Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sunday Globe Special: Day of Rest

I'm working on a freelance contingency basis from summer camp:

"As Mosul’s battlefield shrinks, risk of friendly fire grows" by Susannah George Associated Press  July 01, 2017

MOSUL, Iraq — US Army Colonel Pat Work and a team of about a dozen soldiers drove through western Mosul in two armored vehicles. Iraq’s Prime Minister had just declared the end of the Islamic State’s caliphate the day before, but the fighting still raged as Iraqi forces prepared for another big push.

The American officer had a series of urgent calls to make: to talk face-to-face with generals from the Iraqi Army, the federal police, and the Iraqi special forces.

While the gains in the Old City are bringing Iraqi troops closer to victory against ISIS in Mosul, they also mean the three branches of the country’s security forces are now fighting in closer quarters than ever before.

The new battle space and lingering communication shortcomings mean Iraqi ground troops are at increased risk of being hit by nonprecision fire like mortars and artillery by their partner Iraqi forces, he explained.

Throughout the course of the day Work shuttled between bases and command centers inside the city meeting with Iraqi commanders deep inside Mosul, underscoring the increasingly prominent US role in the offensive as it enters its final days.

The various forces that make up Iraq’s military have long struggled with coordination. While the Mosul operation is overseen by a joint operations command and the prime minister, forces on the ground maintain independent command structures, standards, and cultures.

One of Work’s stops was at a modest house in a residential west Mosul neighborhood. About a dozen US troops and Iraqi soldiers were hunched over computers identifying ISIS targets just a few hundred meters away ahead of the next day’s operation.

The presence of US forces at the patrol base deep inside Mosul is a level of support that had not been authorized when the Mosul fight first began.

Under the administration of President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis moved US combat advisers closer to the fight by authorizing US troops to partner with Iraqi forces at the battalion level.

The US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq has slowly expanded over the past three years from a campaign of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces who largely stayed within heavily fortified bases to an operation with some 6,000 American troops on the ground, many operating close to frontline fighting. 

That's the official number; add in the support staff and contractors and the numbers zoom.

The evolution suggests that despite a large training program designed to generate enough soldiers to retake Mosul, Coalition officials assessed Iraqi forces lacked the tactical skills to conduct the operation without close support.

With the vast majority of Mosul retaken from ISIS, soldiers trained by the coalition to fight in combat are now transitioning to act as hold forces to help provide security.

Even after the last pockets of the city are retaken, Work said he doesn’t expect that will necessarily mean an end to the US role in Mosul.

He says ‘‘there is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes.’’


Looks like victory!

"In a desperate Syrian City, a test of Trump’s policies" by Michael R. Gordon New York Times   July 01, 2017

TABQA, Syria — Life is slowly returning to the streets of Tabqa, a city of about 100,000 strategically positioned just 30 miles west of Raqqa, the capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Women are well represented on the town’s new governing council, and children greet visitors with a victory sign, but nearly two months after the Islamic State was driven off by the US-led coalition fighting the militants, the needs are even more vast, with no functioning hospitals or schools, not even the heavy equipment needed to uncover the dead.

In that respect, Tabqa stands as a laboratory for testing the Trump administration’s policy of empowering commanders in Syria to make battlefield decisions to defeat the militants while relying on a small team of State Department officials and Army civil affairs units to cement the uneasy peace that follows — all without getting into the business of nation-building. 

(Blog editor frowns. He understands the elitist view coming from on high by the second head of the NYT hydra regarding Iraq, but he is talking about human beings, men, women, and children, as a lab test! That's what they think of us all, these globe-kicking sh**s!)

It is also a dry run for the impending capture of Raqqa, a larger, far more densely populated and better defended city.

“Tabqa is the most immediate post-ISIS town where we could really get our feet on the ground,” said Brett H. McGurk, President Trump’s special envoy to the coalition.

The United States’ strategy in Syria is to wage the ground campaign against the Islamic State through local forces in order to maintain a small US presence. But even that requires the deployment of American advisers, plus artillery, satellite-guided rockets, Apache attack helicopters, and Army Rangers — some 1,000 troops in all.

The US presence comes as Iran and the Shi’ite militias it backs, as well as the Syrian government and Russia, are maneuvering to control territory in eastern Syria after Raqqa is taken.

The visit to Tabqa on Thursday was a first opportunity for McGurk, a small group of senior coalition officials and the Western news media to get a look at the newly liberated city, still struggling to recover from the physical and psychological scars of nearly three years of harsh control by the militants. 

It's in rubble, but liberated!

“Basically, what you’ve got here is hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies in the rubble, which is causing a lot of flies, the flies are biting kids, the kids are getting infected,” said Al Dwyer, a senior official with the US Agency for International Development, as American Special Operations forces drove to Tabqa.“Lot of rats. Smells. This is keeping people from coming back in.”

AID = CIA, and the world knows it.

The Tabqa operation was proposed in mid-March to Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US-led task force that is battling the Islamic State, by the top commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the combination of Syrian Kurds and Arab fighters who would provide the ground troops for the battle. It was approved without a single White House meeting.

Just one week later, hundreds of Arab and Kurdish fighters, including many who had never flown before, were airlifted on US helicopters and Osprey planes to the southern banks of Lake Assad, across from Tabqa.

Barges ferried their vehicles across the water while another group of Syrian fighters to the east hopped from island to island as they zipped along the Euphrates on US fast boats.

In the fierce battle that ensued, about 100 Kurdish and Arab fighters were killed and perhaps 10 times as many militants. One of the final confrontations occurred inside the 200-foot-tall Tabqa Dam, which used to supply 20 percent of Syria’s electricity.


To try to save the dam, Syrian fighters cut a deal granting about 70 militants safe passage out of town. But the Islamic State did its best to sabotage the complex anyway: The aging red turbines were blown up while the control panels were sprayed with bullets. 

Oh, they let the terrorists escape again.

Syrian engineers have been trying to get one or two turbines running by cannibalizing parts from the wreckage. But with no Soviet-era parts on hand, nobody seems to think that the structure will be generating power in the months ahead.

Still, the question foremost in the minds of Tabqa’s residents is how they are going to return their lives to some semblance of normal.

Let me put it this way: life will never be the same again.

“There is no electricity, no food, no bread, and we need fuel for our trucks,” said Khalid Mohammed Ali Tata, 54. “Also, there are no jobs.”

The United Nations is active in Syria but has yet to begin relief efforts in Tabqa, and it has mounted only one effort outside of the areas squarely controlled by the Assad government. That leaves the United States to serve as a stopgap for the most immediate needs.

OMG! They are the ones that created the need.


That article and analysis was for you, readers. I'm sick of NYT slop, and given the choice wouldn't read a word. Why did I/ Because it was there.


"Obama pushes tolerance, respect in childhood home of Jakarta" by Margie Mason Associated Press  July 01, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — After another week of dust-ups between the media and President Trump, his predecessor shared a bit of wisdom Saturday from the other side of the world about tolerance and taking the daily news cycle in stride.

‘‘I wasn’t worried about what was in the newspapers today,’’ President Obama said during a nostalgic visit to Indonesia’s capital, his childhood home. ‘‘What I was worried about was, ‘What are they going to write about me 20 years from now when I look back?’ ’’

That's the opposite view of his predecessor, isn't it? 

For the record, I'm not nostalgic for either one. Right now it is buckle up tight and hold on to Trump.

Obama was greeted by a crowd of thousands, including leaders, students, and businesspeople, in Jakarta, where he opened the Fourth Congress of Indonesian Diaspora. He is wildly popular in Indonesia, where many view him as an adopted son. A statue of the boy still remembered as ‘‘Barry’’ stands outside his old elementary school.

Obama lived in the country with his mother, an anthropologist, and his Indonesian stepfather. The couple split up after having his half-sister, and Obama moved back to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his grandparents. But he said he has never forgotten the years he spent in Indonesia.

‘‘My time here made me cherish respect for people’s differences,’’ he said.

Obama’s speech came on the final leg of his 10-day vacation in Indonesia.

In addition to visiting the temples in the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java, he and his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia, also went rafting and toured the resort island of Bali

On Friday, he met Indonesian President Joko ‘‘Jokowi’’ Widodo at the grand Bogor Palacecq in West Java, just outside Jakartacq.

Obama largely stayed away from US politics and the Trump administration, but the Indonesian visit marked Obama’s first trip to Asia since leaving office. He urged the country to be a light of democracy and to never stop embracing differences. Indonesia has faced a rise in Islamic radicalism and antigay attacks, and was recently condemned by rights groups for jailing Jakarta’s former governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian, for blasphemy....

At least they are an ally when it comes to the upcoming war with China, phew!


"Xi delivers tough speech on Hong Kong, as protests mark handover anniversary" by Austin Ramzy New York Times   July 01, 2017

HONG KONG — President Xi Jinping of China delivered a tough speech Saturday at the end of a three-day visit to the semiautonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong, warning against politicizing disputes or challenging the authority of the central government.

But he didn’t stick around for the reaction, as thousands of people took to the streets in an annual protest calling for greater democracy.

Xi came to Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese control. He inspected thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops stationed here, met with local dignitaries, and swore in Carrie Lam as the city’s new chief executive, the top local official.

He praised the city for its success as a prosperous global hub of trade and finance, but he also warned against resistance to Beijing’s control and influence, which has bubbled here for years.

Hong Kong is a “plural society” with “different views and even major differences on some issues,” Xi said while speaking to dignitaries at the inauguration of Hong Kong’s government at the city’s convention center along Victoria Harbor.

He cautioned that “making everything political or deliberately creating differences” will “severely hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development.”

Xi warned that “any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government” or “use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible.”

After the two-faced stab in the back by Trump, China is telling the CIA to stay out of Hong Kong.

His comments on “infiltration and sabotage” in particular signal that the government will likely try to resurrect security legislation, known as Article 23, against sedition and subversion, said Willy Lam, a political analyst and adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

It's okay if Macron, May, or Merkel does it in response to false flag terror.

“This is the first time Xi Jinping or anyone in the leadership has mentioned a ‘red line,’” he said. “It’s a warning to the pro-independence or other so-called anti-China elements to not challenge the authority of the central government.”

Xi said the key to Hong Kong’s success was the “one country, two systems” formulation, under which Hong Kong maintains its own legal, economic and local political system. But many in the city worry that the system is eroding under growing pressure from mainland China.

The disappearance of local booksellers and a politically connected billionaire, who were apparently abducted by mainland security officials, was seen as an example of the deteriorating rule of law and increased meddling from Beijing.

“Hong Kong originally had freedom of speech, but in the future, under the influence of the Chinese government, it won’t be so easy to speak out,” Shandi Leung, 25, said as she stood alongside the slow line of protesters walking through the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong island.

Good thing that will never happen here, in America, nor on the Internet controlled by Google, Facebook, and the like, right? Right?

Around her, people carried signs for a host of causes: workers’ rights, community agriculture, independent media and Falun Gong, the spiritual movement banned in mainland China. They marched in stultifying heat and intermittent downpours, united by calls for a more direct say in their government and concerns their civil liberties are under threat.

I know how they feel.

“The Chinese government, they don’t want to listen to anyone in Hong Kong or anywhere else,” said Lam Ping, a 53-year-old hospital technician who carried a sign calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese Nobel laureate who was recently moved from prison to a hospital for cancer treatment. “They care about the one country, not the two systems.”

How did Zionism enter the discussion?

On Friday, Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Hong Kong’s affairs were a domestic matter and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which outlined Hong Kong’s return to China and the protection of basic rights for its population, was “history and of no practical significance.”

He was addressing comments by Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, on the importance of civil liberties in Hong Kong, and remarks by a US State Department spokeswoman who said Washington officials were concerned about intrusions on freedom of the press and other rights in the city.

As their boss tweets away.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman responded that the “Sino-British Joint Declaration remains as valid today as it did when it was signed over 30 years ago,” Reuters reported.

July 1 is a public holiday in Hong Kong to mark the handover to Chinese sovereignty, but it also has become a big day for prodemocracy protests.

Nothing like spoiling a party.

In 2003, a half-million people took to the streets to protest the government’s handling of the deadly SARS outbreak and efforts to enact the Article 23 national security law.

The size of subsequent protests has varied as discontent with the government has ebbed and flowed.

In fall 2014, thousands of demonstrators occupied key roadways for months to demand the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, step down and that the public be given a bigger say in choosing his replacement, but Leung remained, finishing a term that ended Saturday.



"A man has been charged with kidnapping a visiting University of Illinois scholar from China who authorities believe to be dead after she disappeared three weeks ago. Brendt Allen Christensen, 28, of Champaign, a graduate student in physics, was charged Friday and is in federal custody pending a Monday court appearance. Yingying Zhang, 26, disappeared June 9, weeks after arriving at the Urbana-Champaign campus (AP)."

The incident that sparks war?

"US and Philippine naval ships on Saturday completed patrols of waters in the southern Philippines, where kidnappings by ransom-seeking Abu Sayyaf militants have sparked alarm. A Navy warship, the USS Coronado, and the Philippine navy frigate Alcaraz conducted the four-day patrol at the Sulu Sea (AP)."

That could spill over into the Indian Ocean:

"A woman and a young man were killed and several other people injured during anti-India protests and clashes in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday after a counterinsurgency operation by government forces killed two rebels in the region (AP)."

First I've seen of India and Pakistan since Tuesday.


Pope pushes out German hard-liner

World leaders bid farewell to late German chancellor Kohl

Bill Clinton was there and that made certain people unhappy.

Enid Shapiro, 91, ‘grande dame’ of Boston’s Jewish community

Maybe that cheered them up.

"Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Saturday rejected demands that she appoint commissioners to run the local council blamed for mishandling the response to the London high-rise fire, as the crisis deepened over who should be held accountable for the 80 deaths. London Mayor Sadiq Khan had asked May to take the step because he said the council for Kensington and Chelsea had lost trust (AP)."

"Ukraine accused the Russian security services Saturday of launching a cyberattack that locked up computers across the world. The Ukrainian security agency alleged that similarities between the malicious software and previous attacks in Ukraine revealed the work of Russian operatives. It added the attackers appeared uninterested in profiting from the ransomware and more focused on sowing chaos. Russia had no official response (AP)." 

It's EUSrael by default until proven otherwise. Sorry.

Given what my nation has done and is doing around the globe for decades, I'm hardly feeling patriotic.

Now pass the hot dogs and.... ????????

Have a good 4th of July, readers.