TBR News October 31, 2016

Oct 31 2016

A Compendium of Various Official Lies, Business Scandals, Small Murders, Frauds, and Other Gross Defects of Our Current Political, Business and Religious Moral Lepers.

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”- Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815


“Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen”. – Huey Long


“I fired [General MacArthur] because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail “- Harry S Truman


“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” -Thomas Jefferson.


“Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage”

– H.L. Mencken


 “For a quarter of a century the CIA has been repeatedly wrong about every major political and economic question entrusted to its analysis.” 

-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The New York Times, 1991.


Don’t tell a lie! Some men I’ve known
Commit the most appalling acts,
Because they happen to be prone
To an economy of facts;
And if to lie is bad, no doubt
’Tis even worse to get found out!


My children, never, never steal!
To know their offspring is a thief
Will often make a father feel
Annoyed and cause a mother grief;
So never steal, but, when you do,
Be sure there’s no one watching you.


The Wicked flourish like the bay,
At Cards or Love they always win,
Good Fortune dogs their steps all day,
They fatten while the Good grow thin.
The Righteous Man has much to bear;

 The Bad becomes a Bullionaire!




The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  October 31, 2016:” Poor Hillary thought she and her associates had sewn up the election in her favor. They had business interests, Israel, the media in their pockets and she was already picking her cabinet. Then Wikileaks releases went public and the Clinton camp went into a frenzy, screaming ‘Russia, Russia!” and ‘lies,’ ‘lies’ in a ragged chorus. They accused the head of the FBI of committing illegal acts by investing the Sacred Candidate and on and on. But the poll figures show that the public is responding to the disgraceful intercepts and Hillary’s numbers are slipping badly. A new Wikileaks release is now out and some its contents are enough to get a number of DNC members arrested by the detested FBI for various illegal and criminal acts.”

Democrats accuse FBI of hiding ‘explosive truth’ about Trump-Russia ties

October 31, 2016


Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has accused the bureau of hiding “explosive” information about Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, which he believes might inflict “critical” damage ahead of the election.

The allegation comes after FBI Director James Comey announced on Friday that a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server had been reopened, sending a letter notifying Congress of the email review.In it Comey revealed the finding of some 650,000 emails which were discovered by the agency in early October on a laptop belonging to ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and apparently also used by his wife, Clinton’s closest aide Huma Abedin.

The unexpected announcement came just 11 days before Americans head to the polls to determine the winner in the race for the White House between Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump.

Concerned by the FBI’s move to re-open the investigation that was closed in July, Reid sent a letter to Comey accusing him of double standards and potentially breaking the law.

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another,” Reid wrote on Sunday.

He added that through Comey’s “partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” namely the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an executive branch position to influence an election.

Furthermore, Reid accused the FBI chief of using a “highly selective approach” in publicizing information, and claimed that the timing of the announcement so close to election date was “intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.”

While the alleged ties of the Republican candidate with Russia have long been touted by the Clinton camp as one of Trump’s greatest sins, no proof of such a relationship has ever been made public. Reid however once again claimed it was “clear” to him that a relation exists between Trump and the Russian government, and that Comey is hiding it.

“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Reid stated.

While Kremlin has on numerous occasions denied any links to the Trump camp, the US media continues to pursue the allegations of Moscow’s alleged involvement, which Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called “absurd.”

“I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information,” the US politician added.

Reid has sent the letter to Comey just before it was revealed that the FBI has reportedly obtained a warrant to dig through hundreds of thousands of newly-discovered emails. In the meantime, the NYT reported that senior Justice Department officials vowed to make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) urged the FBI director to resign, accusing him of restarting Clinton’s email probe “apparently before seeing any evidence.” In a statement Cohen called Comey’s move “plainly premature, careless and unprecedented in its potential impact upon a Presidential election.”

WikiLeaks releases latest batch of #PodestaEmails from Clinton campaign chair

October 31, 2016


WikiLeaks has published its 24th batch of emails from the hacked account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

The organization has released more than 39,000 emails from Podesta’s account and has pledged to bring the total number up to 50,000 before the November 8 election.Among the revelations from Sunday’s tranche of leaked emails was the Clinton campaign team’s suspicions that the House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, was selectively leaking information from the committee.

Other emails released Sunday included a conversation between Podesta and Chelsea Clinton on ‘compromised’ technology during visits to China, while another chain of emails offered insight into Podesta’s own doubts on Hillary Clinton’s chances of securing the Democratic nomination.

Avoiding media ‘gaggle’

An email from The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky dated May 21, 2015 explains the Clinton campaign’s months-long avoidance of press conferences.

“What I would suggest avoiding is a format where she walks up to the gaggle, with questions virtually shouted and microphones thrust in her face, that looks like a perp walk,” Budowsky wrote to Podesta. “And minimize the podium style news conference whenever possible.”

He suggested a “conversational format” where Clinton would sit at a table with a score of reporters instead

“He can be annoying, but this actually makes sense to me,” Podesta wrote, forwarding the message to Deputy Communications Director Kristina Schake.

“It is definitely something we want to try,” Schake replied, adding that after Iowa and New Hampshire, Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said “we need to find a better avail [sic] set up that isn’t so awful for HRC.”

Clinton loses popularity edge in tight race with Trump, new Post-ABC Tracking Poll finds

October 31, 2016

by Scott Clement and Emily Guskin

The Washington Post

Registered voters see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a nearly identical negative light, mirroring a persistently close split in overall vote preference in a new Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.

Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters have an unfavorable impression of Clinton (59 percent), and an identical percentage see Trump negatively. Nearly half of registered voters, 47 percent, have a “strongly unfavorable” view of Clinton and Trump alike.

The parity in basic popularity undermines a key advantage for Clinton throughout most of a presidential campaign where Trump set records as most unpopular presidential candidate in polling history. Clinton’s ratings were consistently negative, but were only rarely as troubled as her opponent.

Vote preferences among likely voters continue to be closely divided in the Post-ABC Tracking Poll, with Clinton at 46 percent and Trump at 45 percent, the same split as the previous wave reported Sunday. In a two-way matchup excluding third-party candidates, voters split 49-47 between Clinton and Trump; the margin was 49-46 percent in the previous daily tracking poll.

The tracking poll, conducted Wednesday through Saturday, found little immediate impact in presidential support after FBI director James Comey’s Friday announcement that the agency will review additional emails from Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. In combined results from Friday night and Saturday, voters split 45 percent for Clinton and 46 percent for Trump, statistically unchanged from Clinton’s 47-44 margin on Wednesday and Thursday. Results in coming days will provide a clear sense of the event’s impact. The Post-ABC poll also found no significant shifts in Clinton or Trump’s favorability through Saturday.

Clinton and Trump’s parity in favorable ratings contrasts with a Post-ABC poll earlier this month where Trump’s negative ratings exceeded Clinton’s by six points (63 percent vs. 57 percent), with his strong negative ratings outpacing Clinton’s by nine points (53 vs. 44 percent) among registered voters. Clinton and Trump previously held similar negative ratings Post-ABC polls of registered voters at three points in the campaign – in May after Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination, in late August and in mid-September, just before the first fall debate.

The tightening gap between Clinton and Trump’s ratings results from slightly improved ratings for Trump and slightly weaker ratings for Clinton than in mid-October. In net favorable ratings, the percent favorable minus percent unfavorable, Trump’s image stands at -22 in the new poll compared with -28 earlier this month among registered voters. Clinton’s current -21  net favorable rating compares with -17 after the final debate two weeks ago. Neither change in each candidates’ ratings is statistically significant on its own, though Clinton’s significant edge over Trump in mid-October no longer stands.

One particular group where Clinton saw a decline drop-off in favorability was among white men. In mid-October, 32 percent were favorable of the former secretary of state while 67 percent were unfavorable, but negative ratings have ticked up to 74 percent while positive marks are down to 24 percent. Trump’s ratings stayed pretty stable among this group since earlier this month, standing at 45 percent today compared with 43 percent following the final presidential debate.

Political independents recoil at both major-party candidates as neither has maintained a stable advantage with the group, but the latest tracking poll finds the group seeing Trump in a less negative light than Clinton. A 58-percent majority of independent registered voters have an unfavorable view of Trump, rising to 69 percent unfavorable for Clinton. Trump holds a 17-point edge in vote preference among independent likely voters (51 to 34 percent).

The unpopularity of both major candidates has left a significant minority of voters holding unfavorable views of both Clinton and Trump, accounting for 36 percent of likely voters in the new Post-ABC poll. When asked who they currently support, these voters lean toward Trump over Clinton by a slight 37 to 31 percent margin, while 12 percent choose Johnson, 7 percent Stein and the rest saying they are not supporting any candidate at the moment.

“Reagan Alumni for Trump” Remind America That GOP Didn’t Start Making Things Up in 2016

October 30 2016

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

Donald Trump yesterday announced the “Reagan Alumni Advisory Council for Trump-Pence,” made up of 240 former Reagan advisors who support Trump for President.

The first quote in Trump’s press release, from Reagan’s attorney general Edwin Meese, begins like this: “Many of us remember 1980, a time when, as today, America suffered from high unemployment and even higher interest rates.”

In fact, the unemployment rate in October 1980 was 7.5 percent. The unemployment rate today is 5.0 percent.

Interest rates in 1980 were 15.3 percent. Today they are 3.3 percent.

The current unemployment rate is so low that conservatives are loudly demanding that the Federal Reserve raise interest rates to force unemployment higher. Current interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in at least 55 years.

Meese provides a useful public service by reminding Americans that Trump’s bizarrely obsessive fantasizing isn’t an aberration for top Republicans. The GOP gave up on this universe long ago, starting with Ronald Reagan, so it makes sense that Reagan’s old staffers would feel right at home with Trump.

You could spend your entire life cataloguing Reagan’s peculiar beliefs about the world, but here are just a few:

In 1983, during a ceremony for winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Reagan told a story about a World War II pilot who chose to stay with a trapped underling on a crashing B-17 rather than jumping to safety. This didn’t happen in real life, but it did happen in “Wing and a Prayer,” one of Reagan’s favorite movies.

In 1984, while meeting with the prime minister of Israel, Reagan told him that he had been part of a U.S. military unit that had filmed concentration camps at the end of World War II. Moreover, Reagan said, he had saved a personal copy of the footage to show to anyone who might claim the Holocaust never happened. During the war Reagan lived in Hollywood and never left the U.S.

In 1985, he claimed that apartheid South Africa had “eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country.”

In 1986, after the U.S. had traded weapons to Iran in return for the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon, Reagan said “We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.”

For Meese’s part, he enthusiastically followed the lead of his boss. Just before Christmas in 1983, he told the National Press Club that Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” suffered from “bad press in his time. If you really look at the facts, he didn’t exploit Bob Cratchit. … Bob, in fact, had good cause to be happy with his situation. … Let’s be fair to Scrooge.”

All of these examples are from the truly essential 1989 book “The Clothes Have No Emperor” by comedy writer Paul Slansky. It’s the best resource there is if you want to know more — much, much, much more — about the era when the Republican Party finally slipped the surly bonds of reality.

UN ‘appalled’ by rebel onslaught on Aleppo, warning it may amount to war crimes

The UN has warned that the Syrian rebel offensive into government-held districts of Aleppo could amount to war crimes. The comments have come after state media reported of insurgent forces firing shells of toxic gas.

October 30, 2016


Rebel forces on Sunday continued a vicious campaign in Aleppo, unleashing car bombs and a barrage of rockets into regime-held areas. Some 41 people civilians, including 16 children, have died and another 250 wounded in the fighting, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The office for Syria’s UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said it was “appalled and shocked by the high number of rockets” fired by the insurgents during the first three days of the offensive.

“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes,” de Mistura’s office said in a statement.

While claims of toxic gas could not be verified, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that 35 people were suffering from shortness of breath, numbness and muscle spasms due to “toxic gases” being fired on the frontline in Dahiyet al-Assad and into the regime-stronghold of Hamdaniyeh.

Ibrahim Hadid, the head of Aleppo University Hospital, told state-run television that “36 people, including civilians and combatants, were wounded after inhaling toxic chlorine gas released by terrorists.”

SOHR director Rami Abdurrahman confirmed reports that civilians were suffering from breathing difficulties, although he could not verify whether this was due to toxin gasses.

A rebel spokesman dismissed the claims, saying the opposition did not possess such weapons and would not attack areas where its own supporters are based.

Opposition fighters and government forces have in the past accused each other of firing chemical weapons into their respective areas. An international team has found that the Syrian government had carried out such an attack in 2015, the third to be blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces.

Rebel campaign enters third day

Insurgent forces aim to breach a government siege on Aleppo’s rebel-held districts in the east of the besieged city and push regime troops from the frontline. Sunday’s intensive fighting rocked Aleppo’s western districts, while airstrikes and artillery fire was heard from the city’s the eastern districts, according to AFP correspondents.

The opposition has scored gains in the Dahiyet al-Assad district after 1,500 rebel troops amassed on a 15-kilometer (10-mile) front along Aleppo’s western edges. However, they have struggled to push further east since.

An anonymous military source said the government is reinforcing its positions in and around the city to repel rebel advancements.

A tight siege has been in place since July, trapping as many as 275,000 civilians in the eastern rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

Tehran, USA

Fighting Fundamentalism in America

by Nate Terani


I’m not an immigrant, but my grandparents are. More than 50 years ago, they arrived in New York City from Iran. I grew up mainly in central New Jersey, an American kid playing little league for the Raritan Red Sox and soccer for the Raritan Rovers. In 1985, I travelled with my family to our ancestral land. I was only eight, but old enough to understand that the Iranians had lost their liberty and freedom. I saw the abject despair of a people who, in a desperate attempt to bring about change, had ushered in nationalist tyrants led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

What I witnessed during that year in Iran changed the course of my life. In 1996, at age 19, wanting to help preserve the blessings of liberty and freedom we enjoy in America, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  Now, with the rise of Donald Trump and his nationalist alt-right movement, I’ve come to feel that the values I sought to protect are in jeopardy.

In Iran, theocratic fundmentalists sowed division and hatred of outsiders — of Westerners, Christians, and other religious minorities. Here in America, the right wing seems to have stolen passages directly from their playbook as it spreads hatred of immigrants, particularly Muslim ones. This form of nationalistic bigotry — Islamophobia — threatens the heart of our nation. When I chose to serve in the military, I did so to protect what I viewed as our sacred foundational values of liberty, equality, and democracy. Now, 20 years later, I’ve joined forces with fellow veterans to again fight for those sacred values, this time right here at home.

“Death to America!”

As a child, I sat in my class at the international school one sunny morning and heard in the distance the faint sounds of gunfire and rising chants of “Death to America!” That day would define the rest of my life.

It was Tehran, the capital of Iran, in 1985. I was attending a unique school for bilingual students who had been born in Western nations. It had become the last refuge in that city with any tolerance for Western teaching, but that also made it a target for military fundamentalists. As the gunfire drew closer, I heard boots pounding the marble tiles outside, marching into our building, and thundering down the corridor toward my classroom. As I heard voices chanting “Death to America!” I remember wondering if I would survive to see my parents again.

In a flash of green and black uniforms, those soldiers rushed into our classroom, grabbed us by our shirt collars, and yelled at us to get outside. We were then packed into the school’s courtyard where a soldier pointed his rifle at our group and commanded us to look up. Almost in unison, my classmates and I raised our eyes and saw the flags of our many nations being torn down and dangled from the balcony, then set ablaze and tossed, still burning, into the courtyard. As those flags floated to the ground in flames, the soldiers fired their guns in the air.  Shouting, they ordered us — if we ever wanted to see our families again — to swear allegiance to the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini and trample on the remains of the burning symbols of our home countries. I scanned the smoke that was filling the courtyard for my friends and classmates and, horrified, watched them capitulate and begin to chant, “Death to America!” as they stomped on our sacred symbols.

I was so angry that, young as I was, I began to plead with them to come to their senses. No one paid the slightest attention to an eight year old and yet, for the first time in my life, I felt something like righteous indignation. I suspect that, born and raised in America, I was already imbued with such a sense of privilege that I just couldn’t fathom the immense danger I was in.  Certainly, I was acting in ways no native Iranian would have found reasonable.

Across the smoke-filled courtyard, I saw a soldier coming at me and knew he meant to force me to submit. I spotted an American flag still burning, dropped to my knees, and grabbed the charred pieces from underneath a classmate’s feet. As the soldier closed in on me, I ducked and ran, still clutching my charred pieces of flag into a crowd of civilians who had gathered to witness the commotion. The events of that day would come to define all that I have ever stood for — or against.

“Camel Jockey,” “Ayatollah,” and “Gandhi”

My parents and I soon returned to the United States and I entered third grade. More than anything, I just wanted to be normal, to fit in and be accepted by my peers. Unfortunately, my first name, Nader (which I changed to Nate upon joining the Navy), and my swarthy Middle Eastern appearance, were little help on that score, eliciting regular jibes from my classmates. Even at that young age, they had already mastered a veritable thesaurus of ethnic defamation, including “camel jockey,” “sand-nigger,” “raghead,” “ayatollah,” and ironically, “Gandhi” (which I now take as a compliment). My classmates regularly sought to “other-ize” me in those years, as if I were a lesser American because of my faith and ethnicity.

Yet I remember that tingling in my chest when I first donned my Cub Scout uniform — all because of the American flag patch on its shoulder. Something felt so good about wearing it, a feeling I still had when I joined the military. It seems that the flag I tried to rescue in Tehran was stapled to my heart, or that’s how I felt anyway as I wore my country’s uniform.

When I took my oath of enlistment in the U.S. Navy, I gave my mom a camera and asked her to take some photos, but she was so overwhelmed with pride and joy that she cried throughout the ceremony and managed to snap only a few images of the carpet. She cried even harder when I was selected to serve as the first Muslim-American member of the U.S. Navy Presidential Ceremonial Honor Guard. On that day, I was proud, too, and all the taunts of those bullies of my childhood seemed finally silenced.

Being tormented because of my ethnicity and religion in those early years had another effect on me.  It caused me to become unusually sensitive to the nature of other people.  Somehow, I grasped that, if it weren’t for a fear of the unknown, there was an inherent goodness and frail humanity lurking in many of the kids who bullied and harassed me. Often, I discovered, those same bullies could be tremendously kind to their families, friends, or even strangers. I realized, then, that if, despite everything, I could lay myself bare and trust them enough to reach out in kindness, I might in turn gain their trust and they might then see me, too, and stop operating from such a place of fear and hate.

Through patience, humor, and understanding, I was able to offer myself as the embodiment of my people and somehow defang the “otherness” of so much that Americans found scary. To this day, I have friends from elementary school, middle school, high school, and the military who tell me that I am the only Muslim they have ever known and that, had they not met me, their perspective on Islam would have been wholly subject to the prevailing fear-based narrative that has poisoned this country since September 11, 2001.

In 1998, I became special assistant to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and then, in 1999, I was recruited to serve at the Defense Intelligence Agency. In August 2000, I transferred to the Naval Reserve.

In the wake of 9/11, I began to observe how so many of my fellow Americans were adopting a fundamentalist “us vs. them” attitude towards Muslims and Islam. I suddenly found myself in an America where the scattered insults I had endured as a child took on an overarching and sinister meaning and form, where they became something like an ideology and way of life.

By the time I completed my military service in 2006, I had begun to understand that our policies in the Middle East, similarly disturbed, seemed in pursuit of little more than perpetual warfare.  That, in turn, was made possible by the creation of a new enemy: Islam — or rather of a portrait, painted by the powers-that-be, of Islam as a terror religion, as a hooded villain lurking out there somewhere in the desert, waiting to destroy us. I knew that attempting to dispel, through the patient approach of my childhood, the kind of Islamophobia that now had the country by the throat was not going to be enough. Post-9/11 attacks on Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere were not merely childish taunts.

For the first time in my life, in a country gripped by fear, I believed I was witnessing a shift, en masse, toward an American fundamentalism and ultra-nationalism that reflected a wanton lack of reason, not to mention fact. As a boy in Iran, I had witnessed the dark destination down which such a path could take a country. Now, it seemed to me, in America’s quest to escape the very demons we had sown by our own misadventures in the Middle East, and forsaking the hallmarks of our founding, we risked becoming everything we sought to defeat.

The Boy in the Schoolyard Grown Up

On February 10, 2015, three young American students, Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha, and Deah Shaddy Barakat, were executed at an apartment complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The killer was a gun-crazy white man filled with hate and described by his own daughter as “a monster.” Those assassinations struck a special chord of sorrow and loss in me.  My mom and I cried and prayed together for those students and their families.

The incident in Chapel Hill also awoke in me some version of the righteous indignation I had felt so many years earlier in that smoke-filled courtyard in Iran. I would be damned if I stood by while kids in my country were murdered simply because of their faith. It violated every word of the oath I had taken when I joined the military and desecrated every value I held in my heart as a sacred tenet of our nation. White nationalists and bigots had, by then, thrown down the gauntlet for so much of this, using Islamophobia to trigger targeted assassinations in the United States. This was terrorism, pure and simple, inspired by hate-speakers here at home.

At that moment, I reached out to fellow veterans who, I thought, might be willing to help — and it’s true what they say about soul mates being irrevocably drawn to each other. When I contacted Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to exposing the costs of war and militarism, I found the leadership well aware of the inherent dangers of Islamophobia and of the need to confront this new enemy. So Executive Director Michael McPhearson formed a committee of vets from around the country to decide how those of us who had donned uniforms to defend this land could best battle the phenomenon — and I, of course, joined it.

From that committee emerged Veterans Challenge Islamophobia (VCI). It now has organizers in Arizona, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas, and that’s just a beginning. Totally nonpartisan, VCI focuses on politicians of any party who engage in hate speech. We’ve met with leaders of American Muslim communities, sat with them through Ramadan, and attended their Iftar dinners to break our fasts together. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, we at VCI also mobilized to fight back against attempts to pit the Muslim community against the LGBTQ+ community.

Our group was born of the belief that, as American military veterans, we had a responsibility to call out bigotry, hatred, and the perpetuation of endless warfare. We want the American Muslim community to know that they have allies, and that those allies are indeed veterans as well. We stand with them and for them and, for those of us who are Muslim, among them.

Nationalism and xenophobia have no place in American life, and I, for my part, don’t think Donald Trump or anyone like him should be able to peddle Islamophobia in an attempt to undermine our national unity. Without Islamophobia, there no longer exists a “clash of civilizations.” Without Islamophobia, whatever the problems in the world may be, there is no longer an “us vs. them” and it’s possible to begin reimagining a world of something other than perpetual war.

As of now, this remains the struggle of my life, for despite my intense love for America, some of my countrymen increasingly see American Muslims as the “other,” the enemy.

My Mom taught me as a boy that the only thing that mattered was what was in my heart. Now, with her in mind and as a representative of VCI, when I meet fellow Americans I always remember my childhood experiences with my bullying peers. And I still lay myself bare, as I did then. I give trust to gain trust, but always knowing that these days this isn’t just a matter of niceties.  It’s a question of life or death.  It’s part of a battle for the soul of our nation.

In many ways, I still consider myself that boy in the school courtyard in Tehran trying to rescue charred pieces of that flag from those trampling feet. It’s just that now I’m doing it in my own country.

FAA Says North Dakota Cops Commited Felony by Shooting Down DAPL Protester Drones

October 28, 2016

by Jeremiah Jones


It is a federal crime to shoot down aircraft, and this week, the FAA confirmed that that includes drones. This is great news for anyone who has a drone, and for anyone who doesn’t want errant bullets falling from the sky, and it’s bad news for anyone eager to pump a quadcopter full of lead. Of course, now the question is “Does this apply to police officers shooting down media drones?”

Kelsey Atherton of Popular Science reports that the FAA told Forbes in April:

According to the FAA “regardless of the situation, shooting at any aircraft — including unmanned aircraft — poses a significant safety hazard. An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air. ”

“To reach this justification, the FAA turned to 18 U.S.C. 32, a law that in part expands “United States jurisdiction over aircraft sabotage to include destruction of any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.” The FAA, as the part of government that oversees that sky, could have made an exception when applying this law to small, uncrewed aircraft. That it didn’t fits into a larger pattern: whenever the FAA is given the opportunity to treat drones as regular aircraft, it chooses to do so. That means pilot’s licenses for drone business operators, and it means that when the FAA bans aircraft for miles around the Super Bowl, that ban applies to drones too,” says Atherton

There is another twist when it comes to local and state laws, like Utah’s proposed HB 420, which would let police shoot down drones in “emergency situations.” While the FAA decided that drone shootdowns are already illegal under existing law, we’ll have to see how drone shootdown cases proceed in the courts to know if that assertion will hold.

Video footage shows this was not an emergency situation and it was more of a harassment situation. Regardless, North Dakota has no existing drone shooting law with exceptions for police, so the officer shooting down the media drone at the DAPL protests did break a federal law and the FAA says they are investigating the situation, but it is unknown at this time if the officer will be considered above the law. The FAA has also put temporary flight restrictions in the area until Nov 4 at the request of local law enforcement for “law enforcement activities.”

Will the FAA side with justice and have the shooter charged with a federal crime for his unnecessary actions? Or will this be another case of a police officer being above the law in his harassment of peaceful protesters? Will a decision against justice give police a free pass to forever shoot down media drones when they don’t want to be seen doing whatever it is they are trying to hide from the public?

You can let the FAA know what you think about the situation: 866-TELL-FAA (866-835-5322)

Oakland’s ‘mega-evictor’, the landlord who filed over 3,000 eviction notices

Pro-tenant group says a landlord who has a seat on Oakland’s housing cabinet is also the top evictor in the city, where a housing crunch has reached crisis levels

October 31, 2016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

Oakland, California-Leketha Williams was out of options. When the Oakland, California, mother was evicted and became homeless in May of 2010, she had just enough money to book a hotel for her and her two sons, then aged seven and 12.

In the following weeks, she worked to get her children to school on time each morning before carrying all of their belongings from one temporary home to the next, often forced to make dinners for the family out of hotel microwaves.

Williams had fallen behind on rent during a difficult financial period and had begged her landlords for mercy, writing in one handwritten letter: “Please let us stay for at least a week because my boys do not have anywhere to go … Do it for the sake of my boys.”

But records show the sheriff ultimately forced her to surrender her apartment.

“It was horrible,” Williams, 47, recalled in a recent interview. “I was very shocked … They didn’t give us no time.”

It’s possible that Williams’s story could have turned out differently had she not lived in a building managed by William Rosetti. A review of public records by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a pro-tenant group, suggests that the Bay Area real estate executive, through his expansive portfolio of property companies and investments, is Oakland’s number one “mega-evictor”.

The organization’s research and an analysis by the Guardian reveal that in Oakland, Rosetti and his business firms have filed more than 3,000 eviction notices, which are the first step in removing a tenant. The data, along with accounts from evicted tenants, paint a picture of painful displacement and rising income inequality in Oakland, a city that is rapidly gentrifying amid the tech boom of nearby San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

“These evictions and the rent increases are part of an ecosystem that’s leading to a massive demographic shift of who can live in Oakland,” said Erin McElroy, co-founder of the mapping project and co-author of a new report on displacement in the region.

Evictions aren’t the only way Rosetti may be having an impact on Oakland. The researchers were particularly shocked to discover that the apparent top evictor has a seat on Mayor Libby Schaaf’s “housing cabinet”, a body dedicated to promoting equity and affordable housing in an increasingly unaffordable city.

‘I watched the gentrification’

Williams’s story is a familiar one in the Bay Area, where black residents have been displaced at alarming rates. By many measures, the housing crunch has reached crisis levels in Oakland, which has been deeply burdened by the migration out of San Francisco, the city across the bay known to have the priciest real estate in the country.

“I actually watched the gentrification,” said Mario Benton, 51, who lived in one of Rosetti’s buildings for more than 15 years and said there weren’t many black residents left when he moved out a few years ago.

Oakland now has one of the fastest-rising rents in the US and the country’s fourth most expensive rental market, with a median rent of $2,280 a month for a one-bedroom.

As some of the world’s largest technology corporations continue to prosper in Silicon Valley, making the region unaffordable to many and leading to mass evictions, activists have grown increasingly worried about the negative effect of tech in Oakland, where Uber is planning a major office development.

While Oakland rents have nearly doubled from 2011, the median income of residents has increased by only 11%, leading some to suggest that it has the worst affordability crisis of any major US city.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which studies Bay Area displacement, collected data from the local rent board and found that landlords have filed about 50,000 eviction notices since 2008 (though the city failed to provide data for 2009 and 2010).

The statistics largely refer to “three-day notices to pay or quit”, the first step in an eviction when a tenant misses a payment, and the cases generally cover buildings protected by rent control, meaning older properties where landlords are limited in how they can raise the rent.

The group also uncovered that dozens of the obscure limited liability corporations (LLCs) listed on the documents traced back to thousands of Rosetti’s units, with properties scattered across the city. The Guardian was able to confirm that more than 3,000 notices included in the rent board database were tied to his companies.

Rosetti told the Guardian that he has been in the business for 40 years and that his companies currently have a total of roughly 1,200 units, mostly in Oakland.

On one of his websites, he touts his work in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s, saying he was “at the forefront of the condominium conversion business”, a process that removes rentals from the housing stock and can lead to large-scale displacement of tenants.

For some Oakland renters evicted by Rosetti, the consequences were devastating.

‘It does something to you mentally’

Terry Braggs said that when he lost a restaurant job in 2011, the management at his Rosetti building refused to negotiate with him.

“I remember saying, ‘I’m really good for it, I just need a little bit more time. I lost my job,’” the 33-year-old chef said in an interview.

But his landlords moved forward with an eviction, and Braggs said he had to leave Oakland and move back in with his parents 30 miles away from the Bay Area restaurant scene where he was trying to build his career.

“It was overall stress and a little bit of depression,” he said. “Being evicted and forced to leave a place where you live, it does something to you mentally.”

Braggs said it also has been an ongoing battle to secure housing now that he has an eviction on his record. “Owners see that and it’s like you’ve got a disease … It is an extremely hard process to get back on your feet.”

Sascha Illyvich, a Rosetti tenant who faced two eviction lawsuits for missed rent payments, said he felt targeted since he and his girlfriend at the time frequently spoke up about maintenance issues and other problems. During the second case, he said they decided to leave. “They were trying to do anything to get us out … They didn’t like the fact that we complained and knew our rights.”

Williams, the mother who became homeless in 2010, said the eviction trapped her in a cycle of financial hardship. Paying nightly fees for hotels, she couldn’t save enough money for a deposit on a new apartment, and the many challenges of homelessness made it impossible for her to have a steady job.

“We had to start all over again,” she said.

Todd Rothbard, Rosetti’s attorney who handled the three cases, said management was “patient” with those tenants, gave them opportunities to pay owed rent and granted their requests for additional time before they were forced to move out.

In Williams’s case, Rosetti claimed the mother was given multiple warnings and had missed several rent payments, though court filings show she was only behind by one month when his company moved to evict her.

It’s difficult to know how many of Rosetti’s eviction cases end in displacement. The mapping project also analyzed court records and found that over the past 10 years, Rosetti has been associated with hundreds of eviction lawsuits (the next step after filing a notice).

Many of the thousands of rent board notices from Rosetti may not have resulted in formal eviction cases in court. But activists note that in general there are numerous ways in which tenants are pushed out without lawsuits.

Some may leave when they get a notice in an effort to avoid having an eviction on their record, some may not know their rights, and some may face harassment from managers, advocates said.

‘Pretty much industry standard’

Rosetti and his lawyer strongly disputed allegations that he is a major evictor, arguing that the three-day notices are standard filings when tenants fall behind, and that his companies work with tenants to help them stay. Indeed, the Guardian interviewed several of his tenants who were given second chances after missing a payment.

“We don’t evict … unless it’s somebody who is absolutely egregious,” Rosetti said, adding in a later email. “An eviction is a major tragedy in anyone’s life and when a resident loses the ability to earn or provide sufficient money for shelter it is a societal failure.”

Presented with specific documentation on the number of notices, Rosetti said he could not comment on the veracity of the data.

He also claimed that he gives tenants many chances to pay debts, which is why he might have a high number of individual notices, and further noted that he filed a much higher rate of eviction lawsuits during the foreclosure crisis 10 years ago. This year, he said, he has had fewer than 20 cases.

Rothbard argued that the eviction numbers are simply a result of Rosetti’s large volume of units and claimed that many of the buildings have “marginal tenants” who struggle to keep up.

“It’s pretty much industry standard,” he said. “The fact that he’s had to serve that many notices shows you the quality of tenants he’s dealing with.”

Mayor Schaaf said in an interview that Rosetti has not influenced any specific policies while on her housing cabinet and said it was useful to have executives such as him involved in a group that brings together developers and housing activists.

“He is certainly the type of person we would want to influence,” she said. “If he is in fact the largest evictor … he is exactly the kind of person you want in the room.”

Finding ways to stem the tide of displacement is her top priority, Schaaf added. “I’m concerned with the total number of evictions, period … It is horrific and it is damaging to this community.”

Rosetti argued that the solution to Oakland’s housing crisis was to build more housing and raise the wages of low-income and middle-class people.

“Housing is the number one crisis in Oakland,” he said. “What we all need to do is work together … to create more affordable housing for everybody.”

US Orders Families of Consulate Workers in Istanbul to Leave

Oct 29, 2016,

The Associated Press-

Washington-The State Department is ordering family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul to leave because of security concerns.

In a statement issued Saturday, the State Department says the decision is based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent.

The Consulate General remains open and fully staffed. The order applies only to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, not to other U.S. diplomatic posts in Turkey.

The travel warning issued Saturday updates a warning last week of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens were advised to avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country.

The State Department said international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey have been targeting U.S. as well as other foreign tourists.

Anti-American sentiment runs high in Turkey despite its status as a NATO ally and a member of the anti-ISIS coalition.

In addition to the terrorist threat, friction between Washington and Ankara has increased since a failed July coup in Turkey, which Turkish officials blame on a U.S.-based cleric who lives in self-exile in Pennsylvania. Turkey has requested his extradition, but the U.S. has yet to make a decision.

The Attack on Mosul:Three Shepherds on a Surreal Front

The attempt to retake Mosul from Islamic State has been underway for almost two weeks. Resistance from the jihadists is fierce and chaos on the front lines has resulted in some surreal scenes.

October 29, 2016

by Christoph Reuter


A droning noise fills the air. It sometimes fades before once again growing louder — but it never disappears. It’s the sound of American jets constantly circling over the battlefield. You never see them, but their pilots see everything. Allegedly.

On the ground things are quiet. Too quiet, according to Lieutenant Ammar and the other members of the seventh battalion of the Kurdish Peshmerga: “For the past two days, nothing has moved over there, absolutely nothing.”

From their elevated position, they have a clear view of the village of Fazilia, northeast of Mosul. It is a region where the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan give way to a barren landscape of hills — and the village is situated on the final hillside before the plains begin. It is one of Islamic State’s last bastions in the area. Up until a few days ago, IS was firing mortar shells from the village while the jets and the Peshmerga fired back. Three IS suicide bombers had sped toward the opposing lines in cars filled with explosives, but all of them had detonated prematurely. And since then: quiet. The only impacts are in the distance. Are the jihadists still there? Did they flee? Nobody really knows.

The first houses are about 800 meters (2,600 feet) away. Through the scope of a MILAN anti-tank rocket launcher, white flags can be seen flying from the houses. But there is nobody on the streets, no movement at all, as if the village had died out. Over a thousand people are supposedly still there, “but why don’t they come out? It smells like a trap,” says Ammar.

The lieutenant and about 50 men are lying on an embankment, keeping watch and waiting. Suddenly, one of the men who is keeping watch over no man’s land to their right, suddenly yells: “There. They are fleeing!” At first you can only see dust trails, but before long they can be made out: three shepherds with their flocks of sheep. They cross the undulating lunar landscape as if in slow motion, tiny black and white points in the endless ochre-gray surroundings, under a sky that is nearly the same color. It is a surreal scene. But they aren’t coming from Faisaliah. They must have set out from one of the villages further to the west.

A Trio of Shepherds

Unperturbed, the trio wanders with their herds between the frontlines as if the war was no concern of theirs. But they are walking right through the middle of a minefield. Fewer than 100 meters away lies the wreckage of a car where five Peshmerga troops lost their lives when mine blew up their vehicle.

The three shepherds are walking so slowly that even the long detour by way of the only clear path through the minefield doesn’t prevent us from catching up to them. They are still children. “We left Chanchi” — a tiny village — “at daybreak,” says the oldest of the three. They set out, he says, “when we were certain that all of the Daeshis were gone,” using the Arabic term for IS fighters.

The boy introduces himself as Omar and says that he was born in 2002. His brothers, he explains, are 13 and 11 years old: “In the summer two years ago, when the strangers suddenly moved in, we were far away with the animals. We weren’t even aware of what had happened. My parents, everybody, fled. When we came back to the village, it was too late. We couldn’t leave anymore.”

So the three of them stayed, living for two years in one of the abandoned houses and tending to their sheep. Every once in a while, they sold some of them at local markets. He insists that they never had anything to do with IS. “I sometimes saw them in the mosque on Fridays, otherwise never.” When they arrived, the IS fighters had laid down strict rules. But Omar doesn’t even know anymore what the bearded men wanted — “only that they would chop off my head if I did something wrong. I was always afraid of that. That they would cut off my head.”

The world outside of their low villages and barren pastures in the region is foreign and spooky to him. There is, in fact, only one thing he knows for sure: “The day before yesterday it was 135 sheep. Perhaps a few died from the mortars yesterday. I’m not totally sure at the moment. But 135 sheep, that was our herd.” It is all that he and his two little brothers have left.

But now they have to keep going — through the mined countryside. And the fear suddenly spills out of Omar: “By God, we are afraid, we don’t know where the mines are.” But the sheep, he says, haven’t eaten or drunk anything in four days. And they themselves want to find their parents. They are staying with relatives in the village of Sindana. He says.

Not Enough Gas Masks

Civilians between the fronts, fighting in the chaos: It’s a nightmare for many regular troops. But that’s what the fight for Mosul, Islamic State’s Iraq stronghold, is like. For nearly two weeks, Kurdish Peshmerga troops, Iraqi army soldiers and Shiite militia members have been marching on the city, all supported by the Americans. Almost everything is going according to plan, say the officers. But the campaign frequently bogs down.

The Islamists are resisting and the jets, despite their high-tech optics, are often blinded by the giant, dark gray clouds of smoke coming from countless fires. Islamic State has set fire to oil wells, piles of tires, and part of a sulfur factory in Mishraq, south of Mosul. For several days, soldiers near the factory have only been able to venture outside for a few hours at a time wearing gas masks. But there aren’t enough gas masks.

Most alliance fighters, though, aren’t dying in battle. They are losing their lives while driving, when opening doors — or even picking up a clock by the side of the road. They are dying whenever one of the many thousands of mines and boobytraps detonates that IS has hidden in all kinds of places over the last several months. And even as the coalition has advanced, IS has launched counterattacks elsewhere — in Kirkuk, for example, or Ruba.

Lieutenant Ammar’s Kurdish fighters are tense with fear that yet another armored pickup or truck filled with explosives will start racing towards them from some hiding place. Almost nothing aside from missiles from the jets overhead can stop the vehicles. In theory, the German-made MILAN rockets from the 1970s could also destroy them, says Lieutenant Ammar: “As long as the car isn’t zigzagging. If it is, the MILANs only hit the target if it’s driving slower than 40 kilometers per hour.”

He says it’s a miracle that the last suicide bomber exploded 50 meters in front of a Kurdish Humvee a few days ago, tearing off the foot of one of his men but not killing anybody. Maybe it was because of a bump that the racing IS fighter apparently didn’t see. Suicide bombers supposedly hold the detonators in their hands in case they are shot as they approach. The bump could have been enough to make the driver set it off by accident.

A Strange Caravan

It’s not easy to keep track of what’s going on in this chaotic battle, even for high-ranking officers. Sometimes places are declared to have been liberated before they have been. Last Saturday morning, it was said that the small Christian town of Bartella was under army control and an Iraqi general even gave an improvised press conference in the center.

But on Sunday morning, it’s clear that Bartella hasn’t been liberated at all. For hours, heavy explosions can be heard on the edge of the city, while on the other side of town, black-clad non-commissioned officers from the army’s “Golden Division” are assuring people that the situation will be under control in half an hour. They say they missed a couple of IS units on the edge of town.

Around 2 p.m., a strange caravan gets underway: Up front are the combat vehicles of the Golden Division, pock-marked with dents. Then comes a bishop in a black-violet habit and a handful of anxious-looking priests, squeezed into an armored off-road vehicle. An astonishingly intact street sign proclaims: “Mosul, 27 kilometers.” The tires of the vehicles crunch over bullet casings and the glowing wire-scrap remnants of burned out piles of tires.

At a main-street intersection, the journey continues on foot, single file to the Church of the Virgin Mary one kilometer away. Those needing to relieve themselves must do so in the middle of the street because of the mines. Shiite soldiers, with oversized flags of their saints flying from their cars, pose for selfies with two female Czech TV reporters, one of whom is wearing camouflage leggings. Somewhere in the distance, there is an explosion.

The church is still standing and even the bells are still there — and will soon ring out over the ruined city. The graves in the crypts and in the nearby cemetery have been dug up and plundered, all of the statues have had their heads hacked off. A final message from the jihadists is spray-painted in blue on the church façade: “The Islamic State is remaining and expands.” The expansion has doubtlessly been stopped. But the danger that IS will remain, even after a defeat, is real.

Since Wednesday of last week, about 100 IS attackers have spread fear in the large city of Kirkuk, well southeast of the front. They first occupied several buildings in the city center, including police stations. But then, even after the buildings were reconquered, small IS groups kept fighting and sowing panic. Police officers, soldiers and armed neighborhood vigilantes shot at anyone suspected of belonging to IS. Photographer Hawre Khalid from Kirkuk reports that an entire family was mowed down in its car because the driver didn’t stop quickly enough. And deep in the southwest of Iraq, IS troops overran the desert city of Rutba. They are all suicide missions, but they stoke the fear of this monstrous machinery of horrors.

‘We’re Afraid of the Gardens’

What are the Islamists going to do this time, wonder the men of Lieutenant Ammar’s small Kurdish unit near Fazilia. Hour after hour nothing moves. The two old tanks of belonging to their unit rattled up to the ring of gardens surrounding the village at one point, and then returned. Not a shot was fired. “We are afraid of the gardens,” says Ammar. “Anything can come out of them.”

The two weathered tank drivers shrug slightly when asked if they are afraid. Haidar is 49, Jabar is 45, and their two Soviet-made T-62 tanks are even older. The bullet hole in the gun turret, Haidar notes, is from 1986. “Iran front.” Fear? No, he says without emotion. “In Iraq, dying has become so normal. Since the 1980s, there has always been some war going on. And I have always been part of it.” He and Jabar have been doing their jobs for 30 years. And they’ve survived it all. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll see tomorrow.

On Thursday, the village of Fazilia was finally conquered. But all of the wars, all of the forgotten dead from the 80s, the 90s, the Iranian front, Kuwait, Iraqi Kurdistan and then, after 2003, everywhere in the country, the knowledge that in this country, yesterday’s victims will become the oppressors of tomorrow. All of that comes together on this October afternoon in one laconic sentence: Dying has become so normal in Iraq.

Why? Haidar shrugs again: “That seems to be this country’s fate. We are savage to one another.” He believes that the foreseeable defeat of IS in Mosul won’t mean the end of the war. The mercilessness of the victors and their disagreement over to whom the city should belong to in the future, he claims, will spur the next turn in the endless fighting: Kurds against Shiite militias, Iraqis against the Turkish army, “who knows?” A third shrug. And presumably he, Jabar and their 54-year-old tanks will once again take part. He says that’s how it is with Soviet weapons: “They last forever.”+

Carrying On

More refugees from Chanchi have followed in the footsteps of the three shepherd boys. Two farmers have saved their tractors, one pulling the other along the dusty road. A Peshmerga fighter in a pickup hardly wants to stop. He has a small wailing boy with a bandaged arm in his passenger seat and there are women and children cowering on the truck bed. “We need to keep going, find a hospital somewhere,” he says. Those in the truck are his relatives.

All of the traffic backs up at the Peshmerga checkpoint located between two steep hills, where the “Caliphate” front line stood for two years. And the herd of sheep with Omar and his two little brothers reappears. At first, nobody seems to take much notice. But then, uniformed men run up to them. One of them pulls Omar from his donkey and yells: “Were you with Daesh?”

“No, saiydi” — sir — “I wasn’t. I merely looked after the sheep.”

“Yes you were!” He boxes the boy on the ear.

“No, saiydi, no.”

This continues for a while before the oldest one is ultimately arrested. The younger ones are allowed to carry on.

The two of them and their herd continue onward through the hills for two or three kilometers and can be seen periodically from a distance. But then they disappear. An hour later, two uniformed Kurds drive their herd up the street. Oddly enough, the village of Sindana, which eldest-brother Omar had named — their alleged destination — isn’t known to anybody in the area. There is no place with that name, say other refugees and Peshmerga fighters. The image of the three dissolves like a mirage. Who are they really? Was the oldest one maybe really with IS?

On two occasions in recent days, SPIEGEL teams witnessed the capture of IS fighters. In the Jada refugee camp, four young men are recognized by distant relatives and arrested. In the village of Tall Teiyba, far south of Mosul, two men try to flee, but the last car and the last motorcycle remaining refuse to start. The men surrender to Iraqi soldiers and wail that they didn’t do anything bad. They are pitiful figures and very young, neither fanatic nor determined. Instead, they are fearful, confused and apparently not all that bright.

Meanwhile, fires are being reported in the center of Mosul, in addition to explosions. The provincial council building, the registration office and several banks go up in flames. Witnesses from inside the city confirm that IS is starting to cover its own tracks.

Islamic State always maintained a bureaucratic apparatus. They wrote down, collected and used everything. But now, the files, documents and bank transfers are are apparently to be destroyed before they can fall into enemy hands.

There are likewise reports of many IS fighters leaving the city of Mosul, most of them probably following secret routes to Syria. One after the other, IS units are abandoning their positions, moving back across the Tigris towards the center. At the end of last week, they even held a military parade there, the participants of which were mostly foreign fighters, including from China. According a Mosul informant for the publication Iraq Oil Report, which is extremely well sourced in the city, Iraqi members of the group stayed away for fear of resistance in the city itself.


When IS overran Mosul in June 2014 in the space of just a few days, they recruited local leaders for its feared “Hisba” patrol troops from the city’s poor neighborhoods, which was a tactically clever move at that time. But recently the Hisba groups became increasingly brutal to keep people in fear. And now it’s not working anymore. They are able to keep fewer and fewer people in check and are driving increasing numbers into a partially desperate and partially expectant resistance. The Mosul Brigades, as the IS enemies in Mosul call themselves, shoot at the jihadists from windows and other hiding spots.

On the other hand, IS snipers from Syria supposedly have arrived as reinforcements, to both reinforce and raise the morale of the remaining fighters. It is thought that they possess chemical weapons, mostly from old stocks, and are ready to use them. And according to a SPIEGEL informant in Mosul, the network of tunnels that IS has dug in the city — of the kind the jihadists spent years digging even under villages and small towns — extends for about 17 kilometers. Some of the tunnels are apparently two-and-a-half meters tall and wide: large enough to drive a car through.

But the anti-IS alliance is also relying on an unconventional form of combat: According to the Iraq Oil Report, “Cellphone networks have reactivated dormant SIM cards, improved cellphone reception, and issued free credit with text messages urging civilians to cooperate with future instructions from Iraqi security forces.” This, the Report notes, “has led to a significant increase in the range and frequency of communications between residents and Iraqi security forces. Residents in different neighborhoods are reporting the whereabouts and numbers of IS militants in the city via SMS.”

The young shepherds from Chanchi with their sheep have never owned a cell phone. Our search for the two younger ones ultimately leads to the local Peshmerga headquarters. The sergeant on duty answers curtly: “What do you want? To ask about two boys and a herd of sheep?!”


But unexpectedly, one of the highest-ranking Kurdish generals is sitting in a meeting room and he likes the question: “We need to pay attention to the people. If we only counter the horrors of IS with horrors of our own, then we will not accomplish anything.” His orders set off a series of hectic phone calls until suddenly the two young shepherds are led into the room, intimidated but unharmed.

The two repeat their story. Only that now they no longer know where they should flee. They are given cookies and juice. “God damn it, these are just children,” the general says, as another Kurd, speaking German with an accent from the Ruhr Valley in western Germany, presents himself (“Bottrop Kurdish association”). He says reassuringly: “The youth welfare office will surely take in the boys!” It’s surreal.

The next morning, everybody is gone: the general, the man from Bottrop, the boys and their herd. The man on duty says they were let go: “They went to Sheikh Marwan.” But nobody is familiar with this village either. Apparently neither Omar nor the two younger boys were telling the truth.

As the war continues, as missiles from far overhead continue to rain down on fast-moving suicide bombers and IS positions, and as the inhabitants of Fazilia tearfully celebrate the swift and gentle defeat of IS in their village on Thursday afternoon, the three and their herd of sheep have simply vanished.



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