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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]

Monday, July 25

More than 5,100: Record number of Afghans killed and maimed during past six months

Voice of America in-depth report
By Lisa Schlein, Ayaz Gul
Last updated on: July 25, 2016 3:22 PM
Here are the opening paragraphs:
More than 5,100 civilians, including some 1,500 children, have been killed in Afghanistan in just the first six months of this year, the United Nations reported Monday.
That represents a 4 percent rise compared with 2015.
The overall casualties are the highest half-year total since the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan — UNAMA — began counting. The report notes that nearly 64,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed or maimed since counting began in January 2009.
The report blames the Taliban, Islamic State and other so-called anti-government elements for a majority of civilian casualties. It also finds, however, that the number of casualties by pro-government forces is increasing. Ground attacks, followed by suicide bombings and unexploded remnants of war, cause the greatest harm. 
Victims playing, praying
The report presents stark testimony by victims and their families of the agonizing impact these attacks have upon their lives. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani tells VOA the victims come from all sectors of society.
[...]


Ansbach bomber pledged allegiance to Islamic State, had enough material for second bomb

For background on the attack see Bombing in Ansbach Germany injures 12, kills Syrian bomber; bomb packed with shrapnel and German government had provided Ansbach bomber with apartment

RT, July 25, 2016

The attacker who left a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach, Germany, had enough materials to make another explosive device, according to police. The man also pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video found on his phone.

The attacker, identified as Mohammad D., possessed gasoline, chemicals, and other material that could be used to make a bomb, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Hermann said, as cited by AP.

The attacker had also pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on one of his phones.

"A provisional translation by an interpreter shows that he expressly announces, in the name of Allah, and testifying his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a famous Islamist leader, an act of revenge against the Germans because they're getting in the way of Islam," Hermann said at a news conference.
"I think that after this video there's no doubt that the attack was a terrorist attack with an Islamist background," he added.

IS has also claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Amaq news agency.

Hermann said that two mobile phones were found that belonged to the man, along with multiple SIM cards and a laptop, Reuters reported.

He said officers also discovered videos with "Salafist content" on storage devices seized from the man's home.

The 27-year-old attacker, originally from Syria, had been denied asylum in Germany and had twice been ordered to be deported to Bulgaria, his point of entry into the European Union, according to officials cited by The New York Times.

He had received asylum in Bulgaria in 2013, according to Hermann.

The Sunday night explosion left at least one person dead and 15 others injured.

The blast was one of four violent attacks to hit Germany in a matter of just one week. German officials have said that such attacks are expected to intensify.

[END REPORT]


Greek, Cypriot religious leaders conduct Mass in Damascus, meet with Syria's Grand Mufti


See website for more photographs of the Mass

Religious mass headed by Patriarch Yazigi, Archbishop Chrysostomos II held in Damascus
July 24, 
SANA

(Damascus, SANA) A mass was held at the Church of the Holy Cross in Kassaa neighborhood in Damascus, headed by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East John X Yazigi and Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus Chrysostomos II.
Patriarch Yazigi pointed out that the unified Syrian family, Muslims and Christians included, is steadfast in facing conspiracy and terrorist war thanks to their support for the Syrian army, the brave leadership of President Bashar al-Assad and adherence to the homeland.
For his part, Archbishop Chrysostomos II affirmed that his visit came to express solidarity with the Syrian people.
Following the mass, a reception ceremony was held in honor of the Cypriot guests in the Church’s hall.
During the ceremony, Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Mohammad Abdul-Sattar al-Sayyed said that the visit of the Archbishop Chrysostomos II is a message for the entire world that Syria is an example of coexistence, hailing the stances of Archbishop Chrysostomos II in condemning terrorism and the countries supporting it.
Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Eddin Hassoun affirmed on Sunday that Syria is fighting terrorism on behalf of Europe and the world.
During a meeting with Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus Chrysostomos II, Mufti Hassoun called on the regimes of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop supporting terrorists.
For his part, Archbishop Chrysostomos II said that he will convey the true image of what is happening in Syria and the suffering of the Syrians due to terrorism.
[END REPORT]


Pregnant woman dead and five injured from machete attack in South Germany

Number of People Injured in Reutlingen Machete Attack Rises to Five
July 25, 2016
Sputnik

The number of people injured in the machete attack in the south German town of Reutlingen on Sunday reached five, local media reported.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The incident occurred on Sunday near the Reutlingen’s central bus terminal when a 21-year-old Syrian asylum seeker attacked a 42-year-old pregnant Pole with a machete, the Bild newspaper reported. The attack left the woman dead and five more people injured.
​Police managed to detain the assailant, who had an earlier criminal record.
Local police noted on Sunday that the incident was not a terror attack.
[END REPORT]
Of course it wasn't a terror attack. It was a poor deranged refugee. The German authorities have gone barking mad under Merkel's leadership.
********

German government had provided Ansbach bomber with an apartment

It's still not clear whether the perp was a suicide bomber or accidentally set off the bomb while he was trying to prime it. Either way, he's dead from the bomb blast, although he wasn't killed instantly; the bomb might have been in a rucksack he was carrying rather than strapped to his back. (See my earlier post featuring different news reports on the incident.)

It's also not clear whether the bomber, a Syrian, was a migrant or refugee. Different BBC headlines have characterized him both ways. 

What is clear from the following report is that the German government put him up in an apartment even after rejecting his request for asylum and let him stay in the country.

As for his mental problems -- not so crazy that he couldn't build or obtain a bomb constructed to do a lot of harm to many people at a music concert; it's just that for whatever reason it wasn't as lethal as intended.   

From BBC report, July 25:

[...]
The explosion is reported to have happened at about 22:10 (20:10 GMT) outside the Eugens Weinstube bar in the city centre which is a short distance from the entrance to the Ansbach Open music festival.
Police said three of the injured were in a serious condition.
Security services have sealed off the city centre and experts are trying to establish the kind of explosives the bomber used.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the suspected attacker had entered Germany two years ago and had his asylum claim rejected a year ago.
He had been given leave to stay temporarily given the situation in his home country and provided with an apartment in Ansbach, Mr Herrmann added.
The minister said he was "incensed" by the attack, which he said demonstrated the need "to strengthen controls on those we have living in our country".
Mr Herrmann said the man was known to have attempted suicide twice and had spent time in a psychiatric clinic.
"We don't know if this man planned on suicide or if he had the intention of killing others," he said.
However, he added that the bomb in the backpack would have been sufficient to kill and injure many more people.
Ansbach deputy police chief Roman Fertinger said there were "indications" that pieces of metal had been added to the explosive device.
Witness Thomas Debinski said there was "panic" after the explosion, although some people thought it was caused by a gas explosion.
"Then people came past and said it was a rucksack that had exploded," he told Sky News.
[...]
********



When will U.S. heatwave end? Not anytime soon.

"Higher than normal temperatures are still expected in the six to 10 day outlook. Two weeks out, the temperatures are still slated to be high. The good news is there's a chance, Robinson added, of normal to above normal precipitation."

Heat wave, drought showing no signs of slowing down
July 24, 2016 - 6:11 PM PT
The Associated Press via Sacramento Bee

(PHILADELPHIA) The heat wave gripping parts of the country including Philadelphia, where tens of thousands are descending upon the city for the Democratic National Convention this week, is not going away anytime soon and will hit a peak Monday with temperatures in the city feeling like 108 degrees.

Excessive heat warnings will continue Monday, the first day of the convention, in the Philadelphia area, most of the Midwest and regions out west. It's due to a dome of high pressure, meteorologists say, that's affecting most of the United States and contributing to drought conditions in the Northeast and continuing to fuel wildfires in California.

"It's fair to say that the vast majority of the nation has been experiencing above normal temperatures for the past week," said David Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University.

The dome of high pressure traps hot air and is the basis for the "critical high temperatures" the country has been experiencing the past week, Robinson said, even for being the warmest time of the year.

Thunderstorms are common, as they were in parts of New England over the weekend, but don't help much with drought conditions in the Northeast and out west. Particularly dry weather in areas like Massachusetts and New York have forced farmers to choose which crops they will water and which will just not survive the season.

"The Northeast is a little bit of a mixed bag, but the bottom line is that the conditions have deteriorated over the past several weeks to a couple of months," said Rich Tinker, a drought specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In southern California, where drought has persisted for years, 18 homes have been destroyed and more than 34 square miles of brush have been blackened in a blaze that sparked Friday. Los Angeles Fire Chief John Tripp said the fire "started consuming houses" "like a freight train."

A main difference between the drought in the Northeast and out west is that the Northeast can pull out of those conditions at any time, Robinson said.

"The good news is that there's always a chance that the pattern can switch in several weeks at any time of the year," he added.

Temperatures in the Philadelphia area are predicted to reach their highest points Monday as 50,000 Democrats are expected there for the DNC. The heat index could hit 108 degrees, said Mitchell Gaines, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Temperatures may reach into triple digits. Adding to that, the humidity is set to return.

Thousands of protesters, many for climate change, on Sunday braved mid-90s temperatures as the city provided free water and "misting tents" to demonstrators, some of whom are walking several miles.

When will the heat wave break? Not anytime soon, Robinson said. Higher than normal temperatures are still expected in the six to 10 day outlook. Two weeks out, the temperatures are still slated to be high. The good news is there's a chance, Robinson added, of normal to above normal precipitation.

[END REPORT]

"Massive fire near NATO base in Turkey, possible anti-American sabotage"


01:44 25.07.2016(updated 04:46 25.07.2016)
Sputnik

A massive fire erupted near a NATO base in western Turkey. Authorities are investigating the fire as a possible act of anti-American sabotage.

The inferno started on Sunday evening in western Turkey. The fire blew through the grassy wooded area and is now perilously near NATO’s military base pushed forward by strong winds.
​CNNTurk reports that the fire threatens a number of populated areas, and has already impacted a home for the elderly and its adjacent garden, T24 News reports. The channel also reports that anti-American "sabotage" in the wake of the attempted overthrow of the Erdogan government is suspected.
The fire threatens the Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) base at Şirinyer (Buca) in İzmir, Turkey. LANDCOM is tasked with supporting US troops to enhance reaction time and the unit is equipped to respond to international crises.
Although Washington maintains its largest overseas nuclear arsenal in Turkey, consisting of up to 90 tactical nuclear weapons, the US atomic weapons stockpile is stored at Incirlik air base and no such weapons of mass destruction are reportedly stored at the Izmir base.
The fire is not fully subdued despite hours of effort along with the use of firefighting helicopters and airplanes conducting water drops according to local news outlets.
Sunday's fire comes in the wake of the failed attempt to overthrow the Erdogan government last week that the regime has blamed on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. The country's Laber Minister created a stir when he said on live television during an interview with HaberTurk that "the US is behind the coup." This hyperbolic statement, condemned by the US State Department, was followed by a threat from Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yidlirim that Ankara would go to war with "any country" that supports Fethullah Gulen — a direct reference to the United States.
The US has repeatedly informed Turkey that they are unable to extradite the alleged mastermind of the coup, Fethullah Gulen, under US law without sufficient evidence. A recent poll shows that only 17% of Turks welcome the United States in the country and with Ankara shifting towards a more nationalistic posture attacks against US installations may become more likely in the wake of the failed coup.
[END REPORT]
Prior to Outbreak of Massive Fire Near NATO Base Pro-Erdogan Islamist Paper Said US General Led Coup Against Erdogan
04:43 25.07.2016(updated 05:47 25.07.2016)
Sputnik

[Headline and lede edited by Pundita because language is confusing. Pix of the U.S. general is directly under "Yeni Safak" banner ]



Only hours before a massive blaze broke out near a NATO base the Yeni Safak newspaper printed a picture of a US military commander it claims led the attempt to overthrow the Erdogan government 

On Sunday, hours before a massive blaze broke out near the NATO base in the western Turkish town of Izmir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s primary print publication for his Islamist supporters, Yeni Safak, printed the image of NATO International Security Assistance Force Commander Army General John F. Campbell accusing the US military official of plotting the coup against Erdogan in league with US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

[...]

Hours after the publication of the article, the NATO military base in Izmir became victim of a mass fire that continues to rage on at this hour despite desperate attempts by forces to contain the blaze using helicopter and airplane water drops. The fire threatens US munitions stockpiles at the base which could result in a severe exacerbation of the fire, loss of expensive weaponry, and safety dangers.

[...]

********



Sunday, July 24

Bombing in Ansbach Germany injures 12, kills Syrian bomber; bomb packed with shrapnel

Details are still sketchy. 

> The incident occurred around 10 PM local time outside a wine bar or cafe that was being frequented by attendees at a music festival. (New York Daily News - updated 10:47 PM EDT). From Daily News report:
The blast rocked an entrance to the Anbach Open festival near a wine bar in the Bavarian city 90 miles northwest of Munich. The attacker seriously wounded three people at around 10 p.m., authorities said.
Police believe the attacker acted alone and detonated the device when he was unable to produce a ticket, according to Der Spiegel
> The bomber, who was killed in the blast, has been identified as 27 year old Syrian refugee. (All news sources).  

> Police found enough bomb material in his backpack or rucksack to kill/injure several people. (Not clear on whether this material was in addition to the bomb that was detonated.) The music festival attracted a large number of attendees.  (Sputnik - 05:47 Russia time).

> The bomb that detonated had been packed with shrapnel; police said it was designed to kill and injure many more people than it did. (RT live TV update about 45 minutes ago and at their website. 

>  Three of the injured are in critical condition. (Daily News, RT TV live update 30 minutes ago)        

> It's not certain that this was a suicide bombing; the bomber wasn't immediately killed but succumbed to his injuries a short time later.  "His injuries were consistent with the close detonation of an unknown explosive device, leading authorities to believe that he was the perpetrator." (RT early report)

>  What's known presently about the perp from RT report 25 Jul, 2016 02:03 edited 02:34:

Bavarian authorities have announced that the suspected suicide bomber, who was killed in the Ansbach explosion, had been a 27-year-old Syrian whose asylum request was rejected last year. The motive behind the attack, which injured 12 people, remains unknown.

FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES on Bavaria bomb blast

WATCH RT's special coverage of Bavaria blast aftermath

The attacker was a 27-year-old Syrian who had entered the country about 2 years ago, but was refused asylum, Bavarian authorities told a press conference. His application was rejected a year ago but the man was allowed to stay in Germany temporarily, due to ongoing hostilities in Syria.

Police say they do not yet know if the attacker had any radical Islamist background. The investigations is currently focused on attacker’s communications.

The suspect lived abroad in a hotel in Ansbach, the minister said. He had tried to commit suicide two times and was previously housed in a psychiatric hospital. In the coming days, the investigation will focus on establishing whether the man acted with suicidal intent, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told journalists.

So far, the investigation has found no evidence of an attempted political assassination or extremism, but such a possibility cannot be ruled out. The type of explosives detonated has not yet been established, but Hermann said that “metal parts” were apparently used in the improvised device.

A jihadist link cannot be excluded either, the minister said, since the presence of metal parts in the bomb indicates that the suspect had aimed to hurt as many people as possible.

[END RT REPORT]

Unlikely the massacre in Munich was the work of a "lone gunman"

European authorities have been turning themselves inside out to portray recent attacks on civilians as lone-wolf rampage killings done by completely deranged individuals that have nothing to do with terrorism.  

Afghan teen arrested in Germany in connection to Munich attack
July 24, 2016
Fox News

An Afghan teenager was arrested on Sunday in Germany on suspicion that he was connected to Friday’s mass attack in Munich, police said

The 16-year-old may have known about the plans of the gunman, who killed nine people, but the teen did not tell authorities, officials said. The teen is also suspected of having played a role in a Facebook post that invited the public to the scene where the deadly shooting later took place, Reuters reported.
“There is a suspicion that the 16-year-old is a possible tacit accomplice to [Friday’s] attack,” a police statement said.
The gunman in the Munich assault was identified as an 18-year-old Iranian-German.
[END REPORT]

21 killed in Baghdad suicide blast

From Paul Armstrong's report for CNN, updated today at 7:32 PM EDT:

Abu Dhabi (CNN)Terror once again struck the streets of Iraq's capital Sunday, after a suicide bombing killed at least 21 people in a residential neighborhood in northern Baghdad.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiya, which also injured more than 35 others, Iraqi security officials said.
The claim by ISIS was released by the terror group's media wing Amaq and on pro-ISIS social media accounts circulated by its supporters.
Sunday's attack came just weeks after the deadliest terror attack in war-weary Baghdad in years, when a suicide truck bomb plowed into a busy shopping district killing almost 300 people.
[...]

ISIS losing territory but remains deadly

Analysts say this demonstration of the terror group's capacity to strike at the heart of the capital may force a delay of the long-awaited government push to retake the northern city of Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control.
The Sunni terror group, which has carved out a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has been losing territory, most recently in the Iraqi city of Falluja.
[...]
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The US, doing everything backassward in Afghanistan but still making a big improvement

In Kabul, there is strikingly little evidence of the long and costly American effort. I asked Amrullah Saleh, the former head of intelligence, what had been achieved in Afghanistan in the past fifteen years. “From the American point of view, very little,” he said. “From the Afghan point of view, very much. I may have a lot of personal grievances, but, if you look at the picture from a bird’s eye, things have changed enormously.”
Saleh didn’t mean roads or dams. He meant the transformation of Afghan society, of public discourse, among activists and intellectuals, women and youth.
“Prior to 9/11, the biggest theme of our discussion was: 'How do you form a state?' Today, it’s not that. The biggest discourse today is how the state can deliver, how the state can survive, how Afghanistan’s diversity can remain intact, and how it can be a partner with the world community.”
New Yorker staff writer George Packer's great profile of Worldbankia Civilization denizen Ashraf Ghani's time as Afghanistan's head of state does double duty as a crash course on the country's centuries of struggle to become a modern state -- always set back, as Packer explains, by the reformers' blinkered top-down policies that infuriate the conservatives ("The Arg is haunted by its murdered occupants.")

Coming to the present day the USA and its NATO allies repeated the worst mistakes of the country's earlier reformers:
Instead of sending money to local communities through Afghan channels, donors like U.S.A.I.D. bid out contracts to large international companies, which in turn hired subcontractors and private security companies, none of which had a long-term stake in Afghanistan.
In a 2005 ted talk on failed states, Ghani called such programs “the ugly face of the developed world to the developing countries,” adding, “Tens of billions of dollars are supposedly spent on building capacity with people who are paid up to fifteen hundred dollars a day, who are incapable of thinking creatively or organically.”
The National Solidarity Program didn’t get to write Afghanistan’s future. Some estimate that during the peak years of foreign spending on Afghanistan only ten to twenty cents of every aid dollar reached the intended beneficiaries.
Waste on a scale of several hundred billion dollars is the work of many authors, but the U.S. government was among the chief ones.
Despite this, Afghanistan has lurched forward, as Amrullah Saleh explains. How much of the progress is due simply to technology -- cell phones, the internet, TV stations -- which created an explosion of communications that allowed the country's progressives to get a word in edgewise against the conservatives and elites who pander to them? Probably a great deal.

But there you have it: without the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and the international circus they brought to town, the country would still be where Pakistan's military and its Taliban proxies want it: back in the Dark Ages.

What's needed now to move the dial?  Security, security, security, and putting into policy what everyone already knows is needed: unless the screws are turned on Pakistan's warlords and their Saudi backers, all security measures are just continuing to empty the ocean with a sieve. So it comes back to Washington's elites and their counterparts in other Western capitals.

Which is to say the West has its own Dark Ages to deal with, which settled in during the cold war against the Soviets and is propped up by our version of Afghanistan's conservatives and the elites who pander to them.  

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Racial prejudice in Pakistan, ignored by UN, is part of country's worst social problems

See also WHEN THE SLAVE BOATS SAILED EAST: The Indian Ocean Slave Trade published by The Sidi Project (South Asia's African Diaspora).

The author of the following article, who is obviously Pakistani, is identified on the website as a director of the Centre for Social Justice and freelance journalist specialising in international law, rural development and public policy, but isn't named -- probably because the report is from a press release (Asian Human Rights Commission).

Is racial discrimination an issue in Pakistan?
Sunday, 24 July 2016, 10:13 pm
Scoop Independent News, New Zealand

[...]

International reporting, representing Pakistan’s official narrative, has relied on denial of facts, citing normative assurances and a deflection of issues because officials and consultants preparing the reports were handicapped by the stalled progress on human rights and proper functioning of institutions. Unfortunately, the current report to the UN CERD committee hasn’t succeeded in overcoming these difficulties.

The report claims that racial discrimination is “non-existent” in Pakistan. This can be challenged on several accounts. For instance, the claim is challengeable in the consistent economic, social and political deprivation of Pakistanis of African origin (Sheedis), the diminishing rights of the Kalash people as a result of forced conversions and occupation of means of their subsistence, and the government’s inability to document nomads, gypsies and tribesmen. The report’s claim can also be challenged on account of the mass killings of minority sects.

The government’s comprehension of racism grossly ignores the pervasive ethnocentrism that creates extremely dangerous sense of ‘otherness' — a cause behind interprovincial conflicts and different forms of violence. If ethnocentrism had not plagued politics and society, linguistic groups, including the Punjabis would not be complaining about their language being ignored by the state. Therefore, it is a convenient claim as long as we do not recognise racial discrimination.

Pakistan was not a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Family Members. The report stated that Pakistan was not a labour-receiving country, and hence not a party to this convention. Why then, is Pakistan a party to the convention on racial discrimination, as accession to it relies on the acknowledgement that problems do exist?

Seemingly, the reporting to international treaty bodies will have to get rid of the state’s narrative, crafted to defend dictatorships that relied on the techniques of denying facts and averting all chances of accountability. Our image in the outside world cannot be starkly different than our internal reality and our relation and place among the nations will depend on the quality of improvement of internal processes.

The world has come to realise that racism is a historical as well as contemporary phenomenon. No state or society is immune to it. Therefore, there is no way forward than admitting its existence, engaging in reforms and repairing the harm through social processes. Although the Constitution of Pakistan discourages discrimination in several forms, we do not have a proper law that defines and punishes discrimination.

Racial discrimination does exist in Pakistan in several subtle as well as manifest forms, and unfortunately, in state policies as well. We can choose to turn a blind eye, but the price will be social conflict, underdevelopment and political instability.

We have to choose between continuing to live in a society fragmented on the basis of caste, colour, descent, ethnicity and language, or make efforts to ensure equality, justice and accountability through internal and external scrutiny according to international standards of human rights. The earlier choice will leave us with the status quo the on the other hand, the latter can deliver rule of law and better governance. The choice rests with us.
[END]

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