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TBR News July 16, 2016

Jul 16 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 16, 2016: “Fanatics never think about the future, only the present. By their recent spate of mass murder in France, Sunni IS is unifying, not breaking, Western resistance to their Saudi-supported dreams of religious empire. IS does not consider their own death tolls but in the end, the American and Russian attacks on them, both in the Middle East and soon, in Europe, will destroy them, just as Genghis Kahn destroyed the Assassins in their mountain lairs.”

Thoughts of the Forbidden Man

The country lad who migrates to the big city feels attracted by what has been described as easy work–which it may be in reality–and few working hours. He is especially entranced by the magic glimmer spread over the big cities. Accustomed in the country to earn a steady wage, he has been taught not to quit his former post until a new one is at least in sight.

As there is a great scarcity of agricultural labour, the probability of

long unemployment in the country has been very small. It is a mistake to presume that the lad who leaves the countryside for the town is not made of such sound material as those who remain at home to work on the land.

On the contrary, experience shows that it is the more healthy and more vigorous that emigrate, and not the reverse. Among these emigrants I include not merely those who emigrate to America, but also the servant boy in the country who decides to leave his native village and migrate to the big city where he will be a stranger. He is ready to take therisk of an uncertain fate. In most cases he comes to town with a little money in his pocket and for the first few days he is not discouraged if he should not have the good fortune to find work.

But if he finds a job and then loses it in a little while, the case is much worse. To find work anew, especially in winter, is often difficult and indeed sometimes impossible. For the first few weeks life is still bearable He receives his out-of-work money from his trade union and is thus enabled to carry on.

But when the last of his own money is gone and his trade union ceases to pay out because of the prolonged unemployment, then comes the real distress. He now loiters about and is hungry. Often he pawns or sells the last of his belongings. His clothes begin to get shabby and with the increasing poverty of his outward appearance he descends to a lower social level and mixes up with a class of human beings through whom his mind is now poisoned, in addition to his physical misery.

Then he has nowhere to sleep and if that happens in winter, which is very often the case, he is in dire distress. Finally he gets work. But the old story repeats itself. A second time the same thing happens. Then a third time; and now it is probably much worse. Little by little he becomes indifferent to this everlasting insecurity. Finally he grows used to the repetition.

Thus even a man who is normally of industrious habits grows careless in his whole attitude towards life and gradually becomes an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous people who exploit him for the sake of their own ignoble aims.

He has been so often thrown out of employment through no fault of his own that he is now more or less indifferent whether the strike in which he takes part be for the purpose of securing his economic rights or be aimed at the destruction of the State, the whole social order and even civilization itself. Though the idea of going on strike may not be to his natural liking, yet he joins in it out of sheer indifference.

Commentary: Nice attack – the wider threat to France

July 15, 2016

by Peter Apps


With the death of the driver who plowed his truck through dozens of French civilians in Nice, it may take authorities a while to get to fully understand what motivated the attack. The broader picture, however, looks unpleasantly clear: Mainland Europe, and France in particular, is facing a vicious, repeated string of attacks that are hard to stop and likely to produce ever more unpredictable political consequences.

In France alone, well over 200 civilians have now been killed since attackers targeted a kosher supermarket and the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Though the vast majority of deaths occurred in just three events – that killing, the assault in Paris on November 13 and now the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice – it appears that more limited but still often deadly strikes are also on the rise.

It’s not just France, of course. But for now that country appears the most at risk. According to European security officials, the March 22 Brussels attack that left 35 dead, including three perpetrators, had also been intended for French soil. In response, the country has mobilized on an almost wartime scale, with troops on the streets and a national state of emergency.

Only hours before the Nice attack, President François Hollande had ironically announced that the state of emergency imposed after November’s attacks would be lifted at the end of the month.

Progress has clearly been made – militant cells have been rounded out and, perhaps more important, disrupted. The fact that this attack appeared to have relied on a civilian truck suggests that there has also been some success in denying those who want to conduct attacks access to more conventional weaponry.

We don’t know whether Thursday’s attack was directly related to Islamic State or even broader Islamist radicalism – although perhaps unsurprisingly, Islamic State and other jihadi-linked social media feeds were quick to rejoice in what had happened, implying that their supporters would at least like to believe there was a link.

Even if that proves false, that will not dramatically reduce the worry for European security chiefs. What the Bastille Day attacker successfully demonstrated was just how much could be achieved with a single determined driver and large motor vehicle.

Such tactics are hardly new. Israel has seen multiple attacks using vehicles and heavy building machinery conducted by Palestinian militants, in part seen ss a response to local security measures making it hard to transport bombs or firearms. The death tolls, however, have generally been far smaller: rarely more than a handful of civilian or security personnel.

This appears to have been at least the fourth politically or militant-inspired “vehicular assault” in France since 2014. Two attacks took place with motor vehicles in December 2014 in the towns of Nantes and Dijon, killing one person and injuring more than 20. In January this year, an attacker rammed four French soldiers who were guarding a mosque in Valence, although none were killed. The attacker was found to have jihadist propaganda on his computer, although it is not clear whether he was directly linked to any group.

The deadliest single attack in Europe remains the 2004 Madrid train bombings claimed by Al Qaeda that killed 192. Similar attacks on London’s mass transit system the year before took another 56 linves, including those of the four suicide bombers. But that momentum, crucially, was not maintained despite multiple other attempts to blow up airliners and conduct other attacks.

The death toll in Europe remains a fraction of that in countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Syria or Afghanistan. Still, given the savagery and death toll of recent attacks, it is fair to say France is now on the receiving end of the most sustained militant assault any Western state has yet faced.(The death toll from mass shootings in the US remains a substantially higher, but they are not seen as coordinated in the same way.)

In Europe, there are parallels with the campaigns waged by Northern Irish Republican or Spanish Basque separatists in the last three decades of the twentieth century. In total, those had death tolls that run much higher than the several hundred killed by militants in Europe since 9/11. But the individual death toll in each attack was invariably much lower, and there was never a sustained tempo of mass casualty events like that now seen by France.

Even some of the smaller attacks have had a truly brutal savagery. On June 13, a French police officer and his wife were stabbed to death in their own home in a town outside Paris by a single attacker in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attacker live streamed the attack on Facebook. French officials said he appeared to be acting on a recent general order from the Islamic State leadership to attack its enemies during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Such “lone wolf” actions are far harder to stop.

Even before these attacks, France was struggling with serious social divisions, particularly around the integration of residents — many of them Muslim — on underprivileged estates on the outskirts of cities. That appears to have become compounded with the West’s war with Islamist militancy in general and Islamic State in particular.

Though the reasons are more complex, the recent attacks have stirred up further public discontent over migration and open borders, fueling the limited but very real rise of Marine le Pen’s National Front. With presidential elections due in April and May next year, Hollande badly needs to look like he has a grip on the problem.

Whether that’s something that is actually possible, unfortunately, is a different question.

François Hollande faces political backlash after Nice attack

French president criticised for failing to implement security and intelligence measures in wake of last year’s Paris attacks

July 15,2016

The Guardian

François Hollande is facing a severe political backlash in the wake of the Nice attack as rightwing politicians accused him of failing to implement sufficiently effective security and intelligence measures after previous atrocities.

The French president, who travelled to Nice with the prime minister, Manuel Valls, after delivering an ashen-faced TV address at 4am from the presidential palace, was under pressure to explain what concrete measures he had taken since the Paris attacks in November to crack down on the threat of terrorism. The motivation for Thursday’s attack is not yet known, but it is being investigated as an act of terror.

In his address, the president announced a three-month extension of the state of national emergency, which allows police to conduct house raids and searches without a warrant or judicial oversight and gives extra powers to officials to place people under house arrest. He insisted: “Nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism. We will further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria. We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil.”

But the extension of the state of national emergency was condemned as a cosmetic measure designed to reassure the French public. With the presidential primary campaigns effectively under way, the tone of the criticism was unusually sharp for a time of national crisis and mourning.

Hollande’s government, whose popularity has hit record lows, recently faced allegations that France’s intelligence services had failed to get a handle on the jihadi threat.

Hollande and Christian Estrosi, president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, were booed by an assembled crowd as their convoy drove through Nice on Friday.

Nice resident Christelle Hespel said she was disgusted by both men and that they had failed to protect her city. “Mr Estrosi is from the right, Mr Hollande from the left. I say it and I say it loud, these two are killers,” she told the Associated Press.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National who polls say will reach the second round of next year’s election, said: “Nothing that we have proposed has been put in place. Considering the new nature of terrorism which is now a terrorism of opportunity … the urgency is to attack the ideology on which this terrorism is based. And in this space, nothing has been done, absolutely nothing – no reintroduction of double punishment, nor depriving people of nationality, nor the closure of salafist mosques … nor the banning of certain organisations. In truth, we are not at war. For the moment, we are in a war of words.”

Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and favourite to be the centre-right’s presidential candidate, claimed that if the right measures had been taken the attack would have been preventable. He said a recent parliamentary inquiry into the November attacks had revealed flaws and shortcomings in France’s unreformed, multi-layered and poorly coordinated intelligence service.

“It is imperative that government intervene in this area to better coordinate our intelligence, to develop the territorial intelligence and better national intelligence,” he said, calling for the introduction of a prison police, the integration of the gendarmerie in the intelligence community and a “real strengthening of coordination bodies”.

One hundred and 47 people were killed in attacks in 2015 – from January’s gun attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher grocery store to the coordinated gun and bomb attacks across Paris on 13 November. Nice will add at least 84 deaths to this toll.

The report into the Paris attacks emphasised the difficulties posed by France’s six different intelligence units, which answer variously to the interior, defence and economy ministries. Overseas intelligence agencies complained to the parliamentary inquiry that it was impossible to work within such a bureaucratic mess.

The commission highlighted a “global failure” of French intelligence and recommended a total overhaul of the intelligence services, including the creation of a single, US-style national counter-terrorism agency. “Our country was not ready; now we must get ready,” Georges Fenech, the head of the commission, said.

Fenech said the multilayered, cumbersome intelligence apparatus was like an army of soldiers wearing lead boots. He said that without the multiple intelligence failings, the attack on the Bataclan rock concert in Paris, which killed 90, could have been prevented.

Fenech was unimpressed by Hollande’s response to Nice, saying: “I hear today the announcement of some measures by the president of the republic, including the state of emergency. But it is clear that the state of emergency, as currently applied, does not prevent those attacks. He also announces a strengthening of [Operation] Sentinelle [in which 10,000 soldiers patrol French streets]. Our report raises the question of the relevance of the guard force,” he told BFM TV.

He said: “The state of emergency, that solves nothing. It reassures, that’s all. Sentinel force does not solve anything either. It’s psychological.”

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, had this week rejected the idea of an overhaul of intelligence services. He said some of the report’s other recommendations were already being put in place.

Pierre Lellouche, a former Europe minister and leading figure in centre-right party Les Républicans, said: “We have been at war for a year and a half, yet nothing is happening about the control of the borders and nothing is happening in Europe about coordination of intelligence”. He said the first meeting between EU heads of intelligence had only occurred in January.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of Les Républicains, also responded to the attacks with a call for a security crackdown. In an interview with Le Figaro in June, Sarkozy called for all jihadi prisoners to be kept in solitary confinement, the creation of a prison intelligence agency and electronic surveillance of prison cells.

He also called for any foreigner connected with terrorist activities or networks to be deported immediately, and for the establishment of de-radicalisation centres for convicted individuals. He said “prison was for the punishment for the horrors that have been committed”, but added that terrorists should not be released until they have been through a programme that leads to them being certified as no longer a threat to society.

What we know about Nice suspect: Father of 3, solitary & not very religious

July 15, 2016


Who was the man behind the Bastille Day attack in Nice that killed at least 84 people? RT looks into the facts and story of the 31-year-old French resident from Tunisia so far revealed by officials and local media.

After police finally neutralized the attacker, they searched the truck and managed to find ID papers belonging Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French resident who was born in Tunisia, sources told media.

Later heavily-armed police forces searched an apartment in a working-class neighborhood in Nice where the alleged attacker lived.

Police have found no weapons or explosives at the home of the assailant during the searches, iTele reported. Experts seized a computer for examination.

The Nice attacker’s identity has been confirmed as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told journalists, adding that the truck driver’s identity was verified from his fingerprints.

The neighbors described the attacker to Nice Matin newspaper as a solitary figure who even didn’t return greetings when their paths crossed. According to Sebastien who lived next to him, Bouhlel did not seem overly religious, was often dressed in shorts and sometimes wore work boots.

Meanwhile, the attacker’s brother told journalists he does not believe that Bouhlel could commit a terrorist attack out of religious motives as he was not religious at all.

“Mohamed could not do anything like this. He did not pray, he was not religious, he did not observe religious rituals. I do not believe that he could do it out of religious or extremist motives,” the attacker’s brother said, adding that Bouhlel was actually planning to go on vacation to the Tunisian city of Sousse in the coming days.

He was “a good-looking man who kept giving my two daughters the eye,” one female neighbor told the paper.

“He was divorcing or divorced with three kids,” another neighbor Mohammed said, adding that that Bouhlel had been very nervous recently.

Bouhlel also reportedly suffered from depression because of a divorce and financial problems.

“I would say he was someone who was pleasing to women,”  Hanan, also a neighbor, told Reuters.

“But he was frightening. He didn’t have a frightening face, but … a look. He would stare at the children a lot,” he added.

According to the daily, Bouhlel must have arrived in France in the 2000s. He had a French residence permit for the past 10 years but never obtained French citizenship, Reuters reports, citing Tunisian sources.

A year after his arrival, he reportedly got into a traffic accident that led to his arrest.

In March of 2016, he was arrested again – this time for “road rage” – and convicted for the first time, French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said, as reported by Reuters.

“There was an altercation between him and another driver and he hurled a wooden pallet at the man,” Urvoas told reporters. Bouhlel was given a suspended sentence because it was his first conviction. He had to contact police once a week, which he did, the minister added.

It was probably ‘a petty crime’ for which he was known to French authorities.

Several photos of the alleged attacker have been circulating on social media, but police are yet to confirm any of them.

The ex-wife of the attacker has been held for questioning, BFMTV reported.

Tunisia initially remained silent about the attacker and didn’t comment on his nationality. Later Tunisian security sources told Reuters that he came from the town of Msaken, north Tunisia, which he last visited four years ago. However, the attacker was not known to hold radical or Islamist views.

Also two French officials told AP on condition of anonymity that an ID matching the man described in media reports was found in the truck. Nice Matin newspaper also said that a bank card and a phone were found in the truck. It’s not yet clear if they belonged to the attacker or not.

At least 84 people were killed and a further 100 injured when a truck rammed into a crowd during celebrations in Nice, in what has been called in the city’s worst terror attack in history. Weapons and grenades were found in the vehicle following the rampage. The shooter was killed by police.

Why does France keep getting attacked?

France is historically seen as standard bearer of western secular liberalism and has been singled out by Isis as a key target

July 15, 2016

by Jason Burke

The Guardian

So once again, there will be the tricolour flag projected on buildings around the world, a hashtag expressing solidarity with France, and declarations of sympathy.

There will also be the question: why is France suffering a wave of extremist violence that is more intense – certainly more lethal – than any other seen in the west since the 9/11 attacks almost 15 years ago?

Though it is still unclear if the driver of the truck in Nice was linked to any broader network or organisation – prosecutors on Friday said only that his actions were in line with an Isis call to action – his attack is a grim reminder of the bloodshed on Paris just months ago.

One reason that France is a particular target is down to a specific decision by Islamic State to target it. In September 2014, shortly after the beginning of airstrikes by a US-led coalition which includes France, the chief spokesman for Isis, Mohammad al-Adnani, singled out the “spiteful French” among a list of enemies in a speech calling for the group’s sympathisers to launch attacks across the west.

Undoubtedly, the role France has historically assumed as standard bearer of western secular liberalism has also put the nation in the spotlight. Islamic extremists may see the US as a source of moral decadence and economic exploitation, but France is seen as an atheist power which is both defending western ideals such as human rights, free speech and democracy and, in the eyes of jihadis, trying to impose them on the Islamic world.

We know from interrogations of Isis returnees that the group started planning strikes in France even before it seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and declared a caliphate in 2014.

The first big militant attack in France in recent years came earlier however, in 2012, and targeted soldiers and the Jewish community. The next major attack was against the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine which had published controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, deemed insulting by many Muslims. Then came November’s Isis-organised strike against a concert hall, bars and a football stadium – all representative of French life. Finally there is an attack on Bastille Day, with all the history and values it represents.

Successive governments in Paris have also taken a hard – and much publicised – line on issues such as the wearing of full-body coverings and the veil in public, which has been well noted by Islamic militants. So has the increasingly prominent French military role overseas. French forces have made a series of interventions in the Islamic world in recent years – in Libya, in Mali, where its troops rolled back one of the most successful Islamic militant offensives outside Syria or Iraq for many years, and of course in the coalition against Isis.

Other reasons for the violence are rooted in grave problems within France itself which have made the nation vulnerable.

Some of these are failings of the fragmented, bureaucratic and still under-resourced security services. A French parliamentary investigation into last year’s terrorist attacks on Paris highlighted a “global failure” of French intelligence and called for the creation of a single, US-style national counterterrorism agency.

All the extremists involved in the attacks had been previously flagged to authorities, the investigation found. Some had past convictions, or were under judicial surveillance in France or in Belgium when they struck Paris.

A recruitment push aimed at boosting the numbers of French spies was started late, at the end of 2014, and is only now beginning to show results, not least due to the time taken to find and then train new staff.

But France’s security also depends on structures at a European level – which have been repeatedly found wanting. Last years’ attacks in Paris and those in Belgium in March highlighted the yawning gap between the capabilities of the continent’s security services and the gravity of the new threat created by the conflict in Syria. Intelligence sharing had not, experts say, kept up with the new dangers posed by freedom of movement within much of the expanded EU.

The cutting edge of this threat is of course the European nationals who have travelled to fight with Isis or, to a lesser extent, other similar militant outfits. There are now estimated to be more than 600 French citizens or residents currently in Syria or Iraq, of which 400 are fighters.

This does not put France – despite its substantial Muslim population – in the top rank of source countries for fighters, but nonetheless it means there is a big pool of potential attackers on which Isis could draw. Those responsible for the Paris attacks in November were French or Belgian citizens drawn from camps in Syria run by Isis and sent back into Europe. The driver of the truck in Nice was not reportedly known to the security services, only to local police for a series of violent offences and thefts.

France has a history of Islamic extremism reaching back decades. The 1990s saw two waves of attacks. One was linked to the bloody civil war between authorities and extremist groups in the former colony of Algeria. A second involved homegrown militants in the north of France who evolved a particular brand of terrorism mixing armed robbery and jihadism.

Like other western European nations, France imported large numbers of labourers from former or existing colonies to help with post-war reconstruction, without considering that they would stay, or that they would bring their families to join them. The integration of the resulting communities posed challenges all over the continent, but they were particularly acute in France, not least because of the violence and trauma of the Algerian war of independence. In recent years, as elsewhere in Europe and the Islamic world, rigorous and intolerant strands of Islamic observance have made inroads, as well as, more recently, a new, debased, ultra-violent “gangsta Jihad” culture attractive to a young and often marginalised constituency.

Almost all those involved in violence in France in recent years have had similar profiles – aged between 18 and 36, often with a record of involvement in petty crime, known to police if not security services, often served jail sentences, from backgrounds which if not poverty-stricken were far from wealthy, and with insecure, temporary or poorly paid jobs.

The “banlieues” or suburbs where many such men grew up or live are often physically and culturally isolated from more wealthy, integrated neighbourhoods. They are certainly very distant from the France of wine and charcuterie, chateaux and cheese. This gap has not been closed by the French policy of “assimilation” rather than multi-cultural integration into the supposedly secular republique, and has, critics say, created fertile ground for polarisation.

And this may be a final reason why Isis has focused on France. The group has been heavily influenced by both millennial thinking, which stresses the imminent final battle between the forces of belief and unbelief, as well as jihadi strategic thinking, which encourages extremists to use violence to destabilise states or nations to allow their eventual conquest.

Isis thus seeks to terrorise its enemies and mobilise its supporters but above all polarise those communities, which might then turn against one another. In its literature it has specifically pointed to France as a place where “the grey zone” of tolerance and moderation can be usefully targeted and destroyed.

Some observers in France have said the nation has been brought closer together by the recent violence. Not all agree. Patrick Calvar, head of the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Interieure, recently warned that his country was “on the brink of a civil war between rightwing and Islamist extremists”.

“Extremisms are rising everywhere and … this confrontation, I think it will happen. One or two more attacks, and we will see it,” Calvar said last month.


Top Russian lawmakers urge joint fight against terrorism after Nice attack

July 15, 2016


Senior Russian parliamentarians have said that the latest deadly attack in France is yet more proof that international cooperation in the fight against international terrorism is vitally important.

The truck attack in Nice that took place on Thursday night shows that Western nations must start engaging in closer interaction with Russia and its special services in countering the common threat of terrorism, the head of the Upper House committee for international relations, Konstantin Kosachev, told the press.

“It is absolutely clear now that some changes are due in international relations. The Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] and other terrorist groups that attempt to control the world with fear have reared their heads only because the world had not found an opportunity to consolidate and give a joint response to this threat,” Russian news site Life quoted Kosachev as saying on Friday.

“I would prefer to believe that we have no other choice but to act differently. Terrorism is outside human morals, is outside politics and outside settling any accounts between nations,” he said.

The head of the State Duma committee for security, Irina Yarovaya, emphasized that Russia has always proposed that all nations should unite efforts to defeat terrorism and continues to advocate this. “The world must stop this hypocrisy and act harshly and resolutely. The anti-terror fight must be based on the international law as well as on national laws,” Yarovaya said. “The tragedy is in the fact that, due to the never ending series of terrorist attacks, the condolences have literally become a regular ritual in society and in just a few days these condolences are followed by a mess of irresponsibility and inaction.”

At the same time, the lawmaker noted that the decisions and actions of Russia’s authorities have always been taken with the goal of providing better protection for the lives of Russian citizens.

Deputy head of the State Duma Committee for International Relations Roman Khudyakov said he believes the attack in Nice could had been prevented if French authorities had accepted Russia’s entreaties to join their efforts in the fight against terror.

“Of course, everything could have been prevented if they had cooperated with our special services, if they had accepted Vladimir Putin’s proposal to join forces in the fight against the Islamic State,” the lawmaker said, adding that Russia was mourning the victims of the attack together with France.

In a televised address released on Friday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia understood the pain and grief caused by terrorism and felt for the loss of the lives from the Nice terrorist attack. “The crime in Nice, which targeted people – including Russian citizens – was particularly cruel and cynical,” Putin said, adding that only a joint effort to eradicate terrorism can succeed.

According to the latest reports, at least 84 people died and about 100 were injured when a man armed with a gun drove a truck through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in the French resort town of Nice. According to mass media, one of the victims was a Russian woman from Moscow.

The attacker, reportedly a man of Tunisian origin, was killed by the police.

Florida mosque removed as polling site after anti-Islamic backlash

July 14, 2016

BBC News

A Florida mosque has been removed as a polling station for the 2016 election after local officials received complaints and threats of violence.

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton had planned to host a polling site for the state’s primary in August and the general election in November.

Officials rescinded the invite, drawing sharp criticism from Florida lawmakers who said it reinforced religious discrimination.

The site was moved to a nearby library.

County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said she moved the site after receiving about 50 complaints from people who said they did not want to vote in a mosque.

The Islamic Center has been used as a polling station at least since 2010, the Washington Post reported.

Democratic US Representatives Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel released statements opposing the move.

“If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate,” Mr Deutch said.

It is unclear how many houses of worship are used as polling places across the country, but churches are often selected as host sites because of their large auditoriums and parking lots.

Mosques in California, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Ohio have served as polling places, including one that has been used since at least 2004, according to the AP news agency.

After Nice, Don’t Give ISIS What It’s Asking For

July 15, 2016

by Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept

Not much is yet known about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old man French police say is responsible for a horrific act of mass murder last night in the southern city of Nice. In the wake of the killings, French President Francois Hollande has denounced the attack as “Islamist terrorism” linked to the militant group the Islamic State. Supporters of ISIS online have echoed these statements, claiming responsibility for the attack as another blow against its enemies in Western Europe.

While the motive for the attack is still under investigation, it is worth examining why the Islamic State is so eager to claim such incidents as its own. On the surface, ramming a truck into a crowd of people gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks seems like an act of pure nihilism. No military target was hit. Initial reports suggest that the killings may lead to French attacks on ISIS’s already-diminishing territories in Iraq and Syria. And French Muslims, many of whom were reportedly killed in the attack, will likely face security crackdowns and popular backlash from a public angry and fearful in the wake of another incomprehensible act of mass murder.

But the Islamic State’s statements and history show that such an outcome is exactly what it seeks. In the February 2015 issue of its online magazine Dabiq, the group called for acts of violence in the West that would “[eliminate] the grayzone” by sowing division and creating an insoluble conflict in Western societies between Muslims and non-Muslims. Such a conflict would force Muslims living in the West to “either apostatize … or [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens.”

This strategy of using violence to force divisions in society mimics the group’s tactics in Iraq, where it used provocative attacks against the Shiite population to deliberately trigger a sectarian conflict, one that continues to rage to this day.

It may be that the Islamic State had no direct line of communication to Bouhlel. Unlike many other previous attackers, he had not been on the radar of French security services. There is no indication that he had received training or traveled to ISIS territory. Initial reports from those who knew him paint a picture of a depressed and angry man who “spent a lot of his time at a bar down the street where he gambled and drank.” He had a history of petty crime, including an arrest this past May following a road-rage incident.

But in a way, these details don’t matter. ISIS’s model for terrorism relies on the weaponization of individuals such as Bouhlel; the group calls on the young, angry, and purposeless around the world to lash out at those around them in its name. In this way, the power of desperate insurgents is magnified through a combination of social media and propaganda of the deed. An influential text used by the group, titled The Management of Savagery, prescribes terrorist attacks as a means of “inflam[ing] opposition,” to drag ordinary people into conflict whether “willing or unwilling, such that each individual will go to the side which he supports.”

In the West, deadly attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, and elsewhere are bringing the Islamic State’s goal of a divided world closer to fruition.

Far-right parties hostile to minorities are growing in popularity in Europe, while in the United States, polls show significant public support for once-unthinkable measures like banning non-citizen Muslims from the country. Like a hurricane in slow motion, every act of violence seems to do incremental damage to the possibility of a tolerant, liberal society.

After yesterday’s attack in Nice, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich piled on by calling for “[testing] every person here who is of a Muslim background” and adding, “If they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” It was a somewhat ironic statement for Gingrich, who in years past helped arrange space for Muslim staffers to pray on Capitol Hill and took part in planning sessions for the Islamic Free Market Institute, a free-market advocacy group that supports Sharia-finance products.

Gingrich’s outburst, however impracticable, does reflect hardening public sentiments. As time goes on and attacks by lone wolves and others in the name of ISIS continue, it’s not unfathomable that proposals such as his could gain traction.

But from both a strategic and moral perspective, the worst thing that could be done in response to the horror of incidents like Nice would be to give ISIS what it says it wants: polarization and communal hatred. Proposals for ethnic cleansing or “civilizational war” may satisfy a desire to project toughness, but in reality, they feed into the group’s narrative of a world irrevocably divided along religious lines.

Western Europe has faced down greater waves of terrorism in the past without giving into the strategy of the terrorists or sacrificing its intrinsic values. The crisis of the Islamic State will require a similar degree of steadfastness. But only by recognizing the trap it has set can we avoid inflicting a defeat on ourselves far worse than a desperate, fanatical insurgent group could ever hope to achieve on its own.

ISIS says one of its ‘soldiers’ carried out attack in Nice

July 16, 2016

by Peter Wilkinson, Jason Hanna and Euan McKirdy


It seems that the attacker got radicalized very rapidly,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man police say drove a truck through a crowd in Nice, killing 84 people. Cazeneuve reiterated that the attacker had not been known to the intelligence services previously. The interior minister also noted authorities now face a new scenario with individuals who are becoming very sensitive to the messages of ISIS.

An ISIS “soldier” carried out the attack in Nice, France, this week that left 84 people dead, the group said in a statement via its media group.

The Amaq Agency statement, which was posted by ISIS supporters, said a security source told the agency that “the person who carried out the run over in Nice, France, is one of the Islamic State soldiers and carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition which is fighting the Islamic State.”

French authorities named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, as the man who drove a 20-ton truck through crowds who’d just watched fireworks for Bastille Day celebrations on the Mediterranean beachfront Thursday, killing dozens and injuring more than 200 people.

France has not indicated whether the attack stemmed from a sympathizer taking direction from ISIS or an ISIS member sent to attack.

Authorities did not release information about a motive. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the investigation has so far not uncovered any evidence of jihadism. But French prosecutor François Molins said the attack fits with calls that “terrorist organizations regularly give out on their videos and elsewhere.”

Five detained

As the investigation continued, French authorities were questioning five people Saturday. Among them was Bouhlel’s ex-wife, who was taken into custody Friday, the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said. The other four are men.

Bouhlel, a resident of Nice, was born in Tunisia but had a permit to live and work in France.

French President François Hollande, addressing his country following its third major terrorist attack in 18 months, described the assault as an “unspeakable act.”

“We have an enemy who is going to continue to strike all the people, all the countries who have freedom as a fundamental value,” Hollande said.

Bouhlel was shot to death by police after he barreled down the crowded Promenade des Anglais for almost a mile, crushing and hitting people who had gathered to watch the Bastille Day fireworks. He was identified by fingerprints after his identification card was found in the truck, authorities said.

He was known to police because of allegations of threats, violence and thefts over the past six years, and he was given a suspended six-month prison sentence this year after being convicted of violence with a weapon, authorities said.

Bouhlel’s father, who lives in Tunisia, said his son showed signs of mental health issues — having had multiple nervous breakdowns and volatile behavior, said CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.

Despite his criminal record, Bouhlel was not on the radar for any kind of terror threat. The man was “entirely unknown by the intelligence services, whether nationally or locally,” Molins said.

“He had never been the subject of any kind of file or indication of radicalization.”

‘There are dead everywhere’

The claim from ISIS came as harrowing new details emerged about Thursday night’s tragedy. One young victim, Kimberley Torres, described how someone tried to throw her out of the way of the truck — but she was still hit by it.

“I tried to roll myself into a ball, so the people wouldn’t crush me, but I was still hit in the stomach and leg,” she said.

The 16-year-old, who lives in Nice and is studying for an international baccalaureate, is now recovering from her injuries at the Fondation Lenval.

Her mother, Edvige, said she would take her daughter to a psychologist when her physical wounds had healed. She said her daughter called her in tears because she had been separated from her best friend, whom Kimberley was later reunited with and who was unharmed.

“The most awful thing for her, amidst all this is … she was telling me: ‘Mum, there are dead everywhere, severed heads, severed people, there’s blood everywhere, mother, come.'”

Edvige Torres said she immediately left her home near the beachfront to find her daughter, whom she then took straight to hospital.

“I’ve tried to keep my head until now, but I can’t any more,” she said.

‘Bodies flying in the air’

Another young student said he saw the whole attack from the balcony of his friends’ flat.

Andres Farfan, a 21-year-old from Peru, was celebrating finishing his university degree in Nice when he heard screams coming from the beachfront.

He looked down and saw the truck speeding on the footpath of the road.

It was going pretty fast, I guess 60 or 70 kph, and people were screaming and trying to avoid it, and some jumped to the beach side, and it is not small sized, it’s a big jump,” Faran said.

Most people on the boulevard struggled to avoid the truck as it approached.

“At that point I thought that these people wouldn’t make it, because it was really fast and they were all together like a pack,” he said. “I couldn’t watch it. I closed my eyes, and I went inside the apartment. Some of my friends did the opposite — they went outside, when people started screaming, they went and saw this; then they started screaming and crying immediately. I can’t imagine what they have seen.

“They say they saw bodies flying in the air when the truck hit them.”

Farfan braced himself to go out on the balcony to see the aftermath. “We saw the first scenes of the bodies, the uncovered bodies, the dead. I saw a bunch of six, seven bodies — they were stuck to the floor with blood around them. It was horrible to watch.”

Before the attack

Bouhlel began the attack at about 10:45 p.m., authorities said. At one point, he fired a gun several times at three police officers close to a hotel, the prosecutor said.

The truck was rented on Monday and was supposed to have been returned Wednesday, Molins said, without saying who rented it. Surveillance video shows that about two hours before the attack Thursday, Bouhlel rode a bicycle to pick up the truck east of the city, the prosecutor said.

After Bouhlel was shot, police found a handgun and some ammunition in the truck’s cab, as well as a replica handgun, two replica assault rifles, a cell phone and various documents, Molins said. In the trailer was the bicycle and some empty pallets.

Hollande declared a national mourning period from Saturday to Monday.

France was just preparing to lift its state of emergency, which was put into place in the wake of the November terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, the deadliest attack in France’s history.

Nice is just the latest city to be hit by a terror attack. Istanbul, Orlando, Baghdad, Brussels and Dhaka in Bangladesh are among other targets hit in recent months.

‘Big step back’

Cruickshank said “no country in the Western world is threatened more by jihadis and terrorism than France.”

“This is a big step back here. They are absolutely exhausted after a year and a half of intense efforts to try and protect this country,” Cruickshank said.

“The painful reality here is that if it wasn’t going to be this promenade, it would have been any other promenade.”

France had put intense security in place for Euro 2016, the international soccer tournament that just ended. No major attacks occurred during the event.

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali, Salma Abdelaziz, Claudia Rebaza, Atika Shubert, Rebecca Wright, Angela Dewan and journalist Pierre-Eliott Buet contributed to this report

Over 2,800 arrested, 265 killed, 1,440 injured in Turkish coup attempt

July 16, 2016


Turkish Prime Minister said that 2,839 soldiers and officers implicated in an overnight coup attempt have been arrested. At least 265 people have been killed, including 104 pro-coup participants, while 1,440 people were injured in military action in Istanbul and Ankara.

According to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, those arrested included ordinary soldiers and high-ranking officers. He added that about 20 of those who planned the overnight coup were killed and 30 more were wounded.

Acting chief of staff of the armed forces Umit Dundar said during a press conference that more than 190 people have been killed since the attempted coup was launched.

“1,563 soldiers were arrested, and 104 military who took part in the coup were killed in clashes. Ninety others were also killed, including 41 [pro-government] police officers, 2 [pro-government] soldiers and 47 civilians,” he said.

Pro-government forces have seized control of the top military HQ building, but there are still some groups of rebels resisting, a Turkish official said on Saturday, as cited by Reuters.

General Hulusi Akar, who heads Turkey’s armed forces, has been rescued from rebel captivity. He was the most senior military official in their hands.

The rebels reportedly have several helicopter gunships in their disposal, but loyalists have threatened to shoot them down as they downed at least one aircraft carrying out attacks on government buildings.

A faction of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow the government on Friday night, employing tanks and attack helicopters. The conspiracy appears to have failed, however, as they didn’t manage to capture any senior government officials and couldn’t win wide support from the Turkish military.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his civilian supporters to take to the streets of Istanbul, which they did. Rebel soldiers, who called on the population to stay indoors, apparently didn’t have the resolve to launch a full-scale war against civilians in Turkey’s biggest city.

The coup attempt began on Friday night when warplanes and helicopters buzzed over Ankara and rebel troops moved in to seal off the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait.

Tanks attacked several government buildings, including the Turkish parliament, as lawmakers hid in shelters inside the building.

Several airports were shut down and access to social media was blocked in the first hours of turmoil.

The TRT state television and the Turkish branch of CNN were seized and ceased broadcasting.

The tide turned early on Saturday as rebels lost momentum and failed to win support.

Government officials accused Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States, of instigating the plot. Gulen used to be an ally of Erdogan, but turned into his fierce opponent.

In 2013, Turkey was shaken by a corruption scandal involving senior government figures. Erdogan claimed it had been set up by Gulen and launched a crackdown on his supporters in the police and judiciary.

Even though Erdogan appears to have kept his hold on power, the coup attempt is a clear signal that some of his policies are badly failing, Sreeram Chaullia from the Jindal School of International Affairs told RT.

Under his watch, Turkey has picked a fight with Kurdish insurgents, contributed to the chaos in Syria and Iraq, antagonized Iran and Russia, and to some extent made Turkey a liability to NATO, he explained.

“I have a feeling that this coup is linked to the security crisis. A series of terrorist attacks signal the inability of the Turkish government to stop these attacks. It has angered some sections of the security establishment that believe that they can do a better job because Erdogan is just playing politics with everything,” he said.

Modern Turkey has undergone three successful military coups over its century-long history, the latest in 1980.

The Turkish military has traditionally been the guarantor of the country’s secularity, while Erdogan’s platform is Islamist in nature. Critics accuse the Turkish president of trying to turn the country into an Islamic state with him as its dictatorial head.

Erdogan, who has been in power since 2002, has faced being toppled by the military before, but the alleged plot dubbed Operation Sledgehammer was prevented in 2010 by a series of arrests. Some 300 alleged conspirators were sent to prison at that time.

Turkey is a member of NATO and a key US ally in the region, providing its airbase for the ongoing military campaign in neighboring Syria. It also hosts American nuclear weapons, with an estimated 50 to 90 B61 bombs stored at the Incirlik base.

Release of 9/11 report could strain US relationship with Saudi Arabia

The ‘28 pages’ suggest larger connection between al-Qaida and Saudi royal family than previously reported as $89,000 was deposited to family of suspected spy

July 16, 2016

by Philip Shenon

The Guardian

The release Friday of a long-classified congressional report on possible ties between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 terrorist plot has the potential to do lasting damage to the US relationship with the oil-rich Arab kingdom.

The so-called “28 pages” suggest a much larger web of connections between al-Qaida and the Saudi royal family than had previously been known.

Even as the White House – and the Saudi ambassador to the US insisted that the 13-year-old report did not implicate senior Saudi officials in supporting al-Qaida, family members of the 9/11 victims who have long demanded the report’s release, as well as some of their congressional allies, said they believed the report demonstrated the need for a new investigation of a possible Saudi government role in the 2001 terror attacks.

In fact, the report, classified in December 2002 on orders of then-President George W Bush, is almost certain to feed to public suspicions that the Saudi government, supposedly an ally of the United States against al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, gave extensive support to Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and perhaps even directly to the 9/11 plotters themselves, as the US government looked the other way.

Perhaps the most explosive passages in the 28 pages, part of a larger, otherwise unclassified congressional report on American intelligence blunders before 9/11, offer previously unknown information about the actions of a powerful figure in the Saudi royal family: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was his country’s ambassador to Washington for several years before and after 9/11 and was a close friend of Bush.

According to the report, at least $15,000 went directly from Prince Bandar’s bank account in Washington to the family of a Saudi expatriate suspected of being a Saudi government spy, who organized a support network in California for two of the 9/11 hijackers while they were living in San Diego in the year before the attacks.

The report also reveals that a phone log maintained by Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaida operative captured in 2002 in Pakistan, included the unlisted phone number for a Colorado company that managed affairs at Prince Bandar’s home in the mountain resort city of Aspen, as well as the phone number for a bodyguard who worked under Bandar at the Saudi embassy in Washington.

It had previously been reported that Bandar’s wife, Princess Haifa bin Sultan, who was born into royalty like her husband, had paid out tens of thousands of dollars to the wife of the same Saudi expatriate in California, Osama Basnan.

For the first time in the public record, the 28 pages identify exactly how much money went from Princess Haifa to Basnan’s family: $74,000 in cashier’s checks from February 1999 to May 2002.

Investigators for both the congressional investigation and the 9/11 commission suspected, but were never able to prove, that much of that money ended up in the hands of the two hijackers in San Diego: Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.

The Saudi government has repeatedly denied that Prince Bandar and Princess Haifa had any suspicion that money from the family’s accounts might have been used in a support network for 9/11 hijackers. Over the years, Princess Haifa has said through spokesmen that she understood her checks were meant to pay for medical care for Basnan’s ailing wife.

Although much of the evidence in the report is described as preliminary and was later discounted or dismissed by the independent 9/11 commission, the congressional report will raise new concern that US officials, determined to preserve Washington’s diplomatic and financial ties to the Saudi Arabia, attempted to cover up evidence that might have implicated the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia’s current ambassador to the US, Abdullah al-Saud welcomed the publication of the 28 pages, saying: “We hope the release of these pages will clear up, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s actions, intentions, or long-term friendship with the United States.”

John Lehman, navy secretary in the Reagan administration and a Republican member of the 9/11 commission, said in an interview yesterday (FRI) that the 28 pages, which he had not read for several years, demonstrated why there needed to be additional investigation of the possible ties between Saudi government officials and the 9/11 plot.

He has said previously that he regretted that the 9/11 commission report, which was based in part on evidence gathered by the earlier congressional investigation, was read as an exoneration of the Saudis.

“The trail of evidence may be a little cold, but it’s time for a complete reappraisal of our relationship with the Saudis,” said Lehman, who said the Bush and Obama administration had both failed to pressure the Saudi government to cut its ties to a fanatical, violent branch of Islam known as Wahhabism. “This is going to be a matter for the next president.”

Saudi Ties to 9/11 Detailed in Documents Suppressed Since 2002

July 15 2016

by Murtaza Hussain

The Intercept

After years of political wrangling, the suppressed section of a 2002 congressional report that detailed possible ties between the Saudi government and the 9/11 terrorist attacks was released today. The classified documents have been the source of heated speculation for years, as they highlighted alleged links between high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family and the 9/11 hijackers.

Many political figures who had previously seen the report led the charge calling for its release, including former Sen. Bob Graham, who said the 28 pages “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia,” and Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan, who said the pages “confirm that much of the rhetoric preceding the U.S. attack on Iraq was terribly wrong.”

The suppressed pages, redacted in parts, detail circumstantial evidence of ties among Saudi government officials, intelligence agents, and several of the hijackers.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11th hijackers were in contact with or received assistance from, individuals who may be connected with the Saudi government,” reads the report, which added that FBI sources believed at least two of those individuals were Saudi intelligence agents.

The report also mentions that numbers found in the phonebook of Abu Zubaydah, a detainee currently held in Guantánamo, could be traced to a company in Denver, Colorado, connected to former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

One of the most notable figures mentioned is Omar al-Bayoumi, alleged by the report to have likely been a Saudi intelligence agent. Al-Bayoumi was in close contact with hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, providing them financial assistance during their time in the United States and even helping them find an apartment. Bayoumi in turn is believed to have been on the payroll of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and was regularly in receipt of large lump sums of money from the Saudi Ministry of Finance and other undisclosed arms of the government.

Another figure highlighted in the documents is Osama Bassnan, a Saudi citizen who was an associate of al-Bayoumi and lived in an apartment nearby al-Hazmi and al-Midhar. According to the report, Bassnan “made a comment to an FBI source after the attacks suggesting that he did more for the hijackers than al-Bayoumi did.” Bassnan and his wife received regular payments from the wife of Bandar bin Sultan. On one occasion, Bassnan is said to have received a check directly from Bandar’s account.

Fahd al-Thumairy, a former Saudi consular officer in the United States who served as an imam at a mosque attended by al-Hazmi and al-Midhar, is also mentioned briefly, as is Saleh al-Hussayen, who is described in the report as a “Saudi Interior Ministry employee/official.” Al-Hussayen stayed at the same hotel as one of the hijackers in the days before the attack. While being interviewed by FBI agents after the attacks, al-Hussayen “either passed out or feigned a seizure,” causing the interview to be terminated. He later managed to successfully flee the country.

Much of the information in the 28 pages is not new and has been mentioned in previously released documents on the 9/11 investigation. As such, the public release of these suppressed pages is unlikely to precipitate major changes in the relationship between the United States and the Saudi government. In a statement issued on Friday, the Saudi Embassy in the United States said that it “welcomes the release” of the suppressed pages, saying that they exonerate Riyadh of any direct role in the attacks.

While the report does not find any smoking gun pointing to official Saudi involvement, it does highlight one consistently troubling theme of the kingdom’s response to the attacks: its refusal to cooperate with investigators seeking to uncover information about the hijackers. As the report notes, “In testimony and interviews, a number of FBI agents and CIA officers complained to the [inquiry] about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations both before and after the September 11th attacks.”

Referencing a May 1996 Director of Central Intelligence memo, the report cited agency beliefs that “the Saudis had stopped providing background information or other assistance on Bin Ladin because Bin Ladin had ‘too much information about official Saudi dealings with Islamic extremists in the 1980s for Riyadh to deliver him into U.S. hands.’”

Class action lawsuit seeks to curtail aggressive student debt collectors

July 16, 2016


Students of Everest College were found to have been so misled by the school that the US Department of Education wrote off their loans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there for the students who are still receiving five calls a day about their debt.

Balboa Student Loan Trust, the company that bought the student debt, does not care what the Education Department says about the student debts it owns. In fact, a class action lawsuit has been filed accusing the company of harassing students to get their money by calling them as often as five times a day, BuzzFeed reported.

In April 2015, the US Department of Education fined Corinthian Colleges $30 million for misrepresenting their job replacement rates. Even prior to that, Corinthian Colleges had been on thin ice when the department required Corinthian to sell the schools or close all of its programs. This led to the program declaring bankruptcy later that month.

Another troublesome tactic that colleges under the Corinthian group used was a private student loan program called Genesis. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that Genesis loans were a scam, saying, “more than 60 percent of Corinthian school students defaulted on these high-cost loans within three years,” Bloomberg News reported.

Genesis loans were owned by a third-party debt buyer who stocked up on student debt by paying pennies to the dollar for them. The company that purchased these loans is Balboa Student Loan Trust. As part of the deal, they pledged to forgive 40 percent of the debt and refrain from suing or threatening students who didn’t pay it off.

The debt collector hounding Deborah Terrell must not have received the memo.

“I got calls that they were going to take my house away,” Terrell said in a video produced by her lawyers. “I got calls that they were going to do a garnishment on my wages.”

Terrell is a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the debt collectors. Anne Richardson, a lawyer with Public Counsel, one of three law firms that filed the suit, told KPCC: “They’re violating a prior arrangement that was made with the federal government.”

In addition, the lawsuits states that the Corinthian colleges intentionally targeted low-income individuals with the intention of making them take out loans that they would be unable to pay back.

“The folks that we’re talking about are living on minimum wage jobs, single mothers,” Richardson told KPCC.

“The whole reason they went to these schools is that they wanted to try to escape the cycle of the working poor,” she added.

Balboa is owned by Turnstile Capital Management, a company also named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that by the time Turnstile purchased the student debt, they were aware that the debt had been procured by using fraud.

“These private lenders are victimizing these students a second time by continuing to try and collect on debt that was incurred through fraud and deceit,” Richardson told BuzzFeed.

Meanwhile, Corinthian Colleges – now the Zenith Education Group – has lost its accreditation with the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). In California, that means the schools have until 2020 to continue operating without accreditation.

A quick glance at the Everest College on Los Angeles’ Yelp page confirms that students did feel that they were misled. One review from 2015 reads, “Admissions Rep, Teo, Gave false information while giving information about their medical assisting program to attract more interest in the program.”

Another one claims, “I paid $10,000 to enroll with students and teachers who made the program undesirable. Fights would break out in classrooms, drugs were being used, and one time the teacher even walked out.”

Popping the education bubble: White House cracks down on for-profit colleges

July 2, 2016


Under a new rule that just came into effect, colleges will lose federal funding unless they can show their graduates can actually get jobs and repay student loans. The government estimates 99 percent of students at for-profit colleges will fail the test.

Known as the “gainful employment rule,” the new standard would deny federal financial aid to educational programs if their graduates had annual student loan payments greater than 8 percent of their total earnings, and greater than 20 percent of their discretionary income, which takes into account living expenses.

The Department of Education (DOE) estimated that around 1,400 programs, serving 840,000 students would not meet the accountability standard. The vast majority of the students in those programs, 99 percent, are at for-profit institutions.

Students at for-profit colleges are only 11 percent of the total US student population, but account for 44 percent of all federal student loan defaults, according to the federal authorities. Data from the US National Center for Education Statistics shows that 19 percent of for-profit students, almost one in five, default on their loans within three years.

Described by the DOE as the Obama administration’s “signature effort to protect students and taxpayers,” the new rule is part of a widespread crackdown on for-profit colleges. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission have all investigated the industry, which also faced lawsuits and fines from state regulators and “blistering criticism” from Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin, according to Politico.

The original version of the rule was overturned by a federal judge in 2012 as too arbitrary. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) challenged the new version of the rule as well, arguing it would deny access to higher education to 7.5 million students over the next decade. Last month, US District Court Judge John Bates ruled in favor of the government.

“Of course, the association might not agree with the department’s explanations,” Bates wrote in the 37-page ruling. “But that alone does not make them irrational, arbitrary, or capricious.”

For-profit colleges took in about $22 billion in taxpayer-funded loans and Pell Grants in 2013. Industry representatives told Politico that the government is unfairly punishing them for enrolling high-risk students, who need access to flexible programs and are less likely to repay their loans.

The government has been particularly critical of the for-profits’ recruitment of military veterans. A 2012 Senate report about for-profit colleges accused them of seeing veterans as “nothing more than ‘dollar signs in uniform’.”

Records from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that the University of Phoenix alone has received $345 million in government funding under the GI Bill, for enrolling about 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans last year, and $1.2 billion since 2009.

One major for-profit education company, Corinthian Colleges, shut down its 28 campuses in April after being fined $30 million by federal regulators for reportedly falsifying job placement claims. The Department of Education has offered debt relief to some 16,000 students affected by the Corinthian’s closure.

Several major for-profit universities have announced the intent to sell or close down their campuses if the new rule went into effect.





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