TBR News June 23, 2017

Jun 23 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 22, 2017: “In their attempts to dislodge the Syrian president, Assad, at the requests of the Israeli and Saudi governments, the US is, as usual, slaughtering hundreds of perfectly innocent civilians. This has been the pattern throughout the United States attempts to interfere in foreign political problems. During, and after, the Second World War, it is obvious that the destruction of churches, hospitals and civilian homes is paramount. After British and American bombers destroyed the unarmed German city of Dresden, American fighters returned after the flames subsided and machine-gunned refugees in the public parks. If the tables ever turn, the American citizenry might well become the target of foreign attacks. The only reason that IS has not attacked inside the United States is because the US is allied with Saudi Arabia who started IS in the first place.”

Table of Contents


  • Deadly London apartment blaze began in Hotpoint fridge freezer, police say
  • London Fire May Have Been Caused by EU Regulations
  • London police consider manslaughter charges over Grenfell Tower fire
  • Camden flats to be evacuated over cladding
  • California Gov. Jerry Brown Thinks Single Payer Can’t Work. Watch Presidential Candidate Jerry Brown Disagree.
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead: ‘Highly likely’ Isis leader killed in airstrike, Russian foreign ministry claims
  • Brutal Kangaroo: CIA-developed Malware for Hacking Air-Gapped Networks Covertly
  • Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?
  • The US Assassination of Rafael Trujillo
  • Blast damages wall next to NATO military area in Turkey: media
  • Almost 500 dead in month of US-led Syria strikes: monitor
  • The Pentagon Says One Civilian Died in Drone Strike on Syrian Mosque. Witnesses Say It Killed Dozens.
  • Burned feet, parched throats: Arizona homeless desperate to escape heatwave
  • 64% of US voters believe Trump-Russia investigations are damaging country – poll
  • Supreme Court limits rights of property owners
  • Canadian sniper shattered world record, killing ISIS fighter from 2 miles away, report says


Deadly London apartment blaze began in Hotpoint fridge freezer, police say

June 23, 2017

by Michael Holden


LONDON-A fire that killed at least 79 people at a London apartment block started in a Hotpoint (WHR.N) fridge freezer, and the outside cladding engulfed by the blaze has since been shown to fail all safety tests, London police said on Friday.

Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said that in view of the heavy death toll, police were considering manslaughter charges over the disaster.

She said the Hotpoint model, FF175BP, involved was not subject to recall and the manufacturer was doing further tests.

“We now have expert evidence that the fire was not started deliberately,” McCormack told

Britain ordered an immediate technical examination of the Hotpoint fridge model, manufactured between 2006 and 2009, to establish whether further action needed to be taken, but said there was no need for owners to switch off their appliances.

Whirlpool Corp, the world’s largest maker of home appliances, owns the Hotpoint brand in the Europe and Asia Pacific regions. In the United States, the brand now belongs to Haier, following the Chinese group’s purchase of General Electric Co’s (GE.N) appliance business.

“We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations,” Whirpool said in a statement. “Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy.”

Police said both the insulation and tiles used in cladding at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block failed all post-fire safety tests.

“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell tower combusted soon after the test started,” McCormack said.

Such were their concerns after the tests that the information was immediately shared with government to disseminate more widely.

“Given the deaths of so many people we are considering manslaughter as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations,” McCormack said.

The blaze, Britain’s worst since World War Two, has heaped pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, already fighting for her political survival after her party lost its parliamentary majority in a snap election on June 8.

When speaking about the 79 people dead or missing, presumed dead, McCormack said: “I fear that there are more.”

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Martinne Geller, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Ralph Boulton)


London Fire May Have Been Caused by EU Regulations

June 23, 2017

by Martin Armstrong

Armstrong Economics

It turns out that the Grenfall tower fire may have been caused by Europe’s Global Warming regulations. To fight CO2 climate change, the EU Energy efficiency directive was passed into British law by the Blair Government back in 2010. The directive imposed energy efficiency  to be applied to buildings. They were directed to place cladding on the outside of the building which the poor blamed the rich to make the building look better. The wrapping of buildings in the cladding has been done all over the UK and Europe.

The Grenfell Tower fire in west London is one of at least half a dozen such fatal fires that have occurred since 2010 involving cladding. The Plasco Building, Tehran, Iran was a 17-story building in January 2017 which collapsed after a fire that started on the ninth floor. The Address Downtown Dubai Hotel caught fire in December 2015. There the fire broke out on the 20th floor of the 63-story hotel and residential tower. This was the second tallest building in Dubai.  Videos posted on social media initially showed a smallish fire above the podium section of the building. However, it then spread very rapidly up the tower in a narrow vertical column on the outside. It never spread very far sideways into the building. Dubai’s Civil Defense chief, quoted in Gulf News, said the blaze damaged “only the external interface”. It was the outside cladding that the fire traveled on the exterior and straight up. The Residential tower in Baku, Azerbaijan also went up in a blaze during May 2015. this was a 16-story building in the Azerbaijan capital.

The Grenfell Tower fire was similar to that which took place in Dubai because of this cladding. The question becomes, will government accept the blame for this cladding to lower Co2 that was ordered by Brussels’ Global Warming legislation? The cladding used had passed building regulations and was manufactured in France. So it complied with French law assuming some official in France was not bribed.

I would not hold my breath waiting for government to make this connection publicly.


London police consider manslaughter charges over Grenfell Tower fire

London officials have said they are considering manslaughter among the criminal offenses that may have been committed. Police have also revealed that a fridge caused the blaze that killed at least 79 people.

June 23, 2017


London police revealed on Friday that both the insulation and tiles used in the cladding on Grenfell Tower had failed all post-fire safety tests.

Police Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said they were looking into whether the use of the two materials was illegal and were, therefore, considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against those responsible.

“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started,” McCormack said. “Given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter as well as criminal offenses and breaches of legislation and regulations.”

Government orders immediate examination of fridge that sparked fire

McCormack also said the fire last week started in a Hotpoint fridge, but said the model had not been subject to a product recall. Nevertheless, the manufacturer was doing further tests, while the UK government ordered an immediate technical examination of the model.

Whirlpool said it would cooperate with the government’s inquiry into the blaze.

“We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations,” the company said in a statement. “Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy.”

As previously suspected, the fire was not started intentionally.

With the freezer reportedly located close to an open window, the fire spread to the outside of the building before swiftly spreading upwards and consuming the 24-storey tower block.

‘Complete’ bodies removed from charred ruins

At least 79 people were killed in the blaze, although the number could still rise. Police on Friday said they had removed every “complete” body found in the charred remains of the tower, although forensic research would likely continue until the end of the year.

However, the precise number of casualties may never be known. McCormack called on anyone with information on who might have been in the tower to come forward.

“What we haven’t got is a picture of how many people might have been in there,” said McCormack. “That’s the number I’m really worried about.”

McCormack’s comments followed London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s pledge to seek an amnesty for people who may have been living in the tower illegally.

Hundreds of buildings to be inspected

The deadly blaze has stoked fears in the UK over how many other high-rise buildings are also covered in combustible cladding. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office estimated that as many as 600 high-rise buildings could be at risk.

Earlier on Thursday, May said combustible cladding had been found on  “a number” of publicly owned high-rises similar to Grenfell Tower. An inquiry showed that the same cladding had been used on buildings in London, Manchester and Plymouth.

May has launched a public inquiry as well as a criminal investigation into the fire. Aside from the combustible cladding, it also emerged that the west London council had ignored complaints from residents about safety violations.


Camden flats to be evacuated over cladding

June 23, 2017

BBC News

More than 800 homes in tower blocks on a council estate in Camden, north London, are be evacuated because of safety concerns over cladding in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Camden Council says residents in flats in five towers on the Chalcots estate will be moved for “urgent fire safety works”.

Similar cladding was used on the building to that on the Grenfell Tower.

A total of 79 people are feared dead after the Grenfell fire.

Camden Council had said it will remove external thermal cladding from five tower blocks on the estate.

It had initially announced the evacuation of one tower block, Taplow, but later extended the move to all five tower blocks it had checked.

The council said it would carry out regular fire safety patrols and safety checks to reassure residents.

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “Camden Council is absolutely determined to ensure that our residents are safe and we have promised them that we will work with them, continue to act swiftly and be open and transparent.”

She said London Fire Brigade had completed a joint inspection of the blocks with Camden Council technical experts.

It was decided the flats needed to be “temporarily decanted” to allow the work “so that residents can be fully assured of their safety. This means that we need to move residents from their homes and into temporary accommodation.”

Ms Gould said the work is expected to take three to four weeks, adding the “Grenfell fire changes everything”.

The announcement came as the Metropolitan Police said the Grenfell Tower fire started in a fridge-freezer, and outside cladding and insulation failed safety tests.

Detectives say manslaughter, health and safety, and fire safety charges will be considered as part of their investigation.

A national operation to identify buildings with cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower has seen local authorities send samples for independent tests.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said 14 residential high-rise buildings in nine local authority areas have now been found with cladding that raises safety concerns.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 48

June 23, 2017


If attacking the enemy and blowing things up were all that the military had to do, then its task would be straightforward. But if that was ever the case, it is no longer so.

In order to execute its mission, the U.S. Army explains in a new doctrinal publication, the military must do more to identify friends and foes, build relationships with the former, attempt to influence the latter, and seek to construct a favorable social environment for military success.

“The last decade of war has shown us that our opponents are often difficult to detect and identify, and seek to blend into civilian populations. We have also learned that long-term solutions for peace and stability in contested regions often come from key allies originating from this same population,” the Army said. See Network Engagement, ATP 5-06, June 2017.

What the Army calls “network engagement” is “an evolution of ‘attack the network’. While ‘attack the network’ focused on neutralizing the threat network, this focus often led commanders to overlook friendly and neutral networks.”

By contrast, network engagement includes “supporting activities [that] are conducted towards or for friendly or neutral human networks.” Support here is not a question of attitude but of tangible assistance. “It does not matter if we think we are supporting them, what matters is the supported network perceives that we are supporting them; whether we are supporting their ideals, causes, issues, security, rights, autonomy or whatever function the support serves.”

The theory and practice of “network engagement” are discussed at length in the new Army document.

The latest issue of Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, a quarterly US Army journal that promotes professional development among military intelligence officers, is focused on “Military Intelligence Programs.”


“The Air Force recently grounded some of its newest aircraft, F-35A strike fighters, due to incidents in which pilots became physiologically impaired with symptoms of oxygen deficiency while flying.”

The background and implications of this potentially disabling problem were discussed by the Congressional Research Service in Out of Breath: Military Aircraft Oxygen Issues, CRS Insight, June 21, 2017.

Other new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

U.S. Military Presence on Okinawa and Realignment to Guam, CRS In Focus, June 14, 2017

Understanding Constituent Problems with the Military, CRS Webinar, May 10, 2017

Tanzania: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, updated June 7, 2017

Cuba: President Trump Partially Rolls Back Obama Engagement Policy, CRS Insight, June 21, 2017

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, updated June 15, 2017

U.S. Beef: It’s What’s for China, CRS Insight, June 22, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and U.S. Agriculture, June 22, 2017

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), updated June 13, 2017

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions, updated June 21, 2017

Energy and Water Development Appropriations for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: In Brief, June 12, 2017


California Gov. Jerry Brown Thinks Single Payer Can’t Work. Watch Presidential Candidate Jerry Brown Disagree.

June 23 2017

by Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

California’s Senate passed legislation to create a first-in-the-nation single-payer universal health care system earlier this month, but it faces tough odds against a skeptical Assembly.

It also faces opposition from California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. “We’re hearing the governor is doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk,” Paul Song, co-chair of single-payer advocacy group Campaign for a Healthy California, told the Sacramento Bee in early June.

Brown has complained that such a system would be too expensive in the recent past. “Where do you get the extra money?” Brown asked in a chat with reporters that took place in March. “This is the whole question. I don’t even get … how do you do that?”

As some have pointed out, the California single-payer legislation is actually a pretty good bargain.  The efficiencies created from having one public insurer save a lot of money. The state would spend about 15 percent of its gross domestic product to achieve universal health care, which is 3 percentage points less than the United States as a whole currently spends for less-than-universal health care.

Brown himself once forcefully argued exactly that — that moving to a single-payer system would save money and cover everybody. It was a cornerstone of his unsuccessful 1992 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In April of 1992, Brown passionately argued for this system in a debate with then-Arkansas Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton on the nationally-syndicated Phil Donahue Show.

“My preference is that we create a single system, put everyone under a universal health care system. We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born,” he explained.

He then went on to explain how this system would save money:

“You cut out all the private health insurance. You have one single payer either at the national level or through the 50 states. And that one single payer will be the one that negotiates with the doctors, the hospitals, and the other providers. And since you have only one source of income in the whole medical establishment, you can drive down the cost. With the holding down of the cost, you can eliminate the intermediary, the middle man, the bureaucracy. In some of these hospitals there’s more people doing the billing then there are in direct patient care on an eight-hour shift. It doesn’t make any sense. But through a single payer, as we’ve seen in Canada, you can eliminate tremendous amounts of paperwork both for the doctors, the hospitals, and the part of the insurance companies.”


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead: ‘Highly likely’ Isis leader killed in airstrike, Russian foreign ministry claims

Moscow doubles down on claim despite statement earlier this week admitting notorious jihadi leader’s death ‘could not be verified’

June 22, 2017

by Bethan McKernan

The Independent/UK

Beirut-Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said there is a high degree of certainty that Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.

A new statement carried by RIA news agency on Thursday doubled down on Moscow’s claim last week that its forces may have killed the secretive Islamist leader.

Baghdadi is believed to be in hiding in the region around the Syria-Iraq border, moving frequently and avoiding telecommunications to evade detection. According to the Russian foreign ministry, the strike in which he was allegedly killed occurred at the end of May.

The Russian authorities have not produced any proof since the initial claim was made. Washington DC said it could not corroborate the death and Western and Iraqi officials have been sceptical.

“His death has been reported so often that you have to be cautious till a formal [Isis] statement comes,” a European security official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry appeared to backtrack on the initial claim, saying Baghdadi’s death “could not be verified”.

The Trump administration has also thrown cold water on the claims that two other senior Isis leaders and up to 300 foot soldiers were killed in Russian strikes around the same time as the alleged death of Baghdadi, noting “infirmities” in the reports.

“A strike of that size and that claim that would have happened that long ago without any knowledge is something that made me curious,” an official said.

However, if the report does prove to be true, it would be a huge blow to the extremist organisation, which is rapidly losing territory across both Syria and Iraq.

The US has also claimed that both Isis’ grand mufti, or preacher, Turki Binali, and the head of its propaganda wing, Amaq Rayaan Mashal, have been killed in recent strikes.

Baghdadi gained international prominence when he declared the creation of Isis’ so-called “caliphate” from Mosul’s grand mosque after his forces swept across northern Iraq from Syria in the summer of 2014. He has not made a public appearance since.

On Wednesday night the 12th century al-Nuri mosque was blown up by militants wishing to deprive US-backed Iraqi coalition forces of claiming victory from the same spot the caliphate was created.

There are believed to be fewer than 300 militants left in Mosul’s Old City, where the battle to defeat Isis is reaching its endgame after nine months of bloody fighting.

Across the border in Syria, the struggle to oust Isis from its de facto capital of Raqqa is  in its early stages after US-backed Kurdish troops took back four neighbourhoods earlier this month.

The loss of both cities will effectively spell the end of Isis as a land-holding force, although observers expect the jihadi organisation to then mount a full-scale insurgency in both Syria and Iraq and to step up terror attacks around the world.

Brutal Kangaroo: CIA-developed Malware for Hacking Air-Gapped Networks Covertly

June 22, 2017

by Swati Khandelwal

the hacker

WikiLeaks has published a new batch of the ongoing Vault 7 leak, this time detailing a tool suite – which is being used by the CIA for Microsoft Windows that targets “closed networks by air gap jumping using thumb drives,” mainly implemented in enterprises and critical infrastructures. Air-gapped computers that are isolated from the Internet or other external networks are believed to be the most secure computers on the planet have become a regular target in recent years. Dubbed Brutal Kangaroo (v1.2.1), the tool suit was allegedly designed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in year 2012 to infiltrate a closed network or air-gapped computer within an organization or enterprise without requiring any direct access.

The previous version of Brutal Kangaroo was named as EZCheese, which was exploiting a vulnerability that was zero-day until March 2015, though the newer version was using “unknown link file vulnerability (Lachesis/RiverJack) related to the library-ms functionality of the operating system.”

Even if it’s hard to reach an Internet-connected PC within the target organisation, they can infect a computer of one of the organisation’s employees and then wait for the employee to insert the USB drive into his/her computer. Now, as soon as a user (the employee of the organisation) inserts a USB stick into the infected computer, Shattered Assurance, a server tool infects the USB drive with a separate malware, called Drifting Deadline (also known as ‘Emotional Simian’ in the latest version).

The USB drive infects with the help of a flaw in the Microsoft Windows operating system that can be exploited by hand-crafted link files (.lnk) to load and execute programs (DLLs) without user interaction. “The .lnk file(s) must be viewed in windows explorer, and the tool will be auto-executed without any further input.” the manual says.

When the infected USB drive is used to share data with air-gapped computers, the malware spreads itself to those systems as well.

“If multiple computers on the closed network are under CIA control, they form a covert network to coordinate tasks and data exchange. Although not explicitly stated in the documents, this method of compromising closed networks is very similar to how Stuxnet worked,” WikiLeaks said.

“Brutal Kangaroo components create a custom covert network within the target closed network and providing functionality for executing surveys, directory listings, and arbitrary executables,” a leaked CIA manual reads.

The malware then starts collecting data from infected air-gapped computers (which utilizes Shadow, the primary persistence mechanism) covertly and a module within the Brutal Kangaroo suit, dubbed “Broken Promise,” analyzes the data for juiceful information.

Previous Vault 7 CIA Leaks

Last week, WikiLeaks dumped an alleged CIA framework used for monitoring the Internet activity of the targeted systems by exploiting vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi devices. Dubbed “Cherry Blossom,” the framework was basically a remotely controllable firmware-based implant for wireless networking devices, including routers and wireless access points (APs), which exploits router vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access and then replace the firmware with custom Cherry Blossom firmware.

Since March, the whistleblowing group has published 12 batches of “Vault 7” series, which includes the latest and last week leaks, along with the following batches:

Pandemic – a CIA’s project that allowed the agency to turn Windows file servers into covert attack machines that can silently infect other computers of interest inside a targeted network.

Athena – a spyware framework that has been designed to take full control over Windows PCs remotely, and works against every version of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems, from Windows XP to Windows 10.

AfterMidnight and Assassin – Two apparent CIA malware frameworks for the Windows platform that has been designed to monitor and report back activities of the infected remote host computer and execute malicious actions.

Archimedes – Man-in-the-Middle attack tool allegedly created by the CIA to target computers inside a Local Area Network (LAN).

Scribbles – Software reportedly designed to embed ‘web beacons’ into confidential files and documents, allowing the agency to track whistleblowers and insiders.

Grasshopper – A framework which allowed the agency to easily create custom malware for breaking into Windows operating system and bypassing antivirus protection.

 Marble – The source code of a secret anti-forensic framework, basically an obfuscator or a packer used by the spying agency to hide the actual source of its malware. Dark Matter – Revealed hacking exploits the CIA designed to target iPhones and Macs.

Weeping Angel – A spying tool used by the CIA to infiltrate smart TV’s and then transform them into covert microphones.

Year Zero – Disclosed several CIA hacking exploits for popular hardware and software.


Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?

June 21, 2017

by Peter Beinart


hen it comes to Palestinians, the American Jewish establishment is in the ignorance business. The average American synagogue has never hosted a Palestinian speaker. The average “pro-Israel” activist has never read a book by a Palestinian author. The American Jewish philanthropists who fund Birthright send thousands of young American Jews to Israel each year, on a program that systematically excludes the voices of 50% of the people who live under Israeli control.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that for major American Jewish organizations, ignorance is an export. It is not enough that American Jewish leaders never hear from Palestinians themselves — they do their best to ensure that American politicians don’t, either.

Consider the sequence of events that began on June 8. On that day, an advocacy group called No Way To Treat a Child hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill. That’s not unusual. Advocacy organizations hold panel discussions on Capitol Hill all the time; the location makes it easier for congressional staff to attend. What made this one unusual was its subject: the Palestinian experience under Israeli control.

You can watch the panel online. The first speaker was Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director of Human Rights Watch. In dry, rather clinical, terms, Shakir discussed some of the consequences of the fact that West Bank Palestinians are subjects, not citizens, of Israel. He noted, for instance, that in Area C, which encompasses roughly 60% of the West Bank, it is “nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain a permit to build a home.” When Palestinians build without a permit, the Israeli government often demolishes their homes.

Following him was Brad Parker, a staff attorney at Defense for Children Palestine. Observing that, according to the most recent statistics, Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 17 in its jails, often for stone throwing, Parker explained that the Israeli military frequently arrests Palestinian children at night. They are often bound, blindfolded and transported to a military installation, where they wait until morning before being interrogated without a lawyer and without their parents knowing where they are. They “essentially disappear for 24, 48, 96 hours.” Then they are generally prosecuted in military courts where the conviction rate approaches 100%.

Following Parker was Yazan Meqbil, a young West Bank Palestinian attending college in the United States, who talked about growing up in a house repeatedly slated for demolition. “Every single day,” he said, “I used to wake up hoping my house will not be demolished.” Meqbil ended his remarks by saying: “Palestinians, we all have a dream, to be free, to live like normal human beings. To not be afraid whenever we leave our homes.”

The final speaker was Nadia Ben-Youssef, who works for Adalah–-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She stressed the links between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinian citizens inside Israel proper. Israel’s Palestinian citizens, she noted, lived under military law until 1966. And even today, she argued, inside the Green Line, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews in important ways.

I offer this summation to illustrate the shamelessness of the attack that followed. In a video posted June 12, The Israel Project, which is led by former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, called the event an “anti-Israel hatefest” filled with “hate speech.” Notice the Orwellian turn.

According to The Israel Project, it is not hateful to hold millions of West Bank Palestinians for 50 years as non-citizens, without due process, free movement or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives. It is hateful to criticize Israel for doing so. By that standard, the 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers,” which featured former heads of the Shin Bet calling Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “brutal,” “colonial” and “unbearable,” was an “anti-Israel hatefest,” too.

Then came the inevitable insinuation of anti-Semitism. As menacing music played in the background, the video declares that while the panel pretended to be “about human rights,” the speakers “couldn’t stop talking about Jews.” Actually, the panel was entirely about human rights. But, as if uncovering a terrible offense, the video noted that panelists had 17 times used the phrases “Jewish,” “Jewish state,” “Jewish people,” “Jewish citizens” or “Jews.” How sinister! I’m sure Josh Block never uses such despicable phrases when speaking about Israel.

In fact, two of Shakir’s uses of the word “Jewish” came from quotations. He quoted the State Department as calling settlement growth “inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” and President Obama as saying that settlement growth undermines “Israel as both Jewish and a democracy.” Then again, everyone knows that Obama and the State Department are anti-Semitic, too.

Most of the references to Jews came from Nadia Ben-Youssef. The video quoted her as saying that “Israel was established as a Jewish state to privilege the rights of Jewish people,” and referring to “this Jewish state that is premised on the basis that you must have greater rights, so that means more Jewish people than anyone else in that land.” The video never explained what’s incorrect or odious about those statements. Their hatefulness is presumably self-evident.

But both statements are true. Yes, Israel’s Declaration of Independence speaks about ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights… irrespective of religion, race or sex.” And yes, Palestinians inside Israel proper (as opposed to Palestinians in the West Bank) enjoy citizenship and the right to vote. But Israel was also explicitly founded to represent and safeguard the Jewish people, and that inevitably privileges Jews over non-Jews.

Jews who immigrate to Israel, for instance, gain citizenship on day one. For non-Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel, by contrast, including Palestinian refugees born inside Israel’s borders, gaining citizenship is virtually impossible. Israel’s flag contains a Jewish star; its national anthem speaks of “the Jewish soul.” In these symbolic ways, too, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews. As for Israel’s effort to maintain a Jewish majority so that Jews can control the destiny of the state, that’s hardly a secret. It’s a goal that the Israeli government and mainstream American Jewish organizations proudly endorse.

Israel is not the only country on earth to face a tension between its desire to protect and nurture one ethno-religious community and its commitment to provide equality under the law. Many European democracies have immigration policies that favor a dominant ethnic group. Many have crosses on their flags. The 2003 Palestinian Constitution states that “the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation” and that “the principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.” So if a Palestinian state is ever created, it will likely wrestle with the tension between ethnic nationalism and democracy, too.

I believe that in a post-Holocaust world, it’s important to have one country on earth that assumes a special obligation to protect Jewish life. The goal, therefore, should be to minimize the tension between Jewish statehood and liberal democracy as much as possible, while acknowledging that you can never erase it entirely. The challenge, as Martin Buber once put it, is to “do no more injustice to others than we are forced to do in order to exist.”

Zionist thinkers like Chaim Gans and Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein have sought to meet that challenge. But doing so honestly requires acknowledging that all forms of Jewish statehood entail some moral costs, and that some are more morally defensible than others.

These are the kinds of debates that the American Jewish establishment fears. It fears them because such debates give Palestinians a voice. Given the influence that American Jewish groups wield in Washington, it’s far easier to simply deny Palestinians a platform. That’s why The Israel Project ends its video by urging people to call Rep. Mark Pocan, who authorized No Way To Treat a Child to use a room on Capitol Hill, and “demand that he condemn the event.” The goal is to scare members of Congress so they don’t facilitate such discussions again.

The deep, dark secret of the American Jewish establishment is that its leaders are not equipped to respond to smart Palestinian critics of Israel. They’re not familiar enough with the realities of Palestinian life under Israeli control. So having built itself a cocoon that shuts out Palestinian voices, the American Jewish establishment insists that Congress live inside that cocoon too. Because if the cocoon cracks, American politicians, and the American public, will realize how intellectually weak the American Jewish establishment actually is.

When it comes to Israel, the organized American Jewish community would rather bully than think. That’s what happens when power corrupts. It doesn’t only make you immoral. It makes you dumb.

The US Assassination of Rafael Trujillo

June 23, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Trujillo, the Dominican Republic leader,  was assassinated on May 30, 1961, dying in a hail of bullets when his car is ambushed on a road outside the capital in a plot organised and executed by members of the country’s wealthy elite. It is reported that the CIA supplied the weapons used by the assassins and provided other assistance. The assassination of the Dominican Republic’s Rafael L. Trujillo was carried out with assistance from the US Central Intelligence Agency. Arms for the May 30, 1961. slaying of the 69-year-old dictator on a lonely stretch of highway near his capital were smuggled by the CIA into the country at the request of the assassins, according to highly qualified sources I interviewed in Santo Domingo shortly after the collapse of the Trujillo rule.

The arms had to come from the outside, I was told, because of the close scrutiny imposed by Trujillo on the removal of guns from military bases. These controls kept the conspirators from obtaining their own weapons without awakening suspicion, despite the involvement in the plot of the Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, Gen. Jose Rene Roman Fernandez, and other leading military officers.

The CIA began shipping arms to the Dominican Republic in late 1960, following a series of talks between US Consul Henry Dearborn, Chief Political Officer John Barfield of the US Consulate, and Luis Amiama Tio, who had extensive banana and cattle holdings and had been mayor of Santo Domingo. Also involved in the plot was Antonio Imbert who had been Governor of Puerto Plata province. Both Amiama and Imbert are tough guys and ambitious. Both were made four-star generals by the provisional council that took over after Trujillo’s death. However, when leading army officers balked at their elevation to the highest military rank, Amiama and Imbert said the honor bestowed upon them was too great and modestly demoted themselves to brigadier generals.

1960 was a bad year for the Dominican Republic. The economy was in the dumps. The country was in disgrace internationally as a result of Trujillo’s backing of a plot against the life of Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt. In June, a car full of explosives blew up alongside Betancourt’s automobile during a Caracas Armed Forces Day procession, wounding the President and killing two others. A Venezuelan naval officer later admitted that the elaborate bomb was prepared in the Dominican Republic, presumably as an act of retaliation against Venezuela for having asked the OAS in February 1960, to censure Trujillo for “flagrant violations of human rights.”

In August that same year, the Organization of American States did censure the Dominican Republic, and the US and several Latin American nations thereupon suspended diplomatic relations with the Trujillo regime, though Washington kept a consulate in Ciudad Trujillo to protect its commercial interests.

This was one of the stormiest periods of Trujillo’s 31-year rule. On June 14, 1959, the Dominican Republic’s southern coast had been invaded by Cuba-based Dominican exiles. They were wiped out, but then Trujillo uncovered a plot to kill him, only 24 hours before it was to be carried out on January 21, 1960. Mass purges, arrests and some killings followed. Tensions within the regime mounted rapidly, as did its Byzantine-style ruler’s greed. Assuming the presidency of the Dominican Central Bank, the dictator forced exporters, as part of an “austerity” program, to deposit with the bank half of their dollar earnings, which soon found their way into Trujillo accounts abroad.

During this time, Trujillo was completing an intensive drive, begun in the mid-1950s with the purchase of the Haina complex of sugar mills and lands in the southern part of the Republic, to expand sugar production and appropriate more and more of it to himself. He went so far as to deprive thousands of peasant families of their squatters’ settlements, forcing them to sell their cattle and work as sugar peons. It had been hoped, of course, that the Dominican Republic would get a generous share of the US sugar quota previously allotted to Cuba. An intensive Washington lobbying campaign was carried on to this end, largely through the Dominican Consul-General in Washington, Marco A. Pena. In the late summer of 1960, Congress did raise the Dominican allotment from 27,000 to 250,000 tons, but President Eisenhower slapped a punitive excise tax on it in September, after the OAS ministerial conference voted economic sanctions against the Trujillo regime and a break of diplomatic relations.

As Trujillo’s political and financial problems deepened, talks continued between Dearborn, Barfield and leaders of the anti-Trujillo conspiracy. Toward the end of 1960, contact was established between Amiama and a CIA agent who, according to Arturo R. Espaillat, former head of Trujillo’s Military Intelligence Service, was named Plato Cox. Espaillat made this statement in a press conference in Ottawa in 1962; his word alone cannot, of course, be accepted as conclusive proof. But whatever the name of the agent, the smuggling of firearms into the Republic for the assassination began.

The key link between the assassins and the CIA in the arms shipments was a long-time American civilian resident of Ciudad Trujillo, Lorenzo Perry, otherwise known as “Wimpy,” who operated a supermarket in a fashionable neighborhood where Trujillo also lived. “Wimpy” was put under brief arrest after the killing but was later allowed to leave the country.

The American controllers of the projected assassination were Lt. Col Bevan G. Cass, USMC and  Lt, Cmdr Frederick J. Norris, Assistant Naval Attache, DR, NSG

The weapons were imported in small parts, to be assembled later by the plotters, among the routine grocery shipments for the supermarket arriving regularly in the capital’s port. The gun-parts entered the Republic in specially marked food cans, which were later turned over to the conspirators.

Plans for the intended assassination were worked out during the same period in which the abortive assault on Cuba was being prepared. However, when the CIA-organized April 17, 1961 invasion at the Bay of Pigs failed and world attention was focused on Washington’s complicity in that operation, a postponement of the attempt on Trujillo’s life was ordered because of the embarrassment another such failure might cause the United States. But the order to hold up came too late. According to what I was told in the Dominican Republic, the needed weapons were already in the hands of the conspirators, who refused appeals by Dearborn and Barfield to delay the assassination. They insisted on moving at the first opportunity. This came on May 30, when Trujillo and his chauffeur drove out into the country in an unescorted 1959 Chevrolet for a rendezvous at a San Cristobal estate, La Fundacion, with Trujillo’s 20-year-old mistress, Mona Sanchez.

It was Trujillo’s custom to call on his 94-year-old mother, Julia Molina. before going on to La Fundacion. His departure for San Cristobal from his mother’s home was signaled to the killers by Sen. Modesto Diaz, a neighbor of Julia Molina and brother of Brig. Gen. Juan Tomas Diaz, one of the principal gunmen in the plot. It is said that General Diaz was bitter toward Trujillo because of his forced, premature retirement from the army in 1960 on the dictator’s orders.

The plan was to finish off Trujillo, seize control, form a provisional government to be recognized by the US, and hold the elections which Trujillo had promised for May 1962. The assassins intended to be candidates.

The scheme, however, was frustrated soon after the murder when the assassins could not locate Gen. Roman Fernandez, who had been ordered to the San Isidro Air Force Base that afternoon by Trujillo and told to stay there until some administrative irregularities were corrected. Since he was thus kept 10 miles outside Ciudad Trujillo until next morning, Roman was not able to carry out the assignment he had been given. General Roman was to have summoned the entire Trujillo clan to La Fortaleza de Ozama in the capital, informed them of Trujillo’s death and had them killed on the spot.

Around 10:30 pm on May 30, two carloads of gunmen fired 27 shots into the dictator’s body and pummelled it mercilessly on the main highway between the capital and the Agricultural Fair Grounds, where Trujillo annually received tributes for his prize cattle. Having dumped the riddled corpse into the trunk of one of the attack cars, the assassins went to the house of Roman, only to learn there he was not in the capital. They then scattered. In succeeding days all the known assassins, including Roman, were rounded up and slain either at once or shortly before the mass departure of the Trujillo family in November 1961. The two surviving exceptions were Imbert and Amiama.

It can be reported on excellent authority that close associates of the slain dictator knew of the US role within a few days following the killing. Almost immediately upon his May 31 return from Paris to assume command of the Dominican armed forces, Lt. Gen. Rafael (Ramfis) Trujillo Jr. was fully briefed.

However, Ramfis and other retainers, of the dead dictator were warned not to launch reprisals agai1nst Americans involved in the plot. Ramfis’ hand was probably stayed also by the presence of numerous foreign newsman in Ciudad Trujillo within 48 hours after the assassination, and the reported readiness of US naval and marine forces, waiting in off-shore waters, to intervene in the Dominican Republic should there be any loss of American life or property. Likewise, an OAS fact-finding commission arrived in early June, and that may have helped prevent a bloodbath. Ramfis’ six months in power did, however, allow him to liquidate what moveable family wealth he could. US diplomats were telling him that if he behaved himself he could leave the country a rich man, which he did. He “donated” the family sugar mills and lands to the nation.

Dearborn, Barfield and Berry had meanwhile been rushed out of the Dominican Republic by US officials. Subsequently, Dearborn went to Colombia as Consul, and Barfield first to Italy and then to Washington where he was a staff assistant to Edwin Martin, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Since the ouster of the Trujillos, Perry (“Wimpy”) has returned to operate his handsomely appointed supermarket in Santo Domingo, greeting customers with calm and courtesy, as if Trujillo had never lived.

Blast damages wall next to NATO military area in Turkey: media

June 22, 2017


An explosion caused by a stun grenade damaged a wall next to a NATO military area in Turkey’s western coastal city of Izmir on Thursday, Turkish media reported, but there were no reports of casualties.

State-run Anadolu news agency said the blast occurred around 7.50 am (12.50 a.m. ET) in the Aegean city’s central Konak district. It reported that an eyewitness said it happened right after a military vehicle had passed the area.

The explosion destroyed part of a wall between the cemetery and the military area and shattered windows in nearby buildings, the agency said.

It said initial findings suggested the blast was caused by a stun grenade left near the wall, adding that an operation had started in the area to capture the perpetrators.

Kurdish, Islamist and leftist militants have all carried out bomb attacks in NATO-member Turkey in the past.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)


Almost 500 dead in month of US-led Syria strikes: monitor

Airstrikes targeting the “Islamic State” group in Syria have left 472 civilians dead over the past month, a monitor says. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the figure is more than double the previous month.

June 23, 2017


Aerial bombardments in Syria carried out by the international coalition against “Islamic State” (IS) saw the highest civilian death toll for a single month since they began in September 2014, a group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on Friday.

The airstrikes left 472 civilians dead between May 23 and June 23, more than double the number killed in the previous 30-day toll (225 civilians), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The death toll included 137 children.

Key IS areas struck

The Observatory said the IS-held provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa were the worst affected, with 222 civilians – including 84 children – killed in Deir Ezzor, along with 250 civilians – including 53 children – in Raqqa

The latest toll brought to 1,953 the number of civilian deaths from the US-led airstrikes in Syria, it said. The Observatory bases its reports on information gathered by a network of activists on the ground.

Bombing intensified

In recent months, the US-led coalition has stepped up bombing of Syrian areas under IS’s control. The intense bombardment backs an ongoing campaign by US-allied Syrian fighters seeking to capture Raqqa from the jihadists.

Last month, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said President Donald Trump had instructed the Pentagon to “annihilate” IS in Syria in a bid to prevent foreign fighters from returning home.

The coalition insists it takes every measure to avoid hitting civilians, but in its most recent report, it admitted it had “unintentionally killed” 484 civilians recently in both Iraq and Syria. But observers say the number is much higher.

In May, the United Nations accused the US-led alliance of not taking adequate care to prevent civilian deaths in Syria.

The coalition has also come in for severe criticism for hitting civilians during an aerial bombing in the Iraqi city of Mosul in March. More than 100 civilians were killed in a single strike, leading to a temporary halt of the offensive.

The Pentagon Says One Civilian Died in Drone Strike on Syrian Mosque. Witnesses Say It Killed Dozens.

June 22 2017

by Murtaza Hussain and Rajaai Bourhan

The Intercept

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced the results of an internal review into a U.S. drone attack on a mosque in a village in Syria. There had been allegations that at least 38 people, all of them civilians, had been killed in the March 16 attack, but the Pentagon review upheld the Defense Department’s initial statement that it had targeted an Al Qaeda meeting. Only one person — “small in stature” — may have been a child who was killed, the review found. The strike was “legal.”

Yet by its own admission, the U.S. military did not interview any locals who had actually been at the site of the attack, nor did any U.S. personnel visit the bombing site.

A number of first responders, medical staff, and other witnesses to the strike who spoke to The Intercept maintain that dozens of civilians were killed in the attack, which they said hit a village mosque packed with locals attending an evening service. Describing scenes of carnage that killed both ordinary worshippers and speakers who had come to deliver a lecture, their testimonies directly contradict the U.S. military claim to have hit a gathering of terrorists.

“The targeted guys who the Americans said were linked to Al Qaeda were civilians and had no connections with military organizations. Some of them were religious teachers,” said Jamil Ahmad, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense brigade in the province, who was nearby when the strike occurred. “The first missile targeted the teachers inside the mosque. When the people panicked and tried to run, the planes launched a second missile and killed many civilians.”

The accounts collected by The Intercept add to a pile of evidence countering the official U.S. narrative around the strike. A Human Rights Watch investigation published in April raised the possibility that U.S. officers may have committed a war crime by being “criminally reckless in authorizing the attack.”

According to the eyewitness accounts, in the early evening of March 16, several hundred people gathered at a mosque in the village of al-Jina, located in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate, for the nightly prayer service. As worshippers filed into the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque, the sound of an aircraft buzzing overhead could be heard.

“Before the strike I heard the pilotless aircraft in the sky and I thought it was taking some videos,” said Ahmad. “The military monitoring stations of the Free Syrian Army announced there were pilotless aircraft in the sky heading toward Atareb [a small town west of Aleppo], but nobody thought of it as a threat.”

Around 7 p.m., as worshippers prepared for the service, a salvo of Hellfire missiles slammed into the mosque. Explosions from the strike collapsed part of the building, trapping people under the rubble, while others ran in terror from the site. As screams emanated from the wreckage, people trying to escape were hit by a second round of missiles. According to a later Defense Department statement describing the attack, two drones flying overhead had fired “roughly [the] entirety of their Hellfire payload” at the site, “followed up [with a] 500-pound bomb.”

Following the attack, dozens of victims were rushed to local clinics, which were quickly overwhelmed by the scale of the casualties and had to redirect some of the wounded to other hospitals.

Ali Monir, a nurse at a local clinic in al-Jina that took in victims of the airstrike.

“We were not ready to deal with huge numbers of casualties and we had never before dealt with such a situation,” said Ali Monir, a nurse at one of the clinics that helped treat victims of the strike. “Al-Jina is a small town and we only had one ambulance, although some hospitals [in other parts of Aleppo Governorate] sent us ambulances to help. It was a mess: There were bodies on the ground, people screaming, and families rushing into the center to find out if anybody had seen their sons.”

Many on the scene initially assumed that the attack had been carried out by Russian or Syrian government aircraft, until rescuers found munitions fragments bearing U.S. markings. Bellingcat later compiled pictures of the fragments and sourced them to several U.S. arms manufacturers.

Rafat Muhammad, a 24-year-old man who was among those injured in the strike, said that he witnessed the second round of missiles that hit people trying to flee.

“After I finished the [sunset] prayers at the mosque, I headed to the teaching department in the building and spent some time with the guys there. I heard the first explosion hit and saw the people from the mosque panicking and heading to the door to run for their lives,” Muhammad said. “The second missile targeted the door and that’s how a lot of the people were killed. The stones and rubble were dropping on us, my left leg was broken, and I was trapped with the people I heard screaming under the rubble.”

Rafat remained trapped with his leg pinned in the wreckage for hours, until members of the Syrian Civil Defense were able to extract him. Many others were less lucky that day. A list of 28 people killed in the attack published by the Syrian Civil Defense included the imam of the mosque and his wife, who was in a family apartment connected to the building at the time of the airstrike. The list also named at least five children. Roughly 10 more bodies rescuers pulled from the attack site were said to be unidentifiable.

Locals say that the dead included guest speakers from Tablighi Jamaat, a nonviolent global religious proselytizing group that had been visiting the area and holding services for village residents. Ahmad al-Sheikh, a resident of al-Jina, lost his brother Moustafa, who had stayed late at the mosque to listen to a sermon from the Tablighi Jamaat speakers.

“My brother Moustafa went to the mosque to do the prayers, and after that he went to the teaching department of the mosque and spent some time there listening,” Ahmad said. “Moustafa was killed at the door [when the second missile struck] and my two other brothers were trapped under the rubble. One of them was injured in the head we spent 10 hours pulling him out.”

“A few days ago while I was praying, I remembered Moustafa and the way we lost him,” Ahmad added. “The tragedy could not be put into words.”

The Pentagon claimed responsibility for the strike but initially denied that any mosque had been hit. Instead, U.S. officials said that “dozens of core Al Qaeda leaders” had been killed in the attack, including several “high-value individuals.” U.S. military officials later conceded that the building hit was part of a “mosque complex,” though they continued to deny civilian casualties. In the face of ongoing public scrutiny, the military promised to conduct its own investigation.

A statement from the Department of Defense to The Intercept this week said the investigation into the strike is closed, though the military remains willing to consider new information about the strike. “We considered media reports that indicated a large number of civilians were killed, but our investigation did not uncover evidence to support those claims,” the statement said. “We are confident this was a meeting of Al Qaeda members and leaders. Regrettably, it is possible that there was one civilian casualty.”

The U.S. military has come under increasing criticism for the handling of its aerial campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Last week, a United Nations official said there had been a “staggering loss of civilian life” from airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in recent months, as strikes began to hit major cities like Raqqa and Mosul. While an increase of civilian deaths was widely expected at this stage of the campaign, a recent New York Times piece by Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko highlighted what appeared to be a systematic effort to loosen targeting practices and reduce public accountability for strikes that killed civilians.

“[Even] as the civilian death toll ticks upward, the American military has relaxed oversight, investigation, and accountability on civilian casualties,” Zenko wrote. He added that “if the military were concerned about civilian deaths, more investigators with training and experience in targeting would be assigned” to investigate casualty incident.

The inquiry into the al-Jina bombing in particular does not satisfy Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the organization’s report on the strike.

Solvang told The Intercept that the United States is attempting to “sweep this under the carpet” by quietly exonerating itself of wrongdoing without providing a full account of what transpired.

“From our point of view, it’s really hard to understand how the U.S. authorities can be so confident about who was or wasn’t killed when they haven’t even spoken to anyone who was there at the time,” Solvang said. “We are absolutely confident that there were many civilians present at the mosque and that many civilians were killed. Even if the U.S. claims that an Al Qaeda leader was also in attendance, we need to understand what kinds of steps were taken to mitigate harm to civilians before the strike was authorized. This investigation should not be considered over.”

Burned feet, parched throats: Arizona homeless desperate to escape heatwave

Those living outside in Phoenix are most vulnerable to the dangerous and possibly deadly effects of a scorching heatwave swallowing the south-west

June 23, 2017

by Griselda Nevarez

The Guardian

Phoenix-The man was not wearing any shoes, and he was crawling along the baking asphalt with socks on his hands.

That was how David Lee Witherspoon Jr, president of a food pantry, found him while driving through Phoenix last week. The man told Witherspoon he had left his home without any footwear after a fight, though Witherspoon thought he might have been homeless. Then he had taken off his socks to remove some burrs, but the road surface was so scorching he was forced onto all fours. Luckily Witherspoon had some spare sneakers in his car, and helped the man put them on.

“Anyone crawling along the street when it’s over 100 degrees – you would not survive very long before you got third-degree blisters on your hands and even your knees,” Witherspoon said.

It is currently so hot in Arizona that just inhaling can feel painful. Dozens of flights have been canceled at the Phoenix airport. The National Weather Service has declared an excessive heat warning that will be in place until Monday, amid temperatures approaching 120F.

Yet the swelter is, for the majority of people, mostly avoidable thanks to air conditioning. For those living under bridges and in tents, however, it is suffocating and inescapable. Eventually, it could be fatal.

Almost 6,000 homeless people were counted in the Phoenix region during a one-day census last year. Of those without shelter, a number gather a few miles west of downtown, where there are few trees, dirt lots, and roads littered with trash. On Thursday, a 21-year-old man named Jonathan Olvera and his girlfriend, who declined to give her name, were sitting on a shaded sidewalk.

“All this week it’s been hot,” he said, wearily. His girlfriend’s cheeks were red from the sun; he looked more severely burned. Both were fatigued, with dry lips.

64% of US voters believe Trump-Russia investigations are damaging country – poll

June 23, 2017


The majority of American voters believe the investigations into Russia and President Donald Trump are hurting the country, and would like to see Congress focus on other matters, including healthcare and the economy, according to a newly-released poll.

The Harvard-Harris poll, provided to The Hill, found that 64 percent of respondents believe the probes into President Trump and Russia are damaging the country.

Fifty-five percent said they would rather Washington focus on other issues, while just 44 percent said the country should remain focused on the Russia investigations.

Still, the majority of respondents (58 percent) said they are concerned about allegations of obstruction of justice against Trump, with the same number saying they’re worried about possible ties between Trump and the Kremlin.

When asked about the alleged collusion between Trump’s administration and Moscow, 52 percent said they don’t believe the president coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. However, 54 percent said they believe his associates may have done so.

Despite many believing collusion may have occurred, 62 percent said there is currently no hard evidence to support the claims.

An overwhelming majority (73 percent) said they’re concerned that the Russia investigations have caused Washington to lose sight of the issues most important to them. Of those respondents, 81 percent identified as Republican, 74 percent as Independents, and 68 percent as Democrats.

“While the voters have a keen interest in any Russian election interference, they are concerned that the investigations have become a distraction for the president and Congress that is hurting rather than helping the country,” Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn said, as quoted by The Hill. “Most voters believe that the president’s actions don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses, even if some of them were inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, 68 percent of respondents said they believe former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, despite Trump denying those claims.

Fifty-eight percent said they believe Comey’s memos about his private dealings with Trump are accurate, and 56 percent said they disapprove of Trump firing Comey.

Even so, the majority of respondents (58 percent) believe that Trump’s dealings with Comey do not constitute obstruction of justice.

When asked about what Trump’s fate should be, 45 percent said the investigations into the president should end with no action, while 41 percent said they should end in impeachment. Fourteen percent said the president should be censured by Congress.

“Most voters believe that the president’s actions don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses even if some of them were inappropriate,” Penn said. “There does seem to be about 40 percent very dissatisfied with the president and looking to remove him from office if possible, but the majority of voters think that all of this is going nowhere.”

Sixty-two percent said they believe there is a campaign to delegitimize Trump as president of the United States. Of those, 87 percent were Republicans, 63 percent were Independents, and 40 percent were Democrats.

The Harvard-Harris poll surveyed 2,237 voters between June 19 and June 21, with a party affiliation breakdown of 35 percent Democrat, 29 percent Republican, 30 percent Independent, and 6 percent “other.” The full poll results are due to be posted online later this week.

Supreme Court limits rights of property owners

June 23, 2017

by Andrew Chung


WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday narrowed the rights of property owners in disputes with governments and laid out a formula for determining when landowners are owed compensation in a case involving a vacant lot in Wisconsin on the picturesque St. Croix River.

The court decided that government officials can combine separate parcels of private land in determining whether public officials have effectively taken private property through zoning laws and must pay compensation. The ruling could make it harder for property owners to prove compensation claims.

The justices, in the 5-3 ruling written by conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by the court’s four liberals, upheld the use of zoning regulations by Wisconsin to prevent members of the Murr family from selling the vacant lot because the four siblings also owned an adjoining parcel of land.

The ruling set out a multi-factor test for courts to use to determine when a property taking requiring compensation to an owner has occurred, weighing how land is divided, its physical relationship to the surrounding environment, and the value of the land.

“This is an unfortunate decision for the Murrs, and all property owners,” said John Groen, executive vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative legal group that represented the family.

The state’s attorney general, Republican Brad Schimel, called the ruling a “victory for the rule of law in Wisconsin.”

State and local governments nationwide are grappling with ways to manage urban sprawl, provide services to residents and protect the environment, often by limiting the use of private property and leading to litigation by landowners.

Courts have recognized that in some cases, regulation can go so far as to deprive the owner of the value of their property, requiring compensation by the government. The legal issue behind the Murr family’s case is how courts should make that call.

The dispute began in 2004 when the four Murr siblings, who own two adjacent parcels of land on the St. Croix River in Troy, Wisconsin, wanted to sell an empty lot purchased by their late parents decades ago as a family investment, hoping to fund repairs to their family cabin on the adjacent parcel.

Citing zoning regulations, county officials told them it was too small to develop and they would have to sell it with the adjacent lot.

The Murrs sued, alleging that the government had effectively taken the land without compensation. Without the ability to sell or develop the lot, it had been rendered economically useless, they said.

A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the state and local county in 2014, saying officials had not deprived the family of their property because both lots were contiguous and could be sold or developed together.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court. Their position was supported by various agricultural, real estate and business groups, which argued that the Wisconsin court decision made it more difficult to prove the government unfairly deprived them of their land.

Supported by the Trump administration, Wisconsin told the justices that for conservation and other reasons under state law, adjacent lots that are separately too small will be merged if they come under common ownership.

Given the test laid out in the ruling, Kennedy said, the Murrs’ property “should be evaluated as a single parcel.” Objecting to the test, Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court after the case was argued, did not participate in Friday’s decision.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)


Canadian sniper shattered world record, killing ISIS fighter from 2 miles away, report says

June 22, 2017

by Matthew Diebel


A Canadian soldier in Iraq has killed an ISIS militant from more than two miles away, shattering the world record for a confirmed sniper kill in military history.

According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, the gun specialist from the elite Joint Task Force 2 achieved the feat with a shot from a high-rise during an operation within the past 30 days.

“The shot in question actually disrupted a Daesh [Islamic State] attack on Iraqi security forces,” a military source — who requested anonymity because the unit’s operations are classified — told the paper. “Instead of dropping a bomb that could potentially kill civilians in the area, it is a very precise application of force and because it was so far way, the bad guys didn’t have a clue what was happening.”

The 3,450-meter shot, which took about 10 seconds to reach its target, was independently verified by a video camera and other data, the source said.

The prior record was held by a British sniper, Craig Harrison, who in 2009 shot a Taliban gunner from 2,475 meters, or about a mile and a half, away during an operation in Afghanistan.






































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