Jan 12, 2017

TechDirt: FBI Using Some GeekSquad Employees to Spy for Them?

FBI Badge & gun.
Well this is certainly worrisome and most would probably consider this unethical and perhaps illegal? TechDirt, (great resource by the way, see previous post) is reporting that court documents seem to indicate that the FBI is skirting around the law, (not using warrants) by paying Best Buy Geek Squad techs to spy for them. Surely this is done with Best Buy's knowledge and approval?
Read the entire story

Webweenie is Proud to Support TechDirts Fight!

Support TechDirt a Much Needed Investigative Resource for Tech Issues
For more information on TechDirt's fight against this frivolous lawsuit (In my opinion) please visit this page on The Electronic Frontier's website. Tech Dirt also released the following statement on this litigation:
Defamation claims like this can force independent media companies to capitulate and shut down due to mounting legal costs…this is not a fight about who invented email. This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.

Jan 11, 2017

The Donald's (President Elect) Press Conference January 11, 2017

By now I'm sure everyone has heard of the press conference, which has had some quotable moments. I think we should all give the man a chance, we don't know how good, or bad, he'll be as of yet, until he's done at least 1 year in office. In my opinion. Enough of the speculation, please!
Anyway, the entire press conference is available for viewing here. Enjoy, or not. ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)

Rebels Surrender in Syria's Wadi Barada

English: A Syrian army officer stands at atten...
AMN news reports:
BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:30 P.M.) - A large group of rebels int the Wadi Barada area surrendered to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) on Wednesday after a temporary agreement was put in place between the government and opposition.
Russia Today's (RT) Lizzie Phelan reported on Wednesday that at least 300 rebel fighters surrendered to the Syrian Arab Army inside the town of Deir Qannoun, as they see no reason to continue their fight.
Clashes are reportedly still taking place inside the Wadi Barada area, despite claims by the Damascus Governor of a ceasefire being implemented.
Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) claimed that 50 militants have surrendered and over 600 people have managed to reach the Syrian Army's front-lines for safety - no confirmation from ground sources.
As far as the reported ceasefire, it appears to be holding among the non-jihadist rebels and Syrian Army; however, groups like Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham have not agreed to terms.
Update: Apparently not all the rebels surrendered - some refused to take part in the deal, showing how disjointed the various rebel factions are. No central leadership, which has been their downfall.

 Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Dec 31, 2016

News From Libya on the War Against #ISIS For December 2016

Flag-map of Libya
Flag-map of Libya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From 'Eye On ISIS in Libya' comes the following article:

December 20, 2016 

On 14 December, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar called on his officers and soldiers to be ready for the offensive to ‘free’ Tripoli. An LNA spokesperson said plans to achieve this were already underway. However, it is likely that any attempt by LNA forces to take Tripoli by force will unite Tripoli’s currently divided militia forces (both pro and anti-GNA) against the LNA.
The LNA’s operation room in western Libya is situated in Zintan and led by Zintani Brigadier Idris Madi. However, the powerful LNA-aligned city appears to be divided over launching a new offensive in Tripoli. Both Misrata and Zintan military councils issued statements distancing themselves from Haftar’s announcement to seize Tripoli, stressing the need for peaceful political process. On 16 December, Libyan National Army (LNA) units were sent to reinforce the LNA-controlled Watiya airbase south-west of Sabratha and then advanced to within 20 km south of Zawiyya.

Dec 23, 2016

Links for November 19 to December 21 via The Arabist

Thanks to The Arabist for providing the below links:

Dec 8, 2016

Libya Political Agreement Still On?

Good article from Eye On Isis in Libya yesterday:

UN Envoy Martin Kobler has insisted that he will not give up on getting the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and the GNA approved by the HoR, while also denying that he is considering resignation. On November 29, Kobler flew to Tobruk to meet with HoR Vice President Emhemed Shuaib, in an attempt to reactivate an HoR vote on the LPA. However, news of Kobler’s arrival spread quickly. Anti-GNA demonstrations were triggered, forcing Kobler to stay at the airport to met Shuaib. 
In an open conversation with the Libya Herald on 3 December, Kobler said that the LPA is not set in stone, indicating that re-negotiation of certain points in the 2015 Skhirat agreement is possible, including notably those preventing Marshal Khalifa Haftar remaining in control of the LNA. In that interview, Kobler also lamented the militia clashes in Tripoli, saying they exposed the failure of the security arrangements section in the LPA. Kobler highlighted that a meeting will be held in New York at the UN Security Council on 6 December to take stock of the LPA process as a whole, which may lead to an extension of the UNSMIL mandate.

Nov 6, 2016

Do We Hear Both Sides in an Unbiased Way: Mosul vs Aleppo?

'Good Bombs' Western media justify civilian victims from coalition attacks

Media should report in an unbiased manner regarding any conflict, but especially so in a very complicated, muddied Middle-East. 
Listening to the rhetoric, especially from the US side, is embarrassing. 

Urban combat is extremely difficult - even more so when bombing from the air. The US should put away it's 'air of superiority' when talking about how the Russians are engaging the takfiri militant terrorists in Aleppo City, Syria. Full Stop!



Nov 5, 2016

Western Hypocrisy & Propaganda

ConsortiumNews has an excellent piece written by Gareth Porter, an award winning investigative journalist. Remember them, dear reader?!
Amid the sludge of propaganda, it’s hard to know what’s really happening in Syria, but the West’s outrage over Russian-inflicted civilian casualties is clearly hypocritical given the U.S.-Israeli slaughters elsewhere in the region, notes Gareth Porter.
By Gareth Porter
The Russian-Syrian bombing campaign in eastern Aleppo, which has ended at least for the time being, has been described in press reports and op-eds as though it were unique in modern military history in its indiscriminateness. In an unusual move for a senior U.S. official, Secretary of State John Kerry called for an investigation of war crimes in Aleppo.
The discussion has been lacking in historical context, however. Certainly the civilian death toll from the bombing and shelling in Aleppo has been high, but many of the strikes may not be all that dissimilar from the major U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq in 2003, nor as indiscriminate as Israel’s recent campaigns in densely populated cities.
At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as "shock and awe."
At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”
The impression that the bombing in Aleppo was uniquely indiscriminate was a result of news reporting and commentary suggesting, by implication, that there are no real military targets in east Aleppo.
But in fact, al-Nusra Front (Al Qaeda’s affiliate) turned Aleppo into the central hub of a massive system of conventional warfare in Aleppo province in late January 2016 when it sent an enormous convoy of at least 200 vehicles with troops and weaponry into eastern Aleppo. A dramatic three-minute al-Nusra video shows what appears to be hundreds of vehicles full of troops and trucks with weapons mounted on them.
The Russian command in Syria has drones observing the routes in and out of Aleppo, so it certainly knew where many of those military sites were located. Syrian opposition sources also revealed that Nusra began immediately to put the military assets at its disposal underground, digging deep bunkers to protect troops, military equipment and tunnels through which troops and weapons could be moved unseen.
The move underground explains the Russian use of bunker-buster bombs for the first time in the war. As the Guardian reported, Justin Bronk of the British defense think tank Royal United Service Institute concluded that the Russians “have high-grade intelligence of the whereabouts of Syrian opposition positions,” mainly because bunker buster bombs are too expensive to use simply to destroy buildings at random.
But like Hamas fighters in Gaza in 2014, the Nusra Front-led command in Aleppo has moved its troops, weapons and command centers around in the tunnels that they have built. So many of the Russian and Syrian air strikes are almost certainly hitting targets that have already been abandoned. And in other cases, the wrong target has undoubtedly been hit.
The Aleppo Health Directorate, a local monitoring group, estimated that 400 civilians had been killed in the first three weeks of bombing in east Aleppo. The United Nations put the death toll at 360. Read rest of story

Nov 1, 2016

The Syrian Revolution That Really Wasn't

Stephen Gowan's Wordpress blog, recently penned this extremely interesting and well thought out position on how the Syrian "Revolution" came to be. Some of you may find this surprising, others of us came to this conclusion some time ago. It's difficult to follow these events in the Middle East and not come to this same conclusion, if one is unbiased at the start.
Apparently, the US Left has yet to figure out that Washington doesn’t try to overthrow neoliberals. If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were a devotee of the Washington Consensus–as Counterpunch’s Eric Draitser seems to believe–the United States government wouldn’t have been calling since 2003 for Assad to step down. Nor would it be overseeing the Islamist guerilla war against his government; it would be protecting him.
By Stephen Gowans
There is a shibboleth in some circles that, as Eric Draitser put it in a recent Counterpunch article, the uprising in Syria “began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality,” and that “the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists.” This theory appears, as far as I can tell, to be based on argument by assertion, not evidence.
A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the mid-March 2011 outbreak of riots in Daraa—usually recognized as the beginning of the uprising—offers no indication that Syria was in the grips of a revolutionary distemper, whether anti-neo-liberal or otherwise. On the contrary, reporters representing Time magazine and the New York Times referred to the government as having broad support, of critics conceding that Assad was popular, and of Syrians exhibiting little interest in protest. At the same time, they described the unrest as a series of riots involving hundreds, and not thousands or tens of thousands of people, guided by a largely Islamist agenda and exhibiting a violent character.
Time magazine reported that two jihadist groups that would later play lead roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while a mere three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced “their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.” The Muslim Brothers, who had decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party, objecting violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s. (In one such battle, Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father, who himself would serve as president from 1970 to 2000, was knifed by a Muslim Brother adversary.) The Brotherhood’s leaders, beginning in 2007, met frequently with the US State Department and the US National Security Council, as well as with the US government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, which had taken on the overt role of funding overseas overthrow organizations—a task the CIA had previously done covertly.
Washington had conspired to purge Arab nationalist influence from Syria as early as the mid-1950s, when Kermit Roosevelt, who engineered the overthrow of Iran’s prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh for nationalizing his country’s oil industry, plotted with British intelligence to stir up the Muslim Brothers to overthrow a triumvirate of Arab nationalist and communist leaders in Damascus who Washington and London perceived as threatening Western economic interests in the Middle East.
Washington funnelled arms to Brotherhood mujahedeen in the 1980s to wage urban guerrilla warfare against Hafez al-Assad, who hardliners in Washington called an “Arab communist.” His son, Bashar, continued the Arab nationalists’ commitment to unity (of the Arab nation), independence, and (Arab) socialism. These goals guided the Syrian state—as they had done the Arab nationalist states of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq under Saddam. All three states were targeted by Washington for the same reason: their Arab nationalist commitments clashed fundamentally with the US imperialist agenda of US global leadership.
Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to renounce Arab nationalist ideology dismayed Washington, which complained about his socialism, the third part of the Ba’athists’ holy trinity of values. Plans to oust Assad—based in part on his failure to embrace Washington’s neo-liberalism—were already in preparation in Washington by 2003, if not earlier. If Assad was championing neo-liberalism, as Draitser and others contend, it somehow escaped the notice of Washington and Wall Street, which complained about “socialist” Syria and the country’s decidedly anti-neoliberal economic policies.
A Death Feud Heats Up With US Assistance
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