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Kerry's Claims on Syrian Opposition Don't Hold Up
Though he spent much of the week trying convince lawmakers about the solidity of the Obama administration's case for war against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry and his testimony before Congress have become the target of pushback Thursday as experts on the situation took issue with his overly "optimistic" characterization of the opposition forces inside the war-torn country.
Specifically, as Reuters reports, "Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements."
Pressed by many members of the House Foreign Relations Committe on Wednesday about the dominance of Al-Qaeda-affiliated militias within the ranks of the anti-government forces and amid repeated questions about "who exactly" the U.S. would be supporting if it deepened its military involvement in Syria's civil war with military strikes, Kerry made assurances in his testimony that the Syrian opposition had "increasingly become more defined by its moderation."
However, as an explosive story on the frontpage of the New York Times on Thursday illustrates, key factions within those forces have been shown to use brutal tactics—including summary executions—in their attempts to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Top Chemical Weapons Expert Highly Skeptical of U.S. Case Against Syrian GovernmentSounds like somebody in the White House has engaged the lobbying services of AIPAC and set loose one of Washington's most effective lobbying machines on Congress:
Western Samples Were Selectively Chosen Without a Verifiable Chain of Custody … We Must Wait for UN Report Before Reaching Any Conclusions
Jean Pascal Zanders is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s top chemical weapons experts, having been quoted in the last two weeks about Syrian chemical weapons by McClatchy, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Post-Gazette, Huffington Post, Der Spiegel, Agence France-Presse, Global Post, the Telegraph, and many other publications.
Q: Do you have any knowledge about whether the chain of custody of alleged U.S. tests which Kerry talked about are proper?
Zanders: No, and that’s part of my criticism that Western governments have overstated their case.
We do not know where the samples come from. And we do not know how representative they are for a certain area.
Certain samples could have been selectively given to Western sources for analysis. Assume that you do not know where a sample comes from … your whole chain of custody is compromised.
That’s why UN inspectors can only use samples they have collected themselves.
There was an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago saying that Prince Bandar got one alleged victim of chemical warfare out of the country, sent him to the UK, and that person is the basis of which the British made their claims about Syrian chemical weapons use. [Article.]
That goes to a single person. This is quite remarkable, if true.
AIPAC in Full Court Press on Syria
A senior official at AIPAC tells The Daily Beast that the organization’s leadership received a phone call from a senior White House official on Saturday, after the president’s surprise announcement that he would be seeking congressional authorization for a Syria strike, asking what AIPAC's position would be on a congressional resolution. This official said the lobby received similar calls from Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. ...
The senior AIPAC official said the conversation with the White House was informational. “‘Where are you going to be on this?’ That was a similar message that came from the Hill as well,” this official said in describing the call from the White House and congressional leaders. “It was not so much an ask as much as an inquiry of where you are going to be.”
But, this official also said, the message was clear that AIPAC’s participation in the lobbying effort to pass the authorization “would be helpful.”
AIPAC to go all-out on Syria
The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is planning to launch a major lobbying campaign to push wayward lawmakers to back the resolution authorizing U.S. strikes against Syria, sources said Thursday.
Officials say that some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that “barbarism” by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would “send a message” to Tehran that the U.S. won’t stand up to hostile countries’ efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group.
Pressure grows on Obama over Syria at G20 summit
The first round at the summit went to Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and Pope Francis - in a letter - warned of the dangers of military intervention without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.
"Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price," Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said.
The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - echoed that remark, and the Pope, who leads the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, urged the G20 leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution".
European Union leaders described the August 21 attack near Damascus, which killed up to 1,400 people, as "abhorrent" but said: "There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict."
Obama is unlikely to be deterred. He said before talks with Japan's prime minister on the sidelines of the summit that the use of chemical arms in Syria was "not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed."
Is The United States Going To Go To War With Syria Over A Natural Gas Pipeline?
Why has the little nation of Qatar spent 3 billion dollars to support the rebels in Syria? Could it be because Qatar is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won't let them build a natural gas pipeline through Syria? Of course. Qatar wants to install a puppet regime in Syria that will allow them to build a pipeline which will enable them to sell lots and lots of natural gas to Europe. Why is Saudi Arabia spending huge amounts of money to help the rebels and why has Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan been "jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime"? Well, it turns out that Saudi Arabia intends to install their own puppet government in Syria which will allow the Saudis to control the flow of energy through the region. On the other side, Russia very much prefers the Assad regime for a whole bunch of reasons. One of those reasons is that Assad is helping to block the flow of natural gas out of the Persian Gulf into Europe, thus ensuring higher profits for Gazprom. Now the United States is getting directly involved in the conflict. If the U.S. is successful in getting rid of the Assad regime, it will be good for either the Saudis or Qatar (and possibly for both), and it will be really bad for Russia. This is a strategic geopolitical conflict about natural resources, religion and money, and it really has nothing to do with chemical weapons at all.
75,000 troops needed to secure chemical weapons if Damascus falls
The potential of strategic US strikes in Syria has sparked fears Damascus’ chemical weapons could fall into the wrong hands if the government is toppled. A recent congressional report says 75,000 troops would be needed to safeguard the WMD caches.
The Congressional Research Center (CRS) report, issued just one day before the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, was compiled with the aim of “responding to possible scenarios involving the use, change of hands, or loss of control of Syrian chemical weapons.”
It states that Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles, which a French intelligence report recently estimated at over 1,000 tons, have been secured by Syrian special forces. ...
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned the ouster of Assad would present a scenario “100 times worse than what we dealt with in Libya.”
In order to secure the 50 chemical weapon and production sites spread across Syria, in addition to storage and research facilities, “The Pentagon has estimated that it would take over 75,000 troops to neutralize the chemical weapons,” the document continues, citing a February 2012 CNN report.
Revealed: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Security
The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.
The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.
Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.
Obama goes to Europe, says U.S. not snooping on ordinary people
The United States does not spy on ordinary people's mail and phone calls, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday, insisting that U.S. intelligence gathering was targeted at specific areas of concern. ...
"I can give assurances to the public in Europe and around the world that we are not going around snooping at people's emails or listening to their phone calls," Obama said during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
"What we try to do is to target, very specifically, areas of concern," he said, adding that such areas included counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and cyber-security.
Obama has said safeguards should be strengthened to make sure surveillance programs stay within certain parameters.
Confirmed: Fracking practices to blame for Ohio earthquakes
Wastewater from the controversial practice of fracking appears to be linked to all the earthquakes in a town in Ohio that had no known past quakes, research now reveals. ...
Before January 2011, Youngstown, Ohio, which is located on the Marcellus Shale, had never experienced an earthquake, at least not since researchers began observations in 1776. However, in December 2010, the Northstar 1 injection well came online to pump wastewater from fracking projects in Pennsylvania into storage deep underground. In the year that followed, seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes, the strongest registering a magnitude-3.9 earthquake on Dec. 31, 2011. The well was shut down after the quake.
Scientists have known for decades that fracking and wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes. For instance, it appears linked with Oklahoma's strongest recorded quake in 2011, as well as a rash of more than 180 minor tremors in Texas between Oct. 30, 2008, and May 31, 2009.
The new investigation of the Youngstown earthquakes, detailed in the July issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, reveals that their onset, end and even temporary dips in activity were apparently all tied to activity at the Northstar 1 well.
Japan's Plan for Radioactive Waste Water: Into the Ocean
Spreading radiation and suspected new leaks are plaguing the ongoing disaster site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant on Monday, while the head of Japan's nuclear regulatory body warned that there may be no other option than to dump radioactive waste water into the Pacific. ,,,
"I'm afraid that it is unavoidable to dump or release the water into the sea," Shunichi Tanaka, head of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, said on Monday.
"If we decide to discharge water into the ocean, we will use various methods to ensure that radiation is below accepted levels," Tanaka told reporters in Tokyo. "We will have to dispose of it eventually, but we are committed to reducing or removing radioactive materials."
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at the White House, Sat, Sep 07, 2013 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
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