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Friday, July 29

"Terrorists Laying Down Arms in Aleppo as President Assad Offers Amnesty"

These amnesties have been offered for years by the Syrian government but from all the reports I've seen of these agreements this year, I think the pace of fighters taking up the offer increased after Russia joined the war. The reason isn't always fear; it's also seeing light at the end of tunnel -- a growing conviction or hope that the Syrian government is strong enough with Russia's help to restore peace to the country.

Here is the FARS report on the Aleppo amnesties and the military situation there as of yesterday:
      

July 28, 2016
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- A large number of terrorists laid down arms and surrendered to Syrian army in Aleppo province as the soldiers of president Bashar al-Assad are racing towards Aleppo after completing siege of the city and capturing the most vital stronghold of the militants in the region, Bani Zeid.

"Scores of Takfiri militants laid down arms and turned themselves in to the Syrian army in Bani Zeid and al-Lairamoun to be pardoned," a battlefield source said on Thursday.

"The move by the terrorists in Aleppo province came after army troops put the militants to rout in Bani Zeid and al-Lairamoun and completed the siege of Aleppo city in the East," the source added.

Forces loyal to president Assad took full control of Bani Zeid in the Eastern parts of Aleppo on Thursday. They also managed to recapture all building blocks, firms and factories in al-Lairamoun industrial zone in Northern Aleppo province.

The Syria army and popular forces had also managed to cut off all the supply lines and passages used by the terrorists to move from the North to the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo city on Wednesday.

Local sources said Thursday terrorists in the besieged districts of Aleppo have blocked the “safe passages” provided by the Syrian Army for the civilians to leave the militant-held districts in Syria’s second-largest city.

Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV channel reported the move by the terrorists in Aleppo came after a large number of people, including civilians and militants who decided to lay down their arms abiding new offer of amnesty by the Syrian government, left the city of Aleppo through ‘safe corridors’ provided by Syrian pro-government forces.

Some reports also suggest militants groups have employed snipers to shoot many people getting through the 'safe passages'.

Syrian state television quoted the governor of Aleppo as saying that three humanitarian corridors have been established for civilians to leave the city. President Bashar Assad also offered an amnesty for rebels who surrender within three months.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also said a fourth corridor would be set up in the North of the city for militants, near the Castello road which the army recently took over.

The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had dropped thousands of leaflets over militant-held districts in Aleppo, asking residents to cooperate with the military and calling on militants to surrender.

[END REPORT]

********

The U.S. Democratic Party is ready for its closeup, Mr DeMille

The question before me is how many movies did the Democrats show during their presidential nomination convention this week? And why no popcorn distributed to the convention attendees?

I've heard of the Hollywoodization of politics but this is ridiculous. There was a movie about Tim Kaine to introduce his VP acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention this week. There was a movie about Barack Obama to introduce his speech to the convention. There was a movie about Hillary Clinton to introduce her acceptance speech. 

Was there a movie about Michelle Obama to introduce her speech to the convention? Give me a moment to check. Yup, there was.  What about Joe Biden? The Joe Biden DNC Introduction Video Displayed His Moving History Of Public Service - VIDEO. As you can see not only was there a movie shown at the convention to introduce his speech to the convention, but it was also picked up by at least one website.

All right, what other speakers at the DNC were introduced with a movie about them? 

Maybe I'm going about this wrong. I should just ask whether every major speaker at the Democratic National Convention was introduced with a movie about the speaker. To make it even simpler -- just exactly how many movies were shown during the four days at the convention?

To really boil it down, how many attention-challenged people does the Democratic National Committee think make up today's Democratic Party?

Well there's only one way I can think to try and salvage a post about the Democratic Party's version of Sunset Boulevard. Here's the podcast of Dr Stephen F. Cohen's discussion on Tuesday's John Batchelor Show about the latest machinations of the Get Russia crowd. These include a serious attempt to resurrect McCarthyism in the USA.  

Also: Neo-McCarthyism and Olympic Politics as More Evidence of a New Cold War; Stephen F. Cohen; July 27, The Nation: McCarthyism was a characteristic feature of the preceding Cold War, but now it is coming from liberals, even from the Clinton campaign.

(The Nation is an uber-liberal publication.)

See how nicely it all strings together. Hillary Clinton. Hollywood. The Red Trump Scare. Attention-Deficit Democrats.


********

Thursday, July 28

When public discourses were sung they were more sincere

Observe Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's gestures and expressions as he sings the following qawwal. Note how intently the qawwali singers on the stage listen to each other. They have to listen; the kind of singing they're doing is based on call and response -- the most ancient form of song.

If you have a loved one who persistently won't listen when you speak, fix on the major point you're trying to communicate, then sing it to the person.

Also, there are people who want to pray but feel they can't. If you know someone with this problem tell him to try singing his prayer. If he says he can't carry a tune, this is not a Puccini aria he's trying for. Tell him singing is as natural as breathing; if the person doesn't believe you, have him to watch two videos of Ustad Nusrat & Party and call you in the morning. 
     
Ready? This qawwal, "Yadan Vichre Sajan Dian Aiyan," was sung in Islamabad in 1989. As to the meaning of the words, how should I know? It's a Sufi devotional song. Use your imagination.    





Prisoners give kind welcome to deaf canine refugees from Sand Fire

This is a great story but first an update on the fire, from KABC News; the following report reflects the official updates up to this time. Note the mention of problems with drones; the aerial rubberneckers have plagued firefighting efforts in California for at least a year:
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Sand Fire, which has burned more than 38,000 acres in the Santa Clarita area, is now 40 percent contained, according to fire officials.
It has charred approximately 38,346 acres as of the latest fire update Wednesday. Firefighters are hopeful to continue gaining an upper hand on the fire, but high heat and winds in the afternoon could hamper efforts.
"Today's temps are going to be high. It's going to be around 100 degrees. Winds are going to be around 25 mph. These conditions are perfect conditions for rapid fire growth," said Justin Correll, spokesman for U.S. Forest Service.
Acting Gov. Tom Torlakson declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening for Los Angeles County to provide more resources to firefighters and aid to victims.
[...]
Nearly 3,000 firefighters from multiple agencies work day and night to calm the blaze, which quickly exploded when it first broke out Friday afternoon.
At one point, the fast-moving wildfire threatened thousands of homes and caused 20,000 residents to evacuate. On Monday night, most of them were allowed to go back home.
While firefighters are gaining the upper hand in the fight, officials said they still have 60 percent of the fire to contain. Fire officials are also asking people to stop operating drones in the area, which has hampered firefighting efforts from time to time.
MORE: Drones interfering with Sand Fire battling efforts
Since the blaze broke out, 18 homes in Sand Canyon, Bear Divide and Little Tujunga were destroyed, one structure was damaged and five suffered minor damage.[...]
 *****

Deaf Dogs Rescued From Sand Fire Find Home in Prison
By Sam Bergum
Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

NBC News Los Angeles

Lisa said she was amazed at how happy the dogs were. She asked about the "problem dogs," who tended to be nervous around strangers. The inmates told her they didn't have any problems. "[They] were thriving under their care," Lisa said. "[They] had wagging tales and smiles on their faces."



Nearly 50 deaf dogs threatened by the Sand Fire have found a temporary home: behind bars. The rescue[d] dogs are waiting out the fire in the Lancaster prison.

The owners of Deaf Dog Rescue of America decided to evacuate the animals from their Santa Clarita kennel Sunday night, after the fire started moving closer and closer to the property. Though they were not under mandatory evacuation, Mark and Lisa Tipton decided they were better safe than sorry.

 
"We knew if we had an issue in the middle of the night, [we] would be here alone with 45 dogs to load up," she posted on the rescue's Facebook page. "Not a can-do."

But the Tiptons had a hard time finding a place that could hold all of their animals, which they've rescued from across the U.S. They were ultimately invited to bring them all to the prison, where Mark Tipton operates a dog training program, Karma Rescue.

"We arrived to find the man-cages ready for the dogs," Lisa Tipton said, with "food, water, beds, and igloos."

The couple returned to their home Sunday night, planning to show up at the prison for the dogs' breakfast the next day. Lisa said she was amazed at what she saw when they arrived.

"The inmates had handled breakfast beautifully," she said. "They were getting the dogs out for exercise and cleaning their runs... I have never, ever seen anyone clean up dog poop with such glee."

The dogs, even the ones that aren't always comfortable around strangers, were just as happy, she said.

"[They] were thriving under their care," she said, "and had wagging tales and smiles on their faces."

The Tiptons said they're happy their dogs had such a warm welcome.

"To see incarcerated men of all races working so beautifully together to help others is a really amazing experience," Lisa Tipton said. "If they had turned us away, with 97 degree [heat], we would've had dead dogs in the trailer."

The dogs will likely stay in the prison through the end of the week, until the fire is more contained.

Now the rescue organization is looking for donations to cover the expenses of moving the dogs. You can donate to the shelter on their website.

[END REPORT]

********

Trump vs. America's shadow government: The WTO issue

Last night economist Alan Tonelson was on the John Batchelor Show to discuss how America's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has greatly harmed American trade interests --  and as consequence set up the USA for the 2008 economic crash that spread around the world, which was blamed, wrongly, on 'bad paper.' 

Prepare yourself for shocks as you listen to Tonelson if you have bought the argument that the United States controls the WTO and uses it to further its export regime. The truth is just the opposite, and the truth is why Donald Trump wants the United States out of the WTO.  

There would be some urgency for this, given that the same trade-driven debts that underlaid the last economic crash have been building up again to an alarming level.      

Why, then, any rational person would ask, have the Powers That Be in the USA been such strong defenders of WTO if it's so harmful to American economic interests -- and indeed the interests of international stability?  

Part of the answer is that WTO membership locks the United States into an import regime, which is very profitable for certain segments of business and finance. The other part is that the WTO, which was conceived as impartial and nonpolitical, is anything but. It is a cash cow for every political faction and business lobbying group in WTO member countries. 

That is why the World Trade Organization became one of the props of the strange 'shadow governments' that have appeared in many nations around the world -- a problem of modern democracies that anti-globalists invariably blame on central banks and big international banks.  

It's more complicated than that, as Alan Tonelson, and Donald Trump, well know.

Do Bernie Sanders supporters understand all this? If they do, I can't see how any of them would agree to vote for Hillary Clinton just for the sake of the Democratic Party because she would never take the USA out of the WTO.  (Sanders, for his part, hightailed it from the Democratic Party after endorsing Clinton for president.)

But the biggest question is whether Republicans understand all this. Mr Trump has to do a better job of explaining himself at some point before voting day.           

Here is the podcast for Tonelson's discussion; it starts at the 11:20 minute mark. And here is the link to Tonelson's well-named website, RealityChek.com.  

********        

Wednesday, July 27

It's getting harder to hide role of United States in genocide

At first glance the following discussion at RT is only about a bombshell investigative report regarding Eastern/Central European governments making a (literal) killing selling materiel to Middle Eastern governments for use in Yemen and Syria.
Most of the weapons are sent to Saudi Arabia. ... The weapons and ammunition are "routed through two secret command facilities, called Military Operation Centers (MOC) in Jordan and Turkey," it claims, citing the former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Stephen Ford.
But as the discussion continues .....
The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations.
..... it becomes increasingly clear that once again the United States of America is secretly doing everything to increase carnage in the two war zones:
According to Ford, the trade of weapons is "coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Turkey, and Gulf states through centers in Jordan and Turkey." But in reality, that process is "often" bypassed, he said.
Yet Washington's role in providing the European weapons to conflict zones might be bigger than that, according to the report, which claims that the US has directly bought "military material" from Eastern Europe and delivered it in "vast quantities" to Syria through its Department of Defense Special Operations Command (SOCOM). ...
'Unprecedented': European govts sold $1.3bn in arms to Middle East, some ended up with ISIS - report
July 27, 2016
RT

Governments of Central and Eastern European countries have been selling an “unprecedented” amount of weapons and ammunition to the Middle East in recent years, fueling armed conflicts in the troubled region, a new report claims.

According to the findings by a team of reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a group of European countries led by Croatia and the Czech Republic have been channeling their arms to the region since 2012.

Since then, they have gained over US$1 billion from such sales, despite some of the weapons ending up in the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, according to the report, which was published earlier on Wednesday.

The report, titled 'Making a Killing: The 1.2 Billion Euros Arms Pipeline to Middle East,' is the result of a year-long investigation.

It reveals “for the first time” that dozens of airplanes have been taking off from airfields in Eastern Europe, carrying deadly cargo "to Middle Eastern states and Turkey which, in turn, funneled arms into brutal civil wars in Syria and Yemen."

Governments of the selling countries have been well aware of where their exports are ending up, the report claims.

"Arms export licenses, which are supposed to guarantee the final destination of the goods, have been granted despite ample evidence that weapons are being diverted to Syrian and other armed groups accused of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities," the report states, adding that experts who reviewed the evidence collected during the investigation agreed the trade was "almost certainly illegal."

"The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations. If this is the case, the transfers are illegal under the ATT (United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty) and other international law," said Patrick Wilcken, an arms control researcher at Amnesty International, as quoted by the report.

Most of the weapons are sent to Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf kingdom having secured some 18,500 rocket launchers, 10,000 AK-47 guns, 300 tanks, and 250 anti-aircraft guns, among other weapons and ammunition from eight Central and Eastern European countries.

Those countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the weapons are also being sent to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.

"The four recipient countries are key arms suppliers to Syria and Yemen," the report states, adding that they had "little or no history of buying from Central and Eastern Europe prior to 2012," when armed conflicts began to escalate in the region.

"[T]he pace of the transfers is not slowing, with some of the biggest deals approved in 2015," BIRN and the OCCRP warned.


After the deadly cargo lands in the four Middle Eastern countries, it is then directed to Syria, according to the report. The weapons and ammunition are "routed through two secret command facilities, called Military Operation Centers (MOC) in Jordan and Turkey," it claims, citing the former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Stephen Ford.

From the MOCs, arms are reportedly delivered by land to the Syrian border, or air-dropped by military planes. Some of those are reportedly intended for use by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to one of its commanders from Aleppo, who told BIRN and OCCRP that the weapons were distributed from centrally controlled headquarters in Syria.

"We don't care about the country of origin, we just know it is from Eastern Europe," said the FSA commander, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his safety.

The investigation team has identified Eastern and Central European weapons and ammunition in the hands of FSA fighters in more than 50 videos and photos posted on social media, the report says, adding that some terrorist groups – including Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State – are also apparently in possession of such weapons.

"Markings on some of the weapons identifying the origin and date of production reveal significant quantities have come off production lines as recently as 2015," the report says.

Weapons originating from the Central and Eastern European countries have also been air-dropped by the Saudis to their allies in Yemen.

According to Ford, the trade of weapons is "coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Turkey, and Gulf states through centers in Jordan and Turkey." But in reality, that process is "often" bypassed, he said.

Yet Washington's role in providing the European weapons to conflict zones might be bigger than that, according to the report, which claims that the US has directly bought "military material" from Eastern Europe and delivered it in "vast quantities" to Syria through its Department of Defense Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

"[A]s part of the covert supply of weapons to Syria," SOCOM has commissioned several cargo ships from ports in Romania and Bulgaria to deliver some 4,700 tons of arms and ammunition, including heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, and grenades.


[END REPORT]

From Human Rights Watch, July 11  

"(Beirut) – Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes have unlawfully hit numerous factories, warehouses, and other civilian economic structures in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In the absence of credible and impartial investigations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other coalition members should agree to an independent international inquiry into these and other allegedly unlawful attacks. ... "



********

TRUMP RUNS AWAY WITH DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION

I'm just learning about this from Rush Limbaugh's show. This morning Trump held a no-holds-barred Q & A with the press that wrapped up just around the time Rush's show was starting, at noon EDT, and from what Rush said might have lasted as long as an hour.   

With this presser Trump upstaged the entire Democratic convention. In this he managed to make history because Republicans have never interfered with their opponent's national convention. But Trump poked fun at the (very strange) speech Bill Clinton gave at the convention last night and the accusations about the Russians. He sent the Clintonista entire media into hysterics by saying he hoped the Russians would find Clinton's missing emails. (The roughly 30,000 emails Clinton deleted that were on her private email server while she worked at State, and which the FBI had demanded she turn over.)  

I'm laughing too hard to finish this post. The story is all over Google News, you can't miss it.

./

Top 3 ways to tell if your dog is a Russian spy

3.  If you put a bowl of shashlik next to a bowl of bestselling Canidae all natural dog food, the dog will eat the shashlik first.

2.  The dog will immediately stop barking if you yell, "Nyet!"

1.  If you show the dog a picture of Vladimir Putin and say, "Kill" the dog will wag its tail.




*********



"Ansarullah Starts March on Saudi Soil"

FARS
July 26, 2016

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Yemeni army and Ansarullah fighters pushed the Saudi-led forces back into Saudi Arabia, and managed to seize back several strategic military positions in the kingdom near the border with Yemen.

The Yemeni forces took control of three Saudi military bases in al-Tal'a, Boqta and Najran as well as a region in al-Boq'a near the Saudi-Yemeni border crossing in heavy clashes with the Saudi troops.

Ansarullah has announced that it will continue its advances on Saudi soil despite the repeated airstrikes by the Saudi fighter jets.

In a relevant development on Tuesday, the Yemeni forces' ballistic missile attack killed and wounded tens of Saudi forces in Najran province in the Southern parts of the kingdom.

"At least 200 Saudi troops have been killed or wounded after Yemen's Zalzal 3 ballistic missile hit their military positions in Najran province," Senior Ansarullah Commander Abdollah al-Zeidi told FNA.

He, meantime, said that the Yemeni army and popular forces have made considerable advances in Ta'iz and al-Jawf provinces as they thwarted the Takfiri terrorists' attacks on Ma'rib.

Another Ansarullah Commander Hossein al-Houthi disclosed that the Yemeni forces have recaptured strategic heights overlooking Lahij province, inflicting heavy losses on them.

[END REPORT]

Syrian War: Militants' defenses collapse in Aleppo City

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – JULY 26, 2016 - SouthFront:
On July 25, the Syrian army successfully advanced in the Layramoun industrial area of Aleppo city, liberating over dozen buildings there. After liberation of the brick factory, sugar factory, Sabbagh factories, Bana factory, Shabareq factory and “Marketna Mall” area, the Syrian army reached Al Barrad crossroad. Heavy clashes were reported there. If Al Barrad crossroad is secured by pro-government forces, the logistical capabilities of militant groups operating in Aleppo will deteriorate significantly.

Early on July 26, the Syrian army further advanced south from the Mallah Farms, securing Castello Complex and expanding the zone of control along the strategic Castello Highway.

This will allow the Syrian army to develop momentum along the Castello Highway from north and from south, cutting off the militant units in Bani Zeid and Youth Housing from the main militant forces. The Kurdish YPG will likely use this in order to capture Youth Housing and help the Syrian army to push militants from Bani Zeid. Strategically, this move sets the full siege on the militant-controlled areas of Aleppo city.

Syrian and Russian warplanes have conducted a series of air raids against the ISIS terorrist group near the cities of Palmyra and Deir Ezzor in Syria. Syrian fighter jets bombed ISIS targets east of Palmyra and at Arak region, destroying the terrorists’ tactical units and fighting positions there.

Separately, Russian warplanes conducted air raids at Deir Ezzor with special attention to the Thayyem Valley where the terrorist group contentrated manpower for an advance against the Syrian army units encircled in the city. Due to Russian air raids the advance was foiled. Russian fighter bombers also conducted air raids near the T4 airport. However, there is no information about casualties among ISIS terrorists there.

[...]

Latest update: The incredible Sand Fire roars on

A veritable army is fighting the fire, but the conditions under which it's being fought are hellish.  

Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:06am EDT
California firefighters battling wildfires face hot, windy weather
Reuters

[See website for 12 photos related to the fire]

Crews battling a deadly wildfire in rugged drought-stricken terrain north of Los Angeles on Wednesday face a second consecutive day of scorching weather and erratic winds that could hinder their efforts.

The National Weather Service forecast of near-triple-digit temperatures and 20 mph wind gusts that could make attempts difficult to further extinguish the so-called Sand Fire, a wildfire that erupted 40 miles north of Los Angeles that has destroyed 18 homes and claimed one life.

As of Tuesday night, some 3,000 firefighters hacked through dense brush and chaparral and had extended containment lines around 25 percent of the fire, which has charred 59 square miles since Friday, officials said.

The single fatality blamed on the Sand Fire was identified on Tuesday as Robert Bresnick, 67, whose body was found Saturday inside a burned-out car parked in a driveway, said Ed Winter, assistant chief Los Angeles County coroner.

Winter said a female friend Bresnick was visiting was forcibly removed by firefighters as flames closed in on them, but Bresnick insisted on staying put. He was last seen alive walking toward the car, apparently having changed his mind after it was too late.

About 300 miles to the north, a smaller fire raging since Friday between Big Sur and the scenic coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea continued to threaten some 1,650 properties after destroying 20 homes on Sunday. It remained 10 percent contained late on Tuesday, authorities said.

North of Big Sur at the edge of the Los Padres National Forest, some 2,300 firefighters were battling a blaze dubbed the Soberanes Fire, which has scorched nearly 20,000 acres since Friday, a state fire agency spokeswoman said.

The forecast in that area was expected to also reach near triple-digit temperatures and include erratic winds that could hamper firefighting efforts.

The causes of both fires were under investigation, but they are among some 3,750 blazes large and small that have erupted across California since January. The higher-than-normal total has collectively scorched more than 200,000 acres, state fire officials said.

The biggest so far was last month's Erskine Fire, which consumed 48,000 acres northeast of Bakersfield, killing two people and destroying about 250 structures.

By comparison, the 2003 Cedar Fire ranks as the biggest on record in the state, burning more than 273,000 acres and killing 15 people.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Michael Perry)

Tuesday, July 26

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas: French didn't learn from U.S.-Saudi relationship



December 2013:
France tries to supplant US as Saudi Arabia's arms supplier

June 2015:
Saudi Arabia and France ink $12bln deal

November 2015, Massacre in Paris:


July 2016, Massacre in Nice


Nice, France: A Harvest of Horror
July 20, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - While the Western media poses as perplexed over the recent string of horrific attacks across Europe and particularly in France, the latest of which unfolded this week in the seaside city of Nice leaving over 80 dead and many more injured, it is clear that France itself has cultivated the soil within which terrorism and violence has taken root.
[...]
The London Guardian's [2012] article, "France funding Syrian rebels in new push to oust Assad," would report that:
Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.
For 5 years now, France, along with the US and overt state sponsors of terrorism including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, have waged proxy war on Syria giving rise to terrorist organizations with full-scale military capabilities including mechanized, anti-tank, and anti-air warfare.
The sheer scale of the terrorist organizations France has helped cultivate in Syria [is] astounding. Billions of dollars are involved, and tens of thousands of fighters from across the world, including France itself, have created logistical lines wrapping around the planet to feed the conflict.
[...]

France has emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria's armed opposition and is now directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo as part of a new push to oust the embattled Assad regime.
[...]
September 2001:



Declassified 9/11 Report Portrays US-Saudis as Partners in Crime

July 25, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - The recently released, previously classified report titled, "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001" (.pdf), reveals that indeed long-time US ally, Saudi Arabia, had connections to the alleged hijackers who purportedly carried out the 9/11 attacks.

[...]

Some 14 years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and as memories begin to fade, the US [found] itself partnered with Saudi Arabia once again, arming and funding terrorists to fight their proxy wars in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and beyond, just as they did in the 1980s when they jointly created Al Qaeda to begin with.

[...]

********

810 attacks on Christian churches, cemeteries in France in 2015. Belgian Christians also targeted

For political and ideological reasons, whenever possible French politicians (along with many other European authorities) continue to downplay such attacks. In response, few major media sources bother to report them.

Attacks on Christian communities in France are growing. Why aren't we hearing about them?
By Lela Gilbert
July 26, 2016
Fox News

[...]


On the part of authorities and the media, a persistent lack of attention obscures – perhaps intentionally – the loathing Islamist terrorists hold toward both Jews and Christians.
Thanks to the careful scrutiny of international Jewish publications, attacks by radical Islamists on French Jews and their businesses, synagogues and cemeteries are better known.  
There have been innumerable such assaults; perhaps the most widely reported was on January 9, 2015 at Hyper Casher, a Kosher supermarket in Vincennes, where four hostages were murdered. Tablet Magazine listed 25 such incidents in 2014 alone; many more have taken place since.
In response, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), 10 percent of French Jewry has relocated to Israel since 2000.
Unfortunately, similar attacks on Christians are rarely recounted, although ISIS has made its intentions clear: “the Christian community… “will not have safety, even in your dreams, until you embrace Islam. We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women….”  
Certainly Islamist radicals have not ignored this proclamation, even though accounts of their successful efforts may be hard to come by.
Only a scouring of Catholic news reports exposes an ongoing litany of desecration, arson and abuse.  For example, a recent newsletter from Federation for Europa Christiana recounts (in French) the following:
“At Martigues…three successive attacks in May 2016: first the pastor extinguished a malicious fire on the altar of the church of the Madeleine. This same priest was later attacked and his eye was blackened….
“Then, at the Saint-Genest church, the same priest discovered the open tabernacle and communion wafers thrown to the ground…
“In April, 2016, all the crucifixes and crosses were shattered at the cemetery of La Chapelle-du-Bard….”
All told, 810 attacks on French Christian places of worship and Christian cemeteries took place in 2015.
Meanwhile, the National Catholic Register reported on June 6,
“In recent weeks, Catholics in France and Belgium — countries still recovering from brutal ISIS attacks — have been hit with numerous acts of violence and aggression, including fires set in churches, an assault on a priest, the desecration of a tabernacle.
“More than 100 Catholic websites… of churches and congregations were hacked by suspected Tunisian cyber-jihadists who call themselves the Fallaga Team.”
Tuesday’s murder of an 84-year-old priest, the grave injuries to a nun, and the hostage-taking of Catholics attending Mass suggest an escalation of these shadowy activities.
For political and ideological reasons, whenever possible French politicians (along with many other European authorities) continue to downplay such attacks. In response, few major media sources bother to report them.
Nonetheless, as the jihadi saying goes, “First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People.” Islamist radicals consistently target Jews and Christians.
And, widely reported or not, the facts on the bloodied ground speak for themselves.
Lela Gilbert is author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner" and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians." She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and lives in Jerusalem. For more, visit her website: www.lelagilbert.com. Follow her on Twitter@lelagilbert.
[END ARTICLE]

Pay to Save: After Cyprus they were called alarmist for warning that goverments were at war on savers

The good news, at least for England: "[If] rates go negative there would be "at least 20 banks waiting in the wings" to obtain licences and begin offering savers higher rates, increasing competition.

But what about the United States, where the Fed doesn't want the rabble to use saving accounts?

Savers fear negative interest rates as Natwest warns businesses might have to pay to hold cash
By Tim Wallace, Katie Morley 
25 JULY 2016 • 9:48PM
The Telegraph

[See also video clip in Telegraph report that quotes Mark Carney, Governor of The Bank of England: "We may need to cut interest rates in a few months."]

Natwest has become the first bank to warn business customers it may charge them negative interest rates on money held in current accounts.

In what is believed to be a UK first, the bank has signalled its intention to force account holders to either pay to hold money or move funds elsewhere.

Although current plans for negative rates are restricted to business customers, fears are mounting that "pay to save" rates could soon become a reality for millions of consumers, if other banks follow suit.

The outgoing pensions minister, Ros Altmann, warned negative interest rates on current and savings accounts pose a threat to the financial security of older savers, who often rely on their savings to provide a retirement income.

A number of high street banks including HSBC, The Post Office and First Direct are already offering savings accounts with rates as low as zero, as this newspaper reported last week.

A move to negative interest rates would turn a key part of banking on its head, with banks effectively paid to store people's money, while savers are penalised for keeping money in their accounts.

However this could become a reality if Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, cuts Bank rate to 0.25pc in August after seven years of it being held at 0.5pc.

Bank rate strongly influences the level of interest banks and building societies choose to pass on to their customers, although some banks offer significantly more or less.

Natwest blamed the potential decision on ultra-low interest rates imposed by the Bank of England, which it said were putting huge pressures on its finances.

Baroness Altmann said: "Negative rates would be very dangerous,especially for ordinary savers – the danger is many people will just think, I’m going to put the money under the mattress. That could have security risks, especially for older people.

"You don’t want your life savings out of the bank, you want them somewhere safe – but if the bank is going to charge you for keeping your money and every day you have it there it is worth less and less, you can see why people would say, I’m not going to do that."

Martin Lewis, founder at Moneysavingexpert, said: “The psychological impact of the actual money shrinking the cash terms would be huge and you would see a swathe of customers, at a level we’ve never seen before, ditching any bank that imposed negative rates. The first one to break that taboo for customers is going to face an enormous uproar."

A Natwest spokesman said: “We will consider any necessary action in the event of the Bank of England Base Rate falling below zero, but will do our utmost to protect our customers from any impacts.”

Anna Bowes, director at Savings Champion, a savings comparison service, said: "Currently you get virtually nothing on savings accounts because the big banks don't really want savers' money."

She predicted that if rates go negative there would be "at least 20 banks waiting in the wings" to obtain licences and begin offering savers higher rates, increasing competition.

She added: "Whether you are a business, and individual, or a charity you always need to be seeking the best interest rates that are available. Those pockets of competition are a lifeline for savers."

At a Glance: What Brexit would mean for interest rates

[...]



Unprecedented Sand Fire: The Perfect Firestorm

“All the experience we’ve seen with fire, that’s all out the window. ”

What I found very surprising is that the fire swept through large amounts of dried brush -- which had been there for 60 or 70 years!  So there must have been many tons accumulated!  Why weren't controlled burns ever conducted to clear the deadwood? 

I wonder if this was one of those situations that kept falling between the cracks of the argument about how to manage forests: controlled burns vs. do everything to prevent fires? 

For background on the argument, which has gone on for decades with no resolution, see the transcript for the PBS NOVA May 2002 documentary, Fire Wars, which I've highlighted at least twice on this blog over the years.  

But if that's what prevented more than a half-century's worth of brush from being cleared, one would think the very severe prolonged drought in that part of California would have settled the argument, at least for that situation. 

In any case the Sand Fire produced a type of conflagration that fire officials had never seen before.....

‘Not normal times’: Sand fire exploded in Sand Canyon
By Jim Holt, Signal Senior Staff Writer
July 25, 2016 8:50 p.m.
The Santa Clarita Valley Signal [California]

The Sand fire – which burned more than 35,000 acres in four days, destroying 18 homes and claiming one life – has found a place in Santa Clarita Valley history as a fire unlike any previous one, fire officials said.

“All the experience we’ve seen with fire, that’s all out the window,” said Deputy Fire Chief John Tripp of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “You’ve got to look at the four major fires we’ve had in this county in six weeks. We’ve seen fires explode all over this county.”

In more than three decades of fighting fires, Tripp said, he has never seen four major fires in Sand Canyon during June and July.

And he should know.

“I was out here for the Station fire when it was coming right into Sand Canyon. I was the incident commander for the Sayer fire when it burned down the mobile home park in Sylmar. Then we had another one called the Cross fire that was coming down Placerita, but we’ve never seen this type of fire.”

Homeowners on Iron Canyon Road, which branches off Sand Canyon and where two homes were destroyed Saturday, told The Signal separately that the fire came “ripping” into their neighborhood.

The county’s top fire official, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby, said of the Sand Fire: “In one day we saw this fire go from 11,000 acres burned to 22,000 acres.”

Sharing what insight he has to explain the uniqueness of the Sand fire, he added: “This is the fifth year of an ongoing drought, so we have very extreme fire behavior.

“Some of our citizens have seen fires before,” he said. “But these are not normal times.”

When the fire whipped through Bear Divide – not far, ironically, from the U.S. Forest Service Bear Divide Fire Station on Sand Canyon Road – it swept through one canyon and swiftly engulfed five dwellings owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

Tripp explained the fire’s growth.

“The fire came through and blasted the backside of those homes,” he said, referring to homes on Iron Canyon Road and Condor Ridge Road. “Most the homes that were consumed were destroyed when the fire was coming down from Bear Divide like a freight train.

“It started consuming houses that were non-defendable,” Tripp said.

Part of what made the Sand fire unique was its exposure to brush that’s had more than a half century to become brittle, dry and dangerous, he said.

“We always knew the potential was there because the fuel is old,” he said. “It’s 60, maybe 70-year-old brush, so we knew the potential was there.

“But everything lined up perfectly,” he said. “The vegetation stressed from the drought, the wind at red flag conditions, with the heat and the low humidity – it came down like a freight train.”

[END REPORT]

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