Wednesday, May 31

Now more than ever: Take it Easy, Urvasi

MTV is still withholding from YouTube the (great) visual part of the 2017 remake of the 1994 song for the movie Kadhalan but here is the audio at YouTube of the remake, which I'm reposting again.  

Take it easy, everyone. Chill. That was the message from Indians who responded to A.R. Rahman's call for crowdsourced lyrics for the remake. The message was right on time for all societies. Take it easy; don't let the media hype and crowd stampedes throw you.            


Tuesday, May 23

We had to destroy Syria to save it from Assad

We didn't massacre Syrian troops, we just sent them a warning to prevent escalation.  

We don't intend to do nation-building in Syria, we're just going to identify where they need to rebuild.

We have no intention of staying in Syria, we're just going to stay until they're stabilized.

If you don't feel like vomiting now, you will after reading Defense One's And So It Begins: Trump, Syria, and The Lessons of Iraq featuring remarks such as these:
“Stabilization is not nation-building,” said Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, standing alongside Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford at the Pentagon. “Instead, stabilization is a low-cost, sustainable, citizen-driven effort to identify the key projects that are essential to returning people to their homes such as water pumps, electricity nodes, grain silos, and local security structures, local police.”

Damn! Upstaged by a terror attack on kids at a rock concert!

All the security, all the travel expenses, publicity, press conferences, banquets, speeches, photo ops -- all of it gone, gone in an instant, wiped away in a blast that sent shrapnel tearing into human flesh at an arena in Manchester, England. Photos of Donald Trump at the Wailing Wall replaced by photos of dazed fathers carrying wounded children wrapped in blankets. 



Monday, May 22

"Tu Jo Mila"

Away, away from all the trash talk, all the phonies, all the horrors and tragedies. Just for a few minutes. [smiling]


Sunday, May 21

War By Fantasy Maps

From Moon of Alabama May 19, 2017, U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice


Addendum (6:00am): 

There are some maps flowing around which assert that Iran is seeking a military land communication route via Iraq into Syria and beyond. They show some fantasy route up north through Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish territory as the "current route" and the roads between Damascus and Baghdad as "future route". The claim is that military equipment moves along these roads.

It is nonsense. Iran did not and does not need such land routes for military exchanges with its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Where was that Iranian land route in 2006 when the U.S. occupied Iraq while Israel attacked Lebanon? Where was that land route when ISIS occupied half of Iraq and Syria? There was no such route and Iranian support still reached Hizbullah in 2006 and later Syria. It came by air, by ship and, most important, by other means.

By holding up such fantasy maps certain interests want to insinuate that the area is "strategically important" for the U.S. and that the U.S. must therefore occupy south-east Syria. It is true that the road network between Syria and Iraq has some economic importance. Like all roads these are used for local commerce. But history demonstrates that they are not militarily strategic asset in the sense of an essential, overarching need.



FARS Syria sitrep

Syria in Last 24 Hours: Army Repels ISIL's Attack on Gov't Positions in Deir Ezzur
May 21, 2017 - 12:20

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Syrian army soldiers repelled terrorists' attack on their positions in Deir Ezzur province after hours of clashes, inflicting major losses on them. 
The ISIL terrorists' attack to capture the government forces' positions in the surrounding areas of Deir Ezzur's Brigade 137 base was fended off by the strong defense of the Syrian military men.
Meantime, the Syrian army and popular forces continued their military advances in other parts of Syria, including Aleppo and Sweida, over the past 24 hours.

Tens of terrorists were killed and dozens more were injured during the Syrian army's operations in other provinces across Syria.

Deir Ezzur

The Syrian army troops repelled a massive ISIL offensive on their military positions in the surrounding areas of Deir Ezzur military airport and pushed them back.

The government troops thwarted the ISIL's attack on the surrounding areas of Brigade 137 which resulted in the death of 14 ISIL terrorists and destroyed three of their military vehicles.

The Syrian army soldiers also fended off another ISIL offensive on the newly-liberated areas near al-Maqaber (cemetery) and al-Movazafin areas, killing at least 30 ISIL terrorists.

The Syrian troops also hit hard the gathering centers and movements of the ISL in the vicinity of al-Maqaber and Brigade 137 with artillery shelling and missile attacks.

Meantime, the Russian and Syrian air forces hit ISIL's positions in Deir Ezzur, conducting sorties at the cemetery area, Thardah Mountain, Taim Oil Fields and a handful of ISIL-held suburbs inside the provincial capital.


The Syrian army continued its military operations against the ISIL terrorists in Eastern Aleppo and captured more strategic villages in the region.

The army soldiers engaged in tough battle with the ISIL terrorists in Eastern Aleppo and managed to drive them out of Alih Albu Kamal village and take full control of the village.

The Syrian army's missile and artillery units also targeted ISIL's military positions North of Maskana region.

The Syrian army has taken full control of around 15 towns and villages in Eastern Aleppo.


The Syrian army and popular forces took back a large chunk of the terrorist-controlled territories East of Sweida province in the Southern parts of the country.

"The Syrian army and its allies seized more than 60 square kilometers of lands in the Al-Zalfa region in Sweida province," the Arabic-language media quoted a military source as saying on Saturday.

The military source noted that after securing Al-Zalfa area, the Syrian army troops will push further East in order to secure the provincial border and lay siege on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) near the Al-Tanf border-crossing to Iraq.


Local officials confirmed that 400 gunmen and their family members left al-Wa'er district for Northern Homs within the last phase of an evacuation deal between the Syrian Army and the militants.

The sources reported that 400 people, including 90 gunmen have left al-Wa'er for the border town of Jarabulus region in Northern Homs.

"Russian forces arrive in southern Syria" Heeeere we go

By Leith Fadel
May 21, 2017
AMN (Al-Masdar News)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:30 A.M.) – Russian paratroopers and special forces arrived in the Al-Sweida Governorate of southern Syria this week, following the U.S. attack on a pro-government convoy near the Iraqi border-crossing, a military source told Al-Masdar News last night.

The Russian military personnel will take the role of advising the Syrian government troops in southern Syria, while also helping to deter any potential response from the U.S. and Jordanian forces that have carved a niche in the Al-Sweida and Homs governorates.

According to some media activists in southern Syria, the Russian forces are planning to build a base along the Al-Sweida Governorate border with Jordan; however, this could not be confirmed by Al-Masdar News.

Rumors have also surfaced regarding the deployment of the 31st Brigade of the Russian special forces; they are allegedly meant to engage the enemy forces and help the government troops seize the Iraqi border-crossing.



The more they tear Syria apart, the more their own societies fall apart

"The US bombardment of that force Thursday underlined for Saudi Arabia and the dozens of Arab and Muslim rulers gathered in Riyadh to meet the US president, his administration’s determination to prevent Iran and its Lebanese surrogate, Hizballah, from gaining control of Syria."

It doesn't take a crystal ball to see what's been happening since 2011 to countries with governments that have been trying to break up Syria. One by one, those countries have become increasingly polarized internally. Look at Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Britain, USA, France -- and the polarization keeps getting worse.

What more signs and portents are they waiting for? To be turned into pillars of salt?

Get out of Syria, fools.  

But now they've decided they first have to save Syria from Iran and Hezbollah. If you ask weren't they supposed to be saving Syria from Islamic State -- that can wait, according to a May 20 report at DEBKAfile, which reportedly is a mouthpiece for Israel's military or at least they like to be seen that way. Here are some headlines from DEBKAfile's front page: 

Trump Launches 8-Nation Operation to Block Iran’s Takeover of Syrian-Iraqi Border. ISIS Left for Later

The Syrian-pro-Iranian-Hizballah force in southern Syria renewed its advance on the Iraqi border on Saturday, May 20, two days after sustaining heavy casualties from a US air strike on its convoys and in spite of US Defense Secretary James’ Mattis warning, “We will defend our troops.”

Syrian military sources reported the capture Saturday of the Suweida region and another 60 square kilometers. This offensive brought the Syrian army and its allies closer to the strategic Al-Tanf crossing at the Syrian border intersection with Iraq and Jordan, which is held by US and other special operations units.

The US-led coalition force is also made up of elite units from Britain, Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as Jordan and a large contingent of the rebel Free Syria Army trained and armed by American instructors in Jordan.

The latest arrival to boost this force, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, was a unit of Norwegian special forces, which entered Syria from Iraq through the Al-Waleed border crossing in western Anbar. They arrived along with American reinforcements and linked up with the US and British forces deployed at Al Tanf.

However, the Syrian force and its allies, responding to the US air strike, moved fast enough Saturday to threaten the FSA troops fighting there with being trapped by a siege. They have pushed their offensive forward against the US-led force, despite their losses from an American air raid, as a show of defiance that was timed for President Donald Trump’s arrival in Saudi Arabia.

Another US air strike appears to be unavoidable for pushing them back. The danger is also rising of a major clash on the ground between US-led coalition special forces troops and the combined Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah force.

The US bombardment of that force Thursday underlined for Saudi Arabia and the dozens of Arab and Muslim rulers gathered in Riyadh to meet the US president, his administration’s determination to prevent Iran and its Lebanese surrogate, Hizballah, from gaining control of Syria. 

American troops were accordingly engaged proactively in securing the border crossings between Syria and Iraq. 

However, Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah are evidently not about to shirk a direct confrontation with Washington and the Trump administration, apparently with the support of Moscow.

This clash of arms is likely to expand into an outright US showdown with ... Syria, Iran and Hizballah in the next 24-48 hours ahead of President Trump’s visit to Israel, the second stop of his four-nation trip.


Stop making up stories. Get out of Syria before it's too late.


Not a metaphor: "The Lights Are Going Out in the Middle East"

"The world’s most volatile region faces a challenge that doesn’t involve guns, militias, warlords, or bloodshed, yet is also destroying societies. The Middle East, though energy-rich, no longer has enough electricity. From Beirut to Baghdad, tens of millions of people now suffer daily outages, with a crippling impact on businesses, schools, health care, and other basic services, including running water and sewerage. Little works without electricity."

"I called on the technician at his home because electricity is now such a political flashpoint that he didn’t want to be seen hosting a journalist at work."

The above quotes are from Robin Wright's May 20 report for The New Yorker. I don't often tell readers that a report is a "must-read" but this is one of those times. And it's not long; she succinctly outlines the electricity crisis in the Middle East, which extends at least to Libya in North Africa, in a series of eye-popping anecdotes and observations.

As to what governments in those countries can do to resolve the crisis -- it can't be resolved at this time in history. Even if the refugee situations, armed conflicts and rampant corruption end, the Middle East is up against the limits of urbanization and rising lifestyle expectations.

Look, credit cards are doomsday in a wallet. But as long as relatively few people could live above their means via credit, critical resources such as water could absorb the impact. With rising incomes across the world and the advent of satellite TV, people want the same lifestyle they see middle-income earners enjoy in the most prosperous countries. And if credit is the way to get that lifestyle, they want credit too.

What nobody stopped to consider until it was too late is that when possessions and even food can be bought on credit, this stimulates demand for products that are easily substituted by newer and more attractive products. This in turn leads to massive waste of resources that can't be replaced as quickly as manufactured goods and agricultural produce.

Again, when relatively few people were doing this, the hits to resources caused by waste could be absorbed. Today, it's getting increasingly hard to absorb because so many people are piling into the same system of living above their means.  

This doesn't even speak to governments and manufacturers spending above their means via different types of credit arrangements, which also leads to massive waste of resources. 

Only up to a certain point is credit the fuel of modern societies; when that point is reached, it becomes a destroyer of societies.  

How long have we got? Too many variables to call it at this point. But read Robin Wright's report to understand that the Middle East's electricity crisis is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.      


Saturday, May 20

Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Tibetan Dance"

This version of a live rendition of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Tibetan Dance" is from the blowout Heartbeat Tour, recorded February 6, 1992 at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, which has become my favorite concert of secular music. But I'd overlooked that one song until now, when I guess the YouTube music gods decided they'd heard enough of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's version of "Allah Hoo" for one night  (I do tend to play that qawwali a lot) and deposited "Tibetan Dance'" in the YouTube sidebar.
The Heartbeat version was uploaded to YouTube by "jack19998" on November 30, 2009. Thanks to him!  

The same song was recorded live in 1988 at another great Sakamoto playdate, the Neo Geo concert ni New York City. This version features a trio of Okinawan singers -- the same ones who brought down the house with the show-stopping "Neo Geo" song at that same concert, which I've already featured here. There's also a Western singer contributing to the "Tibetan Dance" set in New York, and there are lyrics with this version, whereas the Heartbeat Tour substitutes scat singing for lyrics. 

The Neo Geo concert version of "Tibetan Dance" was uploaded to YouTube on October 13, 2008 by Nightwalk -- many thanks.

Someone in the comment section, "Dominickaroo97," wrote out the lyrics, what he could understand of them:

"these skies are neon
dressed in a smile the music danceshigh blue skies before methey fill my eyes with love and joy inside look inside you what did I findthe east and west combined"yeah that's all I have

There are complaints from a few listeners at YouTube that "Tibetan Dance" has nothing whatsoever to do with Tibetan music or dance. The replies from other commenters are generally patient and wise; one commenter, "Razor Edge, noted in answer:
Like much of Sakamoto's music, this song is a fusion of Tibetan music with other traditions, such as Okinawan music (i.e. those female singers are Okinawan folk musicians). The titles for some of his songs are partially misnomers as they only represent one part of the song. For example, his 1989 song "Calling From Tokyo" sounds more like a fusion of Okinawan, African, Indian and Arabic music rather than Tokyo music.
Indeed. But my answer would be to ask whether the complainers had ever tried doing a Tibetan folk dance to the sounds of "Tibetan Dance."

[smiling] I don't think Tibetan dancers would have any trouble keeping up.

And if you imagine yourself on a very, very high mountain under a cloudless blue Tibetan sky, clapping and dancing to the riotously cheery "Tibetan Dance" you'll reflect, I think, the mood and meaning of the song. Life is a vale of suffering but sometimes, just sometimes, we stand at the peak and realize there's nothing to do but celebrate existence.
"these skies are neon 
dressed in a smile the music dances
high blue skies before me"

Wednesday, May 17

SPIEGEL reaching its gag limit on anti-Assad smear campaigns?

May 17 Moon of Alabama:
... The U. S. State Department claim that Syria built a crematorium inside a prison to burn executed prisoners saw no follow-up. But it had consequences. The presented "evidence" was too thin to make it believable. Even the staunchly anti-Syrian [German newsmagazine] SPIEGEL doubted it: USA bleiben Beweise für Assads Leichenöfen schuldig. Translated: "U.S. fails to give evidence for Assad crematorium claims."
The State Department claim was presented in a special news conference by Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. A day later Jones announced that he would retire:
Jones, 57, told colleagues the decision was his own and that he had not been pushed out or asked to leave the department.
Ahem. Sure. Maybe. Or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disliked the lame propaganda shows Jones presented under the official State Department seal.
B at Moon of Alabama speculated on May 16 that the State Department's insinuation about the crematorium "may be propaganda preparation for a wider war on Syria."

That could be, but I think the immediate goal of the accusation is to pressure Russia to end support for Assad. The idea is that the crematorium is another horrifying reason Putin has to stop helping such a monster before Russia's reputation on the world stage is destroyed.  

Such an argument would studiously overlook that Putin himself has been portrayed as a monster by the same kind of smear campaigns used against Assad. And it would depend on the Kremlin ignoring the fact that the neither the U.S. nor any of its European allies have been inclined to scale back their cold war against Russia, no matter how much cooperation the Kremlin has offered them.

As to the veracity of the crematorium story:  

... Back in February Amnesty International (which promotes NATO interventions) issued a sensational report about alleged killings in Syrian prisons. As we wrote at that time:
A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction-style writing from its title "Human Slaughterhouse" down to the last paragraph.
The U.S. State Department has now reused that fake report and adds wrongly-interpreted satellite pictures to further slander the Syrian government:

In its latest accusations of Syrian abuses, the State Department said it believed about 50 detainees each day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison, about 45 minutes north of Damascus. Many of the bodies are then burned in the crematorium "to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place," said Stuart Jones, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, accusing Assad's government of sinking "to a new level of depravity."
The department released commercial satellite photographs showing what it described as a building in the prison complex that was modified to support the crematorium. The photographs, taken over the course of several years, beginning in 2013, do not prove the building is a crematorium, but show construction consistent with such use.
If there was a crematorium being built in the Saydnaya prison how is it that none of the Amnesty witnesses said so in the recent Amnesty report? These witnesses, Amnesty claims, have been in that prison and observed all kind of details. They claim that any dead were buried in mass graves.

A Dutch military expert looks at the commercial satellite pictures and the interpretation State provided and asks:
Ian Grant‏ @Gjoene - 6:02 PM - 15 May 2017
Is this a joke @StateDept? Even before 27 Aug '13 these "vents" were present. See included Terraserver footage (03 april '13) #Sednaya
Another reconnaissance specialist expands on that:
Aldin Abazović @CT_operative - 5:33 PM - 15 May 2017
Pictures that allegedly show crematorium of Saidnaya prison, #Damascus #Syria. As much as I hate to get involved into this matter, these #1 [and] #2 images prove nothing at all. This building could be simple boiler/heating room for the prison compound. Unless you visit there is no
#3 way to prove anything. It's easy to manipulate with satellite imagery. You just put the right label on [a] thing and there you have it
#4 I can't confirm what the particular part of prison is nor for what it's used.
The State Department has no evidence for its "crematorium claim" but the Amnesty report, which says nothing about a crematorium at the prison, and some satellite pictures that do not show what the State Department claims. It is throwing dirt at the Syrian government in the hope that some of it will stick. 

This release of nothing will create some headlines in "western" outrage publications. It may be propaganda preparation for a wider war on Syria.



The most concrete part of an "Arab NATO" is $350 billion in US arms sales

"The most concrete part of the [Arab NATO] idea is a mammoth U.S. arms package for Saudi Arabia that Trump will also announce in Riyadh. Final details are still being worked out, but officials said the package will include between $98 billion and $128 billion in arms sales. Over 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion."
Comment on the following report is from "AARRA," which from the footnote looks as if it could have been taken in part from a Wikipedia article:
An "Arab NATO" already exists and has historically proven itself useless. The Joint Defense Council of the Arab League was established in 1950 to coordinate the joint defense of the Arab League member states. The Arab League voted in 2007 to reactivate the their joint defense arrangement and establish a peacekeeping force to deploy in South Lebanon, Darfur, Iraq, and other hot spots. It's still useless.
 At a 2015 summit in Egypt, member nations agreed in principle to form a joint military force.[39]
Trump to unveil plans for an ‘Arab NATO’ in Saudi Arabia
By Josh Rogin
May 17 - 6:00 AM EDT
The Washington Post

When President Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an “Arab NATO,” to guide the fight against terrorism and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history.
Behind the scenes, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been conducting extensive negotiations, led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussions began shortly after the presidential election, when Mohammed, known in Washington as “MBS,” sent a delegation to meet with Kushner and other Trump officials at Trump Tower.
After years of disillusionment with the Obama administration, the Saudi leadership was eager to do business. “They were willing to make a bet on Trump and on America,” a senior White House official said.
In that meeting and during a follow-up meeting three weeks later, the Saudis proposed a broad elevation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and proposed various projects to increase security cooperation, economic cooperation and investment, White House officials said. The Trump team gave the Saudis a list of Trump priorities, calling on the kingdom to step up actions to combat radical Islamic extremism, intensify the fight against the Islamic State and share the burden of regional security.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has tasked various government agencies to develop a series of announcements Trump will make this weekend. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now heavily involved. One main objective is to put forth a framework and basic principles for a unified Sunni coalition of countries, which would set the stage for a more formal NATO-like organizational structure down the line.
“We all have the same enemy and we all want the same thing,” the official said. “What this trip hopefully will do is just change the environment.”
The idea of an “Arab NATO” has been bandied about for years — and has always had strong Saudi support — but until now was never openly endorsed by the U.S. government. Officials said the concept fits three major tenets of Trump’s “America First” foreign-policy frame: asserting more American leadership in the region, shifting the financial burden of security to allies and providing for U.S. jobs at home (through the massive arms sales).
The president is looking for an answer to the question of how the United States can eventually hand over security responsibility in the region to the countries that are there, officials said.
Reports from the region about early discussions of the project said that in addition to Saudi Arabia, initial participants in the coalition would include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States playing an organizing and support role while staying outside the alliance.
The White House admits that many of the details of how the new alliance will operate remain to be worked out. The countries of the region harbor deep historical grievances and don’t agree on key issues, including the way forward in Syria. A 2015 effort by Egypt to establish a pan-Arab fighting force collapsed due to squabbling among the countries involved.
“This is the sort of gesture many of America’s security partners have been looking to get from the United States for many years,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center of American Progress. “The value of any such a pact would depend on the results it produces — whether it achieves greater stability, helps resolve conflicts like Yemen and Syria, and achieves progress in the fight against terrorist groups across the region.”
The most concrete part of the idea is a mammoth U.S. arms package for Saudi Arabia that Trump will also announce in Riyadh. Final details are still being worked out, but officials said the package will include between $98 billion and $128 billion in arms sales. Over 10 years, total sales could reach $350 billion.
The sales include huge upgrades for the Saudi army and navy to include Littoral Combat Ships, THAAD missile defense systems, armored personnel carriers, missiles, bombs and munitions, officials said. Some of the production and assembly could be located in Saudi Arabia, boosting MBS’s project to build a Saudi domestic defense industrial capability. But most of the items would be built by American defense contractors.
“The U.S. has sought for a long time to get the Saudis to do more to focus on its navy, to modernize and make the forces in the Gulf more effective,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “From the U.S. perspective, the stronger the Saudi deterrent is, the lower the risk of any military confrontation with Iran.”
The pending announcements of the new security framework and the huge arms deal are evidence that the Saudi courtship of the Trump White House has been successful beyond expectations. Whether that results in real stability in the region, real progress against terrorism or real deterrence against Iran depends on what happens after Trump’s overseas trip is over.

Tuesday, May 16

A fed confirms Seth Rich transferred thousands of DNC emails to Wikileaks

Despite the sensational news about his involvement with Wikileaks it's entirely possible that Seth Rich was just a victim of a mugging gone bad after he put up a fight. There are a number of facts about the case that would support this theory. And given the details of the encounter it would have been a pretty lame pair of hit-men if the intention was to assassinate him.

But his involvement with Wikileaks, discovered on his computer, coupled with his job at the DNC and the controversy swirling around the DNC at the time, would have made a simple mugging/manslaughter case a political hot potato for higher-ups in the Washington, D.C. police department. 

That kind of scenario would be the old story of "It's not the act, it's the cover-up."  

On the other hand what's now been revealed about the Wikileaks angle is the stuff of conspiracy theories. And the former D.C. police homicide detective who broke open the Wikileaks angle believes that the solution to the mystery of who killed Seth Rich is on Rich's computer.  

May 16, 2017
FOX News

The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, investigative sources told Fox News.

A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report -- generated within 96 hours after DNC staffer Seth Rich's murder -- detailing the contents of Rich’s computer said he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time. [MacFadyen died a natural death at the age of 76; see full report.]

“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.

The revelation is consistent with the findings of Rod Wheeler, a former DC homicide detective and Fox News contributor and whose private investigation firm was hired by a third party on behalf of Rich’s family to probe the case. Rich was shot from behind in the wee hours, but was not robbed.

“My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,” Wheeler said. “I do believe that the answers to who murdered Seth Rich sits on his computer on a shelf at the DC police or FBI headquarters.”

The federal investigator, who requested anonymity, said 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich to MacFadyen before May 21.

On July 22, just 12 days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to show top party officials conspired to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont from becoming the party’s presidential nominee.

That controversy resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning as DNC chairperson. A number of Sanders supporters refused to back party nominee Hillary Clinton, and some subsequently formed groups to work against Clinton and the party.


The FBI’s national office declined to comment, but sources said the bureau provided cyber expertise to examine Rich’s computer.

Wheeler believes powerful forces are preventing the case from a thorough investigation.

“My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward,” Wheeler told Fox News. “That is unfortunate. Seth Rich’s murder is unsolved as a result of that.”

A spokesman for the Rich family said Wheeler was not authorized to speak for the family and called assertions Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks "unsubstantiated." Brad Bauman said even if purported emails were to surface, it would not necessarily mean Rich had helped WikiLeaks.

"Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we've seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so," Bauman said. "We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers."


Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman
Plenty more in the report. Also see the website for a video report and photographs of Seth Rich. 


Uh oh. U.S. sounds hopping mad about de-escalation zones in Syria

May 15, from the Daily Mail: "Assad's murder machine: Syria has executed thousands of prisoners - mostly civilians opposed to the government - and burned the dead bodies in a giant crematorium, US administration claims."

The gist of these latest accusations against Assad:

Look at these photos from a commercial satellite. Do you know what these photos mean? They mean Assad is every day hanging scores of innocent prisoners by the neck until dead then to hide the evidence trucking the corpses to what sure looks to us from the satellite photos like a crematorium. 

(What is the difference, I wonder, between a Russian military satellite's eyesight and that of a commercial satellite and for that matter the American military's eyes in the sky? I got interested in satellite eyesight when I noted that only a Russian satellite was able to see Islamic State oil truck convoys driving from Raqqa in Syria to Turkey's side of the border.)

Moving along, last week America's 45th president informed TIME magazine that Assad had stored poison gas "all over the place." The revelation could explain why the 59 U.S. airstrikes, launched against a Syrian military airbase in alleged retaliation for a chemical attack against Syrian civilians, didn't raise toxic clouds of gas. Assad had most probably stored the poison gas in rabbit warrens all over Syria instead of the military facility.

So what does it all mean? For starters I think it means a weapons expert named Theodore Postol and a neuropharmacologist named Denis O'Brien ('Those aren't the symptoms of sarin poisoning you idiots') raised so many questions about the Khan Sheikhoun incident that governments wanting Assad gone are now hesitant to encourage terrorist groups to launch more chemical attacks to frame him. In that case the governments would have to focus on making other charges against Assad.

Secondly I think it means -- from the Daily Mail report above:
[Stuart Jones, acting US assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs] also said on Monday [May 15] that the United States should not wholeheartedly believe a deal to set up 'de-escalation zones' brokered by Russia during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital Astana last week.
The deal was reached with support from Iran and Turkey during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana earlier this month. Jones attended the talks.

"In light of the failures of the past ceasefire agreements, we have reason to be skeptical," he said.

Jones said Assad's government had carried out air strikes, chemical attacks, extrajudicial killings, starvation, and other measures to target civilians and its opponents.

He criticized Russia and Iran for maintaining their support for Assad despite those tactics.
"These atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran," Jones said.

"The [Assad] regime must stop all attacks on civilian and opposition forces. And Russia must bear responsibility to ensure regime compliance."
He did not say what measures America might take if Russia does not change its stance.
As to the present status of the plan for de-escalation zones -- 
ASTANA, May 16. /TASS/. Guarantors of Syria ceasefire - Russia, Turkey and Iran - are actively working on implementing a memorandum on creating de-escalation zones in Syria, including on drawing up a map and establishing checkpoints, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Tuesday.
"Currently, countries-guarantors and all parties concerned are working on implementing the memorandum on setting up the so-called de-escalation zones.
The recent working meetings between Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Beijing with the senior leadership of Russia and the Turkish Republic showed that the sides are actively working on various aspects of fulfilling this memorandum," Abdrakhmanov said on the sidelines of a government meeting. This effort mostly involves military experts, he said.
"This concerns designating the de-escalation zones geographically, on the map, and also establishing observation points and checkpoints along these zones," Abdrakhmanov said.
A particular task for the sides will be to agree on who will control the de-escalation zones and will be on duty at the checkpoints.
On May 4, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to set up four de-escalation zones in Syria. Under a memorandum signed at the talks in Kazakhstan’s Astana, these four zones include the Idlib province and some parts of neighboring provinces (Aleppo, Latakia and Hama), an area north of Homs, Damascus’s suburb Eastern Ghouta, and a number of provinces in southern Syria - Daraa and Al-Quneitra. 
In those areas, combat operations, including flights by military aircraft, are outlawed starting from May 6. 
The memorandum was concluded for six months and can be extended automatically [Pundita note: and to eventually include all of Syria].
In other words the de-escalation plan is moving ahead without the approval of the United States, United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. From the statements of Mr Jones this doesn't seem to be going over well with the American government, and probably not with other governments that have invested so much in using terrorist groups to fight the Syrian government.   


Private eye claims evidence Seth Rich in contact with Wikileaks prior to his murder UPDATED

Update May 16 1:15 PM EDT

Latest report from FOX on the Wikileaks angle in the Seth Rich case; it's now a national story:

"Family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich blasts detective over report of WikiLeaks link"

Also see my post today at 11:37 AM EDT for excerpts from an earlier version of the above report:


FOX5 News [Washington, DC local FOX network television station "WTTG"]  
POSTED May 15 2017 10:41PM EDT
UPDATED May 16 2017 12:39AM EDT
Family's private investigator: There is evidence Seth Rich had contact with WikiLeaks prior to death

"A full report with the new details will air Tuesday morning on FOX News."

It has been almost a year since Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in the nation's capital. There have been no solid answers about why he was killed until now.

Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C and police have suggested the killing in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood was a botched robbery. However, online conspiracy theories have tied the murder to Rich's work at the DNC.

Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich's death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death.

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"[Neither] The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday May 16]."

A full report with the new details will air Tuesday morning on FOX News.


The Tuesday AM report will show up online at FOX5 website, for those outside the station's viewing area, and if the report has legs it will be picked up by FOX News national cable.

Monday, May 15

A Perfect Banquet for China's Belt and Road Forum

Every detail of the May 14 banquet for the opening of the One Belt One Road forum/summit was perfect. From the Sputnik photo gallery of the banquet: the photos of the food sculpture table illustrating the lands through which One Belt One Road will travel and the place setting for the banquet, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, are by Damir Sagolj for Reuters; the photo of the thousand or so guests seated at the banquet is by Wu Hong for Reuters. 

Wish I knew the menu. Not too long ago the Western press would have been full of news about every last detail of the banquet including the menu. Times have changed.