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TBR News October 10, 2016

Oct 10 2016

The Voice of the White House  

 

Washington, D.C.  October 10, 2016:”The flat-line presidential campaign does little to enhance the fading image of the United States as the Leader of the World. An old recording of Trump telling off-color jokes has been trumpted by the media until no one cares. More and more negative information about Hillary is emerging from hacked insider messaging and now, it is discovered, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton were actually never married. A California investigator, digging into old records, could not find any kind of a marriage certificate issued by any agency but did discover two local newspaper comments about a “pledging of love” for the two at a Hippy ashram. This, while perhaps sataisfying to some, does not constitute legal marriage. When this new scandal goes public, no doubt the Democrats will scream that it’s all the fault of the Russians! At the same time, they can also accuse Putin of starting hurricaine Matthew or being responsible for Wayne Newton recordings.”

Air strike on funeral may galvanize anti-Saudi forces in Yemen

October 10, 2016

by Mohammed Ghobari

Reuters

SANAA-Yemen’s Houthi movement fired ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia, and the United States said a failed missile attack from Houthi-controlled areas targeted one of its warships, two days after an apparent Saudi-led air strike killed 140 Yemenis.

The air strike ripped through a wake attended by some of the country’s top political and security officials, outraging Yemeni society and potentially galvanizing powerful tribes to join the Houthis in opposing a Saudi-backed exiled government.

Riyadh is leading a coalition of Arab states which began launching air strikes in Yemen 18 months ago to restore to power ousted President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, who was driven from the capital two years ago by the Houthis.

The Houthis, fighters from a Shi’ite sect that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962, are allied to Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh. They have the support of many army units and control most of the north including the capital Sanaa.

The war has killed at least 10,000 people and brought parts of Yemen, by far the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula, to the brink of starvation. Both sides accuse the other of war crimes.

The Saudis say the Houthis are stooges of their enemy Iran. The Houthis say they have led a national revolt against a corrupt government, and the country is now being punished by its rich and aggressive Gulf Arab neighbors with U.S. political and military support.

Riyadh has denied responsibility for Saturday’s air strike, one of the bloodiest incidents of the war.

A U.S. military spokesman said two missiles were fired from Houthi-held territory at the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer sailing north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait. Neither missile hit the ship.

The Houthis denied firing at the U.S. ship.

The Saudi-led coalition said it had intercepted a missile fired by the Houthis at a military base in Taif in central Saudi Arabia, striking deeper then ever before in the latest in a series of more than a dozen missile attacks.

A missile was also fired at Marib in central Yemen, a base for pro-government militiamen and troops who have struggled to advance on the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies have launched thousands of air strikes against the Houthis during the 18-month war, and have imposed a naval blockade that has restricted trade to a country that depends on imported food to feed itself.

This month the Houthis launched a missile at a ship from the United Arab Emirates and at government positions on a island at the strategic 20 km (12 mile)-wide Bab al-Mandab strait, which controls the mouth of the Red Sea, on the main shipping route from the Indian Ocean to Europe through the Suez Canal.

Among the dead in the funeral bombing on Saturday were notables straddling the country’s many political divides, threatening to harden the will of powerful armed tribes around the capital who may make common cause with the Houthis.

“Despite all the massacres that have happened in this war, attacking a funeral is unprecedented and crosses a major red line in Yemeni culture,” said Farea al-Muslimi, an analyst at the Sanaa Centre for Strategic studies.

“The air strikes killed powerful people, and their tribes and families will be drawn closer to the Houthis as they all try to retaliate.”

(Reporting By Noah Browning and Mohammed Ghobari, editing by Sami Aboudi and Peter Graff)

Missiles fired at US navy destroyer from rebel-held Yemen

Incident involving ship in Red Sea comes a day after US said its backing for Saudi-led coalition was not a ‘blank cheque’

October 10, 2016

by Kareem Shaheen

The Guardian

Beirut-A US navy destroyer was targeted with missiles from rebel-held territory in Yemen, a day after Washington said it would review its support for a war led by Saudi Arabia that has devastated the impoverished nation and led to thousands of civilian casualties.

The latest escalation came as the Saudi government pledged to investigate an incident on Saturday in which airstrikes by its coalition allegedly killed more than a hundred mourners at a funeral wake and wounded more than 600 in one of the deadliest single incidents of the 17-month war.

The killing of so many civilians has refocused international attention on the role of western powers in the conflict. Both the UK and the US back the Saudi campaign with intelligence and weaponry despite repeated bombings of civilians as well as hospitals during the conflict.

In a statement on Monday, the navy said no US sailors were injured and no damage was done to the USS Mason. Lt Ian McConnaughey, a spokesman for US naval forces central command, said it was unclear if the ship was specifically targeted, though the missiles were fired in its direction for an hour, starting at about 7pm.

Saudi media also said a ballistic missile fired from Yemen had apparently targeted a Saudi airbase near Mecca, the deepest strike yet into the kingdom by Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels and their allies.

Riyadh intervened in Yemen in March of last year after the Houthis, Shia rebels who hail from the province of Sa’ada in the north and are backed by Iran, took control of the capital Sana’a and placed the Saudi-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under house arrest.

Hadi later fled to Riyadh and the kingdom announced it would launch military operations to restore him to power, with the backing of a number of Sunni and Arab countries. Saudi-backed fighters eventually wrested control of the southern port of Aden from the Houthis, but have made little progress in their effort to march on Sana’a and their ranks are divided amid competing loyalties and interests.

The Saudi kingdom sees the conflict in Yemen as part of its clash with regional rival Iran, one that has strayed too close to its own borders.

But Riyadh’s aerial campaign has caused immense suffering in the Arab world’s poorest country. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights said in August that 3,800 civilians had been killed and 7.6 million were suffering from malnutrition. At least 3 million people have been forced to leave their homes to flee the fighting. Most of the civilian casualties are caused by the Saudi-led coalition.

Last week, Unicef reported an outbreak of cholera in the capital.

The airstrike on Saturday, which the Yemeni health ministry said killed 115 people and wounded 610, will raise even more questions about the Saudi campaign, particularly the role of western powers in the conflict. Violence has intensified in recent months after the failure of talks in Kuwait under UN auspices.

“We strongly condemn what happened during a funeral service in Yemen and we pray for the dead,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s special envoy to the country. “The war must end as soon as possible. The UN reminds everyone once again that the targeting of family gatherings is an inhuman act that violates international law and punishing the perpetrators is a necessity.

“Today is a sad day for Yemen and words cannot express the extent of the grief that we all feel.”

The bombing targeted the funeral of a patriarch of the influential Ruwayshan family, which was attended by members of many Yemeni tribes. Large protests on Sunday condemned the atrocity, which will make reconciliation an ever more daunting prospect after the attack’s violation of tribal and cultural norms.

British and American military officials are present in the command and control centre for Riyadh’s airstrikes in Yemen and have access to Saudi target lists, though they are not supposed to play a role in choosing them.

Britain has sold more than £3.7bn of arms to Saudi Arabia since the airstrikes began, and a bipartisan bill to block a pending deal of $1.15bn worth of arms sales to Riyadh, partly over concerns about how how the Yemen war is being fought, was voted down in the US Senate last month. American-Saudi relations are tense due to Washington’s nuclear deal with Tehran and US reluctance to decisively intervene against Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Facing mounting international condemnation, the US said over the weekend that it would review its already scaled-back support for the coalition’s campaign, saying its backing was not a “blank cheque”.

But observers say western powers must not simply distance themselves from the conflict, but actively work to end it, because they were already partly responsible for the behaviour of their allies.

“There is only one way to fix this, first with an international inquiry into the crimes in this war, which the US and the UK both blocked in the past, and a clear end to the war, not just dissociate yourself from it,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni expert and non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Your fingerprints are already there in the crime scene.”

In a letter to the UN security council on Sunday night, the Saudi permanent mission expressed “deep regret” over the bombing of the funeral, pledging to uphold international law and to announce the results of its investigation.

The Saudis, Hillary, and the Destruction of Yemen

US support enables mass murder

October 10, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The Saudi bombing of a funeral in Saana, Yemen, killed about 200 – we don’t yet know the exact number – and wounded over 500.

No one believes the denials of the Saudis: clearly this event was targeted for special treatment. They didn’t just bomb it once: they came back again to rain death and destruction on the mourners. And these weren’t just any mourners: it was the funeral of the father of the Houthi Interior Minister, Jalal al-Rowaishan, with many government officials present. The dead included the Mayor of Sanaa: we don’t yet know if the Interior Minister survived.

No one wants to talk about this war. Up until now, the US has kept an embarrassed silence, for the most part: in response to this latest atrocity, the National Security Council issued a terse statement with all the requisite buzzwords – “deeply concerned,” “troubling,” “not a blank check,” even while reiterating the indefensible US rationale for funding, assisting, and enabling what is quite simply mass murder of civilians: “Even as we assist Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of their territorial integrity …”

The very idea that Yemen – what is arguably the poorest country on the face of the earth – is a threat to the Kingdom’s “territorial integrity” is a grotesque joke. I’ve covered the historical roots of the ongoing rebellion in Yemen – see here, here and here – but in brief: the Saudi invasion of Yemen is quite simply a proxy war on behalf of the US that has devolved into Saudi expansionism. Indeed, one could make the case that it is much more so than the Russian re-annexation of Crimea – which, after all, has been a Russian domain since the days of Catherine the Great. Yemen has never been a part of the Saudi kingdom: it is an ancient land, whose roots as an independent entity precede the birth of Christ.

While the Syrian civil war has been the subject of much debate, the war in Yemen has received almost no attention. Donald Trump has mentioned it only in passing, and Hillary Clinton hasn’t said a single word about it – with good reason.

The reason is because, during her reign at the State Department, she and her staff collaborated with the Saudis to create a military machine that is now mowing down Yemeni civilians by the thousands.

It was Christmas eve, 2011, and the employees at Hillary’s Foggy Bottom were celebrating. Were they celebrating the Christian holiday? Hell no! They were overjoyed by the “good news” – as Jake Sullivan, Hillary’s deputy chief of staff put it in the heading of an email – that the Saudis’ Prince Salman (now the Saudi king, then the chief negotiator for the Saudi side) had signed on to a $29.4 billion arms deal with Boeing. Included in the sale: more than 80 F-15 fighter jets, which are now slaughtering ambulance drivers, children, and any others in war-torn Yemen who happen to be within range. “Not a bad Christmas present” remarked one top official in an email chain made public by a Freedom of Information Act request. Hillary was on the receiving end of all of this.

The gift-giving was hardly one-sided, however. The Saudis had already given an estimated minimum of $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. And, as David Sirota and Andrew Perez pointed out in the International Business Times,

“Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing – the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 –  contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.”

As the Saudis prepared their campaign of aggression, the Clinton State Department made arming the regime a “top priority.” And as Hillary prepared her presidential run, a Boeing lobbyist, Tim Keating – a former aide to husband Bill – hosted a “Ready for Hillary” fundraising gala.

Wheels within wheels within wheels, all turning and churning to produce death and destruction for those on the bottom, and enormous wealth and power for those on the top.

As the great songwriter and singer Buffy Saint-Marie put it in some of her most haunting lyrics:

“Merry Christmas Jingle Bells

Christ is born and the devil’s in hell

hearts they shrink

Pockets swell

Everybody know and nobody tell

Little Wheels spin and spin

Big wheels turn around and around.”

The big wheels – the Clintons and their friends – send the little wheels spinning into oblivion, and the people of Yemen are just one part of the larger story. The Clinton State Department’s obscene “Christmas present” is just one chapter in the continuing saga of how our corrupt elites lord it over not only us but the whole world, grinding all underfoot while they celebrate their wealth and vaunted wisdom. The game is not only rigged, as Trump points out – it’s murderous.

US and EU Sanctions Are Ruining Ordinary Syrians’ Lives

October 9, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn

Unz Review

The US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report. The embargo was supposed to target President Bashar al-Assad and contribute to his removal from power. Instead it is making it more difficult for foodstuffs, fuel and healthcare to reach the mass of the people.

Aid agencies cited in the report say they cannot procure basic medicines or medical equipment for hospitals because sanctions are preventing foreign commercial companies and banks having anything to do with Syria. A European doctor working in Syria says that “the indirect effect of sanctions… makes the import of medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, nearly impossible.”

The revelations in the internal UN assessment of the effect of sanctions on aid delivery, entitled Humanitarian Impact of Syria-Related Unilateral Restrictive Measures and leaked by the investigative publication The Intercept, open up the US and EU to the charge of hypocrisy, after criticising Syria and Russia for impeding the delivery of UN aid supplies to besieged cities in Syria.

The Intercept quotes an internal UN email from a senior official saying that sanctions have been a “principal factor” in degrading the Syrian health system and have contributed to a 300 per cent rise in the price of wheat flour and 650 per cent rise for rice, following a doubling of fuel prices in the last 18 months.

Syria was once largely self-sufficient in pharmaceuticals, but many plants were in the Aleppo area and have been destroyed or rendered unusable by the fighting. The email says that many of the plants that survived have now been forced to close because of the impact of sanctions on obtaining raw materials from abroad and the foreign currency to pay for them.

The report states that conflict in Syria is the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has seen since the Second World War with 13 million people, or two thirds of the population, in need of assistance. The disaster has led to the exodus of at least five million refugees and four million internally displaced people. The report says that the chaos has produced a weakening of the state and conditions that have fostered the growth of Isis.

US and EU sanctions are contributing to this humanitarian calamity while Mr Assad remains firmly in power. In many respects, the situation resembles that in Iraq between 1990 and 2003 when UN sanctions destroyed the Iraqi economy and helped dissolve its society while doing nothing to reduce the power of Saddam Hussein as Iraqi leader. Many critics of Iraqi sanctions argue that the mass impoverishment they produced contributed significantly to the political and sectarian breakdown after the invasion of 2003.

The same process is now taking place in Syria. The report says that “in totality, the US and EU sanctions in Syria are some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” It says that in parallel with the humanitarian crisis there is this complex network of non-UN sanctions targeting the government of Syria and some entities and individuals alleged to have contributed to violence and human rights abuses. The EU has imposed wide-ranging prohibitions on commercial and banking dealings with Syria as well control of the export of “dual use” items that might have some security application.

US sanctions are even more extensive, imposing a blanket ban on exports to Syria or financial dealings with the country. This includes foreign produced goods of which the US content is more than 10 per cent of the value of the finished item. There are supposedly means available for purely humanitarian goods to reach Syria, but in practice this is not the case.

The report quotes numerous examples of aid agencies in Syria which have found their work made very difficult or impossible by the Kafka-esque system of licenses, export controls, risk management assessments and other prohibitions that require expensive legal advice to navigate. For instance, the ban on “dual use” goods includes such items as drilling equipment and pipes used for water and sanitation which require a special license – even though a shortage of fresh drinking water is a major health hazard in Syria.

The big aid agencies are universal in their condemnation of the present system and the way in which it compounds the miseries caused by the war. None of the agencies are named in the report, but one large one from the EU complains that it has to apply for a license to send goods to Syria through national government bureaucracies, but officials there do not know what the criteria is for doing so. This means endless delays and many commercial companies and banks want to have nothing to do with Syria for fear of unwittingly breaching sanctions and opening themselves up to heavy fines.

These fears are not exaggerated. The report notes that “non-US banks have paid billions in US dollars in sanctions related penalties, mostly to US regulators.”

Staying within the law is also expensive. One aid agency said that the cost of legally sending laptops to their staff in Syria was greater than the laptops had cost in the first place. It is not just government-held parts of Syria that are affected. One major EU charity, partly funded by the EU itself, planned “to deliver humanitarian assistance to besieged areas inside Syria.” For this it needed to bring funds from the bank it usually used to another country near Syria but it did not not conceal the fact that the final destination was Syria. This turned out to be a mistake. The bank objected that it was at risk because of sanctions and other prohibitions. The charity concludes by saying that “the planned humanitarian assistance has still not been delivered.”

In effect, the US and EU sanctions are imposing an economic siege on Syria as a whole which may be killing more Syrians than die of illness and malnutrition in the sieges which EU and US leaders have described as war crimes. Over half the country’s public hospitals have been damaged or destroyed. Syrian doctors in Damascus complained to The Independent about the difficulty in obtaining medicines and spare parts for medical equipment purchased before the war.

In other parts of Syria the health situation is far worse. The report says that “British doctors working in Aleppo have indicated that over 80 per cent of those requiring urgent medical treatment die as a result of their injuries, or lack of basic care, medicine and equipment.”

Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation says that brand name US medicines “cannot be procured due to the embargo situation.” In general, living conditions have fallen disastrously with electricity supply about ‘three hours on three hours off’ in the capital.

Maintenance and spare parts for the electricity system have both been hit by sanctions. There private generators but the report says that power has “become too expensive for most Syrians, and many live without electricity.”

As Syrians sit in the dark, US and EU sanctions are combining with war to destroy their country.

New leak reveals extent of Clinton ties with US media

October 10, 2016

RT

Hillary Clinton has been revealed to have a very cozy relationship with the US media, which has been found to work closely with Clinton’s campaign to present her in a favorable, transparent light – even planting stories, new email leaks suggest.

These facts are laid bare in the latest cache of classified Clinton campaign emails seen by The Intercept, which in turn received them from Guccifer 2.0 – the hacker who’s reportedly behind several high-profile intrusions.

The cache of emails includes campaign strategies aimed at keeping the public perception of Clinton favorable, focusing particularly on her transparency, especially in light of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. The strategies sometimes reveal the campaign presiding over stylistic points and emphasizing what is to be described as “on the record.”

Of particular note is one January 2015 document which includes references to Maggie Haberman. Formerly of Politico, Haberman now covers the presidential election for the New York Times. According to the leaked document, she’s a “friendly journalist” who has “never disappointed” in painting a positive picture of Clinton.

Haberman was seemingly put to good use, emerging with two stories which were meant to shed light, among other things, on how Hillary Clinton’s thought process works and how successful her cabinet members were. The New York Times piece entitled ‘Hillary Clinton Begins Process of Vetting — Herself’, talks about how open Clinton is to researching herself and how committed to transparency that makes her. Especially given how her opponents mainly focus on her foundation work, or the millions she’s received in paid speech appearances, as well as her relationship to Wall Street.

Neither Merrill nor Haberman responded to the Intercept’s requests for comment, nor did they deny that the document exists.

One of the documents, entitled ‘The Press and Surrogate Plan’, talked of willing personnel in the media who could always be put to good use, at CNN or elsewhere. Clinton staffers were also careful in distinguishing between “progressive helpers” and those who were potentially friendly, but could be further coerced.

These so-called media surrogates would often include TV pundits whose roles would appear to be neutral, but who were enrolled by the campaign. The metadata for the ‘surrogate’ document traces it back to its author Jennifer Palmieri – the Clinton campaign communications director.

Furthermore, as described in an April 2015 memo, there would be secret get-togethers involving media big shots and celebrity TV personalities – a notable one would take place in the aftermath of Clinton’s running announcement at the home of one of her strategists on the Upper East Side. The informal cocktail party was completely off-the-record, and intended to coordinate how Clinton’s campaign would be presented to the American public.

The strategies were not specifically formulated for the Clinton campaign, however. According to a March 2015 memo by campaign manager Robby Mook, the tried and tested tactic of constantly feeding the press positive stories in order to take away its ability to react to constant outside accusations was particularly important.

These controversial strategies have also been employed by the Republicans, although this latest cache of documents is the first glimpse into just how coordinated the effort is to use the media to political advantage.

The revelations from the Intercept come just as the second round of debating between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has wrapped up, looking colder than ever, with not so much as a handshake exchanged.

The leak also comes amid the latest official attack on Russia by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On Friday they released a statement claiming they are ““confident that the Russian government directed” the hacks of emails and documents and their posting on WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the blog of the hacker calling himself ‘Guccifer 2.0.’

Russia has been denying all complicity. The United States has still not presented any evidence of an official link to the Russian government.

Key Neocon Calls on US to Oust Putin

A prominent neocon paymaster, whose outfit dispenses $100 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money each year, has called on America to “summon the will” to remove Russian President Putin from office

October 7, 2016

by Robert Parry

consortiumnews

The neoconservative president of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy [NED] has called for the U.S. government to “summon the will” to engineer the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the 10-year-old murder case of a Russian journalist should be the inspiration.

Carl Gershman, who has headed NED since its founding in 1983, doesn’t cite any evidence that Putin was responsible for the death of Anna Politkovskaya but uses a full column in The Washington Post on Friday to create that impression, calling her death “a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom Americans are looking at for the first time.”

Gershman wraps up his article by writing: “Politkovskaya saw the danger [of Putin], but she and other liberals in Russia were not strong enough to stop it. The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so. Remembering Politkovskaya can help us rise to this challenge.”

That Gershman would so directly call for the ouster of Russia’s clearly popular president represents further proof that NED is a neocon-driven vehicle that seeks to create the political circumstances for “regime change” even when that means removing leaders who are elected by a country’s citizenry.

And there is a reason for NED to see its job in that way. In 1983, NED essentially took over the CIA’s role of influencing electoral outcomes and destabilizing governments that got in the way of U.S. interests, except that NED carried out those functions in a quasi-overt fashion while the CIA did them covertly.

NED also serves as a sort of slush fund for neocons and other favored U.S. foreign policy operatives because a substantial portion of NED’s money circulates through U.S.-based non-governmental organizations or NGOs.

That makes Gershman an influential neocon paymaster whose organization dispenses some $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money to activists, journalists and NGOs both in Washington and around the world. The money helps them undermine governments in Washington’s disfavor – or as Gershman would prefer to say, “build democratic institutions,” even when that requires overthrowing democratically elected leaders.

NED was a lead actor in the Feb. 22, 2014 coup ousting Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a U.S.-backed putsch that touched off the civil war inside Ukraine between Ukrainian nationalists from the west and ethnic Russians from the east. The Ukraine crisis has become a flashpoint for the dangerous New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.

Before the anti-Yanukovych coup, NED was funding scores of projects inside Ukraine, which Gershman had identified as “the biggest prize” in a Sept. 26, 2013 column also published in The Washington Post.

In that column, Gershman wrote that after the West claimed Ukraine, “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” In other words, Gershman already saw Ukraine as an important step toward an even bigger prize, a “regime change” in Moscow.

Less than five months after Gershman’s column, pro-Western political activists and neo-Nazi street fighters – with strong support from U.S. neocons and the State Department – staged a coup in Kiev driving Yanukovych from office and installing a rabidly anti-Russian regime, which the West promptly dubbed “legitimate.”

In reaction to the coup and the ensuing violence against ethnic Russians, the voters of Crimea approved a referendum with 96 percent of the vote to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, a move that the West’s governments and media decried as a Russian “invasion” and “annexation.”

The new regime in Kiev then mounted what it called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO against ethnic Russians in the east who had supported Yanukovych and refused to accept the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev as legitimate.

The ATO, spearheaded by neo-Nazis from the Azov battalion and other extremists, killed thousands of ethnic Russians, prompting Moscow to covertly provide some assistance to the rebels, a move denounced by the West as “aggression.”

Blaming Putin

In his latest column, Gershman not only urges the United States to muster the courage to oust Putin but he shows off the kind of clever sophistry that America’s neocons are known for. Though lacking any evidence, he intimates that Putin ordered the murder of Politkovskaya and pretty much every other “liberal” who has died in Russia.

It is a technique that I’ve seen used in other circumstances, such as the lists of “mysterious deaths” that American right-wingers publish citing people who crossed the paths of Bill and Hillary Clinton and ended up dead. This type of smear spreads suspicion of guilt not based on proof but on the number of acquaintances and adversaries who have met untimely deaths.

In the 1990s, one conservative friend of mine pointed to the Clintons’ “mysterious deaths” list and marveled that even if only a few were the victims of a Clinton death squad that would be quite a story, to which I replied that if even one were murdered by the Clintons that would be quite a story – but that there was no proof of any such thing.

“Mysterious deaths” lists represent a type of creepy conspiracy theory that shifts the evidentiary burden onto the targets of the smears who must somehow prove their innocence, when there is no evidence of their guilt (only vague suspicions). It is contemptible when applied to American leaders and it is contemptible when applied to Russian leaders, but it is not beneath Carl Gershman.

Beyond that, Gershman’s public musing about the U.S. somehow summoning “the will” to remove Putin might — in a normal world — disqualify NED and its founding president from the privilege of dispensing U.S. taxpayers’ money to operatives in Washington and globally. It is extraordinarily provocative and dangerous, an example of classic neocon hubris.

While the neocons do love their tough talk, they are not known for thinking through their “regime change” schemes. The idea of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia with the goal of ousting Putin, with his 82 percent approval ratings, must rank as the nuttiest and most reckless neocon scheme of all.

Gershman and his neocon pals may fantasize about making Russia’s economy scream while financing pro-Western “liberals” who would stage disruptive protests in Red Square, but he and his friends haven’t weighed the consequences even if they could succeed.

Given the devastating experience that most Russians had when NED’s beloved Russian “liberals” helped impose American “shock therapy” in the 1990s — an experiment that reduced average life expectancy by a full decade — it’s hard to believe that the Russian people would simply take another dose of that bitter medicine sitting down.

Even if the calculating Putin were somehow removed amid economic desperation, he is far more likely to be followed by a much harder-line Russian nationalist who might well see Moscow’s arsenal of nuclear weapons as the only way to protect Mother Russia’s honor. In other words, the neocons’ latest brash “regime change” scheme might be their last – and the last for all humanity.

A Neocon Slush Fund

Gershman’s arrogance also raises questions about why the American taxpayer should tolerate what amounts to a $100 million neocon slush fund which is used to create dangerous mischief around the world. Despite having “democracy” in its name, NED appears only to favor democratic outcomes when they fit with Official Washington’s desires.

If a disliked candidate wins an election, NED acts as if that is prima facie evidence that the system is undemocratic and must be replaced with a process that ensures the selection of candidates who will do what the U.S. government tells them to do. Put differently, NED’s name is itself a fraud.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise since NED was created in 1983 at the urging of Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey, who wanted to off-load some of the CIA’s traditional work ensuring that foreign elections turned out in ways acceptable to Washington, and when they didn’t – as in Iran under Mossadegh, in Guatemala under Arbenz or in Chile under Allende – the CIA’s job was to undermine and remove the offending electoral winner.

In 1983, Casey and the CIA’s top propagandist, Walter Raymond Jr., who had been moved to Reagan’s National Security Council staff, wanted to create a funding mechanism to support outside groups, such as Freedom House and other NGOs, so they could engage in propaganda and political action that the CIA had historically organized and paid for covertly. The idea emerged for a congressionally funded entity that would serve as a conduit for this money.

In one undated letter to then-White House counselor Edwin Meese III, Casey urged creation of a “National Endowment,” but he recognized the need to hide the strings being pulled by the CIA. “Obviously we here [at CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor should we appear to be a sponsor or advocate,” Casey wrote.

The National Endowment for Democracy took shape in late 1983 as Congress decided to also set aside pots of money — within NED — for the Republican and Democratic parties and for organized labor, creating enough bipartisan largesse that passage was assured.

But some in Congress thought it was important to wall the NED off from any association with the CIA, so a provision was included to bar the participation of any current or former CIA official, according to one congressional aide who helped write the legislation.

This aide told me that one night late in the 1983 session, as the bill was about to go to the House floor, the CIA’s congressional liaison came pounding at the door to the office of Rep. Dante Fascell, a senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a chief sponsor of the bill.

The frantic CIA official conveyed a single message from CIA Director Casey: the language barring the participation of CIA personnel must be struck from the bill, the aide recalled, noting that Fascell consented to the demand, not fully recognizing its significance – that it would permit the continued behind-the-scenes involvement of Raymond and Casey.

The aide said Fascell also consented to the Reagan administration’s choice of Carl Gershman to head NED, again not recognizing how this decision would affect the future of the new entity and American foreign policy.

Gershman, who had followed the classic neoconservative path from youthful socialism to fierce anticommunism, became NED’s first (and, to this day, only) president. Though NED is technically independent of U.S. foreign policy, Gershman in the early years coordinated decisions on grants with Raymond at the NSC.

For instance, on Jan. 2, 1985, Raymond wrote to two NSC Asian experts that “Carl Gershman has called concerning a possible grant to the Chinese Alliance for Democracy (CAD). I am concerned about the political dimension to this request. We should not find ourselves in a position where we have to respond to pressure, but this request poses a real problem to Carl.

“Senator [Orrin] Hatch, as you know, is a member of the board. Secondly, NED has already given a major grant for a related Chinese program.”

Neocon Tag Teams

From the start, NED became a major benefactor for Freedom House, beginning with a $200,000 grant in 1984 to build “a network of democratic opinion-makers.” In NED’s first four years, from 1984 and 1988, it lavished $2.6 million on Freedom House, accounting for more than one-third of its total income, according to a study by the liberal Council on Hemispheric Affairs that was entitled “Freedom House: Portrait of a Pass-Through.”

Over the ensuing three decades, Freedom House has become almost an NED subsidiary, often joining NED in holding policy conferences and issuing position papers, both organizations pushing primarily a neoconservative agenda, challenging countries deemed insufficiently “free,” including Syria, Ukraine (in 2014) and Russia.

Indeed, NED and Freedom House often work as a kind of tag-team with NED financing “non-governmental organizations” inside targeted countries and Freedom House berating those governments if they crack down on U.S.-funded NGOs.

For instance, on Nov. 16, 2012, NED and Freedom House joined together to denounce legislation passed by the Russian parliament that required recipients of foreign political money to register with the government.

Or, as NED and Freedom House framed the issue: the Russian Duma sought to “restrict human rights and the activities of civil society organizations and their ability to receive support from abroad. Changes to Russia’s NGO legislation will soon require civil society organizations receiving foreign funds to choose between registering as ‘foreign agents’ or facing significant financial penalties and potential criminal charges.”

Of course, the United States has a nearly identical Foreign Agent Registration Act that likewise requires entities that receive foreign funding and seek to influence U.S. government policy to register with the Justice Department or face possible fines or imprisonment.

But the Russian law would impede NED’s efforts to destabilize the Russian government through funding of political activists, journalists and civic organizations, so it was denounced as an infringement of human rights and helped justify Freedom House’s rating of Russia as “not free.”

Another bash-Putin tag team has been The Washington Post’s editors and NED’s Gershman. On July 28, 2015, a Post editorial and a companion column by Gershman led readers to believe that Putin was paranoid and “power mad” in worrying that outside money funneled into NGOs threatened Russian sovereignty.

The Post and Gershman were especially outraged that the Russians had enacted the law requiring NGOs financed from abroad and seeking to influence Russian policies to register as “foreign agents” and that one of the first funding operations to fall prey to these tightened rules was Gershman’s NED.

The Post’s editors wrote that Putin’s “latest move … is to declare the NED an ‘undesirable’ organization under the terms of a law that Mr. Putin signed in May [2015]. The law bans groups from abroad who are deemed a ‘threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, its defense capabilities and its national security.’

“The charge against the NED is patently ridiculous. The NED’s grantees in Russia last year ran the gamut of civil society. They advocated transparency in public affairs, fought corruption and promoted human rights, freedom of information and freedom of association, among other things. All these activities make for a healthy democracy but are seen as threatening from the Kremlin’s ramparts.

“The new law on ‘undesirables’ comes in addition to one signed in 2012 that gave authorities the power to declare organizations ‘foreign agents’ if they engaged in any kind of politics and receive money from abroad. The designation, from the Stalin era, implies espionage.”

However, among the relevant points that the Post’s editors wouldn’t tell their readers was the fact that Russia’s Foreign Agent Registration Act was modeled after the American Foreign Agent Registration Act and that NED President Gershman had already publicly made clear — in his Sept. 26, 2013 column — that his goal was to oust Russia’s elected president.

In his July 28, 2015 column, Gershman further deemed Putin’s government illegitimate. “Russia’s newest anti-NGO law, under which the National Endowment for Democracy … was declared an “undesirable organization” prohibited from operating in Russia, is the latest evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin faces a worsening crisis of political legitimacy,” Gershman wrote, adding:

“This is the context in which Russia has passed the law prohibiting Russian democrats from getting any international assistance to promote freedom of expression, the rule of law and a democratic political system. Significantly, democrats have not backed down. They have not been deterred by the criminal penalties contained in the ‘foreign agents’ law and other repressive laws. They know that these laws contradict international law, which allows for such aid, and that the laws are meant to block a better future for Russia.”

The reference to how a “foreign agents” registration law conflicts with international law might have been a good place for Gershman to explain why what is good for the goose in the United States isn’t good for the gander in Russia. But hypocrisy is a hard thing to rationalize and would have undermined the propagandistic impact of the column.

Also undercutting the column’s impact would be an acknowledgement of where NED’s money comes from. So Gershman left that out, too. After all, how many governments would allow a hostile foreign power to sponsor politicians and civic organizations whose mission is to undermine and overthrow the existing government and put in someone who would be compliant to that foreign power?

And, if you had any doubts about what Gershman’s intent was regarding Russia, he dispelled them in his Friday column in which he calls on the United States to “summon the will” to “contain and defeat this danger,” which he makes clear is the continued rule of Vladimir Putin.

Sen. Mike Lee: U.S. Can’t Bomb Syrian Forces Without Congressional Approval

October 7, 2016

by Robert Naiman

Common Dreams

According to multiple voices in the DC press, the idea of the U.S. bombing Syrian government forces is “back on the table” this week.

On Sunday, under the headline, “Four military options for Obama in Syria,” The Hill reported that the administration could be weighing four possible options: “No-fly zone,” “Safe zones,” “Target Assad’s air force,” “New weapons for rebels.”

On Tuesday, “war-positive” Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported under the headline “Obama administration considering strikes on Assad, again” that:

U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria … A meeting of the Principals Committee, which includes Cabinet-level officials, is scheduled for Wednesday. A meeting of the National Security Council, which could include the president, could come as early as this weekend.

Neither The Hill nor Josh Rogin acknowledged in their reporting that in order to bomb Syrian government forces, President Obama would need to seek and receive an authorization for the use of military force from Congress.

But on Wednesday, Utah Senator Mike Lee reminded Washington that the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution are still good law:

Sen. Mike Lee is warning the White House that a push to increase the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria would require congressional approval.

The Utah Republican said reports that the administration is considering using airstrikes to target the Assad regime … would represent “a major departure from our current strategy.”

“[It] carries potentially cataclysmic consequences which the American people have never debated in Congress,” he said in a statement. “If President Obama and his advisors want to increase the involvement of the United States in Syria in any manner — including attacks against the Assad regime — they have a constitutional responsibility to ask for a declaration of war from Congress.”

[…]

With lawmakers out of Washington until after the November elections, Lee added that if Obama moves “ahead without authorization, then Congress must be called back into session to fulfill its obligation to debate and determine whether our nation should once again go to war.”

Now that Senator Lee is speaking out, The Hill acknowledges that other Senators have said that the President needs an authorization for the use of military force from Congress to bomb Syrian government forces:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has repeatedly warned that while he thinks the administration currently has the authority it needs to fight ISIS, going on offense against the Syrian government would be a different conversation.

“If they decided to go against al-Assad, then they would need additional authorities. And we stand ready if that’s something they wish to do, to debate that. But thus far, they haven’t made that decision,” the Foreign Relations chairman told the Military Times late last year.

We’ve been here before.

In August 2013, during a Congressional recess, 192 Members of the House, most of whom are still serving in Congress, went on the record to say that the President could not bomb Syrian government forces without Congressional approval.

On August 28, 2013, 140 Representatives sent a bipartisan letter led by Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell to President Obama which said:

We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The same day, New York Congressman Jerry Nadler issued his own statement, which said:

The Constitution requires that, barring an attack on the United States or an imminent threat to the U.S., any decision to use military force can only be made by Congress — not by the President. The decision to go to war — and we should be clear, launching a military strike on another country, justified or not, is an act of war — is reserved by the Constitution to the American people acting through their elected representatives in Congress.

[…]

The American people deserve to have this decision debated and made in the open, with all the facts and arguments laid out for public review and debate, followed by a Congressional vote. If the President believes that military action against Syria is necessary, he should immediately call Congress back into session and seek the Constitutionally-required authorization.

On August 29, 2013, sixty-one Democrats, led by Barbara Lee, sent a letter to President Obama which said:

Congress has the constitutional power and obligation to approve military force…we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.

As a result of those letters and statements, President Obama agreed to seek Congressional approval before taking military action, which approval he was unable to attain. The fact that the President could not attain Congressional approval for military action in 2013 was a key reason that the proposed military action did not take place. War-positive voices in the DC press want to erase this history, that’s why we must emphasize it.

You can urge your Senators and Representative to insist that Congress debate and vote to approve or reject an authorization for the use of military force before any U.S. military action against the Syrian government here.

US presidential debate: Trump launches ferocious attack on Clintons

October 10, 2016

BBC News

Donald Trump has responded to an outcry over his remarks about groping women by launching a blistering attack against Hillary Clinton and her husband.

The Republican nominee denied ever sexually assaulting women, but turned his fire on ex-President Bill Clinton in a bitter US presidential debate.

“There’s never been anybody in the history of politics that has been so abusive to women,” he said.

Hillary Clinton refused to address his comments about her husband.

Mr Trump’s attack on the Clintons came after moderator Anderson Cooper asked him about a 2005 video released on Friday that revealed Mr Trump bragging about groping women.

The 70-year-old billionaire dismissed the remarks as “just words” and “locker room talk”.

When pressed on whether he had engaged in sexual misconduct, he denied doing so and instead focused on Mr Clinton’s previous indiscretions.

No criminal charges have been brought against Mr Clinton in any allegations of sexual assault.

Mrs Clinton said the explosive video, which has sparked an exodus of Republicans denying support to their presidential nominee, “represents exactly who he is”.

“With prior Republican nominees, I disagreed with them,” she added, “but I never questioned their fitness to serve.”

When the two took to the stage in St Louis for their second of three debates, they did not shake hands, striking a bitter tone that would continue throughout.

Mr Trump said if he won, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Mrs Clinton and she would be in prison over her private email arrangements.

“Everything he just said is absolutely false but I’m not surprised,” she responded. “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.”

“Because you’d be in jail,” he interrupted.

Mr Trump also said his Democratic rival “has tremendous hate in her heart” while criticising her for referring to his supporters as “deplorables”.

Mrs Clinton said she apologised for the comment, adding: “My argument is not with his supporters, it’s with him, about the hateful and divisive campaign he has run.”

The two also sparred on the conflict in Syria, Russian aggression, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and his plan for the “extreme vetting” of immigrants arriving from countries with links to terrorism.

The evening concluded when an audience member asked the candidates to say one positive thing about each other.

Mrs Clinton said his children were a great reflection of him while Mr Trump called his opponent “a fighter” who never gives up.

An hour before the debate began, Mr Trump appeared at a news conference with women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct.

He joined three women who allege the former president sexually assaulted them and called the women “very courageous”.

The Republican was under immense pressure after making obscene comments about women in the 2005 video.

At least 33 senior Republicans – including senators, members of Congress, and state governors – have withdrawn their support since the video surfaced on Friday.

Oil prices surge as Putin says Russia ready to support OPEC production freeze or even cut

October 10, 2016

RT

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will join the deal to cut global crude output. Oil prices gained over a dollar after the announcement during Monday afternoon trading with Brent crude reaching $53 per barrel.

We support the recent initiative of OPEC to fix oil production limits. We hope that at the OPEC meeting in November, the idea will be embodied in an official agreement, giving a positive signal to the markets and investors,” said Putin at the World Energy Congress in Istanbul on Monday.

The Russian President added that the era of oil and gas will not come to an end in foreseeable future.

“The demand for traditional energy supported not only the motorization and electrification of such huge countries and economies as China and India, but also by the continuing participation of oil and gas products in the most diverse areas of human life, in industrial processes,” he said.

Oil prices surged over a dollar after Putin’s speech. The North Sea benchmark Brent was trading at over $53 per barrel, rebounding from Monday morning losses. The US benchmark West Texas Intermediate reached $51 per barrel.

Oil producing countries want to reduce the global glut of an estimated 1.0 million to 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd). On September 28, OPEC agreed to curb production by 700,000 bpd.

The details of how the production cuts will be shared are still to be worked out at the next OPEC meeting in Vienna on November 30. OPEC also needs to convince oil producers outside the group like Russia to participate.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said Moscow favors the idea of a global oil production limit, but added it’s profitable for Moscow to freeze production at September’s level. Last month, Russia pumped a record volume of oil, exceeding 11 million bpd.

Hurricane Matthew death toll rises to at least 21 across Southeast

October 10, 2016

by Kirk Ross, Arelis R. Hernández and Renae Merle

The Washington Post

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Hurricane Matthew has left at least 10 dead in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday, pushing the death toll across the Southeast to at least 21 even as the weakening storm still carried dangers of flooding.

Five people also remained missing in Johnson and Cumberland counties, while thousands across North Carolina still lacked power after the storm struck Sunday with downpours and high winds in its slow march up the Atlantic coast, McCrory (R) told reporters.

McCrory warned that flooding remained an acute threat to people across central and eastern North Carolina.

“The people who live near rivers, streams and levees need to be extremely careful,” he warned, stressing that this would extend through much of the week.

He said that in Lumberton — a small city about 70 miles inland — about 1,500 residents were stranded by flooding, with some stuck on roofs.

“Helicopters, boats and swift water teams are going very heavily” to that area, McCrory said.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration had issued temporary flight restrictions to keep the airspace over Lumberton clear for helicopters involved in rescue missions and pleaded with people not to send drones to the region.

“I cannot stress that more,” he said. “The drone is a whole new technology, but it can be a very dangerous technology also in this type of situation.”

Across the region, officials have also blamed Hurricane Matthew for six deaths in Florida, three in Georgia and one death each in Virginia and South Carolina. In the Caribbean, hundreds of deaths in Haiti have been attributed to the storm, and contaminated water is causing an outbreak of cholera there.

Even after the storm was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday and it moved out to sea, officials warned that the worst is not over. It could be days before waters crest and repair crews are able to reach all of those who have been affected, they said.

Significant flooding continues in parts of South and North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service. Up to 20 inches of rain have been reported in some areas, with more expected.

Officials in North Carolina had feared a repeat of 1999’s Hurricane Floyd, the state’s worst natural disaster, a weeks-long event that destroyed whole communities. As with Floyd, Matthew followed a prolonged period of rain in eastern and central North Carolina.

“A day and a half ago, we warned that this was going to be like Hurricane Floyd,” McCrory said. “I was afraid we were exaggerating. Now, people in eastern North Carolina are telling us we may have underestimated it.”

By Sunday, strong winds had toppled trees through much of the central region of the state, knocking out power to about 770,000 homes. In Raleigh, the dam at Lake Benson was breached. Forty-three counties declared local states of emergency, and 4,200 people were in shelters.

More than 1,700 people have been rescued in North Carolina. “We’re still rescuing people,” said Michael Martin, a battalion chief with the Fayetteville Fire Department, on Sunday. In the early hours of the storm, most of those rescued were motorists, he said, but as floodwaters rose, teams started evacuating people trapped in homes.

Local officials expect the wreckage to get worse through the next few days, following the pattern of Hurricane Floyd. A massive wall of water will flow east to the Atlantic, flooding the same towns and submerging the same low-lying communities along the creeks and rivers. It would be the second 500-year flood event in the region in two decades.

Communities along the Tar River, where Floyd’s floodwaters dealt their most serious blow, are facing the same or worse. The river is due to crest at record levels early this week in Princeton, a small, historic African American community that was almost completely submerged in 1999 and whose rebuilding was an emblem of recovery.

“Those towns and cities that are in the way of this massive water coming down are in danger as we speak,” McCrory said in a briefing Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, the Cape Fear River at Manchester near Fayetteville stood at 31 feet, two feet above its record. By Friday, that water is expected to flood more than 200 structures in the town of Burgaw, about 75 miles downriver. Heavy flooding now in Raleigh is flowing into the Neuse River and is due in Kinston on Friday at a level one foot above the record set in 1999.

“Kinston is preparing for the worst flooding they’ve ever seen,” McCrory said.

Residents of the southeastern coast of North Carolina emerged shaken after two days of intense wind and rain.

Dave Sinclair, owner of the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar at Carolina Beach, ventured out with his two children during a lull in the storm to survey the damage. As they watched the waves claw at the coastline, Sinclair said he told his children to respect Hurricane Matthew’s power even in its weakened state. “I told them, ‘Guys, this is barely a 1, keep this in mind,’ ” Sinclair said. “These are intensely powerful storms.”

In South Carolina, where nearly 650,000 people are without power, state and city officials are urging residents to stay away as authorities assess the damage to bridges and roadways. Communities such as Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island remained closed to residents who had evacuated from their homes days earlier.

Nearly three feet of water threatened homes in downtown Charleston, and several streets were under about a foot of water as residents came out to start cleaning up. The flooding brought dirt, trash and debris onto the carefully manicured lawns and front porches of homes in the historic city.

While Charleston is beginning to clean up, coastal communities to its south remain under evacuation orders, state officials said.

Residents in parts of Georgetown and Horry counties have not been allowed to return home.

Several coastal roads were impassable, blocked by fallen trees and debris, local officials said. Meanwhile, sand dunes were washed away on the beach, and roofs were lifted off homes.

“It looks like the areas further south were the worst-hit. We aren’t completely sure and assessments are ongoing,” said Derrec Becker, a spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

The storm hugged the Florida coast, delivering a severe downpour and strong winds that downed trees for hundreds of miles and left 1.1 million people without power, but Matthew didn’t make landfall and cause the level of damage some local officials had feared. “We are blessed that Hurricane Matthew did not make landfall in Florida, but there has been significant damage across our east coast,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said in a tweet on Sunday.

Still, it reduced Florida’s scenic Atlantic Coast Highway or A1A — the economic lifeline of the state’s small beach towns — to an impassable pile of concrete and asphalt rubble. The National Guard is preventing access to the southernmost tip of Crescent Beach, where the storm chewed up A1A, leaving eight-foot holes in some places.

And in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the country, the wreckage is severe. Flagler College and City Hall, which both date to 1888, are waterlogged. Trees are down and power is out.

In the Davis Shores neighborhood of St. Augustine, some residents put the entire contents of their homes on their lawns to be thrown away because of contamination from raw sewage and water, said Mayor Nancy Shaver, who toured the area.

“But forget property and businesses,” Shaver said. “We came so close to losing many lives.”

In Georgia, the damage also was not as bad as local officials feared. Thirty counties have been declared federal disaster areas, and residents should continue to stay away from St. Simon Island. “It is considered a public health hazard due to raw sewage on the streets,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R).

Deal, who surveyed the area between Savannah and Brunswick by helicopter, said he “ was pleasantly surprised on what I saw.”

“We have been very fortunate. I am grateful,” he said.

Ross reported from Fayetteville, N.C.; Hernández in Charleston, S.C.; Merle in St. Augustine, Fla. Sharon Dunten in Brunswick, Ga., and Mark Berman in Washington contributed to this report.

 

 

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