TBR News September 24, 2017

Sep 24 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 24, 2017:”Zero Hedge is a very eccentric Austrian economics-based finance blog run by a pseudonymous founder who posts articles under the name “Tyler Durden,” after the character from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It has accurately predicted 200 of the last 2 recessions.

“Tyler” claims to be a “believer in a sweeping conspiracy that casts the alumni of Goldman Sachs as a powerful cabal at the helm of U.S. policy, with the Treasury and the Federal Reserve colluding to preserve the status quo.” While this is not an entirely unreasonable statement of the problem, his solution actually mirrors the antagonist in Fight Club: Tyler wants, per Austrian school ideas, to lead a catastrophic market crash in order to destroy banking institutions and bring back “real” free market capitalism.

The site posts nearly indecipherable, and generally bizarre, analyses of multiple and seemingly unrelated subjects that are intended to point towards a consistent theme of economic collapse “any day now.”

“ Tyler” seems to repeat The Economic Collapse Blog’s idea of posting blog articles many times a day and encouraging people to post it as far and wide as humanly possible. “Tyler” moves away from the format of long lists to write insanely dense volumes filled with generally contradicting jargon that makes one wonder if the writers even know what the words actually mean. The site first appeared in early 2009, meaning that (given “Tyler’s” psychotic habit of denying each and every positive data point), anyone listening to him from the beginning missed the entire 2009-2014 rally in the equities market.

The only writer conclusively identified is one Dan Ivandjiiski, a Bulgarian former medical student, who conducts public interviews on behalf of Zero Hedge. This hysterical blog came online several days after he lost his job at Wexford Capital, a Connecticut-based hedge fund (run by a former Goldman trader). And Ivandjiiski chose his pen name from a nihilistic psychotic delusion.

Zero Hedge is not quite the NaturalNews of economics, but not for want of trying.”


Table of Contents

  • Internet giants, once above the fray, on the defensive in Washington
  • The View From the End of the American Empire
  • US special ops forces & hardware spotted at ISIS positions north of Deir ez-Zor – Russian MoD
  • WIKILEAKS: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Funds and Logistically Supports ISIL
  • Republican Susan Collins likely to deal fatal blow to Graham-Cassidy bill
  • Reactions to German national election
  • German Election Results: Merkel in Front, SPD Collapses, AfD Wins Seats
  • German Election Results: Merkel in Front, SPD Collapses, AfD Wins Seats
  • Jews around world concerned by far-right breakthrough in German election
  • Israeli police evict family of Palestinians from home of 50 years
  • The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine
  • Authoritarian regimes currently supported by the United States


Internet giants, once above the fray, on the defensive in Washington

September 24, 2017

by Dustin Volz


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Internet giants, including Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O), are moving to compromise on several major policy issues as they adjust to an abrupt shift in the political winds in Washington.

Just last week, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward advancing legislation that would partially strip away the internet industry’s bedrock legal protection, a 1996 law that shields companies from liability for the activities of their users.

At the same time, Democratic senators are writing legislation that would create new disclosure rules for online political ads after Facebook this month revealed that suspected Russian trolls purchased more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on its platform during the 2016 election cycle. The U.S. Federal Election Commission is considering bringing in Facebook and other tech firms for a public hearing.

Unlike in Europe, where they have faced a bevy of new rules and billion-dollar fines, internet giants have avoided virtually all types of government regulation in the United States, even as their market power continues to grow. Amazon (AMZN.O), for example, controls more than a third of U.S. online commerce, while Google and Facebook combined account for more than sixty percent of the U.S. digital ad market.

Internet firms have from their inception urged U.S. politicians in both parties to treat their industry as a nascent sector in need of unique protections. These firms enjoyed an especially close relationship with the Democratic administration of former President Barack Obama, which saw several officials go to work for Google upon leaving the White House.

But some Democrats, still bitter over Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, are now expressing alarm at the industry’s power. Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this month compared political ads on social media to the “wild, wild West” and is working on legislation to require more disclosure.

On the Republican side, President Donald Trump has been hostile to the tech industry in many of his public remarks. Google and Facebook have been repeatedly attacked from the right for alleged liberal bias and a globalist outlook.

Now, the Internet firms are backpedaling from earlier positions as they seek to avoid regulation, according to congressional aides, industry lobbyists and company sources.

“Tech is no longer the golden goose,” said one technology industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Maybe it’s a good thing we start behaving like a rational part of the economy.”

Silicon Valley lobbyists and congressional aides in both parties were quick to temper talk of a sweeping regulatory crackdown, in part because the government agencies that could move against the industry, notably the Federal Trade Commission, remain severely understaffed.

But the shift in tone is palpable.

On Thursday, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company, for the first time, would make it possible for anyone to see details about political ads that run on Facebook, which, unlike television ads, do not fall under U.S. law requiring disclosure of who pays for them. Requiring such transparency is one of the key provisions of the proposed legislation on online political ads.

The company also said it would turn over to congressional investigators political ads that it says were likely purchased by Russian entities during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The moves marked an about-face for Zuckerberg, who after the November election said it was a “crazy idea” to think that activity on Facebook swayed the vote.

Facebook has also shifted its stance on proposed changes to the liability protections for internet companies, formally known as Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The legislation, which is aimed at stopping online sex trafficking, has been fiercely opposed by companies that see it as a threat to openness and innovation on the internet.

But after an emotional hearing last week featuring testimony from the mother of a murdered sex-trafficking victim – which followed two big tech companies, Oracle (ORCL.N) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N), breaking ranks with industry peers on the issue – Facebook and Google have opened the door to negotiation on the bill, according to congressional aides and industry sources.

In a statement, Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. policy, said the company believed a legislative solution was possible to “address this terrible problem while ensuring that the internet remains open and free and that responsible companies can continue to work to stop sex trafficking before it happens.”

The tech industry in recent years has neutralized other ideas percolating in the halls of Congress that it perceived as threatening, including calls to weaken encryption and demands that social media companies report “terrorist” activity to the government.

But the effort to amend Section 230 is seen as different. The fast progress of legislation, introduced in August, has alarmed lobbyists and company representatives who initially predicted it would not go far in an otherwise gridlocked Congress.

The bill comes after years of law enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site backpage.com, which is used for sex advertising. The measure would make it easier for states and sex trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others who fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead architect of the Section 230 legislation, said in an interview with Reuters that he was confident his measure would become law this congressional term, with or without Silicon Valley’s cooperation.

The bill has attracted bipartisan support from nearly a third of the Senate; a companion measure has similar backing in the House of Representatives. Portman said he had met with Trump’s daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, who expressed strong support.

“Frankly, I am disappointed (that) more in the technology industry are not joining us on this effort,” Portman said. “It is in their interest to be supportive of a solution on this problem.”

Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Marla Dickerson



The View From the End of the American Empire

September 24 201

by Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept

In his United Nations General Assembly speech last week, President Donald Trump loudly stated his intention to effectively dismantle the world order that the United States painstakingly built over the past century. Trump lauded nationalism before the assembled delegates at the same global institution that the U.S. helped create: “I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” he thundered. “There can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, independent nations.”

Trump’s speech was a remarkable departure from decades of U.S. policy aimed at creating an integrated post-nationalist world under its own leadership. At the end of the Second World War, the U.S. emerged for the first time in its history as a true superpower: a country able to reach out beyond its borders and reshape the nature of global politics. Most people alive today were born into a world whose institutions, economic systems, legal rules, and political boundaries have all been shaped to some degree by American influence. While the U.S. has never been comfortable with embracing its identity — preferring to refer to itself with such euphemisms as “the indispensable nation” — a sober accounting of America’s influence on world affairs can only arrive at the designation of an “empire.”

Through a network of nearly 800 military bases located in 70 countries around the globe, in addition to an array of trade deals and alliances, the U.S. has cemented its influence for decades across both Europe and Asia. American leaders helped impose a set of rules and norms that promoted free trade, democratic governance — in theory, if not always in practice — and a prohibition on changing borders militarily, using a mixture of force and suasion to sustain the systems that keep its hegemony intact. Meanwhile, although the U.S. generally eschewed direct colonialism, its promotion of global free trade helped “open a door through which America’s preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all the underdeveloped areas of the world,” wrote the revisionist historian William Appleman Williams in his more-than-half-century-old classic, “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy”.

That strategy of “non-colonial imperial expansion,” as Williams called it, became the basis for U.S. foreign policy over the past century. For American elites, such a policy has provided remarkable benefits, even if the resulting largesse has not always trickled down to the rest of the country. Thanks to its status as the world’s only superpower, the U.S. today enjoys the “exorbitant privilege” of having its dollar serve as the world’s reserve currency, while U.S. leaders dominate the agenda of international institutions promoting governance and trade. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the successful creation of a global military alliance to repel Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait that same year, America’s imperial confidence reached a zenith; President George H.W. Bush publicly declared the start of a “new world order” under American leadership.

Looking back on Bush’s speech a few decades later, however, that prediction of a stable U.S.-led order seems to have been wildly optimistic. The world today faces a range of interwoven crises related to migration, inequality, war, and climate change, yet the structures and leadership needed to meaningfully respond to them seem woefully inadequate. Instead of the U.S. embracing the role of global leadership and filling the vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans have seen their country consumed by domestic crises and have responded with a mixture of ineptitude and paranoia towards international ones.

Meanwhile, the global system of free trade deals and military deployments built by U.S. leaders over the past 75 years — the hard infrastructure supporting America’s hegemony — has come to be viewed by many Americans as a costly burden rather than a benefit. Even before Trump rode to victory on a wave of promises to knock over the pillars of the post-World War II international order, the possibility that the U.S. would continue to enjoy clear primacy seemed questionable even with competent governance. With Trump now in power and doing his utmost to tank America’s global standing, what kind of new world order is actually coming into existence?

Although there is a long history of “declinist” writing about U.S. power, the election of a president hostile to the U.S.-created order marks the start of a genuinely unprecedented era. Imminent preparations now being made for a post-American global future. Two recent books — “All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power,” by Thomas J. Wright, a fellow at the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution, and “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power,” by Alfred McCoy, a legendary investigative journalist and a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — offer a glimpse into what such a world may look like.

Although both books deal with the subject of America’s imperial decline, their approach differs in both scope and definition. Whereas McCoy explicitly discusses the rise and fall of America as an “empire,” a word that he intends not as an epithet but as an honest descriptor of the U.S. global footprint, Wright speaks about the possible collapse of the American-led “liberal international order” — the system of rules, norms and institutions that have governed global affairs in America’s favor since the end of World War II.

Wright sees the system under threat from a combination of newly emerging powers and recent American missteps. McCoy, for his part, sees the unraveling of the U.S. empire as analogous to the series of events that led to the decline of the British and French empires before it. The first step is the loss of support from local elites in territories under imperial influence, a process that McCoy says is clearly underway for the U.S. in many critical regions of the world. In recent years, America has seen its ties strained with military partners such as Turkey, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, while major U.S. allies like Germany and South Korea have increasingly come to question America’s capacity to continue leading the imperial system that it created.

It is the Arab Spring uprisings against mostly pro-U.S. dictators, however, that McCoy says marked the slow beginning of the end of American imperium. While the revolts are widely judged to have failed in bringing about liberal democracy, they did succeed in unseating longtime American allies in Tunisia and Egypt, while straining U.S. ties with Gulf Arab countries and even Iraq. As McCoy writes, “All modern empires have relied on dependable surrogates to translate their global power into local control.” He adds, “For most of them, the moment when those elites began to stir, talk back, and assert their own agendas was also the moment when you knew that imperial collapse was in the cards.” The British empire famously became a “self-liquidating concern” when local elites across the empire began demanding self-rule, as did France’s far-flung rule when it was forced to wage a grinding war of attrition to keep control over Algeria. The Arab Spring and the forces it unleashed, which have reduced U.S. influence while exhausting its resources to deal with terrorism and migration, “may well contribute, in the fullness of time, to the eclipse of American global power.”

Compounding these pressures is the threat to American hegemony posed by a rising China, a country which reasonably expects to be given an opportunity to reshape the U.S.-created global order in proportion to its size, influence, and self-perception as a nation denied its rightful role in world affairs over the past century. While the U.S. possesses a conventional military advantage over China that is not likely to evaporate overnight, China has begun taking steps to challenge American preeminence in new realms of warfare. And the Chinese advances are directed at areas likely to be most important in the 21st century: cyberspace and outer-space. A growing educational gap between Chinese and American students in key STEM research fields means that a divergence in talent may place the U.S. at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, as the U.S. has been dealing with the turmoil wrought by its most recent election, China has been moving ahead with plans to connect the Eurasian continent through Chinese infrastructure and transit links, an ambitious endeavor named “One Belt, One Road” (also known as the Silk Road Initiative), an economic and political strategy that would reorient large swaths of the developing world around a Chinese metropole.

While McCoy prefaces his argument by acknowledging the inherent difficulties of prognosticating world events, the case he makes for a precipitous decline in U.S. power over the next decade is compelling. If trends continue, by 2030 the American Century — proclaimed with such confidence not long ago — could be “all over except the finger-pointing.”

The argument taken by Wright’s book is less dramatic, though in practice his conclusions are not vastly different. In the aftermath of a bruising decade-a-half of failed wars, financial crises, and political dysfunction, the U.S. seems to have lost both the will and ability to hold off threats to the international system it created. For their part, the American people have also lost faith in the ability of their elected officials to govern international affairs competently or deliver on any of the grand promises that have accompanied past wars and interventions.

Partly as a consequence of so many self-inflicted losses, China, Russia, and Iran have all mounted growing challenges to American hegemony in recent years, contesting the tenets of the U.S.-enforced order in the South China Sea, eastern Europe and the Middle East, respectively. Russia has successfully annexed territory and asserted its influence along its periphery, in places like Ukraine, while China has moved ahead with plans to put the economically-vital South China Sea region under its control. Instead of a world in which a hegemonic U.S. enforces the political and economic rules of engagement in these regions, its now possible to see a future in which the world is carved up into a “spheres of influence” system that gives regional powers wide latitude to set the agenda in their immediate neighborhood.

Such a development should give principled opponents of U.S. foreign policy pause. Although the crimes and follies of American imperialism over the past several decades are clear, it’s not obvious that a world divided between several regional hegemons would be more peaceful or stable. In the absence of the U.S. hegemonic presence, the world would likely see numerous sub-imperial states emerge, each seeking to impose their own vision of political order onto their region and being unconstrained by the threat of an outside power intervening to stop them. What’s worse, none of the powers seeking to replace the U.S. is even notionally committed to liberal principles like international human rights, meaning the likely retreat of such concepts along with U.S. influence. The damage that the U.S. did to its own professed values through direct abuses as well as the politicization of humanitarian discourse in recent years did little to help their survival. Like the British and French empires before it, the use of torture helped undermine the America’s reputation and its ability to use cultural persuasion instead of force as a means of building popular support. In the absence of the U.S., though, it remains unlikely that a reconstituted system of Russian, Chinese, or Iranian local imperialisms would take meaningful steps to uphold liberal values that the U.S., at least on occasion, made gestures toward promoting.

According to Wright, the strength of America’s global governance has always lain in the fact that the ideals that it promoted were genuinely popular, even if they were applied with inconsistency. Principles like free trade and the promotion of human rights standards boasted significant popular support around the world, while small states benefitted from the American commitment to curb the predatory behavior of their larger neighbors. Even in a world where the U.S. has been cut down to size and reduced to the status of a former global hegemon, it’s still possible for it to remain a leader among the countries in its own neighborhood. Barring a continued hard turn toward nativism, the U.S. would have an important role to play as the anchor state of the Western Hemisphere, serving as an economic and political fulcrum for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

As the American global empire begins its long and fitful decline — a process initiated by the calamitous 2003 invasion of Iraq that has now given rise to the presidency of Donald Trump — the most worrisome prospect may be how this affects the U.S. itself. Writing in 2010 the late intellectual Tony Judt reflected on the world of emerging instability and uncertainty being wrought by the financial crises and wars that had opened the new century. Less than a decade later, his words seem remarkably prescient in anticipating America’s imperial twilight and the rise of its new demagogic politics:

[We] feel more comfortable describing and combating the risks we think we understand: terrorists, immigrants, job loss or crime. But the true sources of insecurity in decades to come will be those that most of us cannot define: dramatic climate change and its social and environmental effects; imperial decline and its attendant “small wars”; collective political impotence in the face of distant upheavals with disruptive local impact. These are the threats that chauvinist politicians will be best placed to exploit, precisely because they lead so readily to anger and humiliation.

The United States will leave behind a complex legacy as its global footprint recedes. Despite well-documented crimes during wars of choice in Vietnam, Iraq, and other peripheral regions of its global empire, much of the world also experienced advancements in human rights and economic prosperity during the period of America’s post-World War II hegemony. The late British empire left behind a similarly complicated legacy: one that included massacres and disastrous geographic partitions, but also left many parliamentary democracies in the lands of its former colonies. Likewise, the final judgment on the U.S. empire might be more nuanced than a rigid ideological position can accommodate. As it continues its descent from superpower status, those of us born into the world shaped by the United States can only hope that its collapsing imperial system experiences a soft landing – and that American leaders can learn to make peace with a world in which their country is but one power among many.


US special ops forces & hardware spotted at ISIS positions north of Deir ez-ZorRussian MoD

September 24, 2017


The Russian Ministry of Defense has released aerial images which they say show US Army special forces equipment north of the town of Deir er-Zor, where ISIS militants are deployed.

US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.

“Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads.

The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.”

“Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This could mean that the US military staff “feel absolutely safe” in the area which is held by the terrorists, the ministry of defense stated.

Though, the ministry claims to have identified, among others, cars, armored vehicles and tents, it does not provide information on the exact whereabouts of the US troops on the images posted.

All of the images were taken from September 8 to 12. The photos show several Cougar infantry mobility vehicles and Hummer armored vehicles of the US Army special forces, according to the Russian MoD data.

Earlier in September, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov accused the SDF of collusion with ISIS terrorists.

“SDF militants work to the same objectives as IS terrorists. Russian drones and intelligence have not recorded any confrontations between IS and the ‘third force,’ the SDF,” Konashenkov said.

The city of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria was besieged by Islamic State in 2014. The Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, broke a three-year blockade on the city in early September. The city’s liberation enabled convoys to start delivering food, medicine, and other essentials to the city, which previously had to rely on airdrops.

The liberation of Deir ez-Zor triggered a race between Syrian government forces and US-backed SDF militants. Both are holding separate operations in the area and are aiming to control the oil rich Deir ez-Zor province.


WIKILEAKS: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Funds and Logistically Supports ISIL

by Kristen Breitweiser

huffington post

Aren’t the Saudis your friends?” Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said. “My view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.” President Barack Obama http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/

“We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had.” Secretary of State John Kerry http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2016-01-24/kerry-says-us-saudi-friendship-stronger-than-ever

“I think it’s important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-09-21/saudi-arabia-s-clout-in-washington-isn-t-what-it-used-to-be

“The strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia is based on mutual interests and a longstanding commitment to facing our common threats together.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan http://www.speaker.gov/general/continuing-dialogue-regional-security-partners-ryan-delegation-travels-riyadh

“I think Saudi Arabia is a valuable partner in the war on terror. If you want to lose Saudi Arabia as an ally, be careful what you wish for.” Senator Lindsey Graham http://yournewswire.com/sen-lindsey-graham-supports-arms-sale-to-saudi-arabia/

“There is a public relations issue that exists. That doesn’t mean that it’s in our national interest to not have an alliance with them — I mean they’re an important part of our efforts in the Middle East.” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/09/21/saudi-arabia-is-facing-unprecedented-scrutiny-from-congress/

“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends.” Senator John McCain http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-saudi-arabia-iraq-syria-bandar/373181/

Citing Western Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence, and Intelligence from the Region, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—not just its rich donors— was providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups, http://www.salon.com/2016/10/11/leaked-hillary-clinton-emails-show-u-s-allies-saudi-arabia-and-qatar-supported-isis/ why do President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator John McCain, consider the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia our ally?

Markedly, this is not complicated, nor is it a friendship, a special relationship, a valuable partnership, a clear alliance, a strategic partnership, or a public relations issue.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is evidently a clear sponsor of terrorism.

According to Western Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence and Intelligence from the region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia clandestinely funds and logistically supports ISIS.

How could a nation like Saudi Arabia (or Qatar) that funds and logistically supports ISIS be considered an ally of the United States in the fight against ISIS?

The Saudis (and the Qataris) are funding and logistically supporting our enemy.

The United States Government should not condone, enable, or turn a blind eye to that fact.

As an American citizen and a 9/11 widow whose husband was brutally murdered by 19 radical Sunni terrorists, I’d like these appointed and elected officials to immediately explain their indefensible positions with regard to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its now clearly evident role in underwriting and logistically supporting radical Sunni terror groups worldwide.

Moreover, these appointed and elected officials, in good conscience, should also immediately explain to the American public why they oppose JASTA or want to re-write JASTA—anti-terrorism legislation specifically designed to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for its funding and logistical support of radical Sunni terror groups that kill Americans.


Republican Susan Collins likely to deal fatal blow to Graham-Cassidy bill

Maine senator who voted against previous efforts to repeal the ACA told CNN it was ‘very difficult’ for her to envision a scenario where she’d vote for the bill

September 24, 2017

by Oliver Laughland

The Guardian

Maine Republican Susan Collins looks all but certain to oppose the latest effort to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that would likely kill the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill and deal yet another legislative blow to the Trump administration.

Collins, who voted against previous efforts to repeal the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday it was “very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill”.

Her “no” vote would likely deal a fatal blow to the senate bill as two Republicans, Rand Paul and John McCain, have already come out against it. Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate. A 50-50 tie on Graham-Cassidy would be broken by vice-president Mike Pence.

Collins told CNN she was waiting for a final analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which she expected on Monday, before making a definitive decision. But she said: “I don’t know whether the CBO analysis will have new information that will change where I’m inclined to head.”

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, another who voted against the last effort to replace the ACA, has also yet to declare a position.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been expected to bring the bill up for a vote before 30 September, as he looks to fulfil a seven-year Republican campaign promise.

Graham-Cassidy has prompted opposition across the political spectrum and in the healthcare sector. On Saturday, the American Medical Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association issued a joint statement against it.

The groups said Graham-Cassidy would cause patients to lose important protections and undermine those with pre-existing conditions; would implement “dramatic cuts” to Medicaid for vulnerable citizens; would make coverage more expensive; and contained “unworkable” timelines for implementation.

The statement read: “Healthcare is too important to get wrong. Let’s take the time to get it right. Let’s agree to find real, bipartisan solutions that make healthcare work for every American.”

On Sunday, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said that if the bill did fail in the Senate, the president would be open to negotiating with Democrats.

“To the extent they [Democrats] are willing to come to the table and fix it, the president would always listen,” Mnuchin said on CNN.

Other administration officials held out a degree of hope that the bill could yet progress, indicating that they would concentrate efforts on swinging the vote of Paul.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told Fox News Sunday that the bill’s provision to defund Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit that provides reproductive healthcare, should be enough to sway the senator, a staunch abortion opponent.

“If Rand Paul is the final vote here, it’s hard to see how he can go to his support and say I had the chance to protect life [and voted against],” Short said.

Paul appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press. He indicated that his opposition to the bill centered around the proposed temporary block grants to the states that would replace Medicaid expansion funds contained in the ACA.

The proposal is a central building block in the bill and, according to numerous pieces of analysis, would significantly reduce federal healthcare funding, particularly for low-income Americans.

Nonetheless, Paul, a conservative libertarian, argued that the grants would not go far enough.

“I started my political career campaigning against Obamacare,” he said. “I can’t in good conscience vote to keep it.”


Reactions to German national election

September 24, 2017


BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans voted on Sunday in a federal election that saw Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives come in as the strongest parliamentary group and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter parliament for the first time.

Following are highlights of comments and reactions:

Angela Merkel told supporters in Berlin: “Of course we had hoped for a slightly better result. But we mustn’t forget that we have just completed an extraordinarily challenging legislative period, so I am happy that we reached the strategic goals of our election campaign,” Merkel said.

“We are the strongest party, we have the mandate to build the next government – and there cannot be a coalition government built against us,” Merkel added.

Martin Schulz, SPD party leader and chancellor candidate, told ZDF broadcaster: “We cannot have an extreme right-wing party leading the opposition in Germany, therefore … we will go into opposition.” He added: “Our role is quite clear: we are the opposition part.”

Schulz told supporters in Berlin that this election was a “bitter day” for Germany’s Social Democrats, adding: “Especially depressing for all of us is the strength of the AfD, which for the first time brings a right-wing party into German parliament in such a strong position. This is a turning point.”

“The fact that we took in more than 1 million refugees in our country is still dividing in our country. What for some has been an act of humanity and charity is to others menacing, strange and filled with fear. We did not manage to persuade all of our voters that Germany is strong enough not to leave anyone behind,” Schulz said.

Horst Seehofer, CSU leader and Bavarian Prime Minister, told broadcaster ARD: “We had a vacuum on the right side that we need to close now. The best way to do that is with policies that ensure that Germany remains Germany and that we have the immigration and security questions under control.”

Alexander Dobrindt, a senior CSU member, said: “I believe for everyone in the government this is a bitter election night. But I think it is too early to draw conclusions – like the SPD.”

Volker Kauder, parliamentary floor leader of Merkel’s conservatives, told ARD television that his party reached its goal to win the election. “We have the mandate to lead the next government,” Kauder said

SPD parliamentary floor leader Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ARD: “We must of course accept voters’ choice, they (AfD) are a party in parliament now… But I will say very clearly that if there are any racist tones in this parliament, we will object to them, very clearly.”

Wolfgang Kubicki, FDP deputy party leader, told broadcaster ARD: “You cannot force the Greens and us into a coalition just because the SPD bows out.”

SPD deputy party leader Manuela Schwesig told ZDF broadcaster: “That is a really bad result for the SPD. That is a heavy defeat… For us, the grand coalition ends today. For us it’s clear that we’ll go into opposition as demanded by the voter.”

SPD parliamentary floor leader Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ARD, when asked whether Schulz would remain party head: “Martin Schulz started the renewal process of the SPD at the party meeting in March, and he will continue that renewal. We win together and we lose together.”

AfD top candidate Alexander Gauland said: “The government, whatever it will look like, should get ready for tough times. We’ll chase them. We’ll take back our country and our people.”

Reporting by Berlin newsroom


German Election Results: Merkel in Front, SPD Collapses, AfD Wins Seats

Angela Merkel appears to have won her fourth term as German chancellor, but her coalition partners for the last four years, the Social Democrats, have likely received their worst result since World War II. The right-wing populist AfD has secured more than 13 percent of the vote.

September 24, 2017

by Charles Hawley


For the past several months, it was clear that the German election wasn’t going to be much of a cliffhanger. And that expectation was met in spades on Sunday as the first projections emerged soon after the polls closed at 6 p.m., with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives easily outpacing the center-left Social Democrats as the country’s strongest party. The result will send Merkel to her fourth term in the Chancellery.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s vote marks a significant shift in German politics, with initial projections showing the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party winning over 13 percent of the vote, thus becoming the first overtly right-wing party to win seats in the country’s federal parliament in over half a century. The result slightly outpaces the most recent public polling data — and is a far cry from the 7 percent the AfD had been polling at as recently as mid-summer — and it means the party will send close to 90 deputies to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.

Those deputies are almost certain to change the debate culture of the Bundestag. Lawmakers like Alexander Gauland, who has repeatedly made headlines for his racist comments targeting blacks and Turks, and Jens Maier, an extreme right-wing historical revisionist, will almost certainly ratchet up the rhetoric in what has long been a relatively staid if stodgy plenary. One of the key things to watch as the next parliament begins its work will be how the other parties choose to react.

An Historical Loss

The Social Democrats (SPD), meanwhile, appear to have fallen to their worst result since World War II, with initial projections indicating that below 21 percent of voters have cast ballots for the party. The result is particularly disappointing due to the party having been led in the campaign by Martin Schulz, the former president of European Parliament who is well-liked in the country, if not widely seen as inspiring. When Schulz initially announced his candidacy in January, the SPD immediately shot up in the polls, pulling almost even with Merkel’s conservatives. But Sunday’s result, if it holds, is even lower than the 23 percent the party won in 2009.

After polls closed on Sunday, Schulz ruled out a continuation of the grand coalition and said it was a “bitter day” for Social Democrats in Germany. He also said that he would like to continue on as head of the party and lead the SPD into opposition in the Bundestag. Regarding the AfD’s result, he said: “It is a turning point and no democrat can simply ignore it.”

Merkel, meanwhile, was having to contend with a relatively poor showing of her own. Her conservatives have managed around 33 percent of the vote, a far cry from the 41.5 percent they received four years ago. “Of course we had been hoping for a better result,” she said to cheering supporters on Sunday evening. But, she added, “we have a mandate from the voters to build the next government.

Aside from the AfD, Sunday’s biggest winner appears to be the business-friendly Free Democrats. After years of failing to clear the 5 percent hurdle in state vote after state vote, party head Christian Lindner has managed to turn the party around, with initial projections showing an impressive 10 percent or higher. Rounding out the initial projections are the Left Party, with 9 percent of the vote, and the Green Party, with just short of 9.5 percent.

Merkel’s Next Steps

While the results are likely to change as electoral districts begin to report actual vote counts, the speculation will now begin in earnest regarding what Merkel’s next governing coalition might look like. She has made it extremely clear in recent days that she will under no circumstances work with the AfD, and her conservatives also won’t consider a partnership with the far-left Left Party. But all other combinations are possible.

And they are likewise all challenging. The Social Democrats are far from eager to join Merkel once again, particularly given that the party’s two worst election results since World War II have come directly on the heels of playing the role of Merkel’s junior coalition partner. Furthermore, a 20 percent result is likely to send the SPD into a prolonged bout of navel gazing and leadership shuffling.

Absent a grand coalition, however, Merkel would have to slap together a government including both the FDP and the Greens, a trio that has never before been seen at the national level, though such a coalition has been tried out at the state level. Making such a “Jamaica Coaltion” — so named because of the colors associated with the parties involved (CDU black, FDP yellow and green) are the same as those on the Jamaican flag — more difficult is the fact that the FDP, having only recently emerged from its decade-long malaise, may not have sufficient experienced politicians to serve in a cabinet


Jews around world concerned by far-right breakthrough in German election

September 24, 2017


BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) – Jewish groups in Europe and the United States expressed alarm on Sunday at the far-right Alternative for Germany’s success in Germany’s parliamentary election and urged other parties not to form an alliance with the AfD.

Early projections gave the AfD 13.5 percent of the vote, allowing it to enter the Bundestag for the first time, as Germany’s third-biggest party.

The far-right has not been represented in parliament since the 1950s, a reflection of Germany’s efforts to distance itself from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Ronald Lauder, president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, called Chancellor Angela Merkel a “true friend of Israel and the Jewish people” and decried the AfD’s gains at a time when anti-Semitism was increasing across the globe.

“It is abhorrent that the AfD party, a disgraceful reactionary movement which recalls the worst of Germany’s past and should be outlawed, now has the ability within the German parliament to promote its vile platform,” Lauder said.

The AfD, which has surged in the two years since Merkel left Germany’s borders open to more than 1 million migrants mainly fleeing Middle East wars, says immigration jeopardizes Germany’s culture but denies it is racist or anti-Semitic.

The European Jewish Congress urged centrist parties to stick to their vows to avoid forming coalitions with the AfD.

“Some of the positions it has espoused during the election campaign display alarming levels of intolerance not seen in Germany for many decades and which are, of course, of great concerns to German and European Jews.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said the election results had confirmed its worst fears and urged other parties to remain united in opposing the AfD.

“A party that tolerates right-wing extremist thinking in its ranks and incites hatred against minorities …will now be represented in parliament and nearly all state legislatures,” the group’s president Josef Schuster said in a statement.

“I expect our democratic forces to expose the true nature of the AfD and its empty, populist promises,” he added.

Germany, home today to an estimated 200,000 Jews, has built a reputation in recent decades as a tolerant, safe place for Jews to live, but official data show anti-Semitic crimes reported to the police rising 4 percent to 681 in the first eight months of 2017 against the same period last year.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Andrea Shalal in Berlin; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Graff


Israeli police evict family of Palestinians from home of 50 years

Family kicked out of East Jerusalem home after losing court battle against Jewish claim on their property

September 6, 2017

Middlle easeye

Israeli police on Tuesday evicted a Palestinian family from the East Jerusalem home in which they lived for over half a century, making way for Israelis deemed the legal occupants.

The Shamasneh family has for years been fighting a court battle against Jewish claimants who said that the building was their family property, which they fled when East Jerusalem was occupied by Jordanian troops in the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families lived in East Jerusalem homes before the 1948 war they can demand that Israel’s general custodian office release the property and return their “ownership rights”.

During the war, thousands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jordanian-led Arab forces seized the city, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from land that was later to become Israel.

No such law exists for Palestinians who lost their land.

In 2013 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Jewish claimants, who subsequently sold the property on.

An AFP journalist on Tuesday saw young Jewish men moving into the building after the Shamasnehs were escorted out by police.

Fahamiya Shamasneh, 75, told AFP that police arrived before dawn ordering her, her sick husband Ayoub, 84, their son and his family out of the house in the upscale Sheikh Jarrah district where the couple lived for 53 years.

“What greater injustice is there than this?” she said. “Maybe we will sleep in the street.”

It was the first eviction in the neighbourhood since 2009, according to Israeli anti-occupation group Peace Now, part of a fight over the disputed status of Jerusalem.

Israel sees the city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as their future capital.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

About 200,000 Israeli Jews now live in East Jerusalem in settlement homes considered illegal under international law.

Peace Now says the house is part of a larger process of establishing settlements in Sheikh Jarrah.

“Settlers are already inside the Shamasneh family’s home,” it said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

“The eviction of the Shamasneh family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem,” it said.


The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine

by Issa Nakhleh  LL.B

The Jews of today are composed of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi Jews. The Sephardi Jews are the Oriental Jews wo are descendants of the Jews who left Palestine during the Christian era and migrated to neighboring Arab countries., North Africa and Spain. Some of the Oriental Jews were also converts to Judaism, such as some Berbers of North Africa who were converted to Judaism. The Tunisian Jews, Albert Memmi, a Professor of Sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris, has expressed doubt as “to whether his own ancestors in the Saraha had any historic connection to Palestine. Perhaps, he suggested, they were just Berbers converted to Judaism, since according to his information, “most North African Jews are simply Berber nomads who have accepted Judaism.”

Arthur Koestler maintains that there were many Jewish converts outside of Palestine with no biblical family roots:

‘Witness to the proselytizing zeal of the Jews of earlier times are the black-skinned Falasha of Abyssinia, the Chinese Jews of Kai-Feng who look like Chinese, the Yemenite Jews with the dark olive complexion, the Jewish Berber tribes of the Sahara who look like Tauregs, and so on, down to our prime example, the Khazars.’

The Ashkenazi Jews who lived in Russian and Central Eastern Europe and later on migrated to Western and Southern Europe, are of Khazar origin and were converted to Judaism in the 9th century A.S. The Khazar Jews have no ethnic or historical connection with Palestine. The Ahakenazi Jews who migrated to Palestine during the British mandate and who committed the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people are descendants of the Khazars. The Jewish Encyclopedia refers to the Khazars and their conversion to Judaism:

“A people of Turkish origin whose life and history are interwoven with the very beginnings of the history of the Jews of Russia. The kingdom of the Khazars was firmly established in most of South Russia long before the foundation of the Russian monarchy by the Varangians(855)…Driven onward by the nomadic tribes of the steppes and by their own desire for plunder and revenge, they made frequent invasions into Armenia…

In the second half of the sixth century the Khazar move westward. They established themselves in the territory bounded by the Sea of Azov, the Don and the lower Volga, the Caspian Sea, and the northern Caucasus…In 679 the Khazars subjugated the Bulgars and extended their sway further west between the Don and the Dnieper, as far as the the head-waters of Donetsk….It was probably about that time that the Khaghan (Bulan) of the Khazars and his grandees, together with a large number of his heathen people, embraced the Jewish religion…

It was one of the successors of Bulan, named Obadiah, who regenerated the kingdom and strengthened the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish scholars to settle in his dominions, and founded synagogues and schools, The people were instructed in the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud…

From the work Kitab al-Buldan written about the ninth century, it appears as if all the Khazars were Jews and that they had been converted to Judaism only a short time before that book was written….It may be assumed that in the ninth century many Khazar heathens became Jews, owing to the religious zeal of King Obadia,. “Such a conversion in great masses says Chwolson (Izvyestia o  Khazaraka, p 58), ” may have been the reason for the embassy of the Christians from the land of the Khazars to the Byzantine emperor Michael…

The Jewish population in the entire domain of the Khazars, in the period between the seenth and tenth centuries, must have been considerable…

The Russians invaded the trans-Caucasian country in 944…This seems to have been the beginning of the downfall of the Khazar kingdom…The Russian prince Sviatoslav made war upon the Khazars (c.974) the Russians conquered all the Khazarian territory east of the Sea of Azov. Only the Crimean territory of the Khazars remained in their possession until 1016, when they were dispossessed by a joint expedition of Russians and Byzanatines…Many were sent as prisoners of was to Kiev, where a Khazar community had long existed…Some went to Hungary, but the great mass of the people remained in their native country. Many members of the Khazrian royal family emigrated to Spain…

Professor Graetz describes the Khazar kingdom as follows:

“The heathen king of a barbarian people, living in the north,m together with all his court, adopted the Jewish religion…Their kings, who bore the title of Khakhan or Khaghan, had led these warlike sons of the steppe from victory to victory…

It is possible that the circumstances under which the Khazars embraced Judaism have been embellished by legend, but the fact itself is too definitely proved on all sides to allow any doubt as to its reality. Besides Bulan, the nobles of his kingdom, numbering nearly four thousand,m adopted the Jewish religion. Little by little it made its way among the people, so that most of the inhabitants of the towns of the H=Khazar kingdom were Jews…At first the Judaism of the Khazars must have been rather superficial, and could have had but a little influence on their mind and manners…

A successor of Bulan, who bore the Hebrew name of Obadiah, was the first to make serious efforts to further the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish sages to settle in his dominions, rewarded them royally, founded synagogues and schools, caused instruction to be given to himself and his people in the Bible and the Talmud, and introduced a divine service modeled on that of the ancient communities…After Obadiah came a along series of Jewish Khaghans, for according to a fundamental law of the state only Jewish rulers were permitted to ascent the throne…”

According to Dr. A.A. Poliak, Professor of Medieval Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, the descendants of the Khazars-“those who stayed where they were, those who emigrated to the United States and to other countries, and those who went ti Israel– constitute now the large majority of world Jewry.”

The physiological differences between the Ashkenazim, who are mainly of Turkic Khazar origin, the the Sephardim, who are mainly of Semitic Palestinian origin, has been confirmed by scientific evidence:

“By, and large, the Sephardim are dolichocephalic (long-headed), the Ashkenazim brachycephalic (broad-headed)…The statistics relating to other physical features also speak against racial unity…The hardest evidence to date come from classification by blood groups.”The thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler pps. 232-233

Thus both historical and physiological evidence negate any historical claims to being of Palestinian origin to the European Jews in Israel and to the majority of Jews in the world.



Authoritarian regimes currently supported by the United States

September 24, 2017

bby Christian Jürs


1991–present  Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev; Ilham Aliyev

1999–present  Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa

1984–present  Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah

1998–present  Cambodia Hun Sen

1982–present  Cameroon Paul Biya

1990–present  Chad Idriss Déby

1999–present  Djibouti Ismaïl Omar Guelleh

2014–present  Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

1979–present  Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

1991–present  Ethiopia Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front

1967–present  Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba;Omar Bongo

1948-present  Israel Binyamin Netanyahu

1954–present  Jordan Hashemite Dynasty

1992–present  Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev

1961–present  Kuwait Kuwaiti Royal Family

1777–present  Morocco Alaouite dynasty

1970–present  Oman Qaboos bin Said al Said

1972–present  Qatar House of Thani 

2000–present  Rwanda Paul Kagame

1945–present  Saudi Arabia House of Saud

1959–present  Singapore People’s Action Party

1994–present  Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon

2014–present  Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha

2010–present  Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

2006–present  Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

1986–present  Uganda Yoweri Museveni

1971–present  United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates

2016–present  Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev

2011–present  Vietnam Trương Tấn Sang

2012–present  Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi









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