Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday Globe Special: Downtown Dining

It was front page fare:

You might call it the Financial District — but these days it’s full of tech companies


The Globe sets the climate for you....

For evangelicals, climate change causes a split between young and old that could hurt Republicans

.... before serving the dish below the fold and hot out of the oven:

Remembering the horror of the Brookline clinic shootings, 25 years later

Speaking of abortions, page A2 brings:

Somalia bombing kills nearly 80, raising fears of resurgent militancy

Just when we were leaving, too!

Norwegian spy jailed by Russia is free

He’s angry, but not at Moscow.

Latin America’s fight against corruption stalls

Returned to a war zone

The New York Times then throws the book at China:

China blocks American books as trade war simmers

American languishes in Russian prison

It's Trump that has abandoned him.

Biden says no ‘legal basis’ exists for the Senate to seek his testimony

Claims he won't comply with a subpoena because there would be no “legal basis,” and the stench of hypocrisy couldn't be stronger.

Newseum hailed free press, but got beaten by free museums

Science Under Attack

By guess who.

After ICE raids, a reckoning in Mississippi’s chicken country

The turn-ins regarding the meals follow before the obituaries lead to this:

They can’t get enough of ‘The West Wing’ right now

I'm told many liberal and independent-leaning fans see the show is an idealistic alternative reality.

Speaking of such things:

Sanders touts his health plan in N.H.

As Mayor Pete plunges in the polls.

Construction worker killed in accident while helping set up First Night

No health care needed there :(

‘God is not a “he,” ’ says 90-year-old founder of R.I. girls’ school

I suppose the construction worker would know.

So she designed woman in her own image, huh?

Police ask public’s help in finding suspect in Starbucks drive-through robbery

They are in hot pursuit.

Sunday Globe Special: Garbage For Breakfast

It's a heaping helpful on the front page:

"Recycling is becoming so expensive that some towns don’t know what to do" by David Abel Globe Staff, January 11, 2020

WESTFIELD — On a recent afternoon here, with urgency in the air, local officials huddled to consider what until recently was unthinkable. Should they abandon their popular curbside recycling program? Or spend millions to build a plant to process plastic and paper on their own?

With the recycling market across the country mired in crisis, a growing number of cities and towns are facing a painful reckoning: whether they can still afford to collect bottles, cans, plastics, and paper, which have so plummeted in value that in some cases they have become effectively worthless.

“We’re looking at going from paying nothing to paying $500,000 a year,” said Dave Billips, the director of public works in Westfield, referring to the city’s recycling costs. “That’s going to have a major impact.”

It’s a reckoning hitting home across Massachusetts. Boston, for example, is now paying nearly $5 million to have recycling collections carted away, up from just $200,000 in 2017. City officials said they do not plan to end the program.

The crisis began two years ago when China announced it would no longer accept large amounts of paper and plastic from the United States, which for years had exported huge collections of material there and elsewhere in Asia, because much was contaminated and unusable.

Just one more reason to make war on them.

That decision has sent tremors through the recycling industry, leading to steep declines in the value of paper, plastic, and other recyclables. Waste Management, the nation’s largest recycling company, used to earn as much as $80 a ton for paper it collected; today, it gets nothing, officials said. The value of cardboard has plunged 70 percent, and it now costs more to recycle glass than the company can make selling it.

They were felt as far away as Puerto Rico and Haiti.

“There are once-in-100-year floods; this has been the equivalent to a once-in-500-year flood,” said Steve Changaris, northeast region vice president of the National Waste and Recycling Association, a trade group for waste companies. “We saw a loss of 40 percent of the market that consumed these materials.”

RelatedStorms sweep across southern US; death toll rises to 11

Icy highways from Texas to Iowa, but the short-term forecast here is for a hint of spring so head on over to the park.

That collapse has reverberated widely. Until this year, Westfield and most other communities in Western Massachusetts paid nothing for recycling. Some even earned revenue from the region’s largest recycling plant, which turned their discarded paper and bottles into profits, but the equation has changed, and by the end of January 74 communities across Western Massachusetts must decide whether to sign a new and much more expensive contract with a state-owned recycling facility in Springfield, whose contractor has said it was forced to raise its prices drastically.

“With current commodity prices at historic lows, the sale of those commodities does not cover the cost of processing,” said Garrett Trierweiler, a spokesman for Waste Management, which operates the Springfield plant for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “As a result, new contracts for processing recyclables are typically written to cover the cost.”

As China has retreated from the international recycling business, other markets had taken some of America’s refuse, but now some of those countries have introduced policies similar to China’s to limit contaminated materials, drastically reducing US exports. Recyclables are often considered contaminated when they aren’t properly cleaned.

For example, Indonesia announced last year it would accept only minimal contamination in mixed paper — everything from newspaper to corrugated cardboard — sparking a drop in US waste exports to that nation by 95 percent, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association.

Just this month, India announced a similarly strict policy, halting all imports of mixed paper. After China changed its policy, India had become the dominant importer of mixed paper, taking in 40 percent of North American exports.

So Asia is tired of being America's garbage dump, huh?

Much like much of the world is sick of our garbage in one way or another, and one can't help but notice the arrogance that goes along with the attitude regarding taking the garbage.

I also started wonder what effect sending all the refuse to Asia had on climate change and the like, even if Chinese manufacturers needed the cardboard.

In Massachusetts, Michael Camara, chief executive of ABC Disposal Service, said the crisis shows no signs of relenting. State environmental officials, who last year spent $7 million to help municipalities maintain and promote recycling programs, said they have sought to offset the financial impact on communities in Western Massachusetts by shortening the length of their contracts and opening up the plant in Springfield to 27 other towns in the region, but little else can be done, they said.....

“It’s a horrific situation,” and the “whole thing leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”

--more--"

"The story behind the Mass. native and ex-soldier who purportedly helped former Nissan CEO escape" by Dugan Arnett and Jonathan Saltzman Globe Staff, January 12, 2020

In his 20s during the Cold War, Michael Taylor was part of a secretive military team tasked with stopping a Soviet invasion of Europe with hand-carried “suitcase nukes.”

Later in the Middle East, while running his own security company, Taylor stopped “armed criminals who sought to take us hostage,” one grateful client said.

At home in Harvard, he’s a father of three, the neighbor who plows your driveway, but work acquaintances describe the square-jawed Taylor as a real-life action hero, a fearless patriot who decorates his office in American flags and considers the national anthem his favorite song. Tales of his exploits — culled from interviews and court documents — seem ripped from a Tom Clancy novel.

He has carried out overseas rescues and undercover drug-trafficking work. In the world of international security, he has established himself as a fix-it man with a Rolodex of high-level foreign contacts, and now, in what may be his most daring — or brazen — escapade yet, Taylor is reportedly the man behind the audacious flight of former Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn out of Japan to escape financial charges.

“I frankly wasn’t surprised to hear of his involvement,” said Paul Kelly, a former federal prosecutor who has known Taylor since the early 1990s. “That’s the kind of work Michael does.”

Throughout Taylor’s daring career, however, there have been hints that he was not always the clean-cut hero described by friends, but rather a man whose exploits brought him close to the margins of the rules — and on some occasions far enough beyond to face legal consequences.

Whether he is a hero or an opportunist — that depends who you ask.

Oh.

Even in the adrenaline-soaked world of the US Special Forces, Michael Taylor stood out.

Taylor, handsome and athletic, grew up in Ayer, a well-liked student who cocaptained the high school football team. After high school, he joined the Army, following in the footsteps of his stepfather, and quickly established himself as a rising star.

He qualified for elite forces at a young age, and took hair-raising assignments, according to court papers. He was part of a special unit trained to jump from high-altitude aircraft and free-fall up to 5 miles before releasing his parachute just 2,000 feet from the target. For the Army’s super-secret Special Atomic Demolition Munition program, according to court records, he was to parachute into to what was then the East German border, using a portable nuclear device to “destroy, irradiate, or otherwise compromise” the path of an invading Soviet Army.

In 1982, after the assassination of Lebanon’s president-elect, Taylor was on the first US Special Forces team deployed to Beirut, a city besieged by the carnage of Lebanon’s civil war.

“It was the most dangerous place on earth at the time,” Taylor said in interviews conducted by e-mail last week.

Honorably discharged in November 1983, he returned to Massachusetts. In 1984, he was accused of a sexual assault on a female soldier stationed at Fort Devens, according to a 1996 story in the Boston Phoenix. Taylor vehemently denied the charge to the Globe, saying a “crooked” female police officer invented the story and that he was out of the country at the time. According to the Phoenix story, Taylor was arrested, but the case was later dismissed.

By then, Lebanon was calling him back.

Taylor said in an e-mail that he had been troubled during his time there in the Army by the religious divide that fueled the violence. Now, he returned as a private contractor to train Lebanese Christian forces. He began learning Arabic, met a Lebanese woman who would become his wife, and established contacts, according to court papers, with a “variety of individuals from all manner of backgrounds.”

In 1985, Taylor returned to Massachusetts, buying a house in Harvard, but Lebanon — and the intrigue he seemed drawn to — would stay at the center of his life and work. In the years that followed, he traveled repeatedly to the Middle East, commanding big money for daring missions and operating in the shadowy world of domestic and international security.

The US government tapped him in 1988 to go undercover and infiltrate a Lebanese organized crime ring that spanned from the Middle East to Massachusetts. He got close to powerful figures in the organization, according to prosecutors and court documents, and ultimately worked his way to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where he filmed Syrian-controlled drug fields. Authorities later seized $100 million in hashish from a boat and credited Taylor as a key.

A company Taylor started, American International Security Corp., provided protection for corporations, including oil companies and airlines. On various occasions, he was hired to extract individuals from high-risk situations, including a young girl whose father had abducted her to Lebanon, according to court papers.

Between overseas missions, he led the fairly ordinary life of a suburban dad. He played pick-up basketball and patrolled the outfield for a local softball team. In testimonial letters filed in a court case, neighbors and other residents in Harvard and nearby communities wrote effusively of his dedication to the community. He plowed people’s driveways, spent time with local youth.

In most ways, Taylor said in e-mails to the Globe, his was no different from a typical family. “It’s just that when I was working I had a longer commute than most,” but even in this life, Taylor appeared to tend toward extremes.

In 2008, he became head football coach at Lawrence Academy in Groton, and quickly built a winning team. It was so good it raised eyebrows.

He developed a reputation for racking up lopsided victories, and questions circulated about the team’s plethora of talented and physically large players. In one year alone, Taylor fielded a team with seven players who went on to sign with Division I colleges, unheard of in New England’s Independent School League. And in 2010, the team made national headlines after St. George’s School in Rhode Island refused to take the field against Lawrence Academy, citing concerns for player safety.

“To put it in context, they were bigger across the [offensive] line than the starting line at the University of Michigan that year,” said a former Independent School League coach who spoke on the condition his name not be published. “They were clearly talented kids, you can’t argue with that. But . . . I think people were scratching their heads for the most part, saying, ‘What the heck?’ ”

Taylor coached for three seasons at the school before resigning in 2011 amid a swirl of controversy. Shortly after his departure, the league handed down several sanctions, stripping Lawrence Academy of two league titles won under Taylor and banning it from postseason play for three years. Officials at Lawrence Academy eventually acknowledged that, among other infractions, several student-athletes had been funded “beyond their demonstrated need.”

By e-mail, Taylor said that he did nothing wrong.

“The facts are I did not run admissions, I did not have anything to do with what students got financial aid. Nor did I or any of the athletic staff break rules.”

He said his resignation stemmed from a rule implemented by the school’s then-headmaster that the team couldn’t score more than 34 points in a game.

One way or another, trouble seemed to follow Taylor at various stages of his career. While Taylor was working undercover on the federal drug trafficking investigation, a Massachusetts state trooper named Robert Monahan began investigating Taylor, according to a complaint the trooper later filed against the State Police.

Monahan believed that Taylor — who in addition to working in his undercover capacity was a licensed private investigator — was also engaging in criminal activity outside the scope of the trafficking investigation, according to the complaint.

Monahan claimed that his investigation had determined that Taylor — identified in the suit as “John Doe” — had employed members of the Massachusetts State Police to carry out illegal wiretaps. Additionally, he alleged, Taylor paid a State Police trooper to make a traffic stop on a person in a divorce case after Taylor had used an “illegal wiretap” to learn that person would be in possession of marijuana.

The corruption never ends over there, does it?

According to a 2001 story in the Boston Herald, he eventually pleaded guilty in 1999 to planting marijuana in the car of a client’s estranged wife and persuading an officer to arrest her. The other charges were continued without a finding.....

Police frame people? 

Surely you jest!

--more--"

I wonder how much overtime they paid out investigating him:

"State Police overtime spending surges to nearly $58 million in 2019" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff, January 9, 2020

Overtime spending at the Massachusetts State Police surged by about 9.3 percent to $57.8 million in 2019, according to new data from the state comptroller’s office.

That helped drive an increase in the number of high-paid troopers at the agency, which has been under scrutiny for nearly two years in the wake of a wide-ranging scandal over overtime fraud and other allegations of pay theft that ensnared dozens of sworn officers.

Last year, some 325 troopers took home $200,000 or more, representing about 15 percent of the department’s 2,200-member force.

Former state inspector general Gregory Sullivan, now a research director at the Pioneer Institute, said the figures show that “overtime at the State Police is a problem that still has to be addressed beyond the [fraud] scandal.”

Various rules and contract provisions at the agency “make it very easy for people to make large amounts of overtime,” Sullivan said. “The State Police make great efforts to allow their officers and ranking officers to earn overtime. The State Police in some ways operates to provide overtime."

The whole government is basically a $y$tem of political patronage here in Ma$$achu$etts, and has been a lot longer than I have been doing this blog.

As in previous years, the department spent more money on overtime in 2019 than any other state agency, except for the MBTA, which employs more than twice as many people. Last year, 23 troopers made more than $100,000 just from overtime pay.

That's another reason the MBTA is in such disrepair despite the millions and billions that have been spent on it.

The State Police have the highest average pay per employee of any state agency by a wide margin — $126,929. The next closest agency pay average is more than $25,000 lower.

Department spokesman David Procopio attributed the overtime spending hike to an increased workload for the agency coupled with reduced staffing levels due to a surge in troopers retiring over the past two years.....

The surge in retirements came after the pay fraud scandal was exposed, like rats getting out of Dodge.

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I guess you now know why the state payroll has grown to $7.4 billion

That's about 1/6 of the entire budget as schools, roads, bridges, and sidewalks crumble and transportation woes increase.

RelatedFather and son slain in Framingham shooting ‘were more like brothers,’ mother says

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Elizabeth Warren faces persistent ‘electability’ concerns in Iowa

The road has been cleared for Bernie despite the support for Patrick and the debates that have not been worth watching.

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 79, a California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 77, a Kentucky Republican, are throwbacks to a different era when powerful figures in Congress could dictate outcomes. Washington may go many years before two such powerful figures run either end of the Capitol, let alone at the same time. She is the most powerful House speaker in at least 25 years and, some historians have argued, possibly since Sam Rayburn, a Texas Democrat, ran the House in the 1940s and ’50s. He is the most powerful majority leader in at least 30 years and, some have argued, possibly since Lyndon Johnson, another Texas Democrat, ran the Senate in the 1950s. Their personalities are night and day, but they have had similar goals....."

Look at the Washington ComPost wax nostalgic for "a different era when powerful figures in Congress could dictate outcomes" in our beloved democracy that we are bringing to the world via war. The comparisons to segregationist Southern Democrats shows you how little things have actually changed and tip the hand of the mouthpiece media regarding their true feelings and allegiances when it comes to "democracy."

So Pelosi and McConnell have similar goals, huh?

Bye-bye, Trump (struck down by lightning in the day).

Related
:

A CIA chemist, mind control — and the return of psychedelic drugs

He claims it will help you see the future, but that was then and this is now.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Slow Saturday Special: Clinton Foundation Cleared

So much for Bill Barr's Justice Department getting to the bottom of things:

"Justice Department winds down Clinton-related inquiry once championed by Trump" by Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky Washington Post, January 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department inquiry launched more than two years ago to mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of Hillary Clinton has effectively ended with no tangible results, and current and former law enforcement officials said they never expected the effort to produce much of anything.

John Huber, the US attorney in Utah, was tapped in November 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into concerns raised by President Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI had not fully pursued cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during her time as secretary of state, when the US government decided not to block the sale of a company called Uranium One.

Here is what we have been told about the Uranium One deal that is now no big deal.

As a part of his review, Huber examined documents and conferred with federal law enforcement officials in Little Rock who were handling a meandering probe into the Clinton Foundation, people familiar with the matter said. Current and former officials said that Huber has largely finished and found nothing worth pursuing.

It's called a cover-up as the DoJ protects important people who are above the law -- unlike the state DCF.

The effective conclusion of his investigation with no criminal charges or other known impacts is likely to roil some in the GOP who had hoped the prosecutor would vindicate their long-held suspicions about a political rival. Trump, though, has largely shifted his focus to a different federal prosecutor tapped to do a separate, special investigation: US Attorney in Connecticut John Durham, who Attorney General William Barr assigned last year to explore the origins of the FBI’s 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

I wouldn't expect anything from Durham at this point. These investigations are meant to cover up such things, not reveal them.

That FBI investigation was being supervised by special counsel Robert Mueller III in late 2017 when Trump and his supporters were pressuring senior law enforcement officials to appoint a second special counsel to pursue Clinton.

‘‘Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems,’’ the president tweeted at the time.

Sessions weeks later sent a letter to Huber telling him to ‘‘review’’ a wide array of issues related to Clinton. They included the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One matters, along with the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state and alleged leaks by then-FBI Director James Comey. At the time, the attorney general was facing persistent public and private criticism from Trump, who was upset over his recusal from the Russia probe, but from the start, senior officials inside the Justice Department viewed Huber’s task as unlikely to lead to anything of significance beyond appeasing those angry lawmakers and the president.....

Makes you want to scream, doesn't it?

--more--"

Meanwhile, the front page brings you this:

"Pelosi alerts House to be ready to send impeachment articles next week" by Nicholas Fandos New York Times, January 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi had asked for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to share the precise rules for a Senate trial so she could select her prosecutorial team. He declined, and the speaker decided Friday to move ahead anyway without a concession.

Despite winning no commitment from McConnell, Democrats argue that the strategy did have payoffs. During the intervening three weeks between the House vote and Pelosi’s announcement, relevant new documents that Trump suppressed have come to light, suggesting that there is additional evidence to support the charges the House brought, and this week, a pivotal witness who declined to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry, former national security adviser John Bolton, said he would be willing to testify at the trial if senators subpoenaed him.

Hit the White House like a Bolton of Lightning it did.

Asked Friday if he would invoke executive privilege to block Bolton’s testimony, Trump said, “Well I think you have to for the sake of the office.’’

Representative Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican who is a top defender of Trump, said Democrats argued for months that ‘‘this had to be done, there was an urgent need to remove the president from office, and it steps all over that message to then stall for so long afterwards.’’ The gambit, he said, probably only frustrated independent voters who want to see Congress work with the president.....

--more--"

Looks like Sanders is going to be the nominee now, and at least Iran is off the front pages:

"On day US forces killed Soleimani, they launched another secret operation targeting senior Iranian official in Yemen" by John Hudson, Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey Washington Post, January 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — On the day the US military killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, US forces carried out another top secret mission against a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, according to US officials.

The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four US officials familiar with the matter.

The unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.

Oh, we were not only lied to about the imminent attacks as Soleimani was on a peace mission, we now find out the extrajudicial assassinations were not limited to one strike.

US military operations in Yemen, where a civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, are shrouded in secrecy. US officials said the operation against Shahlai remains highly classified, and many declined to offer details other than to say it was not successful.

Officials at the Pentagon and in Florida were monitoring both strikes and had discussed announcing them together, had they gone well, officials said.

‘‘If we had killed him, we’d be bragging about it that same night,’’ a senior US official said, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a classified military operation.

Another senior official said the two strikes were authorized around the same time and that the United States did not disclose the Shahlai mission because it did not go according to plan. The official said Shahlai may be targeted in the future, though both countries have signaled an interest in deescalating the crisis.

The rationale for the Trump administration’s decision to kill Soleimani has come under scrutiny in Congress, with House lawmakers approving a resolution on Thursday to restrict the president’s authority to strike Iran without congressional approval.

They had such a resolution in the $738 billion war bill they sent him but stripped it out before sending it to him for signature.

Defense and State Department officials said the strike against Soleimani saved ‘‘dozens’’ if not ‘‘hundreds’’ of American lives under imminent threat. The strike against Shahlai potentially complicates that argument.

‘‘This suggests a mission with a longer planning horizon and a larger objective, and it really does call into question why there was an attempt to explain this publicly on the basis of an imminent threat,’’ said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The Trump administration views Shahlai as a particularly potent adversary.

Commander Rebecca Rebarich, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department does not discuss ‘‘alleged operations’’ in the Middle East.....

Uh-huh.

--more--"

Fortunately, the State Department will discuss them:

"US says it won’t discuss withdrawing troops from Iraq" by Edward Wong and Megan Specia New York Times, January 10, 2020

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday rebuffed the Iraqi government’s request to begin discussions on pulling out troops, saying that any US officials going to Baghdad during a state of heightened tensions would not discuss a “troop withdrawal,” as the Iraqi prime minister had requested. Instead, discussions would be about the “appropriate force posture in the Middle East.”

So much for the image of altruistic empire that doesn't stay where it is not wanted.

The statement from Washington was a direct rebuttal to Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi of Iraq and was certain to add to the friction between the two nations.

The prime minister said earlier Friday that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to send a delegation from the United States to discuss steps for the withdrawal of the approximately 5,200 US troops from his country, in the aftermath of a deadly US military strike ordered by President Trump that many Iraqis say violated their country’s sovereignty.

“We are happy to continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is,” Pompeo said at a news conference after the State Department had made its announcement. He stressed that the mission of the United States in Iraq was to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State group, and “we’re going to continue that mission.”

Related: Europeans shift troops from Iraq, warn fight against Islamic State is imperiled because of U.S. actions

Also seePutin meets with Syria’s Assad with the Middle East on edge

I'm told they were planning attacks on US troops and that the Trump administration isn’t fighting back.

Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced new sanctions on Iranian officials and on a few companies, including two in China, involved in the production and export of Iranian steel and other metals.

The US drone strike that killed 10 people in a two-car convoy caused widespread outrage in Iraq, where neighboring Iran has great influence, and its consequences continue to ripple across the Middle East. Iraqi officials said the United States had violated the sovereignty of their nation, both with that attack and with airstrikes on Dec. 29 on five sites in Iraq and Syria that left at least 25 members of the militia dead and at least 50 wounded. US officials say those strikes were in response to the death of an American interpreter in Iraq in a Dec. 27 rocket attack by the Iran-backed militia led by al-Muhandis, called Kataib Hezbollah, though the militia denied responsibility.....

--more--"

Also seeIran announces its military ‘unintentionally’ shot down Ukrainian jetliner

Related:

"US employers added 145,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent, signaling that the job market remains strong at the start of 2020 even if hiring and wage gains have slowed somewhat more than a decade into an economic expansion. The state of the job market has become a pivotal division between President Trump and his Democratic challengers. Trump can campaign on the low unemployment rate and job growth as he seeks a second term. Democrats, seeking to oust him, will point to wages that have not taken off in a meaningful way for many Americans coping with high costs for medical care and higher education. This is the last jobs report before the Iowa caucus in February that will serve as a first step for choosing the Democratic presidential nominee. The picture of a slowly but steadily improving economy — plus low inflation — probably gives the Federal Reserve comfort in keeping interest rates low, which has been a boon to stock markets -- even as US stocks fell from their record heights on Friday after a report showed hiring was a touch weaker than expected last month."

Tired of the lies and mixed me$$ages yet?

I know I am.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Like a Bolton of Lightning

Still waiting on Iran, but Trump is finished. He fell for the trap they laid for him by signing off on the drone strike. Prepare for President Pence.

Today's page A2 National lead:

"Bolton is willing to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial" by Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt New York Times, January 6, 2020

WASHINGTON — John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said Monday that he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed.

“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said in a statement on his website.

The development is a dramatic turn that could alter the dynamic of the impeachment proceeding, which has been stalled over Democrats’ insistence on hearing from critical witnesses Trump blocked from testifying in the House inquiry into his pressure campaign on Ukraine. Bolton is a potentially vital witness, with crucial knowledge of the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in key blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

Democrats quickly seized on his public declaration, arguing that it strengthened their case that the Senate must hear from Bolton and other senior officials as part of Trump’s impeachment trial.

It is unclear how the White House will respond to Bolton, but his statement strongly suggested that he would be willing to testify regardless of whether Trump sought to prevent him, even in the absence of a legal ruling compelling him to do so.

One wonders why he waited. His testimony should be part of the case House prosecutors were to present.

“It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts,” Bolton wrote. “Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study.”

Again, one wonders why the Democrats rushed the articles through and didn't wait for a judicial resolution of the matter, or why Bolton didn't testify then. It's now looking like the drone strike suggestion/option was a set-up.

Bolton’s willingness to tell the Senate what he knows could change the political calculus around a trial for Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who has steadfastly refused to commit to calling witnesses. Now that the former national security adviser has essentially told senators that he has information relevant to their proceeding that he is willing to share, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, may face new pressure from some moderate Republicans, such as Senators Susan M. Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah to allow him to testify.

“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested, they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover-up,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement.

Why was he sitting on it then?

The two parties have been at an impasse over the issue of witnesses for weeks now, and the dispute has delayed the start of Trump’s trial. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, has declined to send the Senate the charges against Trump, which would trigger the start of the trial, saying that she first wants assurances that McConnell will run a fair process.

We were told she will be sending them over shortly, and I can see why now. Her arguing about a fair process, however, is laughable after the kangaroo hearings in the House.

Democrats insist the trial must include testimony from Bolton and others, as well as new documentary evidence, but McConnell argues the Senate should not even consider admitting new information in the trial until after it hears opening arguments from the prosecution and the defense. The matter is all but certain to come to a vote at some point.

Under Senate rules, it takes only 51 senators to call a witness or request new evidence, meaning McConnell’s ability to call the shots are limited.

The end of the Trump presidency is about to unfold.

“The President & Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses,” Pelosi tweeted Monday. “They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves. The Senate cannot be complicit in the President’s cover-up.”

If he did appear under oath in the Senate, Bolton would be the closest adviser to the president to answer questions about what Trump said behind closed doors as he pressured the Ukranians to investigate his political rivals as he was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid from the country.

That's where the print article ended.

The Democratic-led House impeached Trump last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, charging him with a corrupt scheme to solicit help from Ukraine in the 2020 election and concealing his actions from Congress. Trump has repeatedly sought to block his most senior aides, as well as former advisers who have left the White House, from speaking to Congress, and has gone to court to stop several of them from cooperating.

Yeah, he's being impeached for that rather than the violation of international law and war crime that was the assassination of the Iranian general.

Bolton declined to say Monday precisely what he would be willing to tell Congress, but his lawyer, Charles Cooper, told the House’s top lawyer in November that Bolton knew about “many relevant meetings and conversations” connected to the Ukraine matter that had not been shared with House impeachment investigators, and former White House officials and people close to Bolton have indicated that his testimony would probably be damning to Trump and put additional pressure on moderate Republicans to consider convicting him.

Bye, Don.

That could place Trump at greater risk in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote — 67 senators — is needed to remove a president. Democrats, the minority party, effectively control 47 seats.

Although Bolton never spoke with House investigators, his aides provided them with a portrait of how he viewed Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The aides said that Bolton was deeply concerned about how Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressured the Ukranians to investigate Democrats. A top former deputy testified under oath that Bolton told White House colleagues that Giuliani was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

I said it way back when right after Trump fired him: the leaks would begin and within a matter of days the impeachment investigation began. Coincidence?

Others described a campaign by Bolton to marshal the administration’s top national security officials to convince Trump in August and September to release his hold on the military assistance for Ukraine. At one point, Bolton met privately with the president to press his case that it was in the United States’ best interest to unfreeze the funds, though the precise substance of the discussion is not publicly known.

Late last year, the chances of Bolton testifying looked bleak. In October, the House subpoenaed Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, but the White House tried to block him from testifying. Kupperman is also represented by Cooper, who filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to decide what Kupperman should do. The House withdrew the subpoena, as leading Democrats argued it was not worth awaiting the outcome of a lengthy — potentially yearslong — legal proceeding before moving to impeach Trump.

The judge ruled late last month that the issue was moot, leaving the question of whether the president’s closest advisers had to testify unresolved.....

--more--"

There will now be a stampede for removal as we turn to the front page:

"Tears from ayatollah as Iran mourns dead general" by Farnaz Fassihi and David D. Kirkpatrick New York Times, January 6, 2020

The nation’s anger over the commander’s death was on vivid display during the funeral procession Monday, as hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran for a funeral procession and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wept openly over the coffin.

After weeks of furious protests across the country against corruption and misrule, both those who had criticized and supported the government marched together, united in outrage. Subway trains and stations were packed with mourners hours before dawn, and families brought children carrying photos of Major General Qassem Soleimani.

This is a terrible thing they have done.

A reformist politician, Sadegh Kharazi, said he had not seen crowds this size since the 1989 funeral of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“We are ready to take a fierce revenge against America,” General Hamid Sarkheili of the Revolutionary Guard, declared to the throng. “American troops in the Persian Gulf and in Iraq and Syria are within our reach.”

“No negotiations or deal, only war with America,” students chanted in an online video from a university campus.

A renowned eulogist and member of the Revolutionary Guard, Sadegh Ahangaran, exhorted the funeral crowds to raise their voices so “damned America can hear you” and to “wave the flags in preparation for war.”

The increasingly public vows of direct action on Monday constituted Iran’s latest act of defiance to President Trump. The president had repeatedly threatened to retaliate for any attacks against American interests by ordering airstrikes against as many as 52 potential targets, one for each of the American hostages held after the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Maybe Iran should target 1953 sites for Operation Ajax, the 1953 CIA-instigated coup that foisted the Shah and his secret police upon them.

In response, Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, on Monday offered his own numerology. “Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290,” he said on Twitter, a reference to the 290 people killed in 1988 in the accidental downing of an Iranian airliner by a US warship. “Never threaten the Iranian nation,” Rouhani added.

Oh, yeah, that. A war game "accident" that H.W. Bush wouldn't apologize for no matter what the facts.

Where, when, and even if Iran may choose to retaliate remains a matter of speculation. As Iranian leaders weighed just what form it might take, analysts said the targets included American troops in neighboring Syria and Iraq, American bases in the Persian Gulf, or American embassies or diplomats almost anywhere.

The speculation has been rampant in my pre$$ since Saturday, with the fear-mongering anticipation of what will Iran do?

The best thing they could do is nothing (discount whatever false flags the USraeli government concocts). That way you drive the guilty perpetrator nuts to the point where they are looking under the bed and are afraid of every corner. Mental torment is worse than physical sometimes.

When previous attempts at direct strikes or assassinations have proved unsuccessful, some noted, Iranian-backed militants have turned to the simpler tactic of killing civilians with terrorist bombs.

This was the sequence in 2012 with the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. After failing in attempts to attack Israeli targets or kill Israeli officials in revenge for the killing of one of the group’s leaders, the militants eventually bombed a bus load of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, said Afshon Ostovar, a scholar of Iran at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Seriously, the NYT is now going to wave alleged Israeli victims in front of us?

“We are in uncharted territory, and the truth of the matter is nobody knows how Iran is going to respond. I don’t think even Iran knows,” Ostovar said. “But I think there is a blood lust right now in the Revolutionary Guards.”

I'm tired of the projection by Zionist war mongers, sorry.

How many Palestinians have they shot dead this year? 

About due to bomb Gaza again, aren't they?

US officials are also aware that Iran could try to strike a high-level American leader in a “tit-for-tat” move, potentially a military commander, the Associated Press reported.

The failure of U.S. security would be called into question then. 

In Iraq, where the Parliament had earlier called for the immediate expulsion of the 5,000 American troops stationed there, Prime Minister Mahdi on Monday listed steps to curtail the troops’ movements.

While plans were being made for departure of the Americans, he said, they will now be limited to “training and advising” Iraqi forces, required to remain within the bases and barred from Iraqi air space.

Abdul-Mahdi met with Matthew Tueller, the American ambassador to Iraq, on Monday, and “stressed the need for joint action to implement the withdrawal,” according to a statement and photo released by Abdul-Mahdi’s office. He also emphasized Iraq’s efforts to prevent the current tensions between Iran and the United States from sliding into “open war.”

The United States military stirred a media flurry by accidentally releasing a draft letter that seemed to describe imminent plans to withdraw from Iraq, but Defense Department officials played down the significance of the letter.

“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said. “There’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”

They just asked us to in a very nice and polite way, asshole!

So much for the U.S. Empire being more benign and altruistic than any other before it. Just another in a long line of thug regimes, and has been for a long, long time now.

Meanwhile, senior administration officials have begun drafting sanctions against Iraq after Trump publicly threatened the country with economic penalties if it proceeded to expel US troops, according to three people briefed on the planning.

So much for bringing the troops home. 

What an asshole!

Such a step would represent a highly unusual move against a foreign ally that the United States has spent almost two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars supporting.

Hey, we can turn on you in the blink of an eye. Just ask Soleimani.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations, stressed that talks were preliminary and that no final decision has been made on whether to impose the sanctions.

Although the Trump administration has said that the United States killed Soleimani because he was planning imminent attacks against American interests, there were indications Monday that he may have been leading an effort to calm tensions with Saudi Arabia.

Yeah, the ma$$ media is going to minimize the fact that this guy was set up by false peace feelers, a la Longshanks. There were no imminent attacks being prepared, blah, blah, blah. This guy was lured there so he could be killed. That makes this murderous administration criminal.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said that he was supposed to meet with Soleimani on the morning he was killed and that he expected him to bring messages from the Iranians that might help to “reach agreements and breakthroughs important for the situation in Iraq and the region.”

The print that got cut for the web version told me that MBS is sending his younger brother to Washington over the next few days to urge restraint because they are "keen that the situation doesn't escalate."

--more--" 

Holy shit! 

They martyred the guy, and know not what they are doing!

"The disturbing history in Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites" by Rick Noack Washington Post, January 6, 2020

Throughout his presidency, President Trump has repeatedly attempted to distinguish between the ‘‘wonderful Iranian people’’ and their ‘‘hostile,’’ ‘‘brutal and corrupt’’ leadership, but as he suggested the possibility of retaliatory strikes against Iran on Saturday, he resorted to a threat that — in other, prior conflicts — has deliberately blurred the distinction between countries’ regimes and their people.

By suggesting strikes on ‘‘52 Iranian sites,’’ including some that are important to ‘‘the Iranian culture’’ rather than its military, Trump threatened a way of waging war that has drawn growing outrage in recent decades, critics argued Monday.

Such attacks have been condemned as ‘‘cultural cleansing’’ by Irina Bokova, the former director general of UNESCO. ‘‘The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime,’’ she told the UN Security Council in 2017, adding that ‘‘it has become a tactic of war to tear societies over the long term.’’

What bothers me is they are talking about potential war crimes if he unleashes the missiles, not the war crime that has already been committed.

Bokova was primarily referring to the destruction of cultural sites by militant groups at the time, but to some, her words now appear eerily relevant for Iran, which hosts 22 cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient ruins of Persepolis with its palatial buildings and terraces.

‘‘A nation that willfully destroys another country’s heritage would be no better than the criminals who have destroyed irreplaceable sites in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in recent years,’’ argued Sara C. Bronin, a lawyer and specialist in historic preservation, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in response to Trump’s threats to target cultural sites in Iran.

‘‘Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It’s a war crime,’’ tweeted Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Then Bush is guilty for leveling Babylon and Iraq, and Israel's actions in Palestine also meet the definition.

Ironically, it was the United States that for decades helped shape what some believed to be a new consensus on the destruction of cultural heritage: that this form of war and destruction is not only a crime against another warring party but a crime against humanity that endangers civilian lives and dignity.

In March 2017 — only weeks after Trump’s inauguration — the UN Security Council, with the United States as a permanent member, unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the ‘‘unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, inter alia destruction of religious sites and artefacts’’ in armed conflicts.

Attacks on cultural heritage sites have been a frequent feature of armed conflicts throughout the history of civilization. In 149 BC, for example, the Romans began their siege of Carthage, a North African city in what is now Tunisia. The assault ended in the total destruction of the city in what some researchers argue was an attempt by the Romans to eradicate their enemies’ culture.

Eradicating culture destroys a people's historical memory, and thus leaves them not knowing who they are. Makes it much easier for globe-kickers to divide, manipulate, and control.

Much later, the 20th century’s brutality reinforced calls for attacks on heritage sites to be more forcefully condemned. World War II not only put a spotlight on the Nazis’ attempts to attack opponents’ dignity and national identity; it also raised questions over some Allied attacks. The Allied forces’ bombardment of the eastern German city of Dresden — which came late in the war and surprised many who had not previously perceived the historic city to be a key military target — triggered a debate that continues to this day.

I suppose Dresden is about as self-reflective as they get.

According to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, warring parties should take all possible steps ‘‘to protect cultural property,’’ which includes ‘‘monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular,’’ among other examples. (Under certain circumstances, the convention allows for cultural property’s special protection to be withdrawn in case of ‘‘unavoidable military necessity.”)

What happened to all the Iraqi artifacts, or at least those that weren't destroyed? 

Where did they end up?

Those commitments were also codified in the differently worded Geneva Conventions, which protect ‘‘historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples’’ from acts of hostility.

In the 1990s, the wars that broke up Yugoslavia became a brutal reminder of why such treaties had been drafted — and how they were ignored. Starting in 1991, Yugoslav People’s Army forces besieged the historic city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, leading to the destruction of parts of its center. In the city of Sarajevo, in Bosnia, the Vijecnica city hall was set on fire in 1992, destroying its sizable library.

Books should never, ever be burnt.

In the aftermath, former prosecutors and researchers with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia assessed more broadly that during conflicts, ‘‘it is increasingly evident that cultural property is not simply at risk from incidental harm, but is being intentionally attacked as part of cultural cleansing campaigns.’’

Gaza.

In 2016, North African militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was convicted by the International Criminal Court of ‘‘intentionally directing attacks against historic monuments and/or buildings dedicated to religion’’ in the ICC’s first such trial, focusing on the destruction or damaging of cultural property. Mahdi was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in attacking nine mausoleums and one mosque in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012.

Why is it that the ICC only hauls up African leaders that have been betrayed by the West or recalcitrant Serbs, and not lying mass-murders like Bush, Blair, et al?

With a US president now threatening to attack cultural targets in Iran, the narrative that the United States helped to advance now appears in doubt.....

I'm tired of "narratives" being provided by the agenda-pushing, war-promoting pre$$.

--more--"

Related:

Contradicting Trump, Pentagon rules out bombing Iran’s cultural sites

Isn't that insubordination, and WTF is going on down there?

Speaking of libraries:

"Government website is hacked with pro-Iran messages" by Mihir Zaveri New York Times, January 6, 2020

A federal government website was hacked over the weekend to show messages vowing revenge for the death of Iran’s most powerful commander and a doctored photograph of President Trump being punched in the jaw. The intrusion was consistent with the work of low-level nationalist Iranian hackers, specialists said.

Yeah, right on cue!

The program, administered by the United States Government Publishing Office, helps the public access government documents on a wide variety of subjects — including bills, regulations, and studies — in more than 1,100 libraries around the country. Its website was taken down for 24 hours as officials conducted a security analysis and put back online Sunday after they found that “none of the site’s data was compromised,” Gary Somerset, a spokesman for the office, said in an e-mail Monday.

That's the best the Iranians could do? 

Come up with a steaming swirled that stinks like a false flag pos?

The government and media seriously believe that we will but this?

They are more delusional and psychopathic than I had imagined. 

OMG!

It was not immediately clear whether the attack had come from Iran or whether the country had ordered it. A spokeswoman for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement that there was no confirmation that hackers sponsored by Iran were behind the attack.

I suspect it was the U.S. government and the $oftware $ecurity firms with which they contract (often owned and run by people who worked within the surveillance state apparatus).

Better get an upgrade!

She said, without elaborating, that hackers were able to exploit a “misconfiguration” in the website’s content management system that was subsequently fixed. She said that “in these times of increased threats,” all organizations should increase safeguards against possible attacks.

The hack came as specialists and officials have warned of possible cyberattacks following Major General Qassem Soleimani’s killing.

Yeah, and after the Iranians said they wouldn't attack U.S. civilians.

The attack on the Federal Depository Library Program’s site was “superficial” and seemed to reflect “nationalist, low-grade hacking activity,” said John Hultquist, senior director of intelligence analysis at the cybersecurity company FireEye. He said it did not suggest the possibility of a larger, more serious attack.

“It kind of looks worse than it really is,” he said.

If you can see through the smoke there is an interesting twist on it all.

In some cases, the Iranian government pays hackers to conduct such attacks, Hultquist said; in others, the hacks come from people conscripted by Iran for government service, but the government does not need to explicitly order such attacks at all. “It’s like a guard dog,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to be there for it to do the job.”

Same as what the U.S. does.

In fact, Iran could be under cyberattack right now and we wouldn't even know it.

What if the Iranians interfere in the election on the side of Democrats?

Hultquist said hackers regularly trawl government websites, looking for vulnerabilities. “They’re looking for anything with any remote connection with the US government,” he said. “They found this one.”

The website pulled in a modest amount of traffic in 2019 — 634,000 page views, according to Somerset. He said the website is used by library staff nationwide.

If Iran did do this, they ought to be embarrassed!

James A. Lewis, a former government official and cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the program was probably the agency the hackers “found first that had weak security.”

You mean there is more?

He said the hack was probably not conducted by Iran’s more sophisticated team but instead recalled a “low-budget hack of the sort Iran’s ‘patriot hackers’ are known for, including the cheesy imagery.”

This whole piece of laughable propaganda stinks like cheese!

Bigger agencies have better defenses and are likely to be safe, Lewis said, but Iran could possibly find more vulnerabilities like the one exposed by the hackers of the program’s website.

“Possibly another small agency — there are dozens,” he said. “It’s really a political decision for Iran’s leaders. Iran has the capability to do something dramatic, but at least for now, they want to avoid something so dramatic as to invite retaliation.”

Translation: we will be treated to self-serving hack after self-serving hack, and if we are lucky the economic collapse will be blamed on Iran (who will also make your pensions and savings disappear).

--more--"

Now about leaving Iraq:

"Esper says US has not made any decision to leave Iraq" by Sarah Dadouch and Siobhan O’Grady Washington Post, January 6, 2020

BEIRUT — The US Defense Department has ordered an amphibious force of about 4,500 sailors and Marines to prepare to support Middle East operations, a defense official said Monday. The order was disclosed as huge throngs of Iranians mourned Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, who led the elite Quds force, at his funeral Monday in Tehran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, wept as he prayed over the general’s coffin, while he and other Iranian leaders vowed revenge.

Caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told US Ambassador Matthew Tueller that the United States and Iraq needed to cooperate ‘‘to implement the withdrawal of foreign forces in accordance with the decision of the Iraqi parliament,’’ according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

US senators are expected to be briefed by top US officials Wednesday on the US drone strike that killed Soleimani last week, according to three people familiar with the plans.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Director Gina Haspel are expected to brief the lawmakers. House members are also expected to attend a separate briefing session, people familiar with the matter said.

Soleimani was not seen as a hero only in Iran, but was also by Iranian-allied groups in the region — including in Yemen and Lebanon.

Yemen’s city of Saada, held by the Iran-allied Houthis, exploded with mourners filling the streets and protesting the strike that killed him. Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a military group that also holds seats in parliament, held a funeral for Soleimani on Sunday.

On the diplomatic front, at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Moscow Saturday with plans to discuss escalating tensions in the Middle East, the Kremlin announced.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is accompanying Merkel on the trip. Maas said Monday that Trump threatening Iraq with heavy sanctions if US troops are forced to leave is ‘‘not very helpful.’’

Russia has been even more critical of the US airstrike that killed Soleimani. Its Foreign Ministry denounced the move as ‘‘reckless’’ on Friday, though Putin himself has been publicly mum on the issue with the country still enjoying its New Year’s holidays.

Word is he is going to dump this in NATO's lap and say you deal with it.

Moscow has quietly benefited from Soleimani’s death with oil prices spiking. Now Putin will weigh in on the state of the Middle East twice this week, when he meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul Wednesday and then with Merkel over the weekend.

What is the WaComPo implying, that he might have had a hand in it?

China on Monday heavily criticized the Soleimani killing as a violation of international norms and said it would work with Russia to ‘‘maintain international justice.’’

China, which has increasingly close military ties with Moscow, has long sought a neutral position in the Middle East, with friendly relations with Iran, Israel, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Yeah, we are the bad guys this time. It is Russia, China, and Iran who are trying to uphold international law.

European Union foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Friday in Brussels to discuss how to respond to the escalating crisis with Iran, diplomats said Monday, including whether Europe starts the process that could lead to the eventual reimposition of sanctions on Iran.

Are you kidding?

So much for saving the deal.

Proves is what a subservient vassal state is the EU.

In Washington, D.C., Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the House should hold open hearings on the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.

‘‘I think there should be open hearings on this subject,’’ Schiff told Greg Sargent, an opinions writer for The Washington Post. ‘‘The president has put us on a path where we may be at war with Iran. That requires the Congress to fully engage.’’

If only you had waited!

Meanwhile.....

--more--"

Related(?):

"Kenyan police say they arrested three “terrorist suspects’’ who tried to force their way into a British Army training camp on the same day al-Shabab extremists attacked a military base and killed three US military personnel. Meanwhile new details emerged in the al-Shabab attack, the Al Qaeda-linked group’s first assault against US forces inside Kenya. Five US aircraft, including fixed-wing and helicopters, were destroyed and one damaged in the hourslong assault at the airfield in coastal Lamu county, the US Africa Command said. The US military later said its East Africa Response Force had arrived to increase security there. It did not say how many troops were involved. Photos shared with the AP by a security source showed the five dead al-Shabab attackers wearing military uniforms. It was not clear whether the uniforms were Kenyan or Somali. Some al-Shabab fighters have worn military uniforms in past attacks. The photos also showed an al-Shabab flag. Also Monday the US Africa Command asserted that several unverified social media sites, ‘‘some with links to Iran,’’ posted false claims of the death of its commander, General Stephen Townsend, in the al-Shabab attack. The US statement posted on Twitter cited Townsend as saying ‘‘reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’’ He called them an example of the “lies, propaganda, and fake news’’ from al-Shabab and “other malign actors such as Iran and its proxies.’’

Speaking of fake news:

"A grave mistake in Iraq: Congress should curb the war powers of this president — and future ones" by The Editorial Board, January 6, 2020

To be clear, no American tears should be shed for Soleimani, who was in neighboring Iraq at the airport in Baghdad when a US drone found him, but that does not excuse the president’s reckless act. Iran has promised to retaliate for the general’s death, putting the lives of thousands of Americans overseas at risk. The fact that the attack occurred in a third country without its permission has opened another unnecessary crisis: Many Iraqi politicians now want to boot US forces still stationed in IraqTheir reaction is understandable. If other countries started fighting on American soil, with Americans in the crossfire, we’d want them gone too.

Yeah, shed no tears.

Iran’s government both represses its own people and supports regional tyrants like Syria’s Bashar Assad, and Soleimani certainly was an odious person serving an odious agenda. He was considered the key figure in organizing Iranian proxies that have inflicted untold misery in the Middle East, but the United States cannot simply kill whatever foreign wrongdoers it chooses. While there is precedent for pursuing terrorists overseas, there is none for the US military killing an officer of a sovereign country, one which the United States may oppose but against which it has not declared war. Imagine if the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were taken out by a foreign military officer while traveling to Paris.

Yeah, just imagine.

What's odious is the Globe spitting on Soleimani's grave.

Even if Iran were organizing imminent attacks against Americans, the Trump administration has not made clear how killing Soleimani will stop his government from executing them. Iran has already replaced him with another general and, if anything, it appears the strike has made violence against Americans abroad more likely. If that happens, President Trump has pledged to commit war crimes by attacking Iranian cultural sitesThe fact that Iran had been complying with the nuclear deal means that, in the eyes of the world, it’s the United States that was the deadbeat.

Even if? 

EVEN IF?

The Globe isn't worried about the war crime assassination, only about the cultural sites, even as it admits U.S. status as a lawless and rogue nation. Iran was in compliance.

No president — whether it’s this president or any other — should be able to single-handedly provoke a military crisis in the way that Trump just did, but by handing presidents sweeping grants of military authority, failing to stand up for its own prerogatives, and often allowing presidents to ignore the remaining limits on their power, Congress planted the seeds for this crisis. Under the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. Presidents have used the use-of-force authorizations passed after the Sept. 11 attacks to justify military action that has nothing to do with Al Qaeda (a sworn enemy of the Iranian regime), but Congress has declined to rescind or amend it. Presidents Bush and Obama also share blame for broadly interpreting those powers.

This is the first time I recall the Globe making an issue of it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to bring a war powers this week, which she says “reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.” It’s tough to imagine that resolution going anywhere in the Republican-held Senate, where senators have released a parade of bellicose statements celebrating the strike. Nobody disputes that Soleimani was a bad guy, but if the president’s party hides behind tough-guy talk instead of grappling with the serious strategic and legal issues Trump’s reckless act raised, they will solidify their place in the disgraceful history of congressional failure......

How nice of her to bring a war powers bill to a vote after stripping the amendment from the $738 billion war bill they sent him that would have prevented this action. 

Nice going, Nance!

Maybe you can get around to Yemen someday, 'eh?

--more--"

"Do Americans really want to be in the assassination business? There should be more transparency from the Trump administration about what led up to the killing of Qassem Soleimani" by Joan Vennochi Globe Columnist, January 6, 2020

Americans of all political persuasions should demand more transparency from the Trump administration about what led up to the killing of Soleimani, but the bigger question is whether we really want to be in the assassination business.

As if we haven't been!

Of course, the Trump administration is counting on the great partisan divide in this country to protect it from having to answer for the unprecedented targeting of a general and highly placed official of a sovereign nation. Soleimani was a known and extremely bad guy, responsible for the brutal deaths of American troops, but he wasn’t Osama bin Laden. He headed the Quds Forcean official branch of the Iranian military. Even though Trump has designated the Quds as a foreign terrorist organization, Soleimani was still the second most powerful official in Iran. For that reason, his killing crosses a line.

Yeah, murdering faceless and nameless brown and black people from Africa to Afghanistan is okay, but this crossed a line.

That line probably doesn’t matter to average Americans, who are not experts on who is a government official in Iran and who is not. It should.

Welcome to the party finally!

Polling shows the US public wants out of foreign wars. For example, according to a September 2019 University of Maryland poll cited in a recent Foreign Policy article“three-quarters of those surveyed, including a majority of Republicans, said a war with Iran would be unwarranted.” Most respondents “blamed the Trump administration for heightened tensions with Iran.” Yet so far, the response to the killing of Soleimani breaks down along predictable partisan lines. Republicans are praising Trump for standing up to Iran and denouncing a move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to vote on a war powers resolution that would limit Trump’s military actions. 

Phony baloney from the political parties, and she acts as if they speak for Americans when they clearly do not.

According to The Washington Post, it was Pompeo, with backup from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who convinced Trump to approve the hit on Soleimani, but as commander in chief, Trump is responsible for whatever happens next.

Oh, it was Pompeo that convinced him to do this, huh? 

Just after he visited with Netanyahu, too.

This is much bigger than politics. It’s about who we are as Americans.....

And what is happening in America right now is not just a crisis for Jews. It is a crisis for this nation as a whole; it is an assault on the very thing that makes us all Americans (what's with the hijab of hate?).

What is surprising -- or not -- is it is happening in Bo$ton of all places.

--more--"

What if.....

"Trump as Peace President? Calling it quits in Iraq is an admission that the 30-year US presence in the Mideast was a complete failure — and could trigger a revolution in US national security policy" by Andrew Bacevich, January 6, 2020

In the latest head-spinning turn of events, US forces, acting pursuant to President Donald Trump’s orders, assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3. Commander of the Iranian Quds Force, Soleimani had just arrived at Baghdad International Airport when he was killed by a drone strike.

Many of Trump’s supporters have hailed Soleimani’s execution as yet another important milestone on the road to final victory (although at this point no one quite knows what victory would look like). Many of Trump’s critics, especially Democrats, have denounced Trump’s action as illegal and reckless (conveniently forgetting the numerous equally illegal assassinations conducted at the behest of Barack Obama).

This guy is firing away with both barrels, 'eh?

Assassination and execution. 

Iraqi authorities have loudly condemned the killing of Soleimani. If Iraq qualifies as a sovereign state, then the assassination carried out by US forces has patently and indeed outrageously violated Iraqi sovereignty. Yet given that Iraq plays host to various “militias” — armies of irregulars not under government control — we may conclude that Iraq’s sovereignty is itself a sham, which is yet another negative judgment of US policy. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, transforming it into a failed state did not form part Washington’s agenda.

Were all of that not enough to keep the chattering class chattering, the Iraqi Parliament has now passed legislation demanding that all foreign forces withdraw. In so doing, the elected representatives of the Iraqi people have handed President Trump a golden opportunity. Thanks to Iraqi legislators, he may now make good on his oft-repeated promise to end our endless wars in the Middle East — and to do so in an election year, no less.

Will he be around to take it?

Iraqis have manifestly had their fill of Americans, who arrived promising liberation but have delivered mostly grief. So the president who ordered Soleimani’s killing can now oblige the Iraqi Parliament by ordering US forces (including the reinforcements currently headed to the region) to pack up and come home.

Yet note: For Trump to do so would be tantamount to admitting that the entire US military enterprise in the Middle East, dating back to George H. W. Bush’s Operation Desert Storm nearly 30 years ago, has ended in failure. The US national security establishment, which includes most Democrats in the House and Senate, will resist any such admission. Its members are wedded to the conviction that the exercise of American global leadership requires that the United States amass and maintain enormous military power, combined with a willingness to put that power to work. In that sense, they have long since made their peace with endless war.

The stakes here are huge. Members of that establishment know that calling it quits in Iraq will likely trigger a revolution in US national security policy. The proponents of endless war — and they are legion in both parties — will be discredited. Heretics favoring prudence and restraint will be empowered. A radical overhaul of US policy and a much-needed readjustment of US priorities just might become possible.

I seriously doubt that Trump grasps the implications of opportunity that has landed in his lap. He has seldom shown any capacity to see beyond his next round of golf, but history is filled with ironies. Donald Trump as Peace President would be one for the record books.....

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RelatedKlobuchar vows to renew US leadership around the world

During an interview with The Boston Globe editorial board Monday, she said “we should be working on China, we should be working on a two-state solution [in Israel and the Palestinian territories], and if elected would, in the first 100 days in office, visit key US allies, including Canada and Mexico, in an effort to repair the damage Trump has done to long-standing relationships,” and her “plan is to build a beautiful wall around the Midwest.”

She must have forgotten the trade deal as she claims she can rebuild Hillary's firewall.

I'm also told she has "climbed in Iowa polls and had a strong fund-raising quarter at the end of last year [as she] delivered her sales pitch on why she is best positioned to beat Trump in November," but the position on Palestine is what will ultimately cost her.

Trump’s re-election not assured because of the war worries, even as US stocks shook off early loss.

Time to bring it on home:

"Groups of drones have been spotted buzzing over rural parts of northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska for weeks, unnerving residents. Now, US officials are working with state and local authorities to determine who is behind the mysterious nighttime flights....."

Right.