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TBR News April 25, 2018

Apr 25 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 25, 2018:” Israeli military aircraft have been flying over Syria, shooting up Syrian military positions.

Since Isreal is not at war with Syria, this is an act of war.

Russia has a treaty with Syria and troops in the country.

The United States and Israel do not.

The Russians have very sophisticated and very effective anti aircraft defense systems that are capable of interdicting incoming aircraft and missiles.

Both Israel and the United States feel, strongly, that this is unfair.

The Russians and the Syrian government do not.

When Israel learned that Russia might be selling its anti aircraft systems to Syria, they demanded that Russia abstain.

Tongue in cheek, the Russians agreed with Israel.

They have announced that they will not sell these weapons to Syria.

They will give them to Syria instead.

Poor Trump will have to ignore French president Macron and listen to loud wailings and the rending of garments over this.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Scarier Than John Bolton?
  • Recast(e)ing the model minority: Behind right wing Hindu politics in the U.S.
  • Russia said to warn of ‘catastrophic’ result if Israel hits its S-300s in Syria
  • Russian air defenses intercept attacks on its Hmeimim base in Syria: reports
  • 105 hits in Syria? Not likely, says Russia & shows fragments of missiles downed in US-led strikes
  • Israeli forces killed a child and injured three near settlement
  • The Democratic Party Is Paying Millions for Hillary Clinton’s Email List, FEC Documents Show
  • Hotel door locks worldwide were vulnerable to hack
  • Trump’s CIA pick facing brutal confirmation fight
  • After all the hugs, Macron stands up for everything Trump vowed to destroy
  • Russia ready to build another pipeline & provide Europe with as much gas as it needs

 

Scarier Than John Bolton?

Think of Nikki Haley for President!

April 24, 2018

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review

The musical chairs playing out among the senior officials that make up the President Donald Trump White House team would be amusing to watch but for the genuine damage that it is doing to the United States. The lack of any coherence in policy means that the State Department now has diplomats that do not believe in diplomacy and environment agency heads that do not believe in protecting the environment. It also means that well-funded and disciplined lobbies and pressure groups are having a field day, befuddling ignorant administrators with their “fact sheets” and successfully promoting policies that benefit no one but themselves.

In the Trumpean world of all-the-time-stupid, there is, however, one individual who stands out for her complete inability to perceive anything beyond threats of unrelenting violence combined with adherence to policies that have already proven to be catastrophic. That person is our own Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who surfaced in the news lately after she unilaterally and evidently prematurely announced sanctions on Russia. When the White House suggested that she might have been “confused” she responded that “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” This ignited a firestorm among the Trump haters, lauding Haley as a strong and self-confident woman for standing up to the White House male bullies while also suggesting that the hapless Administration had not bothered to inform one of its senior diplomats of a policy change. It also produced a flurry of Haley for higher office tweets based on what was described as her “brilliant riposte” to the president.

One over-the-top bit of effusion from a former Haley aide even suggested that her “deft rebuttal” emphasizes her qualities, enthusing that “What distinguishes her from the star-struck sycophants in the White House is that she understands the intersection of strong leadership and public service, where great things happen” and placing her on what is being promoted as the short list of future presidential candidates.

For sure, neocon barking dog Bill Kristol has for years been promoting Haley for president, a sign that something is up as he was previously the one who “discovered” Sarah Palin. Indeed, the similarities between the two women are readily observable. Neither is very cerebral or much given to make any attempt to understand an adversary’s point of view; both are reflexively aggressive and dismissive when dealing with foreigners and domestic critics; both are passionately anti-Russian and pro-Israeli. And Kristol is not alone in his advocacy. Haley regularly receives praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media as well as in the opinion pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard.

The greater problem right now is that Nikki Haley is America’s face to the international community, even more than the Secretary of State. She has used her bully pulpit to do just that, i.e. bully, and she is ugly America personified, having apparently decided that something called American Exceptionalism gives her license to say and do whatever she wants at the United Nations. In her mind, the United States can do what it wants globally because it has a God-given right to do so, a viewpoint that doesn’t go down well with many countries that believe that they have a legal and moral right to be left alone and remain exempt from America’s all too frequent military interventions.

Nikki Haley sees things differently, however. During her 15 months at the United Nations she has been instrumental in cutting funding for programs that she disapproves of and has repeatedly threatened military action against countries that disagree with U.S. policies. Most recently, in the wake of the U.S. cruise missile attack against Syria, she announced that the action was potentially only the first step. She declared that Washington was “locked and loaded,” prepared to exercise more lethal military options if Syria and its Russian and Iranian supporters did not cease and desist from the use of chemical weapons. Ironically, the cruise missile attack was carried out even though the White House had no clue as to what had actually happened and it now turns out that the entire story, spread by the terrorist groups in Syria and their mouthpieces, has begun to unravel. Will Nikki Haley apologize? I would suspect that if she doesn’t do confusion she doesn’t do apologies either.

Haley, who had no foreign policy experience of any kind prior to assuming office, relies on a gaggle of neoconservative foreign-policy “experts” to help shape her public utterances, which are often not cleared with the State Department, where she is at least nominally employed. Her speechwriter is Jessica Gavora, who is the wife of the leading neoconservative journalist Jonah Goldberg. Unfortunately, being a neocon mouthpiece makes her particularly dangerous as she is holding a position where she can do bad things. She has been shooting from the lip since she assumed office with only minimal vetting by the Trump Administration, and, as in the recent imbroglio over her “confusion,” it is never quite clear whether she is speaking for herself or for the White House.

Haley has her own foreign policy. She has declared that Russia “is not, will not be our friend” and has lately described the Russians as having their hands covered with the blood of Syrian children. From the start of her time at the U.N., Haley has made it clear that she is neoconservatism personified and she has done nothing since to change that impression. In December 2017 she warned the U.N. that she was “taking names” and threatened retaliation against any country that was so “disrespectful” as to dare to vote against Washington’s disastrous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which she also helped to bring about.

As governor of South Carolina, Haley first became identified as an unquestioning supporter of Israel through her signing of a bill punishing supporters of the nonviolent pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the first legislation of its kind on a state level. Immediately upon taking office at the United Nations she complained that “nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel” and vowed that the “days of Israel bashing are over.” On a recent visit to Israel, she was feted and honored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She was also greeted by rounds of applause and cheering when she spoke at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, saying “When I come to AIPAC I am with friends.”

Nikki Haley’s embrace of Israeli points of view is unrelenting and serves no American interest. If she were a recruited agent of influence for the Israeli Mossad she could not be more cooperative than she apparently is voluntarily. In February 2017, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing she was asked about the decision: “Is it this administration’s position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the U.N. are mutually exclusive?” Haley responded yes, that the administration is “supporting Israel” by blocking every Palestinian.

At various U.N. meetings, though Haley has repeatedly and uncritically complained of institutional bias towards Israel, she has never addressed the issue that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians might in part be responsible for the criticism leveled against it. Her description of Israel as a “close ally” is hyperbolic and she tends to be oblivious to actual American interests in the region when Israel is involved. She has never challenged the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as well as the recent large expansion of settlements, which are at least nominally opposed by the State Department and White House. Nor has she spoken up about the more recent shooting of three thousand unarmed Gazan demonstrators by Israeli Army sharpshooters, which is a war crime.

Haley’s hardline on Syria reflects the Israeli bias, and her consistent hostility to Russia is a neoconservative position. She has repeatedly said that regime change in Damascus is a Trump administration priority, even when the White House was saying something different. A White House warning that it had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime led to a Haley elaboration in a tweet that “…further attacks will be blamed on Assad but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.” Earlier, on April 12, 2017 after Russia blocked a draft U.N. resolution intended to condemn the alleged Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, which subsequently turned out to be a false flag, Haley said, “We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people.”

Haley is particularly critical of Iran, which she sees as the instigator of much of the unrest in the Middle East, again reflecting the Israeli and neocon viewpoints. She claimed on April 20, 2017 during her first session as president of the U.N. Security Council, that Iran and Hezbollah had “conducted terrorist acts” for decades within the Middle East, ignoring the more serious terrorism support engaged in by U.S. regional allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar. She stated in June 2017 that the Security Council’s praise of the Iran Nuclear Agreement honored a state that has engaged in “illicit missile launches,” “support for terrorist groups,” and “arms smuggling,” while “stok[ing] regional conflicts and mak[ing] them harder to solve.” All are perspectives that might easily be challenged.

So, Nikki Haley very much comes across as the neoconservatives’ dream ambassador to the United Nations–full of aggression, a staunch supporter of Israel, and assertive of Washington’s preemptive right to set standards for the rest of the world. And there is every reason to believe that she would nurture the same views if she were to become the neocon dream president

Bearing the flag for American Exceptionalism does not necessarily make her very good for the rest of us, who will have to bear the burdens and risks implicit in her imperial hubris, but, as the neoconservatives never feel compelled to admit that they were wrong, one suspects that Haley’s assertion that she does not do confusion is only the beginning if she succeeds in her apparent quest for the highest office in the land. Worse than John Bolton? Absolutely.

 

Recast(e)ing the model minority: Behind right wing Hindu politics in the U.S.

April 11, 2018

by Sirisha Naidu and Raja Swamy

mronline

On February 3, 2018 a group of about 200 people, mostly men belonging to the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), held a rally in Washington DC with an unequivocal endorsement of Trump’s xenophobic anti-immigrant agenda, and called for a “merit-based” immigration system, which would impose additional fees for Indian H1-B applicants (to secure work permits in the U.S.). They held signs and chanted slogans voicing enthusiastic support for building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border, and drew explicit and implicit connections between the politics of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repressive and anti-Muslim Hindu nationalist, (also known as Hindutva) and Trump’s white supremacist anti-immigrant administration.

In response to the economic, political and physical violence engendered by policies since the 1990s and with the threat of a fascist moment intensified under Trump, defensive struggles are proliferating across the U.S. as Black Americans lead the struggle against police brutality and racism; teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma push back against neoliberal assaults on working people; school children in Florida demand an end to the right-wing gun agenda; Native Americans, Black communities, ecological activists and radical public intellectuals defend the fundamental right to water, health and life; and immigrant workers across the country defend the human rights and dignity of those targeted for repression and expulsion.

In such a political climate how do we understand RHC’s support for Trump and its brazen and contemptuous disregard for the real issues of concern to immigrants today—racism, xenophobia and accelerated multi-pronged attacks on their rights to work and live with dignity? And do we accept the arrogant claims of this organization, founded in 2015 along the lines of the anti-Palestinian pro-apartheid Jewish Republican Coalition, to not only speak on behalf of all Indian immigrants, but also propose and negotiate terms of profound implications with the U.S. state?

The antics of the RHC are not terribly shocking if we consider the social and historical context of reactionary politics among the vocal, largely upper-caste and relatively well-to-do classes of Indians and Indian Americans under the tutelage of Hindutva (right-wing Hindu nationalism) in India. The growth of Hindutva in the U.S. over the last three decades has been well documented by Indian American research and activist collectives. For example, organizations started by U.S. based Hindutva activists created a 503(c) charity called the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) to funnel over $3.2 million to Hindutva organizations in India. Many of the latter organizations led the genocidal violence unleashed on the Muslim population in the state of Gujarat in 2002.

“Yankee Hindutva”, as some have described it, is a thriving movement manifested in various organizations such as Hindu American Foundation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) America, Overseas Friends of the BJP (the current ruling party in India) and others. They actively work with and have cultivated close ideological and organizational ties with various Hindutva organizations in India. The goal of solidifying support in the U.S. for the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, extended further into efforts by the Hindu American Foundation, to create a new platform for direct lobbying with U.S. politicians. Subscribing to an exclusive “Hindu American” identity, they have openly supported Narendra Modi and various leaders of Hindutva who have either been convicted of, or openly incited violence against Muslims and lower castes in India. RHC, led by Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, the man behind Hindus for Trump, is the most recent and visible inductee of the Yankee Hindutva nexus.

Indian Americans’ susceptibility to conservative politics in the U.S. is itself a contradictory affair—on the one hand they have largely voted Democrat, but have publicly remained ambivalent about racial politics in the country. One key element of this ambivalence is the question of affirmative action and meritocracy.

A large proportion of Indian immigrants have benefited from caste privilege, and social and economic opportunities denied to generations of communities consigned to so-called “lower caste” status. Yankee Hindutva’s support for Trump’s “merit-based” immigration system mirrors its opposition in India to affirmative action (known as “reservations”) in employment and education institutions designed to alleviate the oppression and exploitation suffered by “lower caste” Indians. Ignoring Dalit (lower castes) and the Indian Left’s demands for affirmative state action, the ruling Modi government has drastically reduced public allocations for Dalit students in higher education, targeted Dalit and minority student leaders and organizations for repression, and maintains a climate of fear and intimidation on college campuses throughout India. Further, it has emboldened violent and fatal public assaults by Hindutva organizations on Dalits and Muslims throughout India.

The current public respectability achieved by xenophobic and racist ideas driving Trump’s immigration and social agenda has emboldened followers of Yankee Hindutva to reject their previous timid ambivalence. Within the immigrant Indian community they are swathed in affluence and privilege. Privilege on account of their caste status when they migrated from India, having carefully nurtured it under the umbrella of multicultural citizenship and the racist model-minority myth. And affluence on account of their lucrative employment in some of the most high-paying jobs in the U.S., itself a product of their caste privilege.

The model minority conceit, born in the racialist juxtaposition of Indian immigrants as being more loyal, hard-working citizens than Black Americans, has produced the likes of rightwing public figures like Bobby Jindal, Shalli Kumar and Nikki Haley. But as Yankee Hindutva attempts to negotiate a place in the white supremacist vision of the Trump administration, the struggles of marginalized people has also inspired leftists and progressives like Kshama Sawant, Ravi Raghbir and Tithi Bhattacharya.

Progressive and leftist South Asian activists and organizations in the U.S. have responded to the needs of immigrants facing state repression in the form of detention and/or deportation, or assaults on their wellbeing at the hands of a racist police force and city administrations targeting their rights as workers. They have been deeply immersed in strategic work and solidarity building over decades with a host of allied leftist and anti-racist organizations building on a history of Black and South Asian solidarity in the U.S., Caribbean and South Africa. Despite the arrogant claims of RHC and Yankee Hindutva, it does not speak for scores of Indians and Indian Americans who are building on past and new solidarities with democratic struggles towards inclusion, access, dignity and the goal of building a better future for all children.

 

Russia said to warn of ‘catastrophic’ result if Israel hits its S-300s in Syria

Moscow military sources quoted saying Putin may soon deploy powerful air defense system; but FM Lavrov insists no decision has yet been made

April 23, 2018,

by Judah Ari Gross and TOI staff

Times of Israel

Russia may hand over its powerful S-300 missile defense system to Syria in the near future, despite opposition from Israel and other Western powers, the Russian daily Kommersant reported Monday, citing anonymous military sources.

The sources told the newspaper that if Israel tried to destroy the anti-aircraft batteries — as analysts have indicated Israel likely would — it would be “catastrophic for all sides.”

But Russian Foreign Minister later said no decision had yet been made on whether to give the S-300s to Syria, and added that it would not keep such a delivery a secret.

“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” he said, according to a TASS report quoted by Reuters.

Moscow announced last week that it was considering reversing its longtime policy against supplying the S-300 system to the regime. The statement came following a series of airstrikes against Syrian targets by the United States, United Kingdom and France earlier this month in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The apparent chemical attack against the then-rebel-held city of Douma in central Syria killed at least 40 people, including children. Western powers blame the attack on Assad’s regime.

“A few years ago at the request of our partners, we decided not to supply S-300s to Syria,” Lavrov told the BBC last week. “Now that this outrageous act of aggression was undertaken by the US, France and UK, we might think how to make sure that the Syrian state is protected.”

Russia had originally agreed to sell the system to Syria in 2010, but scrapped the plan at Israel’s behest.

Lavrov’s comments to the BBC indicated that the impetus for Russia to reverse its decision and give Assad the S-300 was not the airstrike allegedly conducted by Israel on April 9, but the American-French-British attack on April 13.

According to Kommersant’s report, Russia will not be selling Assad the S-300 system, but rather providing it at no cost as part of a military aid package in order to hasten the delivery.

The Russian-made system, made up of radar arrays and missile launchers, offers long-range protection against both fighter jets and missiles. The system has been supplied by Moscow to Tehran, and deployed by the Russian army in Syria, alongside its more advanced iteration: the S-400.

It was not immediately clear if Russia would bring in new S-300 systems to Syria or if it would simply give over control of the batteries already in the country.

The Kommersant report noted that in any case it would take at least several months from its reception before Syrian soldiers would be fully trained on the system and capable of using it.

Israeli officials have expressed concerns that selling the S-300 system to Damascus could weaken Israel’s regional air supremacy.

Therefore, Israel might look to destroy the defense system, preferably before it is set up and made operational.

Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who currently heads the influential Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said he assumed the air force would work quickly to destroy the S-300.

“If I know the air force well, we have already made proper plans to deal with this threat. After you remove the threat, which is basically what will be done, we’re back to square one,” Yadlin told Bloomberg news last week.

In what many saw as a direct reaction to the looming proliferation of the S-300 and other missile defense systems throughout the Middle East — but especially in Iran — Israel purchased a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the American Lockheed-Martin defense contractor.

The state-of-the-art planes are meant to offer a solution to the challenges posed by the S-300, whose radar systems can detect aircraft from some 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.

Israel also worked diplomatically to attempt to stop Russia’s sale of the S-300 system to Iran, which after being halted for nearly a decade went through in 2016. Last year, Tehran announced that the system was fully functional and connected to the rest of the country’s air defenses.

In addition to the American-led coalition’s strikes against Assad targets, Israel has increasingly carried out air raids in Syria, which it says are meant to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terrorist group and halt the military entrenchment of Iran in the country.

While Israeli officials acknowledge that these strikes are carried out in general, Jerusalem rarely takes responsibility for specific attacks.

On April 9, Israel allegedly struck the T-4 air base in central Syria where Iran has reportedly been operating a fully functional air base of its own and where it has centered its attack drone operations. At least seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed in the strike. The base was reportedly protected by surface-to-air missile defense systems.

Satellite photographs of the base published on Sunday showed the strikes were carried out with a high degree of precision, hitting two hangars, but causing little damage to the surrounding area.

While refusing to comment on whether it carried out the strike, a few days later Israel revealed for the first time that an Iranian drone dispatched from T-4 in February was an attack drone that carried explosives and was headed to an unspecified location in Israel when it was shot down 30 seconds after entering Israeli airspace.

Israel lost an F-16 in retaliatory raids hours after the drone was downed on February 10, the first loss of a fighter jet in action in 35 years. The Israeli plane was hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire, and crashed in Israel; the two pilots ejected to safety.

Following the downing of the F-16, Israeli aircraft targeted Syria’s air defenses, destroying between one-third and one-half of them, according to Israeli military estimates.

 

Russian air defenses intercept attacks on its Hmeimim base in Syria: reports

April 25, 2018

Xinhua

MOSCOW, April 25 (Xinhua) — Russian air defenses at Hmeimim airbase in Syria had intercepted and destroyed several unidentified objects targeting the base, according to Russian media reports.

“On April 24, the airspace monitoring facilities at Russia’s Hmeimim airbase detected a group of small-size unidentified airborne targets approaching the base,” Sputnik news agency quoted an airbase spokesperson as saying on Tuesday.

All the targets were destroyed by air defense means deployed at the base. There were no damage or casualties due to the attempted attack, added the spokesperson.

Hmeimim base in the northwestern province of Latakia, Syria, is the largest Russian-run military facility in the country.

Russian positions in Syria, including its embassy in the capital Damascus, have repeatedly been targeted by rebels who oppose Russia’s role in supporting the Syrian government.

Earlier in January, the Russian defense military reported that 13 drones had been used to attack two of its military facilities in Syria, but were captured or destroyed by Russian servicemen.

 

105 hits in Syria? Not likely, says Russia & shows fragments of missiles downed in US-led strikes

April 25, 2018

RT

The Russian Defense Ministry has shown fragments of missiles said to have been fired in the US-led April airstrikes in Syria. The hole-ridden remnants disprove the claim most of the 105 missiles hit their targets, it said.

On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry held a media briefing to present its analysis of the missile attack on three sites in Syria by the US, UK and France on the night of April 13. It said evidence on the ground, including missile fragments, holes made by the warheads and damage to the targets, could positively confirm only 25 successful hits, calling the US claim of 105 missiles reaching their targets dubious.

Many of the missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defense, the ministry said, adding that some of the better-preserved fragments would be studied by Russian military engineers working on improving its anti-aircraft systems. Journalists have also been shown a collection of fragments with annotations to identify them as part of US and European missiles collected in Syria after being shot down.

The prime target for the night attack was said to be a research center northeast of Damascus, which Western nations claimed was a crucial part of Syria’s alleged chemical weapons industry. The center was targeted by 76 missiles, according to the Pentagon report on the operation. The Russian Defense Ministry said it could confirm only 13 hits and that, if one were to believe the Western report, the relatively small site should have been struck by eight tons of military-grade explosives. The damage caused is far less than one would expect from such a bombardment, Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, the head of operations in the Russian general staff, pointed out.

Of the remaining 63 missiles, 46 are presumed intercepted by the Syrian air defense, the report said. The number is based on data collected from the weapon systems and the fragments collected in the five areas, where the interception took place. Rudskoy added that some of the missiles appear to have failed to reach their target due to a technical malfunction rather than interception, something which posed a threat to nearby residential areas. Two projectiles, a Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile and a precision air-launched missile of a model not named by the ministry, were found in relatively undamaged condition and transported to Russia for further study, he said.

Rudskoy said the results of the attack on two other sites – military depots located near the city of Homs – were similar. One was reported as having been hit by 22 missiles, of which Russia could confirm only seven, with most of the damage done to auxiliary buildings rather than the depot targeted. The other was targeted by seven and hit by two missiles, the report said. The Syrian air defenses intercepted 20 missiles in the area, the general said, adding that most of the advanced weapons fired by the ad hoc coalition were nullified by Soviet air defense systems designed some four decades ago.

The Russian military has repeatedly said it was baffled as to why the US and its allies would target a site near Damascus, which they supposedly believed to be full of chemical weapons. If that were true, the release of the toxin from the damaged compound could have claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives, Rudskoy pointed out.

The ministry also showed off some of the weapons surrendered by militant groups as part of evacuation agreements with the government. The latest addition to the growing arsenal includes 28 tanks and 23 tactical missiles of the SCUD family, Rudskoy said. The militants also surrendered Western weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles, he added.

 

Israeli forces killed a child and injured three near settlement

April 4, 2018

Defense for Children

Ramallah, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian child on March 23 and injured three others during unclear circumstances near a military watchtower on the illegal Israeli settlement of Bet El, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Contrary to local reports, Mohammad Khattab, from Al-Jalazun refugee camp, was not yet 18 when he died from multiple live ammunition wounds outside the adjacent Israeli settlement of Bet El. Defense for Children International – Palestine verified that three others injured in the same incident were children, including 15-year-old Jasem Nakhleh, a 17-year-old, and a third 15-year-old child. All three injured children are currently in comas.

“Stationed throughout the West Bank, Israeli forces protect settler populations at the expense of Palestinian civilians,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “In this hyper-militarized environment, the failure of Israeli authorities to hold perpetrators accountable for the unjustified use of intentional lethal force provides tacit approval for the routine targeting of Palestinian children.”

On the day Mohammad was shot, Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesperson, tweeted that Mohammad had attacked an Israeli falafel shop in Bet El settlement with firebombs. He wrote that Mohammad fled the scene after being shot and died from his wounds.

Local sources, however, contested the Israeli military’s description of events. Under the condition of anonymity, a witness told DCIP that Mohammad was shot when he got out of his stalled car near Bet El settlement, to push it. The witness said Mohammad jumped back into the car to try to escape, but the car did not start. Israeli soldiers then approached the car and opened fire on the four children while inside the car, according to DCIP’s source.

International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable where there is a threat to life or serious injury. Where individuals allegedly carry out a criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law.

Israeli forces routinely employ the use of excessive force and intentional lethal force in situations not justified by international norms, which in some incidents may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

The four children were transported to Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. There, Mohammad was declared dead from gunshot wounds. The coroner confirmed that Mohammad had been struck by one bullet on the back of his right shoulder, which exited from his chest, and a second bullet on his left side.

Dr. Samir Saliba, director of the Emergency Department at the Palestine Medical Complex, told DCIP that the three injured children had all been treated for bullet or shrapnel injuries to their upper bodies, with two of them requiring respirators to breathe.

Since then, Jasem and the 17-year-old have been transferred to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for further treatment, local media reported.

Violent clashes often erupt near Israeli military installments such as watchtowers and checkpoints, which often accompany Israel’s illegally erected settlements.“The ongoing expansion of the Israeli settlement, Beit El, has served as a catalyst for intensified confrontations between camp residents and Israeli security forces (ISF). Clashes occur almost daily,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) states on the camp’s website.

Including Mohammad, Israeli forces have killed five Palestinian children since the start of the year, according to DCIP documentation. On March 17, Israeli forces fatally shot Murad Abu Ghazi, 17, near a military watchtower during clashes outside Arroub refugee camp in the southern West Bank.

 

The Democratic Party Is Paying Millions for Hillary Clinton’s Email List, FEC Documents Show

April 25 2018

by Walker Bragman and  Michael Sainato

The Intercept

Heading into the 2018 midterms, with Democrats hoping to take back the House of Representatives and even make a run at the Senate, the party has spent more than $2 million worth of campaign resources on payments to Hillary Clinton’s new group, Onward Together, according to Federal Election Commission filings and interviews with people familiar with the payments.

The Democratic National Committee is paying $1.65 million for access to the email list, voter data, and software produced by Hillary for America during the 2016 presidential campaign, Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the DNC, told The Intercept. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has paid more than $700,000 to rent the same email list.

Clinton is legally entitled to rent her list to the party, rather than hand it over as a gift, but in 2015, Barack Obama gave his email list, valued at $1,942,640, to the DNC as an in-kind contribution.

Obama’s list was at one point considered to be the most valuable in politics and raised more than twice as much money for the 2012 Obama campaign as Clinton’s did for hers in 2016. The DNC agreement with the Clinton campaign calls on the debt-ridden organization to fork the money over to an entity of Clinton’s choosing, which wound up being Onward Together, the operation she formed after her campaign ceased to exist.

Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile told The Intercept the deal was the result of “tough negotiations between the Clinton campaign and the DNC. I wanted to bring back our assets. I wanted to get as much from them as they got from us,” she said. “Under the terms I worked out, we had to pay quarterly for items that the DNC acquired. The final payment would have been in February of this year.”

The DNC announced in April 2017 that Clinton had turned over her email list and related data and tools as an in-kind contribution to the party, with no suggestion that payments would later be made for it.

“[P]utting the DNC on a strong footing is something that she’s been very focused on since the campaign, when she set out to leave the DNC in the black and did so,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill at the time. “But in addition to a strong financial footing, sharing campaign data and resources is something she views as critical to electing Democrats in 2017, 2018 and beyond.  It is an important and unprecedented step toward a strong, unified Democratic Party going forward.” Merrill did not respond to a request for comment.

Any negotiation between the DNC and the Clinton campaign would itself be fraught, given the arrangement that gave the Clinton campaign a significant say over DNC finances and staffing.

Hinojosa said that Perez, facing financial difficulties upon arriving at the DNC, renegotiated the payment schedule, putting off the payments until 2018, stretching them until October of this year and redirecting them, at the Clinton campaign’s request, to Onward Together.

According to FEC filings, the DNC has made three payments to Onward Together between January and February, adding up to $570,000; another payment of $135,000 was made in March, bringing the total to $705,000. The full $1.65 million will be paid out by October of this year, Hinojosa said.

Onward Together, a dark money group dedicated to “advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election,” officially launched in May 2017. On March 3, 2017, HFA turned over its materials to the DNC, and the transfer was registered in FEC files as an in-kind contribution. But just under a year later, on January 8, the money began to flow to Onward Together. The DCCC, which is contesting scores of expensive races around the country, has pumped more than $700,000 toward Onward Together in recent months, FEC records show.

Onward Together has focused largely on supporting other progressive organizations. Emails it sends to its list tend to generally do fundraising for groups that it supports, among them Alliance for Youth Action, Run for Something, Arena Summit, iVote Fund, Latino Victory, Color of Change, Emerge America, Indivisible, Collective PAC, Voto Latino, and Swing Left.

The DCCC has made four payments adding up to $710,000 between December 2017 and February 2018, FEC filings show. The DCCC did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite Obama’s willingness to gift the DNC with his email list, he is not seen as a savior within the building. After he was elected in 2008, he turned his campaign organization, Organizing for Action, into a parallel DNC, starving the real one of funds. During that time, if a party committee such as the DCCC wanted access to OFA, it had to rent it. When he finally turned the OFA list over to the DNC in 2015, it had been battered like a rental car, and the organization was a shell of itself, mismanaged and neglected to the brink of insolvency. It was in that context that the party committee struck up its secret deal with the Clinton campaign to salvage itself — setting off the charges of favoritism in the 2016 campaign that continue to dog the party today.

The 2016 election left the DNC in shambles, with the organization struggling to attract new donors — evidently despite the HFA assets. It has been reporting disappointing fundraising figures for well over a year. In 2017, the DNC managed to raise roughly $67 million in comparison to the RNC’s $125 million, according to its latest FEC filings.

The DNC has taken out $1,700,000 in loans since January 2017, roughly equal to the amount it owes the Clinton campaign, bringing its debt burden to $6.6 million with just $10,093,347 cash on hand. (The RNC has $42,442,531 and no debt.). The Clinton campaign, following a secret August 2015 memo of understanding, would have had full visibility into the DNC balance sheet.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Rick Gorka recently told Fox News that Hillary Clinton will continue to be a target for Republicans’ strategy in the 2018 midterms. The DNC recently announced that the former secretary of state would be headlining a fundraiser next month in Washington, D.C., with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Clinton’s willingness to turn her email list over has been flagged as evidence of her commitment to the Democratic Party, often as a counterpoint to the refusal of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to do the same. Sanders has argued that the DNC would misuse the list, spamming it with off-message entreaties that would do net damage to the goal of building progressive power.

A joint fundraising agreement she had struck up with the DNC during the campaign was hailed as evidence of her commitment to build the party’s infrastructure. Politico later revealed that the money she raised jointly with the DNC through the Hillary Victory Fund was almost exclusively going to her campaign, with little left over for the state parties. Onward Together has continued using the list for its own purposes, even, in one case, when that may conflict with the DNC. In April, she sent her list a request for people to pay $10,000 to join the Onward Together Leadership Council, which would be hosting an event on April 30 in New York City. That same day, Tom Perez planned to host a DNC event.

Hillary for America did not respond to requests for comment. Corey Ciorciari, a former Clinton aide, tweeted on Saturday that the sale of lists is “routine,” and noted that Clinton does not take a salary from Onward Together.

Meanwhile, Perez has been working to rebuild the state parties after years of neglect under Obama. He’s implemented a costly “every ZIP code” strategy consisting of $10,000 monthly payments to the state parties and additional funds through a “resistance summer” program in 2017. The centerpiece of this renewed effort, however, is a competitive $10 million grant program known as the “State Party Innovation Fund.”As one might expect, the DNC’s financial troubles have hobbled the fund’s payout process to approved state parties, making it frustratingly slow and complicated for state leaders.

“We have not had time to apply yet,” Nancy Worley, chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, told us in an email noting that the money and resources the Alabama party gets from the DNC does not go very far. “We use that for our two full-time employees and a few other program expenditures.”

Don Fowler, a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and at-large member who previously served as chair of the DNC and the South Carolina Democratic Party, cautioned that the lack of adequate funding could be devastating to the party’s electoral prospects. “The state parties in most of these states that continually vote for Republicans, they don’t have either the money or the talent to build a party in a systematic way,” he explained. “You have to have financial backing, people who know how to do these things, and you don’t know how to do these things just because you want to do them.”

 

Hotel door locks worldwide were vulnerable to hack

April 25, 2018

BBC News

Millions of electronic door locks fitted to hotel rooms worldwide have been found to be vulnerable to a hack.

Researchers say flaws they found in the equipment’s software meant they could create “master keys” that opened the rooms without leaving an activity log.

The F-Secure team said it had worked with the locks’ maker over the past year to create a fix.

But the Swedish manufacturer is playing down the risk to those hotels that have yet to install an update.

“Vision Software is a 20-year-old product, which has been compromised after 12 years and thousands of hours of intensive work by two employees at F-Secure,” said a spokeswoman for the company, Assa Abloy.

“These old locks represent only a small fraction [of the those in use] and are being rapidly replaced with new technology.”

She added that hotels had begun deploying the fix two months ago.

“Digital devices and software of all kinds, are vulnerable to hacking. However, it would take a big team of skilled specialists years to try to repeat this.”

Assa Abloy’s locks are used by some of the world’s biggest hotel chains – including Intercontinental, Hyatt, Radisson and Sheraton – although it has not disclosed which properties still use a compromised version of the Vision by VingCard system.

The F-Secure researchers said they began their inquiry after a colleague’s laptop was stolen from a hotel room without the thief leaving behind any sign of unauthorised access.

“We wanted to find out if it’s possible to bypass the electronic lock without leaving a trace,” explained Timo Hirvonen, describing the Ghost In The Locks exploit.

“Only after we thoroughly understood how it was designed were we able to identify seemingly innocuous shortcomings [and] come up with a method for creating master keys.”

He added that data scanned from any discarded VingCard could be used to mount the attack, even if the card’s access privileges had long expired or had been used to open a garage or other parts of the targeted hotel rather than a bedroom.

The hack can also be applied to access other areas of a hotel – including sending a lift to a VIP floor of a property – if it is protected by the same system.

F-Secure has confirmed it will not be sharing the hardware and software tools it used to demonstrate its attack with others.

 

 

Trump’s CIA pick facing brutal confirmation fight

April 24, 2018

by Katie Bo Williams

The Hill

The Senate’s debate over Gina Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director is poised to be a bitter litigation of one of the most controversial episodes in recent U.S. history.

Haspel, the CIA’s deputy director, is indelibly tied to the agency’s use of harsh interrogation techniques after the Sept. 11 attacks. But she is also a 33-year intelligence veteran who is seen even by some critics of President Trump as an experienced and apolitical hand.

Though a handful of lawmakers have already come out in opposition to her nomination, including one Republican, she appears to be on cautiously stable footing.

One of the Senate’s fiercest anti-torture voices, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has surprised many with her praise of Haspel’s professionalism, though she has also criticized her role in the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program. Feinstein’s mixed signals come as she faces a primary challenge from the left in her bid for reelection.

On Sunday, one of the most closely watched Republican votes, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), told NBC’s Chuck Todd that a recently declassified memo “exonerated” Haspel from allegations that had been “a major concern” for her. But she said she had not made a decision on voting for Haspel and still has “a lot of questions.”

Meanwhile, the same red-state Democrats who have broken with their party in saying they’ll vote in favor of Trump’s pick for secretary of State, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, are seen as possible votes in Haspel’s column.

Key Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — like Vice Chairman Mark Warner(Va.) — have not tipped their hands about how they’ll vote.

Still, even if Haspel clears the committee, her confirmation fight is likely to be tumultuous. Human rights advocates and some former military and intelligence officials are urging the Senate to vote down Haspel over her role in the agency’s detention and interrogation programs.

Hinting at the challenge ahead, the CIA is engaged in an extraordinarily public campaign to burnish Haspel’s image and correct what it says is a swath of inaccurate reporting about a career intelligence officer who, up until a year ago, was virtually anonymous.

There are few obvious parallels to Haspel’s nomination. Although there have been a handful of CIA nominees with operational experience at the agency before now, many of them had been in the public arena prior to their nomination. Haspel remained undercover until last year.

Because so much of her record at the CIA is classified, there are limitations on what the agency can make public — something that critics say is just a convenient excuse designed to shield the agency from scrutiny.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), both members of the Intelligence Committee, have complained that the CIA is selectively declassifying only positive information about Haspel.

The CIA on Friday did declassify a 2011 memo in which former Deputy Director Michael Morell found that Haspel “acted appropriately” when she drafted an order to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogations at a “black site” prison in Thailand that she briefly ran.

Association with the agency’s interrogation program has scuttled a nominee for CIA director before. John Brennan was President Obama’s favored choice for CIA director after his 2008 election — but Brennan was forced to withdraw his name under intense scrutiny of his role at the agency while the program was ongoing. (Brennan was confirmed for the position in 2013, after Obama won his second term.)

Much will ride on how Haspel performs during her public hearing in May. Confirmation hearings can be grueling affairs, and there is no known instance of Haspel appearing before Congress in a public setting.

Lawmakers will press her for public commitments that she won’t return to the use of waterboarding and other techniques now considered torture, even if asked by the president. She is likely to be asked to express remorse for her role in the program — a potentially delicate balance to strike. Haspel’s supporters have pointed to Morell’s finding that she was following orders in destroying the tapes.

 

After all the hugs, Macron stands up for everything Trump vowed to destroy

French president addresses Congress, presenting himself as an advocate of liberal world order – the opposite of Trump’s image

April 25, 2017

by Julian Borger in Washington

The Guardian

After spending a day of intimate presidential fraternity with Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron made an impassioned speech in Washington on Wednesday advocating many of the things Trump has spent much of his presidency trying to destroy

Over the course of a 50-minute address to a joint meeting of Congress, the French president said he was “sure” the US would one day return to the Paris climate change accord, and vowed that France would not abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Trump has left the first and has been threatening to quit the second in the next few weeks.

More broadly, Macron presented himself to the US legislature as an unabashed advocate of the liberal world order of global institutions and free trade – the very opposite of the America First nationalism that fuelled Trump’s rise to the White House. The speech – delivered in English – was interrupted by frequent standing ovations, many from both sides of the aisle.

“We will not let the rampaging work of extreme nationalism shake a world full of hopes for greater prosperity,” Macron said. “It is a critical moment. If we do not act with urgency as a global community, I am convinced that the international institutions, including the United Nations and Nato, will no longer be able to exercise a mandate and stabilising influence.”

“Personally, if you ask me, I do not share the fascination for new strong powers, the abandonment of freedom and the illusion of nationalism,” Macron said, in remarks that could easily be seen as a rebuke for Trump’s enthusiasm for some of the world’s most autocratic “strongman” rulers.

Macron also made a full-throated argument for global action to combat climate change, built around the 2015 Paris accord, which Trump announced in June he was walking away from.

“What is the meaning of our life if we [are] destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children?” the French president asked. “Let us face it. There is no planet B.”

He said the rift over the Paris accord was but a “short-term disagreement”.

“In the long run, we will have to face the same reality that we are citizens of the same planet,” he added.

“I’m sure one day the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement,” Macron declared, to whoops and cheers from the Democratic ranks.

He had an even more direct rebuke for his host’s resort to tariffs as an instrument of trade policy. Macron said that the right way to correct trade imbalances and overcapacity was to negotiate through the World Trade Organisation.

“We wrote these rules. We should follow them,” the visiting president said.

On the Iran nuclear agreement, Macron repeated an idea he had promoted on Tuesday at a White House meeting with Trump for a “new deal” that would complement the 2015 accord with a broader remit to address Iranian ballistic missile development and its military role across the Middle East.

Iran, Macron said would “never possess any nuclear weapons” but he added: “This policy should never lead us to war in the Middle East.”

He called for respect for the sovereignty of Iran and its ancient civilisation, and urged the west not to “repeat past mistakes”, an apparent reference to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Both the US and France signed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), he pointed out, adding: “We should not abandon it without something more substantial in its place.”

In a tweet after his speech to Congress, Macron added: “We decided with President [Trump] to work on a new comprehensive deal” which would address Iranian missiles and its regional role, and make limits on Iranian nuclear activities permanent.

On Tuesday, Trump had stopped short of voicing support for Macron’s idea of a supplemental agreement, or set of agreements, on non-nuclear issues but did suggest he was at least reconsidering his vow to abrogate the JCPOA by declining to extend sanctions relief when presidential waivers falls due on 12 May.

With their president in an apparent state of flux, US officials gave mixed messages on the US position on the JCPOA on Wednesday.

The head of the state department planning office, Brian Hook, disparaged the nuclear agreement.

“It has no signatures. It has no legal status. It is a political commitment by an administration that is no longer in office,” Hook told National Public Radio, although the JCPOA is enshrined in a UN security council resolution.

In Geneva on the same day, the assistant secretary for international security, Christopher Ford, said: “We are not aiming to renegotiate the JCPOA or reopen it or change its terms,” seemingly in clear contradiction of multiple presidential statements.

 

Russia ready to build another pipeline & provide Europe with as much gas as it needs

April 25, 2018

RT

Gazprom, Russia’s leading natural gas producer, says it’s ready to supply as much blue fuel as Europe wants. The company is ready to build the Nord Stream 3 pipeline, if necessary.

“We have proven reserves, we have transport, we are building new transport routes. If Europe is ready… I do not rule out new gas transportation projects – Nord Stream 3, for example,” said Gazprom Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee Aleksandr Medvedev in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

Groningen, the largest gas field in Europe, which is located in the Netherlands, has seen a significant output slowdown, which has resulted in declining European gas production. Gazprom has said it is ready to compensate for the decline with Russian gas.

Gazprom’s exports to Europe amounted to a record high 194.4 billion cubic meters in 2017, an increase of 8.4 percent. The share of Russian gas in the European Union last year increased to 34.7 percent from 33.1 percent in 2016.

Russia has been implementing the Nord Stream 2 project, which intends to double the existing capacity of the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany. Despite the opposition of the Baltic states, some Eastern European countries and the United States, Gazprom has received permission to build the pipeline.

“Of course, there are opportunities for Russia to supply gas and increase the volume of supplies to Europe,” the head of the center for the study of global energy markets at the Russian Academy of Sciences Vyacheslav Kulagin told RT.

“The competitiveness of Russian gas is high, especially since 2014, as the ruble has strongly weakened against the dollar and the euro, and the costs of extraction and transportation are still in the Russian rubles,” added Kulagin.

Brussels has repeatedly said it wants to cut its dependence on Russian gas by building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. However, cheaper Russian gas has shelved most LNG projects.

Washington’s plan to oust Russian natural gas from the European market and substitute it with its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments is not economically feasible, analysts told RT.

“American LNG exports have failed to become a full-fledged alternative to Gazprom’s pipeline gas in Europe, as the latter has set another record-high last year. About half of the US LNG supplied to Europe is purchased by countries that do not have long-term contracts for Russian gas (formerly Spain and Portugal),” Maria Belova, head of research at VYGON Consulting, told RT.

The analyst notes that US gas is not a viable alternative to the pipeline supplies of Gazprom, which has renewed its historical record in export volume to Europe for the second consecutive year, due to the competitive pricing.

“The current price advantage of Russian pipeline gas appeared thanks to the price formula mechanism in the supply contracts. Gazprom gas price has not yet managed to react to a significant increase in oil prices, which began in mid-2017, in contrast to spot gas prices at European gas hubs. Up to 2016 the spot prices at the EU hubs have been consistently below the price of Russian gas with oil linkage. As a result of a number of revisions to the terms of Gazprom contracts, the price correlation has increased and the differential with spot price has narrowed,” she said.

Germany has once again announced plans to build a $500 million LNG terminal on the Elbe River to diversify from Russian and Norwegian gas imports. The Brunsbuettel would be Germany’s first LNG plant and open by the end of 2022. But the expense of building the terminal and cheaper Russian gas have held up the project for years.

Belova explained to RT why American gas is more expensive than Russian: “The average Gazprom price at the Germany border in 2017 neared the average European price (weighted average price of long-term contracts and spot prices) at around $5.65 per MMBtu. The estimated Gazprom price at the Germany border in the first quarter of 2018 increased to $7.15 per MMBtu. The US LNG gas landed and regasified in Belgium (Germany doesn’t have any LNG receiving terminals) cost around $7.9 per MMBtu, $8.1 per MMBtu in the first quarter of 2018. Therefore, American LNG is the more expensive option compared to Russian gas,” she wrote.

The US has repeatedly tried to thwart the extension of the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany, which will double the existing pipeline’s capacity. Moscow has accused Washington of trying to force-feed American LNG to Europe. Despite US efforts to block the Russian project, Gazprom has received permission to build the pipeline.

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