December 2015 News Reports

 
 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2015 news and views

 

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Dec. 31

Washington Times, Putin’s new defense strategy declares NATO a threat, L. Todd Wood, Dec. 31, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document this week which updates Russia’s national security Vladimir Putinposture and declares the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a threat to Russia’s national security. The document states that NATO’s expansion and the approach of Russia’s borders is justification for this new defense strategy, according the Russian state news agency, TASS. “The buildup of the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and vesting it with global functions implemented in violations of norms of international law, boosting military activity of the bloc’s countries, further expansion of the alliance, the approach of its military infrastructure to Russian borders create a threat to the national security,” the document says.

Ben CarsonWashington Post, Ben Carson’s top staffers resign in a delayed campaign shake-up, Robert Costa and David Weigel, Dec. 31, 2015. Several of the GOP presidential candidate's top advisers, including campaign manager Barry Bennett, quit following an internal power struggle, a sharp decline in the polls and a week of confusion about who would remain on the former neurosurgeon's presidential campaign team.

The Hill, Clinton emails: Billionaire Soros said he regretted backing Obama, Kristina Wong, Dec. 31, 2015. George Soros, a billionaire Democratic donor, told a close Hillary Clinton ally that he regretted supporting President Obama over her in the 2008 Democratic primary, according to an email released Thursday by the State Department. Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden said in a May 2012 email to Clinton that Soros made the admission to her during a dinner.

"I told him I worked for you in the primaries and he said he's been impressed that he can always call/meet with you on an issue of policy and said he hasn't met with the President ever (though I thought he had)," Tanden wrote. "He then said he regretted his decision in the primary — he likes to admit mistakes when he makes them and that was one of them," she added.

"He then extolled his work with you from your time as First Lady on. You probably have heard this all before but on the off chance you haven't, I thought I should let you know. Thanks again for doing the video!" she wrote. An August 2012 article in The New Yorker said Soros gave $5 million to help elect Obama in 2008, and that he later felt snubbed by the president.

"Confidants say that, although he still supports Obama, Soros has been disappointed by him, both politically and personally," the article said. "When Soros wanted to meet with Obama in Washington to discuss global economic problems, Obama’s staff failed to respond."

"Eventually, they arranged not a White House interview but, rather, a low-profile, private meeting in New York, when the President was in town for other business. Soros found this back-door treatment confounding," the article said. A Soros confident told the New Yorker: "They pissed on him... He didn’t want a f-cking thing! He didn’t want a state dinner, or a White House party — he just wanted to be taken seriously.”

CBS News, Trump mocks State Department's 2015 boast of peace in Syria, Reena Flores, Dec. 31, 2015. When State Department spokesperson John Kirby listed "bringing peace, security to Syria" as one of the administration's pivotal foreign policy moments of the year, it drew widespread criticism -- from conservative commentators, mainstream media outlets, and now Donald Trump. Right-leaning website RedState deemed the post a "blatant" lie. Of the headline, Foreign Policy magazine derided it as "hard to argue that the United States brought any significant 'peace' or 'security' to the Syrian people."

The State Department later defended Kirby. "The operative word there is bringing, not brought, so we're bringing peace and security to Syria," deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday.

But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wasn't going to let the State Department get off easily for their characterization. At a rally in South Carolina, Trump lambasted the "mistake" in front of a large audience. He said: "Can you believe 'bringing peace to Syria?' The world is blowing up. The migration from Syria. They say one of their achievements for the year is bringing peace to Syria and the whole world is talking about it."

Washington Post, Why prosecutors are charging Cosby 12 years later, and why other cases quietly die, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 31, 2015. At least 50 other women have made similar accusations against the comedy legend, but most will never see their cases go to court, because statutes of limitations for sex crimes vary widely across the nation. As of 2014, 34 states and the District of Columbia had statutes of limitations on filing sexual assault charges, ranging from three years to three decades, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. But since then, there has been a growing effort to end -- or at least lengthen -- the limits on prosecuting sex crimes across the country.

Washington Post, Use of psychologists at Guantanamo Bay prison reduced with general’s order, Dan Lamothe, Dec. 31, 2015. The decision was made by Gen. John F. Kelly, the outgoing commander at U.S. Southern Command.

Washington Post, The Smithsonian’s Cosby problem only gets worse, Philip Kennicott, Dec. 31, 2015. “When we accepted the gift and loan, I was unaware of the allegations about David Skorton Cornell PhotoBill Cosby,” said National Museum of African Art Director Johnnetta Cole, last August in a statement published on the website The Root. “Had I known, I would not have moved forward with this particular exhibition.” She was defending the museum’s Cosby art exhibition, “Conversations,” which paired works from the Cosby family collection with African art from the museum’s holdings. The show opened in November 2014, and is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 24.

The exhibit opened 10 years after Cosby allegedly used wine and drugs to incapacitate a young woman who believed the entertainer was a trustworthy mentor, as detailed yesterday at his arraignment in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A month before the exhibition opened, a prominent stand-up comic reignited long-simmering rumors about Cosby’s sexual behavior in a video that went viral.

In September, after dozens of women had come forward to describe similar encounters with Cosby, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton (shown at right) defended keeping the exhibition open on free-speech grounds: “I believe taking down an exhibition will tarnish our reputation among museum professionals and others,” he said. “Creative activity of any kind can generate controversy. We will from time to time get beat up about some of these things.”

It was a mistake to mount “Conversations” in the first place, putting the institution in the business of promoting the commercial value of Cosby’s art and tying them to a man who already had a seriously damaged reputation years ago, no matter what Cole claimed in August. As the Smithsonian contemplates the dilemma yet again, it can’t be stressed strongly enough: This was a bad show from the start. It was bad on ethical grounds (because it could potentially elevate the value of an art collection owned by a close friend of the museum’s director), and it was bad on curatorial grounds.

Washington Post, Roberts urges lawyers, judges to help improve ‘contentious’ federal system, Robert Barnes, Dec. 31, 2015. The Supreme Court faces a controversial election-year docket John Robertsthat features battles over abortion and the Affordable Care Act. But in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s annual report, he focused on an entirely different matter.

Washington Post, FAA tells local drone and model aircraft clubs to cease and desist, Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 31, 2015. Hobbyists have been told that it’s illegal to fly within 30 miles of Reagan National, but they hope to work out a deal.

AP via Daily Mail, Female WW II pilots are BARRED from Arlington National Cemetery - despite government permission for them to be buried there, Staff report, Dec. 31, 2015. Since 1977, federal law has granted women soldiers as veterans and since 2002, they have been eligible to have their ashes placed at Arlington. Earlier this year, then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh reversed course and ruled Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) ineligible. Terry Harmon, 69, of Silver Spring, Maryland, is fighting have her mother Elaine Harmon's ashed buried at Arlington.

Dec. 30

OpEdNews, Republican and Democrat Agree on This Election Issue? And How! Joan Brunwasser (shown at left), Dec. 30, 2015. My guest today is Virginia Martin, Democratic election commissioner of Columbia County, New Joan BrunwasserYork.

Joan Brunwasser: Your county is unique in the state of New York in the way that its votes are counted. Can you tell us about that, please?

Virginia Martin New YorkVirginia Martin (shown at right):  Yes, in Columbia County, my Republican counterpart, Jason Nastke, and I have a standing agreement that, going into every election, and for every contested race, we will hand count 100% of the votes cast on our voting machines. New York State Election Law only requires each county to count all the votes on 3% of the voting machines that were deployed, but we don't feel that that's an adequate audit, and so we do more.

In reality, though, it's never really 100% of all the votes cast, because, after the unofficial voting-machine results are in on election night, there are some races that we agree just don't warrant more than the 3% NYS audit. The commissioner on the losing side of a race that was anticipated to be fairly lopsided will, at her or his discretion, ask the candidate and the party if they would agree to forego the 100% audit. They always have, with the result that there are quite a few races that we don't do the 100% hand-count on, because there also are generally a number of races with only one candidate. Interestingly, for this election the machine that we randomly drew for the 3% NYS audit is a single-district machine in a town where there are no contested local races.

People, Arrest Warrant Issued for Bill Cosby for Alleged January 2004 Sexual Assault of Andrea Constand, Nicole Weisensee Egan, Dec. 30, 2015. An arrest warrant has been issued for entertainer Bill Cosby for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple employee Andrea Constand at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania mansion in January 2004, sources tell People Magazine. Constand was Bill Cosbynot available for comment but one of her attorneys expressed gratitude toward the prosecutor.

"Obviously we appreciate the expression of confidence in her," says Dolores Troiani of her client, Constand, 42, who is now a massage therapist in Ontario, Canada. "We'll have to see what happens. We hope justice will be done. We will cooperate fully." Cosby has previously said what happened between him and Constand was consensual, but in new court filings last summer Constand said she was in a relationship with a woman at the time. She also called Cosby a "narcissist" who missed cues that she's gay. The statute of limitations to charge Cosby runs out in January.

So far, more than 50 women have accused the entertainer of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. (Cosby has vehemently denied all of the allegations). The warrant comes just two weeks after Cosby filed defamation lawsuits against several of those accusers, who have filed defamation lawsuits of their own against him.

Last summer, outgoing Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman quietly reopened Constand's case, sending detectives to Canada to interview Constand once again while Kevin Steele, her first assistant, oversaw the investigation. (Steele is now the Montgomery County District Attorney-Elect.)

Washington Post, How Rubio helped his ex-con brother-in-law acquire a real estate license, Scott Higham and Manuel Roig-Franzia, Dec. 31, 2015. While a powerful state lawmaker, Rubio urged officials to grant Marco Rubio officialhis brother-in-law a real estate license. When Marco Rubio was majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives, he used his official position to urge state regulators to grant a real estate license to his brother-in-law, a convicted cocaine trafficker who had been released from prison 20 months earlier, according to records obtained by The Washington Post.

OpEdNews, America Is Being Destroyed By Problems That Are Unaddressed, Paul Craig Roberts (shown at right), Dec. 30, 2015. None of these serious problems will be addressed by the presidential candidates, and no party’s Paul Craig Robertsplatform will consist of a rescue plan for America. Unbridled greed, short-term in nature, will continue to drive America into the ground.

Truthout, How False Stories of Iran Arming the Houthis Were Used to Justify War in Yemen, Gareth Porter, Dec. 31, 2015. Peace talks between the Saudi-supported government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels ended in late December without any agreement to end the bombing campaign started by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies with US support last March. The rationale for the Saudi-led war on Houthis in Yemen has been that the Houthis are merely proxies of Iran, and the main alleged evidence for that conclusion is that Iran has been arming the Houthis for years.

 But an investigation of the two main allegations of such arms shipments made by the Yemeni government and cited by the expert panel shows that they were both crudely constructed ruses.

Flag of TurkeyTelesur, Iraq Vows Military Action Against Turkey If Troops Not Removed, Staff report, Dec. 30, 2015. Turkey says the confrontation over its troops deployment in Iraq was a "miscommunication." The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the government is exhausting all diplomatic avenues with Turkey but would use military force if needed to protect sovereignty. The standoff between the two countries started early December when the Turkish army deployed 150 troops in the Bashiqa military base in Nineveh province in north of Iraq in order to train Kurdish and Sunni anti-Islamic State group fighters. 

Dec. 29

Nuclear Explosion at Nevada test site in 1953 (U.S. government photo)

A nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1953, photo courtesy the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Washington Post, Declassified: How the Pentagon planned to nuke the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Dec. 29, 2015. In the event of a nuclear war, the Pentagon in 1956 penned a report that listed 1,200 cities and 1,100 airfields spread across eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China that were prioritized for various levels of destruction, should the unthinkable happen.

The goals were twofold: deny the former Communist Bloc’s ability to field an effective air force and then destroy its ability to wage a protracted war. The details of the Pentagon’s plans were recently revealed in the 800-page Strategic Air Command Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959, “the most comprehensive and detailed list of nuclear targets and target systems that has ever been declassified,” according to the National Security Archive, an organization run by George Washington University that published it last week.

See also, Strategic Culture Foundation, America Was Prepared to Annihilate Prague, Warsaw, Other Capitals, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 27, 2015.

Wall Street Journal, U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress, Adam Entous and Danny Yadron, Dec. 29, 2015. NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. Benjamin Netanyahu smile Twitterlawmakers. President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs. But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Irsaeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.”

Zero Hedge, The Dark Side Of A Record $5 Trillion In Mergers: Hundreds Of Thousands Of Imminent Layoffs, Tyler Durden, Dec. 29, 2015. Yesterday afternoon, Dealogic announced the for the first time in history, global announced M&A volume in 2015 would surpass $5 trillion. This record eclipses by 9% the previous all time high of $4.6 trillion set during the previous market bubble year of 2007. The report adds that there were 10 $50 billion M&A transactions announced in 2015 worth a combined $798.9bn.

The not so immediate result has been a silent layoff wave (focused initially in the energy sector) as increasingly more well-paying careers are lost and replaced with minimum wage food service and retail, often times part-time, jobs.

However, none of that accounts for the layoff shock that is about to be unleashed as hundreds of billions of M&A deals go from announced to closed over the coming months, as the "pro-forma"management (and shareholders) demand to see cost-savings and bottom line results. Where are "results" going to come from? Why "synergies" of course, Wall Street's favorite word for mass layoffs.

Naji Jerf

Naji Jerf, Murdered Journalist In Turkey

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Annual round-up: 110 journalists killed in 2015, Staff report, Dec. 29, 2015. At least 67 killed while reporting or because of their work; RSF condemns failure to protect journalists, calls for “response to match the emergency.” A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015, according to the round-up published today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which is in a position to say that 67 of them were targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting.

These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005. It has not been possible to clearly establish the circumstances or motives of this year’s 43 other deaths of journalists. Twenty-seven citizen-journalists and seven media workers were also killed in 2015.

This disturbing situation is largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists and is indicative of the failure of the initiatives so far taken to protect media personnel.

A European country, France, was one of the deadliest countries for journalists in 2015. It ranked third, after Syria and Iraq. “The creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law. The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay.”

RT, Seymour Hersh on conflicting interests in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 29, 2015 (14 min. video). Journalist Seymour Hersh's new report on contradictions between President Obama and the US military regarding rebels in Syria was a bombshell. Hersh spoke with RT about the US military's view of Syria's Bashar Assad and Obama's relationship with Turkey. Writing for the London Review of Books, Hersh reported that, in a classified document from Summer 2013, the highest echelons of the US military establishment outlined their opposition to the Obama administration’s strategy of arming so-called "moderate" rebels to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. From 2013 to September 2015, in an effort to truly counter extremists in Syria, US military leaders fed US intelligence to Russia, Germany, and Israel, which then sent it to Assad, he reported.

The removal of Assad from power would be a gift to fundamentalist extremists, the military report said, as US defense officials compared a potential Assad ouster to ill-advised US eliminations of secular leaders Moammar Gaddaffi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Turkey – which the Obama administration has held close as an ally – is "a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy," Hersh wrote of the 2013 military report.

Business Insider, Turkey may finally be 'accepting the inevitable' in Syria, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 29, 2015. A Kurdish militia with ties to an organization waging an insurgency in Turkey's southeast region violated Turkey's "red line" in Syria over the weekend by crossing the Euphrates River during an anti-ISIS operation. The operation to take back Tishrin Dam from ISIS was staged by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG — the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

It served as a huge blow to ISIS. But ISIS was not the only loser. The operation was also a major affront to Turkey, which declared the Euphrates a "red line" for Kurdish territorial expansion over the summer. Indeed, Turkey struck the YPG twice in October after it defied Ankara's warning not to cross the river. So far, however, the Turks' response to the weekend incident has been relatively muted.

David Swanson.org, Bern the Feel, David Swanson, Dec. 29, 2015. I remain convinced that the media is keeping Sanders and Trump around for ratings and will destroy them as soon as it chooses, and never chooses to do such a thing as early as the December of the year before the election. Sanders is doing remarkably well, but when people's televisions tell them they must vote against him, will they disobey? The U.S. public has become intensely obedient.

Washington Post, Obama’s skin looks a little different in these GOP campaign ads, Max Ehrenfreund, Dec. 29, 2015. A new study shows that negative ads targeting President Obama in 2008 depicted him with very dark skin, and that these images would have appealed to some viewers’ racial biases. The finding reinforces charges that some Republican politicians seek to win votes by implying support for racist views and ethnic hierarchies, without voicing those prejudices explicitly. The purported tactic is often called “dog-whistle politics” — just as only canines can hear a dog whistle, only prejudiced voters are aware of the racist connotations of a politician’s statement, according to the theory.

A study published online this month in Public Opinion Quarterly provides new evidence that one GOP campaign — intentionally or not — has aired advertisements that exacerbate viewers’ racial biases. Analyzing 126 advertisements from the presidential campaign in 2008, the authors first digitally measured the darkness of the two nominees’ skin in each spot, then sorted the ads into categories based on themes. President Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), looked very different in various advertisements depending on how the footage was edited and produced. When McCain's campaign aired spots that connected Obama with alleged criminal activity by liberal groups, the producers almost always used images that made Obama's skin appear very dark.

Rebekeh Roth Show

Natural News, Former TalkNetwork.com host Rebekah Roth exposed as possible government plant sent to infiltrate 'truth movement', J.D. Heyes, Dec. 29, 2015. Regular listeners of TalkNetwork.com may remember host Rebekah Roth. She was recently dropped from the network after it became apparent that, frankly, she was not who she said she was and, in fact, may even have been an agent provocateur whose mission is to disrupt and discredit the "truth movement."

"Although we work hard to protect the identities of hosts on TalkNetwork, when we attempted to communicate with Rebekah Roth about claims that her entire back story was fraudulent and her name wasn't real, she became belligerent and attacked me for even asking for clarification," said Natural News editor Mike Adams, the Heath Ranger and co-founder of TalkNetwork.com, in a statement.

"Observing her behavior, we came to find that she's an expert in infiltration and provocateur-type operations, getting groups of people to turn on each other and causing chaos inside the truth movement," Adams continued. "She's done it with other networks before, and she'll no doubt try to repeat the same scheme somewhere else in the alternative media."

See also: Pete Santilli Show, Rebekah Roth's Methodical Deceit: A Real Investigation, Kurt Haskell, Dec. 23, 2015 (video). Pete Santilli interviews researcher Kurt Haskell, host of "Real Investigations" - In this segment Kurt Haskell methodically exposes the mystery of just who exactly Rebekah Roth is and more importantly who Rebekah Roth is not.

Dec. 28

RT, Syrian journalist exposing ISIS Aleppo atrocities assassinated in Turkey, Daniel Hawkins and Ilya Petrenko, Dec. 28, 2015. A prominent Syrian journalist and filmmaker who produced anti-Islamic State documentaries, was gunned down by unknown assailants in broad daylight in Gaziantep, Turkey. The death of Naji Herf is the third assassination of a journalist in the country over the last three months.

Sputnik via RT, Captured ISIS fighter says 'trained in Turkey,' Staff report, Dec. 28, 2015 (with video). Turkey is training Islamic State terrorists in a camp disguised as a training ground for the Free Syrian Army, a 20-year-old jihadist captured by the Kurdish YPG told Sputnik. The prisoner said Ankara’s help to the “moderate” Syrian opposition is not as innocent as portrayed. Captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters in Northern Syria in November, Abdurrahman Abdulhadi, a Syrian national-turned Daesh (Islamic State) fighter, says he was trained in Turkey before receiving his first assignment with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“In August 2014, I was training in the Turkish town of Adana with one of ISIL’s Emirs,” Abdulhadi said, adding his month-long training was completed with 60 other fighters in a camp “not far from the airport.”

The captured IS soldier said military training was conducted by two officers and one of them only “spoke Turkish, so another one had to translate for him.” “Once a week we had shooting classes where we were taught to use Kalashnikovs, machine guns and other arms,” the 20 year-old said. “We were trained in Turkey because ISIL's command thought it was safer here than in Syria because of the bombardments there.”

While the camp was officially declared to be one of the training grounds for the Free Syrian Army, the YPG prisoner says, “all sixty of those who were there were ISIL members.” Washington Post, Ben Carson on the brink: ‘A process like this is pretty brutal,’ Steven Ginsberg and Robert Costa, Dec. 28, 2-015. Two days before Christmas, with his presidential campaign fading fast, Ben Ben CarsonCarson sought to take control at his manse in the countryside west of Baltimore. Unless something in his campaign changed fast, Carson was in danger of going the way of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain — fad candidates who wilted before a single vote had been cast. This was the day he had marked to stop the fade.

Institute for Political Economy, Why WW III Is On The Horizon, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 28, 2015. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave birth to a dangerous American ideology called neoconservativism. The Washington Post neoconservative journalist Charles Krauthammer summed up the “new reality” as follows: “We have overwhelming global power. We are history’s designated custodians of the international system."

The events of September 11, 2001, are regarded by informed people as “the new Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary in order to begin their wars of conquest in the Middle East. Since 9/11 Washington has destroyed in whole or part eight countries and now confronts Russia both in Syria and Ukraine. Russia cannot allow a jihadist caliphate to be established in an area comprising Syria/Iraq because it would be a base for exporting destabilization into Muslim parts of the Russian Federation.

The neoconservatives tell President Obama to keep the pressure on Russia and Russia will give in. However, Putin has made it clear that Russia will not give in. The European governments, especially Germany and the UK, are complicit in the move toward nuclear war. These two American vassal states enable Washington’s reckless aggression toward Russia by repeating Washington’s propaganda and supporting Washington’s sanctions and interventions against other countries.

AP via New York Times, Wounded Fighters, Civilians Evacuated From Syria, Albert Aji and Suzan Fraser, Dec. 28, 2015. Hundreds of people from opposite sides in Syria's civil war were evacuated from contested areas on Monday under a U.N.-backed truce, with one group headed to Turkey and another en route to areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad. One group, with more than 100 rebels and family members, crossed from Syria into Lebanon in buses and ambulances, and then took off from Beirut airport for Turkey, a main ally of fighters battling to overthrow Assad. The other group, residents of two insurgent-besieged Shiite villages in northern Syria, was evacuated first to Turkey in similar vehicles before departing for Beirut from Hatay airport. The truce deal reached in September, which provides for the transfer of thousands of Shiite and Sunni civilians and fighters, is one of a number of ground-level deals to end fighting in parts of Syria. Earlier this month, scores of fighters and their families began leaving a rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs after several years of combat.

Huffington Post, The Cost of Turkey's Self-Interest, Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi, Dec. 28, 2015. Khairuldeen Al Makhzoomi is a researcher at the Near Eastern Department of UC Berkeley. Turkey's assistance to the Islamic State goes beyond providing open borders for ISIS militants. By the end of 2015, Turkey is expected to host as many as nearly 2 million Syrian refugees. Recently, Turkey was accused of being one of the main sources of financial backing for the Islamic State, as well as of providing the majority of the group's training and weaponry. The Islamic State, for its part, has been making a profit smuggling oil across the border into Turkey. ISIS makes between $1-2 million a day from oil revenues, and Reyhanli, one border village, made a profit of more than $800 million in oil sales over the course of 16 months. Residents near the Syrian border reported witnessing Turkish ambulances going into combat zones during clashes between Kurdish militias and the Islamic State. These ambulances would evacuate ISIS casualties and would treat them in Turkish hospitals.

Gallup, Clinton Most Admired Woman for Record 20th Time, Jeffrey M. Jones, Dec. 28, 2016. Americans again name Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama the woman and man living anywhere in the world they admire most. Both win by wide margins over the next-closest finishers, Malala Yousafzai for women and Pope Francis and Donald Trump for men.

Although Clinton and Obama each led this year's poll by significant margins, the percentage mentioning each as most admired is slightly lower than the percentages they have received in the past. Across the eight times Obama has been most admired man, an average 23% of Americans have named him, while in the 20 times Clinton has been most admired woman, an average 16% have named her.

New York Times, Officer Will Not Face Charges in Shooting of Cleveland Boy, Mitch Smith, Dec. 28, 2015. Tamir Rice, 12, was killed as he was playing with a replica gun in a park. Relatives and activists, who called the shooting senseless, had sought charges in the case.

Washington Post, Federal judge: Drinking tea, shopping at a gardening store is probable cause for a SWAT raid on your home, Radley Balko, Dec. 28, 2015. In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of  “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’s claims. Lungstrum found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive field test and spotting a suspect at a gardening store was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

AFP via Yahoo News, IS leader linked to Paris attacks 'mastermind' killed in Syria: Pentagon, Staff report, Dec. 28, 2015. An Islamic State leader with "direct" ties to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 senior figures in the group killed in Syria and Iraq this month, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters that French national Charaffe al Mouadan was killed in a US-led coalition air strike on December 24. Mouadan had been actively plotting further attacks against the West, Warren said, without giving additional details. "He was a Syrian-based ISIL member with a direct link to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Paris attacks cell leader," Warren said in a video call, using an alternative acronym for the IS group. 

 

Richard Helms in CIA Photo with WhoWhatWhy GraphicFormer CIA Director Richard Helms Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from CIA Library

WhoWhatWhy, Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald (Part 3), Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 28, 2015. Introduction by Milicent Cranor: This is an essay about lies — layer upon layer of lies — told by US intelligence agencies and other officials about what Lee Harvey Oswald, or his look-alike, was allegedly doing in Mexico just weeks before the Kennedy assassination. And it is about obstruction of justice in what is considered the crime of the century.

The original goal, it seems, was to associate Oswald, in advance of the events of Dealey Plaza, with the USSR and Cuba. The essay focuses on tales told by Richard Helms, a top official of the CIA in 1963 who later became its director — and is based on a talk given by Peter Dale Scott. Scott is the popularizer of the expression, “Deep Politics,” and a virtuoso when it comes to what sometimes seems like grabbing smoke — capturing proof, however elusive, of motives and objectives that could explain  the machinations of US intelligence agencies — and then analyzing the residue. Essay based on talk given by Peter Dale Scott at Third Annual JFK Assassination Conference in Dallas, 2015.

Dec. 27

CIA Director Richard Helms is shown at a White House meeting.WhoWhatWhy, Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald (Part 2), Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 27, 2015. CIA Director Richard Helms is shown at a White House meeting. This is an essay about lies — layer upon layer of lies — told by US intelligence agencies and other officials about what Lee Harvey Oswald, or his look-alike, was allegedly doing in Mexico just weeks before the Kennedy assassination. And it is about obstruction of justice in what is considered the crime of the century. See also Part I: The JFK Assassination: Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald, Not Ancient History — But Preamble to the Present.

Zero Hedge, 12,000 Oil Tanker Trucks Parked At Iraq-Turkey Border Aren't Carrying ISIS Crude, Kurds Swear, Tyler Durden, Dec. 27, 2015. Less than 48 hours ago, Russia said it spotted some 12,000 tankers and trucks on the Turkish-Iraqi border. As for the Kurds, well they swear it's [their] oil and not Islamic State's that's tied up at the border. Of course, Kurdish crude is just as "undocumented" as ISIS oil given that technically it belongs to Baghdad and not Erbil. The Kurds want you to believe is that none of the nearly 12,000 tankers parked at Zakho contain any ISIS crude. Note the timing. ISIS is losing ground and is on the verge of relinquishing Ramadi to Iraqi forces. One certainly wonders if the group's funding needs are rising just as the Russians are cutting off their revenue stream forcing Baghdadi to get as much of the oil through as possible while he still can.

Salon, Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed,” Dec. 27, 2015. The material below is excerpted from The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt Ronald Reaganto Bill Clinton by William E. Leuchtenburg, a prominent professor of history, to be published by Oxford University Press.

At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. 

In all fields of public affairs — from diplomacy to the economy — the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.”

Strategic Culture Foundation, America Was Prepared to Annihilate Prague, Warsaw, Other Capitals, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 27, 2015. Recently-declassified nuclear targeting documents from 1959 describe how Washington planned to obliterate the capital cities of what are now America’s NATO allies in Eastern and Central Europe. The revelation casts doubt on Washington’s Cold War commitment to the protection of what it referred to as "captive nations" in Europe. The documents are contained in a report titled, "SAC (Strategic Air Command) Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959."

The US Air Force study called for the "systematic destruction" of such major population centers as Warsaw, East Berlin, Prague, Bucharest, Tallinn, and others, as well as Peiping (Beijing), Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and Moscow. Atomic bombs eight times to destructive force of that dropped by the United States on Hiroshima were trained on a number of targets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There were 179 «designated ground zeros» for atomic bombs in Moscow and 145 in St. Petersburg.
 
US atomic weapons would have laid waste to Wittstock, just upwind of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hometown of Templin in Brandenburg in the former East Germany. It is most certain that had the US launched an atomic attack on Europe, Merkel, her parents Horst and Herlind Kasner, and brother Marcus would have been vaporized in the massive pre-targeted strike on East Berlin and the regions surrounding it.

USA Watchdog, US Stupid Enough to Cause Nuclear War: Paul Craig Roberts, Greg Hunter (shown at right), Dec. 27, 2015. Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts (shown at right Greg Hunter USA Watchdogbelow) has a dim view of the so-called “economic recovery.” Dr. Roberts contends, “There has been no recovery whatsoever. . . . If you look at the economy realistically, and that means you don’t use their phony numbers, there has been no recovery whatsoever and, in fact, it continues to worsen."

On war, Dr. Roberts’ view is dire and goes on to explain, “Everything that previous presidents have done to try to defuse the kind of tensions between nuclear powers that could lead to war, all this has been thrown away by Clinton, George W. Bush and the current White House fool. It’s all due to the Neoconservatives. So, yes, we are in a more dangerous situation than in the worst part of the cold war. Thanks to the neoconservatives and thanks to the American ‘presstitute’ media with people who lie for a living, we are in more danger than we have ever been."

Dec. 26

Washington Post, Officers have fatally shot nearly 1,000 civilians in 2015, Kimberly Kindy, Marc Fisher, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins,A year-long Post study found that incidents that ignited race-based protests represented less than 4 percent of such deaths. The vast majority of people who died at the hands of police had weapons, were mentally troubled or ran when asked to halt.

Washington Post, Pornographic email scandal ripples through Pa. politics, Natalie Pompilio, Dec. 26, 2015. Over the past 15 months, beleaguered Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (shown in a file photo) has released a Kathleen Kanesteady stream of messages retrieved from a state email server that show state officials and employees trading pornographic, racist and misogynistic messages. There are jokes about rape and sexual assault, photos mocking African Americans and other minorities, and insults leveled at people because of their weight, their sexual orientation or their religion.

At least two state Supreme Court justices and numerous officials in the office of the attorney general have been caught in the scandal that has been dubbed “Porngate.” It’s a massive scandal, with a new twist each week, but it has produced little uproar among state residents. Still, those who do pay attention say this epic mess is a disaster for the state’s justice system.

Washington Post, Rubio’s past support for immigration reform haunts him on campaign trail, Sean Sullivan, Dec. 26, 2015. More than two years after the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” unveiled a comprehensive plan iMarco Rubio officialn the Senate, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio (shown in an official photo) finds himself needing to justify his membership in the group to a skeptical conservative base.

Channel 9 News (Australia), ISIL oil smugglers trapped as Russian bombs rain down, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2015. Russian bombers have conducted deadly raids on thousands of trucks believed to be smuggling illegal oil for ISIL over the Iraq-Turkey border on the same day a Syrian rebel chief was killed in similar air strikes. An estimated 12,000 heavy-duty trucks were seen backed up on both sides of the Zakho checkpoint, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq bordering Turkey, according to aerial footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry.

With the threat of an impending attack, hundreds of drivers can be seen frantically trying to flee to safety or abandon their trucks as bombs rain down. Many tankers lie destroyed, smoke and flames billowing out. The Russian Air Force is estimated to have destroyed more than 2,000 tankers used by ISIL for smuggling oil since starting a bombing campaign in late September. The crippling effect of the raids has forced ISIL to disguise their trucks, as well as transport cargo mainly at night.

New York Times, U.N. Sets Syrian Peace Talks as Fighting Complicates Task, Somini Sengupta and Anne Barnard, Dec. 26, 2015. The United Nations said Saturday that it intended to move ahead with peace talks between the Syrian government and rebel forces in late January, a signal to all parties that a tenuous political process aimed at ending the war would not be quashed by gains and losses on the battlefield.
The announcement by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, set a “target date” to start talks on Jan. 25 in Geneva. It included a nudge not just to the Syrian rivals but to their patrons in capitals around the world, who for the first time in nearly five years have agreed on a road map to end the nearly five-year war.

Dec. 25

ISIS truck convoyISIS truck convoy (file photo)

RT, Intel spots 12,000 oil tankers & trucks on Turkey-Iraq border: General Staff, Kevin Owen, Dec. 25, 2015. Russian intelligence has spotted up to 12,000 tankers and trucks on the Turkish-Iraqi border, the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces has reported. “The [aerial] imagery was made in the vicinity of Zakho (a city in Iraqi Kurdistan), there were 11,775 tankers and trucks on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border,” Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy told journalists on Friday. The Russian Air Force in Syria has destroyed about 2,000 tankers used by the Islamists for oil transportation. In the last week, Russian warplanes eliminated 17 convoys of oil tankers and a number of installations used by terrorists for oil extraction and processing.


Reuters, Top Syrian rebel leader killed in air strike in Damascus suburb, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Dec. 25, 2015. A top Syrian rebel leader and head of the most powerful insurgent group in the eastern suburbs of Damascus was killed in an aerial raid that targeted the group's headquarters, rebel sources and the Syrian army said on Friday. The death of Zahran Alloush, 44, head of Jaysh al Islam, is a big blow to rebel control of the rural eastern suburban area of Damascus known as al Ghouta, the rebels said. Defense experts say the disarray among the rebel forces could also consolidate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's control over the rest of the area. The rebel sources said that in the raid Russian planes fired at least 10 missiles at a secret headquarters of the group, which is the largest rebel faction in the area and has about 15,000 to 20,000 fighters, according to Western intelligence.

U.S. Department of Defense, Coalition Forces Continue Attacks on ISIL Targets in Syria, Iraq, Staff report, Dec. 25, 2015. U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today. Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports. Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 strikes in Syria.

Dec. 24

Montgomery Advertiser, Siegelman column riddled with 'inaccuracies,' Stephen Feaga, Dec. 24, 2015. As a lead prosecutor in United States v. Don Siegelman I took some interest in the recent opinion piece penned by Montgomery Advertiser columnist Josh Moon, "End the embarrassment and pardon Don Siegelman." Mr. Moon is entitled to his opinion, but almost every “fact” he cites in the Dec. 16 column as a basis for his opinion is incorrect. From past experience, I know the Advertiser values its reputation for publishing facts. Mr. Moon’s column contained so many inaccuracies that I can’t address them all in a letter to the editor. But I will point to just a few.

Dec. 23

 

RT, Apocalyptic scenes of Damascus suburb obliterated by violent clashes, Murad Gazdiev, Dec. 23, 2015 (Illustrated with exclusive drone photos above). The Jobar neighborhood of Damascus is the epicenter of some of the fiercest fighting in Syria with Islamist rebels refusing to give up their only stronghold. Once densely populated, the area has now been completely obliterated. Before the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011, the neighborhood was home to some 300,000 residents, most of whom were Sunni Muslims. The suburb contained a number of ancient landmarks, most notably the Green Synagogue, the oldest Jewish synagogue in the world. It also contained the Grand Jobar Mosque in addition to the tomb of the Prophet Elijah. Jobar also housed ancient baths that were built during Ottoman times.

Reuters, Russia hosts pro-Kurdish Turkish politician who condemns Ankara, Dmitry Solovyov, Dec. 23, 2015. The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday and criticized Ankara for shooting down a Russian warplane last month. Russia, which imposed economic sanctions on Turkey after the Nov. 24 incident, and has sharply criticized President Tayyip Erdogan and would be keenly aware of the sensitivity of Ankara to any contacts between Moscow and Kurdish politicians. The visit by Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), is likely to further damage ties between Moscow and Ankara. Erdogan has accused the HDP of connections with armed Kurdish rebels fighting in Turkey's southeast.

Washington Post, U.S. plans raids to deport families who surged across border, Jerry Markon and David Nakamura, Dec. 23, 2015. Homeland Security officials are preparing for raids that would target hundreds of families who have flocked to the U.S. since the start of 2014, according to people familiar with the operation.

Peter Dale ScottWhoWhatWhy via Global Research, The JFK Assassination: Why CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald, Not Ancient History — But Preamble to the Present, Peter Dale Scott, Dec. 24, 2015. The following essay is based on a talk given by author and retired professor Peter Dale Scott (shown at left) at the Third Annual JFK Assassination Conference in Dallas, 2015. (Produced by TrineDay Books, Conscious Community Events, and the JFK Historical Group.)

I wish in this essay to show how Richard Helms [shown in right] first lied to the Warren Commission about the CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald. I argue that his performance, and that of Richard M. Helmsother CIA officials up to the present, constituted significant obstruction of justice with respect to one of this country’s most important unsolved murder cases. Furthermore, we can deduce from the carefully contrived wording of Helms’s lies what the CIA most needed to hide: namely, that the CIA had recently launched a covert operation involving the name of Lee Harvey Oswald (and perhaps Oswald himself), only five weeks before President Kennedy was killed.

That operation — either in itself, or because it was somehow exploited by others — would appear to have become a supportive part of the assassination plot. It seems almost certain moreover that the “Oswald operation” became the focal point of the ensuing CIA cover-up, and of Helms’s perjury.

As I relate in my book Dallas ’63: The First Revolt of the Deep State Against the White House, there was culpable lying and cover-up from many others in high places, including individuals in the FBI, the Secret Service, ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence], and probably still more military intelligence agencies.

Daily Mail, Washington Post forced to pull cartoon depicting Ted Cruz's young daughters as trained monkeys, David Martosko, Dec. 23, 2015. The Washington Post has retracted an editorial cartoon that showed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz's two daughters as trained monkeys, and Cruz as an organ grinder who controls them. Ann Telnaes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, defended her decision to mock Cruz and his children, but her editor wrote that the only reason the cartoon was published was that he never saw it beforehand.

Hartford Courant, Mystery Surrounds Newspaper's Relationship To Las Vegas Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson's Legal Fight, Matthew Kauffman, Dec. 23, 2015. With a reporting staff that numbers in the single Sheldon Adelsondigits, the New Britain Herald still fills its pages seven days a week with city politics, police news, local sports and a variety of community topics from teen pregnancy to Christmas caroling. Given its lean resources and hyperlocal focus, the Herald surprised some earlier this month by devoting an entire page to a lengthy exposition on business courts, including a 10-paragraph section criticizing the actions of a little-known judge three time zones away in Las Vegas.

That article, tucked on Page 12 of a Tuesday paper, is now shining an uncomfortable spotlight on the man who saved the Herald from extinction — publisher Michael Schroeder, who has a business relationship with Sheldon Adelson (shown in a file photo), a prominent casino operator who has clashed with the Las Vegas judge scrutinized in the Herald article. Schroeder now finds himself caught up in a complex mystery at the intersection of politics, media and business — a mystery with a litany of unanswered questions, among them: Why would a local paper in New Britain devote so much space to dissecting the rulings of a county judge 2,288 miles away? And who is the mysterious "Edward Clarkin" whose name appears as the author of the Herald story?  See also, Media Nation, Las Vegas editor out as details emerge about judge story, Dan Kennedy, Dec. 22, 2015.

Washington Post, Trump played a clever trick when he called Clinton’s bathroom visit ‘disgusting,’ Zachary A. Goldfarb, Dec. 22, 2015. On Monday night, Donald Trump made his latest polarizing comment, saying it was “too disgusting” to talk about Hillary Clinton’s use of the bathroom during the last Democratic debate and that she had got “schlonged” by Barack Obama when she lost to him in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Trump was surely talking off-the-cuff in his usual style — and the comments were criticized as offensive and sexist — but it was another example of his mastery in exploiting the psychological biases of conservatives who see much to dislike in today’s society and express support for Trump in the polls. In fact, a growing mass of academic research has shown that conservatives have a particular revulsion to “disgusting” images. In this line of thinking, Trump’s decision to describe Clinton, one of the most disliked people by conservatives, as a “disgusting” figure would have been an especially powerful way to rile up his supporters.

NBC News, Hillary Clinton: Don't let someone 'bully his way' into the presidency, Dec. 23, 2015. At an event on Tuesday, Clinton did not make direct mention of Trump's crude remark — but did single him out for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and double down on her claim that ISIS is using Trump to recruit. A question at the end of the Keota, Iowa, event appeared to offer Clinton a chance to hit back. When a young girl with asthma told Clinton she had been bullied in school and wanted some advice, the candidate responded by saying she had become quite familiar with bullying in her life. "You're looking at somebody who's had a lot of terrible things said about me," she said. "I'm old enough that it doesn't particularly bother me but I can't imagine what it's like to be, you know, a young person in today's world where that's coming at you all the time."

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Presstitute Ranks Expand, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 23, 2015. Now the ranks of Washington’s presstitute propagandists include Sybil Edmonds, whom I supported to the hilt during her persecution by Washington, and Cobett, whose Corbett report I gave many hours on interviews. Now the two are carrying on Washington’s propaganda against RT and Putin, and are accusing me of “Putin worship” because I report the facts. We are witnessing even the victims of the American Police State collapsing and becoming presstitutes.

Dec. 22

Corbett Report, West Prepares to Replace Their Puppet in Turkey, James Corbett interviews former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, Dec. 22, 2015 (video 31:01 min.). Sibel Edmonds of BoilingFrogsPost.com joins us once again to discuss the ongoing "reverse engineering" of Erdogan by the NATO/CIA/Kurdish/Israeli/Russian forces that oppose him. We talk about the hypocritical and nearly-unanimous coverage of Erdogan's abuses -- and how and why this narrative is converging now to finish the US/NATO task of removing him from office to usher in a more pliable puppet.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at CNN Debate

Democratic Presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at CNN-sponsored debate in October

OpEdNews, Bernie Sanders Should Stand Up To The DNC and Debate Republicans NOW, Rob Kall, Dec. 22, 2015. Just as Donald Trump has the GOP leadership shaking in their boots, Bernie Sanders has the DNC nervous. He should go further. Time for Bernie to psych them so they need to change their pants. People are sick and tired of party politics. This election season has shown that people want a candidate who shows he doesn't bow down to hack party leaders.

The DNC has seriously hurt Sanders by restricting the number of debates, and scheduling the authorized ones for low viewership time slots-- Saturday nights, and competing with multiple NFL football games. Bernie should snub the DNC's edict that primary candidates who debate Republicans will not be allowed to participate in debates. This is not a legitimate rule anyway. Bernie should get into it with Trump, Cruz, Rubio, any candidate who will engage. When the DNC tries to tell him to stop, he should tell them to pound sand -- that they don't have the right to keep him silent, which is what they've been doing.

Really, what are they going to say, "You've been naughty so we won't let Democratic voters see you debate the candidate we want?"

There are no second chances here. Iowa is just a few weeks away. Bernie should exercise the independence he's demonstrated all his life. Go for it Bernie break the DNC rule. Show your stuff to the people you will be running against.

Washington Post, Virginia to stop recognizing concealed carry gun permits from 25 states, Jenna Portnoy, Dec. 22, 2015. Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) announced Tuesday that Virginia will no longer recognize concealed carry handgun permits from 25 states that have reciprocity agreements with the commonwealth. Under the policy, Virginians with a history of stalking, drug dealing or inpatient mental-health treatment cannot obtain a permit in a state with comparatively lax laws and carry a handgun legally at home. Virginia Republicans reacted angrily to Herring’s action, accusing him of politicizing his office to erode Second Amendment gun rights. The State Police superintendent accepted Herring’s recommendation to sever agreements with those states, effective Feb. 1.

The New Yorker, It’s Time for Obama to Go Big on Pardons, Jeffrey Toobin, Dec. 22, 2015. President Obama, pictured here during the investiture ceremony of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, has made modest actions to reform mass incarceration, but he could be using his Presidential pardon power more aggressively. The orderly mind of Barack Obama appears to recoil at the vulgar world of pardons. The President is a consummate rationalist, a believer in systems and order. Pardons, in contrast, rely exclusively on the whim of the grantor. This Presidential power is descended from the concept known in Great Britain as the royal prerogative of mercy—three words that seem almost guaranteed to offend this President, singularly or especially aligned together.

Greene County Democrat (Alabama), Obama vows to defeat ISIS, grants 95 pardons and 2 commutations; Don Siegelman not on the list, Wire and staff reports, Dec. 22, 2015. At what is likely to be President Obama's last Don Siegelmannews conference of the year before leaving for a family Christmas vacation, he announced plans to grant Christmastime clemency to 95 federal prisoners Friday, trimming their sentences under what USA Today reported as “an initiative to free prisoners sentenced under mandatory minimum prison terms. He also issued pardons to two others.”

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who is serving a seven-year sentence in an Oakdale, Louisiana Federal prison for questionable charges of corruption brought by Republican prosecutors, was not on the list of those pardoned. Hundreds of Alabama citizens have written and petitioned President Obama for Siegelman’s early release, but so far to no avail.

It was the largest single-day grant of clemency of Obama’s presidency. He has now commuted the prison sentences of 184 people, more than any president since Lyndon Johnson (226) and surpassing the combined number granted by presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush (117). Most of the commutations to shorter sentences dealt with drug offenses, but also included 15 gun crimes — usually while committing a drug offense — and one armed bank robbery. The two pardons involved counterfeiting and bank fraud. Friday’s list included 40 people serving life sentences. Most will be released in April.

Al.com, Alabama auditor slams Gov. Robert Bentley for $1.5 million renovation of gulf mansion, Adam Ganucheau, Dec. 22, 2015. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler slammed Gov. Robert Bentley in a written statement regarding the $1.5 million renovation of the long-dilapidated Gulf Coast governor's mansion. Zeigler, who has publicly criticized the governor on numerous policy issues this year, claims the governor is taking advantage of state money to build a personal home after he lost ownership of his personal beach homes in his September divorce. The two-story, 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion in Baldwin County is receiving a facelift – estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million – after sitting boarded up since Hurricane Danny in 1997. The state will use grant money provided by BP and left over from the 2010 oil spill to cover the cost.

Huffington Post, How Our Corrupt Campaign Finance System Enabled Trump -- And Kneecapped His Rivals, Jason Linkins, Dec. 22, 2015. While the rest of the field hopelessly chases megadonors and their unlimited dark money, Trump is having the last laugh.

Washington Post, Justice Department shuts down federal asset forfeiture program, Christopher Ingraham, Dec. 22, 2015. Officials announced the suspension of a controversial program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of cash and property seized from citizens, even if they are never charged.

Shadowproof, Report: 60 Percent Of Syrian Rebels Are Sympathetic To ISIS, Dan Wright, Dec. 22, 2015. So much for the “moderate rebels.” A report from the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, a think tank run by the Tony Blair Foundation, finds that ISIS represents the mainstream of the Syrian rebels groups trying to overthrow the Assad government. According to the think tank linked to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, roughly 60% of the rebel fighters in Syria are sympathetic to ISIS’ political and religious beliefs and practices. While there may be personal disputes between ISIS and the other rebels, most find little problem with ISIS’ ideology and governing style.

These findings stand in considerable contrast to earlier claims made by the Obama Administration, about which groups constituted the Syrian rebels. President Obama had, at one point, pushed to train a so-called moderate rebel force in Syria and spent $500 million to do so. After the failures of the program became evident, Obama switched his position and labeled the belief in the moderate rebels as a viable force to take on ISIS and Assad as a “fantasy.”

Democracy Now! Seymour Hersh's Latest Bombshell: U.S. Military Undermined Obama on Syria with Tacit Help to Assad, Amy Goodman, Dec. 22, 2015. A new report by the Pulitzer-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh says the Joint Chiefs of Staff has [sic] indirectly supported Bashar al-Assad in an effort to help him defeat jihadist groups. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

Hersh: Well, it began, actually, as I wrote, with a very serious, extensive assessment of our policy, that was completed by June — let’s say by middle of 2013, two-and-a-half years ago. It was a study done by the Joint Chiefs and the Defense Intelligence Agency that came to three sort of conclusions, that may seem obvious now but were pretty interesting then.

One is that they said Assad must stay, at least through — through the resolution of the war, because, as we saw in Libya, once you get rid of a leader, like Gaddafi — same, you can argue, in Iraq with the demise of Saddam Hussein — chaos ensues.

Consortium News, Sarin Attack at Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), Dec. 22, 2015. One reason why Official Washington continues to insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” is that he supposedly “gassed his own people” with sarin on Aug. 21, 2013, but the truth of that allegation has never been established and is in growing doubt, U.S. intelligence veterans point out. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited.

Information Clearinghouse, On the 19th Day of Christmas, Dmitry Orlov, Dec. 22, 2015. The Ukraine is in full-blown collapse — all five glorious stages of it — setting the stage for a Ukrainian Nightmare.

Phase 1. Financially, the Ukrainian government is in sovereign default as of a couple of days ago. The IMF was forced to break its own rules in order to keep it on life support even though it is clearly a deadbeat. In the process, the IMF stiffed Russia, which happens to be one of its major shareholders; what gives?

Phase 2. Industry and commerce are approaching a standstill and the country is rapidly deindustrializing.

Phase 3. Politically, the Ukrainian government is a total farce. Much of it has been turned over to fly-by-night foreigners, such as the former Georgian president Saakashvili, who is a wanted criminal in his own country, which has recently stripped him of his citizenship.Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was recently hauled off the podium by his crotch; how dignified is that? He seemed unfazed.  This sort of action may be fun to watch on Youtube, but the reality is quite sad....

Mirror (London), Legendary Paris 'Madame' who supplied prostitutes to JFK, Gaddafi and Brando dies at 92, Peter Allen, Dec. 22, 2015. Fernande Grudet was known as Madame Claude and is credited with coining the term 'call girl' thanks to her telephone booking system for VIP clients.

Dec. 21

Washington Post, What’s freedom worth? Less than 3 billion euros, apparently, Can Dündar, Dec. 21, 2015. The writer is the imprisoned editor in chief of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. With its Flag of Turkeyhigh-dollar refugee deal with Turkey, the European Union abets Turkey’s abuse of its own citizens. Last month, while accommodating world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Antalya, the Turkish government observed this tradition, taking a break from exerting certain “domestic pressures.” But as soon as the guests left, it added Erdem Gül, Ankara bureau chief at the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and me to the more than 20 journalists it has already put in jail.

In today’s world, which long ago became a global village, one would think that such despotic acts would attract notice and invite repercussions. On Nov. 26, I was imprisoned for publishing a news article on trucks being used by the Turkish intelligence service to illegally transport arms into Syria. Then, just days later, the European Union and Turkey came together for a summit on the migration crisis. In a letter written on behalf of all imprisoned journalists, Gül and I reminded European leaders of the core values of Western civilization, such as freedom of the press, thought and expression. As these leaders walked into the summit in Brussels, they had our letter in one pocket and the 3 billion euros they would give to Turkey in the other. The money in the right pocket was deemed more important than the letter in the left.

McClatchy, What really happened to the U.S. train-and-equip program in Syria? Roy Gutman, Dec. 21, 2015. Participants’ descriptions suggest trainees and trainers never agreed on mission. There were arguments and walkouts over goals, escorts, food supplies, expenses. Fifty-four U.S.-trained Syrian fighters arrived at the Bab al Salama crossing in Syria in mid-July 2015 in a convoy of pickup trucks after completing a two-month training course in Turkey. But after they reached their base, the men decided to take a home leave. On returning to base two weeks later, calamity struck when many walked into a trap set by the Nusra Front, the Al Qaida affiliate in Syria.

Ten weeks later, the Pentagon announced that it had halted the program, which until that moment had been the keystone of the Obama administration’s policy to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in Syria. The program’s demise has been ascribed to a number of factors, including the participants, the Turkish intelligence agency MIT and a Syrian militia, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, better known as the YPG. But a McClatchy investigation shows that the primary factor may well have been the United States itself, which conceived of a program that didn’t have the support of the people it was intended to train and was viewed with deep skepticism by its key training partner, Turkey.

Shadowproof, London Review of Books (LRB), Military to Military, Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war, Seymour Hersh (shown in file photo) Dec. 21, 2015 (print publication dated Jan. 7, 2016) (6,831 words). Barack Obama’s repeated Seymour Hershinsistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

Shadowproof, Vox’s Max Fisher is Wrong About Seymour Hersh, Explained, Kevin Gosztola, Dec. 21, 2015. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a report on how the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff deviated from President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria by sharing military intelligence indirectly with Bashar al-Assad’s government. It also indicated the Joint Chiefs dissented against Obama’s “insistence that ‘moderate’ rebel groups” could defeat Assad because they were all primarily extremists.

Well over twenty-four hours later, there are zero establishment media outlets that have run follow-ups or coverage of Hersh’s reporting. Only “Democracy Now!” had Hersh on their December 22 show and asked him about what he uncovered. Instead, a critique produced by Max Fisher and published at Vox has given U.S. journalists the justification to dismiss all of the major claims and issues raised in Hersh’s report. Fisher, who is Vox’s resident Seymour Hersh critic, outlines in an op-ed or “explainer” why he believes Hersh’s report is nothing but a “bizarre conspiracy theory.” His representation of the claims in the report is entirely overwrought.

Jon Meacham Bush book cover.

Author Jon Meacham

StoneZone, Destiny and Power: The American Whitewash of George Herbert Walker Bush, Roger Stone, Dec. 21, 2015. John Meacham's "biography" of our 41st President George H.W. Bush, Destiny and Power, comes in at a whopping 864 pages and a wrist snapping 3.4 pounds and it's pure whitewash. It ignores inconvenient historical facts because it is an authorized biography. Meacham seems oblivious that the goofy, patrician manner and weird syntaxes that makes him look like a bumbler hide a man of steely ambition, ruthlessness, entitlement and duplicity. Fortunately, my own book Jeb and the Bush Crime Family will be released Jan 26th and will expose what a tool of the power elite "Historian" Meachem is. 

  • Meacham ignores declassified Federal Documents showing Bush was in Dallas on November 22, 1963 staying steps from Dealey Plaza and lied to the FBI to create an alibi when he said for 30 years he "couldn't remember where he was." Not in Meacham's book.
  • Meacham omits stonewalling of the Iran-Contra investigators on the trail of cocaine and arms smuggling he oversaw a vice president and chair of a secret task force to illegally raise money for Nicguaran rebels. Bush, on advice of presidential legal counsel Boydon Gray, creepy son of Eugenics Guru and funder Gordon Gray, refused to be questioned or turn over documents. Not in Meacham's book.
  • CIA Drug Smuggler and Pilot Barry Seal was murdered 3 days after threatening to expose Bush Sons Jeb and W. involvement with drug smuggling. Seal is gunned down with Bush 41 private phone number in his wallet. Not in Meacham's book.

Reuters via Huffington Post, Obama Chides Republicans For Lack Of Alternatives On ISIS, Julia Edwards, Dec. 21, 2015. "When you ask them, 'well, what would you do instead?' they don't have an answer."  President Obama said his administration is open to some "legitimate criticism" for failing to adequately explain its strategy to counter Islamic State, though he chided Republican presidential candidates for criticizing his policy without offering an alternative. In a Dec. 17 interview aired on NPR public radio at 5 a.m. ET Monday, Obama attributed his low approval ratings for how he has handled terrorism to the saturation of Islamic State attacks in the media after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

OpEdNews, Donald Trump: An Evaluation, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 21, 2015. Trump cannot be a dissident politician without a dissident staff. He doesn't know the people who would comprise a dissident staff. Trump knows how to make deals, and the Establishment will staff up a Trump presidency with deals. The minute Trump takes office, he would be already captured.

Washington Post, Tex. grand jury issues no indictments in jailhouse death of Sandra Bland, Sarah Kaplan, Dec. 21, 2015. Bland’s arrest during a July traffic stop in Texas turned confrontational, and she was found dead in police custody three days later. Protesters alleged that she should not have been arrested. The grand jury will reconvene in January to take up unidentified "remaining issues" in the case.

Dec. 20

Off Guardian (United Kingdom), New East Network: Who is the Guardian speaking for? Kit, Dec. 20, 2015. Part one of our series investigating the Guardian’s “New East Network.” A network of “media partners” United Kingdom flagaiming to “expand coverage” of ex-Soviet states, we take a look inside and ask: Just with whom is the Guardian in partnership?

First appearing in the Guardian on the 9th of June 2014, at the height of Ukraine crisis – when a new “invasion” was being reported every twenty minutes or so, the New East Network (NEN) has brought us such groundbreaking journalism as “Putin walks funny.”

So far we have eight “partners”: 3 with direct ties to the American government and/or intelligence agencies, 2 of which are personal projects of billionaires with well-known anti-Russia agendas, 2 of which are both, and 1 which was set up by the European Union. It seems that when the Guardian talks about “expanding coverage,” what they mean is broadcasting the views of billionaire oligarchs, ex-CIA analysts, the European Union or some delightful mix of all three.

One wonders if the NEN being set up so soon after the Guardian came under such pressure from GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] that they voluntarily destroyed their own computers could really be a coincidence. In the space of two years the Guardian has gone from broadcasting the illegal actions of the US/UK governments, to re-printing CIA and State Department press releases. There’s a name for that, and it’s not “expanding coverage.”

Christine LaGarde at National Press Club (Photo courtesy Noel St. John)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Christine LaGarde at National Press Club (Photo courtesy Noel St. John)

OpEdNews, The One Percent Rallies Behind IMF Director Christine Lagarde, Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 20, 2015. Washington removed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the leading contender for the French presidency and as director of the IMF by framing him on phony charges of raping a New York hotel maid. The obviously false charge was proven to be totally fabricated and had to be dropped. In the meantime, Strass-Kahn had been forced to resign from the IMF and to drop out of the French election. Washington regarded Strauss-Kahn as insufficiently compliant with Washington’s agendas and moved him aside.

Washington got its vassal, Francois Hollande, elected President of France, and replaced Strauss-Kahn at the IMF with the “rhymes-with-witch” Christine LaGarde. LaGarde serves only the One Percent. She overturned the decision by the IMF’s professional staff that the Greek debt had to be written down to a sum that the country could afford to service. Instead, LaGarde enabled the One Percent to loot the Greek nation and the Greek people, forcing many young Greek women into prostitution in order to have money for food.

LaGarde’s crimes have caught up with her. A French judicial commission has ordered her to stand trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister of France. Despite the judicial order that she stand trial, she has not had to resign as IMF director. The One Percent protects its own. The IMF’s executive board “continues to express its confidence in the Managing Director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties.” [See also Wall Street Journal: IMF Chief Lagarde Ordered to Stand Trial in France.]

No such expression of confidence was given to Strauss-Kahn when he was arrested on obviously false charges.

StephenLendmanBlog, IMF Chief Lagarde to Stand Trial, Stephen Lendman, Dec. 20, 2015. Charges are unrelated to her greatest crimes – representing the US-controlled IMF and Western monied interests at the expense of beneficial social change. The agency is a bandit operation, the loan shark lender of last resort, force-feeding economic and financial harshness on nations in return for loans – followed by new ones needed to pay debt service, an endless cycle of debt peonage, monied interests profiting hugely. Ordinary people suffer greatly as expected. So do debt-entrapped countries, forced to obey harsh IMF diktats – incompatible with social democracy, civil and human rights.

Reuters via Huffington Post, Russian Warplanes Allegedly Kill Scores In Syrian City, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Dec. 20, 2015. Rescue workers said they had confirmed 43 dead but that at least 30 more bodies had been retrieved that had still to be identified. Over 150 people were wounded with some of the serious cases sent to hospitals in Turkey. Separately, the Syrian army with the backing of Russian air power said on Sunday it had seized the rebel held town of Khan Touman in southern Aleppo, a major gain that opened the way for advances further to the west in Idlib province. The advances brought the army only a few kilometers from the major rebel-controlled Aleppo-Damascus highway, whose capture would be a big boost to the Syrian army.

Breitbart, Karl Rove, Mike Murphy Under Fire for Epic Super PAC Failures, C. Edmund Wright, Dec. 20, 2015. If repeat business is the top sign of a success, then Karl Rove is now the poster boy for campaign strategy failure. According to a report by Gabriel Sherman in New York Magazine, Rove’s fund raising for the 2016 campaign is currently at less than 1 per cent of what he ended up with in 2012, and indications are it’s not going to get much better. Do the math: he’s down more than 99 percent. Even if he eventually raises ten fold what he’s pulled in so far, he’s still likely to be down 90 percent plus.

That’s because many of his previous benefactors are seething with anger over the 2012 failure. This has to do not only with the electoral disaster – which was obvious – but also with the arrogance with which Rove and the other sorcerers of Crossroads raised and spent money, how they insisted on controlling the messaging, and all but guaranteed a win as a result. According to a conversation I had with someone close to Sheldon Adelson, Rove even let it be known that there was no room for other Super PACs to join the Romney effort – after Romney had dispatched Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Dec. 19

USA Today, Obama grants 95 Christmastime pardons and commutations, Gregory Korte,  Dec. 19, 2015. President Obama's decision to shorten the sentences of 95 federal prisoners Friday continued a continuing trend toward Christmastime clemency that's being criticized as part of "a broken process." Obama said the clemency grants — the largest single-day use of his pardon power in his presidency to date — "another step forward in upholding our fundamental ideals of justice and fairness." He also gave complete pardons to two people involved in counterfeiting and bank fraud, the White House announced.

Most of the commutations to shorter sentences dealt with drug offenders given long mandatory minimum sentences, but also included 15 gun crimes — usually while committing a drug offense — and one armed bank robbery.

Obama has now commuted the prison sentences of 184 people, more than any president since Lyndon Johnson (226) and surpassing the combined number granted by presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush (117).

Legal scholars who study clemency say the regular use of the pardon power is a healthy check and balance to long and expensive prison sentences. But they question why so many of Obama's grants have come in the weeks before Christmas.

Washington Post, Democrats draw contrast from GOP on handling terror threats, Karen Tumulty, Dec. 19, 2015.

 

Zero Hedge, Turkey Blasts "Breakthrough" UN Resolution On Syria: "It Lacks Perspective. Assad Must Go!" Tyler Durden, Dec. 19, 2015. Well, for anyone who thought Turkey might be set to bow to Flag of Turkeyinternational pressure by moving its troops north and thus back towards the Turkey-Iraq border, think again. Because on Saturday, Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu was out with a series of declarations that seem to suggest Turkey is going full-belligerent-retard as Erdogan scrambles to preserve the “Assad must go” narrative on the way to securing whatever Ankara’s interests are in both Iraq and Syria.

First, Davutoglu said that the provision of training to the Peshmerga and Mosul militiamen is “in line with a request from Iraq authorities and as such, the mission in Iraq will continue “until Mosul is freed” from ISIS. Next, Davutoglu claims that the Islamic State attacks on Turkish positions in Bashiqa prove Turkey “is right.” Davutoglu then slammed a UN Security Council resolution agreed in New York on Friday. Diplomats adopted a resolution which purports to draw a road map for ending the war in Syria. For Turkey, the absence of a decision on Assad's future is maddening. The Security Council resolution "lacks realistic perspective," Davutoglu said on Saturday, before adding that the "Syria crisis can only be solved if Bashar al-Assad leaves power."

Consider that, and consider the fact that, as we reported yesterday, Ankara is now establishing a military base in Qatar in order that the two countries might work more closely on tackling "common enemies."

What we're beginning to see here is the formation of three alliances in the Mid-East: 1) Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq; 2) Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar; 3) Britain, France, and Germany. The first alliance is pro-Assad, anti-terror. The second is anti-Assad, pro-Sunni extremist. The third is anti-Assad (although less vehemently so). Note that we've left the US out. Why? Because Washington is now stuck. The US wants desperately to maintain coordination with Ankara, Riyadh, and Doha, but between stepped-up media coverage of Saudi Arabia's role in underwriting extremism (via the promotion of Wahhabism) and heightened scrutiny on Erdogan's role in financing terrorists, the position is becoming increasingly untenable. But aligning solely with the UK, France, and Germany entails adopting a more conciliatory approach to Assad. The US is now thoroughly confused as to what to do next.

Washington Post, U.S.: Airstrike that killed 10 Iraqi soldiers was ‘a mistake that involved both sides,’ Mustafa Salim and Missy Ryan, Dec. 19, 2015. An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition this week killed 10 Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi government said Saturday, in an apparent friendly fire incident in which the U.S. defense secretary says both sides shared responsibility. Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi, at a news conference in Baghdad, said one Iraqi officer and nine soldiers were killed in the strike Friday, which took place south of the city of Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Guardian, Turkish troops move out of northern Iraq after Obama appeal for calm, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2015. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown in file photo) agrees to pull troops out of Iraq to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad, Recep Tayyip Erdoganwhich had accused Turkey of an ‘illegal incursion.’ Turkey has said said it would “continue” to pull its troops out of northern Iraq after US president Barack Obama urged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do so in order to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad over the deployment.

Washington Post, Deal reached between Sanders and DNC doesn’t do away with the disdain, John Wagner, Dec. 19, 2015. The accord announced after midnight between Bernie Sanders’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee did little to paper over their discord. In early Saturday morning statements, both parties relayed that the DNC — facing a federal lawsuit from the Sanders camp — had agreed to end its suspension of the campaign’s access to key voter information contained in a DNC-controlled database, including data the Sanders campaign had gathered about its own supporters.

Salon, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz must go, and the case Bernie Sanders must make tonight, Bill Curry, Dec. 19, 2015. Former Connecticut State Treasurer is a two-time Democratic nominee for the state's governorsip. The chairwoman is the Democrats' version of Katherine Harris -- inept, in the tank, and no longer to be trusted.

Reuters, Assad makes rare visit to church in Damascus, Kinda Makieh, Dec. 19, 2015. Syrian President Bashar al Assad attended Christmas choir preparations in an ancient church close to a frontline area in the Bashar and Asma Assadcapital Damascus where his army is engaged in heavy fighting with rebels, state media said on Saturday. State television showed footage of Assad and his wife Asma (shown together in a file photo) making the visit overnight to the Notre Dame de Damas Church, where he was shown chatting to the choir. He took a seat near the altar and listened to a recital of Christmas poems in the main cathedral hall. The surroundings of the church in the old part of the ancient capital were hit by mortar fire on Friday, officials said.

The church is only 2 km away from Jobar, a neighborhood of the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus that has been the focus for months of heavy aerial bombardments and more recently Russian bombing that have left dozens of mostly civilian casualties. Assad has portrayed himself in recent interviews with the Western media as a protector of Syria's minorities, saying his rule was an example of religious tolerance in a country threatened by Islamist insurgents who have taken swathes of territory and seek to impose their version of strict Islam.

White House, President Obama's Weekly Address: Top 10 Things that Happened in 2015, Tanya Somanader, Dec. 19, 2015. President Obama's top 10 things that happened in 2015 that should make every American optimistic about 2016.

 

Cannon Fire, Hillary, Nixon, JFK: The problem of false history, Joseph Cannon, Dec. 19, 2015. Earlier today, I read this piece. It's a review of an anti-Hillary book written by left-wing critic Diana Johnstone; the reviewer is a libertarian named John V. Walsh. This passage by Walsh made my eyes go wide: "Johnstone sees Clinton as both a product of her times – privileged child of the U.S. Empire, white, Wellesley, Yale, a dishonest and ultimately fired operative on the Watergate committee right out of law school...."

What a specious argument! Basically, it comes down to "Good school = bad person." Hillary's family was thoroughly middle class (her dad helped to manage a textile mill), so pretending that she grew up hobnobbing with the Rockefellers and the Astors is disingenuous.

But that Watergate remark seemed oddly familiar. The reference goes to the allegations of one Jerry Zeifman, who supervised a young Hillary Clinton when she went to work for the House Judiciary Committee. At first, Zeifman said that he had fired Hillary. Then he changed his story, claiming that he wished he had fired her. The fact that he could not maintain a consistent narrative on so basic a matter tells us much about Zeifman. (And the fact that she definitely was not fired tells us much about John V. Walsh.)

Dec. 18

Consortium news, Saudis’ Anti-Terror Window-dressing, Paul R. Pillar, Dec. 18, 2015. Faced with greater public awareness of its role promoting Sunni jihadist terror, Saudi Arabia has announced a 34-nation “anti-terrorism coalition,” but it may be just window-dressing for Riyadh’s anti-Shiite agenda, not a serious move against extremism, an issue addressed by ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar. 

Intercept, Clinton, Rubio, Cruz Receive Foreign Policy Advice From Same Consulting Firm, Lee Fang, Dec. 18, 2015. Consultants affiliated with a small Washington, D.C., firm called Beacon Global Strategies hold the unique privilege of providing high-profile foreign policy guidance to Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others. The bipartisan firm was founded in 2013 by former senior officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency, and quickly had more than a dozen clients, primarily defense contractors, according to Defense News.

Philippe Reines and Andrew Shapiro, both considered part of Clinton’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers, are founders of the firm. Eric Edelman, a former Bush administration Defense Department official, is an advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies and a leading foreign policy adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. Brian Hooks, another veteran Bush administration official and advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies, teamed up with Edelman to form a foreign policy prep effort for Republican candidates, called the John Hay Initiative. Hooks and Edelman have reportedly provided private briefings to help shape foreign policy ideas to candidates including Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham, encouraging them to take on hawkish positions.

Huffington Post, Chief Justice Roberts Made 'Human Error' In Overlooking Conflict Of Interest, Cristian Farias, Dec. 18, 2015. The head of the Supreme Court inadvertently participated in a case involving a John Robertscompany where he had a significant financial stake. Earlier this year, a Supreme Court justice took action in a case where he had an unintended conflict of interest. Actually, that happened twice this year. One of the incidents involved Justice Stephen Breyer, and you might have heard about that, because it led the court to make public a letter explaining the ordeal. The other incident involved Chief Justice John Roberts, and it just came to light this week.

Back in October, Roberts participated in the consideration of an appeal involving Texas Instruments -- a company in which Roberts or one of his family members holds stock worth up to $250,000, according to his latest financial disclosure form. Fix the Court, a nonprofit that lobbies for more transparency and accountability at the high court, first discovered Roberts' oversight and published the findings on its website Friday. Kathleen Arberg, the court's public information officer, told Bloomberg that Roberts' mistake was no more than "human error."

Washington Post, U.N. Security Council approves plan for Syrian peace process, Karen DeYoung, Dec. 19, 2015. But the resolution avoids details and papers over key differences among nations backing various combatants. The U.N. ­Security Council on Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a peace process that is designed to end Syria’s civil war and to allow the international community to focus its attention more fully on defeating the Islamic State. The resolution gave Security Council backing to a process that begins with negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents to establish a transitional government that will write a new constitution and hold elections, all within 18 months.

The resolution instructs U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura to guide the government and opposition groups toward talks to begin as early as next month. Among the pitfalls he will have to navigate are the opposition’s insistence that no talks can be held with [Syrian President Barshar al-Assad’s] participation and Russia’s demand that Assad be included. The two sides and their international supporters also disagree about which opposition groups can take part in the negotiations, with Russia seeking to ban as “terrorists” Islamist forces who are among the strongest and most numerous opposition fighters.

Atlantic, Obama's Final Press Conference of 2015, Marina Koren, Dec. 18, 2015 (Transcript). President Obama spoke to reporters in the briefing room for just over an hour, starting with a list of his administration’s wins from this year: a national unemployment rate below 6 percent, the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage and Obamacare, the climate-change deal, and no end-of-year government shutdown. But the specter of foreign terrorist organizations and their growing reach looms large over the nation as it inches toward the new year, and the president has spent the last several weeks attempting to assuage a public whose fears of an attack have reached post-9/11 levels.

"You told the nation there’s no specific or credible threat of a similar attack, but how is it really possible to know?” one reporter asked Obama. “Aren’t similar plots going to be just as hard to detect beforehand?”

“You’re absolutely right,” replied Obama, who travels later Friday to California, where he’ll meet privately Friday with the families of the San Bernardino shooting, whose perpetrators were allegedly inspired by the Islamic State. He noted the difficulty of screening for self-radicalized individuals in the U.S.

“This is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like al-Qaeda that involved highly trained operatives who are working as cells or as a network,” Obama said.

The president reiterated his belief the United States will defeat the Islamic State, which it has been bombing for more than 18 months in Iraq and Syria. Obama dodged a question about whether he believes the presidency of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad will outlast his own, saying, “I think that Assad is going to have to leave the country to stop the bloodletting or for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way.”

Bernie Sanders OfficialWashington Post, Sanders aide accuses DNC of trying to ‘undermine’ campaign, John Wagner,, Abby Phillip and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 18, 2015. A messy public brawl erupted after the Democratic National Committee suspended the campaign’s access to key voter data for breaching records belonging to the Clinton campaign. Sanders responded by suing the DNC. The presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders filed a lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee Friday, arguing that the party had unfairly suspended the campaign’s access to key voter information.

The suit came hours after campaign manager Jeff Weaver acknowledged at a Washington news conference that Sanders staffers had improperly reviewed information gathered by rival Hillary Clinton earlier in the week. But he accused the DNC of overreacting to the breach by suspending the Sanders campaign’s ability to access the computer system containing information about Democratic-leaning voters, including data the campaign has gathered about its own supporters.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz rejected that allegation late Friday, alleging that Sanders staffers had exploited a software error to essentially “steal” data from Clinton’s campaign. Wasserman-Schultz said the party would not allow Sanders access to the critical database again until his campaign agreed to an independent audit of what happened.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz MedillOpEdNews, DNC Goes Full Attack on Sanders -- Further Rigging Primary, Cutting Access to Voter Database, Rob Kall, Dec. 18, 2015. They're saying it's because someone in the Sanders campaign accessed some Clinton campaign information. But what they're not saying is the reason this happened is the company the DNC hired to maintain and manage the database has repeatedly allowed lapses in the security"wall" between campaigns using the database. When it it happened, the data manager for the Sanders campaign peeked. When the Sanders team management found out, they fired him. This is an outrageous additional abuse of power by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (shown in a photo by Medill DC via Flickr).

Guardian, Sanders: Clinton's pursuit of 'regime change' in Libya helped rise of ISIS, Dan Roberts, Dec. 17, 2015. Vermont senator challenges Clinton’s foreign policy record and says her ties to Wall Street mean she would not take on ‘billionaire class’ (5:45 min). Bernie Sanders has accused Hillary Clinton of encouraging Islamic extremism in Libya, in a prelude to a Democratic debate on Saturday during which he is expected to go on the attack for the first time over the unintended consequences of the former secretary of state’s more interventionist foreign policy. Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticized Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said. “I voted against the war in Iraq ... Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Middle East Eye, Why the US pushes the illusory Syrian peace process, Gareth Porter, Dec. 18, 2015. The anti-Assad coalition led by the United States continues to stagger toward the supposed objective of beginning peace negotiations between the Syrian government and what has now been blessed as the politically acceptable “opposition.” The first such meeting was scheduled for 1 January, but no one on either side believes for a moment that any such negotiations are going to happen any time in the foreseeable future.

If it is so obvious that the Riyadh conference and the larger scheme for peace negotiations is not going to come to fruition, why has the Obama administration been pushing it? The explanation for what appears to be a lost cause can be inferred from the basic facts surrounding the administration’s Syria policy.

First, the administration adopted the objective of regime change in Syria in late 2011, at a time when it was convinced that the regime was on the ropes. And although it has partially backtracked from that aim by distinguishing between Assad and the institutional structure of the regime, it cannot back off the demand for Assad to step down without a humiliating admission of failure and major domestic political damage....

The obvious implication of these facts is that the ostensible push for a ceasefire and peace negotiations is a useful device for managing the political optics associated with Syria during the administration’s final year. If it is not questioned by media and political elites, the administration will be able to claim both that it is insisting on getting rid of Assad and at the same time moving toward a ceasefire and political settlement.  

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Doesn't Seem To Be Concerned That Vladimir Putin Kills Journalists, Sam Levine, Dec. 18, 2015. "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday seemed unconcerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin kills journalists who disagree with him. Trump was pressed on his support for Putin by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on "Morning Joe" Friday. The comments came a day after the Republican presidential hopeful and the Russian president publicly praised each other. Editor's note: The blog contains no sourcing for its commentary, only attack language.

BBC, Syria war: UN Security Council unanimously backs peace plan, staff report, Dec. 18, 2015. The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining a peace process in Syria. The 15-member council reached rare agreement on the issue in a session in New York on Friday. The resolution endorses talks between the Syrian government and opposition in early January, as well as a ceasefire. The Syrian war, which is heading towards its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions more, the UN says. However, disagreements remain over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

OpEdNews, Syria Shatters Pentagon Dream, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 18, 2015. They look at the Syrian chessboard and as power projection goes, they see Russia comfortably settling down, with a serious land and air base, to conduct all sorts of operations across MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) in the near future. The Pentagon obviously never saw it coming. And that's just the beginning. Further on down the road there's bound to be increased military interaction between Russia, China and Iran across Southwest Asia. The Pentagon qualifies Russia, China and Iran -- the key nodes of Eurasia integration -- as threats. Amidst all the ambiguities, partners could not be a more delightfully diplomatic way to mask what is a stunning fact in the skies: with its current mix of sophisticated surface-to-air, sea-to-air and air-to-air defenses, from cruise missiles launched out of submarines to the S-400s, the de facto no-fly zone over Syria is now decided by Moscow -- not Washington and much less Ankara.

Those S-400s, by the way, will soon move up north around the vastly complex Aleppo theatre, as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) progressively gains ground. In the first half of 2016 we should be contemplating a situation where the S-400s will be targeting and covering the whole Turkish-Syrian border. This will be the moment when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will completely lose his marbles. Russia's air cover for the SAA advances -- and soon Syrian Kurd YPG advances -- is methodically preparing the terrain for the end of all Ankara's elaborate plans for a no-fly zone disguised as a safe zone, fully paid by the 3 billion euros disbursed by the EU to Turkey to settle Syrian refugees.

Dec. 17

Zero Hedge, Treason! Lawmaker Discovers It's Bad Idea To Accuse Erdogan Of Supplying Sarin Gas To ISIS. Tyler Durden, Dec. 17, 2015. Two weeks ago, CHP lawmaker Eren Erdem said he, like Moscow, will soon provide proof of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s role in the smuggling of Islamic State oil. "I have been able to establish that there is a very high probability that Berat Albayrak is linked to the supply of oil by the Daesh terrorists,” Erdem said, referencing Erdogan’s son-in-law who just happens to be the country’s energy minister. That wasn’t the first time Erdem has accused the Erdogan government of engaging in nefarious activities. Recall that back in October, Erdem and fellow CHP deputy Ali Seker claimed an investigation into Turkey's role in a 2013 sarin gas attack that killed more than a thousand civilians in Syria was being obstructed.

"The MKE [Turkish Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation] is also an actor that is mentioned in the investigation file. Here is the indictment. All the details about how sarin was procured in Turkey and delivered to the terrorists, along with audio recordings, are inside the file," Erdem said, at a press conference held on October 21.

"Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism," he continued.

As Today’s Zaman reported at the time, “...over 1,300 people were killed in the sarin gas attack in Ghouta and several other neighborhoods near the Syrian capital of Damascus, with the West quickly blaming the regime of Bashar al-Assad and Russia claiming it was a ‘false flag’ operation aimed at making US military intervention in Syria possible.”

On the heels of Erdem’s allegations surrounding Erdogan’s role in Islamic State’s illicit oil smuggling business, the lawmaker said he intends “to carry this investigation through to the end,” to which we replied: “..we can only hope that, for the sake of exposing the truth, ‘the end’ doesn’t end up being a Turkish jail cell, or worse.”

Well sure enough, Erdem now faces “treason” charges. Here’s Today’s Zaman again: "The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation into Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Eren Erdem for 'treason,' following his claims on the Russia Today (RT) TV station [excerpted below] that radical groups used Turkey as a transit route for the shipment of sarin gas.

Turkish media reported on Wednesday that the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office will send a summary of proceedings to the Ministry of Justice on Thursday. If the summary of proceedings is sent to Parliament, the process for stripping Erdem of his parliamentary immunity will begin. Erdem might be prosecuted over treason if Parliament votes in favor of the removal of his parliamentary immunity. Cem Kucuk, a columnist at the pro-government Star daily, said on a program on Kanal 24 on Tuesday that Erdem's appearance on RT and his claims regarding sarin gas were “treason.” Kucuk argued that Erdem's immunity should be removed by Parliament for him to “pay for his deeds.” For his part, Erdem repeated his contention that he's the subject of a smear campaign. “The paramilitary organization Ottoman Hearths is sharing my address [on Twitter] and plans a raid [on my house]. I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country's prestige,” he says. The charges come just two days after Erdem gave the following interview to RT in which he says ISIS "received all necessary materials to produce deadly sarin gas via Turkey." He insists there are grounds to believe a cover up is in the offing. And so, just as Erdogan arrested Can Dundar, editor in chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s capital correspondent in Ankara on charges of spying and aiding a terrorist organization after they published video depicting an MIT truck transporting weapons to Syria, and just as Ankara arrested the generals who stopped the truck, AKP will now try a member of the opposition for treason. CNN, On board the warship Moskva: The naval power behind Russia's air war in Syria, Matthew Chance, Dec. 17, 2015. Several miles off the Syrian coast, the Moskva, a Russian warship laden with long-range guided missiles, is a formidable symbol of Russian naval might in this stretch of the eastern Mediterranean. I've been given rare access on board this 11,500-ton, 186-meter (610-foot) missile cruiser to witness the key role it plays in Russia's air war against jihadist rebels in Syria's grinding civil war. Equipped with a powerful air defense system, the Moskva has been situated off the Syrian city of Latakia to provide support to the Russian warplanes crisscrossing Syrian skies in an unrelenting schedule of sorties from the Hmeymim air base. In the two days I've been touring the Russian military operations in Syria, their jets have flown more than 100 sorties, destroyed 287 rebel strongholds and 40 oil installations, and killed more than 400 rebels, the Russian Defense Ministry says. The Moskva was deployed here, not far from Syria's border with Turkey, in the wake of Turkey's shootdown of a Russian Su-24 jet last month, bringing an extra layer of air defense to the Russian intervention in Syria's civil war. Russia has launched missiles from the sea during its Syrian campaign, although not from the Moskva. Not long ago, an international journalist being granted this kind of access to an active Russian warship would have been even more of a rarity. Washington Post, On regime change in Syria, the White House capitulates to Russia, Editorial board, Dec. 17, 2015. Russian planes are still bombing Western-backed forces in Syria every day and targeting hospitals, bakeries and humanitarian corridors. Moscow is still insisting that blood-drenched dictator Bashar al-Assad remain in power indefinitely while trying to exclude opposition groups from proposed peace negotiations by claiming they are terrorists. Nevertheless, Secretary of State John F. Kerry insisted Tuesday after meeting with Vladi­mir Putin that the Russian ruler and the Obama administration see Syria “in fundamentally the same way.” Unfortunately, that increasingly appears to be the case — and not because Mr. Putin has altered his position. Washington Post, U.S.-led airstrikes kill 180 Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq, Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris, Dec. 17, 2015. Islamist militants also launched four coordinated attacks against Kurdish forces in that area. The assault shows the group’s resilience despite a year-long air campaign by the United States and allies. American-led airstrikes killed at least 180 Islamic State fighters as local Kurdish forces­ scrambled to repel a bold, multi-pronged assault by the militants, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday. At least four coordinated attacks by more than 300 heavily armed militants kicked off the most intense fighting that northern Iraq has seen this year, illustrating the extremist group’s continued potency despite a year-long air campaign by the United States and its allies. New York Times, ISIS Carries Out First ‘Serious’ Attack in Northern Iraq in Months, U.S. Says, Michael R. Gordon, Dec. 17, 2015. Islamic State fighters conducted their most significant military operation in northern Iraq in more than five months when they mounted a three-pronged attack on Wednesday night north and east of Mosul, American officials said Thursday. The attack appeared to have been intended to show that the group is still a potent fighting force despite setbacks in Sinjar, Iraq, and in northern Syria. It may have also been intended to disrupt efforts by the American-led coalition to prepare for the eventual battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which was captured by the Islamic State in June 2014. The assault, which took place on the eve of a visit here by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Thursday, was beaten back by pesh merga fighters, as the Kurdish forces are known. Huffington Post, Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Is Behind Las Vegas Review-Journal Mystery Sale, Michael Calderone, Dec. 17, 2015. The newsroom is awash with fears about the casino mogul's intentions after his refusal to admit ownership. Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and Republican power broker who spent more than $100 million in the last election cycle, is behind the secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, according to the newspaper. The Review-Journal reported Wednesday night that Adelson didn't personally buy the paper, but had his son-in-law, Patrick Dumont, orchestrate the deal. Dumont is listed as a senior vice president at Las Vegas Sands Corp., of which Adelson is chairman and CEO. The paper, citing an anonymous source, reported Adelson funded the deal. The purchase gives Adelson control over Nevada's largest media outlet and raises questions about whether the newsroom will retain editorial independence when covering the gaming industry and politics, given his outsize influence in both worlds. Adelson is expected to spend upward of $100 million this election cycle, making his endorsement one of the most sought after among Republican hopefuls. Adelson has been said to be leaning toward Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the 2016 election, though he hasn't committed to any candidate. Washington Post, Putin: Donald Trump is 'a very flamboyant man, very talented,' Andrew Roth, Dec. 17, 2015. Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ranged from conflict zones to U.S. politics Thursday in a news conference in which he tried to close gaps with Washington over Syria, noted that Moscow remained engaged in Ukraine and gave a nod to Donald Trump as the “absolute leader” in the White House race. Putin — over three hours of questions and some overtime remarks — also touched on Russia’s battered economy and tense relations with Turkey over the downing of a Russian warplane. Many of Putin’s comments circled back to relations with the United States, including a bit of look-ahead musing on the White House race. Putin said Russia would work with “whomever the American voters choose,” but he singled out Trump. Washington Post, Martin Shkreli, CEO who jacked up drug price, is charged in unrelated fraud case, Renae Merle and Michael E. Miller, Dec. 17, 2015. Prosecutors allege that the drug firm executive, who notoriously raised the price of a lifesaving drug by more than 4,000 percent, misled investors about the financial health of a hedge fund he once managed. Wall Street Journal, IMF Chief Lagarde Ordered to Stand Trial in France, William Horobin, Dec. 17, 2015. Christine Lagarde referred for trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister. A French judicial commission has ordered International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde to stand trial for alleged negligence over a decision she made as finance minister of France. Dec. 16 Wired, Congress Slips CISA Into a Budget Bill That’s Sure to Pass, Andy Greenberg, Dec. 16, 2015. Privacy advocates were aghast in October when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21, leaving intact portions of the law they say make it more amenable to surveillance than actual security. Now, as CISA gets closer to the President’s desk, those privacy critics argue that Congress has quietly stripped out even more of its remaining privacy protections. In a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” bill, a massive piece of legislation that deals with much of the federal government’s funding. It now includes a version of CISA as well. Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto. And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate. “They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute. CISA had alarmed the privacy community by giving companies the ability to share cybersecurity information with federal agencies, including the NSA, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” That means CISA’s information-sharing channel, ostensibly created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, could also provide a loophole in privacy laws that enabled intelligence and law enforcement surveillance without a warrant. The latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation seems to exacerbate that problem. It creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness. Update 12/18/2015 12pm: The House and Senate have now passed the omnibus bill, including the new version of CISA. Montgomery Advertiser, End the Embarrassment and Pardon Don Siegelman, Josh Moon, Dec. 16, 2015. It doesn’t matter why Don Siegelman is in solitary confinement at a Louisiana federal prison. It doesn’t matter because Don Siegelman shouldn’t be in prison at all. Why this absolute travesty has been allowed to continue – and make no mistake, it is both Democrats and Republicans who have allowed it – is a mystery to me and to a number of attorneys and legal scholars from across the country. It is an embarrassment to the justice system. It is an embarrassment to the state. And it should be an embarrassment to every citizen. See also, Al.com, Here's why President Obama should pardon Don Siegelman, John Farmer, Dec. 24, 2014. Air Force Times, U.S. pulls F-15 fighter jets from Turkey, Aaron Mehta and Jeff Schogol, Dec. 16, 2015. The U.S. is withdrawing a dozen F-15 fighters from the key Turkish air base of Incirlik, less than two months after their arrival. The fighters — six F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing and six F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing — will be returning to Europe. The U.S. will still maintain a dozen A-10 Warthog close-air support fighters at the base, located about 100 miles from the border with Syria. The six F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing arrived at Incirlik on Nov. 6 to help protect Turkish airspace. When the F-15s’ arrival was first announced, Pentagon officials emphasized having the capability located so close to Syria was vital for the fight against the Islamic State. However, on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis downplayed the removal of the fighters, noting that capability would still be in Europe and able to flow down if necessary. Slate, America’s New Know-Nothings, Fred Kaplan, Dec. 16, 2015. The Republican Party’s top presidential candidates proved that they know nothing about foreign policy. It was a grotesque debate, a travesty of rhetoric, a carnival of buncombe the likes of which even H.L. Mencken (who coined the last phrase) could not have imagined. I refer, of course, to Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, its entire two hours devoted to national security and terrorism, about which most of the nine major candidates proved they knew nothing, a fact that some tried to conceal by making stuff up. Donald Trump, the front-runner, was asked to elaborate on his proposal to shut down the Internet to keep ISIS from recruiting on social media. First, he affirmed that this was still his position, saying, “I don’t want them using our Internet” (as if the Internet has a nationality), then added that he was “not talking about closing the Internet,” just “those parts” of the Internet in Iran and Syria (as if each country occupied a sector, some digital latitude and longitude, of the World Wide Web). Sen. Ted Cruz, who seems to have signed a nonaggression pact with Trump, was asked about his hair-raising proposal to “carpet-bomb ISIS to oblivion.” Did this mean, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, that he’d kill thousands of civilians in towns like Raqqa, Syria? Cruz explained that he would “carpet-bomb where ISIS troops are, not a city” — ignoring (not knowing?) that ISIS formations mainly are in cities. They don’t hang around campfires at night in the desert, forming nifty targets for bombers flying above. InfoWars, Trump Tells Off Jeb Bush “You’re a Tough Guy… So Far I’m at 42% and You’re at 3,” Jim Hoft, Dec. 16, 2015 (Video). Jeb Bush and Donald Trump go at it… again. OpEdNews, You Want War? Russia is Ready for War, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 16, 2015. Pepe Escobar, shown in a file photo, is an independent geopolitical analyst. Nobody needs to read Zbigniew "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski's 1997 opus to know US foreign policy revolves around one single overarching theme: prevent -- by all means necessary -- the emergence of a power, or powers, capable of constraining Washington's unilateral swagger, not only in Eurasia but across the world. Syria is leading all these assumptions to collapse like a house of cards. "Tense" does not even begin to describe the current Russia-Turkey geopolitical tension, which shows no sign of abating. If Ankara opts for a suicide mission of knocking out yet another Su-24, or Su-34, Russia will simply clear the airspace all across the border via the S-400s. If Ankara under the cover of NATO responds by launching the Turkish Army on Russian positions, Russia will use nuclear missiles, drawing NATO into war not only in Syria but potentially also in Europe. Since mid-2014 the Pentagon has run all manner of war games -- as many as 16 times, under different scenarios -- pitting NATO against Russia. All scenarios were favorable to NATO. All simulations yielded the same victor: Russia. And that's why Erdogan's erratic behavior actually terrifies quite a few real players from Washington to Brussels. The Pentagon is very much aware of the tremendous heavy metal Russia may unleash if provoked to the limit by someone like Erdogan. Let's roll out an abridged list. Russia can use the mighty SS-18 -- which NATO code names "Satan"; each "Satan" carries 10 warheads, with a yield of 750 to 1000 kilotons each, enough to destroy an area the size of New York State. The Topol M ICBM is the world's fastest missile at 21 Mach (16,000 miles an hour); against it, there's no defense. Launched from Moscow, it hits New York City in 18 minutes, and L.A. in 22.8 minutes. Three Alleged ISIS Smuggling Routes (in blue) from Central Syria Via NATO-member Turkey (Russian military chart) Infowars, Obama Concedes to Putin After NATO’s Support of ISIS Exposed, Kit Daniels, Dec. 16, 2015. White House stops demanding Assad's removal after news reports reveal West backing ISIS. The Obama administration is no longer publicly asking for “regime change” in Syria after multiple news reports revealed how NATO and its allies have spent years supporting Islamic jihadists to try and topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he accepted Russia’s request that the U.S. let the Syrian people decide Assad’s political fate. “The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters on Tuesday after meeting President Vladimir Putin. This is a huge concession from the Obama administration considering the president spent the past several years stating “Assad must go.” But why this sudden shift in public policy? Well, Czech President Milos Zeman recently stated that Turkey is friendly to the Islamic State, and there’s truth to that. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said nearly the exact same thing. A major scandal erupted in Turkey last year when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was caught shipping arms to ISIS, then attempted to cover it up by ordering a media blackout. Not long after, the Obama administration signed an agreement with Turkey to openly train and arm “moderate” Syrian rebels, but virtually all of the rebels fighting Assad in Syria have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State since at least 2013. RT, Washington's 'Plan B' in Syria: Renewed military intervention to oust Assad? Finian Cunningham, Dec. 16, 2015. US top diplomat John Kerry appeared to offer cooperation during lengthy talks in Moscow this week with President Vladimir Putin. Kerry said that US policy was not trying to isolate Russia, neither was it seeking regime change in Syria. Washington and its NATO partners have been seeking regime change against Russia’s long-time Syria ally going back to 2007 during the George W Bush presidency. The whole foreign-backed war in the Arab country – resulting in 250,000 deaths and millions of refugees over the past five years – has been orchestrated for the precise purpose of destabilizing Syria. Like Kerry’s coy claim that the US is not trying “to isolate Russia as a matter of policy,” the bottom line is that Washington has imposed unilateral economic sanctions on Russia as a result of provable US regime change in Ukraine in February 2014, and cajoled its European allies to follow suit. Withdrawing unilaterally from arms control treaties and expanding NATO forces on Russian territory are hardly the actions of a party “not seeking isolation” of Moscow. Business Insider, The epicenter of the Syrian war is shifting — and it could mean 'a near total defeat' for Turkey's Syria policy, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 16, 2015. Russian airstrikes across northern Syria have been steadily shifting the epicenter of the war toward a corridor north of Aleppo, through which Turkey smuggles aid and supplies to the rebel groups it supports. A stepped-up Russian bombing campaign in the Bayirbucak region of northwest Syria, near the strategically important city of Azaz, has primarily targeted the Turkey-backed Turkmen rebels and civilians — and the Turkish aid convoys that supply them. As a result, Turkey's policy in Syria of bolstering rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime — and establishing a "safe zone" for displaced Syrians that might hinder the regime's efforts to take Aleppo — is quickly unraveling. Another important component of Turkey's strategy in Syria is also at risk of collapse as a result of Russia's campaign in the north — namely, restricting the movements of the Kurdish YPG, with whom Turkey has clashed, along the Turkish-Syrian border. Guardian, Now the truth emerges: how the US fueled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq, Seumas Milne, Dec. 16, 2015. The sectarian terror group won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place. The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting. The prosecution abandoned the case, apparently to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services. The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition. Infowars, Cruz Remark During Debate Reveals Surveillance State Has Grown, not Shrunk, Kurt Nimmo, Cruz let slip something the government considers secret. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr is miffed at Senator Ted Cruz. During an exchange with opponent Marco Rubio Tuesday night Cruz said a new law he supported increased the number of phones monitored by the government. “What [Rubio] knows is that the old program covered 20% to 30% of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100%,” Cruz said. “That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.” Within minutes of Cruz making the remark Burr spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins tweeted: "On Wednesday Burr engaged in damage control. He said the numbers Cruz mentioned were incorrect." In other words, the snooping of private telephones in violation of the Fourth Amendment is somewhat less than Cruz asserted, if Mr. Burr can be believed. Regardless of the real number — and if revelations by Snowden and others are any indication, the surveillance state is far larger than the government admits—the unconstitutional violation of privacy has produced a totalitarian state, as the former highly placed intelligence official with the NSA William Binney has pointed out. BBC, Italian masonic leader Licio Gelli dies aged 96, Staff report, Dec. 16, 2015. Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in prison but never served significant prison time. An Italian financier who was linked to several of the country's most troubling episodes has died at the age of 96. Licio Gelli was the grandmaster of a notorious masonic group, Propaganda Two (P2), which included prominent Italian politicians and military figures. P2 was exposed in 1981 and accused of conspiring with right-wing extremists and the mafia to undermine governments. Gelli was born in 1919 and first became involved in politics as part of the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini. He later volunteered to fight for Gen Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and went on to join neo-fascist parties. He joined the freemasons in the 1960s and founded the P2 lodge in 1970. A list of alleged members was later discovered by Italian police -- and included one Silvio Berlusconi, the future prime minister. Gelli was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud linked to the collapse of a bank with ties to the Vatican -- but never served significant prison time. The bank's boss Roberto Calvi - known as "God's banker" for his ties to the Vatican - was found hanged under a bridge in London in 1982, and prosecutors later said they believed he had been murdered. Gelli was also found guilty of obstructing justice during investigations into the 1980 explosion at the Bologna train station which killed 85 people. Italy has yet to discover the truth behind many of the mysteries he left behind, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Rome. Dec. 15 Washington Post, Debate’s focal point: Who can keep the country safe? Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker, Dec. 15, 2015. The mood was dire to the point of being apocalyptic, but it presented candidates with an opportunity to draw sharp contrasts in how they would eradicate threats from home-grown enemies or the Islamic State. Huffington Post, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Everything is terrifying and we're all going to die, Nick Wing and Nick Baumann, Dec. 15, 2015. Fear and terror stole the Republican debate stage on Tuesday night. In the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Americans see terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S. And if people were already scared, watching 13 presidential candidates spar over who is best equipped to defend the nation against terrorism probably didn't help. "We have entered World War III," former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania declared less than a minute into the undercard debate. His proclamation would set the tone for more than four hours in which candidates spared no effort to paint the threat from the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other jihadists as existential. "We're at war folks, they're not trying to steal your car, they're trying to kill us all," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "The next 9/11" is "coming soon," he warned later. Tax Wall Street Party, GOP Debates: A Grotesque Parade Of Warmongers Ready To Start World War Three Over Trifles With Appalling Nonchalance, Webster G. Tarpley (shown in file photo), Dec. 15, 2015. Candidates Willing To Slaughter Children None Of These Creatures Must Ever Gain Access To Nuclear Button Intense Competition For Role Of Dictator In GOP’s Coming Police State Only Winners Are Neocon 'Strangeloves' Who Tell Bozo Candidates What To Say Washington Post, GOP candidates challenge Russia’s role in war in Syria, David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 15, 2015. Two of the candidates in the “undercard” portion of Tuesday night’s GOP debate said they would shoot down Russian planes in the airspace over Syria, if America set up a “no-fly zone” there and Russia violated it. “The most important and effective thing you can do to a bully is punch ‘em in the face,” said former New York governor George Pataki, after calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a bully. If Russian aircraft violate airspace that America has shut off, “either us or the Turks should shoot ‘em down, to keep our word.” Irish Central, “Black Irish” Ted Cruz may face birther questions of his own, James O'Shea, Dec. 15, 2015. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada to Canadian citizens, which may become a major issue as he runs for president. Senator Ted Cruz, the right-wing Republican from Texas, is the new darling of the GOP, beating Donald Trump handsomely in Iowa polls and closing in quickly in other key states. But Cruz was born in Canada so he cannot run for president, right? Wrong. It appears his Irish American mother can make him eligible. But some claim his mother,Eleanor Darragh a Canadian citizen when Cruz was born, never showed her US birth certificate. While Ted Cruz may be regarded as Hispanic because of his Cuban father, the fact is that he owes his eligibility for a White House run to his mother, Eleanor Darragh. The American Conservative, Trump & Weimar America, Rod Dreher, Dec. 15, 2015. UK conservative columnist Peter Hitchens openly despises the National Front (FN) in France, but he says that the mainstream media are taking the wrong lesson from the Front’s loss Sunday in the French elections. Hitchens points out that even though the FN did not win the presidency of any region, the “Maginot Line” against them held only because the woebegone Socialist Party withdrew its candidates from regions where the FN was riding high, and urged its voters to vote for Sarkozy’s Republican Party, as the only effective means of stopping the FN. It worked. Nevertheless, the FN represents one-third of the French electorate. As Hitchens points out, if the only way the Establishment can keep the FN from taking power is by showing itself as essentially the same party, it only confirms the FN’s diagnosis of the Establishment’s corruption....David Frum's Atlantic article is quite good: The Atlantic, America's Immigration Challenge, David Frum, Dec. 4, 2015. Donald Trump’s noisy complaints that immigration is out of control are literally true. Nobody is making conscious decisions about who is wanted and who is not, about how much immigration to accept and what kind to prioritize — not even for the portion of U.S. migration conducted according to law, much less for the larger portion that is not. Nor is there much understanding of what has happened after it has happened. A simple question like, “How many immigrants are in prison?” turns out to be extraordinarily hard to answer. Poor information invites excessive fears, which are then answered with false assurances and angry accusations. AP via Yahoo, Assad can stay, for now: Kerry accepts Russian stance, Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper, Dec. 15, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday accepted Russia's long-standing demand that President Bashar Assad's future be determined by his own people, as Washington and Moscow edged toward putting aside years of disagreement over how to end Syria's civil war. "The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change," Kerry told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting President Vladimir Putin. A major international conference on Syria would take place later this week in New York, Kerry announced. Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that Assad, accused by the West of massive human rights violations and chemical weapons attacks, won't be able to steer Syria out of more than four years of conflict. But after a day of discussions with Assad's key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is "not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad." Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which "Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria." Kerry's declarations crystallized the evolution in U.S. policy on Assad over the last several months, as the Islamic State group's growing influence in the Middle East has taken priority. President Barack Obama first called on Assad to leave power in the summer of 2011, with "Assad must go" being a consistent rallying cry. Later, American officials allowed that he wouldn't have to resign on "Day One" of a transition. Now, no one can say when Assad might step down. Cannon Fire, Assad is more popular in Syria than Obama and Hillary are in the United States, Joseph Cannon, Dec. 15, 2015. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to countenance any solution to the Syrian civil war in which the elected, lawful, secular leader Bashar Assad is not removed from office. Despite this talk of democracy, the White House insists that Bashar Assad must not allowed to participate in any future election. Why? For one simple reason: Assad would win. A new poll proves the point. The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Bashar Assad is the most popular man in Syria, according to ORB international, a credible UK polling organization whose clients have included the BBC and the Conservative party. The persistence of the myth that Assad lacks support calls to mind an article written by Jonathan Steele in the British newspaper the Guardian on 17 January 2012, less than one year into the war. Under a lead titled, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know it from western media,” Steele wrote: Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news? Especially as the finding would go against the dominant narrative about the Syrian crisis, and the media consider the unexpected more newsworthy than the obvious. Alas, not in every case. When coverage of an unfolding drama ceases to be fair and turns into a propaganda weapon, inconvenient facts get suppressed. So it is with the results of a recent YouGov Siraj poll…ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country whose government has called for Assad to go. Let's take matters further. If Assad has a 47% approval rating in Syria, how does his popularity compare to Barack Obama's? According to the most recent Gallup poll, Obama's favorability rating is exactly the same as Assad's: 47%. Gallup's poll offers the highest number I could find. If we average out these findings, we may fairly say that Barack Obama's number is worse than Bashar Assad's. And what of Hillary Clinton's approval ratings? Here's a Gallup poll from last September: Currently, 41% of U.S. adults say they have a favorable opinion of the Democratic front-runner, while 51% hold an unfavorable view. RT via Russia Insider, NATO Is Going for Bust in Syria, Pepe Escobar, Dec. 15, 2015. The new plan is Northern Syria controlled by anti-Assad 'moderate rebels' (dominated by al Qaeda) with ISIS beaten but tolerated and solidified in western Iraq. NATO’s Syria intervention is of course absolutely illegal. UN Security Council resolution 2249 does not fall under Chapter 7 of the UN charter. Yet once again creative language – French-style rhetorical artifice - blurs the non-justification of military might by conveying the impression the UNSC approves it. Resolution 2249 is yet another case of international law reduced to rubble. For these – sporadic - UK and French air strikes, covered by the pretext of hitting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, were never authorized by Damascus, and the UNSC was not even consulted. Russia, on the other hand, has been fully authorized by Damascus. Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, practicing with his wife in 1928. Credit The New York Times New York Times, Basketball’s Birth, in James Naismith’s Own Spoken Words, Richard Sandomir, Dec. 15, 2015. James Naismith, basketball’s inventor, arrived in New York City in early 1939 with three items on his agenda. He gave a speech to basketball writers in which he denounced modern trends in his sport like the zone defense, which he said stalled the game. He attended a college basketball doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, where he shook his head at the rough play he saw in a Syracuse victory over Manhattan. And he appeared on a radio show to recall the birth of basketball, in 1891. That short interview, on the upbeat program “We the People,” may be the only existing recording of Naismith’s voice. But it surfaced from the WOR-AM archives only as Michael J. Zogry conducted research for a book about the influence of religion on Naismith’s life. Huffington Post, Lawmakers Finally Reach Deal On Spending Bill, Tax Package, Laura Barron-Lopez and Matt Fuller, Dec. 15, 2015. The sweeping agreement will lift a ban on crude oil exports and permanently fund a 9/11 health program. Reuters, Ex-Adelphia CEO seeks prison release due to cancer, Nate Raymond, Dec. 15, 2015. Former Adelphia Communications Corp CEO John Rigas, who is serving a 12-year sentence for his role in a fraud that led to the cable company's collapse, is seeking release from prison due to his "precipitously deteriorating health." Lawyers for Rigas, who was convicted in 2004 for participating in a massive securities fraud, filed papers in federal court in Manhattan on Friday seeking his release on bail due to a "terminal" resurgence of cancer. Rigas' lawyers have been seeking to overturn his conviction due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct, and say forcing him to remain in custody any further would mean any ruling in his favor would render it a "pyrrhic (and posthumous) victory." The prison in Pennsylvania where Rigas is incarcerated is preparing to grant him a compassionate release, the lawyers wrote. But that process could take six months, more time than he may have, they said. Late Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered prosecutors to respond by Dec. 22. Politico, Reid suspects Adelson is Las Vegas paper's mysterious buyer, Burgess Everett, Dec. 15, 2015. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suspects that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is the secretive buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he told reporters on Tuesday. Adelson is one of the most influential Republican donors in the country and presidential candidates have been jockeying for months for his support. The wealthy Nevadan is a major benefactor for pro-Israeli causes and politicians. The new buyer of Nevada's largest newspaper will have significant influence in the state during the Nevada caucuses in February that could help determine who the eventual GOP nominee is. The paper was purchased by a undisclosed corporation for $140 million this month. Washington Post, One word explains the collapse of Ben Carson, Jonathan Capehart, Dec. 15, 2015. If you want to know the reason behind Ben Carson’s tumble in the polls, you need only look at what propelled him there in the first place: race. Earlier this fall, I argued that many Republicans rallied around the famed neurosurgeon because of their eagerness to show that they have their own brilliant black man to support. Their answer to President Obama. The NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released late October had Carson (29 percent) as the first choice of registered voters who said they would vote in the Republican primary. The Post-ABC News poll last month put Carson in a commanding second place at 22 percent. But if your popularity is largely built on race, if you’re going to be “their black guy” in the GOP, you have no margin for error. You have to be damned near perfect in the eyes of the overwhelmingly white party to hold its support. And Carson hasn’t been since that last poll. His support now sits at 11 percent. Henry County News (AL), Former Prosecutor Lane Contradicts Police Chief and District Attorney, Confirms Complaints of Planting Drugs and Fire Ant Torture By Dothan Police, Jon B. Carroll, Dec. 15, 2015. Embattled Police Chief Steve Parrish admitted member of a neoconfederate white supremacist group. Community pressure is building after a meeting in which hundreds gathered at a small Pentecostal Church demanding that Dothan Police Chief, Steve Parrish, and District Attorney, Doug Valeska, be removed from office and be prosecuted. Earlier today, at a City Commission meeting, they demanded the district attorney and the police chief’s immediate resignation. This occurred in light of their roles in an alleged cover up of an internal affairs investigation that revealed a narcotics team supervised by Parrish planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. Society of Professional Journalists, Journalists ask White House for commitment to openness, Paul Fletcher, Dec. 15, 2015. A delegation representing more than 50 journalism and open government organizations met with Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary, today at the White House, urging greater openness and transparency from the federal government. Four journalists from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and the Legal Counsel for the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) met with Earnest for about an hour to discuss communications policies, the use of Public Information Officers (PIOs) during interviews, anonymous background briefings, prohibitions against staff members speaking to reporters without notifying PIOs, and other policies that prevent information from flowing to the public. “We asked that the president renew his commitment to transparency in government. The goal of this meeting is to try to bring about a culture change that has pervaded government for several decades,” said SPJ President Paul Fletcher. “We further asked for a clear statement that government employees are free to speak without interference to members of the press and public. Current policies, we believe, undermine democracy and public trust in our government. We asked for the Obama Administration to reverse that trend.” "This Administration isn't just committed to the principle of transparency, we've committed to engaging advocates and journalists to discuss legitimate ideas that advance it. We look forward to continuing this conversation," Earnest said. The meeting follows at least five years of work done by various journalism organizations to study government transparency and the role PIOs or “minders” play in relaying important information to the American public. President Obama promised during his campaign to have the most transparent administration in the White House’s history. But journalists say it has become increasingly more difficult to speak to federal agency employees, conduct interviews and obtain information that should be readily available to the general public. Dec. 14 OpEdNews, Syria: The Deadly Game of Ignorant Fools, Peter Kellow, When Turkey sees its natural, non-Sunni enemy in Assad team up with its ancient enemy in Russia, the advantage of siding with ISIS is all too evident. Hence, its purchase of ISIS oil. Hence its downing of the Russia fighter. ISIS is very strongly Sunni and the sworn enemy of Shiites and so for Turkey to have a Sunni ally on its border as a buffer between Assad in Syria and the Shiite dominated Iraq is clearly to its advantage. Turkey is out of control. The days of it being a slightly wayward, but non-threatening ally, eager to participate in the fruits of EU membership seem a long time ago. We could yet find ourselves in a deadly military pact with the new caliphate pretender confronting not only the whole Middle East but Russia as well. The very strong commitment we give by signing the military pact of NATO will drag us in on Turkey's side whether we like it or not. USA Today, Russian airstrikes are bolstering Syrian dictator's grip on power, Jim Michaels, Dec. 14, 2015. Russian airstrikes aimed at rebel groups in Syria have strengthened the regime of Bashar Assad, undercutting President Obama's hope of using diplomatic pressure to force the Syrian dictator’s removal. The Russian airstrikes, which began more than two months, have helped Syrian ground forces retake territory and consolidate power for Moscow's long-time ally Assad, who had been suffering defeats as Syria's civil war drags on well into its fifth year. Reuters, Biden, in call with Turkey PM, urges cooperation with Iraq, Susan Heavey, Dec. 14, 2015. Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R), accompanied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaks to the media before their meeting in Istanbul November 21, 2014. Reuters/Murad Sezer U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the reported withdrawal of Turkish troops from a camp in northern Iraq and urged Turkey to continue trying to cooperate with Baghdad, the White House said on Monday. In a call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Biden said the move of Turkish troops from Camp Bashiqa was "an important step to de-escalate recent tensions," the White House said in a statement. Biden reiterated that Iraq's government must consent to any foreign military presence there. "The Vice President encouraged the Turkish government to continue its dialogue with Baghdad on additional measures to improve relations between Turkey and Iraq," it said. Politico, Corker acknowledges millions in 'filing errors,' Nick Gass, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker had not properly disclosed millions of dollars in income from real estate, hedge funds and other investments until last Friday, according to a Sunday evening report from The Wall Street Journal. The Republican senator said these were oversights he has since corrected. Corker, who is the third-ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, did not properly disclose at least $2 million in income from investments in three separate hedge funds in Tennessee, as well as millions of dollars in income from commercial real estate investments because of an accounting error, and millions of dollars in various other assets and income from transactions. Guardian, Washington Post bids farewell to office where it broke Watergate, David Smith, Dec. 14, 2014. Journalists gather for ceremony to mark decommissioning of building where newspaper uncovered political scandal that forced President Nixon to resign. The Washington Post’s building was being "decommissioned” after 43 years and will soon be demolished. By Monday, about 1,500 staff and 4,000 crates will have moved a few blocks across the US capital to a new, leaner office designed for the digital age, in which the Post claims to be enjoying a renaissance. Like many purpose-built newspaper headquarters, the building at 1150 15th Street NW has served its time. Naked Capitalism, Labor Advisory Committee Report on TPP Synthesizes Everything Wrong About the Trade Deal, David Dayen, Dec. 14, 2015. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office has been maligned for its network of Trade Advisory Committees, allegedly “independent” counsel for trade agreements. The Washington Post did the best work on the Advisory Committees back in February of last year, showing that 85 percent of the cleared advisors (meaning cleared to read the text of trade agreements as they are being negotiated) either worked directly for private industries or their trade groups. The Labor Advisory Committee: Its 19 members are all the heads of major labor unions. And like all Advisory Committees, they are required by law to write a report to Congress expressing their opinions about any finalized trade agreement. That means we now have this 121-page document, giving labor’s full argument against the TPP, from the people who have been following it from the inside for several years. This was an argument that labor’s cleared advisors have been prevented from making. Because of the secretive nature of trade talks, those opposed to the deal fight with one hand tied behind their backs, unable to speak about what they knew about the agreement. And they are at the mercy of USTR’s deliberate, dissent-crushing rules. We have labor’s side of the story. It gets off to quite a start in the first words of the executive summary: On behalf of the millions of working people we represent, we believe that the TPP is unbalanced in its provisions, skewing benefits to economic elites while leaving workers to bear the brunt of the TPP’s downside. The TPP is likely to harm the U.S. economy, cost jobs, and lower wages. This document puts all of the arguments against TPP in one accessible, readable place, and if you’re interested in really understanding what this agreement would do, this is a great place to start. I hasten to TPP may actually be on life support right now, after Mitch McConnell said it had no shot of passing Congress before the 2016 elections. That’s mainly because it doesn’t roll out the red carpet for corporations enough for his liking. But if you want to know what a left-wing critique of TPP looks like, this report is a great place to start. Dec. 13 Telesur, Bush Military Official: The Empire's Ship is Sinking, Abby Martin, Dec. 13, 2015. Abby Martin interviews retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former national security advisor to the Reagan administration, who spent years as an assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell during both Bush administrations. Today, he is honest about the unfixable corruption inside the establishment and the corporate interests driving foreign policy. Washington Post, Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success, Tom Hamburger, Dec. 13, 2015. As Cecil Stinemetz walked up to a gray clapboard house in suburban Des Moines last week wearing his “Cruz 2016” cap, a program on his iPhone was determining what kind of person would answer the door. Would she be a “relaxed leader”? A “temperamental conservative”? Maybe even a “true believer”? Nope. It turned out that Birdie Harms, a 64-year-old grandmother, part-time real estate agent and longtime Republican, was, by the Ted Cruz campaign’s calculations, a “stoic traditionalist.” The outreach to Harms and others like her is part of a months-long effort by the Cruz campaign to profile and target potential supporters, an approach that campaign officials believe has helped propel the senator from Texas to the top tier among Republican presidential candidates in many states, including Iowa, where he is in first place, according to two recent polls. It’s also a multimillion-dollar bet that such efforts still matter in an age of pop-culture personalities and ­social-media messaging. Cruz, a critic of excessive government data collection, has been notably aggressive about gathering personal information for his campaign. Some of the data comes from typical sources, such as voters’ consumer habits and Facebook posts. Some is homegrown, such as a new smartphone app that keeps supporters in touch while giving the campaign the ability to scrape their phones for additional contacts. Dec. 11 Ben Carson for President, Dr. Ben Carson Releases Statement on Party Boss Insider Meeting Reported in Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2015. Today, Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and 2016 GOP presidential candidate, released the following statement: If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in the Washington Post this morning [GOP preparing for contested convention]. If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party. I pray that the report in the Post this morning was incorrect. If it is correct, every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won’t stand for it. This process is the one played out by our party. If the powerful try to manipulate it, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next summer may be the last convention. I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald. But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn’t our nominee then we have a massive problem. My campaign is about ‘We the People’ not ‘They the Powerful.’ Justice Integrity Project Exclusive, Siegelman released from solitary confinement, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 11, 2015. JIP has learned that federal Bureau of Prison authorities are releasing former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from solitary confinement, where he has been held virtually incommunicado since mid-October with no explanation. His highly irregular punishment is suspected to stem from his attempted response to a radio host who asked Siegelman about the status of his case after Siegelman spoke earlier during a 15-minute authorized call about general issues involving prisons. Siegelman supporters say there is no rule against prisoners talking about their own case and that the punishment typifies the government's abusive practices against Alabama's last Democratic governor. Siegelman is being held in the federal prison in Oakdale, LA following his conviction for reappointing in 1999 HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a state board. Reuters via NBC News, Ukraine Lawmaker Manhandles Prime Minister, Sparking Parliament Brawl, Staff report, Dec. 11 2015. Fighting broke out among members of Ukraine's ruling coalition in parliament on Friday after a member of President Petro Poroshenko's bloc physically picked up Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and pulled him from the podium. Yatseniuk was defending his embattled government's record when lawmaker Oleh Barna walked over to him, presenting him sarcastically with a bunch of red roses. Barna then grabbed him around the waist and groin, lifting him off his feet and dragging him from the rostrum. Members from Yatseniuk's People Front party waded in, pushing Barna and throwing punches. Lawmakers from Poroshenko's bloc joined the fray and an angry brawl ensued for several minutes before deputies returned to their seats. The incident exposed deep divisions in the pro-Europe coalition that have fueled speculation the government could fall even as Ukraine's Western backers warn that time is running out for Kiev to make good on its promises to root out endemic corruption and cronyism. Strategic Culture Foundation, CIA-Islamic Jihadist Alliance Against Russia is 63 Years’ Old, Wayne Madsen, Dec. 11, 2015. Author, political commentator and former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, shown in a file photo, this month was elected president of the Tampa Bay Press Club. The dalliance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency with Islamic jihadist forces is nothing new. Today, the CIA provides weapons, training, and other support to jihadist-aligned domestic Syrian and foreign mercenary forces attempting to overthrow the government of the secular Syrian president, Bashar al Assad. Among the recipients of CIA largesse are jihadist opposition forces in Syria that include Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda, the Khorasan Group, the Levant Front, and more. All of these groups have had alliances with or are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and have sworn fealty to ISIL’s elf-proclaimed caliphate. The use of Uzbek mercenaries by the CIA is almost as old as the American spy agency itself. In fact, CIA-Uzbek jihadist cooperation dates back some 63 years. According to its own formerly TOP SECRET Central Intelligence Bulletin, dated December 4, 1952, during the waning days of the Harry Truman administration, the CIA embarked on a program to foment nationalism tinged with jihadism among the Uzbek tribes of northern Afghanistan in order that it might spill across the border into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, a constituent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This 1952 CIA policy of coopting Muslim radicals means that the current attempt by such anti-Russian U.S. official and quasi-official intelligence policy makers, including former Jimmy Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, hedge fund tycoon George Soros, and CIA director John Brennan, to bring about a radical Muslim destabilization of the Russian Federation is merely a continuation of past practice. Presently, this cabal of American Russophobes see a victory by jihadist forces in Syria, and ultimately in Iraq, will spill over into Russia’s southern Caucasus region where jihadists have already been active, to central Asia. New Yorker, Shutting Down Conversations About Rape at Harvard Law, Jeannie Suk, Dec. 11, 2015. Professor Suk teaches at Harvard Law School and is one of 19 professors at the school who have signed a statement criticizing the documentary “The Hunting Ground” for its portrayal of a sexual-assault case. This is a piece on a subject about which I may soon be prevented from publishing, depending on how events unfold. Last month, near the time that CNN broadcast the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which focuses on four women who say their schools neglected their claims of sexual assault, I joined eighteen other Harvard Law School professors in signing a statement that criticized the film’s “unfair and misleading” portrayal of one case from several years ago. Guardian, Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users, Harry Davies, Dec. 11, 2015. Exclusive: Documents reveal donor-funded US startup embedded in Republican’s campaign paid UK university academics to collect psychological profiles on potential voters. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is using psychological data based on research spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission, to boost his surging White House run and gain an edge over Donald Trump and other Republican rivals, the Guardian can reveal. A little-known data company, now embedded within Cruz’s campaign and indirectly financed by his primary billionaire benefactor, paid researchers at Cambridge University to gather detailed psychological profiles about the US electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting US Facebook users built with an online survey. As part of an aggressive new voter-targeting operation, Cambridge Analytica – financially supported by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer – is now using so-called “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help win Cruz votes, despite earlier concerns and red flags from potential survey-takers. Documents seen by the Guardian have uncovered longstanding ethical and privacy issues about the way academics hoovered up personal data by accessing a vast set of US Facebook profiles, in order to build sophisticated models of users’ personalities without their knowledge. In the race to advance data-driven electioneering strategies pioneered by successive Obama campaigns, Cruz has turned to Cambridge Analytica for its unparalleled offering of psychological data based on a treasure trove of Facebook “likes”, allowing it to match individuals’ traits with existing voter datasets, such as who owned a gun. Analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings shows Cruz’s campaign has paid Cambridge Analytica at least $750,000 this year. The “behavioural microtargeting” company has also received around $2.5m over the past two years from conservative Super Pacs to which Mercer or members of his family have donated. In an interview with the Guardian last month, Cruz said his funding and outreach apparatus “is very much the Obama model – a data-driven, grassroots-driven campaign – and it is a reason why our campaign is steadily gathering strength”. Cruz is increasingly seen as a leading Republican contender, uniting factions within the party beyond his evangelical and Tea Party base. In Iowa – the first state to vote in the presidential primary, in less than two months – the outspoken Texas senator dethroned Trump in a poll for the first time this week as the mogul became ensnared in yet more controversy. Dec. 10 Montgomery Advertiser, Son: Don Siegelman held in solitary in La. prison, Brian Lyman, Dec. 10, 2015. Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been held in mostly solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison since mid-October, his son said Thursday. “He is not allowed to see any family or speak to anyone including family,” said Joseph Siegelman, serving as one of the former governor's defense attorneys, in a phone interview. “He is completely and utterly in isolation.” Siegelman served as governor of Alabama from 1999 to 2003. A jury convicted Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy of bribery charges. The former governor, 69, is scheduled for release on Aug. 8, 2017, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. He has an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Siegelman's motion for a new trial in May. The family has not been given a reason for the confinement, Joseph Siegelman said, though they said Siegelman was moved to solitary while being interviewed on a radio show about criminal justice reform. Washington Post, GOP preparing for contested convention, Robert Costa and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 10, 2015. Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as Donald Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race. More than 20 of them convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, where the prospect of Trump nearing next year’s nominating convention in Cleveland with a significant number of delegates dominated the discussion, according to five people familiar with the meeting. Several longtime power brokers argued that if the controversial billionaire storms through the primaries, the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative, the people said. Attendees included Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee; Rob Simms, his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee; Ron Kaufman, an RNC committeeman and Mitt Romney confidant; and pollster Linda DiVall. Whit Ayres, an adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Vin Weber, an ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, also were there, among others. New York Times, Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll, Jonathan Martin and Dalia Sussman, Dec. 10, 2015. Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, a gnawing sense of dread that has helped lift Donald J. Trump to a new high among Republican primary voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. In the aftermath of attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris and in San Bernardino, Calif., a plurality of the public views the threat of terrorism as the top issue facing the country. A month ago, only 4 percent of Americans said terrorism was the most important problem; now, 19 percent say it is, above any other issue. Mr. Trump, who has called for monitoring mosques and even barring Muslims from entering the United States, has been the clear beneficiary of this moment of deep anxiety. New York Daily News, Donald Trump acted confused in video deposition when asked about former senior advisor, a convicted felon with Mafia ties, Dan Good, Dec. 10, 2015. A newly-revealed video deposition shows real-estate mogul Donald Trump confused when asked under oath about his relationship to a twice-convicted felon with ties to the Mafia. Trump has long faced allegations of connections to the mob, but his relationship with Felix Sater — who pleaded guilty in 1998 to racketeering in a fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families — represents a more direct link between the presidential candidate and organized crime. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in the video deposition, which was obtained by ABC News. But Trump reportedly named Sater as a senior business adviser in 2010. The Russian émigré carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” and appeared in numerous photos with Trump. ABC-TV, Memory Lapse? Trump Seeks Distance From 'Advisor' With Past Ties to Mafia, Mattherw Mosk and Brian Ross, Dec. 10, 2015. (3:17 video). Although he touts his outstanding memory, when Donald Trump was asked under oath about his dealings with a twice-convicted Russian émigré who served prison time and had documented mafia connections, the real estate mogul was at a loss. Even though the man, Felix Sater, had played a role in a number of high-profile Trump-branded projects across the country. “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like,” Trump testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit two years ago. In recent weeks, the Republican Presidential candidate has been fending off critics who have accused him of embellishment, insensitivity and in some cases inaccuracy for his descriptions of the Muslim response to 9/11. Trump also dismissed outrage at his purported mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter, saying he simply does not remember meeting the scribe. Away from the spotlight, Donald Trump has also been seeking to minimize his past business ties with Sater, the Russian émigré who appeared in photos with Trump, and carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” Huffington Post, New 9/11 Bill Hits Last-Minute Snags, Large Cuts, Michael McAuliff, Dec. 10, 2015. Sources say the Energy and Commerce Committee is mistakenly cutting the bill and almost left off the name. Just when it looked like a new 9/11 health and compensation law was on the brink of being finalized -- and after House Speaker Paul Ryan threw his support behind it -- sources told the Huffington Post troubling last-minutes snags were emerging. At one point, sources said, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the health portion of the bill, had left off the name of the legislation -- the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. It was named after a New York City detective who died from illnesses he contracted working on the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. "It just shows how inept and uncaring they are," said one advocate who requested anonymity while negotiations are still ongoing. The name issue got fixed, but more problematically, the sources said, the committee has refused to use as its template for the bill the legislation that has already been drawn up by lead sponsors Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). That legistlation has more than 260 co-sponsors in the House and 67 in the Senate. It's a problem because it allows errors to creep into a measure that has been put together over many years and vetted by experts in the Obama administration and in the field working to provide health care to more than 33,000 ailing responders. Washington Post, McConnell warns that trade deal won’t pass Congress before 2016 elections, Paul Kane and David Nakamura, Dec. 10, 2015. The Senate majority leader’s remarks dealt a significant blow to the Pacific pact and President Obama's global trade agenda. McConnell, a Republican representing Kentucky, is shown in an official photo. Reuters via CBC News, Russia calls Turkey's accusations of 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria groundless, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that accusations by Turkey of Moscow allegedly conducting ethnic cleansing in Syria are "groundless." Thomson Reuters via CNBC, Islamic State oil is going to Assad, some to Turkey, U.S. official says, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Islamic State militants have made more than $500 million trading oil with significant volumes sold to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and some finding its way to Turkey, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Thursday. The United States, France, Britain and Russia have vowed to defeat Islamic State, which uses an extreme interpretation of Islam to justify attacks and brutality in large parts of Syria and Iraq that it controls. A U.S.-led coalition is bombing the hardline Sunni group, as is Assad's only big-power supporter Russia, in an attempt to kill its leaders and cripple the oil wells which the group uses to finance its rule and attacks abroad. South Front via Vineyard of the Saker, The Russia-Turkey standoff: Bosphorus blockade, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Washington Post, How the new Washington Post building ushers in a new era of journalism, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 10, 2015. The Washington Post is relocating to One Franklin Square after decades of history in its building on 15th street. The new Post will commemorate the old Post, the historic Post. Near the Hub will be a wall reserved for Pulitzer Prize winners — with much of the wall empty, in deference to future excellence. Editors will meet in a story conference room named for Ben Bradlee, the executive editor during The Post’s emergence as a top-tier news organization. A quote from Ben will loom over the meetings in that room: “The truth, no matter how bad, is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run.” AP via ABC News, US State Department Gets Undiplomatic with Russian TV Reporter, Bradley Klapper, Dec. 10, 2015. U.S.-Russian tensions broke out in undiplomatic fashion in an unlikely place Thursday: the State Department briefing room. What began with a series of tough, if suggestive, questions from a correspondent for Russian government-funded news ended with department spokesman John Kirby delivering an uncharacteristically severe indictment of Russian military activity in Syria and press conduct. Kirby also unloaded on the RT television channel and its reporter, Gayane Chichakyan. "I can't believe that you aren't embarrassed to ask these questions," Kirby said several minutes into the back-and-forth with Chichakyan, whose questioning has previously prompted sharp — if more restrained — exchanges. "You have to be looking at these questions and almost laughing to yourself, don't you? They're absolutely crazy." See also related column: Information Clearinghouse, US State Department Gets Undiplomatic with Russian TV Reporter, Dec. 11, 2015 (10-min. video). RT Reporter Gayane Chichakyan shows US reporters how real questioning is conducted and the proof of her effectiveness is shown by US State Department representative John Kirby losing his composure and insulting the reporter and the TV network she works for along with the country of Russia. Note how the State Department spokesperson continually dodges the question while the reporter stays on point. As she reiterates the main point of the question that wasn't answered, John Kirby shows his frustration with the line of questioning and then resorts to insults and demagoguery. This is classic deflection technique. The reporter continues to remain professional and once again reiterates the question at hand. For a third time, the question is dodged and the State Department spokesperson embarrasses the United States by exhibiting characteristics that are considered unprofessional in global diplomatic protocol. Dec. 9 New York Times, U.S. Is Willing to Use Attack Helicopters to Help Fight ISIS, Helene Cooper, Matthew Rosenberg and Michael R. Gordon, Dec. 9, 2015. The United States is prepared to deploy attack helicopters and additional advisers to help Iraqi forces in their long-running battle to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Wednesday. As the forces make what they have billed as their final push into the city center, which will entail urban warfare, defense officials say they are considering the use of American attack helicopters. Such a move would deepen American involvement in the war and could bring helicopter pilots under increased risk from ground fire, but the Pentagon views it as a necessary step, Mr. Carter (shown in an official photo) told a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the hearing, Mr. Carter got into the usual back and forth with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has pushed for more American troops to be sent to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. “There are 20,000 to 30,000 of them,” Mr. McCain said. “They are not giants. Somebody is going to have to convince me that air power alone” is enough to defeat the militant Sunni extremist group. Mr. Carter countered that a large American deployment could do more harm that good. “By seeming to Americanize the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” he said, “we could well turn those fighting ISIL or inclined to resist their rule into fighting us instead.” BBC, Turkey PM accuses Russia of wanting 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 9, 2015. Turkey's prime minister has accused Russia of attempting "ethnic cleansing" with its air strikes in northern Syria. Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia's campaign had targeted Turkmen and Sunni communities around the Latakia region. President Vladimir Putin has asked UK specialists to help analyse the flight recorder in a phone conversation with PM David Cameron, the Kremlin says. Turkey insists that its F-16 fighters shot down the Russian Su-24 on 24 November because the bomber had trespassed into its airspace. Russia denies this. Russia says its bombers are attacking IS and other jihadist groups in Syria, helping the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Reuters via CBC News, Russia calls Turkey's accusations of 'ethnic cleansing' in Syria groundless, Staff report, Dec. 10, 2015. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Thursday that accusations by Turkey of Moscow allegedly conducting ethnic cleansing in Syria are "groundless". BBC, Syria conflict: Rebels leave Homs under truce, Lyse Doucet, Dec. 9, 2015. Syrian rebels have begun evacuating the last district they control in the city of Homs under a ceasefire deal reached with the government.Those leaving al-Wair, under siege for almost three years, will travel to rebel-held areas of Idlib province. Homs was once dubbed the "capital of the revolution" and saw some of the first protests of the 2011 uprising. But the truce means the entire city returns to government control, in a boost for President Bashar al-Assad. About 700 people, including rebel fighters and civilians, are due to depart throughout Wednesday, Homs governor Talal Barazi said. Counterpunch, Why Do They Hate Us? It’s No Mystery, Sheldon Richman, Dec. 9, 2015. What do Barack Obama and Donald Trump have in common? Among other things, they have — or pretend to have — no clue why some Muslims hate us. Trump says (I almost typed believes, but I’m not sure anyone, including Trump, knows what he believes) Muslims should be barred from the United States until “until the country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Note that Trump includes himself among those who haven’t figured it out, or else he surely would have told us. He either does not know, or does not care, why people are willing to kill Americans. Let’s give these members of the American elite their due: one has to work hard to make a mystery of anti-American (and anti-Western) terrorism emanating from the Middle East. It takes prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western imperialism in the Muslim world. Washington Post, Long-running probe ends without charges against former D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, Ann E. Marimow, Spencer S. Hsu and Keith L. Alexander, Dec. 9, 2015. The decision is a stunning turnaround for the U.S. attorney’s office, which in the weeks before his ouster in a 2014 primary had accused him of having detailed knowledge of a corrupt, off-the-books campaign fund. WND, NSA's needle in a haystack, Andrew Napolitano, Dec. 9, 2015. Since Edward Snowden revealed the federal government’s unlawful and unconstitutional use of federal statutes to justify spying on all in America all the time, including the members of Congress who unwittingly wrote and passed the statutes, I have been arguing that the Fourth Amendment prohibits all domestic spying, except that which has been authorized by a search warrant issued by a judge. The same amendment also requires that warrants be issued only based on a serious level of individualized suspicion backed up by evidence – called probable cause – and the warrants must specifically identify the place and person to be spied upon. The government – which thinks it can right any wrong, tax any event, regulate any behavior and interfere with any right – also thinks it can keep us safe from the terrorists among us by cutting constitutional corners, which it has done many times since 9/11. Among the constitutional corners it has cut is unleashing its 60,000 domestic spies upon us with orders to disregard the constitutional requirements for spying on Americans and gather all the data about us that they can by listening to phone calls and reading emails, as well as gathering the banking information, credit card information, utility bills, postal mail and medical records of everyone in America, without regard to individualized suspicion. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Head Christine LaGarde at National Press Club January 16, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John) Vineyard of the Saker, The IMF forgives Ukraine’s loan to Russia, Michael Hudson, Dec. 9, 2015. Since 1947 when it really started operations, the World Bank has acted as a branch of the U.S. Defense Department, from its first major chairman John J. McCloy through Robert McNamara to Robert Zoellick and neocon Paul Wolfowitz. From the outset, it has promoted U.S. exports – especially farm exports – by steering Third World countries to produce plantation crops rather than feeding their own populations. But it has felt obliged to wrap its U.S. export promotion and support for the dollar area in an ostensibly internationalist rhetoric, as if what’s good for the United States is good for the world. The IMF has now been drawn into the U.S. Cold War orbit. On Tuesday it made a radical decision to dismantle the condition that had integrated the global financial system for the past half century. In the past, it has been able to take the lead in organizing bailout packages for governments by getting other creditor nations – headed by the United States, Germany and Japan – to participate. The creditor leverage that the IMF has used is that if a nation is in financial arrears to any government, it cannot qualify for an IMF loan – and hence, for packages involving other governments. For over half a year, there was a semi-public discussion with U.S. Treasury advisors and Cold Warriors about how to stiff Russia on the $3 billion owed by Ukraine to Russia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. There was some talk of declaring this an “odious debt,” but it was decided that this ploy might backfire against U.S. supported dictatorships. In the end, the IMF simply lent Ukraine the money. By doing so, it announced its new policy: “We only enforce debts owed in US dollars to US allies.” This means that what was simmering as a Cold War against Russia has now turned into a full-blown division of the world into the Dollar Bloc (with its satellite Euro and other pro-U.S. currencies) and the BRICS or other countries not in the U.S. financial and military orbit. What should Russia do? For that matter, what should China and other BRICS countries do? The IMF and U.S. neocons have sent the world a message: you don’t have to honor debts to countries outside of the dollar area and its satellites. Photo caption: The Obama administration's U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt greet their newly installed President Petro Poroschenko, the billionaire "Chocolate King," in June 2014 with Secretary of State John Kerry in the background at right. Nuland is part of the prominent neo-conservative Kagan family, and is a former aide to both Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She and Pyatt helped orchestrate the overthrow of the Ukraine's government, as documented by a pirated tape recording release in February 2014, as elsewhere. In gratitude and to cement ties with those controlling U.S. taxpayer, banking, and military support for the new government, the largest natural gas company in the Ukraine named one of Kerry's chief fund-raisers and Vice President Joe Biden's younger son as directors. Washington Post, At The Post these days, you can read the writing on the wall, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 9, 2015. I don’t suppose many people care that we’re moving offices, but it’s a big deal around here. The Post has been at 1150 15th Street NW since the early 1970s. Not only are we moving out, but they’re tearing down the building. This injects a certain apocalyptic note to the move. We’ll be at One Franklin Square, although the post office refuses to acknowledge that address and has some boring street address instead. We retain the 20071 Zip code that is exclusive to The Post — so we’ve got that going for us. Many of the greats who worked in the newsroom came back today for a final look at the 15th and L headquarters. AP via Huffington Post, Trump's Incendiary Comments Throw GOP Into A Tailspin, Steve Peoples and Laurie Kellman, Dec. 9, 2015. One by one, Republican officials across the country lashed out at Trump's plan. Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States is shoving the Republican Party to the edge of chaos, abruptly pitting GOP leaders against their own presidential front-runner and jeopardizing the party's longtime drive to attract minorities. Unbowed, Trump fired a searing warning Tuesday via Twitter to fellow Republicans carping about his proposal. A majority of his supporters, he tweeted, "would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent." Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump Tax Wall Street Party, Another Raving Outburst From Trump Against Moslems Highlights Issue Of Fascism And Nazism In GOP Presidential Field, Webster G. Tarpley, Dec. 9, 2015. For many decades, most Americans had completely forgotten about the main political issue of the middle decades of the 20th century. This was the issue of fascism and Nazism, understood as variations in the intensity of the same fundamental phenomenon. But now, in the latter months of 2015, fascism is back with a vengeance. The reason that fascism is being so prominently discussed after an absence of many moons is of course the fascist quality of so many contenders in the Republican party presidential primary field, and in particular the fascist rhetoric of Donald Trump. Since the Democratic Party had refused for so long to attempt to destroy the GOP, it is ironic that the latter is now being destroyed from the inside, by a Trump who has been compared both to a wrecking ball, and especially to Samson bringing down the temple of the Philistines on the heads of the tenants. The understanding that most Americans have of Hitler and Nazism focuses almost exclusively on Hitler’s genocidal policies against Jews. In reality, fascism and Nazism represent a total world outlook, with terrible implications for virtually every sphere of human activity. It is important to stress that the American people have one of the best anti-fascist records in the world. Be proud of being an American and not a Nazi or a fascist. Washington's Blog, Trump Didn't Vote to Kill 1 Million Muslims in Iraq, Hillary Did, David Swanson, Dec. 9, 2015. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald for pointing out that the U.S. media is acting as though Donald Trump just invented bigotry this week. But not only is explicit bigotry toward Muslims not new, implicit bigotry toward Muslims has been the foundation of the largest public project in the United States for the past quarter century. The driving forces behind war planning in Washington are power, domination, profit, politics, and the inertia of war planning as a path toward career success. Donald Trump didn't vote for the war on Iraq that killed a million Muslims. He didn't vote to fund it and escalate it over and over again. Hillary Clinton did that. Which is not to say that Trump wouldn't have done so too, or worse, if he thought it would get him on TV more. The point is that the hatred is not new. Without it, basic U.S. policy would be understood as irrational. Dec. 8 Politico, Trump not bothered by comparisons to Hitler, Nick Gass, Dec. 8, 2015. The billionaire businessman refuses to back off his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. Donald Trump went on a series of rhetorical rants on Tuesday morning, saying he does not mind comparisons to Adolf Hitler and tussling with morning show anchors about his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States, calling his approach more akin to what Hitler's American contemporary did during World War II. “You’re increasingly being compared to Hitler. Doesn’t that give you any pause at all?” ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked the Republican poll leader on "Good Morning America," displaying an image of the Philadelphia Daily News' punning Tuesday front-page headline "The New Furor." In response, Trump said no, invoking what he termed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "solution for Germans, Italians, Japanese many years ago" during World War II. “This was a president that was highly respected by all," Trump said, remarking upon the Democratic president's actions during the war. "If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse." National Press Club, New Smithsonian head urges emphasis on arts and humanities, but not at expense of science, Gwen Flanders, Dec. 8, 2015. Related video above. David Skorton, the new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, made it clear Tuesday that he sees his organization’s mission in broad terms. In a National Press Club luncheon address, Skorton talked about the need for a community to agree on values in order to solve society’s problems. “One way,” he said, “is to reverse our nation’s seeming disinterest and disinvestment in the arts and humanities, but to do so in a way that does not sacrifice our investment in science. ... The arts and humanities complement science, and together they make us better thinkers, better decision makers and better citizens.” Skorton, 66, who took the helm of the Smithsonian on July 1 after a career as a cardiologist and educator led him most recently to the presidency of Cornell University, noted the emphasis by schools and governments on science, technology, engineering and math, an emphasis he said has come at the expense of the humanities. “To understand what it means to be human and to understand the complex problems that the world now faces require us to deploy every technique of understanding at our disposal, including and especially those at the heart of the visual and performing arts, social sciences and cultural studies,” said Skorton, shown in a Cornell photo. Questions from the luncheon audience focused on the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and zoo. Times of Israel, Israeli breakthrough drug helped cure Jimmy Carter’s cancer, AP and Raoul Wootliff, Dec. 8, 2015. Keytruda fights tumors using the body’s natural immune system. An Israeli-tested drug that tackles cancer through sophisticated manipulations of the body’s natural immune system was key in helping rid former U.S. president Jimmy Carter of life-threatening tumors that developed after he was diagnosed with melanoma earlier this year. Researched in Israel by Professor Jacob Schachter of the Ella Institute for melanoma treatment and research at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Keytruda is part of a promising new class of drugs called immuno-therapies, which harness the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. The US-based Merck pharmaceutical company’s injectable biotech drug works by blocking a protein found in certain tumors called PD-1, which inhibits the body’s natural response to cancer cells. Carter, 91, announced Sunday that doctors found no evidence of the four lesions discovered on his brain this summer and no signs of new cancer growth. He revealed in August that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and had begun treatment, including surgery to remove part of his liver, targeted radiation therapy and doses of a recently approved drug to help his immune system seek out any new cancer cells. “I will continue to receive regular 3-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab,” he said. That drug goes by the name Keytruda commercially. Washington Post, Jeb Bush copes with a series of petty humiliations, Ed O'Keefe, Dec. 8, 2015. It doesn’t show in the polls, but Bush has become a stronger campaigner — maintaining a grueling schedule of early morning coffee meet-and-greets, interviews with small-town television reporters and nighttime town halls and speeches. And he still has more money than the rest of the field, traveling in a packed SUV with a bodyguard, a personal aide, a press spokesperson and a campaign videographer. He seems more comfortable in his own skin. But no matter how hard he tries, nothing has helped reverse his slide. The JebBush.com domain was redirected to Donald Trump’s website because the Bush campaign failed to lock it down. During a speech, people slipped out to see rival Chris Christie. And there's more. Politico, Court mulls FBI mosque surveillance, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 8, 2015. Just days after a deadly terrorist attack triggered a heated national political debate over terror-fighting tactics and the treatment of Muslims in the new climate, a federal appeals court wrestled Monday with a long-running lawsuit over the FBI's use of an undercover informant sent into southern California mosques to collect information and audio recordings as part of a terrorism investigation. "Operation Flex" took place in 2006 and 2007, during President George W. Bush's Administration, but in 2011 President Barack Obama's administration used a controversial legal principle -- the state secrets privilege -- to try to shut down the bulk of the claims in a lawsuit alleging that the techniques used in the probe violated worshippers and Mosque leaders' constitutional rights to religious freedom, freedom of association and privacy. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals spent more than an hour Monday hearing arguments about a judge's rulings in 2012 that frustrated both sides by tossing out all claims against the government, but allowing the plaintiffs to press on with allegations that five individual FBI agents violated a federal law governing electronic surveillance, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Global Research via Strategic Culture Foundation, “JFK and the Unspeakable” and “The Deep State”: The Assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, The Role of Allen Dulles, David Swanson, Dec. 8, 2015. By now there’s not nearly as much disagreement regarding what happened to John and Robert Kennedy as major communications corporations would have you believe. While every researcher and author highlights different details, there isn’t any serious disagreement among, say, Jim Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession, and David Talbot’s new The Devil’s Chessboard. Jon Schwarz says The Devil’s Chessboard confirms that “your darkest suspicions about how the world operates are likely an underestimate. Yes, there is an amorphous group of unelected corporate lawyers, bankers, and intelligence and military officials who form an American ‘deep state,’ setting real limits on the rare politicians who ever try to get out of line.” For those of us who were already convinced of that up to our eyeballs, Talbot’s book is still one of the best I’ve seen on the Dulles brothers and one of the best I’ve seen on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Where it differs from Douglass’ book, I think, is not so much in the evidence it relates or the conclusions it draws, but in providing an additional motivation for the crime. JFK and the Unspeakable depicts Kennedy as getting in the way of the violence that Allen Dulles and gang wished to engage in abroad. The Devil’s Chessboard depicts Kennedy, in addition, as himself being the sort of leader the CIA was in the habit of overthrowing in those foreign capitals. Kennedy had made enemies of bankers and industrialists. He was working to shrink oil profits by closing tax loopholes, including the “oil depletion allowance.” He was permitting the political left in Italy to participate in power, outraging the extreme right in Italy, the U.S., and the CIA. He aggressively went after steel corporations and prevented their price hikes. Antiwar.com, Diana Johnstone Dissects Hillary, Queen of Chaos, John V. Walsh, Dec. 8, 2015. Johnstone’s new book, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, is a must read....a capsule history of the US Empire’s depredations over the past 25 years since the end of the Cold War when the Clintons came upon the national scene. Given the ever sharper confrontation which our elite is engineering with Russia and China, one that could well lead to nuclear war, this is a history we all need to review and understand correctly. Our very survival may well depend on it. Such an eloquent and compact chronicle is of enormous usefulness right now. Queen is not a gossipy bio, delineating Hillary’s shallow, belligerent, mendacious, psychopathic character, although such a tome, necessarily massive, would be welcome. These characteristics of Hillary’s necessarily emerge to some degree in Queen of Chaos. but personality portrayal is not the core of the book. Rather the book is historical. Johnstone sees Clinton as both a product of her times – privileged child of the U.S. Empire. The book is more history than Hillary. But by going this route Johnstone grasps the essential Clinton with crystal clarity. WHBQ-TV (Memphis), Former mayor of Terry, Miss. sentenced to 40 years for embezzlement, Staff report, Dec. 8, 2015. The former mayor of Terry, Miss., Roderick Nicholson, was sentenced to 40 years for embezzling money from the city today. Nicholson pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzlement. He has been in custody since November 23. The former mayor used the town’s credit card to make unauthorized personal purchases and submitted false bills to be repaid by the town. [The amount was $2,700, as previously reported.] “It is a good day for the Town of Terry knowing their tax dollars aren’t being spent on the former mayor’s personal bills,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in a press release. Nicholson is sentenced to 40 years in custody of Mississippi Department of Corrections with 10 to serve. In addition, he will pay restitution and court costs in the amount of $7,629.12. RT, Russia strikes ISIS targets in Syria from sub in Mediterranean for first time, (VIDEO), Staff report, Dec. 8, 2015. Russia has, for the first time, targeted Islamic State targets in Syria with Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles launched from a submarine in the Mediterranean Sea. The 3M-54 Kalibr missiles were launched from the Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine “Rostov-on-Don”, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Russia’s warships based in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas launched similar missiles targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in late November. This is the first time that Russia has targeted IS in Syria from a submarine. Shoigu stated that in the past three days Russian Air Forces have carried out over 300 sorties hitting 600 terrorist targets. Shoigu also said that the flight recorder of the Russian Su-24, recently downed by Turkey near the Syrian-Turkish border, has been found and presented it to Putin. Putin told Shoigu that it should be opened only in the presence of international experts. Russia has been conducting airstrikes targeting Islamic State (IS, former ISIS, ISIL) militants and other terrorist groups in Syria since September 30. The air campaign was launched after a formal request from Damascus. Dec. 7 French presidential candidate and National Front Leader Marine Le Pen with JIP Director Andrew Kreig at National Press Club before a Le Pen speech in 2011 Washington Post, France’s far-right soars in vote, joins mainstream parties, Elaine Ganley, Dec. 7, 2015. The National Front party’s results in the regional elections were the latest in a series of electoral inroads. France’s options are no longer as simple as left and right. The far-right, anti-establishment National Front party has ridden a wave of anger over migration and extremist attacks straight into the political mainstream — where experts predict it will stay. The party’s historic results in this past Sunday’s first round of regional elections were the latest in a series of electoral inroads, with scores that shamed and destabilized the traditional parties. The conservative party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy and President François Hollande’s ­Socialists were scrambling to find ways to block the ascent of the far right before the final round this Sunday. The showing of the National Front, which won six of 13 regions, will dynamize leader Marine Le Pen’s planned bid for the presidency in 2017. In the traditionally Socialist northeastern region where she was running, the party won more than 40 percent of the vote. Her niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, had a similar showing in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, a stronghold of the traditional right. AP via Washington Post, Biden announces more US aid for Ukraine, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2015. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden assured Ukraine Monday of continuing U.S. support and announced the release of an additional $190 million in U.S. aid to help support reforms. Biden added that the additional roughly $190 million in U.S. assistance will help fight corruption in Ukraine’s law-enforcement and reform the justice sector, helping attract more investment by streamlining regulations and privatizing state-owned enterprises in a transparent way. JIP Editor's Note: The crony capitalism at work -- and at U.S. taxpayer expense -- is illustrated by the 2014 appointment Biden's son Hunter to the board of the Ukraine's largest gas company shortly after Western-backed insurrectionists overthrew the Ukraine's elected government. Hunter Biden named to Ukraine gas board reports the appointment. The younger son of the vice president is shown in a file photo. The gas company also appointed to its board a top fund-raiser for Secretary of State John Kerry, thereby helping solidify financial and military ties to U.S. military and taxpayer support. Ironically, the vice president's speech this week in the Ukraine urged the nation to reduce corruption. Washington Post, Supreme Court won’t review laws banning assault weapons, Robert Barnes, Dec. 7, 2015. The justices declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semiautomatic assault weapons that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition and have been used in deadly mass shootings. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semiautomatic high-capacity assault weapons that have been used in some of the nation’s most deadly recent mass shootings. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said the court should review the ban, which “flouts” the court’s Second Amendment jurisprudence. They criticized lower court decisions that have allowed jurisdictions and impose what Thomas called “categorical bans on firearms that millions of Americans commonly own for lawful purposes.” The court’s action Monday continues a pattern. After deciding in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that the Second Amendment provides the right for an individual to keep a weapon in the home, the court has avoided all cases that might clarify if that right is more expansive. Syria CENTCOM Map via Reuters Guardian, At least 26 Syrian civilians killed in suspected US-led airstrike, Staff report, Dec. 7, 2015. Anti-Isis strikes launched by US-led coalition on village of Al-Khan in Syria have left only civilians dead, according to monitoring group. At least 26 Syrian civilians have been killed in an airstrike suspected to have been launched by the US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State, piling pressure on the alliance after allegations another bombing raid left regime soldiers dead. The coalition has been bombarding the Islamic State group for more than a year in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where the jihadists have declared a self-styled caliphate. But according to a monitoring group, strikes on Monday on the village of Al-Khan in north-eastern Syria only left civilians dead. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin with ISIS backdrop (Press TV image via DCMA) Business Insider, Russia appears to have 'gone ballistic' in Syria — and it may be helping ISIS, Natasha Bertrand, Dec. 7, 2015. Russia is showing no signs that it intends to forgive and forget Turkey's decision to down a Russian warplane two weeks ago. The Russians appear to have "gone ballistic" in their determination to wipe out Turkish influence in northern Syria and help regime forces reach Aleppo, a UN official told McClatchy on Monday. A stepped-up Russian bombing campaign in the Bayirbucak region of northwest Syria, near the strategically important city of Azaz, has primarily targeted the Turkey-backed Turkmen rebels and civilians — and the Turkish aid convoys that supply them. JIP Editor's Note: This column generated a large number of reader comments, primarily attacking the publication as reporting a biased view of the conflict congruent with neoconservative idelogy. As an example of one comment: "Business Insider, when I thought your "news" reports could not get any more pathetic, you go and write this ludicrous piece of propaganda and raise your pathetic level to stratospheric levels. You should read the comments, NO ONE BELIEVES the garbage you write, except for a few imbeciles." PaulCraigRoberts.org, War Is On The Horizon: Is It Too Late To Stop It? Paul Craig Roberts, Dec. 7, 2015. One lesson from military history is that once mobilization for war begins, it takes on a momentum of its own and is uncontrollable. This might be what is occurring unrecognized before our eyes. In his September 28 speech at the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia can no longer tolerate the state of affairs in the world. Two days later at the invitation of the Syrian government Russia began war against ISIS. Russia was quickly successful in destroying ISIS arms depots and helping the Syrian army to roll back ISIS gains. Russia also destroyed thousands of oil tankers, the contents of which were financing ISIS by transporting stolen Syrian oil to Turkey where it is sold to the family of the current gangster who rules Turkey. Washington was caught off guard by Russia’s decisiveness. Fearful that the quick success of such decisive action by Russia would discourage Washington’s NATO vassals from continuing to support Washington’s war against Assad and Washington’s use of its puppet government in Kiev to pressure Russia, Washington arranged for Turkey to shoot down a Russian fighter-bomber despite the agreement between Russia and NATO that there would be no air-to-air encounters in Russia’s area of air operation in Syria.There is no doubt that Washington is driving the world toward Armageddon, and Europe is the enabler. Daily Mail, Could you imagine FDR saying, 'We were attacked yesterday on Pearl Harbor. I really don't want to talk about who did it, Francesca Chambers, Dec. 7, 2015. Republicans rip into Obama's terrorism speech. President Barack Obama's refusal to mention Islamic terrorism as he made his Oval Office address last night was condemned by leading Republicans today. They seized on the timing of the address -- on the eve of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day -- to slam Obama for what one described as a 'partisan speech.' In the address the Commander in Chief promised that the country would 'overcome' the threat of terrorism and it would destroy the 'thugs and killers', 'and any other organization that tries to harm us.' His pointed refusal to acknowledge the religion of the radicals had Republicans competing to replace him up in arms once again. Washington Post, Donald Trump called out Jeff Bezos on Twitter. Then Bezos called his bluff, Chris Cillizza, Dec. 7, 2015. Donald Trump's tweetstorms directed at media organizations — and sometimes even at individual reporters — have become commonplace in the 2016 presidential race. Seemingly out of the blue, The Donald takes to Twitter to bash his chosen media opponent of the day. He sends an eruption of tweets, then goes silent — like an active volcano. You never really know when it's going to blow — or, often, why. On Monday, Trump's ire was directed at The Washington Post and, more specifically, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and owner of The Post since 2013. At around 10 a.m. Eastern time, Trump sent a trio of tweets about Bezos and The Post Dec. 6 Washington Post, Obama warns of ‘new phase’ in terror threat, vows to destroy ISIS, David Nakamura, Dec. 6, 2015. In a rare prime-time address from the Oval Office, the president sought to reassure an uneasy nation, saying "we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless." Annotated transcript of Obama’s remarks. Washington Post, Obama’s Oval Office address reflects struggle to be heard, Greg Jaffe, Dec. 6, 2015. In addressing the nation Sunday evening, President Obama turned to a venue he doesn’t like to discuss a subject he would rather avoid. His decision to speak on the terrorist threat from the Oval Office, just days after the deadly attack in San Bernardino, Calif., reflects a broad concern in the White House that the American people, distracted by the overheated cacophony of the campaign season, are not listening to him. Or at least they are not hearing what he has to say. Washington Post, Jimmy Carter told his Sunday school class that he has no signs of cancer, staff report, Dec. 6, 2015. The former president, 91, said that the melanoma in his liver and brain appeared to be in remission. He has been undergoing treatment since August. CBS, Confidential Informants, Lesley Stahl, Dec. 6, 2015. Reports on law enforcement's controversial use of young confidential informants in the war on drugs, some of whose cases ended tragically. The following script is from "Confidential Informants." Politico, Justice to investigate Chicago police, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 6, 2015. The Justice Department is planning to open a so-called "pattern or practice" investigation into possible civil rights violations by the Chicago police department, according to a law enforcement official. The announcement could come this week, a personal familiar with the situation said. The DOJ's expected move comes after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged such a probe. And after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who initially said such a probe was unnecessary, reversed himself and called for it. Chicago has been wracked with protests and tension since Nov. 24, when police released the video of the fatal 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald, who was armed with a knife, was shot 16 times. Last week, Emanuel dismissed Garry McCarthy, the police chief. Huffington Post, U.S. driving rape victims worldwide to grisly abortions, Laura Bassett with photos by Jake Naughton, Dec. 6, 2015. Thousands of rape victims around the world undergo grisly and unsafe abortions because of U.S. policy. Obama could change this with a single executive action. Why hasn't he? When the Islamic militant group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian high school girls in a single day, the story horrified the world. Many of those who managed to survive their ordeal — being serially raped by multiple fighters, being forced to have sex every night at knifepoint — came back carrying the offspring of their abusers. In 2015, after the Nigerian Army rescued more than 700 women and girls, one humanitarian aid camp reported that more than 200 were visibly pregnant. Some of the girls reportedly sought out illegal, unsafe abortions. Others were too afraid to take the risk and were shunned by their communities for giving birth to the children of killers. And an American policy was one of the main reasons why. President Obama (White House photo) The policy in question is the Helms amendment, which prevents American aid from being used to pay for abortions. The domestic equivalent, the Hyde amendment, makes exceptions so that federal programs like Medicaid can be used to fund abortions for women who are the victims of rape and incest, or whose lives are in danger. But when it comes to Helms, the U.S. government does not allow any exceptions at all—not even for women who are raped in conflict or who would die without the procedure. Because the U.S. is the single largest donor to women’s health programs, the Helms amendment drastically restricts access to safe abortion all over the world. Zero Hedge, Turkey Detains Russian Ships In Black Sea, Blasts Moscow For Brandishing Rocket Launcher In Strait, Tyler Durden, Dec. 6, 2015. Exactly a week ago, we warned that Turkey does have one trump card when it comes to dealing with an angry Russian bear that’s hell bent on making life miserable for Ankara in the wake of Erdogan’s brazen move to shoot down a Russian Su-24 near the Syrian border. Turkey, we explained, could move to close the Bosphorus Strait, cutting one of Moscow’s key supply lines to Latakia. We went on to explain, that such a move would probably be illegal based on the 1936 Montreux Convention, but as Sputnik noted, "in times of war, the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish government." Obviously, Turkey and Russia haven’t formally declared war on one another, but the plane “incident” marked the first time a NATO member has engaged a Russian or Soviet aircraft in more than six decades and given the gravity of that escalation, one would hardly put it past Erdogan to start interfering with Moscow’s warships, especially if it means delaying their arrival in Syria where the Russians are on the verge of restoring an Assad government that’s Turkey despises. Well sure enough, the tit-for-tat mutual escalation that’s ensued since the Su-24 crash has spilled over into the maritime arena with Moscow and Ankara detaining each other's ships. Zero Hedge, Iraq May Seek "Direct Military Intervention From Russia" To Expel Turkish Troops, Tyler Durden, Dec. 6, 2015. Turkey just can’t seem to help itself when it comes to escalations in the Mid-East. First, Erdogan intentionally reignited the conflict between Ankara and the PKK in an effort to scare the public into nullifying a democratic election outcome. Then, the Turks shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. Finally, in what very well might be an effort to protect Islamic State oil smuggling routes, Erdogan sent 150 troops and two dozen tanks to Bashiqa, just northeast of Mosul in a move that has infuriated Baghdad. We discussed the troop deployment at length on Saturday in “Did Turkey Just Invade Iraq To Protect Erdogan's ISIS Oil Smuggling Routes? Here was our conclusion:The backlash underscores the fact that Iraq does not want help from NATO when it comes to fighting ISIS. Iraqis generally believe the US is in bed with Islamic State and you can bet that Russia and Iran will be keen on advising Baghdad to be exceptionally assertive when it comes to expelling a highly suspicious Turkish presence near Najma. Dec. 5 Kurdish peshmerga forces prepare for battle against the Isis. Turkish official have said Turkish soldiers have been sent to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters. (Photograph: Uncredited/AP) AFP via The Guardian, Iraq orders Turkey to 'immediately' withdraw troops sent across border, Staff report, Dec. 5, 2015. Prime minister’s office says the deployment of an armoured regiment ‘is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty.' Zero Hedge, Did Turkey Just Invade Iraq To Protect Erdogan's ISIS Oil Smuggling Routes? Tyler Durden, Dec. 5, 2015. On Friday, Turkey sent troops into Iraq. What’s different this time around, is that this isn’t a Kurd-chasing mission. In fact, if you believe the official line, it’s the exact opposite. Turkey has apparently had some 90 troops on the ground in Bashiqa “for two years” on a mission to “train” the Peshmerga. The new troops -- around 150 personnel supported by two dozen tanks -- will “take over the mission,” according to Hurriyet. “Turkey will have a permanent military base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul as the Turkish forces in the region training the Peshmerga forces have been reinforced,” the daily continues, adding that “the deal regarding the base was signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu, during the latter’s visit to northern Iraq on Nov. 4.”OK, so what’s important to remember here is that although Erdogan is no “fan-o’-Kurds,” Ankara is friendly with the KRG. For his part, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi has called for Turkey to "immediately" withdraw its troops. He also calls Ankara's incursion a "violation of sovereignty." That would seem to indicate that Baghdad has never approved the "training mission" that Ankara claims has been going on east of Mosul for two years. Furthermore, this underscores the fact that Iraq does not want help from NATO when it comes to fighting ISIS. As we reported last week, Iraqis generally believe the US is in bed with Islamic State and you can bet that Russia and Iran will be keen on advising Baghdad to be exceptionally assertive when it comes to expelling a highly suspicious Turkish presence near Najma. Antiwar.com, The United States Is in the Refugee-Creation Business, Shane Smith, Dec. 5, 2015. Most of us in the United States have a vague awareness of a Second Iraq War. There was invasion, devastation, death, “victory”, and the catharsis that seemed to flood over the nation after the lynching of a Third World dictator. Satiated revenge, finally, for 9/11, was the implicit mood of many. But while many are aware of the war, and aware of Saddam’s broken neck, few care about what really happened since the invasion, and what negative consequences may have arisen because of the invasion. The New Civil Rights Movement, Final Vote Saturday On Whether Proposal Will Appear On Primary Ballot, staff report, Dec. 6, 2015. Texas GOP leaders are set to vote Saturday on whether to place a measure on the March 1 ballot in favor of seceding from the Union. The proposal cleared the Texas Republican Party's Resolutions Committee on Friday and is set for a vote by the 40-member State Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. If it passes, the resolution would place a non-binding measure on the primary ballot in favor of secession, and one recent poll suggests that GOP voters would approve it. "If the federal government continues to disregard the constitution and the sovereignty of the State of Texas, the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation," the resolution states. A 2014 Reuters poll found that one in four Americans support the idea of secession, including one-third of all Texans and a whopping 53 percent of Republicans in the Lone Star State. Update: The vote failed, so for now at least secession will not be on the ballot. OpEdNews, The California Legislators Who Killed The San Bernardino 14, Rob Kall, Dec. 5, 2015. Fourteen people are dead at the hands of a pair of psycho fundamentalists because of a handful of California legislators. Why? Because those legislators blocked a law to close a loophole that enabled the purchase of the automatic weapons. Unz Review, Week Nine of the Russian Intervention in Syria: The Empire strikes back, The Saker, Dec. 5, 2015. Considering the remarkable success of the Russian intervention in Syria, at least so far, it should not have come as a surprise that the AngloZionist Empire would strike back. The only question was how and when. We now know the answer to that question. On November 24th, the Turkish Air force did something absolutely unprecedented in recent history: it deliberately shot down another country’s military aircraft even though it was absolutely obvious that this aircraft presented no threat whatsoever to Turkey or the Turkish people. The USA and NATO immediately took “ownership” of this attack by giving their full support to Turkey. NATO went as far as to declare that it would send aircraft and ships to protect Turkey as it it had been Russia who had attacked Turkey. As for the USA, not only did it fully back Turkey, it now also categorically denies that there is any evidence that Turkey is purchasing Daesh oil. Finally, as was to be expected, the USA is now sending The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group into the eastern Mediterranean, officially to strike Daesh but, in reality, to back Turkey and threaten Russia. So what is really going on here? Simple: the Empire correctly identified the weakness of the Russian force in Syria, and it decided to use Turkey to provide itself an element of plausible deniability. This attack is probably only the first step of a much larger campaign to “push back” Russia from the Turkish border. The next step, apparently, includes the dispatching of western forces into Syria, initially only as ‘advisors,’ but eventually as special forces and forward air controllers. The US and Turkish Air Forces will play the primary role here, with assorted Germans and UK aircraft providing enough diversity to speak of an “international coalition”. As for the French, stuck between their Russian counterparts and their NATO “allies,” they will remain as irrelevant as ever: Hollande caved in, again (what else?). Eventually, NATO will create a de facto safe heaven for its “moderate terrorists” in northern Syria and use it as a base to direct an attack on Raqqa. Since any such intervention will be completely illegal, the argument of the need to defend the Turkmen minority will be used, R2P and all. The creation of a NATO-protected safe heaven for “moderate terrorists” could provide the first step from breaking up Syria into several smaller statelets. If that is really the plan, then the shooting down of the SU-24 sends a powerful message to Russia: we are ready to risk a war to push you back – are you ready to go to war? Dec. 4 From center, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, and former President George W. Bush in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall, Dec. 3, 2015. The Intercept, U.S. First Shields Its Torturers and War Criminals From Prosecution, Now Officially Honors Them, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 4, 2015. As vice president, Dick Cheney was a prime architect of the worldwide torture regime implemented by the U.S. government (which extended far beyond waterboarding), as well as the invasion and destruction of Iraq, which caused the deaths of at least 500,000 people and more likely over a million. As such, he is one of the planet’s most notorious war criminals. President Obama made the decision in early 2009 to block the Justice Department from criminally investigating and prosecuting Cheney and his fellow torturers, as well as to protect them from foreign investigations and even civil liability sought by torture victims. Obama did that notwithstanding a campaign decree that even top Bush officials are subject to the rule of law and, more importantly, notwithstanding a treaty signed in 1984 by Ronald Reagan requiring that all signatory states criminally prosecute their own torturers. Obama’s immunizing Bush-era torturers converted torture from a global taboo and decades-old crime into a reasonable, debatable policy question, which is why so many GOP candidates are now openly suggesting its use. But now, the Obama administration has moved from legally protecting Bush-era war criminals to honoring and gushing over them in public. Yesterday, the House of Representatives unveiled a marble bust of former Vice President Cheney, which — until a person of conscience vandalizes or destroys it — will reside in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol. At the unveiling ceremony, Cheney was, in the playful words of NPR, “lightly roasted” — as though he’s some sort of grumpy though beloved avuncular stand-up comic. Along with George W. Bush, one of the speakers in attendance was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke movingly of Cheney’s kind and generous soul: Yesterday, the U.S. government unambiguously signaled to the world that not only does it regard itself as entirely exempt from the laws of wars, the principal Nuremberg prohibition against aggressive invasions, and global prohibitions on torture (something that has been self-evident for many years), but believes that the official perpetrators should be honored and memorialized provided they engage in these crimes on behalf of the U.S. government. That’s a message that most of the U.S. media and thus large parts of the American population will not hear, but much of the world will hear it quite loudly and clearly. BillMoyers.com via OpEdNews, The GOP on the Eve of Destruction, Bill Moyers, Dec. 4, 2015. Just four-and-a-half years ago, Washington mainstays Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein shocked the inside-the-Beltway establishment (especially the press, with its silent pact to speak no evil of wrongdoers lest they deny you an interview) when they published their book, It's Even Worse than It Looks. The two esteemed political scientists wrote, "The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier -- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." In the years since, an ugly situation has only gotten increasingly dire, with right-wing radicals whipped into a frenzy by a Republican establishment that thought it could use their rage, only to find it running amok and beyond their control. JIP Editor's Note: Bill Moyers, one of most famous liberal pundits, declines to comment in depth on his role leading as White House communications director the Johnson administration's cover-up of gross irregularities in the Warren Report on President Kennedy's 1963 assassination. Harper's, Mountain Ambush, Andrew Cockburn, Dec. 4, 2015. “Looking at the detailed Russian timeline of what happened,” says defense analyst Pierre Sprey, “I’d say the evidence looks pretty strong that the Turks were setting up an ambush.” On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber near the border of Turkey and Syria. In the immediate aftermath, officials from the two countries offered contradictory versions of what transpired: Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that the plane (typical of that shown) was flying over Syrian territory when it was downed; Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan countered that it was inside Turkey’s border and had been warned ten times to alter its course. Hours later, President Obama threw his support behind Erdogan. “Turkey,” he said, “has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.” I asked Pierre Sprey, a longtime defense analyst and member of the team that developed the F-16, to examine what we know about the downing and determine what actually occurred that morning. The Atlantic, What the Hell Just Happened on MSNBC and CNN? Staff report, Dec. 4, 2015. A baffling, surreal scene just played out on the two networks, where the landlord of the San Bernardino shooting suspects apparently allowed reporters into their apartment. The result was disturbing. On live national television, reporters sifted through the remains of the lives of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. They picked over children’s toys. They held up photos, speculating about whether the woman depicted in one might be Malik. They displayed Social Security cards and driver’s licenses with readily identifiable information — and not just for the deceased suspects. Washington Post Magazine, Arthur Bremer shot Gov. George Wallace to be famous. A search for who he is today, David Montgomery, Dec. 3, 2015. Alabama Gov. George Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer at a campaign rally in Laurel, Md., in May 1972. He kept a diary of the 10 weeks he spent stalking, first, President Richard Nixon, then Wallace. A year ago this week, the Rock Island Auction Co. in Illinois took bids for the five-shot, snub-nosed .38 revolver that Bremer used to shoot Gov. George Wallace of Alabama on May 15, 1972, during a presidential primary campaign rally at the Laurel Shopping Center in suburban Maryland. I had thought we were all done with Bremer. His attempted escape into oblivion began the moment he was tackled by bystanders and police in the shopping plaza. He would speak just three sentences in public, at his 1972 trial in Upper Marlboro, and that would be it for more than 40 years. After serving 35 1 / 2 years of a 53-year sentence, with 17 1 / 2 years knocked off for good behavior, he was released from prison in 2007. The news caused hardly a stir, even though he was one of few national attempted assassins in modern times to be set free. A church-supported group helped Bremer settle in Cumberland, tucked in the mountains of Western Maryland, where he has lived in law-abiding obscurity ever since. He is 65. Yet there’s something about Bremer — and us — that won’t let him slip away completely. He dwells at the blurry edge of memory, summoned back into focus whenever a turn in history or culture reminds us of his relevance. Antiwar.com, How Erdogan’s Adventurism Has Opened a Fissure Within NATO and in US Presidential Politics, Jim Jatras, Dec. 4, 2015. In an astonishingly short time, the ill-considered decision of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ambush a Russian jet has had far reaching consequence far beyond those apparent in the initial days following the fatal attack. (For the situation in the immediate aftermath of the Su-24 downing, see my “‘With Us or with the Terrorists’: It’s Clear Which Side Turkey Is On”.) The fundamental problem with U.S. policy in seeking to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq (let’s remember that ISIS was originally just an al-Qaeda offshoot) and other jhadists is that the US is still taking its cues from regional allies who are essentially on the other side: with the terrorists, not against them. (Combining journalism and analysis with political activism, on December 2 I launched on the White House site a petition to “LIST ERDOGAN’S TURKEY AS STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM; VOID US ALLIANCE WITH TURKEY.” In only one day, the petition collected well over 100 signatures. This is more than two-thirds of the number needed in the first month to keep this petition as a publicly posted black eye for Turkey on the official White House website.) Dec. 3 ISIS truck convoy OpEdNews, NATO Defending Turkey, ISIS Oil Trade, Michael Collins, Dec. 3, 2015. By reinforcing the Turkish military presence along the routes of ISIS oil to Turkey, NATO is protecting the illicit ISIS oil trade that supports the reviled terrorist organization. NATO announced Tuesday that it would send patrol aircraft and missile defense systems to bolster Turkey's air defenses at that nation's border with Syria. This announcement was made on the same day that the Russian Defense Ministry produced satellite imagery and other evidence showing what has been claimed for months, namely that Turkey is receiving oil sent by truck from ISIS oil wells in Iraq and Syria. The United States government dismissed the Russian evidence consisting of images of miles of oil trucks originating at ISIS oil wells then crossing the Turkish border. ISIS oil ends up at two primary destinations, the Batman oil refinery in southeastern Turkey and Mediterranean ports near Turkey's Adana province. The value of the oil trade via Turkey is estimated between $50 and $100 million a month. Without this income, ISIS would face considerable obstacles to its ongoing military aggression, terrorist activities around the world, and subjugation of Syrians and Iraqis living under ISIS rule. The inevitable conclusion of this series of events is simple: By reinforcing the Turkish military presence along the routes of ISIS oil to Turkey, NATO is protecting the illicit ISIS oil trade that supports the reviled terrorist organization. Remarkably, NATO defense ministers endorsed the move without reference to the oil issue. If ISIS is truly an enemy of NATO countries, why does NATO protect a member state that, at the very least, enabled nearly $1.0 billion of ISIS oil sales? That sounds more like trading among allies than trading with the enemy. Washington Post, Judge: Chicago police must notify media before destroying decades of misconduct files, Jeremy Borden, Dec. 3, 2015. Chicago authorities must notify journalists and activists before they destroy decades of records related to police misconduct, Illinois Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn ruled in an emergency order Thursday. The order comes after journalist and activist Jamie Kalven petitioned the court after police officials said they would destroy hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, investigative files and computer records related to Chicago police officer misconduct reports older than four years. The documents are among a trove of data requested by Kalven and other media organizations, including the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, dating back to 1967. Last year, city officials agreed to release all of the police misconduct information, but the city’s police unions sued to prevent the documents from becoming public and the issue remains in limbo. The case will eventually be decided by an Illinois appeals court. The emergency order comes in the wake of a large public outcry following the release of the video that shows police officer James Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder hours before the video’s release. Kalven and his attorney, Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, played a critical role in the release of the dash-cam footage by reporting on the video’s existence and demanding that officials release it. Reuters, Britain joins Syria air war; Putin vows more sanctions on Turkey, Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Osborn, Dec. 3, 2015. Britain joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria on Thursday, but Vladimir Putin issued bitter new denunciations of Turkey for shooting down a Russian plane, demonstrating the limits to international solidarity. British Tornado jets took off from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri in Cyprus before dawn, hours after parliament in London voted 397-223 to support Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to extend air strikes from Iraq to Syria. Britain said they struck oil fields used to fund Islamic State. Although the British vote adds negligible new military capability to the coalition, it took on outsized political and diplomatic significance since gunmen and bombers killed 130 people last month in Paris. Russia is bombing Syria outside the U.S.-led coalition. Moscow and Tehran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States and its European, Arab and Turkish allies want him gone and back his enemies. BBC, Putin: Turkey 'will regret' downing Russian bomber in Syria, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin has castigated Turkey's leaders, warning that they will regret shooting down a Russian Su-24 bomber in Syria. In a state of the nation speech, broadcast live on Russian television, he said that "if anyone thinks Russia's reaction will be limited to trade sanctions, they are deeply mistaken." "We'll remind them again what they did -- they will regret it." Turkey insists that its F-16 fighters shot down the Su-24 because the bomber had trespassed into its airspace. Mr. Putin scorned them, saying "probably Allah alone knows why they did it. "And evidently Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey, by depriving it of any reason or logic." "We know who in Turkey is stuffing his pockets and letting the terrorists prosper," Mr Putin said. On Wednesday Russia's defense ministry displayed satellite images it said showed columns of trucks loaded with oil crossing from IS territory in Iraq and Syria into Turkey. Comparing Russia's campaign with the World War Two struggle against Nazism, Mr Putin said "we are facing a destructive, barbaric ideology… we need a single powerful fist, a united front" against IS. "Each civilized state should contribute to routing the terrorists," he said. PressTV, Iraq PM: Deploying US ground troops "act of aggression,' staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. The Iraqi prime minister warns that Baghdad would consider any foreign troop deployment to Iraq a act of aggression. Heidar al-Abadi says the government has NOT requested any foreign ground troops from any countries. Abadi on Tuesday also stressed that Iraq does not need foreign ground troops. His remarks are viewed as a response to US Army Colonel Steve Warren who said around 100 special operations troops will be deployed to Iraq. According to Warren the new troops will assist in the campaign against Daesh in Iraq. The commandos will join the 3500 US soldiers already deployed in Iraq. The US-led campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria has widely been criticized for ineffectiveness. Antiwar.com, Killer Drone News Blackout Continues as Mainstream Media Ignore Four Whistleblowers, John Hanrahan, Dec. 3, 2015. The polls show it and commentators of all political stripes often cite the figures: Killer drone attacks by the U.S. military and the CIA in the Greater Middle East and Africa have strong US public support. According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent poll in May, 58 percent – up slightly from 56 percent in February 2013 – approve of “missile strikes from drones to target extremists in such countries as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” The numbers of Americans disapproving of drone attacks actually increased from 26 percent to 35 percent over that two-year period – a hopeful sign, but still very much a minority view. But how well informed can US citizens be on this subject when the major news media time and again ignore or underreport drone-strike stories – as we have discussed here and here in recent weeks? Stories – such as The Intercept’s October series based on a trove of classified materials provided by a national security whistleblower – that would likely raise serious questions about the drone program in many more Americans’ minds if they were actually given the information? AFP via Yahoo, IS child soldiers kill captives in gruesome video, Staff report, Dec. 3, 2015. he Islamic State group on Thursday posted online a gruesome video showing six of its child soldiers killing Syrian security forces held captive by the jihadists. Titled "To the Sons of Jews," the slickly-produced video shows dozens of boys, who appeared to be about 10 years old, studying religious texts and learning hand-to-hand combat. Six of the boys are chosen by their instructor to "send a message" to IS's opponents by executing security forces held by the group. IS's "Cubs of the Caliphate" program provides intense military and religious training to children throughout the jihadist group's areas of control in Syria. In the video, each of the six selected boys is depicted individually running through a crumbling fortress, with dramatic music and grim action shots, until he finds a captive. Footage appears of each captive giving his name, his year of birth and describing his role in the security forces or in pro-government militia. The boys are then each shown killing the captives. Five are shot to death, and one has his throat slit. Washington Post, Before Senate win, Rubio turned political ‘juice’ into personal profits, Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 3, 2015. As Marco Rubio considered his options for a new career after stepping down as Florida House speaker, he found that the housing bust had depleted demand for the kind of land-use law he had practiced in the past. But Rubio quickly discovered that his experience as a high-ranking lawmaker could be a lucrative calling card. Rubio’s business deals during the period between his Tallahassee and Washington chapters demonstrated the ways he leveraged his enduring power inside government to make a profit on the outside. And they add to the contradictory picture of his personal finances that has emerged as his presidential campaign has gained traction — of a young man who struggled financially even as his personal income soared along with this political success. This account is based on a Washington Post review of public records as well as previously unreported depositions recorded by Florida ethics officials who investigated a complaint filed by a political critic who, among other things, alleged that the former speaker had scored clients as remuneration for his legislative support. The inquiry found no evidence to support the allegation. Dec. 2 Al.com, Blog says Alabama police planted drugs, weapons on black men; chief denies claims, Erin Edgemon Dec. 2, 2015. About 15 current or former Dothan police officers planted drugs and weapons on young black men for several years, an Alabama organization alleges on its blog. The Alabama Justice Project, through its news blog the Henry County Report, claims high level officials with the Dothan Police Department and District Attorney Doug Valeska covered up the allegations that spanned from 1996 to at least 2004 and an internal affairs investigation. Dothan Police Chief Steven Parrish said the allegations contained in the Henry County Report article are false. "An attempt has been made to not only discredit me, but the Dothan Police Department; the 20th Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office; and past employees of this agency by accusing members of this agency of criminal activity and others of covering up such activity," he stated in a press release. In an interview with AL.com, the writer of the article, Jon B. Carroll, said about two months ago, two police officers gave him copies of 858 files from the Dothan Police Department's internal affairs division. Washington Post, 14 killed in Calif. shooting, 2 suspects, a man and woman, dead after gunfight with police, Mark Berman, Elahe Izadi and Wesley Lowery, Dec. 2, 2015. The suspects, who police said were armed with assault rifles and handguns, are thought to have launched an attack hours earlier, killing 14 and injuring 17 others at a nonprofit facility in San Bernardino where a holiday party for county employees was underway. The San Bernardino suspects: A couple with a baby, Yanan Wang and Justin Wm. Moyer, Dec. 2, 2015. Farook and Malik were said to have taken their 6-month-old daughter to her grandmother's home the morning of the shooting, saying they had a doctor's appointment. Washington Post, The San Bernardino rampage was the 355th mass shooting this year, Christopher Ingraham, Dec. 2, 2015. By one definition of mass shooting — incidents in which at least four people are injured or killed by gunfire — there have on average been slightly more than one each day in 2015. Reuters, Iraqi politicians, militias warn Abadi against U.S. force deployment, Ahmed Rasheed, Dec. 2, 2015. Iraq's ruling alliance and powerful Shi'ite militias say Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would be digging his own political grave and undermining the fight against Islamic State if he permits the deployment of a new U.S. special operations force in the country. Washington said on Tuesday it would send troops, expected to number around 200, to Iraq to conduct raids against the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militants who have seized swathes of the country's north and west and neighboring Syria. Abadi said hours later that any such deployment would require his government's consent. National Press Club, Air Force secretary cites air power success against ISIS, but sees strains on the smallest force since 1947, Dec. 2, 2015. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James underlined the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the fight against Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the terrorist organization ISIS, in a National Press Club luncheon speech Dec. 2. James, just returned from a tour of the Middle East, Africa and Europe, said that Air Force commanders in war zones are asking for more “ISR,” as she termed the three information-gathering activities. The information forms the basis of the daily Air Targeting Orders that control air strikes against the terrorists, she said. Targeting, she explained, begins with study and collection of data, which commanders analyze to form assessments of the prospects for success of individual sorties. s evidence, she cited the diminished size of the Daesch area of operation. It has been reduced by 20 percent to 25 percent from a year ago, she said. Dec. 1 Washington Post, Chicago mayor fires police chief after death of black teenager, Mark Berman, Dec. 1, 2015. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (shown in a file photo) fired Garry F. McCarthy, the head of the Chicago Police Department, amid widespread criticism over how authorities responded to a white police officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald last year. Guardian, US announces 'expeditionary force' to target Isis in Iraq and Syria, Dan Roberts, Dec. 1, 2015. Permanent group based in Iraq but capable of cross-border raids will function independently of local troops, defense secretary Ash Carter says. A permanent new US “expeditionary force” will target Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, operating independently of local troops in Iraq and Syria for the first time, defense secretary Ash Carter (shown in an official) has revealed, in a significant escalation of the frontline use of American ground troops in the region. Addressing Congressional leaders who are demanding swifter progress against Isis, Carter said on Tuesday that the troops would be based in Iraq but will have the capability to carry out raids across the border. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria,” he said. “You don’t know at night who is going to be coming in the window.” Until now, US ground forces in the region have officially been restricted to a “training and support” mission for the Iraqi army and a handful of one-off special forces raids to free hostages. Kurdish fighters have told the Guardian that US forces in Iraq have secretly been blurring this line for months by taking an increasingly active role on the frontline, but the creeping ground mission once expressly ruled out by Barack Obama now seems to be spreading to Syria. Obama recently authorised the deployment of 50 special forces troops to Syria, but promised they were expected to work mainly alongside rebels on that side of the border. Carter refused to disclose the size of the new independent expeditionary targeting unit but said it would be larger than Obama’s embedded special forces deployment and would also provide targeting intelligence for air. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also revealed that he was encouraging US military commanders in Iraq to go beyond the president’s current force limit of 3,500 troops in the country. Washington Post, Obama defends his Syria strategy to defeat Islamic State, Steven Mufson, Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe, Dec. 1, 2015. President Obama laid out his case once again for his Syria strategy built around a combination of military air power to degrade the Islamic State and diplomatic pressure to push out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama was in Paris on Tuesday for a major summit on climate change in which he voiced optimism that the world was moving toward a solution to the global problem. "The main message I got is that I actually think we are going to solve this thing," he said of the climate initiative. When it came to fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the president did not muster the same optimism. He expressed confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin could alter his strategy in Syria and ultimately support a political solution there that includes the exit of Assad. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF launches international appeal for release of Cumhuriyet journalists, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2015. At a press conference held in partnership with the Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC) today in Istanbul, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched an international appeal for the release of Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül and all their fellow journalists unjustly detained in Turkey. The list of initial signatories, consisting of NGOs and international public figures, has been posted on RSF’s website. The general public can support the appeal by signing the petition in English, Turkish and French at this address. Editor's Note: The Justice Integrity Project is among petition signers. The signatories accuse the Turkish authorities of “persecuting journalists of all colors in an increasingly ferocious manner” and urge them “to free Can Dündar and Erdem Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists who are currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed.” They also condemn this spiral of oppression in “a country that is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.” “The Turkish authorities are targeting the wrong enemy,” RSF secretary¬general Christophe Deloire said. “The judicial system seems to prosecute journalists more often than the accomplices of Daesh (Islamic State). Turkey is a great country, with democratic institutions and a very open civil society. We appeal to the government, as a matter of honour, to restore all the conditions of pluralism, starting with freedom for journalists.” TGC president Turgay Olcayto added: “With globalization, the Turkish media’s problems could one day become the problems of western journalists. It is vital that we join forces to defend free journalism before it is too late.” The Indicter (Sweden), Many questions have still not been answered on the downing of the MH 17, Maj Wechselmann, Nov. 30, 2015. Maj Wechselmann, a member of The Indicter’s editorial board, is a Swedish author and prize-winner film director and documentary producer. Few airplane crashes have caused such a big attention as the crash of the Malaysian plane MH17 in eastern Ukraine. The plane fell in the area of the separatists. The theories and accusations about who shot it down and murdered 295 passengers must be seen in the perspective of elapsed time: It took the commission, the Dutch Safety Board one year and three months to investigate the crash, and yet the “black boxes” were neither harmed or opened when delivered to the international authorities only four days after the crash. Yet the commission cannot – even today – name the perpetrator. Let´s begin with the accusations against the Dutch Safety Board itself. The first allegation is directed against the composition and constitution of The Dutch Safety Board. Holland immediately took the lead role. However, according to international rules under IATA (International Air Transport Association) Malaysia, is the first authorized country to participate in the commission Malaysia was initially – illegitimately – excluded from the inquiry for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained. Holland is a member of NATO, and the commission can therefore easily be blamed of being biased. A second accusation against the investigators: ignoring the fact of a possible false flag operation criminally done by the Ukrainian authorities. Shadowfront, Libya’s Collapse Proves Hillary Clinton Learned Nothing From Iraq War, Dan Wright, Nov. 24, 2015. In October 2002, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York voted to authorize the Iraq War. In fact, Senator Clinton went beyond just voting for the bill; she took to the Senate floor and made an impassioned speech accusing then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction and providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda. Clinton also made it clear in her speech that she knew her vote could very well lead to war, but she would still “cast it with conviction.” The war that followed in 2003 is likely to go down as one of the greatest military blunders in US history, if not one of the country’s greatest crimes. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, trillions of dollars spent, and the sowing of local and regional instability that further empowered Iran and led to the rise of ISIS. And, of course, no weapons of mass destruction to be found. But in 2014, now a former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton changed her position again and said in her book “Hard Choices” that “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.” But did she learn anything from the Iraq War? The answer appears to be no. In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the charge by the Obama Administration to begin a military campaign in Libya. US and NATO forces helped Libyan rebels overthrow the government led by Muammar Gaddafi. The justification was to prevent a massacre that was supposedly imminent in Benghazi, Libya. Clinton maneuvered behind the scenes to keep the NATO coalition together, as well as promote regime change as the ultimate goal. After the war, she claimed that “we set into motion a policy that was on the right side of history, on the right side of our values, on the right side of our strategic interests in the region.” Gaddafi, who fled after the fall of his government, was eventually found, then tortured and killed by the rebels — something Clinton apparently found amusing when, in an interview with CBS News, she paraphrased Julius Caesar in regards to Gaddafi, chuckling “We came, we saw, he died.” Once again, Hillary Clinton had backed the violent overthrow of a government in the Middle East, and, once again, the results would ultimately be a nightmare for both the region and the US. As Hillary Clinton makes yet another attempt to assume the imperial presidency, it is worth keeping in mind that she apparently is unwilling or unable to learn anything from the horrendous blunders she has championed in the past. Are you ready for more?. ISIS members marching in Raqqa, January 2014 Defense One, Allen Quits ISIS War Envoy Job, One Year After Calling for Group’s Destruction, Kevin Baron, Sept. 22, 2015. Kevin Baron is executive editor of Defense One. He is also national security/military analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. The retired general begged President Obama to “destroy” ISIS and was then appointed to help do it. More than a year after publicly pressing President Barack Obama to “destroy” the Islamic State with swift and decisive American military intervention in Iraq and Syria, retired Gen. John Allen reportedly will step down from the special-envoy job created to do just that. Allen leaves behind an arguably more powerful and influential ISIS and a White House once again searching for a new strategy. Obama tapped Allen with the title of special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL following Allen’s war cries in 2014. First seen as the leader of the ISIS effort, Allen quickly faded from spotlight as he went to work building the coalition while ISIS continued to win territory, resources and tens of thousands of recruits from the region to its fight. Allen, 61, was retired from uniform and serving the Pentagon as a go-between for Israeli and Palestinian defense leaders for the Middle East peace process in August 2014. He was on his way to the Pentagon to resign that post and begin as co-director of a new Brooking Institute security center when Secretary of State John Kerry called him with a new command: help put together the anti-ISIS coalition. Allen never shied from public attention, but was not a war general in the vein of Gens. Norman Schwarzkopf or David Petraeus. The war’s top commander remains U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd Austin, in Tampa, Fla, who rarely appears in public or speaks to the media about his wartime command. Mostly, Allen continued quietly as a warrior-diplomat working in the Middle East. Prev Next jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var caption = $('.item-image .caption').attr('title'); $('.item-image .caption').parent().append(' ' + caption + ' '); }); Mission Statement Andrew Kreig JIP Director The Justice Integrity Project (JIP) researches official misconduct Get New Articles by Email Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner Broadcast Broadcast and lecture audiences can count on the Project's director to deliver blunt, entertaining and cutting-edge commentary about public affairs, with practical tips for the millions of Americans caught up in unfair litigation or regulation. Based in Washington, DC, Andrew Kreig is an accomplished fighter for the public interest. 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