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TBR News August 14, 2016

Aug 14 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 14, 2016: “There are four very serious issues that lie dormant behind deliberate media silence.

These are:

  1. The MERS mortgage scam, created by the government to hide the fact that over 75 million Americans will never be able to sell or remortgage their homes. Wyhy? Because, with the help of crooked banks and a few equally crooked lawmakers, mortgages were put together in packages, sliced up and sold overseas. The result is that no one knows who owns a mortgage and because of that, the mortgage can never be traced to any one person and the owner of the home is out of luck.
  2. The rising unemployment in the United States which has reached slightly over 25%. The highest the unemployment rate was during the Great Depressions of ’29 and ’38 was 14%. This is never mentioned anywhere in the media and is papered over to keep the voters happy.
  3. The student loan fraud which were hyped “student loans” pushed off on unsuspecting college students, some as high as 40 thousand dollars. These loans draw interest and because of rampant unemployment, they cannot be repaid. The result is, as planned, that these loans are turned over to aggressive bill collectors who seize property, bank accounts, cars and personal property. The for-profit universities and colleges get 50% of what the bill-collectors can extort from the student victims and the rest of the money goes to the school.
  4. The increasingly blatant thefts by government agencies of money from citizens, without any due process, and usually on the spurious ground of “terrorist” or “criminal suspected activities.” This is pure theft but since the agencies always get away with this, it is considered good business.

These are subjects that are long overdue for public exposure and this exposure is surely coming.”

German far-right party wants to expel migrants to islands as Merkel tells companies to hire refugees

August 14, 2016


The leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party known for its anti-immigrant stance has proposed deporting illegal immigrants and rejected asylum seekers to islands outside Europe. It comes as the German chancellor is trying to make businesses hire more refugees.

In an interview to Germany’s Bild newspaper on Saturday, AfD’s Frauke Petry said she would like to see all migrants unlawfully staying in Germany as well as applicants who were denied asylum to be repatriated to the “two islands outside Europe that are protected by the United Nations.”

While on the way to the islands, the male refugees who are traveling alone should be separated from female refugees and families as it is allegedly “cheaper and more secure than the current practice,” Petry said.

While the AfD leader has not specified the exact location, the remote Oceania islands of Nauru and Manus, Papua New Guinea that already host Australian-run refugee detention centers were the German media’s first guess. The facilities are infamous for multiple reports of abuse and torture used toward refugees held in what is claimed to be unbearable conditions.

In April 2016, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court outlawed the Manus detention center, then home to about 850 people, half of whom were estimated to be legit refugee applicants. The court found the agreement with Australia on the camp in violation of the Constitution, that protects “the rights and dignity of mankind.”

The recent Nauru leak revealed a staggering number of incident reports, exposing assaults, sexual abuse, cases of self-harm, child abuse and dire conditions at the center. Over 2,000 reports obtained by the Guardian paint a grim picture of widespread violence at the facility. Almost half of all the incidents involve children, who account for 18 percent of the Pacific island’s 442 detainees.

Since the German legislation is not as strict toward immigrants as Australia’s, Petry proposed an overhaul of the Germany’s migration system to shift its focus from accommodating refugees to getting rid of illegal migrants as fast as possible.

“I propose the transformation of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees into an office for emigration,” Petry told Bild, adding it will be tasked to ensure that “all illegal migrants leave this land as soon as possible.”

Petry has come under heavy criticism for her controversial anti-migrant rhetoric, with mainstream political forces accusing AfD of populism and exploiting common fears to garner support. Green Party chairman and German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel has branded Petry’s cause “a class struggle at the wrong address,” accusing her of making “refugees responsible” for all the problems in Germany.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly plans to call on bosses of Germany’s biggest companies, including Siemens, Opel, Volkswagen, electric utilities company RWE and chemicals group Evonik to hire more refugee force as she will on September 14, Bild reported on Saturday.

The chancellor is expected to urge big German businesses to employ refugees and to extend more traineeships to enable integration of low-skilled refugee workers into German society.

So far, only 54 refugees have been hired by the 30 largest German companies listed on DAX. Fifty of them were employed by Deutsche Post, according to data cited by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in July.

More than 1 million refugees, mostly from North Africa and Middle East, crossed into Germany last year amidst the biggest European migrant crisis since WWII, fleeing war and terrorism. The open-door policy pursued by Merkel has triggered the dramatic rise of right-wing sentiments. The recent spate of terrorist attacks, with three of them committed by migrants, and reports of Islamic State terrorists infiltrating Germany disguised as refugees only fueled the tension.

Muslim cleric and associate shot dead in New York

The leader of a New York mosque and a second man have been shot dead while walking home from afternoon prayers. Police said the motive for the brazen daylight attack wasn’t immediately clear.

August 14, 2016


The leader of a New York mosque and a second man have been shot dead while walking home from afternoon prayers. Police said the motive for the brazen daylight attack wasn’t immediately clear.

Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate were shot in the back of the head on Saturday as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the New York City borough of Queens, police said.

Witnesses reported seeing a lone gunman flee the scene on foot. He remains at large.

Police said no motive had yet been established, adding there were no signs the men were attacked because they were Muslim.

“There’s nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith,” said Henry Sautner, deputy inspector with the New York Police Department.

“We are currently conducting an extensive canvass of the area for video and additional witnesses.”

Calls for justice

Akonjee, 55, and the second victim, identified as 64-year-old Thara Uddin, were both wearing religious attire at the time of the shooting, police said. They were taken to hospital where they were later pronounced dead.

The cleric had just come from leading a prayer service at the mosque, which serves a community of Bangladeshi immigrants. Members of the local Muslim community held a rally at the site of the shooting on Saturday afternoon, demanding justice. Speakers addressing the crowd said they fear the men were victims of a hate crime.

“We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this,” Millat Uddin, a member of the mosque who is not related to Thara Uddin, told CBS television. “It’s really threatening to us, threatening to our future, threatening to our mobility in our neighborhood, and we’re looking for the justice.”

‘Loss to society’

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement urging anyone with information about the attack to come forward.

“The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law,” said council executive director Afaf Nasher.

Worshipers at the rally described the slain cleric as a peaceful man who was revered by the community and gave compelling sermons.

“The community’s heart is totally broken,” Uddin said. “It’s a great misery. It’s a great loss to the community and it’s a great loss to the society.”

Senators consider vote to block US arms deal to Saudi Arabia – report

Rand Paul calls country ‘unreliable ally’ after Democrat Chris Murphy criticises US support for Saudi intervention in Yemen’s chaotic civil war

August 14, 2016

by Tom Kutsch

The Guardian

Days after the Obama administration approved a major arms sale agreement to Saudi Arabia, Republican senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is considering blocking the move, citing objections to the country’s human rights record and a possible regional arms race.

I will work with a bipartisan coalition to explore forcing a vote on blocking this sale,” said Paul, according to a statement provided to Foreign Policy magazine. “Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record. We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East.”

Paul’s statement comes amid a deteriorating situation in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s neighbor to its its east, where Riyadh has been involved in a US-supported intervention for more than a year.

Peace talks being brokered by the United Nations and held in Kuwait fell apart last week and fighting resumed on Tuesday, as airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition struck a food facility, killing more than a dozen people.

Though a nominal truce was agreed to by the warring Yemeni factions in April, the fighting never significantly abated, with 272 civilian deaths reported from April until the collapse of talks, according to the spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

Paul, and his colleague on the Senate foreign relations committee, Democratic senator Chris Murphy, have been critics of US policy in Yemen and of providing Saudi Arabia with the logistical and military support it has asked for.

“If you talk to Yemeni Americans, they will tell you in Yemen this isn’t a Saudi bombing campaign, it’s a US bombing campaign,” Murphy said, speaking on Capitol Hill in June, according to a report by Defense News. “Every single civilian death inside Yemen is attributable to the United States. We accept that as a consequence of our participation,” he said.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the agency responsible for carrying out arms sales to foreign countries, said in a statement on Tuesday that the proposed $1.15bn sale “conveys US commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security and armed forces modernization”.

While US legislators have 30 days after the arms sale was agreed to try and block the sale, they rarely try to intervene.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched an intervention along with several of its Sunni Arab allies in an attempt to restore President Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government was overrun by Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Shia Iran, Riyadh’s chief regional rival, of supporting the Houthis, a charge Tehran denies.

In the intervening period, the conflict has ground on with no clear end in sight, despite off and on talks associated with the UN peace process.

Critics of the conflict have bemoaned the vast humanitarian cost, which has seen thousands of people die, many of them civilians. More than 1,100 children have died since the fighting began, according to Unicef, the UN children’s agency.

Yemen, already the Middle East’s most impoverished country before the onset of war, has since been left on the precipice of famine, while more than 2 million people have been displaced from their homes, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

The lack of a central governing force in Yemen has also been a boon for terrorist groups, according to security analysts and the US government’s own state department figures, which show a major uptick in fighters affiliated with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2015 since the beginning of the Saudi-led intervention.

“Even if the fighting ended soon, whoever assumes control over the shattered country will face an AQAP with far more resources and recruits than the AQAP against which previous Yemeni governments have struggled,” said a June intelligence assessment put out by the Soufan Group, a geopolitical risk consultancy based in New York.

Acceptable Losses

Aiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen

August 14, 2016

by Andrew Cockburn


Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

Such was the dire condition of the country before Saudi Arabia unleashed a bombing campaign in March 2015, which has destroyed warehouses, factories, power plants, ports, hospitals, water tanks, gas stations, and bridges, along with miscellaneous targets ranging from donkey carts to wedding parties to archaeological monuments. Thousands of civilians — no one knows how many — have been killed or wounded. Along with the bombing, the Saudis have enforced a blockade, cutting off supplies of food, fuel, and medicine. A year and a half into the war, the health system has largely broken down, and much of the country is on the brink of starvation.

This rain of destruction was made possible by the material and moral support of the United States, which supplied most of the bombers, bombs, and missiles required for the aerial onslaught. (Admittedly, the United Kingdom, France, and other NATO arms exporters eagerly did their bit.) U.S. Navy ships aided the blockade. But no one that I talked to in Washington suggested that the war was in any way necessary to our national security. The best answer I got came from Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California who has been one of the few public officials to speak out about the devastation we were enabling far away. “Honestly,” he told me, “I think it’s because Saudi Arabia asked.”

The principal targets of the Saudi bombers (augmented by a coalition of Arab allies) have been a tribal group from the north of Yemen, adjacent to the Saudi border, who follow Zaidism, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Though it is distinct from the variant of Shiism practiced in Iran, the connection was destined to excite the suspicions of the fervently anti-Iranian Saudi regime.

So, almost forty years ago, the Saudis planted an outpost of their own extreme Wahhabi sect in the heart of Zaidi territory. The emissary sent to found the madrassa was Muqbil al-Wadie, a leader of the 1979 assault on Mecca’s Grand Mosque, who had until that moment been rotting in a Saudi prison. As has been their habit, the Saudis solved their own terrorism problem by exporting it.

The intrusive enterprise, which attracted a growing stream of militant Sunnis, eventually provoked a reaction among the local Zaidis in favor of their Shia tendencies. Accordingly, under the leadership of Hussein al-Houthi, they sought religious instruction from Iran in the form of teachers and literature, which were duly supplied, much to Riyadh’s irritation.

For many years, this Iranian connection was treated with equanimity by Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Following 9/11, however, he came under pressure from Washington to play his part in the war against Al Qaeda, which had been active in Yemen since the late 1990s. Saleh found this mission unappealing, given the terrorist group’s connections with some of the country’s most powerful political forces. According to Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, an activist whose family has long played a leading role in the nation’s politics, Saleh suggested to the Americans that he first deal with the Shiite troublemakers in the north. “From day one,” Iryani told me, “the Houthis were presented as an Iranian client, a terrorist movement.” This policy, unsurprisingly, was greeted with favor in Riyadh, and reciprocated with commensurate financial largesse.

Privately, U.S. officials were doubtful of the Iranian connection, even at the beginning of Saleh’s campaign against the group in 2004. “The fact that after five years of conflict there is still no compelling evidence of that link must force us to view this claim with some skepticism,” wrote the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, in a classified 2009 cable later released by WikiLeaks. Nevertheless, the Americans were eager to secure Saleh’s cooperation against Al Qaeda. They did little to restrain him in his war with the Houthis, as they came to be called following the death of Hussein al-Houthi in 2004.

In 2009, hoping for a final victory, Saleh managed to involve the Saudis directly by eliciting their permission to send Yemeni troops across the border to attack the Houthis from the rear. In response, a small force of Houthis invaded Saudi Arabia. Adding to the complications, Yemen now became embroiled in Saudi court politics: Khalid bin Sultan, the prince who effectively controlled the defense ministry, moved to assert dominance at the expense of a rival prince at the interior ministry, using the Houthi incursion as an excuse. Promptly declaring the southern portion of the country a “killing zone,” he mobilized the entire Saudi military. The air force carpet bombed the border region, including Saada, the Houthi heartland.

The result, however, was a humiliating setback for the House of Saud. Their ground troops were bested by the Houthis and suffered numerous casualties. The aerial campaign was no more impressive. “It was not a moment of glory for the Saudi air force,” according to David Des Roches, who formerly oversaw Saudi-related policy at the Pentagon and is now an associate professor at the National Defense University. “They were basically just dropping rounds in the desert.” A senior U.N. diplomat put it to me more bluntly: “They lost.”

Saleh’s own offensive was equally ineffectual, and the Houthis were left to fight another day. Meanwhile, Yemen’s ill fortune proved a blessing, not for the last time, for the U.S. defense establishment. The Obama Administration was already bent on expanding arms sales as part of its drive to boost exports, and now manna fell from heaven. Shocked by their poor performance against the Houthi guerrillas, the Saudis embarked on a massive weapons-buying spree.

At the top of their shopping list were eighty-four specially modified Boeing F-15 jets, along with around 170 helicopters. They also purchased a huge quantity of bombs and missiles — notably, 1,300 cluster bombs sold by the Textron Corporation at a cost of $641 million. Fortunately for Textron, neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia had endorsed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a 2008 treaty already signed by more than one hundred nations, which banned these weapons on the grounds that they caused “unacceptable harm” to civilians.

This enormous deal totaled $60 billion: the largest arms sale in U.S. history. The scale of the transaction says much about America’s relationship with the House of Saud. The bond was forged at a 1945 meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz, with both parties agreeing that Saudi Arabia would guarantee the United States cheap oil in return for American military protection. Both sides largely kept to the bargain. The Saudis even subsidized the price of oil exported to the United States — at least until 2002, when they abandoned the policy out of irritation at George W. Bush’s plan to topple the Sunni regime in Iraq.

America’s adherence to its side of the deal is most concretely manifested in a housing compound a dozen or so miles outside Riyadh. Eskan Village is home to 2,000 Americans, military and civilian, dedicated to the security of the regime. For the U.S. military, it is a gratifyingly lucrative arrangement. Some inhabitants of the compound supervise the arming and training of the Saudi National Guard — a mission that has so far generated $35 billion in U.S. military sales. Others are attached to the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia, which services the regular armed forces. According to its website, this group is charged with enhancing American national security “through building the capability and capacity of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces” — a task that absolutely includes acting as an “advocate for U.S. business to supply defense goods and services to the S.A.A.F.” In other words, the Saudis host a sales team dedicated to selling them weapons. Furthermore, they fund its upkeep, paying roughly $30 million a year for the privilege.

As Des Roches reminded me, the U.S. government is the official vendor for weapons sales on behalf of corporations such as Boeing and Textron. “We levy a surcharge for the U.S. government’s involvement,” he explained, reminding me that the sale of the F-15s and other assorted items ran to $60 billion. “Seven percent of that is a significant amount of money,” he continued. “That basically covers U.S. government operating expenses to run things like training for the Bolivian armed forces in counternarcotics, and stuff like that. Up until very, very recently, the Saudis pretty much subsidized everything. People do not realize how much benefit we get from our interaction with them.”

This long relationship has sunk deep roots in the U.S. defense establishment, especially since close acquaintance with the free-spending Saudi hierarchy can lead to attractive postretirement opportunities. David Commons, for example, the Air Force general who directed the military mission from 2011 to 2013, was responsible for what he calls the “management and execution” of the huge 2010 arms sale. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that on his return from Saudi Arabia he turned to commerce, where his Middle Eastern connections could be put to good use. First he chaired the Sharaka Group, offering “knowledge, experience, and tenacity” in navigating the “maze” of Saudi bureaucracy. Next he cofounded Astrolabe Enterprises, which, by his account, helps the Saudis buy American weapons. “If they need a capability,” he told me, “we are there.”

One capability of which the Saudis are certainly in need is keeping their expensive toys in working order, a lucrative prospect for firms such as Astrolabe. By 2015, the maintenance contract for the F-15s alone was worth $2.5 billion. Almost all the technically demanding work on the highly complex plane, especially on its electronics, appears to require the services of American contract workers. This has led to something of a gold rush for mechanics and engineers. TS Government Solutions, of Lake Elsinore, California, is currently looking for maintenance mechanics “in support of RSAF F-15 platform throughout Saudi Arabia. . . . VERY lucrative comp plan.” There are no less than 1,471 openings listed on the website of ManTech International, of Fairfax, Virginia, the recipient of a $175 million F-15 maintenance contract. “Every time I looked at someone doing something technical on an F-15, it was an American contractor,” Chet Richards, a former Air Force Reserve colonel who served several tours as an air attaché in Riyadh, told me. “These are really, really complex systems. We have trouble keeping them flying in our own air force.”

Other features of the U.S.–Saudi security relationship are more obscure, such as the “secret” CIA drone base deep in the southwestern desert, which became operational in 2011 and has been periodically rediscovered by the media in subsequent years. Dedicated to launching drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen, it was a fruit of Saleh’s delicate balancing act, whereby he tacitly endorsed the ongoing U.S. assassination campaign against Al Qaeda leaders while avoiding direct action against the group himself. Indeed, even as the drones regularly incinerated Al Qaeda members along with innocent bystanders and the occasional wedding party, Saleh not only declined to arrest the terrorists but on occasion provided them with safe houses in Sanaa. Ignorant of (or perhaps unconcerned by) this double-dealing, Washington continued to indulge the wily Yemeni leader with copious aid and training missions.

This comfortable arrangement became unstuck in early 2011, when the so-called Arab Spring reached Yemen. The populace united in massive demonstrations against the president’s dictatorial and corrupt rule. Wounded in an unsuccessful assassination attempt, Saleh eventually resigned in favor of his vice president, the former army general Mansour Hadi. Endorsed by both the United States and Saudi Arabia, Hadi ran for election in 2012 and won with 99 percent of the vote — hardly a surprise, given that he was the only candidate. He quickly launched a “national dialogue” with the aim of reconciling Yemen’s many tribal and regional factions. This failed to mollify the Houthis, who felt (somewhat reasonably, according to Ambassador Seche) that they were being dealt out of the new arrangements. In September 2014 they marched into Sanaa and, not long afterward, placed Hadi under house arrest.

Meanwhile, there had been ructions north of the border. King Abdullah died in January 2015, at the age of ninety, and was succeeded by his seventy-nine-year-old half brother, Prince Salman. Suffering from dementia, Salman reportedly could function at meetings only by reading prepared talking points off a monitor masked by a vase of flowers. It soon became apparent that real power had devolved to his twenty-nine-year-old son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who in short order took control of the defense ministry as well as the royal household.

The Saudi regime has traditionally ruled by consensus. A previous king, Fahd, once told an American envoy that he had made only one decision in fifty years: inviting the Americans to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1990. But Mohammed cut through the venerable system of checks and balances, imposing decisions that were, according to one former American diplomat with long experience of the Saudis, “bold, not to say rash.”

Given his nation’s long-standing readiness to see “a Persian under every khat bush,” as the diplomat put it, Mohammed was eager to try out his expensive new weapons. He could crush the Houthis with a quick campaign and thereby shore up his own position at the expense of potential rivals in the ruling family.

On March 26, 2015, having secured a request for intervention from Hadi, the Royal Saudi Air Force went into action. The United States announced it was supplying “logistical and intelligence support.” Five days later, the Saudi-led coalition imposed a comprehensive air and sea blockade of Houthi-held areas, including Hodeidah, the principal port serving northern Yemen. For a population that relied on imports for at least 90 percent of its food, not to mention almost all other essentials such as fuel, cooking gas, and medicine, the effect would be devastating.

Following standard practice in modern air campaigns, initial strikes targeted the Yemeni air force and air defenses, using high-tech bombs and missiles that allegedly guarantee precise accuracy. The Saudis may even have believed the arms merchants’ sales pitches: a few days after the bombing began, a senior Saudi diplomat assured U.N. officials that the use of “very precise weapons” would prevent any collateral damage among the civilian population. In any event, the Saudis had little need to fear diplomatic censure at the United Nations. A Security Council resolution effectively demanding unconditional surrender from the Houthis passed with American support.

U.S. diplomatic cover would be unstintingly maintained as the war raged on. In September, six months into the bombing, the Dutch government sponsored a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for an independent and unfettered investigation into war crimes committed by all sides in Yemen. The Saudis strenuously objected, demanding that any such investigation be left in the hands of the deposed President Hadi, who was living in exile in Riyadh. The United States declined to support the Dutch, effectively killing the idea. In an officially cleared background interview, I asked a senior State Department official why the United States had acted as it did.

“The Yemenis didn’t want it,” he replied, by which he meant Hadi.

“Does the United States usually do what Mr. Hadi wants or doesn’t want?” I asked.

“Well, when we agree with him, yes,” he answered with a smirk.

In fact, the Obama Administration’s support for the Yemeni adventure was never in doubt, if only because it had much bigger diplomatic fish to fry — most notably, the nuclear deal with Iran, the centerpiece of Obama’s foreign-policy agenda, which was impending at the time the war began. “The negotiations were not complete,” I was told by William Luers, a former senior diplomat deeply involved in back-channel talks with the Iranians. “The opposition from Israel and the Gulf to the Iran deal was very strong.” Under the circumstances, he suggested, Obama could ill afford to alienate his Arab partners — and surely the Yemeni conflict wouldn’t last long. “Once they were involved in support of the Saudis,” Luers said, “they couldn’t back out.”

Civilians began to die early on the day the war started. Among the first were three young sons of Yasser al-Habashi, a grocery-store owner whose home on the outskirts of Sanaa was hit by a bomb around two in the morning on March 26. Habashi himself woke up in a hospital after thirteen days in a coma. “There is nothing left of my house that I lived in,” he said later, “and on top of all this, three of my children were killed.”

Five days into the assault, the attackers leveled Yemen’s largest cement factory, killing at least ten people, most of them employees preparing to head home on a bus. A further thirty-one workers died when bombers struck the Yemany Dairy and Beverage factory on the coast. A strike on a refugee camp at Mazraq, full of people who had fled the bombing in Saada and elsewhere, killed forty-five and injured

The Saudi’s education in aerial targeting had been the best that money could buy. A week before the war began, they had approached John Brennan, an old friend from his days as CIA station chief in Riyadh and now the agency’s director, with a list of more than a hundred potential targets. Reporters were later told that American defense and intelligence officials had reviewed the list and suggested some amendments, removing targets of little military value and others that might endanger civilians. In addition, the United States agreed to help man the coalition’s joint operations center with a liaison group that would advise the Saudis on how to hit their targets most effectively. The group would also ensure that U.S. Air Force tankers were on hand to refuel bombing sorties, a duty they performed more than 700 times by February 2016 — charging, of course, for the gas.

As reports of civilian casualties and Houthi advances seeped into the media, administration officials began to nurture some misgivings. On April 7, two weeks into the war, Tony Blinken, the deputy secretary of state, arrived in Riyadh, the first State Department official to meet one-on-one with the hyperactive and increasingly powerful Prince Mohammed. Blinken’s public message was one of unqualified support for the war. “Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force,” he told reporters. “As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries [and] increased our intelligence sharing.”

In private, however, Blinken had an urgent question for his hosts. According to diplomatic sources, he asked: What were they actually trying to accomplish in this war? “Eliminate all traces of Iranian influence in Yemen,” the Saudis answered blithely. American officials blenched at the prospect of a Houthi-extermination campaign, but they gave their blessing to what seemed like a more modest goal: preventing a Houthi takeover of all of Yemen and restoring the “elected president” to power.

Indeed, as Iryani explained to me, the allies had put all their chips on Hadi. “The Saudis and Americans believed that once the bombing started, Hadi would be able to rally loyal elements in the army and regain control,” he said. “But it turned out that the entire military was with Saleh. Hadi had no influence at all.” So the war went on, with the Houthis and Saleh’s forces advancing steadily despite the bombing.

In August, after visiting Sanaa and Aden, Peter Maurer, the head of the International Red Cross, declared that “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.” Maurer attributed this not only to the fighting and bombing but to the ongoing blockade. A day earlier, coalition planes had bombed the vital port of Hodeidah, carefully targeting cranes and other necessary equipment.

The port city of Mukalla, however, was left completely unmolested, despite the fact that it was now controlled by Al Qaeda, the object of so many U.S. drone attacks in previous years. The takeover, in April 2015, had been a peaceful one. Saudi-backed forces evacuated the city with barely a shot fired. Al Qaeda would continue to occupy the city and most of eastern Yemen, enriching itself in the process, over the following year. In bitter fighting for the city of Taiz in February 2016, Al Qaeda fighters formed a crucial component of the Saudi-backed anti-Houthi forces.

In Washington, I asked an intelligence official in close touch with the Yemeni situation, who asked not to be named, what the Saudi plan had been at the outset. “Plan?” he replied in exasperated tones. “There was no plan. No plan at all. They just bombed anything and everything that looked like it might be a target. Trucks on a highway — that became a military convoy. Buildings, bridges, anything. When they did find a military target, they bombed it, and then went back and bombed it again.”

There may have been a certain military logic to the repeated strikes on the mountains surrounding Sanaa, into which Saleh had burrowed ammunition dumps over the years. Still, these attacks were catastrophic for people living in nearby neighborhoods. On April 20, 2015, a powerful bunker-buster bomb hit one such dump on Faj Attan mountain, setting off a massive explosion that wrecked houses over a wide area, including Iryani’s. “The mountain exploded,” he told me soon afterward. “About a thousand people were killed or injured. All the children I know are traumatized. Everyone I know knows someone who’s died.”

For hundreds or thousands of strikes, there was less excuse, or none at all. In mid-April of 2015, for example, there appears to have been a concerted attempt to destroy all the gas stations in Saada, which was already being heavily attacked. Thanks to the blockade, fuel was scarce, and drivers would spend hours or days waiting in line to fill up. That was how at least five people died and twenty-three were injured on April 15 — the number of victims is actually unclear, since so many were burned beyond recognition. Several weeks later, on May 8, the coalition declared that the entire 4,000-square-mile governorate of Saada was now a “military target,” and therefore open to indiscriminate attack. In the weeks and months to come, much of the province’s ancient capital city was reduced to rubble, a fate shared by towns and villages across the north, where cluster bombs were heavily used.

“I witnessed about a thousand air strikes,” recalled Tariq Riebl, an aid worker with a major international humanitarian organization who traveled extensively in Yemen from June to September last year. “Some of them were very close. I almost burst my eardrum in one.” In Sanaa, he said, the strikes were relentless, lasting up to five hours. “You’d have that four to six times a day. It would start randomly. It was the middle of the night, middle of the day, morning, night, afternoon, anytime. Consistently on holidays, on Fridays, in the middle of prayer time, market days.”

Crowded markets appear to have had a particular attraction for the targeteers. Human Rights Watch documented a dozen such attacks across northern Yemen, including five in Saada alone. On May 12, for example, three bombs, five minutes apart, hit a market in the Houthi-controlled town of Zabid, killing at least sixty civilians. Another attack killed sixty-five on July 4. In the deadliest market attack to date, on March 15, 2016, two bombs in the village of Mastaba killed at least ninety-seven people, including twenty-five children. Many of the victims died as they fled the scene of the first strike only to be hit by the second, a notable example of the double-tap technique frequently employed during the campaign. “When the first strike came, the world was full of blood,” Mohammed Yehia Muzayid, a cleaner at the market, told Belkis Wille, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “People were all in pieces, their limbs were everywhere. People went flying. Most of the people, we collected in pieces, we had to put them in plastic bags. A leg, an arm, a head. There wasn’t more than five minutes between the first and second strike. The second strike was there, at the entrance to the market. People were taking the injured out, and it hit the wounded and killed them.”

Metal fragments retrieved from the scene were revealed to be from U.S.-manufactured GBU-31 satellite-guided bombs, a thousand of which were included in a $1.29 billion weapons sale to the Saudis in November 2015. I asked the senior State Department official if there was ever any consideration of refusing such deals. He responded by suggesting that supplying high-tech precision weapons was essentially a humanitarian gesture: “If you want the Saudis to be able to limit collateral damage, then it’s not particularly useful not to give them the weapons that would be most effective in doing that.”

Congressman Lieu thought this a “very lame excuse” when I quoted it to him. “The law of war doesn’t say, ‘Hey, we have the precision-guided-munitions exception.’ It says, ‘You cannot target or kill civilians.’ ”

Lieu could be considered an authority on this topic, since he is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and spent four years as an active-duty JAG lawyer, instructing military personnel on the law of war. He was convinced that the Saudis and their allies were in violation of those very statutes. He was especially concerned by the use of cluster bombs, which he categorized as a “war crime if you drop them on civilians.”

Six months into the war, Lieu wrote to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford Jr., asking if he believed that Yemeni civilians were being deliberately targeted. The answer was classified, but it seems reasonable to assume it was negative. Belkis Wille has a more complicated view. She told me she would often spot some kind of military installation near a bombed civilian site, which may have been the intended target. On the evening of July 24, for example, the coalition bombed a housing compound for workers of the Mokha power plant, in the southwest corner of Yemen. Sixty-five people were killed, including ten children. At least forty-two more were wounded, several of them critically. Wille concluded that the intended target was a military air-defense base, which had been empty for many years, according to unanimous local testimony. More to the point, the base was half a mile away, and easily distinguishable from the compound. “There may have been a lack of good military intelligence,” she told me. “But the end result was an incredibly high rate of sloppiness and recklessness.”

Others are less forgiving. Tariq Riebl concluded that the civilian targets were not an accident. “Let’s be very clear,” he told me. “The civilian targeting is absolutely astounding. I’ve seen hospitals, mosques, marketplaces, restaurants, power plants, universities, residential houses, just bombed, office buildings, bombed. Everything is a target. In Saada, there were dead donkeys on the side of all the main roads because the Saudis were hitting donkey carts. In Hajjah, the water tank in one of the towns got hit, and it sits on a lonesome little hill. There was nothing there. When you’re hitting a donkey cart or you’re hitting a water tank, what is your rationale? Is that donkey cart transporting a Scud missile? What is the thinking here from a military perspective?”

According to Ahmed Assiri, a brigadier general in the Saudi army and a coalition spokesman, the “work” was not “random.” Occasional “mistakes” were due solely to “human error.” In a January 31 press conference, Assiri addressed the particular case of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Hayden, destroyed last October by air strikes — one of three of the organization’s facilities to be hit during the war — leaving 200,000 people in the region without access to lifesaving medical care. The group had repeatedly relayed the hospital’s GPS coordinates to the Saudis, most recently three days before the strike, and prominently displayed their logo on the roof.

An otherwise unidentified “frontline observer,” explained Assiri, had spotted a target that was “of high value” and relayed the news to a patrolling coalition attack plane. This target, presumably an individual, moved closer to the hospital, and the pilot, seizing an opportunity, attacked. “But there were side effects,” Assiri continued, “causing the collapse of a big part of the hospital.” (In fact, it was utterly demolished.) It seems that the frontline observer did not check with the command center as to whether the hospital was a restricted target — and in any case, the pilot overlooked the logo on the roof, “which was very small and cannot be seen by eye.” (A spokesman for the organization, Tim Shenk, assured me that the logo “clearly identified” the hospital.)

From the professional perspective of Des Roches, the Saudis and their partners have not done badly at all. “Twenty-eight hundred [killed] for a yearlong bombing campaign?” he told me, using a U.N. figure from January. “That’s one night in Hamburg in World War Two.” In fact, the number of civilians killed from the air in a year, he suggested, bore favorable comparison with NATO’s record in the 1999 air campaign against Serbia, the so-called Kosovo War, in which some 500 civilians died from allied air strikes in barely three months. The Saudis, in his view, were “showing restraint. They’re showing a degree of technical expertise.”

As of February 2016, the Saudis noted that the coalition had flown more than 46,500 sorties over Yemen. By July, sixty-nine strikes studied in detail by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had killed 913 civilians, at least. As of June, the World Health Organization reported nearly 6,500 dead and more than 31,400 injured, on the basis of information from hospitals around the country. But Doctors Without Borders officials insist that they alone have treated more than 37,000 people with war-related injuries. In any case, more than half the population lacked access to any health care, let alone hospitals.

“As you can of course imagine, those numbers are an underestimation, as people might not bother to take their killed relatives to the hospital just to be counted,” observed Alvhild Strømme, a W.H.O. spokesperson, in a candid email. “I am sure there are many more, especially killed, but also wounded.”

Just over a year after the onslaught began, the Saudis and Houthis called a halt, declaring a ceasefire and beginning peace talks. Bitter fighting has continued in parts of the country, especially around Taiz, where the Saleh-allied Houthi forces, themselves no angels, have nonchalantly shelled civilian areas. Though air strikes slowed, they have continued into the summer, inflicting a steady toll of civilian deaths. Al Qaeda was meanwhile permitted to evacuate Mukalla with all its equipment. Disappearing into the countryside, the terrorist group began a series of deadly bombing attacks. U.N. officials talked of a “humanitarian catastrophe” and issued a call for $1.8 billion in emergency funds. By July, the United States had contributed $148 million, just over 8 percent of the requested amount. Meanwhile, weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over the course of the Obama Administration had topped $111 billion.

The country is in ruins, like Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani’s own house. “Yemen,” he told me sadly as the explosions continued, “is such a small part of the U.S.–Saudi relationship.”

Iran taps into Turkish-Russian reset

August 14, 2016

by M.K. Bhadrakumar

Asia Today

For Iran, strong ties with its neighbors Russia and Turkey is significant now when a Saudi-Israeli regional axis to contain it is in the making and there is uncertainty about the implementation of the nuclear deal under a new American president. The emerging prospect of such a Turkish-Iranian-Russian axis is pressuring the Obama administration to mend fences with Ankara. No wonder, Vice-President Joe Biden is going to undertake a high-stakes mission to Turkey on August 24.

The US President Barack Obama has decided to ‘upgrade’ the mission Washington proposes to mount to Ankara on August 24 from the diplomatic to the political level. It only underscores that the far-reaching significance of the Turkish-Russian rapprochement is sinking in.

Vice-President Joe Biden will now undertake the high-stakes mission to Turkey, the first visit by an American dignitary after the failed Turkish coup of July 15.

The Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s visit to St. Petersburg on August 9 and the unscheduled one-day trip to Ankara by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on August 12 have phenomenally transformed Middle East’s power dynamic.

While the full potential of the Turkish-Russian rapprochement will take time to emerge in geopolitical terms on various levels, the proverbial tip of the iceberg suggests that the ABC of the conflict in Syria is already changing.

However, far more fateful in the near future for the US strategies will be the emerging prospect of a Turkish-Iranian-Russian axis impacting the Middle East’s realignments.

Prior to the journey to Ankara on Friday, Zarif held a wide-ranging conversation on phone with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov regarding regional developments, “including providing external support to achieve a settlement in Syria,” according to the Russian foreign ministry readout.

Zarif was received by Recep Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. The statements by Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Davlut Cavusoglu at a joint press conference in Ankara suggest that Tehran’s vociferous support for Erdogan in putting down the attempted coup has qualitatively elevated the overall relationship between the two countries.

Cavusoglu heaped praise on Iran’s support for Erdogan. He said in very revealing remarks, “During the coup night, I did not sleep until morning nor did my friend Javad Zarif. He was the foreign minister I talked to most, calling me five times during the night.”

According to reports, Tehran may have shared valuable intelligence with the Turkish authorities regarding an imminent military coup on July 15. This factor alone seems destined to work wonders for the Turkish-Iranian ties so long as Erdogan remains in power. Cavusoglu said “The security and stability of Iran is Turkey’s security and stability, and we believe this is the case with Iran, too.”

He went on to say that Turkey and Iran have a common understanding in respect of the territorial integrity of Syria. This must be taken as a clear reference to the shared interest of Ankara and Tehran to prevent the emergence of a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

In separate remarks to the Voice of America, Ayse Sozen Usluer, Erdogan’s chief international adviser, played down differences over Syria: “We don’t have serious problems between Iran and Turkey. We have various cooperative areas in the region. We only have different foreign policy approaches in the region. That’s why from time to time we stand on different sides. But these are not serious problems (that) will affect Turkish Iranian relations in the region.”

However, the most important ‘happening’ during Zarif’s visit must be that he may have gingerly treaded on the fault lines that have appeared lately in Turkey’s relations with its traditional partners – US and its regional allies in particular.

In the presence of Cavusoglu at the press conference, Zarif openly called for Iran-Turkey-Russia cooperation “to work together to bring peace and prosperity to the region.”

Of course, the strong relationships with two major powers in Iran’s immediate neighborhood – Russia and Turkey – will make all the difference to Tehran at the present critical juncture when a Saudi-Israeli regional axis (with tacit US backing) to ‘contain’ Iran is in the making, and there is also much uncertainty in the air as regards the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal under a new American president.

While commenting on the Russian-Turkish reset and Zarif’s talks in Ankara, The Tehran Times newspaper, which reflects official thinking, took note of the new power dynamic:

“As Ankara moves toward Iran and Russia, there is hope that a new strategic triangle is in the making, and in due time it may begin to cause considerable influence not only on Syria, but on the entire Middle East region. Together, Iran and Turkey as powerful and central forces in the Middle East can shift a great force behind the events and work for shared good. Although it is still a fledgling, the new friendship can create spectacular scenes of achievement that can alter the makeup of the Middle East and hopefully result in actual improvement of security situation in the restive area”.

Interestingly, a commentary in the Fars news agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, lost no time to speculate that Iran too might be included in the newly established Russian-Turkish mechanism on Syria.

It said, “Russia and Turkey have already made decision to “establish a joint military, intelligence and diplomacy mechanism. The two sides say “if necessary” they will also involve Iran. This way, they can “keep closer contact” with Tehran and have special delegations with representatives from Iranian armed forces, diplomacy and intelligence services that will regularly meet and discuss the developments and their respective positions in Syria in order to reach compromise and solutions that would be acceptable for all sides”.

Indeed, any Russian-Turkish-Iranian convergence constitutes a geopolitical setback to the US’ regional allies in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. From the Saudi perspective, if Turkey rolls back its intervention in Syria, the war is lost for all practical purposes – although, in practical terms, it is still in a position to use the Jordanian route to supply the rebel groups.

The outcome of the Russian-Turkish commission on Syria, which began its working in Moscow on Thursday, will be keenly awaited. The Izvestiya newspaper reported on Friday that in response to the persistent Russian request on the ‘closing’ of the Turkish-Syrian border, Ankara may be taking the necessary measures.

This becomes for the Russians a litmus test of Ankara’s interest in reconciliation.

A prominent lawmaker and influential politician Igor Morozov told the newspaper, “Turkish negotiators, both diplomatic and military…seem to be willing to overcome contentious issues.”

To be sure, Turkey’s reset with Russia and Iran will put pressure on the Obama administration to mend fences with Ankara. Joe Biden will be intensely conscious of Moscow and Tehran’s prying eyes on his mission to Turkey.

Iraqi peshmerga forces claim advances against ‘Islamic State’ outside Mosul

Kurdish forces have recaptured six villages from the so-called “Islamic State” (IS), southeast of the group’s stronghold of Mosul.The liberation came the day after government forces also freed a number of villages.

August 14, 2016


The Kurdish operation, 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside Mosul, reportedly aimed to “clear several more villages” in a bid to mount pressure on the government to expedite the liberation of the northern city itself, which serves as the de facto capital of IS in Iraq.

Peshmerga Brigadier General Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq on Sunday described the operation as “ongoing.” Footage filmed by Rudaw, a local Kurdish-language television network, showed smoke rising from a village, with armored vehicles in the foreground.

A day earlier, Iraqi government forces said they had also taken several villages from the militants in the Qayara area, south of Mosul. Some sources said that a total of 11 villages had been liberated from IS; however, it was unclear how many of the recaptured villages could be attributed to peshmerga fighters and how many were freed by Iraqi government forces.

The total area cleared is reported to be about 50 square kilometers (12,000 acres or 20 square miles).

Offensive against Mosul expected

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was seized by Islamic State in a bloody offensive in mid-2014, as the terrorist movement managed to overrun major areas of western and northern Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has vowed to recapture the city by the end of this year, effectively pushing the organization out of Iraq altogether. Iraqi forces, backed by US-led airstrikes have regained much ground from IS over the past year; however, the city of Mosul with its 2-million-strong population, remains difficult to recapture.

It was from Mosul’s Grand Mosque, in 2014, that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had declared his “caliphate” spanning regions of Iraq and Syria.

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition fighting IS, said the preparation for the offensive on Mosul was “approaching the final phase,” with an increase in American troop numbers expected to support the operation.

In July, government forces celebrated the capture of the Qayara airbase from IS. The government and the US military say it will be a key strategic point for a planned attack on Mosul.

Once in control of their party, conservatives agonize over the election and beyond

August 13, 2016

by David Weigel

The Washington Post

DENVER — Glenn Beck had traveled across the country to stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination. He didn’t succeed.

Pacing the stage here at the RedState Gathering, a conference for conservative activists being held this weekend, Beck acknowledged that many Republicans would vote for Trump to stop Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency.

He wouldn’t.

“I know, as a recovering alcoholic, that the truth will set you free,” Beck said Friday. “This election is between two choices that suck.”

Hundreds of conservative activists and bloggers cheered. None of them booed. With fewer than 90 days to go before the election, an annual event that usually revs up Republicans had become a therapy session on the agony of 2016.

Trump was not invited; the highest-profile speakers, such as Beck and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), were adamantly anti-Trump. Attendees debated whether the election was still winnable, whether the Republican Party was fixable, and who was to blame for a looming Clinton victory.

In their darkest moments, they couldn’t imagine how the infighting would end.

“If Trump loses, the Republican National Committee will realize that this situation’s got to change,” said Leon Wolf, the editor of the RedState website that gives the conference its name. “But 40 percent of their party enthusiastically supported this guy. How far do they dare to go in alienating these people?”

RedState, founded in 2004 by a group of conservative bloggers, evolved into a place where Republicans could have a dialogue with an active, tuned-in base. In 2009, the first RedState Gathering introduced tea-party-backed candidates, including Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley and Ted Cruz, to bloggers and reporters. In 2011, Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign there.

At the same time, RedState’s editors and users tried to police the conservative movement. In 2007, the site blocked a wave of “zany” new users who were using the site to promote the Ron Paul presidential campaign. In 2015, the site’s longtime editor, Erick Erickson, disinvited Trump from the Gathering, citing the candidate’s comment that Fox News debate co-moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when she grilled him during a Republican debate.

“I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal,” Erickson said.

The reporters who had packed last year’s conference wondered whether the comment about Kelly would be a pivot moment, a sign that Republican voters were abandoning Trump. It was not. In the year since, Trump had taken over the Republican Party, while RedState editors such as Wolf and Ben Howe achieved sudden cable news fame as Trump critics; Erickson founded a new site critical of Trump and briefly tried to draft a third-party conservative candidate into the race. RedState’s traffic was up for the year, but its leading voices were constantly being reminded of where the power was in the GOP.

For rank-and-file conservatives, the question was to join a rebellion or to join a possibly losing campaign for the White House. “I’m playing for the team,” said Alex Iscoe, 21, an activist who wore the lone “Make America Great Again” cap at the conference. “If the team doesn’t win, we get four more years of Obama, basically — or worse.”

All weekend, the fact that the presidential election was between Trump and Clinton hung in the air like a foul odor. The conference was sponsored by a constellation of groups, such as the Charles Koch Institute and the millennial-focused Generation Opportunity, which had long ago switched from electioneering to advocating for free-market reform. In a glitchy series of pre­recorded videos, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) pivoted from a question about 2016 to a question about what he had learned from his 2012 vice-presidential run.

“The single greatest threat to national security is sitting in the Oval Office,” John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said at the end of a long indictment of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. “The second-greatest threat is coming right behind him, unless things change dramatically.”

Darryl Glenn, the Republican who is seeking to unseat Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) in November, blamed the news media for the idea that “everything’s negative out there.” After Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) equivocated on whether Trump could win the state — the real estate mogul trails by double digits — an audience member excitedly grabbed a microphone to remind him that “they said you couldn’t win your race, either.”

Few of the conservatives who had come to Denver were so optimistic. Steve Deace, an influential Iowa radio host who had endorsed Cruz for president, predicted that Trump would lose and then stick around to continue hurting the conservative movement.

“He’s going to get months of free media when he loses,” Deace said. “He will not go away.” Deace argued that Trump will have to kiss up to the “liberal elites whose approval he craves, and he will do it by attacking all of us.”

Cruz did not attend the conference, telling organizers that he previously committed to a family vacation. But the 45-year-old senator’s political future was never far from the RedState discussion. Asked about Cruz’s speech at the Republican National Convention, at which he was heckled for refusing to endorse Trump, Beck said he had called to thank him for doing it. Cruz, he said, had acted in the tradition of Charles Sumner, the anti-slavery senator beaten with a cane by pro-slavery Democrats, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who returned home from America to oppose the Nazis.

Kendal Unruh was more pessimistic. Elected as a Cruz delegate from Colorado, she had led an effort — “Free the Delegates” — to stop Trump at the convention.

“I don’t see myself spending the next 30 years to rebuild the party,” she said. “I know that Cruz is gearing up Carly Fiorina to run for party chair. That’s a brilliant move. But in order to that, you have to roll all those RNC members, and we’ve seen how that goes.”

Fiorina made it to Denver, introduced wryly as “that face” — a reference to how Trump had once mocked her looks. In a 30-minute speech, she promised to campaign “for down-ballot candidates” and avoided mentioning the nominee.

Not every conservative would allow himself to think that way.

“I’m a conservative before I’m a Republican,” said Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. “It’s our philosophy that guides us, not the elephant. I’m happy to help the elephant when he’s right; I’m happy to pick up his poop when he’s got problems in the middle of the street. All of that stuff — I’ve signed up for that.”

Scams for Fun and Profit

by Harry von Johnson, PhD

I have just run across a new scam, one that is clogging the spam boxes of many email sites. A friend got over thirty of these in one day, all with different return addresses! Here is the sending and then a critical analysis of the sender:

“Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO? First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin”

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