Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2016

New U.S. "Offer" To Cooperate With Russia in Syria Is Deceptive Nonsense

In February the U.S. and Russia agreed upon a ceasefire in Syria. Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat a-Nusra) and the Islamic State were explicitly excluded from it. In April al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham and a number of U.S. supported "moderate rebels" attacked Syrian government forces south of Aleppo. They broke the ceasefire and Syrian government forces, after taking heavy losses, responded.

The Russian government has since urged the U.S. to push its proxy forces to re-accept the ceasefire. It demands, rightfully, that the U.S. supported "moderates" separate themselves from al-Qaeda so that al-Qaeda can be attacked without further collateral damage. The U.S. rejects that so far claiming that the rebels are too "intermingled" with al-Qaeda. A separation is thereby not possible, it says. At the same time it demands that Russia and Syria refrain from attacking al-Qaeda because that would hit those "moderates" that fall under the ceasefire.

That is hogwash and clearly designed to protect al-Qaeda. After months of pledging with the U.S., Russia finally said so and relaunched attacks against the "intermingled" groups.

Now suddenly the U.S. is seeing the light and is offering military cooperation against al-Qaeda in Syria. That is - if you believe this rumor of a new U.S. "offer", reported, suspiciously, by a wannabe neocon writer on the Washington Post opinion pages:

The Obama administration has proposed a new agreement on Syria to the Russian government that would deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.

The United States transmitted the text of the proposed agreement to the Russian government on Monday after weeks of negotiations and internal Obama administration deliberations, an administration official told me. The crux of the deal is a U.S. promise to join forces with the Russian air force to share targeting and coordinate an expanded bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which is primarily fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The deal is allegedly supported by Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. That is somewhat curious. Kerry is the one who demanded a harsher line against Syria and Russia and was the point man in accusing the Russian of bombing the al-Qaeda associated "moderates".

In exchange [for some cooperation], the Russians would agree to pressure the Assad regime to stop bombing certain Syrian rebel groups the United States does not consider terrorists. The United States would not give Russia the exact locations of these groups, under the proposal, but would specify geographic zones that would be safe from the Assad regime’s aerial assaults.

"Specify geographic zones" without specifics is pretty much nonsense. No one will take such an offer serious. What if the zone is specified as "Idleb governate" or "east Aleppo" or some other wide area where al-Qaeda and the rebels live and fight side by side? The Russians and Syrian would get practically nothing but they would have to stop attack those who attack them?

Even the hawkish former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, says that this idea is bullshit:

There’s not enough reliable intelligence to distinguish Jabhat al-Nusra targets from the other rebel groups they often live near, Ford said. And even if the Syrians agreed not to bomb certain zones, there would be no way to stop Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups from moving around to adjust.

Moscow and Damascus will laugh at such an "offer".

The U.S. is indeed protecting al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda, not U.S. supported "moderates, is the only force which keeps the Syrian government side from winning. The Zionist lobby confirms this:

Because most Jabhat al-Nusra fighters are fighting Assad, if the plan succeeds, Assad will be in a much better position. Meanwhile, the other Sunni Arab groups that are left fighting Assad will be in a much weaker position, said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The strategy could allow Assad to capture Aleppo, which would be a huge victory for his side in the civil war.

“If the U.S. and Russia open up on Jabhat al-Nusra, that changes the dynamics on the ground in Aleppo and Idlib,” he said. “It would definitely benefit the Assad regime ..."

The plan, if it was correctly "leaked" to the WaPo author, is nothing but additional delaying and obfuscation. The U.S. has no interest in ending the fighting in Syria. It wants to keep the conflict going as long as possible to "bleed" Syrian, Iran and Russia as much as it can.

The Russian government should finally accept that and end the conflict by solely military means.

Posted by b on June 30, 2016 at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (113)

June 29, 2016

Another U.S. Proxy Force Defeated By IS - Incompetent Training or Intent?

The U.S. military has again failed in one of the training programs it runs in support of fighting the Islamic State. Earlier training missions had failed to create competent and willing forces. Supplies for U.S. supported forces ended on the black markets or directly in the hands of the Islamic State. Is all this really incapability or is there some intent behind this?

Yesterday the U.S. created and supported New Syrian Army, a large gang of Salafists from Deir Ezzur, proudly announced that it was attacking the Islamic State at the Syrian-Iraqi border:

ISIS has gone on alert as US-backed rebels aim to advance toward the border town of Al-Boukamal in a bid to cut the jihadist group’s supply lines between Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, the New Syrian Army announced the start of its campaign to gain control of Al-Boukamal, which lies across from the Iraqi border town of Al-Qaim deep behind ISIS’s main frontlines in eastern Syria.

Hours after the start of the offensive, the shadowy group active in remote stretches of the eastern Syrian desert seized the defunct Al-Hamdan airbase five-kilometers northwest of Al-Boukamal while fighting also raged overnight southwest of the border town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attacked town is 250 desert kilometers away from the only other New Syrian Army position at the Tanf border crossing. The forces were dropped by helicopters and had U.S. air support. These New Syrian Army fighters were trained In Jordan and newly equipped by U.S. and British special forces and are said to be led by "foreign airborne fighters", likely Jordanian specialists.

Three coalition helicopters landed New Syrian Army troops approximately four-kilometers west of Al-Boukamal on Tuesday, according to the SOHR, as coalition airstrikes in the meantime targeted ISIS north of the town.

The New Syrian Army also claimed its forces were airdropped, saying their troops “landed behind enemy lines” after which they took the Al-Hamdan airport and nearby village, which are located northwest of Al-Boukamal.

According to a statement issued Wednesday morning by the group, its fighters also seized “the Al-Husaybah area and border crossing [outside the town] as well and the southern southern desert and the whole eastern regions in the vicinity of Abu Kamal.”

The US-backed force further claimed that “sleeper cells of rebel clans in the Al-Boukamal countryside facilitated the advance of our troops.”

Reuters reports that the U.S. supported this attack in a way it usually ascribes to the Russians:

U.S.-led coalition jets fired missiles at the town's Aisha hospital used by Islamic State ..

We are waiting for Human Rights Watch's urgent condemnation of this outrageous war-crime ...

One assumes that such a large operation is well prepared with thought out fire-plans, good intelligence and extensive logistic support. Fresh, well trained troops with the best available equipment, and with surprise on their side, should have had no real trouble to prevail in such an attack.

But the whole operation failed terribly within just a few hours A total fiasco.

The Islamic State killed five "spies" in Al-Boukamal who were allegedly working for the New Syrian Army. It killed some 40 NSA troops during fighting and wounded some 15. It seized 6 brand new U.S. supplied trucks with miniguns and another 6 trucks with ammunition as well as satellite telephones. The rest of the New Syrian Army retreated to the defunct airbase they had started at and are waiting for exfiltration.

If this was a mission to resupply the Islamic State it indeed had some success. Otherwise it was another very embarrassing failure, not only for the New Syrian Army but of the professional militaries that trained and supported it.

One wonders what the highly paid U.S. military has been doing here. How can such an attack, with all advantages on the side of the U.S. proxies, fail? The British government orders its air force to bomb the Islamic State only when such "success" is need for some (inner-)political event. Is the U.S. way to "fight" similar? Is this intentional failure or sheer incompetence? Does the U.S. really want to fight the Islamic State? Or is this all just obfuscation?

Posted by b on June 29, 2016 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

June 28, 2016

Blairites' Disdain For Labour Members Is One Reason For #Brexit Votes

TIMES POLL: Should Jeremy Corbyn resign?
Public: 49% Yes, 30% No
Labour voters: 54% No, 35% Yes
Lucy Fisher - 11:45 PM - 27 Jun 2016


Confirmed result from labour no confidence motion
172 for
40 against
4 spoilt ballots
13 didn't vote

Faisal Islam - 8:42 AM - 28 Jun 2016

One wonders how much money was paid and what threats were issued to push Labour MPs to vote against their successful and well regarded party leader.

All to no avail.

Corbyn will not give in to this coup attempt which has no legal basis at all. He demands a democratic vote by the party members:

I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today's vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.

It is amazing that just the moment the Conservative Party breaks down over the aftermath of the #Brexit vote Labour "elites" decided to fight their party instead of attacking their confused opponents.

Do they not understand that the #Brexit vote is a consequence of exactly such fatuous behavior?

Behind this is of course Tony Blair and his gang who use extremely dirty media setups to frame Corbyn.

Blair fears the release of the Chilcott report about his lies that led to the British participation in the war of Iraq. In two weeks  that report will comes out and the Labour leader will speak about it in Parliament. If that leader is Corbyn he will apologize and damn Blair and the people around him. Those folks have now pulled out all stops. They would rather see Corbyn dead than publicly condemning them for their crimes.

I hope that Jermey Corbyn has good bodyguards.

Posted by b on June 28, 2016 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (80)

June 27, 2016

"Jordan Bad," Officials Tell NYT - Pressure For A New Southern Front Attack?

U.S. officials called up the New York Times. They requested to send two reporters to take down dictation. The reporters dutifully stenographed what they were told and copied it into some publishable format.

The main purpose of the story seems to be to blame the Jordan intelligence service that CIA supplied weapons for "Syrian rebels" are ending up in weapon markets and with the Islamic State.

But the officials are also giving a limited hangout, confirming some already known facts to obfuscate and hide others. The reporters never bother to explain that to their readers. They leave all major assertions unchallenged even while those contradict reports already in the public record. "Why confuse the reader with facts?" they might have thought.

Thus we now read that Jordanian intelligence people "stole" weapons the CIA intended to deliver to "moderate" Syrian rebels. Jordan intelligence "sold" those on the "black market". Unfortunately some of these weapons have recently been used against U.S. CIA contractors.

You see, the always bumbling empire and its incompetent CIA never-ever manage to do something right. They have all these good intentions but always make these stupid mistakes like losing arms that then somehow end up with the Islamic State and other Jihadis. Whatever the U.S. does, any negative consequences are -by definition- unplanned or done by some other bad actors.

That weapons for "moderate rebels" end up and are sold to by Jihadis, even on Facebook, was predictable from the get-go and has been known for a long time. It is not a Jordanian problem.

Other myth the piece tries to plant include:

  • the CIA only started to train Syrian rebels and to deliver weapon to them in 2013
  • the weapons all came from eastern Europe via some Gulf countries
  • those U.S. dependent Gulf countries were acting randomly and only since 2013 did the CIA, thankfully, take the lead and set things straight
  • the Jordan state lets the officers who systematically "stole" weapons keep their pensions and the profits from the deal because that's what that weird Jordan state does

There has been quite a bit of reporting that contradicts those fairy tales:

  • the international operations rooms to coordinate the Syrian rebels in Turkey and Jordan started in 2012
  • the CIA supervised smuggling of weapons from Libya to Syria in 2011/12
  • the Gulf countries depend in the U.S. for their intelligence and defense; they do not "go rogue" unnoticed and unchallenged unless it is in U.S. interests
  • no state, not even Jordan, will pamper officers who "stole" and sold weapons if these deeds were against orders and the interests of the state

An open question is why this story was created now. It provides some limited hangouts but its real purpose seems to be to plant the story "Jordan officer stole weapons that killed U.S. people" which makes Jordan look bad. The NYT report was written in collaboration with the Qatari outlet Al Jazeerah.

There are doubts in Jordan that continuing the war against Syria is in its interest. A vehicle used in a recent suicide bombing against a Jordanian border station was earlier officially given to "moderate" Syrian rebels. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Jordan can not expect anything good from a continuing war and wants to wind it down.

So was this story planted to put pressure on Jordan to again change its mind? Does it convey U.S. and Qatari pressure to renew a "Southern Front", which has been quiet for a while, and for a new rebel attack from Jordan against Damascus?

Don't bet on the NYT stenographers to answer such questions.

Posted by b on June 27, 2016 at 08:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

June 26, 2016

Zika Virus Does Not Cause Birth Defects - Fighting It Probably Does

The media said that the mosquito borne Zika virus is likely causing microcephaly as well as dozens of other illnesses. They also claimed that insecticides were not related to the development disorder. They seem to have been wrong on both cases.

Since December 2015 U.S. media ran a panic campaign round the Zika virus. That virus was said to cause many bad things including microcephaly, a development distortion of the head  of unborn babies, if the mother was infected with Zika during pregnancy.

After looking into the issue and the available data I concluded that: The Zika Virus Is Harmless:

The virus is long known, harmless and the main current scare, that the virus damages unborn children, is based on uncorroborated and likely false information.
There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.

The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

As this is all well known or easy to find out why do the media create this sensation?

By March the media attributed all known human ills to Zika though every headline doing so included a telltale caveat may. I mocked these in Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain

[E]ven while Zika is known to be less harmful than an average flue, one headline after the other tries to create the impression that it is some really awful, new bug that may be responsible for about any ailment. That it may spread like wildfire and may have other terrible consequences. May, as in 'the sky may fall', is indeed the most operative word here.

There followed a collection of 35 recent "Zika may cause ..." headlines.

Meanwhile doctors in the Zika affected areas in Brazil pointed out that the real cause of somewhat increased microcephaly in the region was probably the insecticide pyriproxyfen, used to kill mosquito larvae in drinking water:

The Brazilian doctors noted that the areas of northeast Brazil that had witnessed the greatest number of microcephaly cases match with areas where pyriproxyfen is added to drinking water in an effort to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Pyriproxyfen is reported to cause malformations in mosquito larvae, and has been added to drinking water in the region for the past 18 months.

Pyriproxyfen is produced by a Sumitomo Chemical - an important Japanese poison giant. It was therefore unsurprising that the New York Times and others called the doctors report a "conspiracy theory" and trotted out some "experts" to debunk it.

But facts are facts and as these come to the fore the embarrassed media will now likely stay silent.

The New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge just published a new study that falsifies the assumed link between Zika and microcephaly. Science Daily reports:

In Brazil, the microcephaly rate soared with more than 1,500 confirmed cases. But in Colombia, a recent study of nearly 12,000 pregnant women infected with Zika found zero microcephaly cases. If Zika is to blame for microcephaly, where are the missing cases? Perhaps there is another reason for the epidemic in Brazil.


Well, maybe those doctors on the ground in Brazil knew what they were talking about. The scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute also researched the pyriproxyfen thesis. They found:

Pyriproxifen is an analog of juvenile hormone, which corresponds in mammals to regulatory molecules including retinoic acid, a vitamin A metabolite, with which it has cross-reactivity and whose application during development causes microcephaly.
[T]ests of pyriproxyfen by the manufacturer, Sumitomo, widely quoted as giving no evidence for developmental toxicity, actually found some evidence for such an effect, including low brain mass and arhinencephaly—incomplete formation of the anterior cerebral hemispheres—in rat pups. Finally, the pyriproxyfen use in Brazil is unprecedented—it has never before been applied to a water supply on such a scale.
Given this combination of information we strongly recommend that the use of pyriproxyfen in Brazil be suspended pending further investigation.

Sumitomo sold a poison in Brazil which was supposed to prevent the spread of mosquito borne Zika virus by hindering the development of mosquito larvae. Suddenly cases of the human development disorder microcephaly occurred. The company knew that their insecticide could cause birth defects in mammals. But they continued to blame the Zika virus which then increased demand for their poison to "prevent" the further spread of that false Zika cause.

Some enterprising lawyers might find enough material in this case to hold the company responsible for the suffering it probably caused for many families in Brazil.

But the media should also be held responsible. First for spreading a false panic and for attributing all kinds of nonsense to a harmless flue virus. They should also be held responsible for not diligently investigating the possibly human-effected cause of the development disorder. The one that now seems to turn out to be the real culprit.

Posted by b on June 26, 2016 at 05:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

June 25, 2016

The Imminent Dodging Of Brexit - A Gift For The Fascist Right

We claimed that BREXIT - is not gonna happen and pointed to a propaganda campaign (see further examples in the comments there) launched to reverse the Brexit votes. Within that campaign two memes get pushed:

First, young voters feel cheated of their future because some old, grumpy people voted for Brexit. Well, these young voters of age 18 to 24, tearfully interviewed by the BBC and Channel 4, constitute only 5% of the electorate. Only a third of them voted at all, 70% of those 1/3 of 5% for "Remain". This is a small part, and a not very interested one, of the population. Who are they to deserve some special attendance?

The second meme pushed is the "success" of some petition for a #ReverseBrexit vote someone set up on the UK parliament website. It now has more than a million "signatures". That is a lot in a short time frame. But wait, any dog on the Internet can "sign" that petition provided it has some throw-away email address. I, a German in Germany, "signed" to test the procedure. It took me about 30 seconds.

This propaganda campaign will not have any tangible success, but it sets a certain atmosphere which then will be used to stall the exit process.

The EU exit mechanism is build in a way that allows for an endless postponement of the actual procedure. This is the way the British politicians will likely take. The Jack of Kent Blog explains how this works:

The UK did not [immediately] send to the EU the notification under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union which would have commenced the withdrawal process.

The Article 50 process is the only practical means by which the UK can leave the EU.
And so unless and until the Article 50 process is commenced and completed, the UK will stay as a member of the EU.

In short: no Article 50, no Brexit.
And it is entirely a matter for the Member State to choose whether to make the notification and, if so, when.

The UK immediately filing Article 50, as Cameron once promised, would trigger a two year long negotiation period with the EU which would end with the legal exit independent of the negotiation results. After filing Article 50 the clock would run down to the deadline likely without any serious concession from the EU. The UK has therefore an interest to negotiate before filing Article 50. To negotiate before filing is its only chance to apply some pressure.

But the EU has no reason, or legal basis, to negotiate at all before the UK files. Why should it make concessions to a divorce letter that was not filed and may not ever arrive?

It is a stalemate situation. The powers that are against Brexit will use this to blockade any move.

The six founding EU members claim to push Britain to file the Article 50 application immediately. But that is just playing to the gallery. In reality they want the never ending stalemate:

There is no desperate rush for Britain to trigger the process for it to leave the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, leaving London some space to work out its next move after a referendum vote to leave the bloc.

Despite the British voter decision for Brexit business as usual will continue with absolutely no change in sight:

Jack of Kent:

It is not impossible to imagine that the Article 50 notification will never be made, and that the possibility that it may one day be made will become another routine feature of UK politics – a sort of embedded threat which comes and goes out of focus. The notification will be made one day, politicians and pundits will say, but not yet.

And whilst it is not made, then other ways of solving the problem created by the referendum result may present themselves: another referendum, perhaps, so that UK voters can give the “correct” result, or a general election where EU membership is a manifesto issue, or some other thing.

This will not please Leave campaigners, and rightly so. It means the result of the referendum will be effectively ignored.

While this may be a convenient way forward for the EU bureaucrats and the politicians committed to neo-liberal globalization, the damage in the long run will be much more severe than a chaotic Brexit procedure.

Brexit will join a number of other issues on which the democratic will of the people has been ignored. This further de-legitimizes the EU and whatever it undertakes.

People who argue that a violent overthrow of the system is the only way forward will gain credibility.

The aborted Brexit will also give further impetus to the hard-rightwing parties currently cropping up in several European countries. These parties ostensibly cater to the "small people" who feel unrepresented and on the economic losing side. But the economic programs of these parties are anti-social and would only further inequality. They (ab-)use the grievance of the poor and middle class to gain even more power for the rich.

What is missing in Europe are leftwing parties that take the romantic longing for local nationalism - in opposition to bone-crushing globalization - seriously and merge it with socialist policies. The social-democrats once had that role but under Blair, Schroeder and Hollande they waft away into the anti-nationalism, neo-liberal globalization sphere. Nationalism has, for them, become a dirty word. This at the time as nationalism gains new popularity as the anchor for common people lost in the sea of neo-liberal arbitrariness.

The space left empty by them will be filled by fascism.

Posted by b on June 25, 2016 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (134)

June 24, 2016

The #ReverseBrexit Campaign Has Begun

The British people voted to exit the EU.

But, as I said, Brexit ain't gonna happen

.. the powers that are will not allow Britain to exit the European Union.

Immediately after the result was announced the campaign for a "revote", which would give the voters the chance to correct their wrong views, began. Here is a glimpse. First a BBC editor:

Louisa Compton @louisa_compton

With leave voters in Manchester for BBCNews -most told us they woke up thinking "what have I done?" & didn't actually expect the uk to leave

Retweets 2,209 Likes 882

2:52 AM - 24 Jun 2016

"See, the people did not really mean it," says the official mouthpiece of the ruling powers.

"Most told us," is of course always fine to manipulate opinions. But "most" of what?

Here is another obvious spin:

The Independent @Independent

So many people are signing the petition for a second #EUref the government site has crashed -> Brexit: Petition for second EU referendum so popular the government site's crashing

Retweets 1,589 Likes 610

1:00 AM - 24 Jun 2016

That Independent tweet did wonders. The petition site was suddenly so "crashed" and "inaccessible" that only 15,710 people signed on within just the last hour.

So The Independent had a bad web connection? Or was it the point of the tweet and article to drive the people to the well accessible site?

And what please is the democratic legitimization of some ad-hoc petition with 100,000 signatories, many possibly by artificial entities, when millions just decided deliberately and consciously after an exhausting discussion of the question?

The powers that are on both sides of the Atlantic will use all means to reverse the decision of the British people. Or to make it irrelevant. The high-powered, opinion leading media tweets above are just the start of the #ReverseBrexit campaign. It will intensify and blare through all channels.

It will require diligence and hard work by the majority that voted for Brexit to see their will fulfilled.

Posted by b on June 24, 2016 at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (133)

June 23, 2016

BREXIT - Not Gonna Happen

No matter how the Brexit vote will go, the powers that are will not allow Britain to exit the European Union.


pic via Aenea Endymion

That's all.

Posted by b on June 23, 2016 at 04:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (121)

Dems Stage Unflattering Stunt While Trump Spreads The Popular Message

With elections upcoming this fall, the Democrats under Obama decided that reducing their potential might be a good way forward. Ignoring all democratic rules and procedures they initiated a childish stunt to press for legislation that is generally unpopular and loathed by liberals and progressive:

A sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives by Democratic members halted legislative action for nearly 11 hours Wednesday and appeared likely to continue into Thursday [..]

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., reconvened the House after 10 p.m. for a vote on an unrelated issue, but while the vote went forward, chaos reigned, with Democrats chanting in the well of the House in a demonstration unprecedented in modern times.
The Democrats seemed almost giddy with their revolt, singing “We Shall Overcome” and relishing their ability to bring proceedings to a halt.

At issue are more gun purchase restrictions. A few days after a mass murderer killed 50 people in Orlando with a semi-automatic gun, weapons purchase rules are again of public interest. To take this up may be good politics and makes general sense.

Semiautomatic weapons, like the military derived AR-15 used in Orlando, should be put under the National Rifle Act of 1934 just like other high powered weapons. That laws has clear rules on who can purchase, transfer and use machine guns or  destructive (military) devices. It requires a rather bothersome, lengthy registration of guns and their owners which is fine if one wants to keep such weapons out of the hands of spontaneous, emotionally-driven murderers.

But the Democrats did not want to make sense. They wanted to create a ruckus and decided to go for measures that even their own electorate is likely to reject:

Ms. Pelosi said her caucus was seeking votes on measures similar to two Democratic proposals that failed to advance in the Senate.

One of those sought to ban gun sales to people on the government’s terrorism watch list, while the second would expand and toughen background checks for gun buyers. Those two measures were defeated on Monday in the Senate, along with two Republican alternatives.

The government's terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists are arbitrary and of dubious value. Some 1,500,000 people are at least on one of these lists. At times even toddlers and Senators made the cut. Of the recently active "terrorists" in the U.S. some were on one of those list but could fly and proceed anyway. Others were, like the shooter in Orlando, not on any of them. These lists, and the (secret) criteria to be put on or taken down from them, do not make sense.

The Democrats should have killed the whole arbitrary list system long ago. At least one court found these to be unconstitutional. Instead they now demand to further replace due process with more arbitrary executive decisions within ill defined categories.

If the "terrorists" on those lists are so dangerous why allow them to have driver licenses? Could they not use cars to kill? Why not lock them up without further trial? The potential extensions are endless.

The stunt will probably end in a political disaster for Democratic candidates. If one wants to play the populist card one needs to take up popular issue. Bending to ever expansive demands of the executive, here President Obama, is not one of these.

Donald Trump's speech (transcript) on the stakes of the election made good points on globalization and trade. It was also full of lies and obfuscations. But that will, as the primaries have shown, not diminish his central message nor hurt him within his potential electorate. He hits the right buttons with a lot of people:

Our country lost its way when we stopped putting the American people first.

We got here because we switched from a policy of Americanism – focusing on what’s good for America’s middle class – to a policy of globalism, focusing on how to make money for large corporations who can move their wealth and workers to foreign countries all to the detriment of the American worker and the American economy.

We reward companies for offshoring, and we punish companies for doing business in America and keeping our workers employed.

This is not a rising tide that lifts all boats.

This is a wave of globalization that wipes out our middle class and our jobs.

Those words will ring with many people.

Trump now needs money for the general election. He sold out to hard-line Zionist donors. Within an otherwise isolationist foreign policy view he claimed that "Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now [...] on the road to nuclear weapons." Neither was Clinton much involved in the nuclear agreement with Iran, nor is Iran on such a road. But Trump will rake in millions from Adelson and other arch-Zionists for making these claims.

His anti-globalization shtick will sell well in fly-over country and with marginalized workers. My hunch is that the media, overwhelmingly in Clinton's favor, will underestimate his pull until the day he wins the election.

Posted by b on June 23, 2016 at 04:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

June 22, 2016

Open Thread 2016-22

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 22, 2016 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (142)

June 21, 2016

"Dramatic Rescue! Man With Kid Runs Towards Camera!" - 44 Staged Pictures


A man with a kid in arm runs towards the camera. The kid's face is heavily colored, but it looks otherwise fine. On the lower left we see the back of a man with a "White Helmets" logo on his vest. Dust in the background. Always dust or smoke. A bunch of men looking very busy. But are they actually doing anything?

That would be a lucky by-chance photo shot for any normal photographer. Even in country where rubble from a fresh bombing may be around some near corner.

I have done, years ago, press photography for a living. Real accidents or bombings look way more bloody than any of these pictures. And that red color in the girls face is anything but blood.

The photo above is a typical "White Helmets rescue kid" propaganda picture. Except for maybe the old rubble, it is likely completely staged.

There the 43 pictures of a very similar theme below the fold to further demonstrate that. Just ask yourself this: Could these well composed,  allegedly "by-chance" pictures, taken within a year, really be all as alike as they are if they were all taken at real incidents? Really? None of these is staged? If one is how many else are?


UPDATE (August 18): Another photo of the scene below, from a different angle, was found and proves that it was not staged. Unfortunately the boy seems to have lost his right arm.

The pictures above all look astonishingly similar: rubble, dust or rather haze from a smoke grenade in the background, dusted/greasepaint bloody kids who have no visible trauma, the rescuer with the kid moving towards the camera. Dramatic, high quality scenes which do get distributed by news agencies and published again and again by major "western" media.

Isn't it an amazing fortune that so many kids get rescued alive by the "White Helmets", without any serious wounds visible, just moments after bomb impacts? This week after week? With all the same attributes in each picture?

No photo editor at any of the big media ever wondered about that?

Some of these photos may show real scenes. But most are definitely staged. These staged photos are part of the war propaganda against the Syrian people and their government.

The "White Helmets" take and distribute these photos. They also distribute lots of "kids rescued from rubble" videos. We wrote about those a month ago:

Other typical features of these movies, see this one, are smoke (grenades) in the streets, dramatic but small open fires nearby, dust or some red color on the children's face or arms. The camera is often used in a hectic, intentionally amateurish first person view, a style extensively developed in the 1999 horror clip Blair Witch Project. Sometimes sounds of additional "bomb impact" bangs or screaming/wailing women are added.

The "White Helmets" are part of the (anti-)Syria Campaign. "Kid rescued from rubble" is their standard shtick. They are financed with some $60+ million from your taxes by the U.S., the UK and other governments. Such money will buy a lot of good cameras and props and will pay for many actors and extras.

"Man With Kid Runs Towards Camera!" is central to their brand.

The Syria Campaign and the White Helmets - propaganda camouflaged as humanitarian.

The Syria Campaign was created by Purpose Campaigns LLC. The company fabricates and runs for you any world-wide "grass root" movement you would like. With Purpose LLC or other such companies involved, big dollars will buy you big effects. How about an automated Twitter campaign to spread anti-Shia sectarianism? Someone paid for it and here it is.

The "White Helmets" campaign demonstrates the amazing manipulation potential such companies and their high paying customers have.

Posted by b on June 21, 2016 at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (65)

June 20, 2016

An Eyewitness Tells How The U.S. Ambassador Instigated "Revolution" In Syria

S. Rifai, also known as @THE_47th, is a Syrian "activist" from Homs. He was involved since early 2011 when the U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford  (@fordrs58) fomented the "revolution" in Syria. He has since tweeted about the "revolution" and has shown lots of insider knowledge. Below S. Rifai corrects the U.S. propaganda record.

The former ambassador Ford allegedly had a hand in last weeks "dissident" letter by some State Department employees. The letter urges launching an open U.S. war against Syria and its government. Ford was recently interviewed about the letter for an exculpatory piece in the New Yorker.

In the New Yorker interview Ford asserted:

We all learned from Iraq that regime change is not the way to bring about positive political change. In the case of civil war, there needs to be negotiation between the opposition and the government. The question is how you increase the likelihood that it will succeed. And ever since Secretary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov concluded the communiqué, in June, 2012, Administration policy has failed to create the conditions necessary to succeed.

Quoting the above S. Rifai responded to former ambassador Ford's assertions (emphasis added, edited to expand Twitter shorthand):

S. Rifai @THE_47th 5:02 AM - 19 Jun 2016

That's not what u told us in meetings in Damascus Ambassador @fordrs58 ..that's not the message you conveyed

Ambassador Ford @fordrs58 you have had more freedom in Damascus in 2011 than most political opposition and throughout your meetings, the above message was different

You actually had the courage Ambassador @fordrs58 to sit with regime officials who seemed ready to defect and your message certainly wasn't "negotiation"

Your meetings in Abu Remmaneh, Malki, and in known dissidents houses Mr. @fordrs58, remember those? remember the promises?

I can get more specific about these meetings Mr. @fordrs58, but it is not in your interest nor mine

These details are like farts in the wind Mr. Ambassador @fordrs58 - what counts is the "Assad must go" part that you and your president said repeatedly.

Ford did not immediately respond but S. Rifai insisted

S. Rifai @THE_47th 5:14 AM - 19 Jun 2016

@fordrs58 so please clarify: you knew all along that Obama wanted "negotiations with the government" but you and him kept telling us "Assad will go"?

Another "revolutionary" joins:

Abdul @al_7aleem 5:36 AM - 19 Jun 2016

.@THE_47th @fordrs58 Isn't it our fault for forgetting the last 90 years of US history in all our excitement...

S. Rifai @THE_47th ‏5:38 AM - 19 Jun 2016

We didn't forget as much as we hoped for change.. It's not like we had another power-player we could rely on

Later on Ford responded:

Robert Ford @fordrs58 10:34 AM - 19 Jun 2016

you should remember that we (US Embassy and others) urged a dialogue with the Syrian government and that protests stay peaceful

(Ford's tweet implies that, despite his claimed urging, the protests did not stay peaceful. He admits that the protesters, not  the government, initiated the violence.)

Rifai counters:

S. Rifai @THE_47th 11:36 PM - 19 Jun 2016

Expectation vs. Reality

Your trip to Hama was about dialogue? Your Malki meetings were about peace? Are you insulting my intelligence?

.@fordrs58 when you knew Manaf Tlass or the Prime Minister was about to defect, did you urge them to dialogue instead?

.@fordrs58 where is "dialogue" in Obama's "Assad must step aside"? Assad must go, Obama says

.@fordrs58 when farouk Al Sharaa invited the opposition to a meeting in 2011 you advised Nabil Maleh, Michel Kilo, Fayez Sara NOT to dialogue.

.@fordrs58 do you want the Bulgarian Ambassador to refresh your memory? How about B.R? Or M.T? All were there when you advised the opposition NOT to dialogue.

.@fordrs58 you were giving us lectures on how important it was to tour the EU and lobby for our cause, and to capitalize on EU cutting ties with Assad


Robert Ford @fordrs58 7:33 AM - 20 Jun 2016

@THE_47th please get your facts straight. I never even met Fayez in 2011. We urged Sharaa dialogue to expand to include people like Michel & Haithem M.

S. Rifai @THE_47th 8:10 AM - 20 Jun 2016

.@fordrs58 fine. I'll get them to say what you told them. On another note: why did you provide "non-lethal" aid to rebels?

.@fordrs58 and when you went to the Syrian border with Turkey to meet rebels, were you also urging them to dialogue?

To recap. Ford now asserts that he and Obama did not want immediate violent "regime change" in Syria. That they wanted to have a dialogue and negotiate with the Assad government.

Rifai, who was there from the very beginning, says that those are lies. In his talks with the opposition Ford argued against any negotiations. His talks were not about peace or dialogue. They were for blatant, violent "regime change".

The "revolutionary" dupes fell for it.



Ford peddles at least one other big lie in the New Yorker interview. He says:

[Back in 2012, we in the State Department ...] didn’t anticipate that the Al Qaeda organization would split and produce an even more virulent form—that a more extreme form would come to control the eastern portion of Syria going into Iraq.

In mid 2012 the Defense Intelligence Agency circulated a high level assessment of the situation in Syria that said the opposite. The Obama administration did anticipate the  Islamic State. According to (vid, 8:50) then DIA boss Gen. Flynn, it was a "willfully decision" by the Obama administration to do nothing to prevent it.



Ford did know what was going to come. He is lying.

Posted by b on June 20, 2016 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (91)

June 18, 2016

Syria - Russian Surprise Attack Blows Up Kerry's Delaying Tactic

The U.S. is unwilling to stop the war on Syria and to settle the case at the negotiation table. It wants a 100% of its demands fulfilled, the dissolution of the Syrian government and state and the inauguration of a U.S. proxy administration in Syria.

After the ceasefire in Syria started in late February Obama broke his pledge to separate the U.S. supported "moderate rebels" from al-Qaeda. In April U.S. supported rebels, the Taliban like Ahrar al Sham and al-Qaeda joined to attack the Syrian government in south Aleppo. The U.S.proxies broke the ceasefire.

Two UN resolutions demand that al-Qaeda in Syria be fought no matter what. But the U.S. has at least twice asked Russia not to bomb al-Qaeda. It insists, falsely, that it can not separate its "moderates" from al-Qaeda and that al-Qaeda can not be attacked because that would also hit its "moderate" friends.

The Russian foreign minster Lavrov has talked wit Kerry many times about the issue. But the only response he received were requests to further withhold bombing. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and the "moderates" continued to break the ceasefire and to attack the Syrian government forces.

After nearly four month Kerry still insists that the U.S. needs even more time for the requested separation of its proxy forces from al-Qaeda. Foreign Minister Lavrov recently expressed the Russian consternation:

The Americans are now saying that they are unable to remove the 'good' opposition members from the positions held by al-Nusra Front, and that they will need another two-three months. I am under the impression that there is a game here and they may want to keep al-Nusra Front in some form and later use it to overthrow the [Assad] regime," Lavrov said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The bucket was full and Kerry's latest request for another three month pause of attacking al-Qaeda was the drop that let it overflow. Russia now responded by hitting the U.S. where it did not expect to be hit:

Russian warplanes hit Pentagon-backed Syrian fighters with a barrage of airstrikes earlier this week, disregarding several warnings from U.S. commanders in what American military officials called the most provocative act since Moscow’s air campaign in Syria began last year.

The strikes hit a base near the Jordanian border, far from areas where the Russians were previously active, and targeted U.S.-backed forces battling the Islamic State militants.
These latest strikes occurred on the other side of the country from the usual Russian operations, around Tanf, a town near where the borders of Jordan, Iraq, and Syria meet.
The Russian strike hit a small rebel base for staging forces and equipment in a desolate, unpopulated area near the border. About 180 rebels were there as part of the Pentagon's program to train and equip fighters against Islamic State.

When the first strikes hit, the rebels called a U.S. command center in Qatar, where the Pentagon orchestrates the daily air war against Islamic State.

U.S. jets came and the Russian jets went away. The U.S. jets left to refuel, the Russian jets came back and hit again. Allegedly two U.S. proxy fighters were killed and 18 were wounded.

Earlier today another such attack hit the same target.

This was no accident but a well planned operation and the Russian spokesperson's response makes the intend clear:

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm the attack Friday, telling reporters it was difficult to distinguish different rebel groups from the air.

Translation: "If you can not separate your forces from al-Qaeda and differentiate and designate exclusively "moderate" zones we can not do so either."

The forces near Tanf are supported by U.S. artillery from Jordan and air power via Iraq. British and Jordan special operations forces are part of the ground component (and probably the majority of the "Syrian" fighters.) There is no al-Qaeda there. The Russians know that well. But they wanted to make the point that it is either separation everywhere or separation nowhere. From now on until the U.S. clearly separates them from AQ all U.S. supported forces will be hit indiscriminately anywhere and anytime. (The Syrian Kurds fighting the Islamic State with U.S. support are for now a different story.)

The Pentagon does not want any further engagement against the Syrian government or against Russia. It wants to fight the Islamic State and its hates the CIA for its cooperation with al-Qaeda and other Jihadi elements. But John Brennan, the Saudi operative and head of the CIA, still seems to have Obama's ear. But what can Obama do now? Shoot down a Russian jet and thereby endanger any U.S. pilot flying in Syria or near the Russian border? Risk a war with Russia? Really?

The Russian hit near Tanf was clearly a surprise. The Russians again caught Washington on the wrong foot. The message to the Obama administration is clear. "No more delays and obfuscations. You will separate your moderates NOW or all your assets in Syria will be juicy targets for the Russian air force."

The Russian hits at Tanf and the U.S. proxies there has an additional benefit. The U.S. had planned to let those forces move north towards Deir Ezzor and to defeat the Islamic State in that city. Eventually a "Sunni entity" would be established in south east Syria and west Iraq under U.S. control. Syria would be split apart.

The Syrian government and its allies will not allow that. There is a large operation planned to free Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State occupation. Several hundred Syrian government forces have held an isolated airport in Deir Ezzor against many unsuccessful Islamic State attacks. These troops get currently reinforced by additional Syrian army contingents and Hizbullah commandos.A big battle is coming. Deir Ezzor may be freed within the next few month. Any U.S. plans for some eastern Syrian entity are completely unrealistic if the Syrian government can take and hold its largest eastern city.

The Obama administration's delaying tactic will now have to end. Russia will no longer stand back and watch while the U.S. sabotages the ceasefire and supports al-Qaeda. 

What then is the next move the U.S. will make?

Posted by b on June 18, 2016 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (160)

June 17, 2016

Know-Nothing "Diplomats" Prepare For Hillary's War On Syria

There are at least 51 stupid or dishonest "diplomats" working in the U.S. State Department. Also - Mark Lander is a stupid or dishonest NYT writer. The result is this piece: Dozens of U.S. Diplomats, in Memo, Urge Strikes Against Syria’s Assad

WASHINGTON — More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

Note that it was Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and other U.S. paid and supported "moderates" who on April 9 broke the ceasefire in Syria by attacking government troops south of Aleppo. They have since continuously bombarded the government held parts of Aleppo which house over 1.5 million civilians with improvised artillery.

Back to the piece:

The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”
The names on the memo are almost all midlevel officials — many of them career diplomats — who have been involved in the administration’s Syria policy over the last five years, at home or abroad. They range from a Syria desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to a former deputy to the American ambassador in Damascus.

While there are no widely recognized names, higher-level State Department officials are known to share their concerns. Mr. Kerry himself has pushed for stronger American action against Syria, in part to force a diplomatic solution on Mr. Assad.
The State Department officials insisted in their memo that they were not “advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia,” but rather a credible threat of military action to keep Mr. Assad in line.

These State Department loons have their ass covered by Secretary of State Kerry. Otherwise they would (and should) be fired for obvious ignorance. What "judicious" military threat against Russian S-400 air defense in Syria is credible? Nukes on Moscow (and New York)?

In the memo, the State Department officials argued that military action against Mr. Assad would help the fight against the Islamic State because it would bolster moderate Sunnis, who are necessary allies against the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Would these "diplomats" be able to name even one group of "moderate Sunnis" in Syria that is not on the side of the Syrian government? Are Ahrar al-Sahm and the other U.S. supported groups, who recently killed 50 civilians out of purely sectarian motives when they stormed the town of Zara, such "moderate Sunnis"?

These 50 State Department non-diplomats, and the stinking fish head above them, have obviously failed in their duty:

  • "Diplomats" urging military action do nothing but confirm that they do not know their job which is diplomacy, not bombing. They failed.
  • These "diplomats" do not know or do not want to follow international law. On what legal basis would the U.S. bomb the Syrian government and its people? They do not name any. There is none.
  • To what purpose would the Syrian government and the millions of its followers be bombed? Who but al-Qaeda would follow if the Assad-led government falls? The "diplomats" ignore that obvious question.

The NYT writer of the piece on the memo demonstrates that he is just as stupid or dishonest as the State Department dupes by adding this paragraph:

[T]he memo mainly confirms what has been clear for some time: The State Department’s rank and file have chafed at the White House’s refusal to be drawn into the conflict in Syria.

How is spending over $1 billion a year to hire, train, arm and support "moderate rebels" against the Syrian government consistent with the claim of a U.S. "refusal to be drawn into the conflict"?

It is obvious and widely documented that the U.S. has been fueling the conflict from the very beginning throughout five years and continues up to today to deliver thousands of tons of weapons to the "moderate rebels".

All the above, the "diplomats" letter and the NYT writer lying, is in preparation of an open U.S. war on Syria under a possible president Hillary Clinton. (Jo Cox, the "humanitarian" British MP who was murdered yesterday by some neo-nazi, spoke in support of such a crime.)

The U.S. military continues to reject an escalation against the Syrian government. Its reasonable question "what follows after Assad" has never been seriously answered by the war supporters in the CIA and the State Department.

Unexpected support of the U.S. military's position now seems to come from the Turkish side. The Erdogan regime finally acknowledges that a Syria under Assad is more convenient to it than a Kurdish state in north-Syria which the U.S. is currently helping to establish:

"Assad is, at the end of the day, a killer. He is torturing his own people. We're not going to change our stance on that," a senior official from the ruling AK Party told Reuters, requesting anonymity so as to speak more freely.

"But he does not support Kurdish autonomy. We may not like each other, but on that we're backing the same policy," he said.

Ankara fears that territorial gains by Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria will fuel an insurgency by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an armed struggle in Turkey's southeast for three decades.

The Turks have suddenly removed their support for their "Turkmen" proxies fighting the Syrian government in Latakia in north west Syria. Over the last few days the "Turkmen" retreated and the Syrian army advanced. It may soon reach the Turkish border. Should the Latakia front calm down the Syrian army will be able to move several thousand troops from Latakia towards other critical sectors. The Turkish government, under the new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, is now also sending peace signals towards Russia.

The situation in Syria could rapidly change in favor of the Syrian government should Turkey change its bifurcating policies and continue these moves. Without their Turkish bases and support the "moderate rebels" would soon be out of supplies and would lack the ability to continue their fighting. The Russians and their allies should further emphasize the "Kurdish threat" to advance this  Turkish change of mind.

The race to preempt a Hillary administration war on Syria, which the "diplomats" memo prepares for, is now on. May the not-warmongering side win.

Posted by b on June 17, 2016 at 01:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

June 16, 2016

The Next "Russian Government Cyber Attack" May Be A Gulf of Tonkin Fake

Yesterday the Washington Post published a piece that smelled of bullshit from the first line to the last:

Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump.

Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.
The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some Republican political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.
Some of the hackers had access to the DNC network for about a year, but all were expelled over the past weekend in a major computer cleanup campaign, the committee officials and experts said.

Why the f*** would Russia want to steal oppo research about Trump when it can read such in Politico and the Washington Post every day? Why start A YEAR AGO to hack something for Trump data? Who would have thought A YEAR AGO that Trump would be relevant? This was obvious nonsense. But some snakeoil salesmen convinced the Washington Post know-nothing reporter and the DNC that it all must be true:

The DNC said that no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken, suggesting that the breach was traditional espionage, not the work of criminal hackers.

If there was a hacker breaking some servers for over a year how the hell would anyone know what s/he accessed? There is no assured way to know what files were touched. And to conclude from what was probably taken to "must thereby have been Russia" is plainly stupid.

“It’s the job of every foreign intelligence service to collect intelligence against their adversaries,” said Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike, the cyber firm called in to handle the DNC breach and a former head of the FBI’s cyber division. He noted that it is extremely difficult for a civilian organization to protect itself from a skilled and determined state such as Russia.
The firm identified two separate hacker groups, both working for the Russian government, that had infiltrated the network, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CrowdStrike co-founder and chief technology officer. The firm had analyzed other breaches by both groups over the past two years.

All one might see in a breach, if anything, is some pattern of action that may seem typical for one adversary. But anyone else can imitate such a pattern as soon as it is known. That is why there is NEVER a clear attribution in such cases. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying or has no idea what s/he is speaking of.

Russia denied to have anything to do with that alleged hack. That did not prevent the Washington Post to come with a listical about Five more hacks the West has tied to Russia none of which is likely to have any Russian origin.

Trump for one claims that the DNC "hacked" itself to be able to publish their claims against him.

But now for the fun. A hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0 just published a blogpost with documents from the hack of the DNC server.

Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.

Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.

Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?

Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.

Not astonishingly the published documents include those with "financial, donor or personal information" which the DNC unconvincingly claimed had not be accessed. Guccifer 2.0 writes that most of the documents will soon be published via Wikileaks.

The whole story in the Washington Post was a anti-Russia nonsense based on self-promotion of an obviously incompetent cyber security company.

But it is dangerous.

I am afraid that such propaganda will one day be used as another Gulf of Tonkin fake to start a war. NATO is already preparing the public for such a move:

NATO may react to future cyber attacks by deploying conventional weapons, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published by Germany's Bild newspaper on Thursday.

"A severe cyber attack may be classified as a case for the alliance. Then NATO can and must react," the newspaper quoted Stoltenberg as saying. "How, that will depend on the severity of the attack."

One wonders if the Washington Post scaremongering about alleged Russian cyber abilities was coordinated with that NATO announcement.

To even think of such conventional retribution for a cyber attack is lunatic. No cyber attack is ever attributable with any certainty. The U.S. National Security Agency, as well as other state sponsored entities, would have no trouble to fake a "Russian cyber attack". If one lone hacker in the U.S., where Guccifer 2.0 seems to reside, can do such how much more convincing would any intentional, government sponsored fake be?

Posted by b on June 16, 2016 at 04:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (107)

June 14, 2016

Open Thread 2016-21

News & views (other than on the U.S. election) ...

Posted by b on June 14, 2016 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (161)

June 13, 2016

A Few More Questions About The Orlando Massacre

Some additional bits about the NYPD fan who allegedly killed some 50 people in Orlando are coming to light.

The father of the guy who is an immigrant from Afghanistan was a bit of a loon himself. He damned Pakistan and Afghan politicians over the Durand line. He put himself forward as a candidate for the Afghan presidency even when no election was in sight.

His son, the killer, was known to the FBI as a loon. He hated black, gays, Jews etc and had claimed affinity to the Boston bomber, Al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and the Islamic State - three groups which hate each other. He was not known to have any contact to any of these groups.

The Islamic State took the obvious step of adopting the shooter. The claim of IS responsibility did not come from the core organization but from its "news" agency which cited "sources". The IS folks are unlikely to have known of his existence until they heard the news. For them it is just good propaganda to claim a relation.

The various politicians use the case as they use any case. They propagandize their favorite policies and whatever facts of the case do not fit those policies are simply shoved aside. One can only ignore them and hope that over time sanity will prevail.

There are open questions I have yet to find answered:

Any big event in these days produces dozens of videos. Some people inside the club must have filmed whatever happened. Will we ever see those clips?

How does one guy in a club full of men manages to shoot 50+ and wound another 50+ without getting overwhelmed? He needed to change ammunition clips several times. The ideal time to attack him. Where there no three strong guys around in the club to jump him?

Was it really only one shooter? Those are a lot of casualties for one sole loon to cause.

It will take weeks until a more or less solid picture of the incident can be painted. There will of course be lots of speculations about false flag attacks and the like, including here in the comments. I do not see any evidence for such. The FBI had him on its radar?

Well, there are some 600,000 people on the U.S. no-fly-list. Hardly any of them is a "terrorists". The FBI has even more under on and off surveillance. Its haystack is too big to find the real needles. They thought he as a loon and not a danger. They were right with the loon part.

Posted by b on June 13, 2016 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (135)

June 12, 2016

Orlando Killer Was NYPD Fan - This Tells Us What?

Last night some deadbeat loser killed more than 50 people in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. It is the largest shooting massacre in the U.S. since Wounded Knee. According to his ex-wife the man, one Omar Mateen, used to beat her and was not religious. He had worked for the private prison and mercenary corporation G4S for more than five years. There were U.S. Marines stickers on his car.

Earlier Mateen took pictures of himself and posted those on Myspace. The pics are selfies and mostly not remarkable but in TWO of them he wears shirts with New York Police Department emblems on them.

(pictures flipped for better readability)

This tells us what?

  • The guy was a follower of the NYPD?
  • He had pledged allegiance to the NYPD?
  • G4S or the NYPD radicalized him and taught him to hate gays?

There is currently a lot of speculation, but no public evidence, that the guy was also a fan of the Islamic State (ISIS) death cult. None of the pictures he posted points into that direction, but it still may be the case.

But what does that really tell us?

Was his emotional relation to ISIS as strong as his emotional relation to the NYPD?

Do such assumed allegiances tell us anything at all?

Posted by b on June 12, 2016 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (139)

June 11, 2016

Clashes In Marseille Foreshadow Wider Sectarian War

Marseille - Clashes between sectarian supporters of two opposed participants in an ancient ritual games erupted today. Observers fear that these could escalate into a wide sectarian war throughout Europe. Local militia intervened but as their own religion is despised by the two brawling sides ended up fighting both. The street fights started after organized supporters of the orthodox Russian team threw beer bottles towards drunk partisans of protestant Englishmen. Throwing beer bottles is seen as an insult in Europe. Catholic French militia used tear gas and indiscriminately attacked the quarreling sides as well as bystanders. Locals accuse the militia of attacking its own people and demanded the immediate downfall of the Hollande regime.

Protestant Englishmen, catholic Frenchmen and orthodox Slavs hate each other due to deep-rooted sectarian history and a long series of wars in Europe. Ugly violence is rooted in conflicts that date back to the Anglo-French wars in the 13th century and Napoleon's moves deep into Russia. A siege in 1627 marked the apex of local sectarian tensions in France. It ended with a catholic victory despite relief for the protestants arriving from England. The clashes between U.S.-backed Englishmen and Chinese-backed Russians in France are also part of a proxy war between capitalism and communism in the South China Sea.

After its militia lost control of the fighting, the catholic government of France pledged to send reinforcements to crack down on all sides. Humanitarian organizations pleaded to show restraint and not to hurt moderates involved in the brawls. Regional experts discussed providing arms to some less sectarian participants. Catholic authorities from Poland called on NATO to hold Putin accountable for the clashes in Marseille. Russian aggression versus any NATO members can not be tolerated, they said.

h/t Hayder al-Khoei

Posted by b on June 11, 2016 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

June 10, 2016

The U.S. (Again) Escalates The War In Afghanistan

When Obama came into office he promised to end the hopeless war in Afghanistan. Immediately the Pentagon ambushed him with requests for a "surge" with some additional 40,000 troops. Under pressure Obama agreed to a lower number and set a 18 month limit for their deployment. Those troops occupied some meaningless areas in Afghanistan and when they were withdrawn those areas fell back to Taliban rule. Currently the U.S. has some 10,000 troops and more than 20,000 "contractors" in Afghanistan. There are additional troops from NATO allies. Since 2014 these troops are restricted in their tasks to fighting Al-Qaeda and are not supposed to support Afghan government troops.

But the idea of turning the war over to local troops without losing to the Taliban failed. Afghan troops are giving ground especially in the south and have a high attrition rate. It is obviously that without change the whole south would fall to the Taliban by end of the year. This would hardly matter to anyone but the people living there many of whom have no problem with their Taliban brethren.

Several steps taken by the U.S. have made it more unlikely that the conflict will come to an end. The primary Taliban demand in any peace talks is the the removal of all foreign troops from the country. The U.S. and the U.S. installed puppet government have rejected that. Instead of finally giving up the U.S. military wants to continue to occupy Afghanistan. The U.S. recently killed a innocent taxi driver in south Pakistan and his passenger, the Taliban commander Mansour, with a military drone strike. All available science on the issue says that assassinating the leader of a resistance movement does not end such movements but let them intensify their conflict and cause more civilian casualties. The Taliban operations did not halt for one moment. A new hardline leader was elected and bigger operations against Afghan troops were launched.

In a recent political change of direction the U.S. is now making nice with India to use it as a pawn in the competition with China. At the same time it stopped payments to the Pakistani military. In a countermove China intensified its cooperation and its investment in Pakistan. The Taliban have their training camps, leadership organization and support in Pakistan. The Pakistani secret services are feeding them with Saudi money. Shunning Pakistan and making nice with India will intensify Pakistani paranoia of a two front war against their arch enemy India supported by the U.S. in Afghanistan. Pakistan is therefore likely to further intensify its support for the Taliban. These have an endless stream of recruits from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and enough material support to fight on for decades. Meanwhile the Afghan government troops are unwilling to shed blood for their corrupt government, operational incapable and disorganized despite years of U.S. training.

The only way to end the war in Afghanistan is through peace negotiations. Some main conditions of the Taliban must be met to let those succeed. Foreign troops will have to leave the country. Otherwise the conflict will go on for more decades and will again metastasize into neighbor countries.

The Obama administration seems to be incapable of recognizing that. Instead of reducing troops it is contemplating to again reinforce those. Instead of deescalating the war it intensifies it. This despite years of failure to achieve anything positive with similar moves.

After months of debate, the U.S. is close to a decision to expand the military's authority to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban as the violence in Afghanistan escalates, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.

There is a broad desire across the Obama administration to give the military greater ability to help the Afghans fight and win the war. The official said the U.S. is likely to expand the authority of U.S. commanders to strike the Taliban and do whatever else is necessary with the forces they have to support the Afghan operations.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, asked Thursday whether the administration was looking at expanding the U.S. military's authorities to strike the Taliban more broadly, said: "In every step of our review of Afghanistan, the question of what's the best way to use our forces is something we're constantly looking at. It's also in the same sense that we're looking at the number of troops. We are always looking at the authorities question and the best use of our troops."

This "new" policy is incoherent:

The official said U.S. forces will also be able to provide close air support to Afghan ground forces and accompany and advise them on the ground.

The plan does not involve U.S. ground troops.

More bombing will not cower the Taliban who have been bombed by the U.S. for the last 15 years. More U.S. troops will not change the strategic equations for China, Pakistan and the Taliban.

The U.S. and the especially the U.S. military have lost in Afghanistan. How many additional decades will it take it to recognize and admit that simple fact?

Posted by b on June 10, 2016 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (79)

June 09, 2016

Libya - How Moscow Can Influence A Unity Deal

by Richard Galustian

Russia’s growing influence in Libya is reflecting their ever evolving new Middle East and North African policy.

While Libya has been divided between two parliaments and governments since 2014, Russia’s influence has grown with East Libya.

A review of the United Nations resolution on Libya’s arms embargo is likely to be voted upon early next week. However this will only be achieved if Russian concerns can be overcome.

Despite the international efforts a paradox remains. A partial lifting of the UN's arms embargo to one side will greatly increase the danger of swelling the intensity of the civil war and of risking some of those arms reaching the Islamic State in Libya.

The Russians do not understand the West's approach to extremists. Russia's logic is sound as shown in Syria. If it looks like a duck and walks and quacks like a duck; it probably is a duck, to paraphrase Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavarov comment on terrorists.

In Libya the two divided factions, the democratically elected eastern government and parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), and the 'Libya Dawn' coalition of Islamist militias who created Tripoli's National Salvation Government (NSG), are now challenged by a third 'virtual' faction, the Government of National Accord (GNA) which was selected by the UN as a nine men, now reduced to seven, Presidency Council (PC), which in effect constitutes a GNA quorum.

Let me be clear: The international community supports a non-existent GNA headed by a Western patsy designated prime minister and six other men. To boot, this fledgling Western selected so called government still faces huge unpopularity from the masses who resent Western interference in its internal affairs.

The GNA, having no military forces of their own, have agreed with Dawn Militias that they be re-badged 'the Presidential Guard' and that they be the recipients of new weapons permitted by the UN if the resolution is accepted by the Security Council.

Interestingly Russia's UN Ambassador Churkin said "the highest priority" in Libya should be to encourage the HoR Parliament in the East approval of the new GNA government. A new twist. If anyone can persuade the East and the HoR to 'bless' the GNA, it will be the Russians that will be the broker.

Let’s note that the cards are now in East Libya's favor. They receive weapons through Egypt; they control their oil; they made their own currency, courtesy of Russia.

The fact is IS is not a priority for Libyan adversaries and it is not as huge a threat as some would have us believe. Despite what is tantamount to propaganda by a compliant almost government manipulated Western media, there is a relatively small number of IS present in the country of hundreds not thousands.

If the West let arms like heavy artillery and most importantly ammunition to go to 'the Dawn' militias, a sizeable proportion will undoubtedly end up in IS hands and the probable result will be that both will end up fighting Khalifa Hafter's Libyan Army of East Libya.

The Russians won't allow anything that doesn't protect the East Libyans. This Kremlin perspective is a reality Western nations don't seem to grasp. Equally the Russians still don't understand the West's unrealistic expectation to tag who’s who in Libya’s (and Syria's) terrorist spectrum. Neither do I.

Moscow knows Khalifa Haftar well as the Libyan General has made frequent trips to Russia. The Kremlin see’s Western behavior towards Haftar as mistaken. There is a disregard by the West for the actual players on the ground like Hafter, like the tribes, yet utmost consideration is given to 'the Dawn' Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood militias which seems illogical and inconceivable.

Then there is UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler. The other day he said "Libya is a country awash with weapons; 20 million pieces of weaponry in a land of six million inhabitants." Kobler then childishly added, that "these weapons do not fall from the sky" adding "These arms fuel the conflict and shipments must end". Yet he was in Vienna last month when it was agreed to do just that; to deliver more weapons.

Is he schizophrenic?

Kobler’s mixed messages are making the Russians even more assertive. Actually one cannot help noting an unexpected consequence has been that both (East & West) NOC's and both CBL's are talking to one another. The international community and it's mostly incompetent bureaucrats and diplomats would have you believe any such positive movements between Libyans is their doing; that's nonsense.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft has presented this week to other Security Council members a British-drafted new Libya resolution and has stated he hopes for a vote as early as Monday.

Now we must wait for Russia's stance on the proposed resolution as it becomes a more strident player in the entire MENA region. Maybe the road to unity for Libya will end up going through Moscow.


Posted by b on June 9, 2016 at 03:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

June 08, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-04 - Premature Presumptive

The Associated Press yesterday declared Hillary Clinton to be the "presumptive" Democratic nominee for the presidential election based on alleged pledges of anonymous super-delegates.

This was a quite unprecedented interference in still ongoing and upcoming primaries on a day when no new public vote count was available.

Bernie Sanders said he will continue to campaign up to the convention. His hope is that either the FBI will indict Hillary Clinton for using an unsecured private email server for classified state business, or that some other Clinton scandal will make it most likely that she would lose a vote against Trump. In both cases some super-delegates may change their vote and the convention might vote for Sanders as nominee.

The FBI is under Obama's control and there no doubt that he wants Clinton as candidate to continue his right-leaning policies. But the FBI tends to be leaking quite a bit and someone with access to the case may want to speak to some enterprising reporters.

Sanders requested a meeting with Obama which will happen on Thursday. Obama will offer him a bad deal which would be akin to a total capitulation. Sanders will look for a way to sneak at least some of his preferred policies into the party agenda. He will demand some significant price for endorsing Clinton and will probably wait to do so up to the last minute.

People around the world will wonder what democracy is all about when a race for a presidency ends up as a contest between the two most disliked people in the field who are both proxies for the more or less same small social segment.

The "Not Hillary" voices will not die down. A seemingly racist Trump with otherwise unpredictable policies may be less damaging to the world than an unreconstructed neolibcon Clinton.

Posted by b on June 8, 2016 at 01:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (111)

June 06, 2016

The Greatest - RIP

Why should me and other so-called negro go 10,000 miles from home here in America to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who never bothered us? And I will say directly: "No, I will not go."
Muhammad Ali - I Ain't Got No Quarrel With Them Viet Congs (vid)


"My conscious won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, raped and killed my mother and father. Well, shoot them for what? I am not gonna shoot them. They are little poor black people, little babies and children, women. ... Why don't you just take me to jail."
Muhammad Ali on the Vietnam War (vid)


“[T]he United States is the stronghold of Zionism and imperialism.”
"In my name and the name of all Muslims in America, I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders."
Ali Belts Zionism


During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on them and received their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slanders. After their death, attempts are made to turn them into harmless icons, canonize them, and surround their names with a certain halo for the "consolation" of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating and vulgarizing the real essence of their revolutionary theories and blunting their revolutionary edge.
Lenin, State and Revolution, Chap.1. - 1917 via Louis Allday

Confirming Lenin: Bill Clinton among those to give eulogies at service for Muhammad Ali

Posted by b on June 6, 2016 at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (68)

June 04, 2016

Syria: The U.S. Is Unwilling To Settle - Russia Returns For Another Round

The Obama administration does not want peace in Syria. The Russians finally have to admit to themselves that the U.S. is no partner for a continuation of a cease fire, a coordinated attack against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and for peace in Syria. Indeed, as Lavrov explains, the U.S. has again asked to spare al-Qaeda from Russian air strikes even as two UN Security Council resolutions demand its eradication. Huge supply convoys (vid) from Turkey are again going to the "rebels" who will, as always, share them with al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

The current renewed Syrian Arab Army attack towards Raqqa is being obstructed not only by sandstorms but also by a timely attack of al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham and Turkestan Islamist Party forces against government positions in the south Aleppo countryside.

More than 1,000 militants have begun an offensive against Syrian army positions southwest of Aleppo, the Russian ceasefire monitoring center in Syria said in a statement on Saturday.

The center also reported civilians in Aleppo as saying armed groups partly made up of Turkish soldiers had appeared north of the city.

The exactly same scheme happened in March and April when a move towards eastern Syrian by the Syrian army had to be stopped to prevent further losses against al-Qaeda south of Aleppo. It seems obvious that these moves U.S. supported forces are planned to prevent any gains of the Syrian government in the east.

Today Lavrov again talked to Kerry:

"Lavrov expressed concern about attempts to delay the resumption of political negotiations under various pretexts," the [Russian foreign] ministry said.

As the U.S. is unwilling to settle the Syria conflict Russia will have to retake the initiative.

Is this a trap? Does the U.S. want Russia to sink into a quagmire in Syria? That is certainly a possibility but it is hard to see how this could happen when Russia comes back with a vengeance and strikes hard and fast.

Russian airstrikes against terrorists in Syria have tripled over the last days. Additional resources have been silently dispatched:

Without stirring a buzz similar to that of their first military intervention in Syria, the Russians this week disembarked ground forces and paratroopers in the port of Tartus to support more than 3,000 Russian volunteers dispatched to the region in the past few weeks, in a bid to revive coordination with the Syrian army.
Syrian sources stated that the Russian joint command staff, which coordinated aerial support operations last fall, had returned to the Hmeimim military base in Latakia province to begin preparations for new operations.

One can only hope that the Russian leadership has learned its lesson. That it will not stop to pursue the enemy for no political gain when it is again, as it likely will soon be, on the run.

Posted by b on June 4, 2016 at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

June 03, 2016

Open Thread 2016-20

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 3, 2016 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (131)

June 02, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-03 - Yves Smith On "Not Hillary!"

Not Hillary!

Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism explains why many of her progressive acquaintances will either not vote, or vote for Trump in the upcoming U.S. election. I recommend to read this in full.

For starters two excerpts:

Hillary's experience is one of failure. And she did not learn from it.

Hillary has a résumé of glittering titles with disasters or at best thin accomplishments under each. Her vaunted co-presidency with Bill? After her first major project, health care reform, turned into such a debacle that it was impossible to broach the topic for a generation, she retreated into a more traditional first lady role. As New York senator, she accomplished less with a bigger name and from a more powerful state than Sanders did. As secretary of state, she participated and encouraged strategically pointless nation-breaking in Iraq and Syria. She bureaucratically outmaneuvered Obama, leading to U.S. intervention in Libya, which he has called the worst decision of his administration. And her plan to fob her domestic economic duties off on Bill comes off as an admission that she can’t handle being president on her own.

And the conclusion:

The Sanders voters in Naked Capitalism’s active commentariat also explicitly reject lesser-evilism, the cudgel that has previously kept true lefties somewhat in line. They are willing to gamble, given that outsider presidents like Jimmy Carter and celebrity governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura didn’t get much done, that a Trump presidency represents an acceptable cost of inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20 years of selling out ordinary Americans.

The Clintons, like the Bourbons before the French Revolution, have ensconced themselves in such a bubble of operative and media sycophancy that they’ve mistakenly viewed escalating distress and legitimate demands from citizens as mere noise.
If my readers are representative, Clinton and the Democratic Party are about to have a long-overdue day of reckoning.

To vote for the far right because the former center (left) has lost its bearing is a somewhat dangerous gamble. The U.S. has a relative stable, inertial system with lots of checks and balances that make this move less risky than similar moves underway in Poland, Germany or France. But unless the center left/right politicians recognize that they have lost their former majority there is no chance they will shun the neoliberal globalization nonsense they impose on their constituency.

Voting for a stronger movement towards a genuine left is be a better strategy than voting for the far right. But notorious lack of unity within the left, center-right control over the media and the absence of a successful current archetype will keep a majority away from taking that step.

I agree that the day of reckoning is a long-overdue day. But it may not bring the reckoning we want.

Posted by b on June 2, 2016 at 03:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (151)

June 01, 2016

The U.S./UK Financed "White Helmets" Shtick - Fake "Child Rescued" Videos

Below is a incomplete list of "rescue" videos showing "kids being rescued" from "rubble" after "Syrian/Russian bombing" prepared by the U.S./UK financed Syria Civil Defence aka the "White Helmets".

The group was created with the help of Purpose Inc, a U.S. company specialized in regime change NGO operations. Purpose Inc is also behind Avaaz which early on peddled fake war on Syria video propaganda. The White Helmets are financed, like all "Free Syrian Army" media propaganda, by USAID with some $23 million and by the UK Foreign Office with a total of some £23 million. The Netherlands and Japan also donated money to the scheme. The group was build up and trained since mid 2013 by a "former" UK military intelligence operator residing in Abu Dhabi. These are propaganda artists camouflaged as humanitarians.

The "White Helmets" cooperate closely with al-Qaeda. One of its leaders was recently denied an entry visa to the United States. More details about the group researched by Vanessa Beeley can be found here and here.

Back to the "rescue" videos. That shtick started in late 2013.

After that great marketing success the movie script was serialized. Since then a new version of a "child rescued" video appears every other month or so. Here are just a few of these with all of them following the same script.

This May 25 video is typical. Someone fiddles with professional rescue air pressure mats to show off but those mats are never put to use. Someone else digs with his hands under or behind a concrete slab which has a rather large opening on the side. A smiling and laughing child, totally unharmed and its favorite pupped in hand, is pulled from under or behind the concrete slab to lots of Allah Akbar shouting by the (always male) bystanders. Not shown: kid gets the promised candies for such great performance.

Other typical features of these movies, see this one, are smoke (grenades) in the streets, dramatic but small open fires nearby, dust or some red color on the children's face or arms. The camera is often used in a hectic, intentionally amateurish first person view, a style extensively developed in the 1999 horror clip Blair Witch Project. Sometimes sounds of additional "bomb impact" bangs or screaming/wailing women are added.

All the above videos are just as (un-)real as the faked "Hero Boy" video showing a "Syrian boy ducking sniper fire to rescue a trapped girl". Fake "opposition" videos have been a major feature of the media war on Syria. These fakes are often easily recognizable as such. We can be sure that the media professionals at the BBC and other outlets know that these are not real rescue scenes. They distribute them nonetheless.

Posted by b on June 1, 2016 at 03:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)