictions' from Denmark's Saxo Bank

preditions crystal ball
© chromorange / Bilderbox / Global Look Press
The United Kingdom will not leave the European Union, China will boom and bitcoin will triple in value; these are some of the 'outrageous' predictions from Saxo Bank for this year.
brexit protest
© Toby Melville / Reuters
Bremain

Probably the most interesting forecast is that Britain will not divorce from Brussels, at least not in 2017.

"As negotiations progress, the EU makes key concessions on immigration and on passporting rights for UK-based financial services firms, and by the time Article 50 is triggered and put before Parliament, it is turned down in favor of the new deal. The UK is kept within the EU's orbit, the Bank of England hikes the rate to 0.5 percent and EUR/GBP plummets to 0.7300 invoking the symbolism of 1973, the year of the UK's entry into the EEC," the bank predicts.

Stock Up

US construction spending hits $1.18 trillion, highest level since April 2006

U.S. construction spending rose more than expected in November, reaching its highest level in 10-1/2 years, which could provide a lift to fourth-quarter economic growth.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that construction spending increased 0.9 percent to $1.18 trillion, the highest level since April 2006. It was boosted by gains in both private and public sector investment

Construction spending in October was revised up to show a 0.6 percent rise instead of the previously reported 0.5 percent increase. Construction spending was up 4.1 percent from a year ago in November.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast construction spending rising 0.6 percent in November. November's better-than-expected increase and October's upward revision to construction spending could prompt economists to raise their gross domestic product estimates for the fourth quarter.

Spending on private construction projects jumped 1.0 percent in November to its highest level since July 2006 as single-family home building, as well as home renovations, increased.

Investment in private nonresidential structures — which include factories, hospitals and roads — rose 0.9 percent after tumbling 1.5 percent the prior month.

Public construction spending gained 0.8 percent in November to the highest level since March. It was the fourth straight month of increases. Outlays on state and local government construction projects rose 0.6 percent, also gaining for a fourth consecutive month.

Federal government construction spending surged 3.1 percent after rising 0.2 percent in October.
U.S. construction spending graph 2016
© CNBC
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

Music

Alabama band accepts invitation to march at Trump inauguration, ignites controversy

Talladega College band Trump
© Leada Gore
The Marching Tornadoes from Talladega College
The marching band of Alabama's oldest private, historically black liberal arts college has accepted an invitation to perform at President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural parade, organizers said.

Talladega College's band will march at Trump's inauguration as other historically black schools such as Howard University, which performed at President Barack Obama's first inaugural parade, said they won't be marching in the Jan. 20 event.

"We were a bit horrified to hear of the invitation," said Shirley Ferrill of Fairfield, Alabama, a member of Talladega's Class of 1974.

"I don't want my alma mater to give the appearance of supporting him," Ferrill said of Trump on Monday. "Ignore, decline or whatever, but please don't send our band out in our name to do that."

The move has lit up Talladega College's social media sites with a sharp debate about the band's decision to participate in the parade. Some people voiced strong opposition, while others support the band's participation.

Dollars

Sheriff sues county claiming bosses ignored his claims of sexual harassment by female superior

sheriff
When Wayne County Sheriff's officer Philip Kozlowski Sr. complained at work that a female boss was sexually harassing him, his male supervisors allegedly laughed it off.

When a Genesee County Sheriff deputy made a similar complaint against a woman, his male boss allegedly told him: "take one for the team."

Both men took their claims to court. The Genesee County man won nothing from a jury in July.

Kozlowski is taking his chances.

In a salacious employment lawsuit that's unfolding in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Kozlowski, 53, claims a female boss sexually taunted him for a year with raunchy comments, inappropriate behavior and unwanted advances, including: offering him oral sex; suggesting he get his wife drunk and have a threesome with her; giving his partners fake assignments so that she could be alone with him; frequently driving by his house, and texting his personal cell phone.

Kozlowski, however, isn't suing the woman. He's suing his employer for allegedly ignoring his plea for help, joining hundreds of men nationwide who are debunking machismo stereotypes every year in filing complaints about sexual harassment.