Monday, July 10, 2017

Keeping the Faith

Because I owe it to you, the reader.

Today's top story:

"Trump Jr. was allegedly promised harmful material on Clinton" by Jo Becker and Matt Apuzzo New York Times   July 09, 2017

NEW YORK — President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Manafort and Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents that were described to The New York Times.

The source has to be Comey. Couldn't do it right after he was seen entering the building, but we all know from where this is coming. Notice the Times is not claiming to have seen the documents. That's important. They are running this without verification, and the Globe patched it in as their lead front page story.

What is also amazing is the spin. Nothing about Obama's criminal surveillance of the campaign and unmasking of the transition team. It's now the dirty tricks of the Trump campaign narrative.

I'm not defending Trump or the rest; however, within the thin framework and context of ma$$ media propaganda, this is nothing but more ax-grinding.

The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.

The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help, and while Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving members of his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.

It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Manafort was consolidating power.

It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Clinton. But the people interviewed about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.

In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance.

The Washington Post reported that Rob Goldstone, a music publicist active with the Miss Universe pageant, arranged the meeting at the request of a Russian client.

“After pleasantries were exchanged,” Trump Jr. said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous, and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

The dossier she offered was pee-pee, remember that?

He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, a US law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir Putin that he retaliated by halting US adoptions of Russian children.

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Trump Jr. said.

When he was first asked about the meeting Saturday, he said only that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Clinton.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, said Sunday that “the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

Lawyers for Kushner referred to their statement a day earlier, confirming that he voluntarily disclosed the meeting but referring questions about it to Trump Jr. Manafort declined to comment.

In his statement, Trump Jr. said he asked Manafort and Kushner to attend but did not tell them what the meeting was about.

Political campaigns collect opposition research from many quarters but rarely from sources linked to foreign governments.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to attempt to tip the election toward Trump, in part by stealing and then providing to WikiLeaks internal Democratic Party and Clinton campaign e-mails that were embarrassing to Clinton. WikiLeaks began releasing the material on July 22.

You gotta believe, and my pre$$ pretty much ignored the Wikileaks. What they did carry was buried inside other items.

A special prosecutor and congressional committees are investigating the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians.

Trump has disputed that happened, but the investigation has cast a shadow over his administration.

On Sunday morning on Fox News, the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, described the Trump Tower meeting as a “big nothing burger.”

That's a name I haven't seen lately (No one else wants his job).

“Talking about issues of foreign policy, issues related to our place in the world, issues important to the American people is not unusual,” he said.

But Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, one of the panels investigating Russian election interference, said he wanted to question “everyone that was at that meeting.”

The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act.

Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit the man after whom it was named, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Putin’s rule.

Veselnitskaya’s clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting.

Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the FBI, according to a former senior law enforcement official.

There is confirmation of my suspicious source.

The Trump Tower meeting was disclosed to government officials in recent weeks, when Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance.

The Times reported in April that he had failed to disclose any foreign contacts, including meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of a Russian state bank.

Failure to report such contacts can result in a loss of access to classified information and even, if information is knowingly falsified or concealed, imprisonment.

Then Clinton should be in jail, right?

Kushner’s advisers said at the time that the omissions were an error and that he had immediately notified the FBI he would be revising the filing.

In a statement Saturday, Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said: “He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition,” the statement said.....

Why is a Clinton lawyer and 9/11 commissioner defending Kushner?



"‘Time to move forward,’ Trump says after Putin denies election hacking" by Julie Hirschfeld Davis New York Times  July 09, 2017

(Blog editor's initial reaction was not again!)

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Sunday that he had “strongly pressed” President Vladimir Putin of Russia twice about election meddling during their first face-to-face meeting last week but did not dispute Moscow’s claim that he had accepted Putin’s denial of involvement.

Trump declared it “time to move forward” in a constructive US relationship with Russia.

Trump’s account, in a thread of morning Twitter posts, of his lengthy and closely scrutinized closed-door meeting with Putin was an attempt to move beyond the controversy after Moscow characterized the election discussion as a meeting of minds rather than a showdown between the two leaders.

Trump’s tweets, though, did little to dispel that notion. He characterized his position as an “opinion” and asserted that he was prepared to team with Moscow on forming an “impenetrable cyber security unit” to thwart future breaches.

US intelligence agencies say Russia carried out a historic effort to interfere with American democracy last year, and will attempt to again.


The posts, which drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, served as Trump’s first public comments on the meeting after the White House declined to schedule the customary presidential news conference at the end of the Group of 20 gathering in Hamburg.

Oh, and the pre$$ is offended!

Trump’s handling of the meeting with Putin has become a flash point in the United States, and will continue to be dissected amid the multiple investigations into whether the president’s campaign worked with Russia.

Republicans and Democrats on Sunday reacted with alarm to the president’s approach.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “He is hurting his presidency. I want a clear message to Russia that you’ll pay a price for undercutting democracy, and if President Trump doesn’t embrace this, I think he will be empowering the Russians and betraying democracy.”

The AIPAC check is in the mail.

Of the idea of teaming with Russia on cybersecurity, Graham said, “It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, also expressed grave concern about a US-Russia cybersecurity initiative. “Partnering with Putin on a ‘cyber security unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘chemical weapons unit,’ ” he said on Twitter, referring to President Bashar Assad of Syria, who has repeatedly used chemical weapons to attack his own people.

Democrats, too, expressed deep skepticism about Trump’s strategy.

Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the president’s idea of a joint effort with Moscow against cyberintrusions “dangerously naive.”

“I don’t think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of a credible partner in some cybersecurity unit,” he said Sunday on “State of the Union.” “If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

Will have to reroute them from Tel Aviv.

Putin broke with his normal practice of not speaking to reporters and held a lengthy news conference Sunday. A day before, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — the only other Russian official in the meeting, which also included Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — had said that the election meddling allegations had been “exaggerated” by some in the United States without proof.

Yet Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, on Sunday described a confrontational meeting between the two presidents and in separate interviews broadcast over the weekend, Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador, said Putin’s description of the meeting was an attempt to obfuscate. “This is Russia trying to save face, and they can’t,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.”

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said three times that President Trump had handled the meeting “brilliantly.”


Related: "In 1991, Boris N. Yeltsin took the oath of office as the first elected president of the Russian republic.

Meet your next president, America:

"At private dinners, Pence quietly courts big donors and corporate executives" by Kenneth P. Vogel New York Times   July 09, 2017

(Blog editor's reaction was again!?!)

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has been courting scores of the country’s most influential donors, corporate executives, and conservative political leaders over the past several months in a series of private gatherings and one-on-one conversations.

The centerpiece of the effort is a string of dinners held every few weeks at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington.

Pence and his wife, Karen, have presided over at least four such soirees, and more are in the works.

Each has drawn roughly 30 to 40 guests, including a mix of wealthy donors such as Chicago hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin and brokerage firm founder Charles Schwab, as well as Republican fund-raisers and executives from companies like Dow Chemical and military contractor United Technologies.

The guests and their families collectively donated or helped raise millions of dollars to support the Trump-Pence ticket in 2016, and some are viewed in Republican finance circles as likely supporters for two new groups created to advocate for President Trump, Pence, their legislative agenda, and congressional allies.

The dinner guest lists were curated in part by two of Pence’s closest advisers, who have also played important roles in starting the new political groups, America First Policies and America First Action.

The off-site events and dinners at Pence’s residence underscore the vice president’s outreach to donors for an administration led by a president who dislikes courting contributors, who often expect personal attention in exchange for their support.

Pence’s activities have fueled speculation among Republican insiders that he is laying the foundation for his own political future, independent from Trump.

Pence’s aides point out that he also has dinners at the residence for groups other than donors, including members of Congress, world leaders, military families, civic leaders and friends.

They cast the donor dinners as an effort to build support for the administration’s agenda, not for Pence personally.

“Mike Pence is the ultimate team player and works every day to help the president succeed,” said Robert T. Grand, an Indianapolis lawyer who helped raise money for Pence’s campaigns in Indiana for Congress and for governor.

Pence’s office declined to release the lists of guests invited to the dinners, which have not appeared on schedules released by the vice president’s office to the media.

Marc Lotter, Pence’s press secretary, called the dinners “private” and said that the vice president had not held any political fund-raisers at his residence, which would be complicated by a law barring the solicitation of political contributions in government buildings.

Pence’s willingness to use his residence to host wealthy donors has been reassuring to Republican finance and political operatives, who worry that their congressional candidates could be severely hampered if they faced financial shortfalls during 2018 midterm elections, when Trump’s unpopularity is expected to create strong headwinds.

The election is already fixed and the narrative is being reinforced. What a Democratic House will be able to do is shut down the investigations into Obama, Lynch, and Susan Rice, protecting the scandalously treasonous spying on the Trump campaign, while also allowing the phony charges regarding Russian collusion to continue towards impeachment if necessary.

Of course, with all the gerrymandering does your vote even matter?

The dinners are “a smart way for Vice President Pence and his team to recognize major supporters of his and the president’s agenda, and build resources that are going to be necessary for the upcoming battles,” said Charles Spies, a leading Republican election lawyer.

Associates say Pence has discussed with the president the importance of encouraging major donors to support America First Policies.

Pence signaled his own support for the group by appearing with his wife at a reception in Washington this spring for prospective donors to America First Policies that was hosted by a fund-raising consultant, Jeff Miller.

The group was founded soon after Trump’s inauguration by political operatives outside the administration, including two close advisers to Pence — Nick Ayers and Marty Obst — who helped arrange the Naval Observatory dinners and attended some of them.....



Time to leave Europe:

Old German caves, Poland silver mines make UN heritage list

The UNESCO World Heritage List Committee had an11-day session in Poland that started July 2, and yet it received much less coverage in my pre$$.

UK official says government has no role in Charlie Gard case

In 1940, during World War II, the Battle of Britain began

"In 1985, the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior was sunk with explosives in New Zealand by French intelligence agents; one activist was killed."

Governments don't do that; only terrorists do.

"Turkish opposition leader ends 25-day march, rallies backers" by Zeynep Bilginsoy Associated Press  July 09, 2017

ISTANBUL — The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party completed a 25-day ‘‘March for Justice’’ from the capital Ankara to Istanbul Sunday and joined hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally against a large-scale government crackdown on opponents.

The march grew into a protest of the massive clampdown on people with alleged links to terror groups that began after a coup attempt last summer. Republican People’s Party officials said more than a million people attended the closing rally.

Once seen as feeble in his role as opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu has emerged as the voice of many Turks and been likened to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, who led a nonviolent march against British colonial practices.

So nice to see an agenda-pushing war pre$$ pick up the cause of the Mahatma. I can now die with complete peace and satisfaction.

Tens of thousands of people joined Kilicdaroglu throughout his march in scorching heat....

Just the ‘‘first step’’ of another U.S. destabilization effort. 


I'm surprised the Turks and the rest of the G-20 protesters didn't head across the street:

"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that he misses his oil industry ‘‘colleagues, partners, and competitors’’ as he accepted an award at the World Petroleum Congress, hosted by Turkey. Council president Jozsef Toth described Tillerson, who is from Texas, as ‘‘a man born with oil in his veins’’ before presenting him with the Dewhurst Award, named after the founder of the congress. The former ExxonMobil chief said he shared the award with the company’s employees. Tillerson met with Turkey’s foreign minister and was scheduled to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later Sunday. He said the United States and strategically located Turkey would collaborate for ‘‘greater energy security.’’ The next World Petroleum Congress is scheduled to take place in Houston in three years. ‘‘I’ll be there, in some capacity, one way or another, because I’m never going to forget my friends and my colleagues and my partners in this extraordinary industry delivering energy to the world,” he said."

Looks like Tillerson will be resigning soon, maybe by the end of the day!

That means Mattis will be alone.

"Tillerson says Russia must restore Ukraine territory, or sanctions stay" by David E. Sanger New York Times  July 09, 2017

(Blog editor's reaction was WTF!?!)

KIEV — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to set the same high bar for sanctions relief that the Obama administration did.

(Blog editor snorts. So much for change)

Tillerson’s strongly worded statement was issued at a news conference in Kiev alongside President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine.

He seemed to insist that Moscow withdraw Russian troops and heavy weapons from the eastern part of Ukraine and return Crimea, the Black Sea territory that Russia annexed in 2014.

Problem is they didn't annex Crimea and don't have troops in East Ukraine.

So if the NYT is going to lie and distort, lie and distort, why should we believe? 

You would have thought Iraq would have humbled them, but nope!

His comments came two days after President Trump held his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whose primary diplomatic objective has been to get the Western sanctions lifted.

Trump questioned the value of those sanctions during his 2016 campaign for president, and Putin may have seen his best opportunity to achieve that goal, but Tillerson’s statement was more definitive on the issue of sanctions than his boss’s tweet, perhaps a reflection of the political reality the administration faces in Washington.

The Senate voted, 97 to 2, last month to toughen sanctions because of Russia’s continued intervention in Eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s attempts to intimidate former Soviet states, and the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

And if you say it enough..... sigh.

The administration has sought to water down the sanctions bill to give the administration more leeway in dealing with Russia, an effort that was viewed by many Republicans and Democrats as a way to be able to relax sanctions without congressional approval.

It was unclear how the Russians might react to Tillerson’s comments insisting that Moscow restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

A few days ago, Tillerson announced he was appointing a new special envoy, Kurt Volker, an experienced diplomat, to help settle the dispute in Ukraine in part at the request of Putin. And Russian officials believed they had made progress in Putin’s meeting with Trump.

As Tillerson spoke Sunday, Volker sat in the front row, and he was to remain in Kiev after Tillerson departed to discuss how to enforce the largely ignored 2015 Minsk accord, which envisioned a way out of the Ukraine impasse.

I don't see any.

During his short news conference in Kiev with Poroshenko, who took office after one of Putin’s acolytes was pushed from power, Tillerson declined to say whether Trump, during his meeting with the Russian president, accepted Putin’s denials that Russia was involved in efforts to influence the 2016 US election.

Tillerson was the only other senior US official in the room during the presidents’ meeting. His Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told reporters after the meeting in Hamburg, Germany, that Trump had been persuaded by Putin’s arguments.

When pressed on the question, Tillerson used language he had used Friday night, as the meeting in Hamburg broke up, calling the election hacks the “first topic for discussion.”

“In all candidness, we did not expect an answer other than the one we received,” he said Sunday. “And so I think that was about the way we expected the conversation to go.”

Trump has frequently expressed doubts about Russia’s involvement in hacking the servers of the Democratic National Committee and compromising the e-mail account of prominent Democratic operatives, dismissing the conclusions of US intelligence agencies as politicized in the Obama era.

How come the committee never turned those servers over to the FBI, NYT?

Tillerson suggested the two leaders would never reach a common understanding of what happened last year. “I don’t know if we will ever come to an agreement, obviously with our Russian counterparts on that. I think the important thing is how do we assure that this doesn’t happen again.”

The two sides announced a new effort last week in Hamburg, focused on avoiding interference in elections and curbing cybersabotage.

By Tillerson’s telling, that effort will start modestly, the way American efforts to reach an agreement with China about the cybertheft of intellectual property began behind closed doors.

He called the initial dialogue an effort to “explore a framework under which we might begin to have agreement on how to deal with these very complex issues of cyberthreats, cybersecurity, cyberintrusions.”

Did he see the shadow the marble left?



"New cease-fire begins in southwestern Syria" by Liz Sly Washington Post  July 09, 2017

(My initial reaction is about the same as with the New York Times. Ugh!)

BEIRUT — A cease-fire in southwestern Syria that appeared to be widely holding could open the door to deeper cooperation between the United States and Russia in Syria.

In the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, which is not covered by the truce, US-backed Syrian forces have pushed the city after a month of fighting, although a long battle lies ahead. More than 2,000 militants are holed up with their families and tens of thousands of civilians in Raqqa’s center.

It's going to be/is another Mosul.

The agreement to work on a cease-fire in Syria was the first publicized achievement of the meeting Friday between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Details remain vague, however, and it is unclear whether the agreement will lead to cooperation toward an enduring solution to Syria’s six- year-old war.

I've dismissed talks of peace in the war pre$$. Been disappointed way too many times.

This cease-fire is being referred to by the two powers as a ‘‘de-escalation,’’ reflecting the modest expectations for success after several previous failed attempts by President Barack Obama to work with Russia to end the fighting.

What makes this effort different, however, is that the peace push is now being driven by Russia, which took the lead in the international diplomacy after the defeat of the Syrian rebels in their Aleppo stronghold in December.

Say what? 

Putin to get one of those prizes?

The cease-fire signals US acquiescence to a broader Russian plan to end the violence by creating a series of de-escalation zones around the country, to be sponsored by the regional or international powers with influence in each area.

In military terminology, that's a loss.

An attempt to consolidate a similar de-escalation zone in the north in collaboration with Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor, has already somewhat reduced the violence there.

This agreement creates a separate mechanism for the United States and Jordan to use their influence with allied rebels in southwestern Syria to halt the fighting while Russia exerts pressure on its ally, the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

The area affected by the cease-fire includes Daraa, the city where the revolt against Assad first flared in 2011 and where there has been intensified fighting in recent months, with the government launching an offensive aimed at recapturing the city.

Also covered is the neighboring province of Quneitra, which has been a flashpoint in recent months between Israel and government forces, including the Iranian-backed militias whose advances toward the Israeli occupied Golan Heights have alarmed Tel Aviv.

Iran, Assad’s other main ally, is not a party to the deal. Iran also holds considerable sway over the area through its network of militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, and there are concerns that Iran, along with the government, may work to scuttle a deal that might significantly increase US influence over this part of Syria.

Or the US, along with its terrorist proxies, may work to scuttle a deal that might significantly increase Iranian influence, right?

Many details remain to be worked out, including an enforcement mechanism. The expectation is that Russian military police will eventually be deployed in the area, according to a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing talks.

That could get messy.

But it is unclear whether Israel will accept Russian enforcers along its border, because of concerns that Russia would be unable or unwilling to contain the expansion of Iran and its allies in that section, the Israeli Haaretz daily reported.

A bigger question mark remains over a longstanding challenge to peace efforts in Syria, which is whether Russia exerts enough influence over the Syrian government and Iran to persuade them to abide by the truce.

The deal, if implemented fully, would pose a threat to Iran’s goal of carving out a zone of influence along the Israeli and Jordanian borders and to Assad’s goal of restoring his control over all Syria, said Faysal Itani of the Washington-based Atlantic Council.....

The Atlantic Council is Qatar, Saudi Arabai, and the UAE Arabist lobby that got Hagel in trouble, remember?


RelatedA cruel method of warfare emerges: the weaponization of disease

Globe just allowing someone to Venters.

"Iraq declares victory over Islamic State in Mosul" by Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon New York Times  July 09, 2017

(Aaaaaaaah! Gordon was the second half of the Judy Miller stories)

MOSUL, Iraq — The victory marked the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people, and displaced nearly 1 million more.

While Iraqi troops were still mopping up the last pockets of resistance and Iraqi forces could be facing guerrilla attacks for weeks, the military began to savor its win in the shattered alleyways of the old city, where the Islamic State put up a fierce last stand.

Hanging over the declaration of victory is the reality of the hard road ahead.

Time to get to work.

The victory could have been sweeter, though, as the Iraqis were denied the symbolism of hanging the national flag from the Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its distinctive leaning minaret, which was wiped from the skyline in recent weeks as a final act of barbarity by Islamic State militants who packed it with explosives and brought it down as government troops approached.

Looked like an airstrike did it to me, as Iraqi soldiers took selfies in front of the stump of the minaret. 

Of course, my war-pushing pre$$ would never lie to me.

The battle for Mosul began in October, after months of planning between Iraqis and US advisers, and some Obama administration officials had hoped it would conclude before they left office, giving a boost to the departing president’s efforts to defeat ISIS.

Instead, it lasted until now, and was far more brutal than many expected. With dense house-to-house fighting and a ceaseless barrage of snipers and suicide bombers, the fight for Mosul was some of the toughest urban warfare since World War II, U.S. commanders have said.

Well, what did they expect, to be greeted with flowers?

Deaths among Iraqi security forces in the Mosul battle had reached 774 by the end of March, according to US officers, and toll is believed to be more than 1,000 now.

Even more civilians are estimated to have been killed, many at the hands of the Islamic State and some inadvertently by US airstrikes. At least seven journalists were killed, including two French correspondents and their fixer, an Iraqi Kurdish journalist, in a mine explosion in recent weeks.

Yeah, we never mean it and who is the real threat to the press?

The Iraqis and their international partners will be confronted by the immense challenge of restoring essential services like electricity and rebuilding destroyed hospitals, schools, homes and bridges, which were wrecked in the ground combat or by the airstrikes and artillery and rocket attacks carried out by the US-led coalition.

After they failed to do any of that after 2003. At least money disappeared.

Western Mosul, especially its old city where the Islamic State made its last stand, was hit especially hard and is now a gray and decimated landscape. As the combat has drawn to a close, thousands of civilians have begun to return.

But 676,000 of those who left the western half of the city have yet to come back, according to UN data. Mosul was the largest city in either Iraq or Syria held by the Islamic State, and its loss signifies the waning territorial claims of the terrorist group.

The group is also on the cusp of losing its de facto capital, the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is encircled by Arab and Kurdish fighters supported by the United States and backed by US firepower.

But the end of the Islamic State as a group holding territory does not mean peace is at hand, in Mosul or across Iraq. Iraqis expect an increase in terror attacks in urban centers, especially in the capital, Baghdad, as the group reverts to its insurgent roots.

Iraqi forces also still have to retake several Islamic State strongholds: Hawija and Tal Afar in northern Iraq and a series of towns in Iraq’s Euphrates River valley, stretching from Anah to al-Qaim.....

Iraqis, you have been warned.



Foreign doctors deem ill Chinese Nobel laureate OK to travel

He's China’s best-known political prisoner.

"In 1999, the United States women’s soccer team won the World Cup, beating China 5-4 on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play at the Rose Bowl in California."

Nothing about Korea today, and all from Africa is that in 1991, President George H.W. Bush lifted economic sanctions against South Africa.


I hear church bells:

"Israel’s rabbi blacklist sparks surprise, shock" by Jeremy C. Fox Globe Correspondent  July 10, 2017

Local rabbis expressed surprise and some wry amusement Sunday after learning that their names appear on a list of rabbis outside Israel whose authority the nation’s Chief Rabbinate would not accept in certifying the Jewishness of someone who wants to get married in Israel.

“I was shocked to see my name on the list,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, co-chair of Interfaith Partners for Peace. “I was like, really? I rose to the level that they noticed? Not quite a badge of honor, but not a disgrace either.”

Gordon is one of 160 rabbis from 24 countries whose names appear on the rabbinate’s list, which was obtained by the Associated Press and made public Sunday. The rabbinate oversees religious rituals such as weddings and burials for Israeli Jews.

“This really has limited impact in terms of practicality,” Gordon said by phone from Jerusalem. “If someone . . . has gone through a conversion process or marriage from a rabbi on the list, they will not be prevented from traveling to Israel or obtaining Israeli citizenship.”

The issue would only arise, he said, when someone who has been married or converted to Judaism by one of the rabbis listed sought to have a member of the rabbinate perform a religious ceremony for them, or their family sought for them to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Israel.

Rabbi Kenneth Carr, of Temple Chayai Shalom in South Easton, said he had no idea why his name was included.

In an e-mail, Carr said none of the people whose Jewish identities he had attested to had ever reported encountering any difficulties.

He said being on the list “will not affect my work in the slightest.”

“Just as one can be a proud American while not always agreeing with the actions of our government, I am a strong supporter of the state of Israel, although not always of her leaders,” Carr added.

Gordon said he has long known that the rabbinate would not recognize weddings and conversion ceremonies he performed, though he takes great pains to ensure that he follows traditions.

Though he doesn’t know how the names on the list were selected, he stressed that it does not appear to be political.

“This is not in any way, shape, or form a list of rabbis who are politically liberal or leftist,” he said.

Gordon said the list included many well-respected rabbis, including one who founded an organization dedicated to helping North American Jews move to Israel. He said the list is an example of the problems created when a government officially sanctions a religious body, as Israel does with the rabbinate.

“From the perspective of how America thinks of the separation of church and state, it’s unimaginable,” he said.


RelatedIsraeli list of unrecognized US rabbis shows rift

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to remain married.

"Egyptian, Palestinian leaders meet amid likely Gaza shakeup" Associated Press  |  July 10, 2017

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian and Palestinian leaders met in Cairo on Sunday amid signs of a rapprochement between Cairo and the Islamic militant Hamas group that could shake up Gaza's political landscape and sideline the Palestinian president.

Officials close to Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian leader met with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to seek clarifications on what appears to be an emerging power-sharing agreement between Gaza's Hamas rulers and an exiled Abbas rival, former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan.

So they got Abbas to shut off the power, and now he is out of power!

Dahlan, btw, has long been an USraeli operative.

Under the deal - parts of which have been confirmed by other parties involved - Hamas would retain control over Gaza's security, while Dahlan would eventually return to Gaza and handle its foreign relations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Neither leader made any comments to the media after their meeting in Cairo. A statement by Egypt's presidential spokesman stuck to generalities. The two leaders, the statement added, discussed the latest developments in the Palestinians' bid for statehood and ways to revive the peace process.

How about throwing that border open for a while?

Dahlan was a key Fatah figure behind the Fatah-Hamas street clashes that erupted after Hamas' victory in parliamentary elections in 2006, which eventually led to the violent takeover of Gaza by the group a year later. 

Actually, Hamas won elections, the pre$$ knows it, and yet I still get rote distortion at best, outright lying at worst.

Dahlan and Hamas have been bitter enemies, but their interests began to align in recent months. Dahlan's desire to return from exile and one day succeed Abbas has coincided with Hamas' growing desperation as Abbas has been applying greater financial pressure on Gaza.

The emerging understandings between Egypt, Hamas and Dahlan could pose a serious political threat to Abbas and the prospects of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem - the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. A Palestinian "mini state" in Gaza could undermine the official state sought by Abbas and others within the pre-1967 lines. 

That's all they are going to give them, huh? 

Israel plans on taking the entire West Bank!

If implemented, such understandings would likely help ease Gaza's decade of isolation, but would also deepen the Israeli-enforced disconnect between Gaza and the West Bank. The two territories lie on opposite sides of Israel.

Egypt has long accused Hamas of providing sanctuary as well as supporting Islamic militants fighting its security forces in the turbulent north of the Sinai Peninsula, a region that borders Gaza and Israel. Also, Egypt has for a decade joined Israel in a blockade of Gaza - the densely populated coastal strip on the Mediterranean that Hamas has ruled for a decade. 

Except for when Morsi was in charge, and you see what happened to him. 

Btw, the siege is a war crime, sorry.

However, relations between Egypt and Hamas appear to have recently thawed.

Hamas officials said the two sides have negotiated security arrangements for the Gaza-Egypt border to ensure that militants operating in Sinai don't use Gaza as a refuge. In line with the agreement, Hamas has begun creating a security buffer zone along Gaza's border with Egypt. In return, Egypt has provided Gaza's rulers with fuel for its power station, easing the rolling blackouts that have for long fed discontent among Gaza's two million residents. 

So Abbas took away the Fatah contribution at the same time, wow!

The Egyptian fuel shipments appear to have undermined the stepped up financial pressure on Hamas by Abbas. The Palestinian president had hoped such measures, including subsidy cuts and a reduction in payments for Gaza electricity, would force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza and gradually turn the population against the ruling group. 

Abbas got used! 

Btw, that is economic terrorism!

Speaking ahead of the el-Sissi-Abbas meeting in Cairo, an Egyptian diplomat briefed on the issues said Egypt's president was expected to tell Abbas that Cairo cannot keep Gaza sealed off forever, and that it needed to attend to the territory's needs. He said el-Sissi was also expected to tell Abbas that he was welcome to play a senior role in Gaza.

The officials close to Abbas said they had only heard of the Dahlan-Hamas and Egypt-Hamas agreements second hand, increasing their concerns.

In remarks Saturday, Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh lauded the new security coordination with Egypt. Speaking a day after Islamic State militants killed at least 23 Egyptian soldiers in the deadliest attack in Sinai in two years, he said Hamas was "carrying out intensive measures on the border with Egypt to prevent any infiltration" into Gaza after the attack. 

That attack was nothing more than a Sunday brief.

Separately, Dahlan and Hamas reached several understandings, according to officials on both sides. Abbas' aides said such contacts would only have been possible with Egypt's blessing. Dahlan is a former leading figure in Abbas' Fatah movement who fell out with the Palestinian president in 2010, went into exile and has since forged strong ties with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The officials said they were told that as a first step, Dahlan was expected to disburse $50 million in UAE funds to the families of those killed in the Hamas-Fatah street fighting of 2006 and 2007. One of his main lieutenants, Samir Masharawi, an exiled Fatah leader from Gaza, was to return to the territory to start implementing the deal.



"As Congress returns, divisions test ability to govern" by Alan Fram Associated Press  July 09, 2017

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have three weeks of work before their scheduled August recess, [and] Republicans are stuck on how deeply to cut programs like food stamps.

Disagreements have slowed work on a tax overhaul. And no one knows what bargains will be needed to assure autumn passage of a bill extending government borrowing authority and avoiding a crushing federal default.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, told reporters Friday that he would ‘‘prefer’’ to pass the budget in July, suggesting it might linger until fall, adding to Congress’ late-year mountain of work.

Some conservatives in Congress, meanwhile, want to include measures to cut spending as part of any extension of the government’s borrowing authority, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated Sunday on ABC’s ‘‘This Week’’ that the administration prefers a straightforward extension, without including contentious agreements on spending cuts.

Mnuchin also knocked down a report last week that Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon has floated a tax increase on the wealthiest households as a way to pay for tax cuts for middle-income Americans.

Haven't seen his name in my paper lately, either, and he's not perfect but he is more in touch with the average voter than must of Trump's people.

‘‘I’ve never heard Steve mention that,’’ Mnuchin said on ‘‘This Week.’’ He added that the increase is not part of the administration’s tax plan.

Bannon’s proposal to raise the tax rate for Americans earning nearly $420,000 to 40 percent or higher was reported July 2 by the website Axios.

The administration is aiming to release its full tax plan by September, Mnuchin said, and hopes to pass it into law by the end of the year. So far, the administration has issued a one-page summary of broad principles for tax reform, but few details.....

Have a good summer, guys.


"Democratic leaders keep guard up in health law battle" by Victoria McGrane Globe Staff  July 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Senate plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is struggling as lawmakers return to Washington this week, with the ability of Republicans to corral enough votes so uncertain that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has openly broached the prospect of failure.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening to Senate Democrats.

Of whom Vermont independent Bernie Sanders is counted.

Deeply unpopular, the Republican plan would reduce taxes for the rich, slash the Medicaid program for the poor, and reduce Affordable Care Act insurance subsidies for people purchasing coverage in the individual market.

Democrats sought to keep media and public attention on the health care bill even as lawmakers scattered around the country last week.

Activists haven’t taken a rest, either, even in Maine.....

Bunch of lizards up there.


They won't get anything done in the next three weeks, and it will be have a great summer vacation. I think this is all smoke, sound, and fury to provide an excuse as to why they had to keep Obummercare.

Sometimes Canada provides an example of things that work, but not health care.


Thousands flee wildfires burning in Northern California, rural Arizona, [and] British Columbia

Other wildfires were burning in Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada.

"Electricity was restored Sunday to tens of thousands of customers who lost service when a power station in suburban Los Angeles caught fire amid a severe heat wave....."

Connection to climate cooling? 

Your break Thoreau's heart, and how will you combat the pain?

"Buffalo is experimenting with the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days. The program, which began May 1, was funded with a three-year $300,000 US Justice Department grant....."

Needed in Laconia, too.

"Venezuela marks 100 days of unrest" Associated Press  July 09, 2017

CARACAS — Antigovernment protests in Venezuela hit the symbolic mark of 100 days on Sunday with a grim record of at least 92 dead and more than 1,500 injured.

The decision Saturday to release opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from prison and place him under house arrest has once again stirred hopes that socialist President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents could sit down for talks aimed at ending the bloodshed.

The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in 2015 by a landslide amid mounting frustration with Maduro’s handling of the economy, spiraling crime, and food shortages.

After a year of intense feuding, in late March the government-stacked Supreme Court issued a ruling stripping the legislature of its last powers. The decision was later reversed amid a storm of international criticism but it had already touched off anger among the government’s opponents and triggered street protests that still occur almost daily. Then Maduro did something to anger his opponents even more: He called on May 1 for rewriting Venezuela’s constitution.

A vote to elect delegates to the special assembly to rewrite the charter is scheduled for July 30. Maduro insists rewriting the constitution is the only way to restore peace, but the opposition views it as a ruse to install a Cuba-like dictatorship.

They have called for a symbolic vote of their own on July 16 to reject Maduro’s plans.

One reason that mistrust between the government and opposition is running so high is because negotiations last year ended with little to show for them. To sit down again, the opposition demands Maduro honor commitments that it says he made during the previous round of talks, including freedom for political prisoners and a schedule for gubernatorial elections.


"1 killed, 8 wounded at pregnant woman’s party" Associated Press  July 10, 2017

CINCINNATI — Two men opened fire on a party where a pregnant woman revealed her child’s gender, killing one person and wounding eight, including the expectant mother and three children, authorities said.

The pregnant woman told WXIX-TV that she lost her baby after being shot in a leg about 11:30 p.m. Saturday in Colerain Township, near Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the woman told guests before the shooting it was a boy.

Colerain Township police spokesman James Love said the motive for the shooting was unknown. He said witnesses saw the gunmen run down the street afterward. They remain at-large.

About a dozen people were watching a movie when the gunmen, described as wearing hooded sweat shirts, burst into the home.

In Salisbury, Md., on Sunday, two men were killed in a gunfight in which an off-duty state trooper intervened and fired shots. State Police identified the dead as 27-year-old Michael T. Ward Jr. and 21-year-old Jaquan M. Griffin.....

What was the racial component of the killings?



Chicopee toddler found safe

Man arrested for Nantucket stabbing early Sunday

Billerica man robbed, shot in own driveway

"Two shot outside Brockton bar early Sunday" by John Hilliard Globe Correspondent  July 09, 2017

Two men were shot outside a Brockton bar early Sunday and remained hospitalized in stable condition, according to Mayor Bill Carpenter.

Brockton police are investigating the shootings, which occurred shortly before 2 a.m. in the parking lot of Max’s Blues Cafe at the corner of North Montello and Field streets, Carpenter said.

Nothing good ever happens after midnight, and prohibition should be brought back. If it's good enough for guns.....

The shooting appears to have followed an altercation inside the barroom that spilled outside into the parking lot, Carpenter said. Police are investigating whether the two men shot each other, or whether another shooter was involved, he said.

Efforts to reach the owners of the bar on Sunday were unsuccessful.

Police did not release the names of the victims, but Carpenter said both men are on federal probation and one of them is “well known” to Brockton police. Carpenter said he did not know the circumstances of their probation.

Brockton police will urge federal authorities to revoke the probation of both men, he said.

“This has been an active investigation since it happened,” Carpenter said.

Police were alerted to the shooting at 1:47 a.m. by a system referred to as a shot spotter, which monitors the sound of gunshots and reports the location to law enforcement. When officers arrived, they found one shooting victim on the ground, Carpenter said.

The second victim was located at the Brockton Hospital emergency room, where someone dropped him off and drove away, Carpenter said.

Police are reviewing surveillance video and seeking witnesses to the shootings, which occurred around the bar’s closing time, Carpenter said. There was also at least one 911 call reporting the shooting to police.

“Clearly there are some witnesses,” Carpenter said. “There were people there when it happened.”

Sorry, I was drunk and don't really remember.


"Police capture Wendell man wanted for slaying and workplace shooting" by Sara Salinas Globe Correspondent  July 09, 2017

A man wanted in connection with the killing of his girlfriend as well as a workplace shooting in Western Massachusetts last week was arrested Sunday morning in Orange.

Lewis H. Starkey III, 53, is accused of fatally shooting 48-year-old Amanda Glover in Wendell on Wednesday, then driving to his workplace in Chicopee and shooting at a co-worker.

A manhunt ensued, with police reporting that he was probably armed and dangerous. At the time, police released a description and a license plate number for the red Lincoln MKX that Starkey was believed to be driving.

He was stopped Sunday in the same car and arrested without incident, according to a Chicopee Police Department news release.

Starkey is charged with shooting Glover around midnight Wednesday in the home they shared in Wendell. He is also accused of shooting at a fellow employee of Specialized Trucking Co. at 215 Griffith Road in Chicopee at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Starkey’s shotgun malfunctioned before he fled, police alleged.

The worker was seated behind glass and suffered minor injuries, police said. He underwent surgery and was released.

Authorities had no information about a possible motive as of Sunday evening.

Starkey is facing charges of murder, assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was being held on $1 million bail in a Franklin County jail and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Orange District Court.


Flashback: Orange Invasion

"Man arrested for South Boston double slaying is due in court" by Maria Cramer Globe Staff  July 07, 2017

More details about the crime are often laid out during such arraignments, where prosecutors must make a case to keep a person held in custody or on bail until trial.

Under seal until then.

The killings of Lina BolaƱos, 38, and Richard Field, 49, inside their penthouse condo in a new luxury residential building purporting to have high security were shocking in their brutality. The doctors’ throats had been slit and there was a message of retribution written on the wall.

Boston police went to the apartment after a friend of Field’s received a text from the doctor pleading for help.

They found Bampumim Teixeira, 30, who had worked for a security firm once employed by the building, inside the Dorchester Avenue condo, dressed in dark clothing. They later said he appeared to be wielding a gun.

Near the front door was a black backpack full of jewelry, a knife, and another bag containing a replica firearm and other belongings of the victims, prosecutors said. The victims’ hands had been bound.

Prosecutors have said there is no indication the doctors, who had been planning to get married, knew Teixeira.....



Screw this, I wanna have fun:

"Lack of visa workers has Cape and Islands hotspots in a bind" by Katie Johnston Globe Staff  July 10, 2017

Businesses are getting by — hiring anyone who walks in the door, bringing on more students, even giving shifts to foreign workers brought to the United States by other companies, which is against the law. But training and overtime costs are starting to pile up, and some employers have had to turn away banquet business and cancel landscaping contracts, for example, because they don’t have enough employees.

Yeah, sure they are.

The shortage stems from a change to the H-2B seasonal visa program that limited the number of foreign workers businesses could hire, despite a soaring need.

Relying on inexperienced employees instead of foreign workers who come to the Cape every summer means slower service and more mistakes. Some workers had been employed by the same hotel or restaurant for decades. And with staff stretched to the limit, even just one person calling in sick can lead to a mad scramble to find a replacement.

Oh, they hold the job for the foreign worker.

“Every time I hear my phone beep I think uh-oh, who’s not coming in tonight?” said Tom Fusaro, who had to close the 50-seat dining room at his Italian restaurant on Nantucket one night this week when two cooks were unable to work, although he managed to keep the patio open. “At any given moment the house of cards can collapse.” 

Like a WTC tower?

Come September, when high school and college students return to school, things could get even more precarious.

One Cape restaurant owner has resorted to hiring other businesses’ H-2B workers, which is illegal, including a man who did not know the difference between white and wheat bread but is working a second job in the restaurant’s kitchen.

So who did the Globe get into trouble now?

“You can’t fire people, because there’s no one to replace them,” said the restaurant owner, who asked not to be identified. “I’m not making it work. I’m making it not totally collapse.” 

Then pay should be improving and the staff unionizing, right?

The problem began last fall when Congress did not reauthorize an exemption that removes returning foreign workers from the annual H-2B visa cap of 66,000: 33,000 in the summer and 33,000 in the winter. With demand high and supply low, the limit for the summer season was reached in mid-March, earlier than ever. 

I'm sick of the damn $elf-$erving excu$es from the corporate pre$$, are you?

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security said it would issue an undetermined number of additional visas to businesses that would be “irreparably harmed and at risk of closing their doors” if they don’t get more workers. But details of how businesses must prove their need have not been released. The visas also wouldn’t be issued until late July at the earliest, and the processing and vetting times mean workers likely couldn’t start until September.

US Representative Bill Keating, whose district includes Cape Cod and the and Islands, said the additional visas would have a “marginal benefit,” but what is really needed is a long-term fix.

Business owners stress that they would hire locals if they could, but most of them don’t want seasonal jobs scrubbing toilets or steaming lobsters.....

Yeah, it's hard to find good help these days.


Oh, the poor bosses.

So where you wanna eat?