Other Sources

LA police arrest suspect after deadly shop siege

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:54pm
One fatality is confirmed after the man, suspected of a shooting earlier, barricaded himself inside.

White Nationalist Steve Bannon Moves to Europe to boost Far Right

Informed Comment - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:42pm

Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump’s controversial former advisor Steve Bannon plans to set up a foundation in Europe called “The Movement” to spark a populist rightwing revolt, according to a report.

Bannon envisages the organization rivalling George Soros’ Open Foundation, which has given away $32 billion to liberal causes since it was established in 1984, according to the report by the Daily Beast published late Friday.

The non-profit will be a central source of polling, advice on messaging, data targeting, and think-tank research.

He told the Daily Beat he was convinced the coming years will see an end to decades of European integration.

“Right-wing populist nationalism is what will happen. That’s what will govern,” he said. “You’re going to have individual nation states with their own identities, their own borders.”

He added he had held talks with right-wing groups across the continent, from Nigel Farage and members of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (recently renamed Rassemblement National) in the West, to Hungary’s Viktor Orban and the Polish populists in the East.

The organization will likely be based out of Brussels initially and has set its sights on the 2019 European parliament elections.

The architect of Trump’s nationalist-populist campaign and his election victory, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” and the “Shadow President.”

His economic nationalism became the lynchpin of Trump policies, even as many of his other ideas were rebuffed by policy rivals.

After new Chief of Staff John Kelly arrived, Bannon’s constant clashes with other advisors became untenable, as did his ties to the extreme right, which drew accusations that Trump fostered racists. Bannon left the White House last August.

Featured Photo: AFP/File / Michal Cizek. The architect of Trump’s nationalist-populist campaign and his election victory, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was nicknamed the Prince of Darkness and the Shadow President.

The Papers: 'Voters turn to far right' over Brexit

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:41pm
A new poll suggesting voters are opposed to the prime minister's Brexit deal makes the front pages.

Iran’s Khamenei endorses Closing Gulf Oil Shipping if US Blockades

Informed Comment - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:27pm

Iran’s clerical Leader, Ali Khamenei, spoke Saturday to a gathering of diplomats in Tehran.

Speaking of the Trump administration’s full court press to put Iran under severe sanctions now that Trump has violated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Khamenei said he approved of the threat made by President Hassan Rouhani on his recent visit to Europe. Rouhani had intimated that Iran could close the Straits of Hormuz, interrupting the petroleum and gas exports of other nations on the Gulf littoral, if it was pushed to the wall. He said, “If Iran cannot export oil, no country in the region will be able to.” Khamenei said that the obligation of the ministry of foreign affairs is to advance such positions of the president.

[I’d just like to point out that it probably is not technically possible for Iran, which has no proper navy, to close the Straits of Hormuz. And that if it did so, it would be hurting itself, since US sanctions can’t stop Iranian exports entirely. And that if it did so, it would likely lead to tit-for-tat attacks that would hurt Iran as much as its neighbors. Even at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, this was a step Iran never took, for fear of mutual assured destruction of its own oil facilities. Moreover, the Europeans have asked Iran to stop talking like this, since this sort of threat makes it harder for them to buck the Trump administration.]

Khamenei criticized those pragmatists who sought to separate diplomacy and ideology. He insisted that ideological diplomacy is unproblematic, and that ideology and the national interest are compatible.

He pointed out that American diplomats are always going on about “American values,” which he said was “their ideology.” Similar ideologies are part, he said, of much European diplomacy.

He argued that the European and American focus on “democracy” is hypocritical. They hardly allowed democracy in their colonies during the age of colonialism. Nowadays, he said, several of them suffer from the dictatorship of party rule. Some of them have collaborated with Saudi Arabia in killing people. The Europeans, he said, are perfect examples of the lack of human rights, but then impudently turn around and accuse Iran of human rights abuses.

(This is not actually a thing. Democracy is not actually incompatible with parties. While it is true that Europeans and Americans have allied with the Saudis in their war on Yemen, that does not let Iran off the hook with regard to its human rights abuses. Two wrongs don’t make a right.)

Khamenei said that it was a mistake to negotiate with the United States, since Washington has a basic antipathy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said that the US wanted to return to its position [of neocolonial dominance] in Iran that characterized the situation before the 1979 revolution.

The leader said that he has been stressing for ages that it is not possible to depend on the word or even the signature of the Americans. For this reason, negotiating with them is useless.

In contrast, he said that negotiations with Europe should not be cut off, but that there should not be delays, since many projects needed to be undertaken in Iran.

Featured Photo via Hossein Zohrevand, Tasnim News, Creative Commons/ WikiMedia Commons.

Is NRA in Peril from Russian Criminal Conspiracy Charges?

Informed Comment - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:24pm

By Brian Galle | –

Washington, D.C. (The Conversation) – Editor’s note: U.S. authorities have arrested Mariia Butina, a Russian advocate for firearms ownership also known as Maria. In a criminal complaint that led to her indictment, the Justice Department accused her of secretly infiltrating American electoral politics as a foreign agent working on behalf of Russia and engaged in an anti-U.S. conspiracy. Numerous media reports allege that Butina illegally helped funnel Russian money into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through the National Rifle Association. Brian Galle, a law professor who used to work for the Justice Department, explains what the consequences might be if the charges and accounts are true.

1. How could the government punish the organization?

The court papers allude to the NRA, although not by name. Several news sources have described in detail the relationship Butina and her Russian employer built with the organization, starting in 2013 or earlier. Depending on what NRA officials knew and when they knew it, the government could make a case that the gun advocacy and lobby group coordinated with Butina to help her advance Russian interests here in the U.S. – making it a co-conspirator in her individual lawbreaking.

The NRA has several arms. Its largest operation is technically known as a social welfare group or 501(c)(4) organization, granting it exemption from U.S. taxes. Another branch is a traditional charitable organization, making contributions to that entity tax deductible. Under federal tax law, when either of these kinds of nonprofits break laws, they jeopardize their tax exempt status.

The government has stripped several nonprofits of their tax exemptions for breaking the law over the years, including organizations that used their charitable status to defraud donors and, in the 1940s and ‘50s, groups suspected of supporting communism.

Some media reports suggest the NRA served as a conduit for Russian money that landed in the Trump presidential campaign’s coffers. If that proves true, it would violate election laws that bar foreigners from funding political candidates. At the same time, however, there could be some ways to structure such transactions as technically legal, as dark money expert Robert Maguire notes.

In addition, many state and federal laws treat the use of fake or “straw donors” to make campaign contributions with someone else’s money as a crime, punishable with fines. Conceivably, there could be individual criminal liability, even jail time, for any NRA leaders who might be found guilty of scheming to misreport campaign expenditures.

But, I want to emphasize, nothing in the court papers unsealed on July 16, 2018, support those scenarios.

2. What might happen to its influence?

Since charitable giving tends to be an emotional act, some donors might not continue to support the NRA if it lands in legal trouble. Past scandals have weakened support for other prominent nonprofits, such as the Wounded Warrior Project.

For an organization that has cast itself as a bulwark of patriotism, any evidence that it conspired to undermine U.S. laws seems off-brand. On the other hand, polls indicate that support for Vladimir Putin has soared among Republicans, making it hard to predict how the NRA’s members and big donors might respond.

Public scrutiny might also make the NRA more cautious in how it doles out its political spending, a major source of its influence these days. The organization spent more than $30 million supporting President Trump alone in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. If its benefactors become more suspect, even among the NRA’s base, that could loosen its grip over many American politicians and policymakers.

3. How might the government catch more of these alleged infractions?

Although U.S. charities can’t engage in political spending, they are allowed to partner with social welfare groups, as the NRA and the NRA Foundation do.

Unlike charities, social welfare groups can lobby, and they are allowed to spend at least some of their budget on election-related activity. Their donors are known to the government, but hidden from the public, which is why their funding is sometimes called “dark money.”

And the Trump administration just made dark money darker.

Just hours after the government announced Butina’s arrest, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared that the IRS was reducing the reporting requirements for donations to social welfare groups. Under this new guidance, 501(c)(4) groups will no longer need to reveal most of their donations on their tax returns, even to the IRS.

In my opinion, it’s hard to see this move as anything except an effort to help big-money donors cover their tracks. Without a list of donors, the IRS can’t know when an organization is being used to further the interests of those backers, instead of the public.

Brian Galle, Professor of Law, Georgetown University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

From Wednesday: Bombshell: NRA-Linked Russian Charged With Being Foreign Agent | The Beat With Ari Melber | MSNBC

Politicians call for Northern Ireland abortion reform

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:19pm
More than 170 UK and Ireland politicians sign a letter urging the UK government to change the law.

Massive South Iraq Protests move to Baghdad as Police use Water Canons; 1 Dead

Informed Comment - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:18pm

A security guard outside a branch of one Iraq’s most powerful paramilitary groups shot and killed a protester on Friday while trying to push back a crowd, police sources said, ratcheting up tensions over a lack of basic services sweeping southern cities.

Two people were wounded when demonstrators throwing bricks and stones gathered outside the local headquarters of the Iranian-backed Badr Organisation.

“We received the body of a protester with a bullet wound to the head,” said a doctor in a hospital in the city of Diwaniya.

Friday’s death brings to four the number of protesters killed in nearly two weeks of demonstrations against corrupt politicians blamed for failing to deliver basic services and jobs to the crumbling oil hub of Basra and other cities.

Dozens of members of the security forces have been injured in the protests, some of which have taken place at the entrance to oilfields. Officials say production has not been affected.

Anger has also been directed at paramilitary groups such as Badr, which is unusual. Badr politicians had a strong showing in the May 12 parliamentary election which was tainted by allegations of fraud.

Thousands protested in southern cities and Baghdad on Friday, calling for the downfall of political parties, as they escalated demonstrations backed by the country’s most influential clerics.

In Basra, crumbling from years of neglect and under-investment, about 3,000 people gathered outside the headquarters of the provincial governorate.

“The people want the downfall of political parties!” they chanted, a slogan similar to one used in the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings, as politicians struggled to form a new government.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is seeking a second term, promised that his Shi’ite-led government would fund electricity and water projects in Basra, where the colour of tap water is often brown because it contains dirt and where garbage is piled up along many streets.

“The promises they make are all lies,” said Khaled Hassan, 42, a health worker in Basra. “We will not keep quiet.”

On Thursday, Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc finished first in the election, said politicians should suspend efforts to form a coalition until the protesters’ demands are met.

Sadr won the election promising to eradicate poverty and corruption and resist interference from Iran.

Sadr, whose militiamen staged uprisings against US forces after the 2003 invasion, has in the past mobilised tens of thousands of people to press his demands.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful cleric in Iraq, has also expressed solidarity with the demonstrators.

Iraq’s Shia heartland in the south has long been neglected, first by Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and then by Shia-dominated governments after him.

“We are demanding the sacking of the governor and removal of all corrupt officials from the province,” said Faris Abdel Karim, who helped organise a protest outside the house of the provincial governor in the city of Nasiriya, where police fired in the air, wielded batons and fired tear gas.

About 300 people demonstrated at one of Baghdad’s main squares. One held up a poster which read: “The revolution of the poor.” Riot police used water cannons to disperse the crowd.

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Via Middle East Monitor


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Anger mounts in Iraq as protests spread to the capital Baghdad | Al Jazeera English

Syria: Regime victory as Thousands of Rebel Fighters bused out of Daraa, Quneitra

Informed Comment - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 11:09pm

Morek (Syria) (AFP) – More rebel fighters with their families boarded buses to leave southern Syria on Saturday under deals with the regime, a war monitor said, after hundreds reached opposition territory in the north.

On Saturday evening, a second bus convoy prepared to leave Quneitra province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

State news agency SANA published images of white buses it said were leaving Quneitra’s Umm Batna area on the ceasefire line, watched by men in military uniform.

AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR. A Syrian child looks through the windows of a bus carrying rebels and their families from the southern province of Quneitra to northern Syria on on July 21, 2018.

In neighbouring Daraa province, 19 buses carrying rebels and civilians hit the road north, more than half from the town of Nawa, the Observatory said.

Earlier in the day, an AFP correspondent said around 50 buses carrying opposition fighters and civilians from Quneitra reached the Morek crossing on the edge of northwestern rebel-held Idlib province.

Just over a month into a Russia-backed regime campaign to retake Daraa and Quneitra from rebels, Moscow-brokered surrender deals are paving the way for government institutions to return to nearly all parts of these provinces.

The deals provide for rebels who do not agree to a government takeover to board buses with their families to join other opposition fighters in the north of the country.

Damascus has been determined to retake Daraa and Quneitra, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, with Daraa seen as the cradle of Syria’s seven-year uprising.

– ‘Six dead’ in air strikes –

But the surrender agreements do not include jihadists, and Russian air strikes on Saturday killed six civilians in an Islamic State group holdout in Daraa province, the Observatory said.

The deadly raids came just a day after strikes in the same area took the lives of 26 non-combatants including 11 children.

On Saturday, clashes between loyalists and jihadists in the area also killed 13 regime fighters, including eight in a car bombing.

The first bus convoy on Saturday carried around 2,800 people, more than half women and children, and has reached rebel held territory, according to the monitor.

Near the parked buses in Morek, a woman and five children waited by a cluster of small suitcases, the eldest among them carrying bottles of water and a blanket.

Men with light weapons slung on their backs shared a bite to eat and some water as they stood around waiting. Several wore scarves wrapped around their faces.

AFP / Youssef KARWASHAN. Syrian government soldiers hold portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the city of Quneitra on July 19, 2018.

Syrian forces launched their southern offensive on June 19, targeting the province of Daraa that borders Jordan to the south, then turning their attention to neighbouring Quneitra.

With a mix of military power and negotiated surrenders, President Bashar al-Assad’s troops this month captured more than 90 percent of Daraa, where protests against him first erupted in 2011.

Syria’s conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with a brutal government crackdown on protesters.

Featured Photo: AFP / Youssef KARWASHAN. Syrian government soldiers wave national flags after retaking control of the city of Quneitra from rebels, on July 19, 2018.

Trump staffers whine to Fox News about being exiled from DC dating scene: ‘We now all date one another — it’s safer that way’

The Raw Story - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 10:35pm

Young Republicans haver been thoroughly exiled from the mainstream Washington, D.C. dating scene and have taken to hiding their political affiliations on first dates or only dating people from work, according to a new report from Fox News. A female staffer says that Republicans now “stick to o...

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Harvard Bible scholar says passage condemning gays was rewritten — original specifically said gay sex was fine

The Raw Story - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 9:33pm

The original version of Leviticus expressly permitted gay sex, a Biblical scholar writes in the New York Times. Idan Dershowitz is a fellow at Harvard and has studied the development of the Old Testament carefully, including Leviticus 20:13 which reads that “You shall not lie with a male as wi...

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Mike Huckabee mocks Dan Coats’ apology with Jeanine Pirro on Fox News: ‘I want to know what caliber gun was being held to his head’

The Raw Story - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 9:19pm

On Saturday, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats issued a statement attempting to distance himself from his comments about Donald Trump’s decisions to invite Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to Washington, D.C. for a second summit. Coats’ comments caused much consternation within the...

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Live coverage: Active shooter at Los Angeles Trader Joe’s

The Raw Story - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 8:06pm

There is reportedly an active shooter barricaded inside a Trader Joe’s store in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, police say. UPDATE: We can confirm that there is an active barricaded suspect within a #TraderJoes in #Silverlake. An active tac-alert has been declared to ensure all re...

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Australians Protest Five Years of Offshore Detention Policy

World News (NY Times) - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 8:05pm
In cities across Australia demonstrators denounced five years of a policy that has left thousands detained on remote Pacific islands.

White Georgia student accidentally texts racial slur to new black roommate then attempts lamest excuse ever

The Raw Story - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 7:23pm

A white student at Georgia Southern University sent racist text messages to her new roommate, who is black, reports BuzzFeed News. The white student, who was not identified, was intending to text comments about her new roommate to a friend named Hannah. “Her insta looks pretty normal, not too ...

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Israel and Arabic: Where else do language and politics collide?

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 7:23pm
Israel has downgraded the status of Arabic, but there is controversy over language choice elsewhere, too.

Spoiler alert: Why people love looking up spoilers

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 7:20pm
Most people avoid spoilers like the plague - but there are some who say they can’t enjoy a film or a TV show without knowing what’s going to happen.

Opioids: Why 'dangerous' drugs are still being used to treat pain

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 7:17pm
Despite links to UK hospital deaths and a US addiction crisis, opioids remain the painkiller of choice.

Cabinet still being persuaded over Brexit - Dominic Raab

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 7:07pm
The Brexit secretary says selling the government's blueprint for leaving the EU is an ongoing task.

Atlanta's Paper Boi on race and rap stardom in the USA

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 6:54pm
Newsbeat speaks to Paper Boi - aka Brian Tyree Henry - the breakout star of Donald Glover's satire on life as a black American.

'Trade war a reality' French finance minister warns

BBC News - Sat, 21 Jul 2018 - 6:46pm
Bruno Le Maire accuses the US of using "the law of the jungle" with unilateral tariffs
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