Saturday, December 10, 2016

Friday, December 09, 2016

You know what bothers me?

The silly and empty antics of the Canadian prime minister.  

War crimes and possible War crimes: Human Rights Watch makes the distinction

According to Kenneth Roth, Director of HRW, if war crimes are committed by pro-US forces or regimes, they are "possible war crimes"; but if they are committed by anti-US forces and regimes, they are real and certain war crimes.

Arab ambassadors "reviewed" the Arab Development Report: from Jadaliyya

"We heard nothing from UNDP for over a year. Finally, we were sent a version of our chapter that we almost did not recognize, despite being advised that only minor edits had been administered. Large sections of our text had been excised, including one in which we gave examples of ways in which young women transgress norms surrounding marriage and heternormativity; another dedicated to young women as producers of culture; and a further section about online activism. Many country-specific examples we had presented were replaced with generalized statements, explicitly contradicting our desire to emphasize nuance and resist homogenizing the region and the societies within it. Sections in which we provided an intersectional analysis—such as the ones on social and political conservatisms, on multiple forms of gender-based violence, and on sexual health and education—were shortened. Examples that showed how economic and racialized inequality intersect with gender-based violence were deleted, including one mentioning the plight of migrant domestic workers.
We were given less than two weeks to review the revised chapter, in which the changes had not been tracked. This left us with very little time to finalize the text, particularly in view of the long delays as well as lack of engagement and communication for over a year. Simply put, the imposed time frame was insufficient. We jointly produced and submitted a long list of required edits, objections, and suggestions. We received constructive replies to many of our comments, but many others were simply ignored. That was the last we heard before publication of the report.
It is our understanding that several Arab ambassadors were involved in the process of reviewing the report. We doubt it is a coincidence that the only chapter of the new UNDP Arab Human Development Report that was censored—and we use this term advisedly—in this way is the one addressing young women. While we felt that the chapter was sufficiently restored to attach our names to it (see published version here), we remain dismayed that sections in which we provide complexity and nuance, and ones pertaining to young women challenging gender and sexuality norms as well as their cultural and creative expressions, have been totally eliminated form the final report."
PS But how do the writers know that their chapter was the only one censored? Probably other were as well.

Michael Keaton on Middle East affairs

"KEATON: We all thought the Arab Spring was an amazing thing, in theory and philosophically. However, you can take a bit of disinformation or untruth and you churn things. That has a major, major impact, in a millisecond. No one stops and goes wait, let’s look more closely at the other side of the story. There is no other part of the story, anymore."

So how many ISIS fighters have US killed?

According to a conservative US military estimate (I wish they give us estimate of civilians killed by US bombs), the US has managed to kill between 3 million and 4 million ISIS fighters.  But it isn to over yet.

How Western media peddled a fabricated story of a Syrian singer whose throat was allegedly cut

"As the story made its way around the world, the posthumous tributes began to flood in. A Syrian-American pianist, Malek Jandali, was moved to write a powerful orchestral work called the "Freedom Qashoush Symphony"; an Amsterdam art exhibition featured a pen-and-ink portrait of the dead singer, accompanied by some of his songs. In a headline interview with President Assad on ABC in November 2011, Barbara Walters confronted him with the story of the "singer with his throat cut", rendering the Syrian president momentarily silent....The songs were inspiring to Syria's young revolutionaries, but there was also something odd about the story. For one thing, the reports of who Qashoush was, where he'd been killed - even the age he was when he died - were wildly different. There was the fact that no one had managed to speak to his family. As time passed, the rumour mill among Syrian oppositionists in exile quickened. "He is alive, and living here in Istanbul," one assured me over lunch in 2014. Another Syrian politico insisted that he was working as a gardener; another told me he'd left for Qatar; yet another that he'd left for Europe. One savvy young activist rolled his eyes when I asked the question, weary of what he took to be another propaganda fiction propagated by the rebel media.
One Syrian human rights investigator was more specific, and a little indignant. The singer was not really Qashoush at all, he insisted, but another man called Abdul Rahman Farhood. "Some of the opposition were telling lies because they thought it would be helpful. It was because of this that I fell out with them." Finally, in January of this year, I phoned a contact on Skype and heard a young Syrian speaking broken English at the other end. Was he Qashoush? "Yes, yes, my friend," he replied, with an amiable giggle. Where the hell was he? "It is a long story. I don't know where I should begin...But if Farhood was both the songwriter and performer, then who was Ibrahim Qashoush? "A totally unknown person," he told me. "He didn't do anything. Nobody knows his story or why anyone killed him." The Syrian human rights investigator's verdict was more damning: Ibrahim Qashoush was a local security guard and "the rebels killed him because they thought he was an informer for the regime"."
PS And when Western media were peddling the story of this Syrian "poet", I kept trying to point out "his poetry".  His most famous poem basically said: "May you perish, o Bashshar. May you perish, o Bashshar".  It is always poetry when the lyrics are directed against a tyrant who is not aligned with the US.

The hypocrisy of Democrats in US Congress about Bahrain

So Democrats in US Congress are offended that the Bahrain embassy is holding a reception in Trump's hotel, but they are not offended that Obama sold billions worth of arms to Bahrain.  

John Glenn

As I have been reading a lot about space and the cosmos and I have a newly acquired appreciation for the heroism of those who travel in space, especially that I suffer from an acute case of motion sickness and fear of height.   John Glenn was a decent person, politics aside but: 1) they don't mention that we he took his second flight in space in the 1980s, he was sick the whole time and didn't stop vomiting. They did not mention that he bullied NASA into taking him to space. 2) when he ran for president back in 1984, he in fact said some things about the Palestinians that were ahead of his other colleagues.  I remember him for that.  When I was a boy in Lebanon, of course, i wanted the Soviets to beat the Americans in space but I did not know at the time about the whole Nazi scientific contingent that the US had lifted from Germany.  

How East Aleppo fell

This inside account in As-Safir provides key details about the collapse of the rebels in East Aleppo. It talks about an intelligence breakthrough for the Syrian regime and its allies. But the article also talks about the terrible infighting among the rebels themselves. This is something that was rarely if ever mentioned in Western media account.  There were street battles among the various rebel groups in East Aleppo but none of the Western correspondents in Beirut bothered to cover.

This is classic: Hillary warns against "false propaganda" and wants people to stick to "correct propaganda"

"“The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year".  It is ironic that Chomsky who wrote about "manufacturing consent" urged us to vote for the woman who is warning against "false propaganda".  

In order to justify killing civilians, Israel produces fake map of Hezbollah positions in Lebanon

"Eighty-five villages appear on the pictured map along with thousands of sites tagged as military sites of combat equipment, launch sites, anti-aircraft and infantry positions." "The fabricated map contains points of interest for sites that were glued onto a map of southeastern Lebanon. Even a check of the points listed on the map found conflicts with the map that was tweeted." "The IDF Spokesperson said in response: “The picture in question is a visual illustration of threats posed by Hezbollah, which has intentionally deployed inside a civilian sector of Lebanon, and is exploiting the population as a human shield.” "

American liberals and the Israeli alliance with apartheid South Africa

Thy hypocrisy of American Zionists was such that I used to see on TV US members of Congress protesting outside the South African embassy in DC while those same members of Congress (and the press and academia) wouldn't dare say a word about Israeli alliance with the apartheid twin regime.

Amazing how Western liberals were never bothered by this relationship: Declassified documents indicate Israel & South Africa conducted nuclear test in 1979

"If Israel did seek to carry out nuclear experiments, as foreign reports claim, it needed a suitable geographic location for such tests and South Africa was the perfect partner to that end. The nation, which was isolated because of the racist Apartheid regime, was desperate for military aid and modern technology. And Israel, the declassified documents indicate, did not hesitate to provide South Africa with what it sought."

The Vela Incident: Israeli nuclear test and U.S. cover up

"On the political side, the Carter administration had much at stake on the issue of the Vela flash, which eventually leaked to the media in late October 1979.  Had it been confirmed that it was a nuclear test, and that South Africa and/or Israel were prime suspects, significant diplomatic complications would ensue.  That was particularly so in the case of Israel, not least because the very existence of its nuclear program was a political taboo in Washington, something never to be acknowledged.  Admission that Israel and South Africa had tested a bomb could unravel President Carter’s most important international legacy – the peace treaty he just had negotiated between Egypt and Israel, signed only six months earlier at the White House.  And to impose sanctions against Israel for violating U.S. nonproliferation legislation and the Limited Test Ban Treaty would have been a political catastrophe. The aversion to even identifying the test as a nuclear event was so intense that Leonard Weiss, a scientist and nonproliferation expert on the staff of Senator John Glenn (D-OH), recalls that at a briefing a senior State Department official told him “that if I continued to say that the Vela event was a nuclear test, my reputation would be destroyed."

Western correspondents are not tweeting about this one: Yemen being bombed out of existence by Saudi warplanes

"This is Sa’ada, ground zero of the 20-month Saudi campaign in Yemen, a largely forgotten conflict that has killed more than 10,000, uprooted 3 million and left perhaps 14 million – more than half the country – short of food, many on the brink of starvation." "And, standing beside the Saudis at the air campaign HQ, are UK military advisers. Johnson didn’t mention them." "According to the UN, there are 1.5 million malnourished children under five in Yemen, of whom 370,000 suffer from severe malnourishment.  “Those children have two prospects: either die or survive but with stunted growth to become a burden on their communities,” said a UN staffer. “We are losing a whole generation because of the war."

U.S. advises Congress of possible military sales to UAE, Saudi, Qatar

"The U.S. State Department notified Congress on Thursday of possible military sales to Saudi Arabia worth $3.51 billion, to the United Arab Emirates worth $3.5 billion and to Qatar for $781 million, the Pentagon said in a statement." "In October, the United States said it would start an "immediate review" of its assistance to the Saudi-led campaign, which has drawn condemnation from human rights advocates for killing civilians." (thanks Amir)

Human Rights Watch will not call this "possible war crime": "Israeli Army Tweets Fake Map of Hezbollah Positions in Lebanon"

"On December 6, the IDF Spokesperson tweeted in English a photo of a map described as “declassified,” showing Hezbollah military positions scattered among Lebanese villages.  Eighty-five villages appear on the pictured map along with thousands of sites tagged as military sites of combat equipment, launch sites, anti-aircraft and infantry positions.  “This is a war crime,” the tweet said. It was retweeted hundreds of times.  But an investigation by Twitter account holder @JudgeDan48 found that the map is not “declassified” that in effect this is not a map of Hezbollah military positions in Lebanon, but a map prepared by the IDF Spokesman. The fabricated map contains points of interest for sites that were glued onto a map of southeastern Lebanon. Even a check of the points listed on the map found conflicts with the map that was tweeted. The IDF confirmed that the map is inaccurate and is in effect only an illustration of what is going on in Lebanon."  Notice that the criminal terrorist mind behind the map offers the term "civilian villages"--as opposed to "military villages".   (thanks Nour)

This is one of their problems: they are always pinning their hopes on Gulf tyrants and Western leaders

"Syrian Rebels Pin Hopes on Trump - WSJ"

Wow. New York Times now raises questions about the authenticity of the 7-year old girl who tweets from Aleppo

I am surprised because the supporters of Syrian rebels on social media basically said--repeatedly--that any one who raises doubts about the authenticity of the account is a propagandist for the Syrian regime.  But the best part of the story is what those staffer of Save the Children and UNICEF said about the matter: Sonia Khush and Juliette Touma basically said that it does not matter if the account are true or not as long as the propaganda purpose is being achieved.   "“Whether it’s Bana, or Alan Kurdi, or Omran Daqneesh, they bring attention to an issue in a way that helps people visualize a little more clearly the situation of children,” said Sonia Khush, the Syria director of Save the Children. “In the case of this girl, I don’t know whether it’s true or fake in this age of social media,” she said. “But her living as a child in Aleppo is consistent with what we hear. The fear, the sounds of different airplanes and drones. They’re terrified and have trouble sleeping at night.” Juliette S. Touma, a Unicef spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, acknowledged that there was, in Bana’s case, “no way to verify where the tweets are coming from, or whether they’re coming from the girl or somewhere else.” At the same time, Ms. Touma said, “there is something symbolic about the tweets that are coming out from Bana, or that account, in the sense that it highlights the story of children who are caught up in the crossfire — it’s not just one girl, it’s many boys and girls.”"

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The origins of the conflict between Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan

This is a damning letter to Dahlan from Fath official, Furayh Abu-Mdayn.

The murder of civilians in East Aleppo AND in West Aleppo

As usual, the story of the murder of civilians in West Aleppo is always mentioned in passing--if at all. Try to find any Western correspondent on social media talking about the murder of civilians in West Aleppo. Why can't the civilians of West Aleppo be as precious and valuable as civilians in East Aleppo. Why not mourn deaths in both sections?  "The latest round of fighting has killed at least 341 people, including 44 children, in rebel-held Aleppo, and 81 people, including 31 children, in government-held districts, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization based in Britain."  Also, notice that unlike East Aleppo, you will never find articles devoted to the plight of civilians in West Aleppo (there was on in the Times by Barnard if I am not mistaken).

PS And the numbers in West Aleppo are probably higher since the source is the opposition Syrian Observatory.  

The Michel Kilu leaked audio talk

I have not read anything in the Western media about the leaked audio talk of Michel Kilu (the "intellectual" of the Syrian exile opposition).   It is quite explosive especially his talk about his private conversation with Prince Bandar and his mockery of the Saudi King and his son.  He also talks about the influence of Gulf money among the opposition.  I heard that in another talk he talks about an attempt to mount a 100,000 strong protest but that only 11 people showed up: but I have not personally heard that segment.  Of course, supporters of Saudi regime attacked him by referring to his religion.  

Are there courts worse than Lebanese or Syrian regime or Saudi regime courts? Yes

The Hariri court which was set up by US and Israel is one of the most ridiculous court ever established. Do you ever bother to see some of the proceedings of that court? Do you ever read about the manipulation of witnesses and the suppression of evidence? Not in English, you won't read.

To people around the world: this guy is considered in the US a sophisticated foreign policy analyst--I am not diddling you

"Good for Al Gore for meeting with Donald Trump on Monday. Good for Ivanka Trump for inviting Gore to come in for a talk on climate change, and good for President-elect Trump for embracing the encounter."  I never thought I would miss William Safire, but I really do. At least he wrote well.  Thomas Friedman is a (clueless) child idea of what a foreign policy analyst should be.

Please keep this in mind about Gulf funding of DC and London think tanks

When it comes to funding, Gulf regimes understand that there are "no strings attached" and that those think tanks will continue to produce their first-rate investigate looks at tyranny among all the enemies of Gulf regimes. The fact that those think tanks never produce anything critical of those Gulf regimes is a mere coincidence and you should not make a big deal out of it.  And the fact that the Middle East "experts" at those think tanks never ever say a word about Gulf regime repression and killing but speak volumes about only enemies of Gulf regimes is also a mere coincidence and you should not make a big deal out of that, please. OK?

Elias Muhanna ("Qifanabki") on ISIS and the Syrian regime

So Elias commented on the lousy (really trashy, journalistically speaking) series about ISIS and the Syrian regime in Daily Beast.  This is not about politics but about methodology, journalistic standards and about the dominant political paradigm about Syria and beyond.  Basically, in this piece, Eias reveals himself as fully March 14, while he used to be more careful in his analysis before.  This piece reads like the talking points of March 14 really.  But away from generalizations let us talk specifics (my responses to his words are in red):
1) His opening sentence set the stage: "Gutman’s articles have been championed by opposition supporters and critiqued by regime loyalists. "  So here he tells readers that anyone who is critical of the piece is a regime supporters. Look at this demagogic method.  So end of story. Let us go home. If you dare disagree with the non-expert Gutman (who research basically constituted spending long hours in cafes in Istanbul).  There is really no need to continue when he says that, but I will continue. 2) He then informs the readers this: "The most astute observers of the conflict have long recognized the alignment of certain interests between the regime and the most radical elements in the Islamist opposition."  Here, you are to believe that if you are astute you have to agree with the premise of Gutman and Western media and government, otherwise you are not astute.  No evidence is necessary.  3) Look at this line (and notice that Elias, like all other cheerleaders of the armed Jihadi groups in Syria) still insist that there was this really secular/feminist/democratic spectrum of secular armed groups, and then the regime came and produced those Islamists and then, voila, the secular armed groups suddenly disappeared in order for Bashshar to claim that his enemies are not the real Voltaire Battalions but the various Islamist Jihadi battalions: "The rise of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra has been disastrous for the secular political opposition".  4) Elias then proceeds to yet again complains that the fact that Gutman piece is short on data and research (unless sitting in cafes in Istanbul counts as solid research) is bad not from a journalistic standpoint but because it helps the opponents of his beloved Syrian rebels (former Voltaire battalions who were transformed by trickery by the regime to Jihadi battalions): "That’s unfortunate, because they have given regime apologists more ammunition for the claim that the Syrian uprising is nothing but a foreign conspiracy fueled by fake news and Gulf-funded think tanks."  But I am not sure what he mans by the side reference to Gulf-funded think tanks? Does he mean that those are valuable academic assets who should not be criticized or does he mean that their punditry should be respected and not maligned and ridiculed. Not sure here but he seems defensive about them.  5) Here he produces his theory (same as Gutman theory and same as the various theories about the Jihadi rebels from DAY ONE): "When the Assad regime released many of its Islamist prisoners from Sednaya Prison in 2011 — including individuals like Zahran Alloush, Yahia al-Hamawi, Hassan Abboud, and others who would go on to positions of leadership in Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and ISIS — it did so in full knowledge that the Islamists spelled trouble for the nascent uprising."  So the evidence marshaled by Elias is that since the regime released them from jail, it means it controls them and even controls them when they bomb the regime sites and when they kill regime supporters, etc.  But here is what curious: if this is the evidence in itself, how come Elias never wrote that US is responsible for the Jihadi in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as the US release scores of Jihadi fighters INCLUDING BAGHDADI HIMSELF?  And does this argument not apply to Jordan, Saudi, Pakistani, Afghani, and Moroccan regime? The Jordanian regime is most culpable among them all as it started to manipulate Jihadis long before any of those regimes. So if the evidence is the release from jail, then it can't be true in the case of Syrian regime and not true in the case of all those other regimes including the US government and its occupation authorities in the region.  6) Then Elias produces another conspiracy theory more fascinating than the first one: "The intelligence services guessed correctly that the peaceful secular demonstrations would be overrun by violent former inmates".  Here, what does overrun mean? I mean, if the rebels were mostly secular, why would the release of Jihadi "overrun" them? What would that happen if the majority are active in the Voltaire Battalions? Why did not the more popular (according to Elias and all other mainstream journalists) secular forces overrun the others?  7) Then Elias proceeds to make a Lebanon analogy: "That group was widely seen as a tool of Syrian intelligence".   Widely seen? It was only "widely seen" by the Hariri family and the rest of the Saudi-run March 14 Movement.  There was never any evidence presented about that.  The only evidence is that its leader once spent time in Syrian regime jail, just as Baghdadi once spent time in US military jails in Iraq.  And many of those Jihadi groups are openly and blatantly opposed to the Syrian regime on sectarian grounds and in fact the regime fought against them in Lebanon during the Syrian political domination of Lebanon.  But it gets worse: 8) Elias then says: "Longtime Syria-watchers will recall that Hizbullah was adamantly opposed to the Lebanese Army’s assault on the camp".  I consider myself "a long time Syria-watcher"--and an occasional bird-watcher--and I dont recall that.  This is absolutely and totally untrue, and even Elias friends in March 14 would not mischaracterize the stance of Hizbullah as such.  Hizbullah was NOT opposed  to the assault on the camp: Nasrallah specifically said that entry into the camp "is the red line". He meant that the civilian population of the camp should be spared and that the assault on Fath Al-Islam should have sparred the lives of civilians   But unfortunatley, once the Lebanese Amy began the assault on the camp, Hizbullah never complained AS IT SHOULD HAVE.  More than 45 Palestinian civilians were massacred by the Lebanese Army assault.  I was and still am of the position that the Lebanese Army should not have assaulted the camp (I call on Elias to visit what is left of the camp to see for himself) in order to get rid of a small armed gang, especially that negotiations were going on.  In fact, the lousy Syrian regime Army supported and helped and the lousy Lebanese regime Army in the assault of the camp.  And unfortunately Hizbullhah provided intelligence and military support for the Army during the assault. So if my position against Army assault make me an accomplice with Fath Al-Islam, be my guest.  But it was really incredible how Elias--desperate to find evidence of any kind--decided to distort the position of Hizbullah. 9) Finally, Elias conlcudes with his last evidence, that the Syrian regime had "infiltrated" those groups: "given the regime’s successful infiltration of these groups ".  Wait. Infiltration of groups means control and creation of those groups? Do you remember after Sep. 11 when George Tenet testified before US Congress that CIA had infiltrated Al-Qa`idah? Syrian, Jordanian, Saudi, and other Arab and Western and Israeli intelligence services had all infiltrated those groups, but why do you go from here to decide that only the Syrian regime is guilty of infiltration?  Are you that desperate to validate a lousy piece of journalism by Roy Gutman?  Finally, here is what I find interesting: Gutman built up his case on coffee shop chatter by Syrians in Istanbul, but usually Westerners mock unsubstanitated conspiracy theories by Middle Easterners.  Yet, only in the case of Syria are those conspiracy theories believed and peddled and only because they serve the propaganda interests of of Western governments.  

PS  Do you notice that when people cite the lousy piece by Roy Gutman they always say: the award-winning Roy Gutman.  I remember when people cited Judith Miller about WMDs of Iraq before 2003, they also always said: award-winning journalist, Judith Miller.  

PPS Elias Responds here.

Mainstream pundits and mainstream journalists/correspondents

This is especially true about Syria and you can watch that with amusement on Twitter: the pundits who are cited on Syria in mainstream press regularly praise the work of the correspondents who cite them (and who naturally agree with them), while the mainstream correspondents on Syria (from Beirut or DC always) regularly praise the work of the mainstream pundits who agree with them.  It is rather funny.

PS It is really not necessary to add the adjective "mainstream" when it comes to Western media as the lines between, say, the New York Times and Democracy Now are totally obliterated.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Sexist liberal media

First the New York Times and now the Guardian: articles about the clothes of Theresa May.

Daily Beast on foreign policy is the National Inquirer of US political journalism: Roy Gutman's journalism

"The sources of Mr. Gutman’s articles read like mini versions of Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi connections. They are advocates for the rebel cause, who will say whatever they believe will convince the United States to invade Syria and depose Assad. They see no problem in stretching the truth if it can lead to foreign military action. After all, they have concluded that only U.S. military action can remove Assad and bring victory to the opposition. Mr. Gutman meets most of his opposition contacts at a coffee shop in Istanbul; they spent hours offering him spectacular details on how the government bombed its own capital, assassinated its highest government security officials, and trained lethal Islamists to run terror organizations that have killed thousands of his best soldiers. All of this in order to convince the world that ISIS and al-Qaida are not products of the Sunni opposition but rather the Frankensteins of Assad’s invention. “Kill Assad,” they seem to be saying, “and you will kill the jihadists and win the war on terror.” This is all too good to be true, of course. They insist that Assad’s war against jihadists is fake. Faithful to his sources, Roy Gutman argues that President Assad is not only in cahoots with ISIS, but that he “built ISIS.”Gutman relates that one opposition source explained that President Bashar al-Assad himself issued an order to remove roadblocks in Damascus so that a car bomber, claiming to be Nusra, could have easy access to a Damascus neighborhood, set off his huge explosion and make it look like the capital was being attacked by jihadists. This explosion was a false flag operation, Gutman argues, masterminded by Assad himself in order to deceive the world into believing that jihadists were a menace when they were not. Never mind that James Clapper, the director of U.S. National Intelligence, told Congress in mid-February that the explosions “had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack and so we believe al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.” Never mind that Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, the head of al-Qaida’s surrogate in Syria, the al-Nusra terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the explosion. Gutman insists that his source is telling the truth and everyone else, including the intelligence services of the United States are deceived by Assad propaganda. Why would U.S. news services publish these assertions? They make no sense. They reek of conspiracy theory, are transparently self-serving, and defy logic."...If this is not crazy enough, Mr. Gutman offers an even more preposterous story to explain why Iran would blow up its ally’s leading security chieftains. Gutman, once again quoting sources “within Assad’s entourage” insists that Iran killed Shawkat, the President’s relative, in order to place their own man, Ali Mamlouk, as the head of intelligence. All of this is preposterous. It includes stories about Assad’s mother and brother, who are part of this great plot. They are intimately involved in this family intrigue. How could Gutman’s low level defectors possibly know the details of this Assad family saga? The simple answer, of course, is they couldn’t. Gutman repeatedly expresses outrage and consternation at the perfidy and incompetence of the CIA for not debriefing his Syrian opposition contacts to find out the deepest secrets of the Assad regime that he has found out. The Daily Beast, which publishes Gutman’s revelations, shares his outrage. Little wonder that so many Americans are having a hard time figuring out how to evaluate the “post-truth” age, when their news organs feed them such pablum. How in the world could Iran, Assad and Hizbollah be winning this regional war against Turkey, the Gulf States, Israel and a large array of Sunni rebel militias if Iran were blowing up the leadership of its closest ally? Certainly, it is comforting to believe that one’s enemies are incompetent, malevolent killers, but could they really have maintained a thirty-five year alliance if they were busy killing off family members and security chieftains of each other? These sorts of explanations for what is happening in Syria beggar belief. Such conspiracy theories are attractive in the absence of facts. Here is what I can reconstruct from a few sources who in a position to know.""

Universe

The next few years and decades will be exciting as for as new space discoveries are concerned.  Looking forward.  But I think that space exploration should not be national but international.

Time's potato of the year

Who really cares really? And when did the magazine made an original and courageous choice since the selection of the PC in the 1980s?

The West and the value of human victims

The Value of Human Victims of War: is a function of the extent to which the sides of conflict are aligned with US interests.  If the regime doing the killing is aligned with US interests, the value of human victims increases (Israel and Yemen).  

On the least covered world in the world today

"More than 10,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded during the conflict"

Saudi Arabia and its Iranian spies

Amnesty International but not HRW condemned the trial.   

Wold Bank's diversity and integration panel

Notice that the world bank doesn't to identify the Lebanese member with her main job: that she works for Hariri TV in Lebanon.

A Lebanese student is in jail because he wrote on Facebook in praise of Syrian workers in Lebanon

So he wrote on Facebook that the shoes of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is worth more than the Lebanese flag, cedars and such.  The unit of "internet crimes" (there is such a unit in Lebanon) immediately ordered his arrest. Notice that Lebanese repression doesn't get much attention from Western human rights groups especially Human Rights Watch because Human Rights Watch in Lebanon is in the same camp with March 14, which runs the Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

A place where children are not cool enough to get Western media attention

No one among Western correspondents in Beirut is tweeting about those children: "Yemen Conflict: UN Official accuses World of Ignoring Crisis". 

Saudi regime and Taliban

So now we know that Saudi regime funds the Taliban. What more evidence you need? What will it take in terms of blood and destruction before the West wakes up to the Saudi regime menace?

Cuban Foreign Policy changed history in southern Africa

"In the Cuban Drumbeat your main message is that the Cuban foreign policy under Fidel Castro is unparalleled. Why is it so?
Well, because of its generosity. Because Cuba and Fidel Castro, for instance played a decisive role in changing the course of history in Southern Africa, in the struggle against apartheid. They saved Angola from the attack of apartheid South Africa, they helped the Namibian guerrillas, they helped the South Africans, asking for nothing in return. And when I say for nothing I really mean absolutely nothing. Not only this, but Cuba paid a high price to help the Africans, because that meant increasing the enmity of the United States. There had been secret negotiations to normalize relations between Cuba and the Ford administration. Obviously by sending troops to defend Angola from a South African aggression, that had actually been encouraged by the U.S., destroyed these negotiations. At the same time, Fidel Castro defied the Soviet Union, because USSR secretary-general Brezhnev was opposed to the dispatch of Cuban troops to Angola in 1975. He was obsessed by détente with the US far more than the Ford administration, and didn’t want to do anything that might affect it. On the other hand, the relations of the Soviet Union with the MPLA government in Angola were strained, they were not particularly good. And the same happened in 1987-88, when Fidel Castro sent important reinforcements to Southern Angola to chase the South Africans out of Angola once and for all and force them to agree to the independence of Namibia. But if I may add one thing, one focus is on the military contribution of Cuba, and it’s important, it was really decisive. But there is also another important component, which is the humanitarian assistance, that we can discuss later…" This is when Western governments and apartheid Israel were aligned with apartheid South Africa. (thanks Ricardo)

Moderate rebels trained by U.S. Green Berets turn out to be Jihadists

"For months now, SOFREP has been writing a series of articles about how badly things are going for the Special Forces soldiers assigned to covert and clandestine programs in Syria, Turkey, and Jordan." "However, the Green Berets assigned to this mission are outraged for another reason: many of the “moderate” rebels they are charged with training are actually ISIS and al-Nusra collaborators." "However, the article also glosses over the complaints that Green Berets have made about the Timber Sycamore program in which “moderate” rebels actually turn out to be Jihadists." When confronted with this story, Liz Sly of the Washington Post commented: but those are liberal and secular Jihadis, no?

Members of Congress met with pastors to drive Satan out of the U.S. Capitol

" “If God rules in the halls of legislation, it’s the pulpit’s benefit of being there, being on site and standing up and speaking the law of God to our elected leaders and praying for them,” Walker said. “It’s been the absence of the pulpits is the reason why Satan has ruled in the halls of legislation.” " (thanks Amir)

Finally, Mahmoud Abbas appoints a successor

It is the dead man to the left.

When Gulf Potentates speak in Arabic and not in English: Muhammad bin Zayid

Listen to this speech by Muhammad bin Zayid: how he draws upon the worst common dominators of his listeners and how he appeals to the atavistic and ancient impulses regarding notions of revenge.  An Orientalist would love this.  

Western propaganda and Syria war

A friend was commenting that in the West, there is not a single member of the foreign policy elite who does not adhere to the conventional party line about Syria in the West.