Wednesday, July 5, 2017


See: This Blog on Life Support

Some children are more important than others.

"Independence Day marked with pomp, dazzle, lots of hot dogs" by Rebecca Gibian Associated Press  July 05, 2017

NEW YORK — From flashy firework displays for massive crowds to small-town parades, Americans celebrated the United States’ 241st birthday in both joyous and serious ways.

Tuesday’s events even went international, with an Independence Day exhibition taking Major League Baseball to London.

Along with the fireworks, July Fourth also comes with some light-hearted traditions, like competitive eating contests, but the holiday is taking place in a nation that has grappled with divides this past year. And in an era of concerns about security, the Independence Day celebrations are mixed with precautions.

Gluttony is good, Sudanese are starving.

For President Trump’s first Independence Day in office, he and first lady Melania Trump hosted a picnic for military families at the White House.

Rain threatened the event on the South Lawn but cleared up as Trump stepped out to address the crowd from a balcony. The Republican president pledged his ‘‘unwavering support’’ and told the crowd that he will ‘‘always have your back.’’

Among the performances slated for the D.C. festivities were The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, country musicians Kellie Pickler and Trace Adkins, and two characters who fought for independence in a galaxy far, far away — ‘‘Star Wars’’ droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. This year marks the movie’s 40th anniversary.

Across the nation, in Santa Monica, Calif., hundreds lined the streets under bright sunshine for seaside community’s annual celebration, which featured bands and classic cars. California’s love affair with the automobile was also front-and-center at South Pasadena’s parade.

Some would say that is why we are fighting the wars, but that is wrong. Oil companies would rather have peaceful conditions to insure profits. War carries risks, meaning the wars are for some other purpose. It's a slick dodge, though.

A bit of US sports culture was being displayed in London’s Hyde Park, where several former major leaguers competed in a home run derby. Major League Baseball aims to build interest in the sport in Britain and Europe, despite the region’s longstanding preference for soccer.

This is the point where I went be-de-be-bop-wawwahwah.... (droid shuts down)

I'm surprised he didn't mention the current tennis matches that are not under threat.

Charlie Hill, the managing director of Major League Baseball for Europe, said the Independence Day exhibition is an attempt to ‘‘lay down roots’’ in Britain. He says it’s possible that some official games will be played in London during the 2019 season.

Quite a reversal from 1776, huh?

Meanwhile, Denmark hosted the Rebild Festival, considered one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations outside the United States.

Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen — who recently tweeted that Trump ‘‘should tighten up, focus on the struggle for freedom and show respect for the presidency’’ in response to Trump’s own Twitter habit — told festival-goers that ‘‘when you are friends, you have the right to criticize.’’

Thank you. I love my country. That's why I'm trying to do my part to save it and bring it back from the edge of destruction.

Samuelsen added, however, that it is ‘‘impossible’’ to live without the United States.

Well, that's not go overboard here.

For about 15,000 people, July 4 was their first day as US citizens. More than 65 Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremonies were held across the country.....

Including in Boston, where else?


RelatedEsplanade visitors know what they want 

And I know what I do not.

That ties up the 4th coverage.


"Months of Russia controversy leaves Trump ‘boxed in’ ahead of Putin meeting" by Abby Phillip Washington Post  July 05, 2017

WARSAW — President Trump promised voters that he would strike ‘‘a great deal’’ with Russia and its autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. He has repeatedly labeled an investigation of Russian meddling in the US elections as ‘‘a hoax,’’ and he even bragged to Russian officials about firing the FBI director leading the probe.

Now nearly six months into his presidency, Trump is set to finally meet Putin at a summit Friday in Hamburg after a stop here in Warsaw — severely constrained and facing few good options that would leave him politically unscathed.

If Trump attempts to loosen sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or its interference in the 2016 election, Congress could defy him by pursuing even stronger penalties. And if he offers platitudes for Putin without addressing Russia’s election meddling, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the findings of his own intelligence officials that Russia intended to disrupt the democratic process on his behalf.

Why should he? They were wrong about the collapse of the Soviet Union (didn't see it), the WMD in Iraq, and now they missed the Korean guy's missiles. 

(Blog editor holds palms up to ceiling)

‘‘The president is boxed in,’’ said Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. ‘‘Why would you give Putin any kind of concession at the first meeting? What has he done to deserve that?

Also a former BG op-ed writer while at Harvard. Once counseled invasion of Syria, and they used to call it having him by the balls.

‘‘If you try to curry favor, offer concessions, pull back on the pressure, he’ll take advantage. He’ll see weakness in a vacuum,’’ said Burns, now a professor of diplomacy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

So you can't ever, ever be friends. Or maybe 50 years hence, after the World War destroys most of us all.

Moscow is clamoring for the Trump administration to return two Russian compounds in the United States that were seized by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian meddling. The Trump administration signaled in May it would be open to returning the properties.

Yet in the Senate, there is rare near-unanimity in favor of tough sanctions against Russia. Last month, the chamber voted 97 to 2 for a bill that would put new sanctions in place for Russia’s election meddling and would constrain Trump’s ability to lift existing penalties. The White House was forced to step up its lobbying of Republicans in the House to slow the progress of a similar measure.

Among the foreign policy experts who support Trump’s push for improved relations with Russia, there is growing frustration that the current political climate and Trump’s actions have made it all but impossible.

‘‘It has been extraordinarily difficult for Trump, even if he had the means to do so, to do what is in the vital national interest, that is, improve relations with Russia,’’ said Jack Matlock, a former ambassador to the Soviet Union under President Reagan. ‘‘Treating them as if they are enemies is absolutely absurd, and yet it permeates much of the attitude in Congress.’’

Well, we know who has Congre$$ in its pocket. It's obvious.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has been moving on multiple fronts to soften the US stance on Russia.

Trump wants Russia’s cooperation in a number of simmering conflicts, including the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Russia’s use of North Korean laborers whose pay goes directly to the regime in Pyongyang, despite its nuclear weapons program.

I imagine that will be a topic of discussion now.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has tried to ward off Congress from imposing more sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine, saying that getting tough now could hamper cooperation on other issues like fighting the Islamic State. 

In the current context, we should all be hopeful that it is Tillerson who has his hands on the till.

Despite Trump’s consistent overtures to Putin, however, US-Russia relations have not improved since he took office.

Putin has strongly denied any interference in the 2016 election and has accused US politicians of Cold War-era hysteria. Meanwhile, Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s massacre of his own citizens in the country’s civil war has further engendered distrust among US political leaders.

Yup, okay, got you, WaPo.

In light of the continued pressure from both parties, White House aides have sought to play down expectations for this first engagement between Trump and Putin.

I'm not expecting much other than what ridiculousness will be brought to me via my pre$$.\


So before he gets over there......

"Germany warns of Russian cyber-attacks ahead of election" Associated Press  July 05, 2017

BERLIN — The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency and Germany’s interior minister warn that Russia is engaged in hacking attacks and that officials ‘‘assume that there will be such attempts on Germany’’ ahead of national elections on Sept. 24.

Yeah, so if the right candidate doesn't win..... sigh. 

It'll be the May, Merkel, and Macron show in Europe.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Tuesday that documents stolen from the German Parliament in 2015 in a major cyberattack may get leaked to undermine lawmakers or members of the government in the coming weeks. The files have so far not yet been published anywhere.

Hans-George Maassen of the BfV agency said that such attacks may not be so much about weakening one particular party, but to ‘‘hamper the trust in the functioning of our democracy.’’

(Blog editor snorts)


This endless flogging of Russia for interfering in everyone's elections is getting real old, especially coming from CIA outlets masked as newspapers.

"Poland moves toward extraditing US man in Nazi case" Associated Press  July 05, 2017

WARSAW — Poland’s special prosecutors say they have taken steps toward seeking the extradition from the United States of a Minnesota man they accuse of participating in a World War II massacre.

The man has been identified as 98-year-old Michael Karkoc, a former commander in a Nazi unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians —including women and children— during the war.

The National Remembrance Institute said Tuesday the request was forwarded to Poland’s Embassy in Washington last month for handing over to US authorities.

The motion’s status could not be immediately confirmed as the embassy was closed for the July 4 US holiday.

Karkoc’s family denies he was involved in any war crimes.


You know, the stuff is dragged up to serve a purpose and if you want modern day examples Trump can turn his eye south and east to see the damage that has been done in his name.

"Auschwitz Memorial condemns congressman’s gas chamber video" AP  July 05, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum have criticized a Louisiana congressman for narrating part of a five-minute video from inside a former gas chamber at the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

Louisiana news outlets report that US Representative Clay Higgins posted the video Saturday. In it, the Republican says the gas chamber killings took only about 20 minutes and show why the US military must be invincible.

A post on the Auschwitz Memorial’s official Twitter account said Tuesday that a former gas chamber is not a stage but a place where there should be respectful silence. Later Tuesday, it posted a photo of the entrance sign to that building, asking visitors to maintain silence at the gas chamber.

Yeah, everyone keep your mouths shut rather than questioning -- not denying -- but questioning received history.

Higgins’ offices were closed Tuesday for the July Fourth holiday, and he could not immediately be reached for comment.


"Lockerbie bomber’s family launches bid to appeal conviction" Associated Press  July 05, 2017

LONDON — The family of a Libyan man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing launched a new effort Tuesday to posthumously clear his name.

How very brave of them.

Relatives of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi say he was wrongly convicted of the airliner bombing, which killed 270 people.

The family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, handed a dossier of evidence to the Glasgow offices of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which will decide whether to hand the case to an appeals court.

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. Many victims were American college students flying home for Christmas. Among the dead were 23 New Englanders, including 13 from Massachusetts.

Blamed Iran for a long time, allegedly in retaliation for the U.S. Vincennes shooting down the airliner.

Al-Megrahi lost one appeal and abandoned another before being freed in 2009 on compassionate grounds. He died of cancer in 2012, still protesting his innocence.

You know, looking back on it now.....

The latest appeal seeks to overturn the murder conviction, citing concerns about the evidence that convicted al-Megrahi, including doubts about the timer alleged to have detonated the bomb.

It is supported by several relatives of Lockerbie victims.


Time to get out of Europe:


A day later, taxi drivers regroup and reflect on disastrous crash

Gas tank getting low again?

"Pennsylvania’s moribund drilling industry, which has struggled with persistently low prices and a dearth of infrastructure to get its product to market, is showing signs of life. Natural gas producers drilled 397 shale wells through the first six months of 2017, more than twice the number they sank in the same period last year. About 20 additional drilling rigs are exploring for natural gas. Fracking crews are suddenly in short supply. While the pace remains much slower than it was during the industry’s boom years earlier this decade, when a drilling frenzy transformed sleepy towns and rural areas into economic hotbeds, 2017 has produced a modest rebound and hope of better days ahead in the Marcellus Shale, the nation’s largest natural gas field. ‘‘There’s a cautious optimism out there right now,’’ said David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group. One big reason is that natural gas prices have recovered from 20-year lows, nearly doubling since last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence."

It's the Promised Land, in more ways than one. 

It's a $hame some can't $ee it:

"A dispute over whether the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline improperly reported the discovery of American Indian artifacts in North Dakota will linger into the fall, as the company continues fighting a relatively minor violation and small fine. Energy Transfer Partners has been battling since November when state regulators filed a complaint and proposed a $15,000 fine, which pales in comparison to the $3.8 billion cost of the pipeline that began moving oil last month. The complaint came after the Public Service Commission, which oversees pipelines, was notified by a third-party inspector that pipeline crews last October had diverted construction of the pipeline around Native American artifacts. The company had obtained the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office but not of the commission. The artifacts weren’t disturbed and ETP maintains it didn’t intentionally do anything wrong."

Well, the gig is up (it's like peace talk in a war paper)!


"US-backed forces breach wall around ISIS-held Raqqa in Syria" by Sarah El Deeb Associated Press  July 04, 2017

BEIRUT — US-backed forces in Syria have breached the wall around Raqqa’s Old City, the US military said Tuesday, marking a major advance in the weeks-old battle to drive Islamic State militants out of their self-declared capital.

Would have held had the Romans built it.

The US Central Command said the coalition struck two ‘‘small portions’’ of the Rafiqah Wall, allowing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces ‘‘to advance into the most heavily fortified portion’’ of the city, bypassing booby traps and snipers. It said the strikes left most of the 2.5 kilometer wall intact.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the breaching of the wall was the most important development to date in the battle for Raqqa. He said three SDF units advanced toward the wall under air cover, breaking through the defenses, and that heavy clashes were underway.

Footage provided by the SDF showed their fighters roaming Qasr al-Banat, a historic quarter inside Raqqa’s Old City. Another unit entered through the so-called Baghdad Gate, opening up a second front inside the Old City.

Brett McGurk, the top US envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State group, hailed the breach, saying it was a ‘‘key milestone’’ in the campaign to seize the stronghold.

The US military said ISIS fighters were using the historic wall as a fighting position and had planted explosives at several openings. It said coalition forces were making every effort to protect civilians and preserve the historic sites.

If you read and report this stuff like I do everyday, this becomes saddening. It is like everything is in a vacuum.

The SDF launched a multipronged assault on Raqqa in early June, after securing the surrounding countryside. On Sunday, the US-backed fighters crossed the Euphrates River on the southern edge of the city, completing its encirclement.

The Islamic State group seized Raqqa, their first major city stronghold in Syria, in January 2014. The city later became the de facto capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate, stretching across lands controlled by the militant group in Syria and Iraq.

UN officials say 50,000 to 100,000 civilians remain in the city amid ‘‘dire’’ conditions. Those who try to escape risk being attacked by militants or forcibly recruited as human shields.

The US-led coalition is providing close air support to the SDF, which has already driven the extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria.

Several Islamic State leaders were once based in Raqqa, where the group plotted attacks in Europe. The loss of the northern Syrian city, one of the last ISIS strongholds, would deal a major blow to the group. The militants are also on the verge of losing their last foothold in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, from where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate in July 2014.

As militants lose ground, tensions are rising among the array of forces battling them.

Turkey shelled several villages in Syria overnight Tuesday, killing a woman and two children, according to Kurdish officials and Syrian activists. The Kurdish-run Hawar News Agency said the three were killed, and several others wounded, near Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave near the border with Turkey.

Turkey’s private Dogan News Agency said Turkish artillery units responded after the border region came under fire late Monday.

The SDF is dominated by the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the Kurdish rebels fighting in its southeast.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said Tuesday that Turkey may launch a cross-border operation into Afrin if it constitutes a ‘‘constant security threat.’’


Nothing about the burning buildings in Iraq today.

"US military carries out airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia" by Abdi Guled Associated Press  July 04, 2017

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The US military says it has carried out an airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia as the Trump administration quietly steps up efforts against the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Pentagon spokeswoman Major Audricia M. Harris said the strike occurred Sunday afternoon Somalia time and the United States was assessing the results.

She did not call it a drone strike. Somali officials have said the United States has carried out several drone strikes in recent years against the Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab.

Also known as "Al-CIA-Bob."

The airstrike follows one in June that the United States said killed eight Islamic extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the country’s south. Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said Somali and partner forces destroyed the training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

President Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities. The United States in April announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment there in roughly two decades, saying it was for logistics training of Somalia’s army.

And yet he is holding back total war.

The Horn of Africa nation is trying to rebuild after more than two decades as a failed state, and its chaos helped in the rise of al-Shabab. Now a new threat has emerged in the country’s north with fighters claiming alliance to the Islamic State group.

That traces all the way back to 2006 when they had an Islamic government. Lasted all of 6 months before it was overthrown and chaos ensued. The memory of it is at the bottom of my Somalia file.

Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The extremist group has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it.

That's the answer to everything.

Pressure is growing on Somalia’s military to assume full responsibility for the country’s security. The 22,000-strong African Union multinational force, AMISOM, which has been supporting the fragile central government, plans to start withdrawing in 2018 and leave by the end of 2020.

The US military has been among those expressing concern that Somalia’s forces are not yet ready.

Then we will just have to send more soldiers, 'eh?


And where in the world are the antiwar voices (I know she was in Afghanistan, but notice there is no mention of Israel/Palestine)? Unfortunately, the omission of foreign wars in the discussion is all too normal.


I end where I began

"Casket with organ tissue found on Philadelphia sidewalk" Associated Press  July 05, 2017

PHILADELPHIA — Police are investigating the discovery of a small casket found on a north Philadelphia sidewalk that contained some embalmed remains believed to be those of an infant or child.

Police said the small white casket was reported shortly after 9 p.m. Monday across from the Mount Vernon Cemetery. Inside, officers found no body, but a bag with what appeared to be internal organ tissue.

Police said a medical examiner confirmed that the bag contained embalmed internal organs, which Chief Inspector Scott Small said are believed to have belonged to an infant or child.

The casket was taken to the medical examiner’s office. Investigators are checking the cemetery across the street and another nearby cemetery to see if the casket could have come from there, and also contacting nearby funeral homes.


Time to cut this short:

"Three people are dead and one wounded after an apparent after-hours holdup by two gunmen at a barber shop, Alabama police said....."

Also see:

NYC police officer fatally shot while sitting in police truck

Looks like terrorism.

Two women, one man wounded in South End shooting

Time to go back to camp.