Nov 13

Today’s News 13th November 2017

  • US, Russia Agree On "Iran-Free Zone" In Syria

    Multiple Israeli news outlets reported Saturday that the US, Russia, and Jordan have reached a ceasefire agreement over southern Syria which proposes to expel Iran-backed militias from the border with Israel in the Golan Heights. The reports came on the same day presidents Trump and Putin issued a joint statement on Syria after meeting on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Danang, Vietnam, which reaffirmed de-confliction efforts as both countries fight ISIS and underscored willingness to keep Syria's territorial integrity intact while pursuing the Geneva process.

    Though the joint statement references the "Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan", it doesn't make explicit reference to Iran or Hezbollah, but more broadly to efforts for "the reduction, and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace."


    Image source: Getty images

    But according to The Times of Israel, the Amman agreement is geared toward preventing a continuing Iranian presence in Syria:

    Under the agreement apparently inked Saturday, all non-Syrian fighters, including Iranian proxies fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, would be required to leave the border area and eventually Syria, Hebrew media reports said Sunday, citing an American official.

    Currently, there's been no confirmation of whether or not the deal actually singles out "Iranian proxies" or if Israel had any influence within the negotiations. The deal is based on a previous ceasefire agreement reached in July in Astana, Kazakhstan – a deal which Israel blasted at the time as being too tolerant of Iran's presence in Syria. 

    As part of the Astana talks, Trump agreed to a southwest Syria 'de-escalation zone' with Russia, which would necessarily involve Iranian cooperation. The agreement implicitly acknowledged Iran's troop presence in Syria as legitimate, and as reported at the time further "ignored Israel’s positions almost completely." But analysts have been in general agreement that the US-Russia brokered deal has been relatively successful and a step in the right direction

    A subsequent Reuters report covering a contentious Netanyahu-Putin meeting in August bluntly acknowledged Israel's willingness to see the Iranian and Shia allies of Assad expelled from the region, even if that should mean the ascendancy of ISIS. According to the Reuters report

    In parallel to lobbying Moscow, Israel has been trying to persuade Washington that Iran and its guerrilla partners, not Islamic State, pose the greater common threat in the region.

    For this reason, Israel has blamed – seemingly without any pretense of an investigation – each and every border incident on Syria and its allies, to the point that even when anti-Assad groups fire mortars in the direction of Israeli territory, the Israeli military response targets Syrian government forces.  

    This phenomenon has been long recorded by United Nations investigative reports. For example, in October 2014 the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which at that time still had a significant presence in the Golan area, reported to the UN Security Council:

    On 23 June [2014], Israel targeted nine Syrian army positions with tank fire and air strikes after mortar fire from the Syrian side the previous day killed an Israeli civilian. Israel’s assessment is that most of these incidents are due to errant fire resulting from fighting in Syria. Israel said that armed opposition groups were probably responsible but that its forces fired on Syrian military positions to stress that Syria was responsible for security on its side of the ceasefire line.

    Since then Israel has repeatedly struck targets inside Syria deemed to be Hezbollah weapons storage locations – and over the past year such airstrikes have occurred almost weekly – with Israeli jets often firing from over Lebanese airspace. 

    And again over the weekend Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly shot down a drone above the Golan Heights, which the IDF claimed was a "Syrian Spy drone" which originated with either Iran or Hezbollah. The incident prompted Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman to once again threaten Syria. “The Syrian regime is responsible for every attack and violation of our sovereignty, and we will not allow the Shiite axis to be established in Syria as a base for action,” Liberman said.

    On Friday Israel continued to escalate its rhetoric after a dubious report published by the BBC claimed that Iran has established a military base at a site used by the Syrian army outside El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus. For Israel this would constitute the crossing of a "red line" by Iran: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned that Iran wanted to establish itself militarily in Syria. "Israel will not let that happen," he said.

    Though Israeli media appears to be reporting the latest 'deescalation agreement' in southern Syria which would force the exit of Iranian proxies as an Israeli diplomatic victory, it is unlikely that Israel's heightening war rhetoric will cease.

  • The Crimes Americans Worry About Most

    Even though 2017 is already the worst year for mass shootings in modern U.S. history, Americans are more worried about cybercrime than violent crime.

    That's according to a new Gallup poll which found that 67 percent of U.S. adults frequently or occasionally fret about having personal, credit card or financial information stolen by hackers. 66 percent also worry about the threat presented by identity theft.

    In comparison with cybercrime, Statista's Niall McCarthy notes that anxiety about conventional crime forms is less prevalent with a large gap to the third-biggest worry – having a car stolen or broken into. That's a frequent concern for 38 percent of people while 36 percent tend to worry about burglary when they are away from home.

    Infographic: The Crimes Americans Worry About Most  | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    More serious crimes such as muggings, murders and sexual assault are much further down the list, but why?

    The reason cybercrime comes first is more than likely due to far higher levels of victimization, along with substantial coverage in the media. Gallup also found that a quarter of households have experienced hackers stealing their personal information while a mere three percent have experienced a burglary.

  • Why Robert Mueller Was Selected To Be The Special Prosecutor

    Authored by Eric Zuesse,

    It all began with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in the Saudi city of Khobar, which killed 19 U.S. military, who worked at the Dharan air base three miles away.

    That incident became the lynchpin of the accusation by the Saudi royal family, the U.S. State Department, and the CIA, that Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

    Both Robert Mueller and his longtime ally James Comey (the latter of whose firing as the FBI chief, by U.S. President Trump, had sparked the appointment of Mueller to become the Special Counsel investigating the U.S. President) performed crucial roles in establishing that the Khobar Towers bombing had been a Hezbollah operation run by the Iranian Government – and, starting upon this basis, in helping to develop the case that Iran “is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.”

    However, as has been made clear by several great independent investigative journalists, on the basis of far more-solid documentation than the official account, the Khobar Towers bombing was instead entirely a fundamentalist-Sunni operation, specifically perpetrated by Al Qaeda, which hates Shia and which also hates America’s military presence in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden’s claim of the bombing's having been done by Al Qaeda, was, in fact, entirely honest and accurate.

    America’s “Deep State,” which extends to Saudi Arabia and to a number of other Governments – it’s an international network – is deeply committed to supporting the fundamentalist-Sunni war to conquer and destroy Shia Islam, and not merely to conquer the leading Shia nation, which is Iran. The U.S. Government has intensely taken a side in the Sunni-Shia religious war. That war is comparable in some respects to the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants, which killed an estimated eight million Europeans; and, both the United States and Israel have clearly joined with the fundamentalist-Sunni leaders, against Iran, and against Shia generally.

    The reasons behind the prevailing lies about this matter will also be documented here. Discrepancies between the official story and the solidly documented facts, need to be explained, in order for a reader to be able to understand truthfully why Mueller (who cooperated with Comey in order to rig the official account of the bombing, so as to condemn Iran and Hezbollah instead of Al Qaeda) received his appointment. This is also important in order to understand why Trump, though rabidly anti-Iranian himself, is nonetheless insufficiently anti-Iranian to satisfy the Sauds, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the rest of the U.S.-and-allied Deep State.

    Before proceeding further here, however, the statistical falseness of the allegation that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism has to be clearly recognized as being the ultimate fact; because, if this entire question – to which Mueller and Comey contributed so importantly to answering by their identifying Iran (and Shia generally) as being precisely that (‘the foremost state sponsor of terrorism’) — can be assessed at all objectively, then the statistical answer to it would certainly be the objective one.

    Wikipedia’s article on “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism” says: “According to the Global Terrorism Database, the majority of deaths, more than 94% attributed to Islamic terrorism since 2001, were perpetrated by Sunni jihadists of the Islamic Stateal-Qaeda and others.[3][4].” Only 6% were Shiites, at all — from any country. Similarly, my own independent study of 54 especially prominent global instances of Islamic terrorism was headlined (and reported that) "All Islamic Terrorism Is Perpetrated by Fundamentalist Sunnis, Except Terrorism Against Israel.” (The anti-Israel terrorist instances might constitute the “6%” which was referred to in the Wikipedia article, but that article provided no good link to its source for the “6%” figure.)

    So: the basic allegation is false, that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism; the general allegation isn’t anywhere near to being true. It’s a lie.

    More specifically, now, regarding the Khobar Towers incident, which triggered the start of this fraudulent generalization:

    The Saudi royal family asserted, immediately after the bombing, that the attack had been perpetrated by jihadists who had returned from Afghanistan and who were now fighting to overthrow Saudi Arabia’s Government (the royal Saud family).

    For example, on 15 August 1996, the New York Times headlined "Saudi Rebels Are Main Suspects In June Bombing of a U.S. Base”, and reported that, “The Government of Saudi Arabia now believes that native Saudi Islamic militants, including many veterans of the Afghan war, carried out the June 25 bombing that killed 19 American servicemen at a base in Dhahran, Saudi officials said today.” However, the “mujahideen” who had fought in Afghanistan were paid and backed both by the Sauds and by the U.S. Government, For example, as early as 1979, Zbigniew Brzezinski flew into Pakistan and exhorted the Taliban there to become mujahideen in Afghanistan because “That land over there is yours; you’ll go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail, and you will have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.”

    Then, starting in 1980, “From the Pakistani border, bin Laden raises funds and provides the mujahedeen with logistical and humanitarian aid.” So, the Sauds’ allegation that the Khobar bombers had been “veterans of the Afghan war” would have meant that they had been foot-soldiers for the U.S.-Saudi operation in Afghanistan. Both the U.S. Government and the Saud family (who own the Saudi Government) hate Shia and especially hate Iran. Hezbollah are Shia, and they are extremely pro-Iran. How likely is it that Hezbollah, anywhere, would have been fighting under the command of Al Qaeda, or of any other fundamentalist-Sunni jihadist organization that calls all Shia “infidels”? So, the Sauds’ account of the Khobar Towers bombing is fishy, at best.

    Furthermore, a Google-search for the phrase “Hezbollah in Afghanistan” turns up only “6 results,” and all of them say nothing about any “Hezbollah in Afghanistan.” No report comes up about such a thing, for any year, or any period. The only countries where Hezbollah was reported to exist were Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. One of the links in that Google search was globally comprehensive for the year 2007, the Center on International Cooperation’s “Annual Review of Global Peace Operations — 2007”. It included reports on wars during that year, in 26 countries, and the chapter for Afghanistan (pages 52-58) doesn’t mention Hezbollah even once. However, a search for the phrase ”Hezbollah Afghanistan” does bring up “Syria's Other Foreign Fighters: Iran's Afghan and Pakistani Mercenaries”, at the neoconservative (and thus favoring not only the American aristocracy but its allied aristocracies — especially in Saudi Arabia and Israel) The National Interest, dated 20 November 2015. That article says, “The liwa’ fatimiyun (Fatimiyun Brigade) is composed exclusively of Afghans and fights under the auspices of Hezbollah Afghanistan,” based in Syria. Other supposed foreign Shiites trying to overthrow Syria’s Government are mentioned, as being supposedly “Pakistanis fighting in Syria under the Hezbollah flag.” However, if these allegations are true, then those men would be opponents of Syria’s secular government, which is headed by the secular Shiite Bashar al-Assad, who is being attacked by fundamentalist Sunnis — including both ISIS and Al Qaeda there — who are trying to kill Hezbollah in Syria, who are, in fact, defending Assad. (Such illogical ‘historical’ accounts as that, are normal in neoconservative publications — counterfactuality is entirely acceptable to them.) Either that, or else the alleged Shiite Pakistanis who are fighting in Syria to overthrow the Shiite Assad and replace him with a fundamentalist Sunni regime, would be — not actually members of Hezbollah, but instead — Shiites from Pakistan who came to Syria in order to help actually not to overthrow the Government but to defend it against its rabidly anti-Shia attackers. That’s the opposite of the assumption that The National Interest made, but it conceivably could be the case. A Pew survey scientifically randomly sampled 1,512 Pakistanis, and found that 1,450 of them declared themselves to be “Muslim,” which is 96%. It also found that 94% of Pakistanis (of any or no faith) say that religion is “very important” in their lives, and found that 81% of the Muslims said they were “Sunni,” 6% said they were “Shiite,” and 12% said they were “Just a Muslim.” So, only 6% of Pakistanis identify themselves specifically as “Shia.” That is such a small percentage of Shiites in Pakistan, as to make unlikely any significant contribution that Pakistanis would be providing to the defense of Syria, which is at least 1,800 miles or 2,900 kilometers, away — not even in the same general region. But, in any case, that neoconservative magazine’s assumptions regarding the entire matter are clearly false.

    Clearly, then, the logical feasibility of the U.S. Government’s case against Iran is so tiny as to constitute almost an absolute impossibility of that case being true.

    Now, then, let’s consider the specifics of the case:

    The great investigative journalist Greg Palast, in his 2003 The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (pages 101-102), wrote:

    True-blue Democrats may want to skip the next paragraphs. If President Bush put the kibosh on investigations of Saudi funding of terror and nuclear bomb programs, this was merely taking a policy of Bill Clinton one step further.

     

    Following the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, Clinton hunted Osama with a passion — but a passion circumscribed by the desire to protect the sheikdom sitting atop our oil lifeline. In 1994, a Saudi diplomat defected to the United States with 14,000 pages of documents from the kingdom’s sealed file cabinets. This mother lode of intelligence included evidence of plans for the assassination of Saudi opponents living in the West and, tantalizingly, details of the $7 billion the Saudis gave to Saddam Hussein for his nuclear program — the first attempt to build an Islamic bomb. The Saudi government, according to the defector, Mohammed Al Khilewi, slipped Saddam the nuclear loot during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years when our government still thought Saddam too marvelous for words [because he was trying to slaughter Shiite Iran]. The thought was that he would only use the bomb to vaporize Iranians [which the rulers of both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — and of Israel — would love].

     

    Clinton granted the Saudi defector asylum, but barred the FBI from looking at the documents. Al Khilewi’s New York lawyer, Michael Wildes, told me he was stunned. Wildes handles some of America’s most security-sensitive asylum cases. “We said (to the FBI), ‘Here, take the documents! Go get some bad guys with them! We’ll even pay for the photocopying!” But the agents who came to his office had been ordered not to accept evidence of Saudi criminal activity, even on U.S. soil.

     

    In 1997, the Canadians caught and extradited to America one of the [Saudi-Government-alleged] Khobar Towers attackers. In 1999, Vernon Jordan’s law firm stepped in and — poof! — the [Saudi-alleged] killer was shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he could reveal all he knew about Al Qaeda (valuable) and the Saudis (embarrassing). I reviewed but was not permitted to take notes on, the alleged [finally, Palast is getting that right] terrorist’s debriefing by the FBI. To my admittedly inexpert eyes, there was enough on Al Qaeda to make him a source on terrorists worth holding on to. Not that he was set free — he’s in one of the kingdom’s dungeons [likelier dead soon after arriving back in Saudi Arabia] — but his info is sealed up with him. The terrorist’s extradition was “Clinton’s.” “Clinton’s parting kiss to the Saudis,” as one insider put it.

    Another great investigative journalist is Seymour Hersh, who in the 22 October 2001 issue of the New Yorker, headlined “King’s Ransom” and he opened:

    Since 1994 or earlier, the National Security Agency has been collecting electronic intercepts of conversations between members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, which is headed by King Fahd. The intercepts depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channelling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.

     

    The intercepts have demonstrated to analysts that by 1996 Saudi money was supporting Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Central Asia, and throughout the Persian Gulf region. "Ninety-six is the key year," one American intelligence official told me. "Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys — it's like the Grand Alliance — and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations." The Saudi regime, he said, had "gone to the dark side.”

    Subsequently, he noted:

    In 1994, Mohammed al-Khilewi, the first secretary at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, defected and sought political asylum in the United States. He brought with him, according to his New York lawyer, Michael J. Wildes, some fourteen thousand internal government documents depicting the Saudi royal family's corruption, human-rights abuses, and financial support for terrorists.

     

    He claimed to have evidence that the Saudis had given financial and technical support to Hamas, the extremist Islamic group whose target is Israel. There was a meeting at the lawyer's office with two F.B.I. agents and an Assistant United States Attorney. "We gave them a sampling of the documents and put them on the table," Wildes told me last week. "But the agents refused to accept them." He and his client heard nothing further from federal authorities. Al-Khilewi, who was granted asylum, is now living under cover.

     

    The Saudis were also shielded from Washington's foreign-policy bureaucracy. A government expert on Saudi affairs told me that Prince Bandar dealt exclusively with the men at the top, and never met with desk officers and the like. "Only a tiny handful of people inside the government are familiar with U.S.-Saudi relations," he explained. "And that is purposeful."

    Both Mueller and Comey were high enough “at the top” so as to know what the people below them needed to hide in order to succeed in their careers.

    The New York Times’s report, on 15 August 1996, quoted a leading Saudi dissident in London as asserting that, “As far as I know, Prince Nayef is keeping the Americans away from all the details at this point.” This report went on: “In a statement responding to the earlier reports of confessions, Prince Nayef said Saudi Arabia would make an announcement as soon as the investigation is completed. His comments were also viewed as refuting earlier suggestions by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who had said that Saudi investigations might point to an Iranian connection.” In other words, at that time (as of August 15th), the U.S. official was suggesting “an Iranian connection” but the Saudi official wasn’t — at least, not yet — and the expectation was that “confessions” would be providing the decisive ‘evidence’. However, these ‘confessions’, in Saudi cases are typically ‘information’ extracted under torture, and, where that fails to obtain the ‘information’ that’s desired by the Government, then threats to destroy the person’s immediate family are applied; so, the Sauds famously usually do get exactly the ‘information’ that they want (regardless of whether it’s true). 

    The Wikipedia article “Khobar Towers bombing” summarizes the ‘findings’ by the U.S. FBI and courts, and ignores the Sauds’ ‘investigation(s)’, because nothing was ever made public from the Sauds’ Government or officials or anyone there, about what they ‘found’ (other than ‘found’ by torture). Wikipedia’s article, which is based entirely upon the U.S. Government (the first party to broach publicly the possibility of “an Iranian connection”) states flatly, right up front, “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz).” In common parlance, that’s Hezbollah, an “Iranian connection” — exactly what the U.S. Government wanted.

    Here’s what that article asserts regarding the operations of the alleged mastermind:

    In June 2001, an indictment was issued in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia charging the following people with murder, conspiracy, and other charges related to the bombing:[18]

    Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mughassil

    Al-Mughassil disappeared from the ‘news’ after the Sauds announced his capture in 2015, but Wikipedia on 6 November 2017 closed its bizarre article about him by saying, without comment, “Al-Mughassil was believed to be living in Iran.[1][2]” That footnote [1] linked to Front Page mag. in 2005, which actually said nothing of the sort; footnote [2] linked to FDD in 2006, which actually said nothing of the sort. The obvious likeliest explanation for Wikipedia’s blatant falsehoods there is Wikipedia’s being edited by the CIA, which serves the Sauds, just like the rest of America’s federal Government does.

    The Wikipedia article then continued by listing the other alleged defendants:

    • Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser
    • Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie
    • Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub
    • Hani al-Sayegh who had been previously in U.S. custody but deported to Saudi Arabia, when charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence.
    • Eight other Saudis
    • One Lebanese man listed as "John Doe".

    In July 2001, Saudi Arabia said that eleven of the people indicted in the US were in custody in Saudi prisons, and were to be tried in Saudi court, as the country refused to extradite any of them to the United States to stand trial.[19] The government has not since made public the outcome of the trial or the whereabouts of the prisoners.

    All six of the named persons there were Shiites in Saudi Arabia. The respective Wikipedia articles on each provide no evidence that any of them was at all involved in the bombing. However, the article on Hani al-Sayegh, who was living in Canada, is extraordinarily honest: it indicates that he said he had had nothing whatsoever to do with any bombings, nor any terrorism at all, and that the U.S. Government tried to get him to confess to something on the basis of which he could be tried and convicted in the U.S., but that he continued to resist all plea-offers, and to maintain that they were seeking to get him to lie, which he would not do. So, since the U.S. would not torture him on U.S. soil, the U.S. deported him “to Saudi Arabia on October 10, 1999 where it was assumed he would be executed upon arrival.[3][12].” But the Saudi regime never announced anything about any of the men they were charging in the Khobar Towers bombing.

    The FBI issued charges against al-Sayegh and 12 others (all allegedly Hezbollah) on 21 June 2001, for the bombing; and, since that time, the only publication of their names has been in regards to the mere presumption that they were guilty. Their indictments in the U.S.(without evidence), and (since the Saudi Government wouldn’t say anything about them — not even whether they were in prison or free there) the charge in U.S. courts that Iran had helped them to do it, were 100% based upon that ‘evidence’. Therefore, Iran was declared guilty in U.S. courts, and fined, again, and again, over $500 million in all, without any reliable evidence, at all, that Iran had anything to do with the Khobar Towers bombing. And, not a cent of those fines was paid; but the U.S. Government’s purpose was served nonetheless: getting Iran’s ‘guilt’ onto the official record, such that Wikipedia, for example could say “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz).”

    The Wikipedia article on the Khobar Towers bombing closed, however, by saying:

    William Perry, who was the United States Secretary of Defense at the time that this bombing happened, said in an interview in June 2007 that "he now believes al-Qaida rather than Iran was behind a 1996 truck bombing at an American military base.”[25]

     

    On December 22, 2006, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the attack, stating that the leading experts on Hezbollah presented "overwhelming" evidence of the group's involvement and that six captured Hezbollah members detailed the role of Iranian officials in providing money, plans, and maps.[4] This decision was reached as a default judgment, however, in which the Iranian government was not represented in court, and had no opportunity to challenge the allegations.

    People who trust the U.S. Government’s honesty will interpret the outcome as displaying legal and judicial incompetency, not as displaying political and propagandistic competency.

    William Perry announced his opinion only after the 2006 court ‘finding’ of Iran’s ‘guilt’ in the case. The UPI article on this opened and closed as follows:

    Perry: U.S. eyed Iran attack after bombing

    Published: June 6, 2007 at 4:25 PM

     

    WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) — A former U.S. defense secretary says he now believes al-Qaida rather than Iran was behind a 1996 truck bombing at an American military base.

     

    Former Defense Secretary William Perry said he had a contingency plan to attack Iran if the link had been proven, but evidence was not to either his nor President Bill Clinton's satisfaction.

     

    The attack would have struck "at a number of their military facilities that would have weakened — substantially weakened … the Iranian navy and air force," he said in New York Tuesday during a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. …

     

    "I believe that the Khobar Tower bombing was probably masterminded by Osama bin Laden," Perry said. "I can't be sure of that, but in retrospect, that's what I believe. At the time, he was not a suspect. At the time … all of the evidence was pointing to Iran."

     

    He said al-Qaida did not emerge as a major threat until Clinton's second term.

     

    "We probably should have been more concerned about it at the time than we were but in the first term we did not see Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida as a major factor, or one that we were concerned with," he said.

     

    In 2001, the U.S. Justice Department announced a 46-count indictment against 13 Saudis and one Lebanese man in the bombing. All were allegedly connected to Hezbollah, a terrorist group the United States believes is linked to Iran.

     

    Perry said the FBI strongly believed at the time the bombing was ordered by Iran, but Saudi officials tried to discourage that theory.

     

    "They feared what action we would take. They rightly feared it. In fact, I had a contingency plan for a strike on Iran, if it had been if it had been clearly established. But it was never clearly established, and so we never did that," Perry said.

    So, although Wikipedia started by alleging “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz)” — and in plain language, that’s Hezbollah — it ended by kaboshing that very theory of the case, which the Wikipedia article had been ‘documenting’ (with bad logic and some false ‘facts’).

    Subsequently, the fine investigative journalist Gareth Porter explained how Perry had come to think that Iran and Hezbollah had been the culprit. Perry had trusted the head of the FBI, Louis Freeh. Perry didn’t know that, behind the scenes, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud (who was his family’s U.S. Ambassador) had told Freeh that Iran and Hezbollah did it. Furthermore, the Sauds had actually blocked the FBI’s own investigators from having access to the site or to any of the evidence (other than by providing Freeh himself access to the torture-extracted ‘confessions’). Initially, in fact, the Sauds even started bulldozing the site.

    The first part of Porter’s five-part report was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 1: Al Qaeda Excluded from the Suspects List”. It said: “The Saudi bulldozing stopped only after Scott Erskine, the supervisory FBI special agent for international terrorism investigations, threatened that Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who happened to be in Saudi Arabia when the bomb exploded, would intervene personally on the matter.” It said there was: “a systematic effort by the Saudis to obstruct any U.S. investigation of the bombing and to deceive the United States about who was responsible for the bombing. The Saudi regime steered the FBI investigation toward Iran and its Saudi Shi’a allies with the apparent intention of keeping U.S. officials away from a trail of evidence that would have led to Osama bin Laden and a complex set of ties between the regime and the Saudi terrorist organiser.”

    The second part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 2: Saudi Account of Khobar Bore Telltale Signs of Fraud”.

    The third part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 3: U.S. Officials Leaked a False Story Blaming Iran”.

    The fourth part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 4: FBI Ignored Compelling Evidence of bin Laden Role”. It noted that, “In October 1996, after having issued yet another fatwa calling on Muslims to drive U.S. soldiers out of the Kingdom, bin Laden was quoted in al Quds al Arabi, the Palestinian daily published in London, as saying, ‘The crusader army was shattered when we bombed Khobar.’"

    The fifth part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 5: Freeh Became "Defence Lawyer" for Saudis on Khobar”. This part had the most hair-raising details:

    The key to the success of the Saudi deception was FBI director Louis Freeh, who took personal charge of the FBI investigation, letting it be known within the Bureau that he was the "case officer" for the probe, according to former FBI officials.

     

    Freeh allowed Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan to convince him that Iran was involved in the bombing, and that President Bill Clinton, for whom he had formed a visceral dislike, "had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers," as Freeh wrote in his memoirs.

     

    The Khobar Towers investigation soon became Freeh’s vendetta against Clinton. "Freeh was pursuing this for his own personal agenda," says former FBI agent Jack Cloonan.

     

    A former high-ranking FBI official recalls that Freeh "was always meeting with Bandar". And many of the meetings were not in Freeh’s office but at Bandar’s 38-room home in McLean, Virginia.

     

    Meanwhile, the Saudis were refusing the most basic FBI requests for cooperation.

     

    Freeh quickly made Iranian and Saudi Shi’a responsibility for the bombing the official premise of the investigation, excluding from the inquiry the hypothesis that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organisation had carried out the Khobar Towers bombing.

     

    The CIA’s bin Laden unit, which had only been established in early 1996, was also excluded by CIA leadership from that Agency’s work on the bombing.

    Finally, in order to bring his exhaustive investigation up-to-date, Porter headlined on 1 September 2015, “Who Bombed Khobar Towers? Anatomy of a Crooked Terrorism Investigation”. Here’s one particularly forceful portion of it:

    In order to build a legal case against Iran and Shi'a Saudis, Freeh had to get access to the Shi'a detainees who had confessed. But the Saudis never agreed to allow FBI officials to interview them. In early November 1998, Freeh sent an FBI team to observe Saudi secret police officials asking eight Shi'a detainees the FBI's questions from behind a one-way mirror at the Riyadh detention center.

     

    By then Saudi secret police had already had two and half years to coach the detainees on what to say, under the threat of more torture. But Freeh didn't care. "For Louis, if they would let us in the room, that was the important thing," a senior FBI official involved in the Khobar investigation told me. "We would have gone over there and gotten the answers even if they had been propped up."

     

    But the Justice Department refused to go ahead with an indictment based on the information the FBI team brought back. Department lawyers knew the Shi'a detainees had been subject to torture, so they have ruled that the confessions were not valid.

    In other words: the head of the FBI believed torture-extracted ‘confessions’ as if such would meet U.S. rules of evidence — which they don’t. And coaching of witnesses is likewise prohibited — under U.S. laws.

    On 30 May 2013, The Washingtonian headlined “Forged Under Fire — Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship” and Garrett M. Graff reported:

    Although they’d been aware of each other for years, sharing their similar orbits, Comey and Mueller were first brought together professionally by then-FBI director Louis Freeh in the opening days of the Bush administration. … As the Bush administration took office in 2001, Freeh asked Bob Mueller, who was acting as John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, to transfer the [Khobar] case to Comey.

     

    When he finally did so, Mueller called Comey with a warning: “Wilma Lewis is going to be so pissed.” Indeed, Lewis blasted the decision, as well as both Freeh and Mueller personally, in a press release, saying the move was “ill-conceived and ill-considered.” But Freeh’s gambit paid off.

     

    Within weeks, Comey had pulled together the indictment. During a National Security Council briefing at the White House, under the watchful gaze of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Comey presented overwhelming evidence of Iran’s involvement.

     

    On the eve of the expiration of the statute of limitations, fourteen individuals were indicted for the attack. Freeh, who stepped down the next day, said the indictment was “a major step.”

    So, Comey and Mueller were brought in by Freeh because Freeh was about to retire and he wanted successors who would be committed to the theory of the case, that Freeh had gotten from Prince Bandar. If Comey and Mueller wouldn’t go along with that torture-extracted ‘testimony’ as ‘evidence’, then their ability to become appointed head the FBI would have been zero. Freeh, Comey, and Mueller are a team – a team that serves the Bushes and the Sauds. But not the American public.

    Our continuing war against Iran is due entirely to their crucial assistance. The Deep State appoints such individuals.

    *  *  *

    CLOSING NOTE: This article had been submitted to, and rejected by, the 39 publications listed here at the bottom, sent to each as an exclusive, but since they all rejected it without comment, I now am sending it not just to them but to the entire U.S. newsmedia, on a non-exclusive and free-of-charge basis to publish. Since none of them will pay me for publishing it, I shall be happy if any publish it without charge, even small ‘alternative news’ sites online, because – and especially if a mainstream newsmedium relents and decides to publish it – then perhaps the embargo against the truth of such important matters being published in the United States and its vassal nations, will come to be broken, and the ‘news’media in America and in those other countries, might then terminate being actually the U.S-regime’s propaganda-media, and might finally begin to pay penance for their all having helped the U.S. Government to deceive the American (and allied-nations’) public into supporting the regime’s entirely lie-based invasions of Afghanistan in 2001, of Iraq in 2003, of Libya in 2012, of Syria since 2012, of U.S. coups elsewhere (such as in Ukraine), and, now, potentially repeating it yet again with invasions or coups against Iran or other countries that the U.S. elite want to grab and add to their growing U.S. empire.

    If Iran becomes invaded, or another U.S. coup becomes perpetrated there (such as in 1953), then perhaps Russia’s only realistic response — as being the ultimate U.S. target — will be a blitz nuclear attack to destroy the United States, in recognition of the U.S. Government’s fanatical reach to control a total global empire — total global strangulation of freedom and of peace, everywhere. After all, if Russia waits till after a U.S. lie-based invasion of Iran, then it will be simply waiting for a blitz nuclear attack by the U.S. and its NATO alliance against Russia itself, which would be even worse for the world than Russia’s striking first — though the world would end, either way. The U.S. Government now seems to be an out-of-control spreading cancer, a terminal threat to the world in every regard. It’s already recognized throughout the world as being “the greatest threat to peace in the world today”. And its ‘news’media have helped to keep it that way.

    Here is the list of 39 publications that this article had been submitted to as an exclusive (and, of course, it’s now being submitted to them, too, yet again, but this time on a non-exclusive, non-fee, basis, along with being submitted to all the rest of the regime’s press, including broadcast media):

    McClatchy newspapers, New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Harper’s, TIME, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Mother Jones, The Nation, Progressive, National Review, New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Business Week, Forbes, Politico, thedailybeast, huffingtonpost, slate, bloomberg, businessinsider, newsweek, theintercept, breitbart, alternet, newsbud, spiked-online, vice, mintpressnews, truthdig, truth-out, Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail, Spectator, London Review of Books, New Statesman, Spiegel.

    *  *  *

    Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

     

  • Outrage Follows "Jaw-Droppingly Shocking" 1986 Prince Charles Letter Blaming Mid-East Problems On "Foreign Jews"

    Prince Charles has sparked media outrage following a report he wrote a letter blaming “the influx of foreign, European Jews” for aggravating the Arab-Israeli conflict and leading to general unrest in the Middle East, while also asking whether an American president would “have the courage” to take on “the Jewish lobby” to put an end to terrorism in the region.

    The note, written on November 24, 1986, was found in a public archive and published Saturday by the Daily Mail. The Prince penned the letter after official visits to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar with Princess Diana.

    “I now appreciate that Arabs and Jews were all a Semitic people originally,” the then 38-year-old Prince of Wales wrote in his letter, adding, that “it is the influx of foreign, European Jews (especially from Poland, they say) which has helped to cause great problems” in the Middle East. “I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?” he questioned.

    “Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!” he concludes.

    The Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, described Charles’ comments “both shocking and entirely predictable.”

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    “To me this is the most astonishing element of the Prince’s letter. The “Jewish lobby” is one of the anti-Semitic themes that have endured for centuries. It is this myth there are these very powerful Jews who control foreign policy or the media or banks or whatever.”  Pollard then told the daily mail that the letter was “jaw-droppingly shocking” and added that “[the Prince’s comments] come from the heir to the throne is unsettling, to put it mildly.”

    While the letter is inflammatory, there is no suggestion Charles holds anti-Semitic views according to The Mail: “He has many prominent Jewish friends and in 2013 became the first Royal to attend a chief rabbi’s inauguration ceremony. In a speech that year, he expressed concern at the apparent rise of anti-Semitism in Britain.”

    At the same time, he is seen as a defender of Islam, with one historian noting that no other major Western figure has as high a standing in the Muslim world. 

     

    It has also been suggested he has pro-Palestinian leanings, a perception the letter appears to support.

    Prince Charles is not the first one to fall in the “lobby” spotlight: among those to come under fire for using the term ‘Jewish lobby’ are General George Brown, the highest-ranking military officer in the US as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was publicly rebuked and disowned by President Gerald Ford in 1974 after claiming that a ‘Jewish lobby’ controlled Congress, according to The Daily Mail. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage was criticised earlier this month when he referred to ‘a powerful Jewish lobby’ in the US.  In 2006, Chris Davies, former leader of the Lib Dem MEPs, was forced to resign after he used the term. Archbishop Desmond Tutu also came under fire when he used the phrase in a newspaper article in 2002.

    The Prince’s reference in the letter to the influx of European Jews also caused dismay.

    It is not clear if he is referring to immigration before or after the Second World War, or both. Mr Pollard said: ‘It is the absolute classic Arab explanation of the problems in the Middle East.

     

    ‘And it is what everyone has always said the British aristocracy actually thinks – the idea that Jews were some kind of foreigners who had no real place in Israel until we decided to make it their homeland. Historically it is nonsense and it’s quite stunning when it comes from the heir to the throne.’

     

    A senior Israeli diplomatic source said last night: ‘He [Charles] was travelling around the Gulf states [just before he wrote the controversial letter], which in those years were very anti-Israel. It seems he was presented with a narrative in a very convincing way.’

    Earlier this month, Britain marked the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the document that paved the way for the state of Israel, with a gala dinner in London attended by Theresa May and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    It is also not the first time Prince Charles has gotten in hot water for controversial remarks: In 2007, leaked emails between senior Clarence House staff put Charles at the centre of a row about the Royals’ attitude towards the Jewish state.

    * * *

    Attempting some damage control, a spokesman for Clarence House said the thoughts revealed in the 1986 letter, were actually “not The Prince’s own views.”

    “The letter clearly states these were not the Prince’s own thinking on Arab-Israeli affairs, but represented the opinions of some of those he met during his visit which he was keen to interrogate,” the statement said. It added that Prince Charles “was sharing the arguments in private correspondence with a long standing friend in an attempt to improve his understanding of what he has always recognized is a deeply complex issue to which he was coming early on in his own analysis in 1986,” the representative said.

    “Over the years, the prince has continued his study of the complex and difficult themes he referenced here. He has built a proven track record of support for both Jewish and Arab communities around the world and has a long history of promoting interfaith dialogue and cultural understanding,”
    she added.

  • Mainstream Media Now Promoting "Gun Confiscation Orders" As Solution To Mass Shootings

    Authored by Alex Thomas via SHTFplan.com,

    In what many saw coming a mile away in the aftermath of both the Las Vegas Massacre and the Texas Church mass shooting, liberals in the government, with the help of their mainstream media allies, are now pushing what amounts to plans for gun confiscation, outside of normal law, for Americans across the country.

    The new push for gun control from the left comes courtesy of ABC News which recently published a piece promoting the use of an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) that many believe is nothing more than a thinly veiled confiscation plan that would allow a judge to “issue an ex parte order” for the direct confiscation of an American citizens firearms.

    Unbelievably, the order can actually be issued without the firearm owner even being present, which would in turn end with police at the citizens door demanding he hand over his weapons or face violence from the state.

    ABC’s Andy Fies, on the other hand, apparently wants Americans to see the orders differently, painting a more friendly picture of the ERPO’s while quoting two different left-wing gun control groups as seemingly unbiased experts on gun violence.

    As of now, only Washington, California, Connecticut and most recently Oregon have ERPO laws (while Indiana and Texas have modified risk warrant statutes). Over the past year, however, spurred by a string of mass shootings beginning with the Pulse Nightclub attack that killed 49 in June 2016, legislatures in 19 states and Washington, D.C., have taken up 32 separate ERPO bills for consideration, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control.

     

    Everytown’s deputy legal director, William Rosen, told ABC News that list will grow. “We expect to see at least as much interest in 2018,” he said.

     

    “There is a growing consensus,” added Lauren Alfred of the gun violence prevention group Sandy Hook Promise, “that this is the first step we should be taking when we are talking about people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others.”

     

    Current laws barring gun ownership are limited. Generally, a person with a long history of mental health issues can still legally buy or possess firearms if they don’t fall into specific statutory categories such as having been adjudicated mentally ill or under a domestic violence restraining order. But, as was the case with Texas church gunman Devin Kelley, even these restrictions may not work if the person’s troubled past is not recorded on a background registry.

     

    With an ERPO, however, if family members or police can show a gun owner to be an imminent danger to themselves or others, they can force the person to surrender their weapon(s).

    Keep in mind that Everytown for Gun Safety is a Michael Bloomberg funded, left-wing gun control group that was created as part of a rebranding effort by the billionaire gun grabber after his previous group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was outed by multiple former members as actually pushing an agenda of full-scale gun confiscation.

    The Extreme Risk Protection Orders scheme seems to be nothing more than another attempt at slowly eroding the right of lawful Americans to own firearms.

    As AWR Hawkins reported in an April 2017 article about a similar law being pushed in Oregon, “Oregon state Sen. Brian Boquist is pushing a confiscation bill that would broaden the number of prohibited gun purchasers as well as require certain individuals to hand over any guns in their possession.”

    At the time, gun rights activist and NRA member Keely Hopkins rightfully described the law as an attempt to remove your Second Amendment rights by using a third-party who would need little evidence to declare you unfit to own a firearm. (Imagine a vengeful ex-wife/husband)

    “This bill allows for a protective order to remove your Second Amendment rights, not because of a criminal conviction, but based on third-party allegations using an evidentiary standard that falls far below what’s normally required for the removing of fundamental rights.”

    It is also important to note that gun control advocates and the mainstream media are using The Las Vegas Massacre, which the authorities are openly lying about (there were at least 7 different shooters) as a pretext to further take away Americans right to bear arms. This is, and has always been, the modus operandi of the power elite.

  • Wal-Mart Is Raising Prices Of Food, Household Products On Its US Website

    Somebody should tell Wal-Mart they’re doing it wrong.

    In what the Wall Street Journal described as an attempt to lure customers back to its brick-and-mortar locations, Wal-Mart has been quietly raising prices for some food and household products sold on its US website, including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Colgate toothbrushes and bags of Purina dog food.

    Of course, we weren’t in the room when this plan was being vetted by whoever is in charge of corporate strategy at the retailing behemoth. But we find it hard to believe that nobody pointed out the simple fact that, if customers notice that prices have been raised on Wal-Mart’s website, customers can simply buy the same product, or a similar one, from Amazon or another competing retailer.

    Before this latest shift in strategy, Wal-Mart previously planned to keep online and in-store prices equal for many of its most popular products, WSJ says, unless competition organically drove them lower.

    But now the company is experimenting with a new pricing system that is raising prices on certain goods that would otherwise be unprofitable to ship.

    To be sure, the pressure on Wal-Mart to drive foot traffic to its stores has never been greater, especially since the now-Amazon owned Whole Foods Market has been slashing prices left and right in a push to wrest market share away from its rivals. Meanwhile, the strategy of charging more online has been used by other big-box retailers like Costco Wholesale Corp. but the move is unusual for Wal-Mart, which has long embraced the strategy of outcompeting on price in accordance with its “everyday low price” message, and has worked to keep online prices at least as low as shoppers find in its 4,700 U.S. stores.

    In some cases, product listings on walmart.com show an “online” and “in the store” price. Often the online price matches Amazon. But this system is changing now that the store is focusing on preserving its in-store dominance while also trying to expand its online presence.

    “We always work to offer the best price online relative to other sites,” a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said. “It simply costs less to sell some items in stores. Customers can access those store prices online when they choose to pick up the item in store."

    According to WSJ, a box of Kraft Thick n’ Creamy Macaroni & Cheese Dinner was $1.48 on walmart.com as of Friday, the same as Amazon’s price but more than Wal-Mart’s $1.28 store price (listed online). A similar comparison for a twin-pack of Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper showed the price as $3.30 online. but $2.50 if purchased at a Wal-Mart store in Illinois.

    Wal-Mart is investing billions to boost e-commerce sales, which rose 60% in the US in the most recent quarter, but some shareholders worry the effort could drag on profits.

    Marc Lore, head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. e-commerce unit, told investors in October that “this year should be the largest loss in e-commerce, and we’ll see slight improvement next year.” The company overall expects profit margins to be slightly down this year. It is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Thursday.

    Wal-Mart e-commerce workers responsible for product sales have been instructed to boost profits along with sales, according to the people familiar with the situation, and are “no longer obligated to follow store pricing,” one of them said.

    The company is also asking suppliers to sell more of their merchandise in bulk versions instead of single boxes, an effort to increase order sizes and make them more profitable, the people said.

    For inexpensive items, “there’s no cheaper way to get these products to consumers than have them come in the store and pick it off the shelf themselves,”  Lore said at last month’s investor conference. He said he hopes shoppers will come to stores for the best price and place larger orders online to offset the cost of shipment.

    In an effort to try and compete with Amazon’s “Amazon Prime” service, Wal-Mart offers free two-day shipping on millions of items on any order above $35.

    Lore, who founded online retailer Jet.com Inc., which Wal-Mart bought last year for $3.3 billion, said that since he became head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. e-commerce division, the company has become more experimental with online marketing and pricing, including offering more discount codes and working with companies that publicize discounts through mobile applications.

    Amazon is also trying new pricing models. It started lowering prices on products sold by outside vendors by as much as 9% in recent weeks, ratcheting up a price war with other retailers ahead of the holidays.

    The company is also asking suppliers to sell more of their merchandise in bulk versions instead of single boxes, an effort to increase order sizes and make them more profitable, the people said.

    For inexpensive items, “there’s no cheaper way to get these products to consumers than have them come in the store and pick it off the shelf themselves,” Mr. Lore said at last month’s investor conference. He said he hopes shoppers will come to stores for the best price and place larger orders online to offset the cost of shipment.

    The change in Wal-Mart’s strategy comes at a particularly risky time – the holiday shopping season when retailers typically book their highest revenues and profits. If the strategy works, investors should have some idea of exactly how successful it has been by the time the company publishes its fourth-quarter earnings report.

    However, raising prices in an era of unprecedented online competition could be particularly damaging. Considering the rapid growth Wal-Mart has seen in its online sales this year, raising prices could cause that trend to come to a complete stop.
     

  • High Prices And Zombie Housing

    Authored by Doug French via The Mises Institute,

    “The inventory is coming, but people are buying faster than it can get here,” GLVR President David Tina told Channel 8. “We have 5,000 available houses, but we sell 3,000 a month.”

     

    The Business Press backs this up, “By the end of September, GLVAR reported 4,969 single-family homes listed for sale without any sort of offer. That’s down 33.1 percent from one year ago. For condos and townhomes, the 680 properties listed without offers in September represented a 41.4 percent drop from one year ago.”

     

    Dennis Smith of Home Builders Research points out, “There are still boatloads of homes underwater, or almost underwater, essentially keeping those owners from selling their home and buying another. However, there have been a lot of out of town buyers that have propped up the market and have kept the recovery moving forward.”

    What Tina and Smith don’t mention Eli Segall does in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, ”Some 2.17 percent of homes in the Las Vegas area, or a total of 14,334 properties, are vacant. That’s up from 2.15 percent, or 13,896 properties, in 2016, according to Attom [Data Solutions].”

    That’s three months of inventory off the market.

    The nationwide vacancy rate is 1.58% according to Attom, with most of these vacancies (75%) being non-owner occupied. Attom’s website post is entitled, “Vacant Property Rate Increases From a Year Ago in 54 Percent of U.S. Local Housing Markets in Q3 2017.”

    According to the Attom report,

    vacant “zombie” pre-foreclosure properties – which have started the foreclosure process but have not yet been repossessed by the foreclosing lender – decreased 22 percent from a year ago to 14,312 as of the end of Q3 2017, 67 percent below the peak of 44,030 in Q3 2013.

     

    The number of vacant bank-owned properties decreased 48 percent from a year ago to 24,026 as of the end of Q3 2017.

    Most Zombie foreclosures are located in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Most vacant REOs are in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

    Nevada is among the leaders in numbers of seriously underwater homes.

    The New York TimesThe Guardian and CNN’s Lisa Ling have all reported on the Las Vegas squatter problem. Ion Lovett wrote for the NYT last year,

    Squatters have descended on every corner of the Las Vegas Valley, taking over empty houses in struggling working-class neighborhoods, in upscale planned communities like Summerlin, and everywhere in between. And they often bring a trail of crime with them.

    “Things get out of hand pretty quickly when these people move in,” Jacquelyn Romero, 59, told the NYT. 

    She has lived in the neighborhood for about 15 years. “We’re trying to do almost like a neighborhood watch, just to keep ourselves safe.”

    Echoing that point, a vacant animal clinic in North Las Vegas was torched by squatters in the early hours of November 1st, reports the LVRJ.

    This strange brew of limited sale inventory, rising prices and yet three months of vacant inventory being ransacked by squatters is not how markets work, unless manipulated by government.

     

  • Meanwhile, In The Philippines

    It’s clearly time for a caption contest.

    President Trump joins other world leaders in a handshake with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,
    right, during the opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit. Photo @dougmillsnyt

    Also, how did Medvedev get an exemption?

  • Army Lowers Recruiting Standards To Allow Soldiers With History Of Self-Mutilation, Bipolar Disorder

    Since the beginning of the year, much ink has been spilled about the Army’s increasingly desperate attempts to fill its lofty recruiting quota for fiscal year 2017-2018: That is, 80,000 new soldiers. To hit that number, the Army has repeatedly loosened its recruiting requirements. Last month, the military introduced a new policy that would forgive recruits with a history of marijuana use or certain marijuana related criminal violations…

    …and now, the military is taking those efforts one step further, with USA Today reporting today that the Army has expanded its criteria for granting “waivers” to certain recruits who violate criteria related to mental-health violations like having a history of bipolar disorder, or self-mutilation. The military said this expansion is justified by the increasing availability of medical records allowing recruiters to analyze a potential recruit’s history in greater detail to make a more accurate assessment as to whether they’re fit to serve.

    Here’s USA Today:

    WASHINGTON – People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

     

    The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

     

    Expanding the waivers for mental health is possible in part because the Army now has access to more medical information about each potential recruit, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. The Army issued the ban on waivers in 2009 amid an epidemic of suicides among troops.

    While it's unclear how long this decision was under consideration, last year, Jeff Snow, the army major-general who is in charge of the branch’s recruiting program, revealed to AZCentral that only 3 in 10 individuals applying to join the Army actually meet the branch’s “rigorous” recruiting requirements. "The biggest challenge right now is the fact that only three in 10 can actually meet the requirements to actually join the military," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of United States Army Recruiting Command. "We talk about it in terms of the cognitive, the physical and the moral requirements to join the military, and it's tough. We have a very good Army; there's a desire to recruit quality into the Army."

    The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

    However, despite the Army's claims that it now possesses the tool's to conduct more advanced screenings of individual candidates, one expert on military waivers pointed out, no amount of precise data about recruits’ health history can definitively prevent those issue from resurfacing later. Self-mutilation is a particularly disruptive issue because it could set off alarms about potential suicide attempts or other similarly disruptive phenomenon.

    But accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not, she said.

     

    “It is a red flag,” she said. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?

     

    While bipolar disorder can be kept under control with medication, self-mutilation — where people slashing their skin with sharp instruments — may signal deeper mental health issues, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

     

    If self-mutilation occurs in a military setting, Ritchie said, it could be disruptive for a unit. A soldier slashing his or her own skin could result in blood on the floor, the assumption of a suicide attempt and the potential need for medical evacuation from a war zone or other austere place.

    In the past, recruits who received waivers have been responsible for some of the most embarrassing (and extremely heinous) incidents in recent army history. As USA Today pointed out, in 2006, an Iraqi girl was raped and her family killed by US soldiers, one of whom required waivers for minor criminal activity and poor educational background.

    Still, new guidelines for screening potential recruits with histories that include self-mutilation make clear that the applicant must provide “appropriate documentation” to obtain the waiver, according to a September memo sent to Army commanders. Those requirements include a detailed statement from the applicant, medical records, evidence from an employer if the injury was job-related, photos submitted by the recruiter and a psychiatric evaluation and “clearance."

    Slides for military officials who screen recruits show examples of people whose arms, legs and torsos have been scarred by self-mutilation.

    "For all waivers," one memo states, "the burden of proof is on the applicant to provide a clear and meritorious case for why a waiver should be considered."

    A spokeswoman for the military rigorously defended the new waiver protocol, arguing that, under the right circumstances, a waiver for self-mutilation could be justified.

    “I can see a rationale that that shouldn’t be an absolute but could be a waiver,” she said.

    Of course, given the escalating tension between the US and North Korea – and more recently the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and its chief geopolitical rival, Iran – the possibility that the US could engage in yet another armed conflict before the end of Trump's first term is looming over the Pentagon, not to mention the general public. Furthermore, Trump's decision to send another 4,000 military personnel to Afghanistan, not to mention the US's decision to send a contingent of military "advisers" to help combat terror networks in Northern and East Africa, means that the US's military entanglements have only continued to expand under Trump, despite his repeated promises during the campaign to adhere to an "America first" policy of nonintervention.

    As these conflicts worsen, we doubt this will be the last time the military lowers its recruiting standards before Trump's first term is up.

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