Friday, July 28, 2017

There But For the Grace of Mugabe....

"Wife of Zimbabwe’s leader tells Mugabe to name successor" Associated Press  July 27, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s first lady publicly urged her 93-year-old husband on Thursday to name a successor, wading into a subject that President Robert Mugabe has regarded as taboo.

Grace Mugabe, whose political influence has been growing, previously said the world’s oldest head of state could rule from the grave. ‘‘If God decides to take him, then we would rather field him as a corpse’’ in the 2018 election, she said early this year.

Doesn't everybody? The politicians are all dead on the inside.

But in comments shown by state broadcaster ZBC, Grace Mugabe said Thursday that she had been arguing with him about naming a successor: ‘‘He says no, no, no.’’

With her husband in attendance, she told members of the ruling ZANU-PF party women’s league: ‘‘I am asking him now in front of you. . . . You, president, don’t be afraid. Tell us your choice, which horse should we back. Because we respect him, his word will be final.’’ The audience cheered, though the president’s response was not immediately clear.

Robert Mugabe, who has led the southern African nation since 1980, has started campaigning for next year’s vote. He has repeatedly said he will not choose a successor.

The 52-year-old Grace Mugabe, who heads the ZANU-PF women’s league, has become increasingly powerful. Her decisions have carried more weight at times than those of the country’s vice presidents.

While Mugabe is seen as a potential successor to her husband, she has sent mixed signals. She has said she has no problem becoming president but on other occasions has said she has no such ambitions.

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Also see: The Queen of Zimbabwe

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday's Traps

Fell right in them:

BEAR TRAP

"Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow" by Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous Washington Post  July 20, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to US officials.

Some are saying this is something, others nothing but smoke, sound, and fury. 

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.

We will see what happens.

Just three months ago, after the United States accused Assad of using chemical weapons, Trump launched retaliatory airstrikes against a Syrian air base. At the time, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said that ‘‘in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.’’

Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spokesmen for the National Security Council and the CIA declined to comment.

After the Trump-Putin meeting, the United States and Russia announced an agreement to back a new cease-fire in southwest Syria, along the Jordanian border, where many of the CIA-backed rebels have long operated. Trump described the limited cease-fire deal as one of the benefits of a constructive working relationship with Moscow.

There was some blowback regarding that program.

The move to end the secret program to arm the anti-Assad rebels was not a condition of the cease-fire negotiations, which were already well underway, said US officials.

Trump’s dealings with Russia have been under heavy scrutiny because of the investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. The decision on the CIA-backed rebels will be welcomed by Moscow, which focused its firepower on those fighters after it intervened in Syria in 2015.

Globe's web version butchered what was in print!

"Some current and former officials who support the program cast the move as a major concession.

“This is a momentous decision,” said a current official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program. “Putin won in Syria.”

With the end of the CIA program, U.S. involvement in Syria now consists of a vigorous air campaign against the Islamic State and a Pentagon-run train-and-equip program in support of the largely Kurdish rebel force that is advancing on Islamic State strongholds in Raqqa and along the Euphrates River valley. The Trump administration’s long-term strategy, following the defeat of the Islamic State, appears to be focused on stitching together a series of regional cease-fire deals among the U.S.-backed rebels, the Syrian government and Russia.

Some analysts said the decision to end the program was likely to empower more radical groups inside Syria and damage the credibility of the United States.

“We are falling into a Russian trap,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, who focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. . . . We are really cutting them off at the neck.”

Others said it was recognition of Assad’s entrenched position in Syria.

“It’s probably a nod to reality,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

U.S. intelligence officials say battlefield gains by rebels in 2015 prompted Russia’s direct military intervention on the side of the Assad regime. Some U.S. officials and their allies in the region urged President Barack Obama to respond by providing the rebels with advanced anti­aircraft weapons so they could better defend themselves. But Obama balked, citing concerns about the United States getting pulled into a conflict with Russia.

Some would go willingly.

Senior U.S. officials said that the covert program would be phased out over a period of months. It is also possible that some of the support could be redirected to other missions, such as fighting the Islamic State or making sure that the rebels can still defend themselves from attacks.

“This is a force that we can’t afford to completely abandon,” Goldenberg said. “If they are ending the aid to the rebels altogether, then that is a huge strategic mistake.”

Meaning this is all nothing as the U.S.- supported mercenaries will be on the move.

WaPo had more.

U.S. officials said the decision had the backing of Jordan, where some of the rebels were trained, and appeared to be part of a larger Trump administration strategy to focus on negotiating limited cease-fire deals with the Russians.

Earlier this month, five days into the first cease-fire in southwest Syria, Trump indicated that another agreement was under discussion with Moscow. “We are working on the second cease-fire in a very rough part of Syria,” Trump said. “If we get that and a few more, all of a sudden we are going to have no bullets being fired in Syria.”

One big potential risk of shutting down the CIA program is that the United States may lose its ability to block other countries, such as Turkey and Persian Gulf allies, from funneling more sophisticated weapons — including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS — to anti-Assad rebels, including more radical groups.

Toward the end of the Obama administration, some officials advocated ending the CIA program, arguing that the rebels would be ineffective without a major escalation in U.S. support. But the program still had the support of a majority of top Obama advisers, who argued that the United States couldn’t abandon its allies on the ground and give up on the moderate opposition because of the damage that it would do to U.S. standing in the region.

Even those who were skeptical about the program’s long-term value, viewed it as a key bargaining chip that could be used to wring concessions from Moscow in negotiations over Syria’s future.

“People began thinking about ending the program, but it was not something you’d do for free,” said a former White House official. “To give [the program] away without getting anything in return would be foolish.” "

What foolish is continuing to read this garbage.


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RELATED: 

UPDATES on the Greater Kurdistan Project

Conflict Among Syrian Forces Could Draw US into Syrian Fight- PKK/YPG Rebrand to SDF

It's the sword of history, and remember the United States exploded its first experimental atomic bomb in the desert of Alamogordo, N.M., while next door Goldwater declared that ‘‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice’’ and that ‘‘moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,’’ and he was right. That led to Reagan, who, won the Republican presidential nomination at the party’s convention in Detroit.

Then there is what might have been:

"In 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, died when their single-engine plane, piloted by Kennedy, plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha’s Vineyard, Mass."

There are still questions regarding the official story.

"A seaplane made a hard landing in New York’s East River near Manhattan’s East Side. Ten people were on board and all were evacuated safely after the Friday accident. All declined medical attention, fire officials said. The cause was not determined. The Tailwind Air craft was towed to a dock. Bill Lawrence, the creator of TV shows including ‘‘Scrubs’’ and ‘‘Spin City,’’ was one of the passengers.

Also seeNear-crash of jets prompts inquiry

UK reveals top-secret JFK cables from missile crisis

The important myth to take away from the event for application today is "the Russians backed down." 

Actually, it was Kennedy who blinked. He took invasion of Cuba off the table and took missiles out of Turkey. Thank God he did. 

And here's anther little sidebar: the missiles in Cuba were never offensive; otherwise, they would have been fired. They were purely for deference. Just another distortion and lie told to you by my war pre$$.

And that's today's lesson in history.

"Russia demands return of seized outposts" by Matthew Lee Associated Press   July 17, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United States and Russia on Monday resumed high-level talks aimed at resolving several irritants between them, as Moscow’s patience dwindles for the return of two seized diplomatic compounds.

The outposts were seized by the Obama administration as part of US sanctions against Russia over election hacking that US intelligence agencies blamed on Moscow. Attempts to resolve the dispute are being viewed as a major test of the new friendship between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin.

All the hackers are Russian.

Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov led the meeting Monday. US officials played down chances for a breakthrough, especially since Russia abruptly canceled the diplomats’ last scheduled meeting in June in response to new Ukraine-related sanctions.

That caught them off guard.

Ryabkov did not respond to a reporter’s shouted question as he arrived at the State Department Monday with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Can anyone meet with him, or is Congress already investigating?

The goal is to pave the way for future cooperation on Syria, Ukraine, and other global issues by first building trust through discussions about smaller issues.

The resumption in talks came less than two weeks after Trump and Putin held a highly anticipated first meeting in Germany.  Driving the agenda are grievances each country wants the other to address. The United States wants Moscow to stop harassing American diplomats and to lift a ban on US adoptions of Russian children.

Russia wants the United States to return two Cold War-era recreational estates, or dachas — one in Maryland and one in New York — that the Obama administration seized as part of its response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Though Putin declined to retaliate in December for Obama’s response — which also included expelling 35 Russian diplomats the United States said were really spies — frustration has mounted in Moscow amid disappointment that Trump has not reversed those actions.

Senior Russian officials have said in recent days that without a resolution soon, Moscow will have to retaliate, possibly by expelling American diplomats and moving against US properties in Russia.

At the same time, pressure has been mounting on the Trump administration not to return the two compounds at least until investigations into the role Russia played in the 2016 election are completed or without guarantees that Russia will not repeat the meddling.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday that the country houses must be returned unconditionally because they were taken by the United States “absolutely in breach of international law.”

“We continue to hope that our American colleagues will demonstrate political wisdom and political will” to resolve in the dispute, Peskov said.

The dispute shows there’s “a severe crisis in relations” between Russia and the Trump administration, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, an advisory body to the Kremlin.

“An absolutely small thing has become fundamental for both sides” that may create a spiral of tit-for-tat responses, Lukyanov told Bloomberg News.

Russia’s made increasingly strident demands for the issue to be resolved since it was discussed at Trump and Putin’s first official meeting, which lasted more than two hours at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg this month.

The confrontation is putting Trump in a bind as he seeks to strengthen relations with Putin while also battling investigations in Washington on whether members of his campaign team colluded with Russia during the election.

The United States will be committing “daylight robbery” if it fails to return the properties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters during a visit to Belarus on Monday. There are “sensible people” in the administration who understand that Obama took the action to try to spoil prospects for Trump to improve relations with Russia, he said.

Nearly six months after Trump took office pledging to repair ties that all but collapsed under Obama, however, Russia’s patience is running out over his failure to reverse the measures.....

That's the AmeriKan war pre$$ narrative anyway.

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"After his much-publicized, two-and a quarter-hour meeting early this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Trump met informally with the Russian leader for an additional hour later the same day. The second meeting, unreported at the time, took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior administration official said.

The encounter underscores the extent to which Trump was eager throughout the summit to cultivate a friendship with Putin, but Trump’s newly disclosed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke further criticism, including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cozy with the leader of a major US adversary.

The only version of the conversation provided to White House aides was that given by Trump himself, the official said. Reporters traveling with the White House were not informed, and there was no formal readout of the chat.

Oh, that is why the shivs are out.

The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm the session, first reported Monday by Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, in a newsletter to clients. Bremmer said in a telephone interview that he was told by two participants who witnessed it at the dinner, which was attended only by leaders attending the summit and some spouses.

Leaders who reported the meeting to him, Bremmer said, were ‘‘bemused, nonplussed, befuddled’’ by the animated conversation, held in full view — but not listening distance — of others present.

Putin’s aide provided the only Russian-English interpretation, the official said, because Trump’s designated dinner companion for the evening was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the president has brought only a Japanese-English interpreter.....

Abe couldn't hear you.

--more--"

RelatedTrump to nominate Huntsman as Russian envoy

Took the place of the Korean war fears, then foisted them upon you again. 

Can't they talk things out?

"Two of President Trump’s most senior Cabinet members became embroiled Thursday in an unusual legal battle over whether Exxon Mobil Corp. under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s leadership violated US sanctions against Russia. The sanctions against Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Rosneft, an energy giant partially owned by the Russian government, were part of a broader set of actions meant to economically isolate Vladimir Putin and the Russian government following its support for separatists in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea....."

That's the Current Big Lie  and, the endless WaPo distortions render them beyond belief. 


"Congress reaches deal on Russia sanctions, creating bleak choice for Trump" by Matt Flegenheimer New York Times  July 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on sweeping sanctions legislation to punish Russia for its election-meddling and aggression toward its neighbors, they said Saturday.

The plan defies the White House’s argument that President Trump needs flexibility to adjust the sanctions to fit his diplomatic initiatives with Moscow.

The new legislation sharply limits the president’s ability to suspend or terminate the sanctions.

At a moment when investigations into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials have cast a shadow over his presidency, Trump could soon face a bleak decision: veto the bill — and fuel accusations that he is doing the bidding of President Vladimir Putin of Russia — or sign legislation imposing sanctions his administration abhors.

“A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The White House has not publicly spoken about the compromise legislation. But two senior administration officials said they could not imagine Trump vetoing the legislation in the current political atmosphere, even if he regards it as interfering with his executive authority to conduct foreign policy. 

So much for the fascist dictator hyperbole that was ginned up by the pre$$.

Congress has complicated his choice because the compromise legislation also encompasses new sanctions against Iran and North Korea, two countries the administration has been eager to punish for its activities.

A sanctions package had stalled in the Republican-led House for weeks after winning near-unanimous support in the Senate last month.

Democrats accused Republicans of delaying quick action on the bill at the behest of the Trump administration, which had asked for more flexibility in its relationship with Russia and took up the cause of energy companies, defense contractors and other financial players who suggested that certain provisions could harm US businesses.

That always trumps war -- when they can't have it both ways, that is.

The House version of the bill includes a small number of changes, technical and substantive, from the Senate legislation, including some made in response to concerns raised by oil and gas companies.

But for the most part, the Republican leadership appears to have rejected most of the White House’s objections.

The bill aims to punish Russia not only for interference in the election but also for its annexation of Crimea, continuing military activity in eastern Ukraine and human rights abuses.

Paired with the sanctions against Iran and North Korea, the House version of the bill was set for a vote Tuesday.

In a separate development....

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It's not just U.S. oil and gas companies concerned:

"Lawmakers in Russia call for retaliation against new US sanctions" by Neil MacFarquhar New York Times   July 27, 2017

MOSCOW — There is concern in Europe that the new US sanctions could ripple through the energy market because they target companies that contribute to the development, maintenance, or modernization of the pipelines exporting Russian energy.

That would most likely affect a hotly debated natural gas pipeline project linking Russia with Germany, called Nord Stream 2, which is owned by the Russian state oil giant, Gazprom, but in which European firms hold financial stakes.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign relations committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Legislature, suggested a temporary alliance with Europe.

Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said that the new sanctions would bury any prospect of improving relations, calling the measures “beyond common sense.”

“The authors and sponsors of this bill are making a very serious step toward destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia and do not conceal that that’s their target,” Ryabkov said, according to the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass. Despite that, he added, Moscow remained ready to cooperate on shared concerns, including fighting terrorism.

The Deep State Congre$$ just got snared!

The US bill, passed 419-3 by the House on Tuesday, bolsters economic sanctions against Russia that were imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea and destabilized Ukraine in 2014.....

They didn't annex Crimea, and it was the Obama coup of 2014 that destabilized the place.

What's the point of reading this crap when its nothing but regurgitated lies?

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"The former managers of Hillary Clinton’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are leading an initiative called ‘‘Defending Digital Democracy’’ in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st-century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them. The bipartisan project aims to develop ways to share key threat information with political campaigns and state and local election offices and create ‘‘playbooks’’ for election officials to improve cybersecurity."

I'm doing the best I can, and the latest is ISIS hacked the elections for Trump:

"After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for cyber operations in hopes of raising America’s ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State and other foes, US officials said. Under the plans, Cyber Command would be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency. An announcement is expected in coming weeks (AP)."

The ‘lone wolves’ are only a symptom of a deeper problem.


******************


PERSIAN PLOY

"Iran won’t fall into Trump’s nuclear deal `trap,’ Rouhani says" by Golnar Motevalli Bloomberg  July 19, 2017

Iran will not fall into the ‘‘trap’’ that the Trump administration is attempting to set in order to force the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday.

The US ‘‘ploy today is to behave in such a way as to have Iran say ‘I am walking away’ ” from the agreement, Rouhani told his Cabinet, according to the state-run Iranian Students News Agency. Iran ‘‘needs to be aware not to fall into their trap,’’ he said.

Rouhani’s intervention came after the United States again made clear its readiness to confront Iran and the accord that scaled back its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. On Monday, the United States affirmed that Iran has continued to meet the agreement’s conditions — as required every three months — but hours later imposed new sanctions over what it called Iran’s persistent efforts to destabilize the Middle East.

What good is the U.S. government's word when they never live up to it?

There is ‘‘a school of thought in the administration’’ that wants to push Iran into walking away from the deal, said Henry Smith, lead analyst on Iran and the Middle East at the Dubai office of Control Risks, a research group. ‘‘The motivation for that is to make Iran look like it’s at fault” rather than the United States, he said.

President Trump is being advised by officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis who don’t seem to ‘‘want the US to be viewed as the aggressor’’ if the deal were to fall apart, according to Smith.

They are so concerned with the imagery and sales pitch for war than what is trueDon't seem even if true, and we saw the same kind of goading from FDR regarding Japan. That's the way it is with the presidents. Imagery and perception is what matters, not actual reality or life.

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Related: Trump's Trap

He's got some help setting it:

"Iran dominates in Iraq after US opened door" by Tim Arango New York Times  July 15, 2017

BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television, and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.

A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.

And that’s not even the half of it. Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi Cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 US lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.

I wish I could say NYT distortions are a fluke, but.... 

From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.

In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost. Over the past three years, Americans have focused on the battle against the Islamic State, returning more than 5,000 troops to Iraq and helping to force the militants out of Mosul.

I'm sorry, what was that again? Who was the ultimate winner in Iraq?

But Iran never lost sight of its mission: to dominate its neighbor so thoroughly that Iraq could never again endanger it militarily and to use the country to effectively control a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean.

“Iranian influence is dominant,” said Hoshyar Zebari, who was ousted last year as finance minister because, he said, Iran distrusted his links to the United States.

That's also everything going to plan. Wolfowitz recognized a Shi'ite majority would rise, and that is what set the stage for the next phase of the war. It would be genius were it not for the disingenuousness and monstrosity of the policy.

The country’s dominance over Iraq has raised sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and US allies like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. But Iraq is only part of Iran’s expansion project; it has also used soft and hard power to extend its influence across the region.

The only thing I've seen regarding Saudi, Qatar, or the surrounding area this past couple of weeks was some leg, and the NYT narrative again must be called into question. Is it Iranian expansionism, or defense against the U.S.-created, directed, and funded terror groups and proxy armies engaged in regime change operations?

What are the Saudi incursions into Bahrain and Yemen, a game of checkers?

Iran is a Shi’ite state, and Iraq, a Shi’ite majority country, was ruled by an elite Sunni minority before the US invasion. The roots of the schism between Sunnis and Shi’ites, going back almost 1,400 years, lie in differences over the rightful leaders of Islam after the death of the prophet Mohammed.

But these days, it is about geopolitics as much as religion, with the divide expressed by different states that are adversaries, led by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other.

One could argue, as I would, that it is all about the former. The different sects of Islam, despite the differences, did live together in relative peace and harmony for centuries. It wasn't until the EUSraeli Empire showed up that everything started going to hell.

Iran’s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse, projecting into military, political, economic, and cultural affairs.

In other words, they are acting like the AmeriKan Empire?

At some border posts in the south, busloads of young militia recruits cross into Iran without so much as a document check. They receive military training and are then flown to Syria, where they fight under the command of Iranian officers in defense of the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.

Passing in the other direction, truck drivers pump Iranian products — food, household goods, illicit drugs — into what has become a vital market.

The question begs to be asked: would you want to buy U.S. and Western products after decades of sanction and destruction at their hands?

Politically, Iran has a large number of allies in Iraq’s Parliament who can help secure its goals. Perhaps most crucial, the Parliament passed a law last year that made Shi’ite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces.

That's not a big deal when the U.S. folds their hired guns into security forces.

--more--"

Now let's see, what kind of hot-button emotional issue and searing generational event that has been programmed into the lexicon can now be summoned from the subconscious memory to get Americans all geared up for a war with Iran?

I know! 

Hostages!

"Iran sentences Princeton graduate student to 10 years for espionage" by Erin Cunningham Washington Post  July 16, 2017

ISTANBUL — A Chinese-American student accused of espionage by Iran was sentenced by an Iranian court to 10 years in prison, and President Hassan Rouhani’s brother was detained over allegations of financial misconduct, judicial authorities said Sunday.

Hossein Fereidoun was detained for unspecified financial crimes, a judicial spokesman said. Fereidoun is a close adviser of the president and was involved in the negotiations that led to the nuclear deal with world powers.

The nuclear deal is unpopular with hard-line conservatives in Iran, who have long accused Fereidoun of corruption, including money laundering and misappropriation of government funds.

Sunday’s developments came less than two months after the relatively moderate Rouhani beat a hard-line opponent to win reelection, running on a promise of greater engagement with the West. Iran’s judiciary is heavily influenced by hard-liners.

The imprisonment of the American scholar is likely to raise tensions with the Trump administration before a deadline for waiving some sanctions against Iran. Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 brought the country relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its atomic energy program.

The Mizan news agency identified the convicted American as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old graduate student in history and researcher at Princeton University. The report said he was born in Beijing and is a dual Chinese-American citizen.

So that was his CIA covert, huh?

Mizan, which is affiliated with Iran’s hard-line judiciary, reported that Wang had been sentenced as part of an ‘‘infiltration project’’ that included the gathering of ‘‘confidential articles’’ to send back to the State Department and Western academic institutions.

Wang, who was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016, is also accused of passing confidential information about Iran to Princeton’s Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the British Institute of Persian Studies, according to Mizan.

The government alleged that he recorded some 4,500 pages of digital documents.

The State Department was not immediately able to provide details on the case. It said its citizens’ safety is a top priority.

That's a recording.

Facebook and LinkedIn pages indicate Wang studied at Harvard University from 2006 to 2008, and later worked as a Pashto language interpreter for the International Committee for the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

The website of Wang’s adviser at Princeton, Stephen Kotkin, lists Wang’s PhD thesis as ‘‘Islamic Inner Asia.’’

The Mizan report, which included a photo from the Princeton University website, included a quote from Wang in which he had praised the British Institute of Persian Studies for facilitating access to Iran’s National Archives and other libraries. The quote was used as evidence of his spying activities, the report said.

Wang’s reported conviction comes at a particularly tense time for US-Iranian relations, which have rapidly deteriorated since Trump took office.

Under the previous administration, the United States and other world powers negotiated a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. It was hailed as a victory for diplomacy and an end to Iran’s global isolation.

It was. It was a step away from war; however, that's not why Obama made it. The myth is the peacemaker Obama and his legacy. The fact is American business was going to get cut out of the loot if he didn't go along. There was no altruism involved.

But since then, the Trump administration has stepped up its anti-Iran rhetoric and placed US participation in the nuclear deal under review.

As long as it is only rhetoric, I'm fine.

Monday is the deadline for the White House to decide whether to issue a waiver on nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, a provision that is required periodically under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The administration is expected to approve the waiver, despite an internal debate on how to respond to Iran’s human rights abuses and support for militant groups like Hezbollah.

‘‘The Iranian regime continues to detain US citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes,’’ a State Department official said. ‘‘We call for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families.’’

It was unclear how long Wang has been in Iranian custody. Wang is one of several Americans held by Iran.

Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American art gallery manager, was detained along with his Iranian wife last year. They have yet to be convicted of a crime.

Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, and his 81-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, are each serving 10-year sentences for ‘‘cooperating with the hostile American government.’’

Another Iranian-American, Robin Shahini, was released on bail last year after staging a weeks-long hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for ‘‘collaboration with a hostile government.’’

I wasn't going to mention Gitmo, but.... U.S. government can't criticize anybody!

--more--"

They are still looking for Levinson, among other spies.

"American scholar jailed in Iran is innocent, professor says" by Adam Schreck Associated Press  July 17, 2017

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Princeton has been working with Wang’s family, the US government, lawyers and others to secure his release, it said, adding that it hopes he will be released on appeal.

‘‘Xiyue Wang is a remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student,’’ Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who has served as Wang’s doctoral adviser, told the Associated Press. ‘‘He is innocent of all the charges.’’

An article posted on Mizan Online, a website affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, said 37-year-old Wang was born in Beijing and is a dual national of the United States and China.

Why did they send him to Iran and not China? 

He has already filed an appeal to his sentence, according to the website.

Wang was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016, and is accused of passing confidential information about Iran to the US State Department, Princeton’s Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the British Institute of Persian Studies, Mizan Online said.

It alleged he scanned some 4,500 pages of digital documents, paid thousands of dollars to access archives he needed and sought access to confidential areas of Tehran libraries.

He was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton.

Iranian state secrets?

He was expecting to continue his research in Russia and needed to get as much work done in Iran as he could before taking up a fellowship there, Kotkin said.

That included scanning large volumes of documents that he could access later — something Kotkin described as ‘‘normal, standard scholarly practice.’’

The documents he accessed were roughly 100 years old, the professor said.

‘‘We saw nothing out of the ordinary on anything that he undertook or did,’’ Kotkin said. ‘‘He’s a graduate student in good standing.’’

Uh-huh. 

Were that true, the Iranians wouldn't have reacted this way.

--more--"

"Trump adds sanctions against Iran" by Rick Gladstone New York Times   July 18, 2017

The Trump administration announced new Iran-related sanctions on Tuesday intended to show its toughened stance toward the country despite having grudgingly recertified Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

I'm wondering who it really is holding the grudge.

The sanctions — which were jointly announced by departments of State, Treasury, and Justice — designated 18 individuals and entities that the administration said were involved in missile development, weapons procurement, and software theft.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East, which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity,” the announcement said.

It came less than 12 hours after President Trump reluctantly agreed that Iran has been honoring the nuclear agreement that relaxed many sanctions on the country in return for verifiable curbs on its nuclear activities. Under an American law, the president must make such a declaration every 90 days.

That law has become a vexing issue for Trump, who railed against the nuclear agreement reached under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump has called the nuclear agreement a disastrous giveaway and suggested during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would tear it up.

But parties to the agreement also include Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany, which do not share Trump’s objections. A US withdrawal would leave the United States isolated on the issue.

That would be nothing new for him, according to the pre$$, so what's the big deal?

Moreover, the nuclear agreement is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, which has repeatedly found Iran to be in compliance despite Trump’s assertions that Iran is not adhering to the spirit of the agreement.

So Trump has sought to find new ways to challenge Iran, and his administration had suggested it would be adding names to its nonnuclear sanctions blacklist as part of that strategy.

As long as no missiles are flying.

Under the sanctions, American property of designated people and entities can be seized, and Americans are prevented from doing business with them.

The targets of the Tuesday announcement included individuals or groups that the United States said had supported efforts by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps force to develop and produce drones, attack boats, and other military equipment. The sanctions also were applied to organizations that the United States said were involved in Iran’s ballistic missile development.

The announcement also criticized Iran for its incarceration of Americans and other foreigners on what it described as fabricated charges.

Iran disclosed Sunday that it had been holding Xiyue Wang, an American who is a Princeton University doctoral candidate in history, for nearly a year and has sentenced him to 10 years in prison on spying charges.

There was no immediate reaction to the new sanctions from Iran. But Iranian officials have made clear that they believe any unilateral US sanctions are a violation of the nuclear agreement.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran said Monday that the US sanctions policy has always been counterproductive.

“The United States should reconsider its approach to sanctions,” he told a forum sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Sanctions have never been an asset for the United States. Sanctions are a liability.”

When the United States first imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, he said, the Iranians had 200 centrifuges to enrich uranium, but when the Americans “started negotiating with us in order to remove those sanctions, we had 20,000 centrifuges.”

“So if you want to see the results of sanctions, just 19,800 centrifuges is the net result of sanctions,” he said.

And not one of them is spinning.

--more--"

"Kuwait shuts Iran cultural mission, expels some diplomats" Associated Press  July 21, 2017

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait said Thursday that it is shutting the Iranian cultural mission and calling for a reduction in the number of Iranian diplomats stationed in the country, deepening a rift between the Gulf Arab states and Tehran.

The official Kuwait News Agency announced the move in a brief statement, linking the decision to the case of a terror cell broken up in 2015 that authorities allege had contacts with Iran and the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah.

The Iranian ambassador to Kuwait has been notified of the decision, the news agency, known as KUNA, reported.

Embassy staff did not respond to requests for comment.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the country’s foreign ministry summoned the Kuwaiti chargé d’affaires in Tehran to explain the move.

The ministry is protesting the call to cut the number of diplomats stationed in Kuwait, IRNA said.

Later, the ministry’s website, mfa.ir, reported that the spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, rejected all accusations against Iran and said that Tehran will take counter-action.

The 2015 case centers on a group of 26 people known as the Al Abdali cell whose arrests for links to Shi’ite powerhouse Iran touched on sensitive sectarian issues in Kuwait, a Sunni-majority country.

Besides having ‘‘furtive contacts’’ with Hezbollah and Iran, its members were accused of weapons possession and of planning ‘‘hostile actions’’ inside Kuwait, a tiny US-allied Arab state.

--more--"

All I remember regarding Kuwait is that God-awful babies thrown out of incubators lie that was thought up by Hill and Knowlton and then proffered through the tears of the daughter to the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. before being repeated ad nauseam by H.W. Bush.

"After Mosul victory, Iraq debates future of Shi’ite militias" by Susannah George Associated Press  July 24, 2017

NAJAF, Iraq — In the wake of victory against the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq’s political, religious, and military leaders are debating the future of the country’s powerful Shi’ite militias that played a crucial role in beating back the extremists.

Tens of thousands of Shi’ite men answered a religious call to arms three years ago and joined militias that are mostly backed by Iran.

Some officials are demanding the forces be disbanded, but the militias say their sacrifices on the battlefield and the fact they were sanctioned by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have earned them a permanent place in the hierarchy of Iraq’s security forces.

The Shi’ite militias stepped into a vacuum when the Iraqi army largely dissolved after ISIS overran Mosul and pushed within 80 miles of the Iraqi capital.

Shi’ite Sheikh Fadil al-Bidayri was among the clerics at an emergency meeting in the holy city of Najaf in June 2014, when Iraq’s Shi’ite religious elite — led by the country’s top Shi’ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — issued a call to arms as a last-ditch effort to protect Baghdad.

Tens of thousands of men, many of them members of the long-established Shiite militias with close ties to Iran, answered al-Sistani. In the days that followed, Iraq was flooded with training, money, and weapons from Tehran.

Hey, only the U.S. and its allies can do that!

Billboards praising the groups — depicting Iraqi and Iranian paramilitary leaders side by side — popped up across Baghdad, alongside posters of martyrs honoring the fallen.

The government-sanctioned groups became known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, known as Hashed al-Shaabi in Arabic.

Although the Shi’ite militias did not play a central role in the battle for the city of Mosul itself, they moved into the deserts held by ISIS west of the city, massing around the town of Tal Afar and taking a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. They also took control of highways bisecting the Sunni heartland in western Iraq and used as vital military and civilian supply lines.

Tal Afar perhaps best known for the U.S. checkpoint shooting back in 2005.

In past fights against ISIS, including the operation to retake for the cities of Tikrit and Fallujah, the Shi’ite militias were accused of sectarian killings and other abuses against minority Sunnis.

They acknowledge some abuses may have occurred but say those responsible have been disciplined.

Over the past three years, as the military fight against ISIS in Iraq pushed the extremists back, Iran’s influence in the country grew.

‘‘We always knew that Iran would use this” call to arms to “increase its own power in Iraq, but we had no other choice,’’ said al-Bidayri, recounting the meeting in Najaf and the panic-filled days after the 2014 fall of Mosul.

Al-Bidayri says now that Mosul has been retaken and the Iraqi military has been partly rebuilt, he believes the Shi’ite militias should be disbanded, to curb Iranian influence in Iraq and reduce sectarian tensions. The elderly sheikh, like much of Iraq’s religious establishment in Najaf, is a staunch nationalist and wary of Iran’s growing influence.

But Iraq’s prime minister has also repeatedly professed his backing for the Popular Mobilization Forces, telling reporters at a press conference last week that they ‘‘must remain at least for years, as the terrorism threat still exists.’’

--more--"

Better take the battle out to sea:

"US, Iranian warships have another close encounter in the Persian Gulf" by Andrew deGrandpre The Washington Post  July 25, 2017

A US Navy patrol boat fired a warning shot at an Iranian military ship Tuesday as it made an alarmingly fast and close approach in the Persian Gulf, marking the latest aggressive encounter between the two adversaries.

The unidentified Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel got within 200 yards of the USS Thunderbolt before the American patrol boat fired the warning shot, quickly ending the encounter. A Pentagon official described it as an isolated incident and said one person was hurt.

It was not clear where in the Persian Gulf the incident occurred or how many Americans were aboard the Thunderbolt. The vessel, based in Norfolk, can carry a crew of 27 and is used primarily to patrol coastlines and provide surveillance for interdiction operations.

US officials also have not disclosed what type of weapons the crew fired.

At least three other US vessels were nearby at the time.

Iranian military officials characterized the incident as a US provocation and took credit for having ‘‘neutralized’’ the threat.

You have to get up pretty early in the morning -- before sunrise, in fact -- to fool the Iranians.

In a report published last winter, the Office of Naval Intelligence indicated that vessels operated by the Revolutionary Guard Corps routinely monitor US and allied warships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, a busy waterway that links to the Gulf of Oman.

The majority of the encounters are ‘‘safe and routine,’’ it said, but ‘‘unprofessional or aggressive’’ run-ins are becoming more frequent.

--more--"

Only a matter of time before a shooting war breaks out. 

Maybe after an Israeli sub sinks an American aircraft carrier and it gets blamed on Iran.


*******************


SYRIAN SNARE

"Netanyahu accidentally reveals Israel has struck Iran-backed fighters in Syria ‘dozens of times’" by Adam Taylor Washington Post  July 19, 2017

It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred ‘‘dozens’’ of times.

Every single one is a war crimes charge.

The Israeli prime minister made this admission accidentally — all thanks to a hot mic.

A fluke?

Netanyahu’s remarks came during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest on Wednesday. Although the meeting occurred behind closed doors, the Israeli leader’s microphone remained on and his voice was transmitted to headphones given to reporters earlier.

Speaking to the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, Netanyahu said Israel had specifically targeted Iranian weapons shipments to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria, where Hezbollah is helping bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in the ongoing civil war.

U.S. airstrikes killed a few of them a few months ago.

‘‘We blocked the border not only in Egypt but in the Golan Heights,’’ he said, according to an account from Haaretz newspaper. ‘‘We built the wall because there was a problem with ISIS and Iran trying to build a terror front there. I told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, when we see them transferring weapons to Hezbollah, we will hurt them. We did it dozens of times.’’ ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

Israel is the only nation that is allowed to construct walls without criticism.

It’s not quite the first time that Israel has acknowledged carrying out military actions in Syria. In late June, Israel said it had struck three Syrian army targets in the Golan Heights after errant fire landed in Israeli-controlled territory.

In April, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported that an Israeli airstrike had hit buildings being used to store weapons for Hezbollah near Damascus International Airport. That evening, Israel said it was forced to deploy its Patriot missile defense system to intercept an incoming projectile from Syria — an apparent attempt at retaliation.

What about that Israeli plane Syria shot down?

But, generally, Israel has declined to talk about such actions. Despite the country’s longstanding animosity with the Syrian government and a tense border in the Golan Heights, Israel has tried to keep itself out of Syrian affairs for fear of inadvertently aiding extremist groups such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda.

Related: Israel ‘giving secret aid to Syrian rebels’, report says  

So much for staying out of it.

--more--"

Related:

"The seventh round of intra-Syria talks in Geneva aimed at helping end the country’s six-year-old war have wrapped up. Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, said they produced no breakthroughs but also no breakdown. Mistura said Friday that the Syrian government has not budged in its unwillingness to discuss a political transition, but the talks are focused for now on efforts by all sides to combat terrorists (AP)."

"Austin Tice, of Houston, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying ‘‘Oh, Jesus.’’ He has not been heard from since. Last month, The New York Times reported that the CIA has set up a secret back channel with Syria to try free Austin Tice....."

Congressional hearings and an investigation coming.

"US-backed forces battle ISIS in heart of Syria’s Raqqa" Associated Press  July 17, 2017

BEIRUT — US-backed Syrian fighters fought Islamic State militants Monday in the heart of Raqqa, the extremists’ self-styled capital, as scores of civilians fled areas controlled by the group.

The Kurdish-led group has been one of the most effective forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, but has also clashed with Turkish-backed Syrian forces elsewhere in the country.

As it battled the Islamic State in Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces also fought Turkish-allied Syrian forces in Ein Daqna, in neighboring Aleppo province, according to Turkish media.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, aided by the US-led coalition, launched their offensive to capture Raqqa on June 6, and have since taken several areas.

The fighting comes a week after Iraq declared victory against the Islamic State in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 

The coverage faded after victory was declared.

--more--"

"Despite truce, airstrikes near Damascus kill eight civilians" Associated Press  July 25, 2017

BEIRUT — Airstrikes in a Damascus suburb have killed eight people, including children, the area’s first casualties since Russia said three days ago that it reached an agreement with the Syrian opposition on the boundaries for a deescalation zone in the capital’s eastern suburbs, opposition activists and a paramedic group said on Tuesday.

The airstrikes on Arbeen, just before midnight Monday, also caused material damage. Damascus residents said insurgent groups fired several shells an hour later that fell near the Russian embassy in Damascus with no reports of casualties.

The Syrian Civil Defense group, more popularly known as the White Helmets, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the airstrikes on Arbeen killed eight and wounded dozens. The White Helmets said the eight killed included five children and two women.

AL-CIA-Duhs, known for fake videos, and no mention of who did airstrikes, did event even happen?

In neighboring Lebanon, two international human rights groups called on Lebanese authorities to disclose their findings into the fate of four Syrian refugees who died while in custody of the Lebanese army.

The four were detained in a sweeping security raid late last month in refugee settlements in and around the border town of Arsal that netted 355 Syrians. The town was the scene of a major cross-border attack in 2014, when more than two dozen Lebanese soldiers were abducted.

A Lebanese military probe aired on state-run media on Monday said the four died of natural causes.

--more--"

Also seeSyrian army and Hezbollah launch attack near Lebanese border

"Human rights violations are raging around the world — in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, South Sudan, Burma, and many other countries. Shuttering the State Department Office of Global Criminal Justice would send a signal to repressive governments everywhere that the US government is no longer concerned about deterring mass atrocity......"

Think about that for a minute. 

They mean mass atrocities other than our own. 

Egypt, the Philippines, and Turkey come in for special mention so put them on the enemies list. No mention of Yemen.


*****************

War makes the front page today, too:

Trump bans transgender individuals from military

I'm sure the Globe has something to say, and will she be ready?

Your (lousy) options during the Mass. Pike and Comm. Ave. closures

(flip)

"Large portions of Barack Obama’s signature health law will remain in place, at least for now....."

I'm starting to think the whole debate was a diversion.

Lawmakers hope to undo English-only education in Mass.

Lawmakers are responding to growing calls from educators, parents, students, and immigrant-rights advocates, and against the will of voters.

"The group of teenagers who exposed TD Garden’s failure to comply with a 1993 state mandate to raise funds for city recreation centers has calculated the organization’s obligation — and it’s a whopping figure. $13.8 million. The teens say that amount would help pay for a new ice skating rink in their neighborhood. They held a press conference Wednesday to make their case and take credit for their sleuthing....."

Made the front page and they are getting their hockey rink!

*******************************

"Officials have said Attorney General Jeff Sessions is due to announce in coming days a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information....."

I will be looking for those, even as Trump burns.

I wonder what mine is up to.

At New Balance factory, Paul Ryan vows tax reform by year’s end

Related:

"President Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that’s expected to create 3,000 jobs. The factory will produce liquid-crystal display panels that are used in televisions and computer screens, according to a senior White House official who insisted on anonymity to discuss the announcement. Foxconn will locate its plant in the congressional district of US House Speaker Paul Ryan, although the official declined to provide a specific location. Foxconn could eventually employ 13,000 workers at the factory, the official said. This would mark a substantial gain for a state that currently has 472,000 manufacturing jobs and is still recovering from factory layoffs — including the closure of a General Motors plant in Ryan’s hometown — that hit after the 2008 financial crisis. Taiwan-based Foxconn is perhaps best known for assembling Apple iPhones in China."

And for people jumping to deaths due to working conditions, so much so that the company had to install nets to catch them.

Rep. Scalise discharged from hospital weeks after shooting, beginning rehabilitation


************************

"State environmental authorities have ordered a halt to Rover Pipeline construction in places where it found permit violations damaging streams in northern West Virginia....."

"People in same-sex relationships in South Carolina should get the same legal protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday, deeming a portion of the state’s domestic violence law unconstitutional. The court was asked to weigh in after a woman tried to get a protective order against her former fiancée, also a woman, and was denied....."

"A series of Snapchat videos posted by one of three young people killed in an SUV crash shows them drinking in the vehicle beforehand and passing around a vodka bottle, police said. Police in Bethel Park, in suburban Pittsburgh, have been examining an eight-minute compilation of the videos that an unnamed friend of one victim, 23-year-old Bianca Herwig, of McDonald, posted on YouTube..... "

Also see:

Man broadcasts live as he speeds on beach, cursing and drinking

"Florida prosecutors will decide whether to file charges against five teenagers who laughed and recorded video as a disabled man drowned....."

Father of Colorado boy charged in his death

"Teacher who cartwheeled without underwear given probation" AP  July 26, 2017

PAWHUSKA, Okla. — A former substitute teacher in Oklahoma who exposed herself to students when she did a cartwheel while wearing a long skirt but no underwear has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.

Lacey Sponsler pleaded guilty Monday to assault after the charge was reduced from indecent exposure. She was given a two-year suspended sentence and can’t teach for two years.

She will not have to register as a sex offender.

Sponsler declined comment. Defense attorney Nathan Milner told KTUL-TV that Sponsler believes the incident was ‘‘blown out of proportion’’ and is glad the case is over.

Sponsler was charged in February after allegedly performing a cartwheel in which she exposed herself during a high school choir class in Pawhuska, about 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City."

It's not Harvard, and that is a cautionary tale for next time.

NYPD officer was killed in 2014. His wife just gave birth to their daughter.

Judge: Baby Charlie Gard will end life in hospice, not home

He's going to get gassed.

See: Babying Britain

4 questions about ‘Dunkirk’

Here is the answer to all your questions.

Now about Grenfell....

*********************************

If you don't read an article, is it really there?

"A baby sitter taking care of children in Randolph was the victim of an armed home invasion Thursday morning, according to police. Police said the woman, who is in her 20s, was watching a 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and 17-year-old at a home on Highland Avenue when three men forced themselves into the residence demanding money. They proceeded to tie up the baby sitter and 17-year-old with duct tape and zip ties and ransack the house, police said. Randolph police were called to the scene around 9:53 a.m., and no injuries were reported. The only item reported stolen was a gold chain, police said. In a statement, Randolph Police Chief William Pace said the search continues for the suspects, who were described as an Asian man and two Hispanic men, one of whom was armed with a knife. All of them appeared to be in their 20s, according to police. Police described one suspect as a Vietnamese man in his early 20s who was wearing gray sweatpants and a red and white striped shirt at the time of the home invasion. Police described the other two suspects as Hispanic men in their early to mid-20s who have arm tattoos and were wearing white T-shirts and sweatpants. Meanwhile, police in the neighboring town of Canton released surveillance video Thursday of the suspects who allegedly broke into a home on Arboretum Way and pistol-whipped an elderly man on Tuesday. Canton police said two of the suspects were armed, and they fled the scene in a black Chrysler Pacifica. Canton detectives are asking the public to help them identify the suspects and the vehicle....."

Also see:

Aly Raisman, mattress maker support local homeless shelter

Woman hurt in North End chimney collapse has long road to recovery, family says

Daughter of detained MIT janitor asks Baker to intervene

Widow of slain Pa. police chief says suspected killer’s wife ‘did whatever he wanted her to do’

Standing by her man.

"Woman arrested in connection with death of boyfriend in Brockton" by Rowan Walrath Globe Correspondent  July 22, 2017

A woman has been arrested in connection with a homicide investigation after her boyfriend’s body was found in their Brockton apartment Friday night, according to the Plymouth District Attorney’s Office.

Kathryn Podgurski, 33, of Brockton, was arrested Saturday afternoon, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office, and charged with one count of accessory after murder in the death of Joseph Shaw.

Shaw, 44, was reported missing on Monday by a family member, the statement said.

On Friday night, Podgurski requested assistance from Brockton police near Elmcourt Hotel. She directed them to the couple’s third-floor apartment at 42 Green St., where police found Shaw’s body in a closet, the statement said.

Shaw appeared to have suffered “multiple, severe stab wounds,” the statement said.

Beth Stone, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said on Saturday that the body had been there for “some time” and neighbors had reported an odor.....

--more--"

"Acclaimed chef Barbara Lynch is free without bail after her arraignment Tuesday on a drunken driving charge in Gloucester. She is due back in court Aug. 18....."

She should have called for a ride, and she's lucky they are not playing taps for her.


"Andrew Bisignani, 70, pleaded guilty Thursday to 12 counts of procurement fraud, destroying public records, municipal bid-rigging, and other crimes related to his position as Town Manager of Saugus and Nahant from January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2014, according to the Essex District Attorney’s office. Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley sentenced him to two years of probation including six months of home confinement to begin after the federal home confinement sentence he is currently serving for an unrelated income tax case is completed in January, 2018. Judge Feeley also imposed a $60,000 fine. In a statement, Bisignani said, “My concerns and priorities were always the health, safety, and well-being of the community I served, never my own self-interest. I was not charged with, nor did I plead guilty to, any act of personal gain . . . My hope is that the citizens of the communities I served know that I always acted in what I believed to be their best interests.”

"Federal prosecutors in Boston are seeking an 87-month prison term for a “widely respected” member of the feared MS-13 street gang, which has been linked to multiple murders in eastern Massachusetts, court records show. The government filed its sentencing request Wednesday in US District Court in the case against Efrain Yanes-Vasquez, 35, who pleaded guilty in April to a charge of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity. His lawyer planned to file a response later Thursday. Yanes-Vasquez, of Chelsea and Pittsfield, was one of roughly 60 alleged members of MS-13 who were arrested last year on charges including drug trafficking, firearm violations, immigration offenses, and document fraud. Federal authorities charged six of the defendants with the July 2015 slaying of 16-year-old Jose Alexander Aguilar-Villanueva, who was found behind a bench at South Common Park in Lawrence with stab wounds. In their filing Wednesday, prosecutors said witnesses identified him as “a homeboy in MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique who was known to carry firearms and was widely respected for his work for MS-13 in El Salvador and the United States.” Authorities recorded several clique meetings at an auto-repair shop in Everett. After the owner told a clique member that he no longer wanted to host the meetings, Yanes-Vasquez “urged his fellow clique members to put on masks and put a gun in the garage owner’s face,” the filing said. “At the same clique meeting, the defendant expressed interest in purchasing a 9 millimeter firearm because he considered his .45 caliber firearm to be too heavy.” In addition, prosecutors wrote, Yanes-Vasquez participated in two “protection details,” in which he and other members protected the transfer of what they believed were multi-kilogram cocaine shipments. In fact, the shipments were part of a sting, as FBI agents watched the gangsters pick up the coke from one undercover officer and deliver the drugs to another undercover investigator, the filing said. Prosecutors said Yanes-Vasquez will “likely be deported to El Salvador at the completion of his sentence.” He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27....." 

Prosecutors seek to keep witness’s identity secret in ISIS case

So much for the right to be confronted by your accuser.

‘Whitey’ Bulger’s handler, John Connolly, given 2039 parole date in slaying

Boston police lieutenant exam discriminated against minorities, judge says

That what the blotter says?

A desperate mayor desperately wants help

Says he has ‘become a better listener’ and that things will change.

Grant to Boston schools will expand ‘social emotional learning’ programs

New England news in brief

Boston is a wicked sweaty city, report finds

Five communities targeted for ‘Slow Streets’ program

After 2 years, USS Constitution floats out of dry dock

A dozen people rescued after boat overturns off Wareham

Should have taken the bus:


*******************

"The future of money arrives by bus" by Hiawatha Bray Globe Staff  July 26, 2017

If the future of money is a cashless economy where all transactions are done electronically, some of us will get there by bus. Or train, or subway.

The MBTA said it is ready to move forward on a plan to ban the use of cash and have riders pay by some not-so-new-tech methods, ranging from smartphone apps to wave-and-go credit cards. In use in other parts of the world, these options haven’t been embraced by American consumers. But that will begin to change in a few years, when T riders find they will have only two options at the farebox — plastic or silicon.

As the T and other public transit systems worldwide move to digital payment systems, I expect consumers to become more comfortable using electronic payments for nearly everything they buy. When we get into the habit of unlocking a Red Line entry gate with a tap of an iPhone or a Visa card, we’ll probably start doing the same thing at the supermarket.....

--more--"

They are readying the system, and let's hope there are no glitches and everything runs smoothly.

Related:

"Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett, the former CEO of office furniture company Steelcase Inc., said Ford is considering exiting some markets. Hackett also said Ford will prove that it can compete in new mobility efforts like ride-sharing and driverless vehicles. He said Ford’s recent $1 billion investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence startup, will put the company at an ‘‘elite level’’ in terms of its deep learning capability. Net income rose 4 percent to $2 billion, thanks to a change in the company’s tax rate and a strong performance from its credit arm....."

Alexa, turn up my Kenmore AC; Sears cuts a deal with Amazon

Can't boys just be boys?

"Amazon has some job openings. Lots of them. The company on Wednesday said that it’s looking to fill more than 50,000 positions across the United States. The announcement comes at a time when the labor market is growing tight with back-to-school and holiday shopping around the corner. Others will be competing for many of those potential hires....."

AT&T shares jump most in 8 years on surprise mobile gains

"US stock indexes inched further into record territory Wednesday after AT&T, Boeing, and others joined the parade of big companies reporting stronger profits than analysts expected....."

Does it looks familiar

Market still inching up while tax collections fall.

The Fed, leaving rates unchanged, expects to wind down stimulus ‘relatively soon’

In the casino that is Wall Street, central banks dominate.

JPMorgan whistle-blowers seen reaping record $61 million bounty

Truth-tellers reaping a bounty, huh? 

Tells you all you need to know about the banker's pre$$.

"Wells Fargo & Co., already in the regulatory spotlight because of last year’s fake-account scandal, is drawing renewed scrutiny after a lawyer’s unauthorized release of sensitive client details for tens of thousands of accounts belonging to wealthy customers of its brokerage unit. Regulators have started asking questions about the breach, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, after the data was mistakenly provided to an attorney as part of a lawsuit involving two brothers, one a Wells Fargo employee and the other a former employee. A person briefed on the matter said Wells Fargo has determined the accounts were all from one brokerage branch in the Northeast."

*************************

Tewksbury Hospital clerk snooped in patient records

What a Dick

There a bathroom on this floor?

Don’t limit the powers of the FDA

Using CRISPR, scientists edit genome of viable human embryos


You mean the mutatiuons?

"The husband of a former Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. executive was arrested by federal authorities Thursday and charged with three counts of insider trading based on information he learned from his wife, according to the US attorney’s office in Boston. Harold L. Altvater, 55, was indicted on charges of illegally trading Ariad stock on three occasions between October 2013 and January 2014 using nonpublic information he got from his wife, who was a senior drug safety executive at the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company, concerning a drug used to treat certain forms of leukemia that was in clinical trials at the time. Altvater, a former anesthesiologist who lives in North Reading and operates a medical marijuana consultation practice with offices in Malden and Methuen, and two former Ariad senior employees were also charged with insider trading last month by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the same allegations. According to the US attorney’s office, Altvater, without his wife’s knowledge, traded Ariad shares in his personal brokerage accounts in advance of the company’s announcements on the performance of the drug Iclusig as it was going through the process of receiving approval status from the Food and Drug Administration based on information he learned from his wife who was involved with the FDA meetings. By selling his Ariad shares prior to Oct. 9, 2013, when Ariad announced it was pausing enrollment in clinical trials of the drug, Altvater avoided a loss of more than $75,000, according to the federal indictment. The SEC alleged he avoided losses and obtained insider profits totaling $102,026.30. Ariad was acquired by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $5.2 billion in January."

At least he was faithful.

Judge OKs $11.2m settlement for hacked Ashley Madison users  

It's a marital infidelity website.

Maybe you can sink your fangs into this:

As Immelt bows out, GE shows the stench of oil is hard to escape

"Animal advocates say removal of database hurts efforts to prevent abuse" by David Abel Globe Staff  July 19, 2017

For years, animal rights advocates had relied on a government database to identify dog breeding facilities, research labs, and zoos that had been cited for health and safety violations. Seven states used the data to enforce laws that seek to prevent animal abuse.

But in February, federal officials abruptly removed the information from the site, citing litigation and concerns from some breeders that the information could be used by environmental terrorists to target them.

Animal welfare advocates, however, decried the purging of the records as an assault on transparency and a setback for animal rights.....

--more--"

Developer of 45-story tower changes plans, will convert some apartments into condos

"Welcome to Boston, tech wizard/financial planner/GE executive! Your new apartment has elegant fixtures, stainless appliances, underground parking, a fireplace, and a view of the harbor in a gleaming new building. But that name, though. All over Greater Boston, luxurious new living quarters are sprouting up like gleaming, modernist weeds. And a lot of them, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, have names.  Somewhere along the way, we started naming our cats like people and our people like cats....."

See6-week-old kitten rescued by state trooper

He even gave it a meal.

********************************

The dinner guests include Ben AffleckMindy Kaling, and Danny Amendola (eat your heart out, Tom Brady).

To drink:

"Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the Trump administration’s newly appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is facing a backlash from public health advocates for having accepted $1 million from Coca-Cola to fight childhood obesity when she was Georgia’s top health official. The CDC shook off its ties to the beverage company in 2013 because of concerns about sugar, but Fitzgerald suggested she would consider accepting Coke money for CDC programs."

"Thinking of opening a craft brewery or a bar? You might want to avoid targeting millennials in your marketing — and definitely cut back on the beer. Goldman Sachs recently downgraded the stocks of two major brewers — Boston Beer Company (the makers of Sam Adams and Angry Orchard cider) and Constellation Brands (the third-largest beer company in the United States, and one known for importing Corona and Modelo) — due to ‘‘sluggish sales,’’ according to a CNBC report. Apparently, younger generations aren’t drinking as much beer as they used to. The data shows they now prefer wine and spirits instead."

That bodes well for Total Wine but not Baldwin’s.

For your entree:

"Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s rough week isn’t over yet. Shares of the burrito chain fell for a fifth day after it was hit by a new wave of damaging reports, dragging the stock down to its lowest level since last November....."

I wouldn't have anything to do with the buzz around GMOs, would it?

"Chipotle Mexican Grill, looking to finally put concerns about food safety behind it, sees the rollout of queso and other initiatives as a way to win back customers. The melted-cheese dish, a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine, is slated to be added to Chipotle menus nationally as early as mid-September. The company also is testing frozen margaritas, new salads, and a crispy cinnamon dessert, items that eventually could get wider adoption. Menu changes, which have been rare for Chipotle during its more than two-decade history, are part of efforts to get customers’ attention back on the food rather than health scares. The company sustained a new round of headaches last week, when a norovirus outbreak was reported in Virginia and mice were discovered at a Texas restaurant. Chipotle received a new subpoena from a US Attorney’s Office in California over the norovirus case, part of an ongoing investigation."

The problem is the freshness.

"To lure more mid-afternoon customers, McDonald’s is rejecting its recent health-food kick and rolling out the sweets: croissants, muffin tops, and a new sundae-topping station for ice cream lovers. The challenge is daunting. The hours between lunch and dinner are a fast-food dead zone....."

That's what you will end up if you eat that stuff.

DesertHalloween candy is already hitting shelves — and people aren’t pleased

After dinner:

"Philip Morris International Inc. missed profit forecasts as demand for traditional cigarettes continues to dry up, with smokers either quitting or opting for alternative products. The company shipped fewer cigarettes again last quarter and lowered its outlook for the year, sending the stock down Thursday. Shipments of traditional cigarettes fell more than 7 percent, following an 11.5 percent decline in the first quarter of 2017. The second-quarter drop was partly offset by demand for its heated tobacco units, but not enough to encourage investors."

And in the end....... 

"Authorities are investigating the death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington death as an apparent suicide, Los Angeles County coroner spokesman Brian Elias said Thursday. Bennington, who was 41, was found dead in his home near Los Angeles. Bennington helped Linkin Park, whose sound mixed rap and rock, become one of the most commercially successful acts in the 2000s....."

I've become so numb and it doesn't even matter

I put my trust in you.....!