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TBR News April 21, 2018

Apr 21 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 21, 2018:” The British face domestic problems even more accentuated than those of the United States. They have a large and very restive black population as well as a larger Muslim one (approximately 1.6 million) and many of these are the young, dissatisfied types so easily recruited by the imams bent on furthering religious attacks on Christian communities that are perceived as “oppressing” Muslim countries. And in the black population, many of the younger members are also targets for Muslim fanaticism.  The Muslim population percentages in larger UK cities, for example are: Greater London – 17% (1.3 million of 7.5 million) and the industrial city of Birmingham 14.3% (139,771)

Their authorities are absolutely in full cooperation with American identification projects and we have had the total support of the following UK internet providers:

BT Group: operates the BT Total Broadband brand and has 4.6 million customers.The company has broadband to other ISPs through the Openreach brand. It also operates under the Plusnet brand. Plusnet was founded in 1997..

Sky Broadband: a digital TV provider that also provides broadband and home phone services. Launched in 2006, it has its headquarters in London, UK. It offers bundle services with TV, home phone and broadband services. It has operated the Be Unlimited brand since February 2013. In 2013 it acquired O2’s home broadband business

Virgin Media: offers consumers a quadruple play bundle of TV, broadband, home phone and mobile. The UK ISP has approximately 10 million customers.The company also provides fibre optic broadband of up to 100Mb, with 120Mb

TalkTalk: TalkTalk offers broadband service to consumers in the UK. Launched in 2004, the ISP has a customer base of 4.12 million. The ISP offers broadband and landline phone services, primarily through LLU. TalkTalk also operates the AOL Broadband brand.

Updata : – Updata Infrastructure UK is a broadband provider focusing on public sector markets with a customer base covering schools, local authorities and primary care trusts.

EE: Operates home broadband under the EE brand, previously operated as Orange Broadband.

Also working closely with U.S. identification/interdiction programs are several top UK domestic intelligence agencies. These are: The British government’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ. GCHQ, has had access to the system since June, 2010. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6), which  is the agency which supplies Her Majesty’s Government with foreign intelligence.

Prism program allowed GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to obtain personal material, such as emails, photographs and videos, from internet companies based outside the UK.

The JTLS (Joint Technical Language Service) is a small department and cross-government resource responsible for mainly technical language support and translation and interpreting services across government departments. It is co-located with GCHQ for administrative purposes.

GCHQ has contacted the PRISM program of the National Security Agency (NSA) more than 19,785 times with requests for information on the citizens of the UK since 2007 and cross-government resource responsible for mainly technical language support and translation and interpreting services across government departments. It is co-located with GCHQ for administrative purposes.

The FBI and the NSA can tap directly into the central servers of nine leading internet companies.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Interview with James Comey
  • Donald Trump attacks New York Times journalist over Michael Cohen article
  • Comey Memo: Trump Floated Idea Of Jailing Journalists To Make Them ‘Talk’
  • Russia – U.S. strikes remove moral hurdles for S-300 missiles for Assad: RIA
  • California does ‘poor job’ in assisting homeless: state auditor
  • Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel Is a Matter of Policy
  • Cure Worse Than Disease: Bill to Restrict Trump’s War Powers Would Actually “Endorse a Worldwide War on Terror”
  • The strange death of William Colby, CIA chief
  • Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley warns of rising anti-Semitism
  • Traditional antisemitism is back, global study finds
  • Will the US confront Iran’s forces in Syria?

 

 

Interview with James Comey

‘What Am I Doing? How Did I End Up Here?

April 20, 2018

In a DER SPIEGEL interview, former FBI Director James Comey discusses how U.S. President Donald Trump resembles a mafia boss, the dangers of egocentrism and why impeachment would let the American people off the hook.

Interview Conducted by Christoph Scheuermann and Mathieu von Rohr

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Comey, let’s jump right into this.

Comey: Yeah. Hit me. Hit me.

DER SPIEGEL: You have written a book about leadership, and while U.S. President Donald Trump is certainly not the only focus, you do spend quite a bit of time discussing him. Then, in your interview with ABC, you said Trump was “morally unfit” to be president. Why?

Comey: The way I’d sum it up is: Anyone who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who speaks about and treats women like pieces of meat and who lies constantly about things big and small, and then insists that America believe it, in my view, is not morally fit to be president. And one of the reasons I say it that way is because of all the stuff we heard following the publication of “Fire and Fury,” about whether he is medically fit. I don’t buy that. I never saw any indication of that.

DER SPIEGEL: Almost exactly a year has passed since Trump fired you from your position as director of the FBI. What was that like?

Comey: It was surreal in a way. I had been touring the L.A. field office, and there was a group of employees gathered in a big room that had three TVs on the back wall. I was speaking to them and saying what I would typically say about the values of the FBI and our mission – and I got distracted because on the TVs in the back, it said: “Comey resigns.” There are a lot of funny people at the FBI, so I thought it was a joke. I turned to my staff off to the side and said: “That took a lot of work.” I continued speaking and then the TVs changed to “Comey fired.” It was a bizarre experience.

DER SPIEGEL: Is your book a way of getting revenge on Trump?

Comey: I’m really not interested in getting revenge by virtue of what I am doing. I would actually rather not be doing this, but my thinking was I can be useful, especially now. This is something that I really have an obligation to do, and that’s why I’m doing it.

DER SPIEGEL: The president has called you a “slimeball,” a “liar” and a “leaker.” He has also suggested that you be jailed. What is your reaction?

Comey: One is a shrug. The second is: We can’t all simply shrug at this. It’s not normal in this country for the president of the United States to say that a private person should be in jail. That’s not consistent with American values. It’s really important that Americans not become numb to it and accept it as normal behavior. We have to realize that this is not the way our leaders behave. It’s not consistent with our values.

DER SPIEGEL: You also attack Trump personally in your book, writing that he looks shorter than expected with a “slightly orange” face and “bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles.” You even point out that his hands are smaller than your own. With such passages, are you not undermining your own arguments about morals and decency?

Comey: I don’t think they’re attacks. I didn’t intend them as attacks and I really don’t think they can reasonably be thought of as attacks. I’ve never been an author before, and my editors would say to me: Bring the reader with you. Show the reader what’s inside your head. Let them be in the room with you. In the room, that’s what I was struck by, that his face looked orange and he had white circles under his eyes and his hair was very impressive. And I’m not looking to make fun of his hand size, but I remembered in the moment that there had been this business about hand size – and I remember thinking as I went to shake his hand: How big is it?

DER SPIEGEL: You really didn’t think he would strike back if you wrote about his hand size?

Comey: (Grinning) The thought never entered my mind.

DER SPIEGEL: Your first meeting with Trump was in early January 2017 when you informed him together with the heads of the NSA and the CIA of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. You write that the meeting in the Trump Tower in New York reminded you of a meeting with a mob boss. Where did that comparison come from?

Comey: I know the mob very well from my work here in New York (Eds. Note: Comey was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York in the early 1990s) and when the president-elect and his team shifted immediately to political spin with us still at the table, this image popped into my head. It felt like the effort of a boss to bring everybody into the family. I pushed it away because I thought it was too dramatic, but in my encounters thereafter, it kept coming back into my head.

DER SPIEGEL: Isn’t the comparison of Trump to a mafia boss a bit overwrought?

Comey: I’m not trying to suggest Donald Trump is out breaking legs or firebombing stores or hijacking trucks. I’m trying to compare it to a leadership style where loyalty to the boss is everything, where there are no external reference points. Most leaders – all ethical leaders – have some external reference points that they look to when making decisions, whether it be philosophy, religion, logic, tradition or history. But with a boss like the ones I’ve dealt with over the years, it’s about the boss. What can you do for me? How are you serving me? And I was struck by the comparison of that leadership culture to his leadership culture. That’s what I mean by the comparison.

DER SPIEGEL: For Trump it’s all about Trump?

Comey: I was struck that the only reference point seems to be internal. What will be good for me? What will bring me the affirmation that I need?

DER SPIEGEL: You write that Trump tried to turn you into a kind of accomplice from the very beginning. At a meeting in the White House, he even seemed to try to kiss you on the cheek.

Comey: The alleged kiss – and there was no kiss, by the way – was excruciating. It’s a scene that, in my mind, plays in slow motion because I was trying very much to avoid appearing to be close to the president of the United States. Since Watergate, the U.S. has developed a tradition that the FBI stays at a distance from the president. One of the abuses of Watergate was that J. Edgar Hoover (Eds. Note: Hoover was director of the FBI at the time) was too close to presidents.

DER SPIEGEL: On that day, Trump was receiving U.S. security officials to thank them for their work during his inauguration. Initially, you didn’t want to attend.

Comey: I was very, very keen to maintain that distance. I was trying to hide, as you probably know, literally in a blue curtain. After the Trump-Clinton campaign (Eds. Note: the reference here is to the scandal surrounding the FBI’s role in the Hillary Clinton email affair), I was very concerned about the appearance that I was somehow one of his people. When the president summoned me forward, I walked across that room determined not to let him hug me. I resisted the hug, but he tried to pull me down and then whispered in my ear: “I really look forward to working with you.” The problem was that the cameras were on the other side, and so the whole world, my children too, saw a kiss. The optics of that were very concerning to me.

DER SPIEGEL: Then came your famous one-on-one dinner with Trump, during which he famously asked you to pledge loyalty to him. Why didn’t you just tell him that the question was inappropriate?

Comey: That’s a really good question. Probably because I’m not as strong as I should be. Probably because I was surprised, stunned by the request, and it’s difficult to describe being at dinner alone with the president of the United States. I don’t know how many people would say: “Mr. President, you shouldn’t be saying that.” In a way, I did so because I met his first request with silence. Then, even though it was hard to get a word in, I spoke about the importance of the distance between the president and the Justice Department and the FBI. Despite that, he came back and asked again.

DER SPIEGEL: Ultimately, you settled for “honest loyalty.”

Comey: Right. He said again that he needs loyalty, and I said: “I’ll always be honest with you. You’ll always have honesty.” He replied by saying: “That’s what I want. Honest loyalty.” I accepted that as a way of getting out of a very awkward conversation, but also because I think I had made clear how he should understand “honest loyalty.”

DER SPIEGEL: Back to your first visit with Trump on Jan. 6, 2017. You had to tell him about the dossier compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele. Included in the dossier is a claim that Trump was in a Moscow hotel room with prostitutes. What exactly did you tell him?

Comey: My goal was to put him on notice, to alert him that this material was out there. I wasn’t saying that I believed it, but we thought it was our obligation as the intelligence community to let him know. I didn’t go into all the details. I did talk about prostitutes in Russia, but I didn’t think it was necessary to go into the other parts of it – that people call the “golden showers” thing. I was deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing. I was actually floating above myself looking down thinking: “What am I doing? How did I end up here?”

DER SPIEGEL: You didn’t tell him that the dossier claimed that the prostitutes had urinated on each other?

Comey: No, I did not.

DER SPIEGEL: How did he react?

Comey: Defensively. And he interrupted me very quickly and then began talking about accusations that women had made against him. He then asked me, I assumed rhetorically, whether he looked like a guy who needed the service of hookers. The conversation, in my judgment, was starting to spin out of control. It was at that moment that I told him for the first time that we weren’t investigating him personally. I just needed him to know this because the press was likely to report on it soon. One of our jobs at the FBI is to protect the presidency, and if someone was trying to blackmail him, one of the ways we deal with it is to make sure the person knows the FBI knows.

DER SPIEGEL: Did Trump understand the seriousness of the situation?

Comey: I think so, yeah, because he then later called me to talk about it again. I think he got it.

DER SPIEGEL: On the one hand, you’re supposed to protect the president. On the other, you had an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the elections, which involved people close to Trump. Isn’t that a fundamental conflict?

Comey: Well, it can be. There’s a natural tension between the FBI’s obligation to protect the government and its obligation to investigate parts of the government. But I think it’s a conflict that can be navigated.

DER SPIEGEL: What was your view of the veracity of the Steele dossier?

Comey: I didn’t know at the time. It came from a reliable source who had an established source network in Russia. And I knew that one of the central assertions of this collection of materials was true, namely that the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to influence the American election. People talk all the time about how the Steele dossier was unconfirmed. That part, in our experience, was confirmed. The rest of it, the details and the salacious things, I didn’t know. An effort was underway when I was fired to try to evaluate it in a deeper way, but I don’t know where that finished.

DER SPIEGEL: At the center of this whole thing is the question, currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as to whether part of the Trump campaign actually colluded with Russia. Did it happen?

Comey: One of the duties of the special counsel is to investigate exactly that. There was certainly a basis for the investigation. As you now know, because it’s public, the FBI had information that a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor had been in touch with a Russian representative about obtaining emails damaging to Hillary Clinton. I don’t know what the ultimate conclusion will be, but I do know that if Mueller is allowed to do his work, he’ll find the truth.

DER SPIEGEL: Was Trump attempting to obstruct justice when he asked you to suspend the investigation into Michael Flynn, his security adviser for a short time, and by then firing you?

Comey: I don’t know. There is some evidence of obstruction of justice, especially in the encounter relating to Flynn. In this circumstance, I’m a witness, so I don’t know where the special counsel will end up.

DER SPIEGEL: Should the president be impeached?

Comey: Ultimately, the law, the facts and our Constitution will decide that. This may sound like a strange answer, but in a way, I hope not because I think that would let the American people off the hook. The American people have very strong, common values that are more important than our policy fights over guns or something. If Donald Trump were impeached or removed from office, that would, in a way, bake in some of our disagreements. I think the American people owe it to themselves to stand up and vote their values.

DER SPIEGEL: Are you concerned that Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign, could be fired by the president?

Comey: Of course, I worry about it. It would be an enormous mistake and an attack on the rule of law. I also think it would be a mistake as a practical matter, because as important as the special counsel is, I’m confident that the work would continue. To stop the work, the president would have to fire everyone in the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that’s not possible.

DER SPIEGEL: Mueller’s investigation is, as we have discussed, also focused on possible obstruction of justice by the president – and you are an important witness. Is there a danger that, with your book and the interviews you have given, you could compromise yourself as a witness?

Comey: That’s a reasonable question. I don’t think so because my testimony is locked down at this point. I’ve testified in front of the Senate about it. I wrote memos about the key encounters, so there’s a concrete record. And so long as I continue to tell the truth – and if you tell the truth, you’ll be consistent – I don’t see that as an issue.

DER SPIEGEL: But if you’re seen as being partisan, that could cast doubt on the credibility of your testimony or your memos.

Comey: Maybe. Although if someone were looking to cross-examine me, they would ask those same questions whether or not I wrote a book. So I don’t see a significant issue there.

DER SPIEGEL: Currently, you are the archenemy of many Trump supporters. Back in October 2016, it was the other way around. That was when you sent a letter to Congress, with just 11 days to go until the election, informing lawmakers that the FBI had resumed its investigation into Hillary Clinton because a laptop turned up with her emails on it. You were attacked by the Clinton people and defended by the Trump campaign.

Comey: You know, it’s funny. My wife has said: “When you started this, you knew you were going to anger half of the political partisans. I never imagined that you would anger both halves.” I think because they don’t talk to each other, they don’t deal with the logic. I can’t be both on Clinton’s side and on Trump’s side.

DER SPIEGEL: Did you cost Hillary Clinton the presidency? She is convinced that you did.

Comey: I don’t know. I really, really hope not, but I don’t know.

DER SPIEGEL: She plunged in the polls afterward. Your letter clearly had an influence.

Comey: Obviously, it could have, but I wasn’t making the decision for political reasons. My whole life in government was devoted to institutions that I loved because they had nothing to do with politics. But sometimes you’re stuck.

DER SPIEGEL: Yet in your book, you write about your own political considerations. In July 2016, for example, you gave a controversial press conference in which you personally announced the end of the investigation into Clinton even though that was the task of the Department of Justice. You did so to demonstrate your independence. Why didn’t you just play it by the book?

Comey: I’d love to find that book. We have an expression in English: a “500-year flood.” Remember, the FBI was criminally investigating one of the two candidates for president of the United States during the election year in the middle of one of the angriest partisan periods in our nation’s history. The reason I hope people read my book is not to be convinced I was right. It’s instead to see somebody trying to make decisions in an ethical way. I pray no FBI director ever has to try and figure this out again because it was just a series of no-win situations, where all the options were terrible.

DER SPIEGEL: You have also admitted to having been influenced by the assumption that Clinton would win when you sent that letter to Congress in late October 2016.

Comey: I don’t remember thinking about the polls, but it is possible given that the whole country was assuming Hillary Clinton was going to be elected. Did that have an impact? Of course, it’s possible.

DER SPIEGEL: You have been accused of forcing your way into the spotlight. You have admitted yourself that you are a bit too ego-driven at times. Are you too egocentric?

Comey: How dare you? (Laughs) Nobody in their right mind could comment on their own ego in that way. You’d have to ask other people. As I say in the book, I’ve worried since I was a teenager about ego and pride because I know it’s a weakness of mine.

DER SPIEGEL: In your career as a public prosecutor, as deputy attorney general and as director of the FBI, you’ve been privy to many of the largest scandals in America’s recent past. In the 1990s, you were involved in the Whitewater investigation into the Clintons’ controversial real estate investments. You were in charge of the investigation into the billionaire Marc Rich. You were involved in the question as to whether U.S. soldiers in Iraq had tortured detainees …

Comey: You really have read the book.

DER SPIEGEL: Of course. Yet you keep coming back to Trump. Why?

Comey: You can’t write about ethical leadership without including stories about him because he’s the counterpoint.

DER SPIEGEL: You also reveal in your book that Trump’s current chief-of-staff, John Kelly, wanted to quit after you were fired but that you asked him to stay. But you also say that Trump taints everyone who works with him. What should his staff do? Stay or go?

Comey: Great question, and I don’t think anyone can answer it except the person. I can’t from the outside say at what point things come out of balance between your efforts to protect the country and the personal compromise. I think there are people now who are serving because they love this country and want to uphold its values. It is an intensely personal judgment about the point at which you’re becoming so stained as a person – that you’re becoming an enabler – that it makes no sense to stay.

DER SPIEGEL: You would have stayed?

Comey: I definitely would have stayed because I thought I had an obligation to try and protect the FBI.

DER SPIEGEL: You compare this presidency to a forest fire. What makes Trump so dangerous to America?

Comey: One of the core values of this country is that the truth is our touchstone, and we have always graded our politicians by their distance from that touchstone. When George W. Bush spoke about Iraq, when Barack Obama talked about Obamacare, we spent a tremendous amount of time in this country determining whether they were telling the truth. The danger is that Donald Trump lies so often that we will lose that touchstone.

DER SPIEGEL: A forest fire burns everything down in its path. Is that what Trump is doing?

Comey: I hope he doesn’t burn everything down. It will damage. It will hurt. But it will go out, and then remarkable things will grow. And I already see it growing. Seeing those kids all over the country in the wake of the Parkland shooting, marching and talking about public policy and guns. It impressed me. I think parents all around America are talking about values and truth and prejudice and fairness in a way they didn’t before. I don’t care whether the next president is Republican or Democrat. This isn’t about politics for me. But it has to be someone who embodies those values and talks about the importance of representing those values in America and to the world.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you sometimes miss Barack Obama?

Comey: Yes. Yeah. Yep. And I told him that when he was leaving. I was not a supporter of his, I gave money to his opponents. But I came to respect him. He’s not a perfect person, but he was someone who cared deeply about those institutional values.

DER SPIEGEL: Prior to publication, the FBI took a look at your book. Is “censored” an accurate word to use?Comey: Pre-publication review. We never call it “censorship.”

DER SPIEGEL: Did they make many changes?

Comey: No.

DER SPIEGEL: None at all?

Comey: Some. I was the director of the FBI and I wrote it so that it would be acceptable to them. I knew I couldn’t include classified information or sensitive investigative details. So I didn’t. The things they suggested I change were all very small and marginal.

DER SPIEGEL: You repeat in several parts of the book that your goal was to keep the FBI out of politics. But now, you are being accused by both sides of the political spectrum that you politicized the FBI. What did you do wrong?

Comey: I reject the premise. I really don’t think the FBI is politicized. The FBI is being politically attacked, especially now by the Republicans, which is very shortsighted.

DER SPIEGEL: You said at the beginning of your tenure that “FBI director is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Comey: Yeah.

DER SPIEGEL: What comes afterward?

Comey: I don’t know. I wrote a book. I’m going to speak about ethics and leadership and I’ve signed up to teach next year at the college I graduated from (Eds. Note: College of William and Mary in Virginia), which I’m really excited about. But I will always miss the FBI job. I had planned to be there another six years.

DER SPIEGEL: Will you run for office?

Comey: No.

DER SPIEGEL: Never?

Comey: Never.

DER SPIEGEL: That is a definitive answer.

Comey: Yeah, you got it. That’s not my thing.

DER SPIEGEL: Shortly before you were fired, you began tweeting. As your screen name, you chose Reinhold Niebuhr, the American theologian who died in 1971. Why him?

Comey: Because Niebuhr was a huge influence on me as a university student, and I wanted something that people wouldn’t figure out.

DER SPIEGEL: It didn’t take long.

Comey: But Niebuhr still speaks to me.

DER SPIEGEL: How so?

Comey: Niebuhr embraced the idea that people are capable of tremendous bad, but he also said that’s not an excuse for not trying to achieve justice in the world. That always appealed to me because I could see the dark side of humanity, but Niebuhr was able to frame it in such a way that said: “So what? You have an obligation to try and help people and do good.” He also was very good about reminding Americans of the irony of American history, that people don’t always appreciate your good intentions. And the last thing is: He was a constant reminder. He used to call it the “sin of pride,” and that’s something I’ve always worried about.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Comey, thank you for this interview.

Donald Trump attacks New York Times journalist over Michael Cohen article

Trump lashed out on Twitter after Maggie Haberman contributed to a story suggesting Cohen might cooperate with federal investigators

April 21, 2017

by Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump lashed out on Saturday at the New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman, after she contributed to a story that suggested his longtime lawyer and fixer might cooperate with federal investigators.

“The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Habberman [sic] known as a Crooked H[illary Clinton] flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip,’” Trump wrote.

In a subsequent tweet, the president corrected his spelling.

Haberman responded on Twitter, writing: “When I was reporting this story, I said to one person who’s observed the Cohen-Trump relationship that Trump has been abusive to him. The person replied, ‘He’s abusive to everybody.’”

Last week, federal agents seized business records, emails and other documents during raids of Cohen’s office, hotel room and home. The material retrieved reportedly included documents related to a payment Cohen made in 2016 to silence a pornographic film actor, Stormy Daniels, from going public about an alleged affair with Trump. A payment made to a Playboy model who also claims to have had an affair with Trump, Karen McDougal, was also at issue.

Trump denies the affairs and has called the raids a “witch hunt” perpetrated by his own justice department. The Cohen raid was reportedly the result of a referral to New York authorities by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and alleged collusion between Trump aides and Moscow. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction of justice.

Haberman, who has been called the “Trump whisperer” for her deeply sourced reporting on the president, was part of a team that this week won a Pulitzer prize for national reporting.

The Pulitzer was awarded jointly with the Washington Post for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the president-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration”.

In the Cohen story – which was published on the front page of the Times under the headline “Punching Bag For President Now Has Clout” – Haberman, Sharon LaFraniere and Danny Hakim report that the attorney, who is known for his unflinchingly loyalty to Trump, could face devastating legal fees if not criminal charges, a reality that may sway him to work with federal agents.

The article quotes Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Trump who worked with Cohen, and most recently went on a bizarre media blitz in which he insisted he would defy subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller. Days later Nunberg reversed course and appeared for his scheduled grand jury appearance.

“Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” Nunberg told the Times, adding that Trump had long taken Cohen “for granted”.

“Whenever anyone complains to me about Trump screwing them over, my reflexive response is that person has nothing to complain about compared to Michael,” Nunberg said.

Trump appeared to refer to Nunberg in his second tweet of the morning: “They use non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected.

“Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”

Cohen told Vanity Fair in September he would “take a bullet” for his boss. He apparently attempted to apologize to Melania Trump about the pain he caused by making the $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford.

The president spent Saturday morning at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, while his wife flew to Houston to attend the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush. Photographers captured Trump looking at his phone.

 

Comey Memo: Trump Floated Idea Of Jailing Journalists To Make Them ‘Talk

The president wanted to stop leaks pouring from the White House.

April 20, 2018

by Nick Visser

Huffington Post

President Donald Trump floated the idea of jailing journalists to stop leaks from the White House, former FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo last year in which he recalled an encounter with the president. The document was published by various news outlets on Thursday just hours after the Department of Justice released copies to congressional leaders.

“The president then wrapped up our conversation by returning to the issue of finding leakers,” Comey wrote in the document, dated Feb. 14, 2017. “I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message. He replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail.”

″‘They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk,’” Comey recounted the president saying. “I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.”

The New York Times first reported the encounter last May.

The Justice Department sent the memo copies to top lawmakers after some threatened to subpoena the agency to obtain them. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said the Justice Department decided to do so after determining their release “would not adversely impact any ongoing investigation.”

They were quickly leaked to various media outlets who published the redacted versions in full. They contained little information that hadn’t been made public during congressional testimony or in Comey’s new memoir, but they touched on a variety of topics reported since Comey’s firing last May.

Trump has long fought against the press, branding national media outlets like CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post as “fake news”

Late Thursday, Trump tweeted that Comey’s memos proved there was “NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION” regarding the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

“Also, he leaked classified information. WOW!” Trump wrote. “Will the Witch Hunt continue?”

 

Russia – U.S. strikes remove moral hurdles for S-300 missiles for Assad: RIA

April 20, 2018

Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. military strikes on Syria last week removed any moral obligation Russia had to withhold S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems from its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday, according to RIA state news agency.

Lavrov was also quoted as saying that, prior to the U.S. strikes on Syrian targets, Russia had told U.S. officials which areas of Syria represented “red lines” for Moscow, and the U.S. military action did not cross those lines.

“Now, we have no moral obligations. We had the moral obligations, we had promised not to do it some 10 years ago, I think, upon the request of our known partners,” he said according to RIA.

He also said that he was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump would not allow an armed confrontation between their two countries, RIA reported.

A Russian army commander has also said that Moscow would consider supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria following U.S.-led strikes.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles last week in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack by government forces on a rebel-held area near the capital.

According to military analysts, the S-300 surface-to-air missile system would improve Russia’s ability to control air space in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and could be aimed at deterring tougher U.S. action.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Christian Lowe and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Peter Graff and Hugh Lawson

 

California does ‘poor job’ in assisting homeless: state auditor

April 20, 2018

Reuters

(Reuters) – California does a poor job helping homeless people who live in cars, abandoned buildings and on the street find shelter and must do more to address the problem in their state that leads the nation in homelessness, the state’s auditor said on Thursday.

Lawmakers should require the state’s newly formed homeless council to create and implement a statewide plan by next April for addressing homelessness in California, where about a fourth of all homeless people in the United States live, State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report.

“California should do more to address homelessness … and it does a poor job of sheltering this vulnerable population,” the report said.

Howle also recommended the state fully staff the council, created in 2016, increase funding for activities recommended by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and improve efforts to raise non-federal money to address homelessness, which increased 14 percent from 2016 to 2017 in California.

“At first blush the audit appears to highlight what is obvious to many Californians; the state needs to do a better job of getting people off the streets,” said State Senator Scott Wilk, who requested the report, in a statement.

The Los Angeles metro area has alone seen a 75 percent increase in unsheltered homelessness in the last six years, partly due to the lack of affordable housing in the area, according to federal data.

“We have tried every avenue for the last two years … nothing,” Theresa Shelton, 32, who lives in a car with her boyfriend in Lancaster, a city in northern Los Angeles County, told Reuters. She added that the system to help the homeless is greatly overburdened.

Three out of every four of the 55,000 homeless people in the Los Angeles metro area are in a similar situation, living in a car, abandoned buildings or on the street. In contrast, only one out of every 20 of the 76,000 homeless people in New York, the nation’s largest metro area, are unsheltered, the report said.

Two factors have played a role in the difference between New York and Los Angeles. First, up until recently, when the state’s homeless council was formed, California did not have a single entity that was dealing with homelessness.

In the New York metro area, where about 85 percent of the state’s homeless live, however, New York City’s Department of Homeless Services is a well established entity with 2,000 employees and a $1 billion budget, the report said.

The other factor is money. New York’s homeless agency budgeted $17,000 while Los Angeles budgeted $5,000 per homeless individual in 2017, the report said.

“The right to shelter in New York City is legally mandated and plays a central role in shaping its response to homelessness,” the report said.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Hugh Lawson

 

Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel Is a Matter of Policy

Western media is actively involved in shielding Israel and enhancing its diminishing brand, while painstakingly demolishing the image of Israel’s enemies.

April 21, 2018

by Ramzy Baroud

AntiWar

The term “media bias” does not do justice to the western corporate media’s relationship with Israel and Palestine. The relationship is, indeed, far more profound than mere partiality. It is not ignorance, either. It is a calculated and long-term campaign, aimed at guarding Israel and demonizing Palestinians.

The current disgraceful coverage of Gaza’s popular protests indicates that the media’s position aims at suppressing the truth on Palestine, at any cost and by any means.

Political symbiosis, cultural affinity, Hollywood, the outreaching influence of pro-Israel and Zionist groups within the political and media circles, are some of the explanations many of us have offered as to why Israel is often viewed with sympathetic eyes and Palestinians and Arabs condemned.

But such explanations should hardly suffice. Nowadays, there are numerous media outlets that are trying to offset some of the imbalance, many of them emanating from the Middle East, but also other parts of the world. Palestinian and Arab journalists, intellectuals and cultural representatives are more present on a global stage than ever before and are more than capable of facing off, if not defeating, the pro-Israeli media discourse.

However, they are largely invisible to western media; it is the Israeli spokesperson who continues to occupy the center stage, speaking, shouting, theorizing and demonizing as he pleases.

It is, then, not a matter of media ignorance, but policy.

Even before March 30, when scores of Palestinians in Gaza were killed and thousands wounded, the US and British media, for example, should have, at least, questioned why hundreds of Israeli snipers and army tanks were ordered to deploy at the Gaza border to face-off Palestinian protesters.

Instead, they referred to “clashes” between Gaza youth and the snipers, as if they are equal forces in an equivalent battle.

Western media is not blind. If ordinary people are increasingly able to see the truth regarding the situation in Palestine, experienced western journalists cannot possibly be blind to the truth. They know, but they choose to remain silent.

The maxim that official Israeli propaganda or “hasbara” is too savvy no longer suffices. In fact, it is hardly true.

Where is the ingenuity in the way the Israeli army explained the killing of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza?

“Yesterday we saw 30,000 people,” the Israeli army tweeted on March 31. “We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”

If that is not bad enough, Israel’s ultra-nationalist Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, followed that self-indictment by declaring there are “no innocent people in Gaza”; thus, legitimizing the targeting of any Gazan within the besieged Strip.

Unfair media coverage is not fueled by the simplistic notion of “clever Israel, imprudent Arabs”. Western media is actively involved in shielding Israel and enhancing its diminishing brand, while painstakingly demolishing the image of Israel’s enemies.

Take for example, Israel’s unfounded propaganda that Yasser Murtaja, the Gaza journalist who was killed in cold blood by an Israeli sniper while covering the Great March of Return protests at the Gaza border, was a member of Hamas.

First, “unnamed officials” in Israel claimed that Yasser is “a member of the Hamas security apparatus.” Then, Lieberman offered more (fabricated) details that Yasser was on Hamas’ payroll since 2011 and “held a rank similar to a captain.” Many journalists took these statements and ran with them, constantly associating any news coverage of Yasser’s death with Hamas.

It turned out that, according to the US State Department, Yasser’s startup media company in Gaza had actually received a small grant from USAID, which subjected Yasser’s company to a rigorous vetting process.

More still, a report by the International Federation of Journalist claimed that Yasser was actually detained and beaten by the Gaza police in 2015, and that Israel’s Defense Minister is engineering a cover-up.

Judging by this, Israel’s media apparatus is as erratic and self-defeating as North Korea; but this is hardly the image conveyed by western media, because it insists on placing Israel on a moral pedestal while misrepresenting Palestinians, regardless of the circumstances.

But there is more to western media’s approach to Palestine and Israel than shielding and elevating Israel, while demonizing Palestinians. Oftentimes, the media works to distract from the issues altogether, as is the case in Britain today, where Israel’s image is rapidly deteriorating.

To disrupt the conversation on Palestine, the Israeli Occupation and the British government’s unconditional support of Israel, British mainstream media has turned the heat on Jeremy Corbyn, the popular leader of the Labor Party.

Accusations of anti-Semitism has dogged the party since Corbyn’s election in 2015. Yet, Corbyn is not racist; on the contrary, he has stood against racism, for the working class and other disadvantaged groups. His strong pro-Palestine stance, in particular, is threatening to compel a paradigm shift on Palestine and Israel within the revived and energized Labor Party.

Sadly, Corbyn’s counter strategy is almost entirely absent. Instead of issuing a statement condemning all forms of racism and moving on to deal with the urgent issues at hand, including that of Palestine, he allows his detractors to determine the nature of the discussion, if not the whole discourse. He is now trapped in a perpetual conversation, while the Labor Party is regularly purging its own members for alleged anti-Semitism.

Considering that Israel and its allies in the media, and elsewhere, conflate between criticism of Israel and its Zionist ideology, on the one hand, and that of Jews and Judaism on the other, Corbyn cannot win this battle.

Nor are Israel’s friends keen on winning, either. They merely want to prolong a futile debate so that British society remains embroiled in distractions and spares Israel any accountability for its action.

If British media was, indeed, keen on calling out racism and isolating racists, why then is there little discussion on Israel’s racist policies targeting Palestinians?

Media spin will continue to provide Israel with the needed margins to carry out its violent policies against the Palestinian people, with no moral accountability. It will remain loyal to Israel, creating a buffer between the truth and its audiences.

It is incumbent on us to expose this sinister relationship and hold mainstream media to account for covering up Israel’s crimes, as well as Israel for committing these crimes in the first place.

 

Cure Worse Than Disease: Bill to Restrict Trump’s War Powers Would Actually “Endorse a Worldwide War on Terror”

April 21 2018

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

On Monday, three Republican and three Democratic senators, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., released a draft of a new “authorization for use of military force,” or AUMF.

This AUMF would repeal the AUMF passed on September 14, 2001, which gave the president the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” It would also nullify the October, 2002, AUMF that authorized the president to use the military to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

Not surprisingly, Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have each taken this extremely broad language and run with it. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report found 37 examples in 14 different countries of Bush and Obama using the 2001 AUMF to justify the use of military force. When a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian government bomber in June 2017, the Trump administration explained that it could legally do so because the jet was there as part of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State — which is somehow an organization that committed the 9/11 attacks, even though it didn’t exist before 9/11.

So, something needs to be done about this. “For too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check,” Kaine recently said. “Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war.”

That sounds good. But the actual language of the Corker-Kaine bill appears to do almost the opposite of what its authors claim.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it may be “far broader and more dangerous than even current law.” The ACLU’s Christopher Anders calls it “a monumental shift that will amp up war everywhere.”

Steven Vladeck, a specialist in national security law at the University of Texas School of Law, believes that “the bill risks doing exactly what Congress refused to do in those first, tense days after 9/11 — write a blank check to this and future presidents to wage offensive war, without any regard for whether such uses of force are necessary or wise.”

Matthew Waxman, a Columbia Law School professor who served on the National Security Council during the Bush administration, has stated that it “entrenches an indefinite war.”

Bruce Ackerman, a prominent scholar of constitutional law at Yale Law School, is most pessimistic of all. “For all their brave talk over the years,” he said, “Sens. Corker and Kaine have tragically capitulated to the Trump administration, and invite Congress to endorse a worldwide war on terror.”

So, what would the bill actually do?

First, it discards the language in the 2001 AUMF which declares that force could only be used against those involved the 9/11 attacks — because “the nature of the ongoing armed conflict … has evolved to include numerous non-state terrorist groups.” Now, the president would be explicitly authorized to wage war against “the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and designated associated forces.” The bill specifies five designated associated forces: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Shabab; Al Qaeda in Syria; the Haqqani Network; and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

This would essentially give the executive branch post hoc approval for the ways presidents have used the 2001 AUMF to date. But what’s worse, the bill gives the president functionally unlimited power to add additional “associated forces” at will.

These associated forces can be anyone that “the President determines,” as long as the president claims they are “a co-belligerent” with our previously named enemies, or were once a part of them. They also can be located in any country that the president names — meaning that once the president adds them to the list, any amount of force can be used there, from drones to all-out war.

In theory, Congress would have the power to rescind the president’s designation, but of course, this would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override an inevitable presidential veto — so, in practice, it would never happen. Thus, the bill takes Congress’s constitutional power to declare war, in which the president can only act when provided congressional authorization, and inverts it, by giving the president the ability to act unless a supermajority of Congress stops them.

This is so bizarre that Anders believes, “This can’t possibly be constitutional. A Congress in 2018 can’t turn the power the Constitution gave to Congress over to the president in perpetuity.”

This brings up another aspect of the Corker-Kaine bill: Like the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, it has no time limit. “It would be one thing if, as folks from across the political spectrum have long proposed, the bill included a sunset,” says Vladeck, “so that Congress would have to affirmatively reauthorize the use of force on a regular basis.” Instead, the bill merely requires meaningless congressional debate at least once every four years.

Finally, the bill doesn’t even attempt to restrict the other legal justification that Trump has already used for the use of force, and will certainly use again in the future. At least the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs placed some weak limits on what presidents could do with them. But Trump, like many other presidents, has claimed that his Article II constitutional powers as commander in chief give him the power to use the military with few restraints.

For instance, the Trump administration did not claim that the recent bombing of Syria was legal under the 2001 AUMF, since that would plainly be ridiculous — no one believes that the Syrian government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Instead, said Defense Secretary James Mattis, “the president has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important U.S. national interests.” And, obviously, “U.S. national interests” could mean anything at all.

The good news, such as it is, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appears to have no appetite to bring the Corker-Kaine bill to a vote, assuming it even passes out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. That is: Senators like McConnell who have no appetite for exercising their constitutional duties may save us from senators who are doing so incompetently.

 

The strange death of William Colby, CIA chief

April 21, 2018

by Christian Jürs

William E. Colby January 1920-28 April 1996), intelligence officer, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Elbridge Colby, an army officer and educator, and Margaret Mary Egan Colby, an ardent Catholic who guided her son in the path of that religion. William Colby was also influenced by his father’s liberal views and by the family’s peripatetic movements to locations as diverse as China and Vermont, where he studied at Burlington High School. He attended Princeton University, where he felt himself to be an outsider, educated as he had been at public schools and presenting, at five feet, eight inches, topped by eyeglasses, the appearance of a young man unlikely to win acceptance through athletic prowess. He graduated with an A.B. in 1940.

In 1941 Colby joined the U.S. Army and in 1943 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS trained him for special missions, and he served behind enemy lines in France and Norway. In an effort to prevent German troops from being redeployed through Norway to be used against advancing Allied forces in Germany, he led the raid to destroy the Tangen railroad bridge–a daring and spectacular success, though the bridge was soon rebuilt.

In 1945 Colby married Barbara Heinzen; they had four children. He obtained a law degree from Columbia University in 1947, the same year that Congress approved the formation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After working for a short time in a law firm, Colby in 1949 joined the new agency. He served in Stockholm (1951-1953) and then in Rome (1953-1958), where he helped to arrange the secret subsidization of political parties to prevent communist electoral victories. Most of the recipients were centrist or slightly left of center, a political alignment that proved effective in combating communism but that gave Colby the reputation of having endorsed the “opening to the Left.”

Colby was CIA station chief in Saigon from 1959 to 1962 and headed the agency’s Far East division from 1962 to 1967. Then from 1968 to 1971 he directed the Phoenix program in South Vietnam, which sought to identify and eliminate communist activists (the Viet Cong) at the village level. Colby felt that the program was superior to the use of military force, which he believed was too blunt an instrument and alienated the Vietnamese. Nevertheless, estimates of the number killed under Phoenix range as high as 60,000 people. (Colby put the number at 20,587.) Phoenix has also been defended on relativist grounds–the Viet Cong assassinated nearly 40,000 of their enemies in the period from 1957 to 1972. But none of these arguments could prevent the program from becoming a focal point of the antiwar movement. Although Colby maintained that the deaths characteristically arose in combat and not as a result of cold-blooded murder, critics of Phoenix labeled it an assassination program and a crime against humanity.

After Phoenix, Colby rose within the CIA’s Washington bureaucracy, and on 4 September 1973 President Richard Nixon appointed him director of the agency. During his tenure the press and Congress turned on the CIA, accusing it of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from assassination plots to espionage against Americans at home. When in 1975 both houses of Congress set up inquiries into the activities of the intelligence community, Colby offered significant if limited cooperation. For example, he handed over to the Senate committee chaired by Idaho Democrat Frank Church details of the CIA’s recent operations against the left-leaning government in Chile. The agency’s attempts to sabotage the Chilean economy had contributed to the downfall of South America’s oldest democracy and to the installation of a vicious dictatorship. Colby’s candor on such matters shocked colleagues in the CIA, some of whom never forgave him for opening up the activities of what was, after all, a secret agency. His only daughter, Catherine, had died after a painful illness in April 1973, and colleagues speculated that the tragedy unlocked what some regarded as Colby’s already overdeveloped Christian conscience. Though he strenuously denied that his daughter had opposed Phoenix, perhaps Colby did want to atone for his part in the program. It is also clear that he disapproved of certain of the CIA’s activities that he called “deplorable” and “wrong” and wanted them stopped. In any case, he realized that a display of flexibility in his dealings with Congress would increase the agency’s chances of survival.

With CIA morale at a low ebb, Colby’s enemies began to line up. On the Left, a coalition of muckraking journalists, Vietnam War critics, and ambitious legislators refused to give him credit for attempting to open up the agency. On the Right, conservatives such as Barry Goldwater disliked Colby’s liberalism and concessions to the Church committee. Colby had become politically vulnerable, and on 30 January 1976 President Gerald Ford replaced him with George H. W. Bush. Colby had introduced some significant reforms, such as the prohibition of assassination as an instrument of national policy and the practice of informing select members of Congress about the CIA’s activities, but his intelligence career was over.

Colby’s life continued to be eventful. In 1978 he published his memoir, Honorable Men, in which he defended himself against the Left over Phoenix and against the Right over his decision to clear the air while director of the CIA. In 1982, following the enactment of stringent secrecy legislation in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. government began proceedings against Colby for making unauthorized disclosures, in the French-language edition of his memoir, about American efforts to retrieve secret codes from a sunken Soviet submarine. His agreement to pay a $10,000 fine in an out-of-court settlement barely covered the cracks between Colby and his enemies on the Right.

In 1984 Colby divorced his first wife and married a former diplomat, Sally Shelton. He had resumed legal practice and lectured widely, taking up a new cause–the campaign for a freeze on nuclear arms. Late in the evening of April 27 1996, Colby is stated to have left his vacation home in Rock Point, Maryland, during a storm and, without a life jacket, got into a canoe and went out onto the choppy waters.. His body was found after an eight-day search that included helicopters, divers, dogs and sonar equipment. Colby, , was found lying facedown in a marshy riverbank. The life jacket his friends said he usually wore was missing. The body was found 20 yards from the canoe, after the area had been thoroughly searched multiple times. The subsequent inquest conveniently found that he died from drowning and hypothermia after collapsing from a heart attack or stroke and falling out of his canoe.

In the closed ranks of the CIA, this is called ‘Termination With Extreme Prejudice.’

 

Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley warns of rising anti-Semitism

“Anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable again,” said Katarina Barley. Her statements came in the wake of an anti-Semitic attack that shocked Berlin.

April 21, 2018

DW

Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley warned about rising anti-Semitism on Saturday following an assault on a young man wearing a kippah in Berlin.

“We have to admit that anti-Semitism is becoming socially acceptable again,” Barley told the Funke Media Group. “It’s our job to work against this development.”

Barley said that it was important to stress to newcomers that religious discrimination “has no place in Germany,” and that “anyone who promotes anti-Semitism will have to reckon with the firm hand of the law.”

On Tuesday, a young man called Adam, an Arab Israeli, decided to wear a Jewish skullcap in his Berlin neighborhood as a social experiment – to see if he would face prejudicial treatment, as a friend told him he might.

In a video shared widely on social media, Adam and his companion were rushed at with belts by a man yelling “Jew” at them in Arabic.

“At that moment I realized I have to take a video of it. I wanted to have evidence for police and the German people and the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets,” he told DW.

His alleged assailant has been arrested.

In response, Berlin’s Jewish community is planning a “Berlin wears a kippah” campaign, mobilizing people of all religions to don the head covering in a show of inter-faith solidarity.

According to Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner, “1,500 anti-Semitic attacks are registered by police every year.”

 

 

Traditional antisemitism is back, global study finds

Insecurity among Jewish people worsened by rise of racist right and anti-Israeli left

April 11, 2018

by Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent

The Guardian

Feelings of insecurity are widespread among European Jews as a result of the resurgence of the extreme right, a heated anti-Zionist discourse on the left and radical Islam, according to a global study of antisemitism.

Last year the number of recorded violent antisemitic incidents fell by about 9% compared to 2016 – and by almost 50% compared with the 2006-14 average – but there was a notable increase in harassment and abuse, according to a survey published by the Kantor Center.

The report highlights a strengthening of the extreme right in some European counties, “accompanied by slogans and symbols reminiscent of the 1930s” and “the intensity of the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in a variety of ways […] especially on street demonstrations”. It says this may explain a discrepancy between the levels of fear among European Jews and the actual number of incidents.

“Expressions of classic traditional antisemitism are back and, for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” it says.

The 105-page report examines the prevalence of antisemitism in Europe, the post-Soviet region, the US, Canada, Australia, South America and South Africa. It records 327 major incidents of violence, vandalism and desecration in 2017, compared with a peak of 1,118 in 2009 and a low of 78 in 1989, the year the study began. It found 30% of attacks were directed at individuals, 20% at cemeteries and memorial sites, and 17% at synagogues.

It attributes the decrease to better security and intelligence, more government spending, fewer Jews identifying themselves as such on the street, and the attention of rightwingers diverted to rising immigration.

It adds: “But – and this is a major point – this situation is not necessarily perceived in Jewish communities as a sufficient positive development, because the presence of security measures means that they are a necessity, and mainly because it is overshadowed by the many verbal and visual expressions, some on the verge of violence, such as direct threats, harassments, hateful expressions and insults. These take place in working places, schools, universities, playgrounds, near Jewish homes and institutes, on football/soccer fields, during demonstrations in the streets, and all the more so in the social networks.”

In the last weeks of 2017 and the first months of 2018 a number of demonstrations took place in different countries after Donald Trump’s controversial announcement that the US would henceforth consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the report notes.

Reactions to the move included attacks on Jews, antisemitic slogans, including calls for murder, and the burning of the Israeli flag. “These incidents do not necessarily originate in Muslim and Arab circles and countries, but rather come from a variety of groups and circles, from most of the political spectrum, leftwing groups included.”

The report says: “The rise of leftist antisemitism that supports radical Muslim anti-Israeli attitudes expressed in antisemitic terms such as in the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] and Antifa [militant anti-fascist] movements, and certainly in the UK Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn.” Many Jews in the UK were “losing their traditional political home” as a result of feeling betrayed by Labour, it adds.

As result of insecurity, an increasing number of Jews were no longer wearing identifying items in public or attending synagogues on Jewish holidays.

“Once some Jews do not participate in Jewish traditional gatherings, do not appear in the public sphere identified as Jews, avoid mentioning their real name on the internet, do not openly support Israel, if communities run out of the financial resources given heavy security costs and not much is left for culture and education activities – the ability to live a full Jewish communal and individual life is jeopardised, and so is Jewish identity,” the report says.

 

Will the US confront Iran’s forces in Syria?

US officials have stated that they want to challenge Iranian influence in Syria, but how likely is a confrontation?

April 20, 2018

Al Jazeera News

Tensions between Iran and the United States over Syria are at the highest they have been since the country’s civil war started in 2011.

While Tehran and Washington have repeatedly voiced indignation about the other’s presence in Syria, they have not reached the point of a military confrontation so far.

While the US has targeted fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad who have threatened its Kurdish allies and airbases, it has not directly attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, who command both pro-Assad militias and are embedded with Syrian military units.

Similarly, while Iran has warned the US against intervening in Syria, it has not instructed the groups under its sway to target American forces.

In recent months, however, questions arose as to whether the US will continue its policy of non-confrontation with Iran in Syria.

In March, US President Donald Trump appointed John Bolton, a trenchant critic of Iran, as his new national security adviser.

A George W. Bush-era relic, best known as an advocate of the Iraq war, Bolton has reportedly lobbied Trump for a more aggressive posture on Iran.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also fuelled concern about escalation when she said that preventing Iran’s entrenchment in Syria was one of the Trump administration’s top priorities.

Iran’s main regional rival, Israel, is said to have informed US intelligence officials before targeting Iranian positions in Syria, a sign of increasing cooperation between the two, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Militias backed by Iran for their part have vowed to target the US presence in Syria.”What we are currently seeing is the most serious attempt by hawkish and conservative advisers to get the US directly involved in the Syrian war, an attempt that echoes Israeli concerns about US withdrawal plans from Syria,” said Joe Macaron of the Arab Center Washington, DC, further explaining that the aggressive position is not universally accepted.

“Trump himself and the Pentagon are resisting this temptation, Israel will most probably continue in the foreseeable future to fight its own battles against Iran.”

‘Testing the boundaries’

Despite the ratcheting up of threats, the idea of an all-out conflict between Tehran and Washington has little appeal to either, according to Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham.

“There’s no appetite on either side to deliberately look for a wider conflict because then your costs outweigh your benefits,” he told Al Jazeera.

“You have to put in so many resources and have the problem of not knowing how far this will go,” Lucas added.

Instead, he said both Iran and the US seemed set to continue with a policy of pushing the envelope.

“There’s always the possibility of low-level conflict through people seeing how far they can go, but so far that hasn’t escalated into a wider military conflict,” he explained, giving the example of US attacks on Iranian-backed militias when they encroached on a US-controlled airbase near the Jordanian border in May 2017.

According to Lucas, while the US and Iran do not want war with each other at this moment in time, this does not mean they are not looking for other ways to negate each others’ influence in Syria.

He pointed to both countries having influence over effective fighting forces; Iran through its militias and the US through the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Lucas added Washington could also pressurise Iran to limit its role in Syria through sanctions, while Tehran could seek exploitation of Syrian natural resources to counter any US punitive measures.

Waiting out the US

In the seven years since the start of the Syrian conflict, Iran has established deep roots within the country by commanding militias that count fighters in the tens of thousands.

The US has established influence in the country’s north, where the SDF rule, and in the south along the Jordanian border.

But the US public opinion has turned overwhelmingly against continued military intervention in Middle Eastern countries.

For some in Iran, there is a belief that the price of the US presence in Middle Eastern states cannot be sustained by Washington.

“Iran believes that a continued presence of American occupation forces in Syria is costly,” said Professor Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran.

“It angers Syrians, it makes the US vulnerable and ultimately it is not sustainable.”

 

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