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Photos by: joanneleon. August 15, 2013.


The Hollies "The Air That I Breathe"

News & Opinion

Syria chemical attack facts tough to trace amid US & UK war hardline

Syria crisis: warplanes spotted in Cyprus as tensions rise in Damascus

Warplanes and military transporters have begun arriving at Britain's Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.

Two commercial pilots who regularly fly from Larnaca on Monday told the Guardian that they had seen C-130 transport planes from their cockpit windows as well as small formations of fighter jets on their radar screens, which they believe had flown from Europe.

Residents near the British airfield, a sovereign base since 1960, also say activity there has been much higher than normal over the past 48 hours.

If an order to attack targets in Syria is given, Cyprus is likely to be a hub of the air campaign. The arrival of warplanes suggests that advanced readiness – at the very least – has been ordered by Whitehall as David Cameron, Barack Obama and European leaders step up their rhetoric against Bashar al-Assad, whose armed forces they accuse of carrying out the chemical weapons attack last Wednesday that killed many hundreds in eastern Damascus.

Muscle-Flexing: UK deploys warplanes in Cyprus, 100km from Syria

US, Britain and France Agree to Attack Syria Within Two Weeks

Initially Limited Strikes Aim to Avoid Serious War Debate

Discussing the matter in a 40 minute phone call on Saturday night, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in principle to start attacking Syria within the next two weeks. France, long calling for such a war, is also reportedly in on the idea.

British officials familiar with the situation say that they didn’t rule out seeking UN support for the war, but also don’t expect to actually get that support, and are prepared to ignore the UN and attack anyhow. ...

Britain is said to be particularly eager to get the attacks going quickly to avoid having to deal with the prospect of parliament voting on the war, and possibly preemptively rejecting the attack. They are also hoping to keep the first strikes very limited to justify not consulting parliament ahead of time.

Hat tip to suejazz:
Making War In Syria

The bipartisan consensus to make war in Syria seems to be growing. John Kerry played the role of Colin Powell yesterday, albeit with slightly more actual evidence on his side. But the proposed response doesn't seem to match the gravity of the rhetoric he used.

Administration officials said that although President Obama had not made a final decision on military action, he was likely to order a limited military operation - cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at military targets in Syria, for example - and not a sustained air campaign intended to topple Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, or to fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground.
If Kerry is to be believed, the "situation on the ground" is that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people, a monstrous crime. If we aren't trying to "fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground," then why in the hell are we making war in in Syria in the first place? If we aren't trying to "topple" the Syrian president so he won't use chemical weapons on his own people again, why are we going to be firing high explosives into the country that are going to kill some of those people anyway? This is the difference between making war in a place and going to war in a place. If you're simply making war in a place, logic doesn't necessarily apply. Even a lot of the people proposing that we make war in Syria -- even a lot of the liberals proposing it -- admit freely that they don't know what will come next, or even on whose side we will be making war in Syria. This strikes me as an important thing to determine before you commit the nation to a course of action like the one proposed, but then, making war in a place enables you to do it from an antiseptic distance, to believe in the fairy-tale McNamara concept of "sending a message" by blowing stuff up, to believe that the most important thing for the World's Last Superpower to do is anything.
Obama set for holy Tomahawk war

pepe270813The ''responsibility to protect'' (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ''responsibility to attack'' (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.

On Sunday, the White House said it had ''very little doubt'' that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ''undeniable'' - and accused Assad of ''moral obscenity.'' ...

The window of opportunity for war is now. Assad's forces were winning from Qusayr to Homs; pounding ''rebel'' remnants out of the periphery of Damascus; deploying around Der'ah to counterpunch CIA-trained ''rebels'' with advanced weapons crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border; and organizing a push to expel ''rebels'' and jihadis from suburbs of Aleppo.

Now, Israel and Saudi Arabia are oh so excited because they are getting exactly what they dream just by good ol' Wag the Dog methods. Tel Aviv has even telegraphed how it wants it: this Monday, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper headlined with ''On the Way to Attack'' and even printed the ideal Order of Battle.

Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria

Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria. “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin.

“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the full backing of the US. ...

The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis.

As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said.

The Putin-Bandar meeting was stormy, replete with warnings of a “dramatic turn” in Syria. Mr Putin was unmoved by the Saudi offer, though western pressure has escalated since then. ... Prince Bandar in turn warned that there can be “no escape from the military option” if Russia declines the olive branch. Events are unfolding exactly as he foretold.

Iran warns west against military intervention in Syria

Iran has warned that foreign military intervention in Syria will result in a conflict that would engulf the region.

The threatening rhetoric from Tehran came in response to a statement by the secretary of state, John Kerry, on Monday that the US would respond to the "undeniable" use of chemical weapons in Syria. ...

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, indicated it was equally resolved to defend Assad.

"We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region," Araqchi told a news conference. "These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region."

Shi'ite Iran is Syria's closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.

Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington

Gloria Richardson Looks Back on the Rift Between Malcolm X and "March on Washington" Organizers

Mueller: I Crippled FBI Effort v. White-Collar Crime

Mueller’s description of his tenure reveals that his obsession with one of the FBI’s tasks, anti-terrorism caused the FBI to fail catastrophically in many other tasks.  The FBI is essential in a wide range of fields.  We have, for example, roughly one million Americans employed in our criminal justice system.  Only the 2,300 FBI white-collar specialists, however, investigate elite white-collar crimes and we have over 1,300 industries (not firms).  We have over 500 fewer FBI agents working white-collar crime cases because Mueller transferred over 500 of them to national security tasks after 9/11.  ...

Senior FBI officials sought to replace the lost agents, but the Bush administration refused to allow the FBI the right to do so and Mueller never went to the mat to replace the loss of agents in fields other than national security because his focus was almost exclusively on national security.

“Robert Mueller, the FBI’s director since 2001, said mortgage fraud needed to be considered ‘in context of other priorities,’ such as terrorism. He told the Commission that he hired additional resources to fight fraud, but that ‘we didn’t get what we had requested’ during the budget process. He also said that the FBI allocated additional resources to reflect the growth in mortgage fraud, but acknowledged that those resources may have been insufficient. ‘I am not going to tell you that that is adequate for what is out there,” he said. In the wake of the crisis, the FBI is continuing to investigate fraud, and Mueller suggested that some prosecutions may be still to come’” (FCIC 2011: 163).
“Some prosecutions may be still to come” – what a forlorn hope.  Since he uttered the forlorn hope there have been zero prosecutions of the senior officers of the control frauds that caused the crisis.  “Terrorism” cannot be accepted as an excuse for failing in the FBI’s responsibilities, yet Mueller remains blind to the costs to the Nation of the FBI’s mono-focus on national security.
A million dollars... hmmm... could you purchase a hellfire missile for that?
Federal Government Plans To Kill Hundreds Of Desert Tortoises To Save $1 Million A Year

Outside Las Vegas is a facility that has served as the last line of defense for the beautiful desert tortoise — an animal forced near extinction by developers and sprawling suburbs. Tortoises are brought to the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, which is largely supported by developer fees and federal support. Now, due to a lack of federal funding, the federal government plans to euthanize hundreds of the tortoises — animals added to the endangered species list in 1990. The cost? One million dollars a year. So our government continues to waste billions in Iraq and Afghanistan while exploring a new war in Syria, but we cannot support a $1 million budget that is so important to the preservation of this species.

Internet Architects Plan Counter-Attack On NSA Snooping

“Not having encryption on the web today is a matter of life and death,” is how one member of the Internet Engineering Task Force – IETF (the so-called architects of the web) described the current situation. As the FT reports, the IETF have started to fight back against US and UK snooping programs by drawing up an ambitious plan to defend traffic over the world wide web against mass surveillance. The proposal is a system in which all communication between websites and browsers would be shielded by encryption. While the plan is at an early stage, it has the potential to transform a large part of the internet and make it more difficult for governments, companies and criminals to eavesdrop on people as they browse the web.

UN says nations are barred from spying on it, will address US about Snowden leak on hacking

The United Nations said Monday that it will contact the United States about reports that the National Security Agency hacked its internal communications, and the world body emphasized that international treaties protect its offices and all diplomatic missions from interference, spying and eavesdropping.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday that the United Nations will “reach out” to U.S. officials about the reports of eavesdropping, as it has in the past when such allegations have been raised. ...

The 1961 Vienna Convention regulates diplomatic issues and status among nations and international organizations. Among other things, it says a host country cannot search diplomatic premises or seize its documents or property. It also says the host government must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country.

World Press Slams UK Threats Over Snowden Docs

Threats by U.K. officials that the Guardian must "hand the Snowden material back or destroy it" have drawn the ire of the world's press, which has slammed the "intimidation" as having a "chilling effect on press freedom."

In a protest letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications and 15,000 online sites in over 120 countries, write, in part:

According to reports, the decision to destroy the equipment was made by Guardian staff in response to the threat of legal action by the UK government. In attempting to exercise prior-restraint, the government’s aim was to prevent the publication of reports based on the leaked files supplied by National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistle-blower, Edward Snowden.

That your government felt the need to threaten legal action in order to block reporting into issues of public interest is deeply regrettable. Furthermore, WAN-IFRA is extremely concerned that the government’s actions were an act of intimidation that could have a chilling effect on press freedom in the UK and beyond.  

WAN-IFRA fully supports the actions of Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, who explained on numerous occasions that copies of the information stored on the hard drives were held elsewhere under foreign jurisdictions, and that physically handing them over to UK government authorities or destroying them would be a symbolic gesture only.

The global group also slammed as a sign of declining press freedom the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.


From the Imgur Public Gallery

Looking down from the Eiffel Tower

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

The Prince: Meet the Man Who Co-Opted Democracy in the Middle East

FBI Whistleblower Was Allegedly Terminated for Reporting Fraud & Sexual Misconduct Involving Prostitutes

Hat tip to lotilizard:

A CIA Hand in a "Coup" Against Jimmy Carter?

Hat tip cosmic debris:

A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad

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Bus Stop- The Hollies - 1966

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