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Wednesday, July 18

US to rest of world: Nobody buys Russian energy, nobody gets hurt

Note how the American regime is determined to pressure  NATO into increasing U.S. energy imports. For the moment the organization's secretary general is having none of the American machinations, saying that decisions about purchasing Russian energy are a national issue for each member country of NATO. We'll see how long he maintains the independent stance if the U.S. levies sanctions on all nations participating in Nord Stream 2.

"Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture of Russia's Gazprom, France's Engie, Austria’s OMV AG, UK-Denmark’s Royal Dutch Shell, and Germany's Uniper and Wintershall."

"US Draft Law to Sanction Russian Energy Projects Introduced in Senate - Lawmaker"
July 18, 2018 - 20:36
Sputnik

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A new draft law introduced in the US Senate would impose sanctions on Russian energy projects including Nord Stream 2 in a bid to protect the United States' allies, Senator Bill Barrasso said in a press release on Wednesday.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin uses Russia’s natural gas to extort and threaten our allies and our partners,” Barrasso said in the release. “The ESCAPE Act will take this geopolitical weapon away from Russia by sanctioning the Nord Stream II gas pipeline and facilitating the export of more American natural gas to our allies."

The Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe (ESCAPE) Act would authorize mandatory US sanctions on any development of Russian energy pipeline projects including Nord Stream 2, according to the text of the legislation.

It would also require the energy secretary to speed up approvals for US natural gas exports to NATO countries or other allies such as Japan in order to promote American national security interests.

If passed, the legislation would also require the US administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase the energy security of the United States' NATO allies and partners, Barrasso said.

The US has repeatedly stated its opposition towards the Moscow-initiated Nord Stream 2 project. Earlier in June, the US State Department noted that companies working in Russian energy export can face restrictive measures, insisting that Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline threatens the EU's energy security and stability.

At the NATO summit in Brussels last week, US President Donald Trump lambasted Germany, saying that its heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas supplies was "inappropriate," and called Berlin "a captive" of Russia.

Germany, however, disagreed with Trump's stance, stressing that Berlin was not a prisoner of Russia or of the United States but "one of the guarantors of the free world."

Russia, in turn, stressed that US liquefied gas (LNG) suppliers were trying to force European consumers to buy more expensive gas, calling it a manifestation of "unfair competition."

Nord Stream 2 is a joint venture of Russian energy giant Gazprom and France's Engie, Austria’s OMV AG, UK-Denmark’s Royal Dutch Shell, and Germany's Uniper and Wintershall.

The pipeline will run under the Baltic Sea from the Russian coast to a hub in Germany and have an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters. The pipeline is expected to be put into operation by the end of 2019.

[END REPORT]

See also this report from Sputnik:


After Helsinki Summit Trump Admits Germany's Right to Take Part in Nord Stream 2

On July 11 Moon of Alabama's German author "b" untangled President Trump's muddled statements about German participation in Nord Stream 2:
[...]
The big advantage for Germany is that the [Nord Stream 2] pipeline does not run through any other country. Other pipelines from Russia, built in the 1970s, run through the Ukraine and Poland to Germany. They are used by all three countries to receive gas from Russia.
Whenever Ukraine has no money to pay Russia for gas and does not pay its dues, Russia will send less gas through the pipeline. The gas for Germany and Poland is supposed to continue to flow without Ukraine taking any of it.
But Ukrainians cheat. They steal the gas that is supposed to pass through without paying for it. In the end Germany has to give money to Ukraine so that Ukraine can pay Russia. This happened in 2006, in 2008 and again in 2014.
Enough is enough. Nord Stream [2] prevents such blackmail of Germany by Ukraine. That is the main reason why Ukraine lobbies against it.

Poland is not rejecting gas from Russia even as it claims to do so. It has a long term contract with Russia and will receive plenty of gas through the Ukraine pipeline up to at least 2022. Since 2014 it also imports gas from Germany through the new bi-directional pipeline pumping station at Mallnow.
Germany receives the gas its exports to Poland through the Nord Stream system from Russia and pumps it through the Opal pipeline and Mallnow to Poland. It is extremely hypocritical for Poland to lobby against Nord Stream when it significantly contributes to Poland's energy security.
Trump claims that Germany "will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline". Of the primary energy Germany uses only some 20% comes from natural gas. Less than 40% of the natural gas Germany uses comes from Russia.
Thus Russia delivers 7-8% of the primary energy Germany uses. If need be Germany can do without this. It is not a strategic issue.

Trump also claims of Germany: "They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear." Germany did not get rid of its coal plants. It builds new ones with higher efficiencies. Germany is phasing out nuclear energy. It will not build new nuclear plants. But there are currently still nine nuclear plants running. Their planned shutdown date is 2022 but this will likely be extended. Without nuclear power it will be extremely difficult to reach the set greenhouse gas limit.
As usual Trump has the facts all wrong. But the U.S. is producing more natural gas than it needs and wants to export it. Compressing U.S. natural gas into liquefied form for sea transport takes so much energy that the price is inevitably much higher than Russian gas delivered through pipelines. In Germany it will never be competitive to Russian gas.
It is understandable that Trump wants Germany to buy U.S. produced liquefied gas. But without competitive pricing and a more plausible sales argument he will have no luck.
[...] 
**********

John Bolton: U.S. will leave Syria when pigs fly AND all the cows come home

From rush transcript ABC News "This Week" July 15, 2018:
KARL: And withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria?
BOLTON: That whole -- the whole situation in Syria will be a discussion that the two leaders will have [in Helsinki] in large part because it’s getting more serious. But I think the president has made it clear that we are there until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East.
There is no Islamic State territorial caliphate; there's an IS insurgency. But note how the American regime keeps moving the goal posts. First the U.S. military wouldn't leave Syria until Islamic State was wiped out. Then the U.S. wouldn't leave Syria until Iranian militias were thrown out. Now the U.S. won't leave Syria until, well, Iran is wiped off the map.  

[shaking her head] Like father, like son. A minority of men stood up to the British colonialists and forged a new nation, one that eschewed colonizing. The present majority in that nation carries on in the steps of the British colonizers, and with far less excuse than the British. But how the supposed American patriot John Bolton can face himself in the mirror I do not know.

********

Yes, why would it be Russia since it was China?

July 17, 2018, CNN
Trump, facing fury, says he misspoke ...
... Trump said that when he returned Monday from the summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, he "realized there is some need for clarification" about his remarks on Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
"In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,' " the President said Tuesday. He explained he had reviewed a transcript and video of his remarks.
"The sentence should have been: 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia,' " he said. "Sort of a double negative."
During Monday's press conference in Helsinki, Trump said, "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election. ...
July 17, 2018, True Pundit

FBI: Lisa Page Dimes Out Top FBI Officials During Classified House Testimony; Bureau Bosses Covered Up Evidence China Hacked Hillary’s Top Secret Emails
Former top FBI lawyer Lisa Page testified during two days of closed-door House [of Representatives] hearings, revealing shocking new Intel against her old bosses at the Bureau, according the well-placed FBI sources.
Alarming new details on allegations of a bureau-wide cover up. Or should we say another bureau-wide cover up.

The embattled Page tossed James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok [her former lover] and Bill Priestap among others under the Congressional bus, alleging the upper echelon of the FBI concealed intelligence confirming Chinese state-backed ‘assets’ had illegally acquired former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 30,000+ “missing” emails, federal sources said.
The Russians didn’t do it. The Chinese did, according to well-placed FBI sources.
And while Democratic lawmakers and the mainstream media prop up Russia as America’s boogeyman, it was ironically the  Chinese who acquired Hillary’s treasure trove of classified and top secret intelligence from her home-brewed private server.

And a public revelation of that magnitude — publicizing that a communist world power intercepted Hillary’s sensitive and top secret emails — would have derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes. Overnight. But it didn’t simply because it was concealed.
[...]
A hat tip to Sic Semper Tyrannis for the True Pundit report. On the previous day SST's Col Pat Lang (ret.) had given a head's up about China's involvement with the Clinton emails. He wrote that he had "inside information" that surely related to Page's testimony, leaked the next day.

Whether the emails were hacked or copied to a Chinese agent by someone working in the Clinton camp is still unclear (at least to the public), as Stephen F. Cohen pointed out during a recap of events around the time that Trump nominated Rex Tillerson to head the state department. 

(The recap preceded Steve and John Batchelor's July 17 analysis of the Helsinki Summit. The two-part podcast is here and here.)

Either way, the revelation about Chinese spying on Hillary Clinton's emails is just one among countless instances of China's spying in the U.S. As to whether the spying in the Clinton email case extended to actual "meddling" in American politics is unknown or unrevealed by U.S. officials. What is known is that there's still no evidence to support the accusation that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Not unless the very existence of Russia's Sputnik and RT news agencies can be considered meddling.

Trump knew all this when he spoke at the Helsinki Summit press conference, and which is why he'd earlier voiced  skepticism about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

 ********

Tuesday, July 17

Trump-Putin Summit: A disaster for those who hate the human race

President Trump, for once minus his Game Face, sharing a light moment with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto while waiting for the summit to get underway 


An exhausted President Putin, for once minus his Game Face, as he arrives an hour late for the summit after the wrap-up of the Russian government's wildly successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup tournament, which the Get Russia crowd sabotaged right up to the end



Game Faces back on, presidents Trump and Putin prepare to launch their discussions


At the end of it all:

"I am here today to begin a proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. Diplomacy and engagement are preferable to conflict and hostility ... Not only good for the United States and Russia but good for the world. If we are going to solve many of the problems facing our world, we will have to find ways to cooperate ... We have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table. Our relationship has never been worse than it is now, however that changed as of about four hours ago. ..."


-  U.S. President Donald John Trump, July 16, 2018

All right. The journey of a thousand miles has begun, so now the human race has a chance to escape nuclear annihilation. 

The greatest and most realistic threat is not so much from a deliberate first strike as from one made in haste -- a nuclear response to a perceived or assumed nuclear first strike that didn't actually happen. In other words, an accident, a mistake, a phantom attack.  

But whether real or a phantom strike, the human race has only 14 minutes while both governments try to discover whether a mistake has been made before launching a retaliatory strike.

A retaliatory strike -- actually a first strike in the case of a phantom launching of a nuclear weapon -- would lead to a counter-strike within perhaps as little as 6 minutes. 

If the counter-strike is a decapitation strike on a government, a procedure known colloquially as "the dead hand" goes into effect. The dead hand automatically launches a barrage of nuclear weapons. It's a little less automatic on the American side; the procedure is for any survivors to at random pick a survivor to give orders to launch nuclear missiles.

The Russian version of the dead hand is quite literal; it doesn't matter if no one in the Russian government survives a decapitation strike. The Russian retaliatory procedure for launching barrages of nuclear weapon counterstrikes is automated -- not in the hands of humans. That might be how the expression 'the dead hand' came to be associated with nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  

Despite the procedural differences basically both sides fire off everything they have in their nuclear arsenal, thus bringing the human race to an end.

That last is for readers who assume the movie "Dr Strangelove" is a satire. Only in some aspects.

Is there any way to ward off the dead hand? There is a way to prevent knee-jerk nuclear strikes in response to a phantom strike or accident. The way is to make it impossible to launch a nuclear armed missile within 14 minutes. This, as Dr Stephen Cohen explained during his most recent talk with John Batchelor, can be done simply by removing nuclear warheads from the missiles. This means it would take several hours before the nuclear warheads could be properly re-attached to the missiles for launch.

When we do a little weighing motion with our hands we can appreciate the advantage for humanity of having several hours to straighten out a snafu instead of only 14 minutes.

As to warding off a deliberate strike -- that's what all those negotiations and summits were about during the Cold War. The idea is to compromise just enough with the other side so it doesn't think that the only way to avoid being wiped out is to fire off nuclear warheads.

Americans, whose risk of armed invasion and conquest from across their southern or northern borders is virtually nil, have talked themselves since the end of the Cold War into believing that the Russians wouldn't nuke Europe. Yes they will nuke Europe if their military commanders assess that the only way to prevent a NATO armed conquest of Russia is to use nuclear weapons.

Wouldn't that be suicidal of the Russians? To ask that question is not to know much about Russian history and the Russian temperament.

Then wouldn't it be suicidal of NATO to invade Russia? You'd be asking that question of men who are so compartmentalized in their thinking that they actually blamed Edward Snowden when the Russian military's entry into Crimea came as a complete surprise to them. They accused Snowden of using his computer expertise on behalf of the Russians to blind the NATO satellites.  

What did you need a satellite for, to spy columns of tanks crossing a border? Just the dust kicked up was visible to the naked eye from miles away.  So think what NATO could have seen if they'd used a pair of binoculars to watch Crimea!

That is today's NATO. It's a bunch of bureaucrats in military uniform who can't see past the end of their noses without a computer program. Yet those bureaucrats have expanded NATO right up to Russia's border. 

And now the U.S., determined to keep NATO together, has created a phantom threat to Europe -- a preemptive Russian invasion of Eastern Europe -- and on the basis of the threat is pouring weapons into Eastern Europe. But the idea of Russia preemptively invading Europe is preposterous if one knows anything about Russia-European relations.  

The vast majority of Americans, however, don't know anything about Russia, much less its relations with Europe. That's because there's been a curious reversal of the Soviet Iron Curtain. It's Americans who now live behind a kind of iron curtain -- one not enforced by tyranny but by a news media that have very effectively blinded their audiences to what is actually going on outside America's shores.  

One consequence is that the world is now closer to nuclear war than it was during the Reagan era.

Thus, President Trump's summit with President Putin. Words will have to be matched with deeds, but their discussions on July 16 were the first real step in a long journey back to sanity in U.S.-Russia relations. 

Against this monumental achievement all other aspects of the summit were negligible, including President Trump's banter with the press and refusal to publicly confront President Putin, which outraged even many of his most ardent supporters. Such supporters are blinder than a bat when it comes to ordering priorities.   

********

Monday, July 16

Ignore the puffery and take in great news about the Syrian war

DEBKAfile, which seems to be a conduit for views of the most hawkish element in Israel's military, has been in a snit for days weeks about Syria and hasn't known whether to be madder at Netanyahu, Trump, or Putin. 

Anyhoo today they pulled themselves together to produce a short situation report that if one can get past the headline, the IDF's made-up statistics about Syria's military, and the photoshopped picture of the Ein Zivan-Quneitra border crossing, is quite helpful. 

And it's certainly very good news for those of us who'd like to see the Syrian war end before the turn of the next millennium..  

What does the good news mean? It means that the Syrian military's Southern Offensive has met with no serious opposition from outside foreign powers, including the U.S. and Israel. That in turn means the offensive is going like greased lightning; it could easily be over by the end of this month except for mop-up operations. 

Next stop will Idlib province, where the SAA will have to face Turkey's military and about 50,000 'rebel' fighters, most of which are connected with al Qaeda or an offshoot or Islamic State. 

The SAA will also have to deal with E.U., U.S., British and probably U.N. bureaucrats who want to continue using Idlib as a laboratory for their theories on how to transform hard-core Islamists into law-abiding adherents of liberal democracy.

Of the three factions that the Syrian army will face in Idlib, I'd say the toughest nut to crack will work out to a draw between the bureaucrats and Turkey's military, which knows that if they lose, the SAA will shove about 30,000 'rebel' fighters in Idlib back across the Turkish border, from whence they originally came.   

But if the SAA can replant the Syrian government's flag across much of Idlib province, that will as much end the Syrian war. 

Now to the good news from DEBKAfile:    

Netanyahu’s secret consent to hand Golan crossing to Syria led to Trump-Putin deal on Israel’s border security
July 16, 2018
DEBKAfile


DEBKAfile Exclusive: Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin joined in their support for Israel’s security at their Helsinki summit on Monday, July 16, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told them both that he had withdrawn his objections to the Syrian army reinstating its line of outposts in the Quenitra district, including control of the Ein Zivan-Quneitra border crossing. This is the only transit point between Israel and Syria.

Our sources reveal that Putin insisted on the Syrian army assuming control of this crossing, in the same way as he stipulated the handover to Syria of the Nassib crossing to Jordan.

Monday morning, the Syrian army captured the strategic Tel Al Harrah hills from rebel hands. That line of hilltop positions is the key to controlling the Quneitra district. 


Our military sources note that only 20 percent of the Syrian army consists of Syrian troops; the other 80 percent are Hizballah and other Shiite militias loyal to Iran. Today’s Syrian and allied victory therefore brings these hostile forces to within 3-4 km from Israel’s Golan border.

[END REPORT]

***********

At this rate Syria's military will soon be the best-armed in the world

Earlier this year I'd wanted to start to a file on the weapons caches that the Syrian military had been finding but now the task would be overwhelming. As the victories have snowballed for the SAA so have the discoveries of weapons caches -- some of which the army captures during battle, some of which are pointed out by fighters who reconcile with Syria's government, and some of which the army stumbles across in tunnels, cemeteries, etc. 

I've seen video and photos of caches where the weapons, laid out, stretch farther than the camera's eye can see. All kinds of materiel, not just guns and ammo; tanks, TOWs, you name it. And some of these caches were left over from battles won months ago by Syria's army; sappers are still working their way through the booby-traps and coming across weapons caches.   

I think if all the materiel shipped into Syria by foreign governments during the past seven years was stacked, the pile would reach as high as the summit of Mt. Everest -- and maybe with enough left over to stack against K2. 

Billions upon billions of dollars -- hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars and dollar equivalents -- poured into weapons meant to take down one little government. [shaking her head.]  Insanity. Insanity for all but the arms merchants.

What the Syrian army should do if they had the time and inclination is make a mountain out of all the captured materiel then put a big sign in front that reads: 'THANK YOU AMERICA, SAUDI ARABIA, QATAR, FRANCE, BRITAIN AND ISRAEL FOR THE SUPPLIES!'  

Well, here's one report on the caches, from FARS yesterday, quoting Sputnik's Arabic language site:

Syrian Army Discovers Israeli, American Weapons in Terrorists' Position in Eastern Qalamoun





TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian Army troops found a large depot of Israeli and American arms and ammunition in terrorists' positions in Eastern Qalamoun in Damascus province months after the region's liberation, a media outlet reported on Sunday.

The Arabic-language website of Russia's state-run news agency, Sputnik, quoted a military source as saying that the army men continued cleansing operation in al-Petra region, Badiyeh (desert) and Eastern Qalamoun, discovering a large depot of arms mostly made in the US and Israel.

The report further said that the arms were sent to Eastern Qalamoun terrorists via Jordan and Badiyeh.

The report further said that the terrorists had hidden their arms and ammunition in underground hideouts, cemeteries, mountains and mines, adding that the army men found a large volume of Israeli and US-made arms, including TOW anti-tank missiles, missile launchers, cannons and anti-aircraft guns in terrorists' positions in Eastern Qalamoun.

The army's mop-up operation in Eastern Qalamoun, which was freed in April, is still underway.

On Saturday, the army units found an underground cache of weapons and ammunition of the ISIL during mop-up operations in the town of al-Hassarat in West of Albu Kamal region in Southeastern Deir Ezzur which included US and western-made mortars and RPGs, Grad missiles and satellite communication systems.

Also, the army forces in the town of Aqrab in Southwestern Hama found a hideout of terrorists which included a large number of weapons and ammunition as well as military equipment.

Meantime, field sources reported that the Syrian army troops found a large number of sniper guns made by the western countries, PKC machine-guns and different types of advanced military equipment.

[END REPORT]

Here's another one from FARS on a captured weapons cache, also from yesterday:

Uh oh. Wait  a minute. I just saw this headline at FARS, also from yesterday:

Tensions Intensifying between Civilians, US-Backed Militias in Northeastern Syria

I've been trying to keep track of this situation, which seems to be getting worse by the day. Where was I? Weapons.  

Tens of Terrorists to Leave Dara'a for Idlib after Handing over British Arms to Syrian Army




TEHRAN (FNA)- Almost 600 terrorists along with their family members are preparing to leave the Southern Dara'a province for militant-held regions in Idlib in the North-West as they handed over their UK-made arms and ammunition to the Syrian Army on Sunday.
The militants, deployed in Dara'a al-Balad district in Dara'a city, handed over at least five military vehicles, including two British armored vehicles, a large volume of heavy weapons, cannons, missiles, arms, and ammunition and communication devices to the Syrian army within the framework of a reconciliation agreement with Damascus government.
Field sources said that the ground has been paved for evacuation of the militants that refused the army's peace offer to Idlib province as they are now through with surrendering their weapons to the government forces.
[...]
All right, Pundita, that's enough reports on the caches; the reader gets the picture. 

From the expressions on the faces in the photo accompanying the above report, those must be ones who chose to evacuate to Idlib. They don't look like happy campers. Maybe that's because they know Idlib province is next on the Syrian army's to-do list and that if the army doesn't kill them, rival terrorist gangs in Idlib will

Well, the Russian reconciliation teams have been advising them to take the government's deal rather than go to Idlib, which is now stuffed with 50,000 terrorists who earlier accepted the SAA offer of an air-conditioned bus ride to the province. Of course they can't take any deal if they're mercenaries; they have to do what their paymasters say.

Speaking of paymasters, US-Backed Terrorists Preparing for Withdrawal from Al-Tanf in Southern Syria. Okay, that's enough headlines from FARS. Oh but look at this one -- enough. No more headlines.

More Tribes Voice Support for Syrian Army in Militant-Held Regions 

Pundita, don't make me raise my voice. It's after 3 in the morning. Time for beddy-bye. 

*********

More on a purported Israeli airstrike near Aleppo on June 15

For background see my earlier updated post on the Reuters, Sputnik and SouthFront reports on the strike.

> Al Masdar News STILL has not mentioned anything about the strike, even though Reuters published the report on the strike at 4:37 PM ET -- more than 8 hours ago. AMN has high-level contacts in Syria's military and I think this is also the case with the civilian government.

> FARS, Iran's state news agency, also has nothing to say about a purported strike. 

Russia's RT has picked up the report of a strike, which pretty much repeats Sputnik's report, which was based on the Reuters report, which is based on a report from SANA, Syria's state news agency. SANA's report is at their Arabic language website, not the English-language one.    

> Danny Makki, a free-lance journalist reporting on the Syrian War, and who goes back and forth between London and Damascus, reported about 8 hours ago on his Twitter page:
1:09 PM - Breaking : Israeli strikes on #Nayreb military airport In #Aleppo [province; the air base is outside the city of Aleppo]
1:11 PM - Syrian State TV confirms Israeli attack on Al-#Nayrab airbase in #Aleppo claiming two missiles hit causing material damage.
1:32 PM - This is not the first time the Israelis have targeted #Aleppo & strikes won't alter #SAA & allied operations In #Qunaitra border area, but choice of location shows increasing ability to hit locations all around #Syria with heightened frequency. 
1:34 PM - Local source living near #Nayrab airbase in #Aleppo just told me strikes lasted up to 10 minutes near the base.
I never heard of Danny Makki before, which isn't saying much, but because of that I'm quoting him only because Joshua Landis retweeted Makki's Twitter remarks about the purported Israeli strike(s).

Here's part of the RT report:

‘Israeli rockets’ strike Syrian military positions near Aleppo – state media
Published time: 15 Jul, 2018 21:37

Edited time: 15 Jul, 2018 22:04

Syrian military positions near Aleppo airport have come under a missile strike, state media reports, blaming Israel for the attack.

The strike targeted “one of our military positions north of the airport in Aleppo,” a military source told the Syrian Arab News Agency, stressing that the damage from the aggression was “limited to material.”

The source denounced the raid as a “desperate attempt to support the defeated terrorist groups” in Daraa and Quneitra, where the Syrian army is actively working to defeat them.

Furthermore, the publication [I emphasize this is SANA's website, not state TV] accused the IDF of being “directly involved” in raising the morale of militants from al Nusra and other terrorist groups.

The Israeli military refused to immediately comment on the report, neither confirming nor denying carrying out the strike.

[The rest is a rehash of reports on earlier recent Israeli strikes in Syria and more fist-shaking at Israel by SANA.]


****
The SouthFront report I posted earlier adds this information:
[...]
On July 15, warplanes of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a military position north of al-Nayrab airbase, which is located southwest of the northern city of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). The state-run news agency said that the Israeli airstrikes resulted in material damage only.
Syrian pro-government activists revealed that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls the position targeted by Israeli warplanes. The activists have not reported any Iranian casualties, so far.
[...]
I saw somewhere recently the remark that Israeli strikes in Syria are so frequent they're not newsworthy anymore. I'm not sure that's the case, and SANA obviously doesn't think it's the case.

So, was there a strike as it's been reported? Well, it seems something happened. Did the Israelis do it? I'm still waiting to hear what AMN says. If they continue to say nothing over the course of July 16, it could be they have information on a strike that conflicts with what SANA reported but don't want to contradict SANA.

*********

Sunday, July 15

"Israeli Rockets Strike Syrian Military Position in Aleppo - Reports" UPDATES Jul 15 - 5:45, 6:15 PM ET; Jul 16 - 1:25 AM ET

UPDATE 1:15 AM ET July 16

Just published my updates on the purported strike(s). 

UPDATE 6:15 PM ET July 15

Still nothing from Al-Masdar News on the initial report (at Reuters), which is now more than an hour old. Hmmmm. 


BREAKING: ISRAELI WARPLANES TARGET IRANIAN POSITION IN ALEPPO
July 15, 2018 [no time stamp]
SouthFront
[report includes map from Google Earth on area purportedly shelled]

On July 15, warplanes of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) bombed a military position north of al-Nayrab airbase, which is located southwest of the northern city of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). The state-run news agency said that the Israeli airstrikes resulted in material damage only.
Syrian pro-government activists revealed that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls the position targeted by Israeli warplanes. The activists have not reported any Iranian casualties, so far.
This is the second Israeli airstrike on Iranian forces in Syria since the beginning of this month. On July 8, Israeli warplanes destroyed military equipment of the IRGC in the T-4 airbase in the central governorate of Homs.
Recently, Israel adopted a new policy, under which the IAF began to target any advance military equipment of the IRGC in Syria. These airstrikes will not likely end anytime soon, as Iran appears to be determined to maintain its presence in Syria in order to counter ISIS and Israel.
[END REPORT]

UPDATE 5:45 PM ET 

Here is the Reuters report mentioned in the Sputnik report below; the SANA report that Reuters cites must be on the state news agency's Arabic-language site because it's not on their English-language one as of this time. And I've not yet seen news of the purported Israeli airstrike at any other English-language sources, including Al Masdar News, which is quick with reporting vetted breaking news on the Syrian War. 

Syrian state media: Israeli rockets strike military position near Aleppo
By Reuters Staff
July 15, 2018 - 4:37 PM ET, updated 20 minutes ago
REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian state media said on Sunday that Israeli rockets had hit a Syrian military position near Nairab airport on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo.

“The Zionist enemy ... targets one of our military sites north of Nairab airport, causing only material damage,” said Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting a military source.

It said the strikes were an attempt by Israel to support rebels in southern Syria, where Syrian government forces have been waging an offensive.

[END REPORT]

Why the Israelis would bomb near Aleppo to support "rebels" in southern Syria is beyond me.  

END  UPDATE

[SANA report probably on Arabic version of their website. I will post Reuters report soon.]
BREAKING NEWS
23:34 July 14, 2018 (updated 23:58)
Sputnik


Israel has made a rocket strike on Syrian military position north of Nairab airport in Aleppo, local media reported.
The strike by Israeli armed forces on Syrian military position has caused material damage, Reuters reported, citing Syrian state media.
Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has quoted a military source as saying that Israel had struck Syrian military position north of the airport in Aleppo.
Earlier this week, SANA reported that Syrian air defenses had responded to an Israeli airstrike on the Quneitra Province in southwestern Syria, which targeted one of the Ayrian army positions. The strike reportedly targeted Syrian army posts near the towns of Hadar and Juba in particular. Syrian air defences managed to repel some of the strikes, the agency reported back then.
READ MORE: Israel Attacks Syrian Army Positions in Quneitra Province
Previously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he did not have intentions to help overthrow Assad's government, but insisted on what he called Iranian forces to departing Syria.
[END REPORT]

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Americans must no longer participate in negotiations between foreign governments

Americans in this era have proved themselves incapable of negotiating with each other regarding internal disputes at the national level. Thus, the genesis of the theory that a 'new' American civil war is brewing. Time and again Michael Vlahos and John Batchelor, who've been holding weekly discussions this year on the new civil war, have pointed out the obvious. Americans have lost the ability to compromise on domestic social issues that affect the entire U.S. nation. For this reason negotiation to resolve national domestic issues simply isn't possible at this time in American history.

The upshot has been 'winner take all' domestic politics where, as Michael noted during Friday's discussion (two-part podcasts here and here), only complete destruction or submission of the other side is considered acceptable. 

So do not ask why Americans must no longer be involved in negotiations to resolve disputes between foreign governments. 

Americans don't want to see compromises come from negotiations; they've repeatedly demonstrated they want to use their participation in negotiations between other governments to pressure all parties to submit to the 'American side.'

There's nothing wrong with U.S. foreign relations and defense policy that promote the American viewpoint. There's nothing wrong with the U.S. engaging in bilateral negotiations. There's plenty wrong with Americans pushing their view during multilateral negotiations where foreign governments must work out compromises to assure their mutual survival.

Americans must first learn to compromise with each other. Only then should they return to negotiations that are critical to entire societies outside American shores.

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New math turns up salmonella not European diseases might have caused 'genocidal' epidemic in Aztec Empire

The passage I found the scariest in the stunning report is that the epidemic was exacerbated by drought. As to salmonella, it's still very much with us. So before I turn to the Aztec empire,  a couple reports about recent salmonella outbreaks in the USA. I had no idea, until I read the second report, that salmonella could occur 'in shell' -- not just in prepared egg dishes and shelled eggs. 

And to think the contaminated eggs came from America's second-largest egg producer is unsettling; those eggs went to many stores and restaurants across America.  

Emphasis throughout the following reports is mine.

1. "Do Not Eat" Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal, CDC Warns by Patrick Jarenwattananon; NPR, July 13, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling people not to eat Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal, which has been linked to an outbreak of salmonella infections now numbering at least 100 people in 33 states.

"Do not eat this cereal," the agency declared on Twitter.

An updated advisory from the CDC recommends that consumers throw away the sweetened, puffed wheat cereal "regardless of package size or best-by date." It's still not clear how the contamination might have occurred.

According to the CDC, Salmonella mbandaka bacteria have been found in unopened Honey Smacks cereal in California as well as opened boxes collected from the homes of ill people in Montana, New York and Utah. A case count map breaks down the location and prevalence of cases, the first of which was reported in early March.

The warning issued Thursday strengthens the guidance associated with a voluntary Honey Smacks recall by Kellogg's a month ago. Since then, 27 more salmonella infections have been reported. No deaths have been reported but there have been 30 hospitalizations.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, people infected with salmonella can experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. The illness usually resolves itself within a week if people are properly hydrated.

Salmonella bacteria live in intestinal tracts and are usually transmitted through contaminated food or water or contact with animals.

The CDC estimates that approximately 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths are caused by salmonella every year. This year alone has seen announcements of smaller salmonella outbreaks linked to pre-cut melon, eggs [see second report below], dried and frozen coconut, raw sprouts, prepared chicken salad, and the plant kratom [never heard of kratom before]
, as well as backyard chickens and pet guinea pigs.

2. 207 Million Eggs Are Recalled Over Salmonella Fears; NPR, April 16, 2018

The Rose Acre Farms company is voluntarily recalling 206,749,248 eggs in a total of nine states, saying they "have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella braenderup" — which can sicken healthy adults and have serious and possibly fatal effects for young children and the elderly.

The eggs came from a farm in Hyde County, N.C., and have been labeled under a number of brands, including Coburn Farms, Country Daybreak, the Food Lion store brand, Crystal Farms, Great Value and Sunshine Farms. Some were sold to restaurants, including Waffle House.

So far, contaminated eggs have been linked to 22 reported illnesses, according to the recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration's website, which includes a full list of the recalled products.

Retail outlets and some restaurants in the following states should be on the lookout for the eggs, Rose Acre Farms says: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The recall covers egg cartons that have the plant number P-1065 and Julian date ranges of 011 through 102. (The three-digit Julian Code refers to consecutive day of the year, meaning the recalled eggs were packed from Jan. 11 through April 12.)

"If anyone has the recalled eggs in their home, they should not eat them," the FDA says.

The recall of more than 206 million eggs prompts a question: What will happen to all those eggs? In food recall cases such as this, the FDA says, the point isn't to regather all of them — but instead to protect the public. The FDA and Rose Acre Farms are urging consumers either to throw the eggs away or to return them for a refund. Consumers and restaurants also should thoroughly clean any surfaces or utensils that might have come into contact with the eggs.

Rose Acre Farms is based in Seymour, Ind., and says it is the second-largest egg producer in the U.S.

The FDA says its investigators worked with state health officials to trace a number of recent salmonella infections to egg dishes — and eventually linked them to the Rose Acre Farms location in North Carolina. Testing of samples from that farm revealed the same strain of the bacteria that was recorded in the illnesses.

The investigation is continuing, the FDA says.

[END REPORT]

Salmonella May Have Caused Massive Aztec Epidemic, Study Finds
By Rebecca Hersher
January 15, 2018
NPR

In 1545, people in the Mexican highlands starting dying in enormous numbers. People infected with the disease bled and vomited before they died. Many had red spots on their skin.

It was one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. The 1545 outbreak, and a second wave in 1576, killed an estimated 7 million to 17 million people and contributed to the destruction of the Aztec Empire.

But identifying the pathogen responsible for the carnage has been difficult for scientists because infectious diseases leave behind very little archaeological evidence.

"There have been different schools of thought on what this disease was. Could it have been plague? Could it have been typhoid fever? Could it have been a litany of other diseases?" says Kirsten Bos, a molecular paleopathologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and an author of a new study published Monday in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The study analyzes DNA from the teeth of 10 people who died during the epidemic and pinpoints a possible culprit: a type of salmonella that causes a deadly fever.

A new algorithm allowed Bos and her team to identify fragments of ancient salmonella DNA with extreme specificity.

"It was an analytical technique that was really the game-changer for us," Bos explains. While scientists have been able to extract ancient DNA from bones and other tissue, until recently it was impossible to compare that extracted DNA to a wide variety of potential matches.

But a new computer program called MALT allowed them to do just that. "The major advancement was this algorithm," Bos says. "It offers a method of analyzing many, many, many small DNA fragments that we get, and actually identifying, by species name, the bacteria that are represented."

Bos and her team used MALT to match up the DNA fragments extracted from teeth of epidemic victims with a database of known pathogens. The program didn't entirely  save them from mind-numbing work — at one point PhD student and study author Ashild Vagene had to go through the results of the program by hand.

In the end, they found evidence of the deadly Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C bacteria.

The study does not pinpoint the source of the bacteria, which is an area of great interest for biologists and archaeologists alike. The authors note that many epidemics of the period are believed to originate with European invaders who arrived in the region in the early part of the 16th century, but the new research doesn't present biological evidence for or against that.

A previous study suggested the pathogen responsible for the epidemic originated in Mexico, and that the epidemic was exacerbated by drought. And, Bos notes, "the Europeans who were observing the symptoms didn't know what it was, and Europeans got it as well," which suggests it wasn't a disease endemic to Europe.

But even if Europeans did not introduce the pathogen, they may still be responsible for its profound deadliness among indigenous people. "We know that Europeans very much changed the landscape once they entered the new world," Bos says. "They introduced new livestock, [and] there was lots of social disruption among the indigenous population which would have increased their susceptibility to infectious disease."


[END REPORT]

I don't have statistics to back up my impression that food  recalls have gotten more frequent in the USA during the past few years. In any case, a variety of factors other than bad food could be greatly responsible for any perceived increase in food poisoning cases in the USA: 
  • Increased public awareness about food poisoning
  • More stringent government food safety standards
  • Better food industry oversight methods
  • Faster government reporting on food recalls
  • Better coordination between medical facilities that treat food poisoning and government agencies that deal with food safety.
With all that said, the processing of foodstuffs has become a mega-industry in the United States (and of course in several other countries), and this includes the gigantic trade in food imports and exports. With the huge volume of food products, even the best safety standards can't ward off every instance of bad food. Often it's not until an outbreak of food poisoning that there's warning about a bad food. Then comes the race to identify the exact source, which can be just a few batches of a particular product. 

I guess the lesson is to be vigilant not only about food but also about symptoms of illness that could easily be dismissed at first as 'upset stomach' and treated with OTC medications.  Get thee to a doctor if symptoms that could be associated with salmonella poisoning linger for more than a day.  

[END REPORT]

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