April 28, 2018

Politics 'Korean War to End!' Trump Hails 2 Koreas' Deal to Pursue Denuclearization

U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Kim Jong Un’s effort to end his country’s seven-decade war with South Korea and pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. “KOREAN WAR TO END!” Trump tweeted Friday. “The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!” Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in embraced after signing the deal during a historic meeting on their shared border, the first time a North Korean leader has set foot on the southern side. They announced plans to formally declare a resolution to the war and replace the 1953 armistice that ended open hostilities into a peace treaty by year’s end. [Source]

April 27, 2018

(CNN) - With a single step, Kim Jong Un broke with decades of hostility and distrust to become the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korean territory since 1953.

It marked the beginning of a landmark summit, the first meeting of the leaders of North and South Korea in over a decade, with broad implications for the world.

Shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, while standing in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two countries, Kim told the South Korean President he felt the weight of meeting at "such a historic location."

"It was a very courageous decision for you to come all the way here," Moon replied.

The highly-choreographed summit is the result of months of diplomatic talks between the North and the South and every moment has been laden with symbolism and history by organizers.

But in a rare unscripted moment right after their first meeting on the demarcation line, Kim invited Moon to step into the northern side of the DMZ. "Maybe this is the right time for you to enter North Korean territory," Kim said to Moon, who took him up on the invitation.

South Korean viewers in Seoul erupted at the warm greeting between Kim and Moon, with residents gathered around television screens across the city applauding and cheering.

"I didn't think I would be able to see such things happening in my life. I am happy to be witness to history in the making," local resident Kwak Eun-jung told CNN.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Friday.

'Why was it so difficult to get here?'

Before the talks started, North Korea's young leader said he wanted to write a new chapter in Korean relations.

"As I walked over here, I thought 'why was it so difficult to get here?' The separating line wasn't even that high to cross. It was too easy to walk over that line and it took us 11 years to get here," Kim told Moon and the gathered officials.

Moon praised Kim's "courageous and bold decision" to sit down for talks during their morning meeting. "Over the past seven decades we weren't able to communicate, so I think we can talk the whole day today", Moon said, drawing laughs from Kim.

Kim received a full red-carpet welcome at the DMZ, including a military band in traditional dress which played the Korean folk song "arirang," well known in both North and South Korea.

Signing a visitor's book upon entering the Peace House, where negotiations took place, Kim wrote "a new history begins now" and "an age of peace, at the starting point of history."

The summit is the result of lengthy and determined negotiating on the part of Moon, a longtime advocate of peace between the Koreas. It will also set the stage for the first meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader when Donald Trump and Kim meet in late May or June.

Denuclearization, peace treaty discussed

At the Peace House, Moon and Kim convened around a specially-designed table on the second floor of the Peace House.

To the left of Kim, sat his sister Kim Yo Jong, who led the Pyongyang delegation to the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and has been playing a more visible role in North Korean politics.

During almost two hours of talks in the morning, Kim and Moon discussed denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as well as the possibility of a permanent peace agreement, South Korean government spokesman Yoon Young-chan said.

Every moment of the summit has been carefully planned. In the afternoon, Kim and Moon planted a tree using soil and water from significant sites in North and South Korea before taking a private stroll in the DMZ.

In the evening, the two leaders' wives were expected to join them for the dinner.

In a White House statement issued on Friday morning, the Trump administration said it hoped the talks "will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula."
In Beijing, the Chinese government said it "applauds" the leaders of the two countries for taking a "historic step" towards peace.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying finished her regular briefing with a quote from an ancient Chinese poem. "'Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings'," she said.

'Peace, a new start'

The grand ceremony of the day began early when Moon's motorcade left Seoul for the DMZ, tracked the entire way by helicopters live-broadcasting the journey.

Crowds of supporters, holding signs calling for denuclearization, waved off the South Korean President as he set off on the hour-long drive north.

The meeting had been highly anticipated in South Korea as a possible opportunity to discuss a peace treaty between the two countries.

Although hostilities for the Korean War finished in 1953, with the signing of the armistice, no official agreement ending the war was ever signed.

Huge banners have been displayed across the South Korean capital of Seoul proclaiming "Peace, a new start" amid speculation the two leaders could discuss signing an official peace treaty finally ending the Korean War.

The North Korean leader would "open-heartedly discuss" all the issues with Moon, and was entering talks with the hope of "achieving peace prosperity and reunification of the Korean Peninsula," North Korean state media KCNA said.

South Koreans watch the summit from a train station in Seoul on Friday.

However, stakes are high and some observers are doubtful the two sides can bridge the gap created by more than 60 years of antagonism and suspicion.

Just last year, Kim was an international pariah, denounced for his weapons tests and dire human rights record, including what the US and South Korea say was the murder of his own half brother Kim Jong Nam, in Malaysia.

In the past three months, the North Korean leader has gone to great lengths to cultivate an affable and diplomatic image, making his first trip abroad to Beijing last month and just this week was photographed comforting the Chinese victims of a bus crash.

But experts said the outcome of the summit in the long term will depend on how willing Kim is to stick to its agreements. Observers have warned that the regime has a track record of extracting concessions without giving much in return, in order to ensure the survival of the Kim family dynasty.

"The success of this summit will not be known today but will depend on the reactions from Washington and Pyongyang over the coming days and weeks. North Korean cheating and US ambivalence has caused the collapse of all previous openings," Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN.

Kim's arsenal

Officials around the world, especially in the United States, will be paying closer attention to any specific agreements by Kim relating to his nuclear arsenal.

Kim and Moon Jae-in pose for photos in front of Bukhansan Peace House for the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27.

Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the North Koreans needed to make clear commitments on its nuclear and missile programs. "I would like to keep close eyes on ... this summit and find out if it is leading to concrete action," he said on Friday morning.

Less than a week ago, North Korea announced it had suspended its nuclear and weapons testing programs, which it proclaimed were "complete."

But while Kim has in recent weeks publicly endorsed denuclearization, what exactly he means by the term and how it would take place has been left extremely vague.

Trump Says He Refused to Approve $1 Billion Jerusalem Embassy

New embassy, angering Palestinians, to open next month

April 27, 2018

[Bloomberg] - President Trump says he rejected plans to build a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem for $1 billion.

President Donald Trump said he rejected a proposal to build a new U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem for $1 billion, and instead the U.S. will spend less than half a million dollars to open the facility next month.

“The papers were put before me to sign an application for more than $1 billion to build an embassy,” Trump said Friday at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. “I had my name half-signed and I noticed the figure and I never got to the word ‘Trump.”’

The president said he called the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and asked about the expenditure. Friedman, Trump said, told him “I can build it for $150,000” by renovating part of an existing U.S. property in Jerusalem, and “instead of 10 years from now, we can open it up in three months.”

Trump said he authorized spending $300,000 to $400,000. “It’s going to be beautiful and it could be somewhat temporary,” he said.

“But that’s the way government works,” he said. “They were going to spend a billion dollars and we’re going to spend much less than half a million dollars.”

Trump announced late last year that the U.S. would move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. The announcement infuriated the Palestinian Authority, which responded by breaking off U.S.-brokered talks on a potential new peace deal with Israel.

Trump said he may travel to Jerusalem to attend the opening of the new embassy.

April 14, 2018

Editorial on Illinois Exodus: When Living Here No Longer Makes Financial Sense

Chicago taxpayers have paid a heavy price. They’ve been hit with $1.2 billion in property tax increases for police, fire and teacher pensions; a 29.5 percent tax on water and sewer bills to save the Municipal Employees pension fund and a 56 percent and 28.2 percent increases in the monthly tax tacked on to telephone bills — on cellphones and land lines — for the Laborers Pension fund.
After the election, Chicago homeowners and businesses face yet another property tax increase for police and fire pensions in 2020 — and another hike the following year in the tax tacked onto water and sewer bills to save the Municipal Employees pension fund. Following five-year “ramp-up” periods, additional increases will be needed to honor the city’s statutory promise to keep all four city government pension funds on the road to 90 percent funding by 2048. By the city’s own estimate, police and fire pension costs will rise by $297.3 million, or 36 percent, in 2020. The Municipal and Laborers plan costs will grow by $330.4 million, or 50 percent, in 2022. [Chicago Sun Times, April 26, 2018]

April 13, 2018

(Chicago Tribune) - If the state of Illinois kept score on millennials it poached from surrounding states, it could have counted Sara Niedzwiecki — temporarily. A Wisconsin native, she moved near Chicago shortly after college, envisioning city life as it’s portrayed in the movies: hip, adventurous, welcoming. Not for her, it turned out.

As part of a series on the accelerating exodus from Illinois, we’re tracking down expatriates (and potential expats) and telling their stories. From millennials to retirees, their narratives follow the same thread: Illinois is losing its promise as a land of opportunity. Government debt and dysfunction contribute to a weak housing market and a stagnant jobs climate. State and local governments face enormous pension and other obligations. Taxes have risen sharply; many Illinois politicians say they must rise more.

People are fleeing. Last year’s net loss: 33,703. Among those who’ve left in recent years:

Sara Niedzwiecki, now 30, moved to the suburbs in 2010 just as millennials began to accelerate their departure. In two waves between 2011 and 2015, millennials led age groups in out-migration to other states, according to Internal Revenue Service data compiled by the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Illinois ranked second-worst in losing millennials and their dependents, behind New York.

Niedzwiecki, an accountant fresh out of college, worked in Libertyville for several years and then at a downtown location. Sure, it would have been nice to live in Lakeview or Bucktown with other 20-somethings, but she couldn’t afford it. So she endured a daily commute from the suburbs and tried to build a life.

It never happened. After years of watching her paycheck get sapped by rising rent and taxes, and after exploring options to buy a house and realizing she couldn’t afford that either, she moved back to Wisconsin. She got a better-paying job, left her $850-per-month basement apartment in the suburbs and bought a $148,000 two-bedroom condo in Madison with parking and a washer and dryer. Her property taxes are about $2,800 annually.

“I just felt like I was never going to get ahead in Illinois,” she said. “Six years of living there proved that.”

She grew up in Door County with her twin sister. Both women lived in Illinois before moving back to Wisconsin. A handful of their friends left Illinois, too, for Florida, California, Texas and Wisconsin. “I was super excited about trying something new and getting out of my small town,” she told us. “But Illinois was not feasible for me.” Instead, she has an affordable life in Madison. She hasn’t looked back.

Donald Felz, a lifelong Illinoisan who retired from a utility company in 2016, says a sinking home value and taxes drove him and his wife, Debi, out of Illinois. The Woodstock home they built in 2006 for $390,000, into which they put another $35,000, was losing value. This was to be the house where the Felzes would host grandchildren and putz in the yard. Instead, rather than put their retirement finances in further peril, they sold it in 2016 for $310,000. The property tax bill had climbed from $7,658 in 2007 to $8,340 in 2015. That’s not a huge rate of increase. But had their housing value remained at the purchase price, the taxes would have been nearly $12,500. A falling Illinois home value kept a high Illinois tax bill from rising higher.

The frustration, Felz said from his current home in Windsor, Colo., was more than taxes. It was how those dollars were spent: “If I could have seen some incremental improvement that followed the increases, then OK. I get it. I see it. But the roads were not getting fixed. The schools were still struggling. I couldn’t figure it out. The money was going somewhere.”

In Colorado, taxes on their home, valued at $510,000 and climbing, are about $4,000 a year.

Earlier this year, Felz returned to Illinois to visit his father. They spent evenings on the sofa watching TV and digesting the constant scroll of campaign ads from candidates running in the March primary election. That gave Donald Felz one more reason to appreciate his new home in Colorado: “We have term limits.”

Russia, U.S. Near Brink in a Syrian Standoff With Nuclear Risks

April 14, 2018

(Bloomberg) - Russia has spent years testing state-of-the-art products of its defense industry in Syria. Now it’s warning that some of those weapons could be turned against the U.S., as tensions between the powers reach new heights.

U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to strike Russia’s Syrian ally in response to an alleged chemical attack -- and Russia is threatening to retaliate if its forces there suffer harm. While both sides have dialed back the brinkmanship in the last couple of days, they remain locked in what could be the most dangerous standoff between nuclear-armed countries for decades.

Tensions have erupted out of the Syrian battlefield, where the U.S. and Russia back opposing sides and forces from Iran, Turkey and Israel have also been sucked in. Delivering a somber address to an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council early Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres drew a Cold War parallel -- and said the threat could be even more acute now.

“The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present,” Guterres said. “This is exactly the risk we face today -- that things spiral out of control. It is our common duty to stop it.”

Trump told Moscow on Wednesday to “get ready” for an American missile strike in Syria, after a Kremlin diplomat said that any rockets aimed toward Russian forces there -- as well as any plane or ship that fired them -- would be targeted.

Since then, hopes of averting a direct confrontation have risen. Trump put his attack on pause as he consulted allies, and a senior Russian official said the envoy’s threats had been misinterpreted. Still, Western diplomats in Moscow say the situation remains unpredictable.

Russia doesn’t expect the U.S. to abandon its proposed strikes on Syria, according to Alexander Golts, an independent defense and security expert in the Russian capital. Its threats of retaliation are part of a strategy that seeks to limit the scale of American action, and ensure that Moscow receives advance warning, he said: “Russia is raising the stakes in an effort to de-escalate on its terms.”

That’s what happened a year ago, when Trump ordered cruise-missile attacks to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for another alleged use of chemical weapons -- while forewarning the Russians so they didn’t suffer casualties.

‘Out of Control’

But there’s no guarantee of a repeat. And if the two countries do end up clashing directly, even the worst outcomes can’t be ruled out, said Golts. “Russia has what it takes to strike back at the American warships,” he said. “What would happen next is hard to say. It could fairly quickly escalate to a nuclear level.”

In Washington on Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was delivering a similar warning to Congress. Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that while it’s important to “stop the murder of innocent people,” his greatest fear about a strike on Syria is that the conflict could “escalate out of control, if you get my drift.”

President Vladimir Putin boasted last month about a new generation of “invincible” nuclear arms -- including high-speed underwater drones, and hypersonic weapons capable of dodging U.S. defenses at 10 times the speed of sound.

February 7, 2018

Police in China are Scanning Travelers with Facial Recognition Glasses

February 7, 2018

(Engadget) - Police in China are now sporting glasses equipped with facial recognition devices and they're using them to scan train riders and plane passengers for individuals who may be trying to avoid law enforcement or are using fake IDs. So far, police have caught seven people connected to major criminal cases and 26 who were using false IDs while traveling, according to People's Daily.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based LLVision Technology Co. developed the devices. The company produces wearable video cameras as well and while it sells those to anyone, it's vetting buyers for its facial recognition devices. And, for now, it isn't selling them to consumers. LLVision says that in tests, the system was able to pick out individuals from a database of 10,000 people and it could do so in 100 milliseconds. However, CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that in the real world, accuracy would probably drop due to "environmental noise." Additionally, aside from being portable, another difference between these devices and typical facial recognition systems is that the database used for comparing images is contained in a hand-held device rather than the cloud.

Obviously, there are privacy concerns regarding this technology and not everyone believes police should be using it. Amnesty International's William Nee told the Wall Street Journal, "The potential to give individual police officers facial recognition technology in sunglasses could eventually make China's surveillance state all the more ubiquitous." Last month, reports surfaced that China was using facial recognition to geo-fence residents of the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region of the country, a move that has attracted criticism from a number of human rights groups. China is also working on building a facial recognition database that will contain info on all of its 1.3 billion citizens.

This time of year is one of the busiest travel periods in China as this month hosts the lunar new year. Around 389 million train trips are expected to take place during this year's Spring Festival as well as 65 million trips by air.

Turkey's President Warns US to Quit Syria's Manbij

February 6, 2018

(AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the United States to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij, vowing Turkish troops would expand a cross-border military operation to the key strategic hub.

Erdogan blamed Washington for the presence in Manbij of fighters from the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which Ankara sees as terror groups.

Turkey on January 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin. However moving east to Manbij -- where unlike Afrin there is a US military presence -- would mark a major escalation.

Accusing Washington of breaking past promises, Erdogan said: "They (Americans) told us they will pull out of Manbij. They said they will not stay in Manbij... Why don't you just go?"

"Who did you bring there? PYD. Who did you bring there? YPG. Who did you bring there? PKK," he said.

Turkey considers YPG as Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency since 1984 and is designated a terrorist outfit by Ankara and its Western allies.

"And then you tell us not to come to Manbij! We will come to Manbij to return it to its original owners," he added.

Turkey considers towns like Manbij to be originally Arab-majority territory whose ethnic balance was upset in favour of the Kurds during the seven-year civil war.

Turkey's Western allies, including the United States, do not classify the YPG as a terror group and have worked closely with its fighters in the battle against Islamic State jihadists.

In 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance dominated by the YPG, captured Manbij from IS.

In a show of anger at Turkey's NATO ally, Erdogan asked the United States what it was doing in Syria in the first place.

"You do not have a border, you are not a neighbour (of Syria)," he said. "What's your business there? We have a 911 kilometre (566 miles) border."

Erdogan also accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth over US support for the YPG.

"They told us many things but unfortunately they did not tell the truth," Erdogan said. "Mr Obama did not tell the truth and now Mr Trump is heading down the same path."

U.S. Strikes Pro-Syrian Forces After 'Unprovoked Attack' on Partners' Base

February 7, 2018

(Reuters) - U.S. aircraft carried out rare, retaliatory strikes in Syria's Deir al-Zor province on Wednesday against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after they attacked U.S.-backed fighters' headquarters there, U.S. officials said.

No U.S. troops embedded with the local fighters at their headquarters were believed to have been wounded or killed in the attack, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State described the attack on the headquarters as "unprovoked," but offered little information in its terse statement confirming the attack.

The coalition did not disclose whether U.S. troops had been present or involved in the retaliatory strike or offer any details on which forces attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces' headquarters. The SDF are a U.S.-backed alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria.

"Syrian pro-regime forces initiated an unprovoked attack against well-established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters Feb. 7," the statement said.

It said the incident took place 8 km (5 miles) east of the Euphrates River.

"In defense of coalition and partner forces, the coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression against partners engaged in the Global Coalition's defeat-Daesh mission," the statement said, using an Arab acronym for Islamic State.

The Syrian army is backed by Iranian-backed militias and Russian forces. The U.S.-led coalition did not say whether any pro-Syrian fighters were killed in the retaliatory strike.

Netanyahu Visits Golan Heights, Near Syrian Border, and Cautions Israel's Enemies

February 6, 2018

(Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a rare visit to the occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, peering across the nearby border into Syria and warning Israel's enemies not to "test" its resolve.

Netanyahu was accompanied to a hilltop observation point, some three kilometres (two miles) from a 1974 ceasefire line, by his security cabinet. He has been cautioning against any attempt by Iran to deepen its military foothold in Syria or construct missile factories in neighbouring Lebanon.

"We seek peace but are prepared for any scenario and I wouldn't suggest to anyone that they test us," Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks.

Pennsylvania Department of Education Sets Property Tax Limits

November 29, 2017

(TRIBUNE-REVIEW) - Pennsylvania school districts will be able to increase property taxes by at least 2.4 percent in the 2018-19 school year, though a select few in the Pittsburgh region can go as high as 3.9 percent, if they choose.

The state Department of Education set the limits.

This chart shows the tax-increase limit for each district in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties and other select districts in the TribLIVE coverage area included:

Districts can exceed their limits only with approval from voters at a referendum or through referendum exceptions from the state. Exceptions are available only for school construction debt, special education spending and retirement contributions.

The statewide base is down slightly from 2.5 percent for the 2017-18 school year. Adjusted limits for most districts went down by the same amount.

The limits are set as part of the state's Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of 2006. The statewide index is based on the statewide average weekly wage and the employment cost index. It is then adjusted for each school district, with poorer districts being able to increase property taxes more than wealthier ones.

The decision to increase property taxes, if at all, is up to each district's school board.

Since 2006, the statewide base has been as low as 1.7 percent in 2013-14 and 2011-12, and as high as 4.4 percent in 2008-09.

School boards must decide by Jan. 25 if their districts will not raise taxes by more than their indexes. If not, they have to make a proposed version of a preliminary 2018-19 budget available for public inspection.

Districts seeking referendum exceptions to raise taxes higher than their indexes have to seek approval from the Department of Education by March 1.

January 21, 2018

Where Did the Towers Go? Evidence of Directed Free-energy Technology on 9/11 (by Dr. Judy Wood)

911 Overview IRREFUTABLE Classified Free Energy Technology Revealed to the World (Published by timnufc1)

The first plane hit the World Trade Center’s north tower at 8:46 AM. The south tower was hit less than 20 minutes later, at 9:03 AM. The south tower was hit last but collapsed first, at 09:59 AM. The north tower remained standing for just over 100 minutes before it fell at 10:28 AM.

Review by Jeanmarie Todd

November 6, 2013

I still haven't made it all the way through this book, but I have looked at certain photos and passages over and over. This is a stunning work, original, well documented and riveting. We all have our memories of where we were and what we were doing when the towers were "apparently" struck by airplanes on 9/11/01. The two things I'm sure of are:

1) this was a turning point in world affairs, much like JFK's assassination, and

2) Dr. Judy Wood stands alone in investigating and revealing what actually physically took place -- and what did not.

Others have looked into the who and why; Dr. Judy Wood looks at what happened to the towers. Her expertise as a mechanical engineer/materials scientist is unparalleled for the purposes of unraveling the truth about the Twin Towers -- and the other buildings that fell that day.

The many, many photographs, diagrams, and maps in the book are very helpful and strongly support the author's assertions.

My boyfriend regularly asks people to give him "five minutes for five photographs" and introduces this book to those who agree with just a few select photos, which always stun the person being shown these truths for the first time. It's interesting to see the dawning realization on people's faces as they appreciate for the first time, in many cases, how the official story is a pack of lies, and very obviously so.

I was working for Bloomberg News at the time of 9/11 and in fact was across the river in New Jersey for some training. I was staying in a hotel in Princeton, NJ, and each night when I went home I turned on the TV and watched 9/11 news without a break and generally went to sleep with it on. For the first week or so, instead of the training class I was supposed to be in, we were borrowed to assist with 9/11 research. My task was updating the list of victims by culling through local newspaper records and getting the daily government updates. I also had to call companies that had had offices in the Twin Towers to ask them about survivors and dead among their staff. It was awful, to say the least.

I never really examined those memories for the first 10 years or so, because it was so painful and I had no insight into them. It wasn't until I read Where Did the Towers Go? that I realized that the official story had been ready and waiting for an unsuspecting public (much like how the Patriot Act was prewritten, ready and waiting to be passed, unread, by both houses of Congress). Within hours of the planes apparently hitting the tours, we "knew" that Osama bin Laden was to blame, and various aspects of the official story were hammered into us over and over. Early reports about curious events in the financial markets (short sales of airline stocks ahead of time, etc.) disappeared pretty quickly. But the same images of planes hitting towers, and towers "falling" down, were repeated over, and over, and over. Now I realize this is classic mind control programming: shock and awe, with endless repetition of a predetermined storyline to guide our perceptions, memories and responses.

I would love to have every American read this marvelous book. You'll never be the same. And that's a good thing.

Review by reader805

December 17, 2017

Trump Wants to Cut Federal Regulations ‘Below the 1960 Level’

December 14, 2017

[ThinkProgress.org] - Before cutting a red ribbon with oversized scissors Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump touted his administration’s progress in cutting regulations, saying he wants to return the federal government to the level of regulations that existed in 1960.

Over the past 11 months, the Trump administration has canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions, “more than any previous president, by far,” the president said at a White House event.
“We’re going to cut a ribbon because we’re getting back below the 1960 level and we’ll be there fairly quickly,” he said.
Trump pledged to cut the Federal Regulatory code back down from more than 185,000 pages in 2017 to the 20,000 pages it was in 1960. 

A progress update on the administration’s regulatory rollback was contained in the semi-annual Unified Regulatory Agenda published by the White House Office of Management and Budget Thursday afternoon.

December 16, 2017

ISIS Threatening War on U.S. Soil After Trump's Jerusalem Announcement

December 14, 2017

[Newsweek] - The Islamic State militant group took to social media Thursday and threatened to carry out attacks on the United States, specifically in New York City, following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The group sent the messages across Telegram with the titles of “Wait for us” and “ISIS in Manhattan,” plus pictures of Times Square and a “bomb belt and detonator,” Reuters reported.

"We will do more ops in your land, until the final hour and we will burn you with the flames of war which you started in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria and Afghan. Just you wait," one of the messages read.

Another message cited the Trump administration’s proclamation last week regarding Jerusalem, the holy city that is important to Jews, Muslims and Christians and of critical importance in any negotiations for a Middle East peace deal.

The message stated: "The recognition of your dog 'Trump' [sic] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country."

Protesters shout anti-American slogans in response to President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan, on December 13. The banner reads. "Curse, curse, curse. Every Anti-Islam step of the United States." REUTERS/MOHSIN RAZA

The threats, which ISIS has made before, came after a man injured five people in a walkway in New York’s Port Authority bus terminal Tuesday with a pipe bomb. The suspect, Akayed Ullah, 27, reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attempted attack and had a second device on his person that officials have yet to describe, according to CNN.

While he may have pledged to ISIS, there was no indication Ullah had any contact with the militant group.

ISIS has been largely driven out of Iraq and Syria, but it still has the capability to carry out strikes around the globe. The group reportedly claimed it conducted 38 operations in 19 countries between October 2016 and September 2017—or year 1438 in the Islamic calendar.

Though leaders across the Middle East told him the Jerusalem decision could spark violence and outrage, Trump kept a key campaign promise last week when he ordered the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv moved. He said the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.”

Trump also said the move was a different approach from that of previous administrations, which had failed to produce a lasting peace in the often volatile region.

“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Trump said.

However, the embassy’s move is expected to take a minimum of three years. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the transition could take place as late as 2020, adding that even that estimate was “ambitious.”

“It’s not going to be anything that happens right away,” Tillerson said. “Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.”

December 15, 2017

Clinton Foundation Received Millions From Merkel Government

Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel (look-a-like Merkel is Clinton's favorite world leader).

January 07, 2017

[Global Research] - Back in September when the travelling press corps asked Hillary Clinton who her favourite world leader was, she was quick to name German Chancellor Angela Merkel as her top choice — for good reasons. As Clinton was praising Merkel, the German government was busy syphoning millions to the Clintons.

Between July and September 2016, unwitting German taxpayers gave as much as $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, Germany newspaper Die Welt reveals. Die Welt asked if Chancellor Merkel was trying to influence the outcome of U.S. presidential election.


12 Year Old Girl Discovers That All But One US President Are Directly Related To Each Other

Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel joke about their mutual love of pantsuits

June 8, 2011

[The Ticket] - It's no secret Hillary Clinton loves a good pantsuit.

Clinton, who possesses them in virtually every color of the rainbow, has made suits her fashion uniform of choice during her time in the public eye. And so prior to yesterday's state dinner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is herself a pantsuit fan, poked some gentle fun at the Secretary of State's wardrobe, via an unusual gift--taking care to tell Clinton that "you may take it in a playful mode."

When they met on Tuesday, Merkel presented Clinton with a framed copy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper featuring an Associated Press photo of the two leaders during the Secretary of State's visit to Germany this past April.

The photo was of Clinton and Merkel, in their signature pantsuits, captured from the waist down and featured the caption, "Which one is Merkel and which one is Clinton?" The following page of the paper revealed the full photo--which Merkel included on the back of the framed gift she presented to Clinton Tuesday.

Upon seeing the photo, Clinton, who has frequently joked about her love of pantsuits, hooted with laughter.

You can see more photos of Clinton and Merkel below, including the photo that started it all.

December 8, 2017

Palestinian Envoy Warns: Trump Move on Jerusalem a 'Declaration of War'

The Palestinian envoy to Britain calls Trump's change on Jerusalem policy 'a kiss of death to the two-state solution,' while the Pope and Mideast countries express acute concern

December 6, 2017

(Reuters and The Associated Press) -  U.S. President Donald Trump would effectively be making a declaration of war if he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the Palestinians' chief representative to Britain said on Wednesday.

"If he says what he is intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two state solution," Manuel Hassassian said in a BBC radio interview.

"He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel," Hassassian added.

The Palestinian prime minister says President Donald Trump's expected recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital is bound to "destroy the peace process and the two-state solution."

On Wednesday, hundreds of Palestinians gathered on the streets of Gaza City to protest Trump's announcement. The demonstration was organized by different Palestinian factions and militant groups which called for Palestinian unity in response to Trump's expected announcement.

The protesters burned American and Israeli flags.

They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as "our eternal capital" and calling it a "red line."

Hamas official Salah Bardawil said the Palestinians were "on a dangerous crossroad today; we either remain or perish." He added that "Trump or anyone thinking that our people, nation and resistance are unable to push back his plans is wrong."

Hamas' politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Jazeera TV that "our Palestinian people will have a suitable response. As a people, we cannot accept this American pattern."

In the meantime, Britain itself expressed concern over the change in American policy on Jerusalem, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying: "We view reports that we've heard with concern."

He told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday that Britain thinks "Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians — a negotiated settlement that we want to see."

Johnson added: "We have no plans ourselves to move our embassy."

Pope Francis also sounded his dismay over the upcoming move, saying recent developments made him "profoundly concerned."

Also on Wednesday, the Turkish presidential spokesman declared that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will meet on December 13 to coordinate a joint response on Trump's Jerusalem move.

The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim decried no Wednesday President Donald Trump's expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will make the region's problems "unresolvable."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim spoke about the possibility at a news conference with South Korean officials in Seoul. Yildirim said it was vital for the Middle Eastern region and for global peace that Trump not make such an announcement.

The prime minister added that a declaration could cause religious clashes and destroy efforts toward formation of a Palestinian state.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, claimed that the "whole world is against" President Donald Trump's move. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a "grave mistake," he added.

In Lebanon, two leading newspapers issued front page rebukes to President Trump, with An-Nahar comparing the American president to the late British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, who a hundred years ago famously promised Palestine as a national home to the Jewish People, in what is known as the Balfour declaration.

The paper's Wednesday headline reads: "Trump, Balfour of the century, gifts Jerusalem to Israel."

The English-language Daily Star newspaper has published a full-page photo of Old City of Jerusalem capped by the Dome of the Rock beneath the headline: "No offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of PALESTINE."

Senior U.S. officials said on Tuesday that Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday and set in motion the relocation of the U.S. embassy to the city.

November 9, 2017

"Senators Push to Abandon Social Security Numbers in Favor of a More Secure, More Digital Form of Identification" -- Now What Might That Be?

Senators Push to Ditch Social Security Numbers in Light of Equifax Hack

November 8, 2017

[TechCrunch] - Eyeing more secure alternatives to social security numbers, lawmakers in the U.S. are looking abroad. Today, the Senate Commerce Committee questioned former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Verizon Chief Privacy Officer Karen Zacharia, and both the current and former CEOs of Equifax on how to protect consumers against major data breaches. The consensus was that social security numbers have got to go.

Rounding out the panel, Entrust Datacard President and CEO Todd Wilkinson offered some context and insight about why the U.S. should indeed move away from social security numbers — a step that the witnesses unanimously agreed was necessary if not wholly sufficient to protect consumers moving forward, in light of the Equifax hack.

"Over 145 million Americans’ insecure identities are now forever at risk, and they have limited ability to protect themselves," Wilkinson said. "A key question for this committee to consider is: What do we do now given these identities are forever compromised?"

Social security numbers are a privacy nightmare. While a consumer who gets hacked can replace credit card numbers and other account details, a social security number is permanent, linked inexorably to a real identity throughout a person's lifespan. In the hearing, Wilkinson and many of the Senators present argued that the U.S. needs to move to a dynamic system of personal identity, one designed with digital security in mind — a stark contrast with an inflexible legacy system that dates back to the 1930s.

"Some combination of digital multi-factor authentication... is the right path," former Equifax CEO Richard Smith said when asked about such a program.

Multiple times throughout the hearing, Brazil's Infraestrutura de Chaves Públicas system of citizen IDs through digital certificates came up as a potential model for the U.S. as it moves forward. In this model, a certificate lasts for three years at maximum and can be used to issue a digital signature much like written signatures are used now. Unlike its counterpart in the U.S., these identity accounts can be revoked and reissued easily through an established national protocol.

Members of the Senate committee also advocated for "rigorous" data security rules, expanding FTC authority to enforce them and stiffer penalties to motivate companies to protect consumers proactively.

"The parade of high profile data breaches seems to have no end," said ranking committee member Bill Nelson. "We can either take action with common sense rules or we can start planning for our next hearing on the issue."

Last month, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce made it clear that the Trump administration is also interested in abandoning social security numbers in favor of a more secure, more digital form of identification, stating that the form of ID has "outlived its usefulness."

Comments at Yahoo:

Tamper proof, illegal proof hack proof and not to be shared with a company that could duplicate or abuse this form of I.D.666 here we come.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Says Carbon Dioxide is NOT a Primary Contributor to Global Warming

"The climate has changed and is always changing. As the Climate Science Special Report states, the magnitude of future climate change depends significantly on 'remaining uncertainty in the sensitivity of Earth's climate to [greenhouse gas] emissions,'" said White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah, in a statement.

March 20, 2017

[CNN] - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"But we don't know that yet. ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."

The statement contradicts the public stance of the agency Pruitt leads. The EPA's webpage on the causes of climate change states, "Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change."

Pruitt's view is also at odds with the conclusion of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere," NASA and NOAA said in January.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, slammed Pruitt for his comments, calling his views "extreme" and "irresponsible."

"Anyone who denies over a century's worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA. Now more than ever, the Senate needs to stand up to Scott Pruitt and his dangerous views," he said in a statement.

Schatz said lawmakers would hold Pruitt accountable through the appropriations process and oversight of the EPA, and by making sure he follows the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge President Barack Obama's regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Democrats and environmentalists opposed Pruitt's nomination to lead the EPA due to his close relationship with fossil fuel companies and his history of casting doubt on climate change. Conservatives and the energy industry have cheered his efforts to push back on what they view as over-regulation under Obama.

Pruitt maintained on Thursday it's possible to be pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-environment all at once.

"This idea that if you're pro-environment you're anti-energy is just something we've got to change so that attitude is something we're working on very much," he said.

Asked whether he would seek to roll back the EPA's 2009 determination that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are a danger to public health, Pruitt suggested he would like to see Congress take up the issue.

"I think all those things need to be addressed as we go forward but not least of which is the response by the legislative branch with respect to the issue," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases from automobiles. In 2014, it determined the agency could also regulate some sources of greenhouse gases, such as power plants.

Pruitt also called the Paris Agreement, an international accord aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, "a bad deal." He said it puts the United States on a different playing field than developing countries like China and India.

The United States has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In comparison, China has committed to reach peak carbon emissions levels by 2030, but will try to reach that point sooner.

"I happen to think the Paris accord, the Paris treaty, or the Paris Agreement, if you will, should have been treated as a treaty, should have gone through senate confirmation. That's a concern," he said.

The Paris Agreement was negotiated by the State Department, and future adherence to U.S. commitments made under Obama will be guided by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson, the former chief of Exxon Mobil, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he believes the United States should remain a party to the Paris Agreement.

White House-approved Report Concludes Humans are Behind Climate Change

Humans activity is behind the accelerated warming of the planet since the mid-20th century, the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment finds.

The report was prepared by 13 federal agencies and approved by the White House.

Its conclusion contradicts public statements by President Donald Trump and top administration officials who have cast doubt on humans' role in climate change.

November 3, 2017

[CNBC.com] - 2016 is likely to have been the hottest year since global temperatures were recorded in the 19th century.

Editorial: Challenge Illinois Public Sector Unions, Go to Jail. Seriously?

November 3, 2017

[Editorial - Chicago Tribune] - We’ve long suspected that many Illinois Democrats would tax sunshine and bakery scents if they could. Look at how Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle went after soda by the ounce. Our advice: Enjoy what you can while you can, because you never know what’s next.
The beverage tax (soon to be history, thankfully) seems a nuisance compared to a nasty corollary we saw recently employed by Democrats in Springfield: What we can’t tax, we’ll threaten with jail time.
It’s a disturbing worldview, but this is the political pattern in Illinois: Do everything to benefit those who can deliver money and campaign muscle. Everyone else, including most taxpayers and employers, can get lost. 
Our example today is a pro-union bill in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly that would prevent Illinois municipalities from setting up right-to-work zones, in which employees in union-protected positions could choose whether to join and pay dues. For legislators who are tightly aligned with organized labor, the proposed ban hits the spot. But it apparently wasn’t enough of a hint to local officials and employers about who really runs Illinois. So the bill’s backers included a stunning clause that said any elected official who defies the state ban on right-to-work zones would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. 
A Class A misdemeanor, if you’re wondering, is one step below a felony; it’s punishable by up to a year in jail. The outrageous message this bill sends to the world: Don’t even think of challenging organized labor in Illinois because we lock up troublemakers. 
The threat of jail time is gratuitous. If a local official defies Illinois law, the state can act to enforce compliance. There’s no need to threaten mayors or others with criminal prosecution. We asked around among legislative observers and couldn’t find a similar example. This was a brushback pitch by labor’s pet lawmakers. 
Note that this isn’t just a goofy proposal going nowhere. House and Senate members actually passed it. More in a moment. 
The specific target of the bill, we assume, is suburban Lincolnshire, which passed a right-to-work ordinance in 2015 that is now being challenged by labor unions in federal court. 
Our concern is the damage this proposal does to Illinois’ reputation among employers as an attractive place to do business. States are in constant competition to attract and retain investment and jobs. Chicago hopes to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, which will employ up to 50,000 people. Illinois was bypassed by Foxconn, a tech giant, and Toyota and Mazda. Something scared them off. We wonder what. 
Employers looking to invest and hire want to enter partnerships with local governments. Amazon couldn't be clearer in its request for site proposals: "A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure will be high-priority considerations.” 
What do employers see in Illinois? High taxes, vast public debts and pension obligations nobody bothered to fund, onerous business regulations and a powerful adversary in the form of unions backed by elected officials. 
Here’s where right-to-work laws enter the picture: They don’t ban unions, they give individuals the freedom-of-association choice of whether to join and pay dues. That puts pressure on labor organizers to justify membership. Employers see right-to-work status as shorthand for a flexible, pro-growth environment that is welcoming to commerce. There are 28 right-to-work states. Illinois isn’t one of them. Wisconsin and Indiana are, and wouldn’t you know it, they are adding manufacturing jobs at a far faster clip than Illinois is. 
Given the politics here, Illinois won’t adopt right-to-work status anytime soon. That’s why Gov. Bruce Rauner initially proposed allowing communities to establish their own zones. The General Assembly saw Lincolnshire’s effort as a threat to kith and kin. So both chambers passed the local-right-to-work ban, which Rauner then vetoed. Two weeks ago, sponsors attempted to override the veto but came up one vote short in the House. The bill could come up for another override attempt within days. Opponents raised enough noise over the jail threat that sponsoring Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, said he would remove the criminal penalty. If so, that’s only because he needs that additional one vote. 
But what will be the next 10 bills in which legislators try to put uncooperative local officials behind bars? 
Illinois’ future won’t be determined by a workplace experiment in Lincolnshire. The economy won’t wither if the state remains a right-to-work holdout. Something has to give, though. Elected officials need to make Illinois more attractive to employers. Reforming tax policy, balancing the budget and addressing the pension crisis are good ways to advertise that Illinois is open for business. Criminalizing an economic development tool is not.

Joliet Illinois Scales Back City Employee Pension Benefits

The new policy comes on the heels of several Joliet Patch articles examining generous payouts for outgoing city staff.

November 2, 2017

[Joliet Patch] - The current administration at Joliet's City Hall has decided that enough is enough when it comes to some of the long-standing generous fringe benefits programs that were in place for city staff. City employees have received a memo from corporation counsel-interim city manager Marty Shanahan informing them the city's payout program is ending for employees choosing to wait until the eve of their retirement to cash out unused sick and vacation banks to pad their retirement pensions. That practice was allowing several employees to increase their retirement pensions, which was impacting city of Joliet finances.

In recent weeks, Joliet Patch published a series of articles examining the retirement payouts for several outgoing city officials including Jim Haller and Dave Mackley. Patch revealed that Mackley, who makes $118,000 annually, is also getting a payout of $104,155 spread out over the next few months for cashing out his bank of unused vacation and sick days that the city allowed him to accrue. March 31 is his last work day.

But that was only half the story. By waiting until the end of his career to cash out his vacation and sick banks, Mackley is able to pad his local government pension in a significant fashion. The city of Joliet determined that Mackley's $104,155 payout will also spike his monthly pension by an extra $1,319 per month. That comes out to be another $15,830 annually for Mackley's city pension.

"The past practice of extending the payouts for accrued vacation, sick and compensatory time over the last four months of employment will no longer be an option," states the Shanahan memo.

"Extending payouts for accrued vacation, sick time and compensatory time over the last four months of employment requires substantial additional city expenditures ... The new policy will continue the efforts of our city to lower long-term liabilities and future indeterminable expenses," Shanahan wrote to his fellow city employees.

For example, the 13 Joliet city employees who have announced their retirements during the past year will receive slightly more than $500,000 for cashing out their banks of unused sick, vacation and compensatory time, led by the $104,155 that is due to Mackley, who worked at City Hall for 33 years.

On top of that, however, Joliet realized it was also on the hook for an additional cost related to the impact that the payouts have upon the retiring city employee's pension.

"For example, to date, the additional city expenditures for the thirteen 2017 retirees totaled just over $900,000. This dollar figure is in addition to the $500,000-plus -- payouts for accrued vacation, sick time and compensatory time. Continuing this practice is clearly unsustainable," Shanahan warned in his memo.

The new city policy takes effect on April 1, the day after Mackley retires. Under the new regulations, the payouts for unused sick, vacation and comp time will be made in one lump-sum at the time of the employee's retirement, but these payouts will not be allowed to spike the retiree's pension. The new policy impacts the city's non-union staff, including upper management. Any changes to union contracts must be made through the collective bargaining process.

In any event, recent Patch articles highlighting Mackley's $104,155 payout struck a chord with readers.

Here are just a few of the many comments from our readers:

October 30, 2017

Anthony Rapp Reveals Kevin Spacey Made Sexual Advance on Him at 14; Corey Feldman Threatens to Release Names of Hollywood Pedophiles

October 30, 2017

[Gossip Cop] - Celebrities are reacting to Anthony Rapp revealing that when he was 14 years old, Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance on the then-teenaged Broadway star.

After Rapp’s allegations were published on Sunday, Spacey apologized to him and also came out as gay. See Hollywood stars’ reactions here to Rapp bravely sharing his harrowing experience, as well as to Spacey seemingly pivoting from his inexcusable behavior to instead acknowledge he’s gay.

Earlier, Rapp shared with Buzzfeed that in 1986, when he was a 14-year-old actor on Broadway, he was invited to a party at Spacey’s New York apartment. At the end of the evening, Rapp recalled Spacey lifted him “like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold,” and put him down on a bed, where he laid on top of the young boy against his will.

Rapp noted that he was encouraged to come forward now because of the sexual assault and harassment scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein.

He later added on Twitter:

“I came forward with my story, standing on the shoulders of the many courageous women and men who have been speaking out to shine a light and hopefully make a difference, as they have done for me.”

In the wake of Rapp’s allegation, Spacey issued a statement in which he both came out of the closest and apologized to the “Star Trek: Discovery” star for his “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior” that he claims he doesn’t remember from more than three decades ago. After noting that he has “a lot of respect and admiration” for Rapp as an actor, Spacey said, “I am sorry,” and claimed it “encouraged” him to publicly admit, “I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”

Since Spacey’s statement, a number of celebrities have shared their reactions to both Rapp’s revelation and Spacey’s response. Rose McGowan, who has been vocal about having been sexually assaulted by Weinstein, tweeted:

“Dear fellow media: Keep focus on #AnthonyRapp BE THE VICTIM’S VOICE. Help us level the playing field.” She continued in another message, “Bye bye, Spacey goodbye, it’s your turn to cry, that’s why we’ve gotta say goodbye. #ROSEARMY.” Meanwhile, Debra Messing wrote to Rapp, “You are brave, and my heart breaks for that 14 year old.”

Noting how Spacey pivoted from apologizing to Rapp for the hurt he caused him, and instead the opportunity to come out as gay, Billy Eichner wrote:

“That Kevin Spacey statement. Nope. Absolutely not. Nope.”

He added:

“Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.”

Wanda Sykes expressed:

October 14, 2017

West Point Alum Posts ‘Communism Will Win’ Photo

September 26, 2017

(The Washington Times) - Photos of a West Point alumnus holding a pro-Colin Kaepernick “Communism Will Win” sign while in uniform is riling up the military community.

Images of U.S. infantry Officer Spenser Rapone reached a popular military news site on Tuesday and set off a robust debate on NFL national anthem protests, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback that started it all in 2016, and the shock of seeing an unapologetic communist from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Colin Kaepernick wasn’t protesting in favor of communism. #ThatGuy,” wrote“Doctrine Man,” the moderator of a well-known Facebook page frequented by active military personnel and veterans.

Readers were shocked to see Mr. Rapone, whose Twitter handle is “Commie Bebop,” raising a clenched fist in support of Mr. Kapernick; another photo featured the officer revealing a Che Guevara shirt under his uniform.

LawNewz.com by Dan Abrams confirmed Mr. Rapone’s identity Monday evening with the officer himself, but he said was on a field exercise until Friday and would be unable to comment for the time being.

Gateway Pundit then aggregated a host of photos showing the officer promoting communism with Twitter hashtags like #CommunismWillWin, #Marxwasright, and #VeteransForKaepernick.

“Old school grunt here, I was in Berlin when the Wall fell,” wrote Rick Wynne on the Doctrine Man Facebook page. “I can tell you I would NEVER have expected to see photos like these. Wow! I mean, wow! What the hell has happened to the Army? No body policed this crap up when it happened?”

“This old First Sergeant recommends that this prior enlisted soldier be given UCMJ action, a thunk on the head for being stupid and a one-way ticket to the front gate,” added John Zehmisch.

Reader Stephen Stout concurred, saying, “He needs to be discharged for conduct unbecoming of an officer and failure to uphold his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. Communist extremism is not compatible with being a Soldier in the U.S. Army. He needs to be punished by UCMJ to the fullest extent.”

An op-ed posted on Medium on Aug. 16 by Mr. Rapone — just days after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over Confederate monuments — called for the nation to “come together and dismantle [America’s] racist structures, both in word, but more importantly, in deed.”

West Point issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying the officer’s actions “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

“As figures of public trust, members of the military must exhibit exemplary conduct, and are prohibited from engaging in certain expressions of political speech in uniform,” the statement read. “Second Lieutenant Rapone’s chain of command is aware of his actions and is looking into the matter. The academy is prepared to assist the officer’s chain of command as required.”

West Point Grad Army Officer is ‘Official Socialist Organizer’ Who Spreads Communist Propaganda Relentlessly

Spenser Rapone is an infantry officer in the U.S. Army and a combat veteran who is gaining attention after posting a photo in support of Colin Kaepernick.

West Point grad Army officer is ‘official Socialist organizer’ who spreads Communist propaganda relentlessly Featured Spenser Rapone

Latest North Korea Earthquake a Sign of Instability at Nuclear Test Site

October 12, 2017

(Reuters) - A series of tremors and landslides near North Korea’s nuclear test base likely mean the country’s sixth and largest blast has destabilized the region, and the Punggye-ri nuclear site may not be used for much longer to test nuclear weapons, experts say.

A small quake was detected early on Friday near the North’s nuclear test site, South Korea’s weather agency said, but unlike quakes associated with nuclear tests, it did not appear to be manmade. The tremor was the latest in a string of at least three shocks to be observed since Pyongyang’s Sept. 3 nuclear test, which caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Friday’s quake was a magnitude 2.7 with a depth of 3 km in North Hamgyong Province in North Korea, the Korea Meteorological Administration said. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake at 2.9 magnitude at a depth of 5 km.

The series of quakes has prompted experts and observers to suspect the last test - which the North claimed to be of a hydrogen bomb - may have damaged the mountainous location in the northwest tip of the country, where all of North Korea’s six nuclear tests were conducted.

“The explosion from the Sept. 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in,” said Kim So-gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute.

“I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated. If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution.”

According to 38 North, a Washington-based project which monitors North Korea, numerous landslides throughout the nuclear test site have been detected via satellite images after the sixth test. These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North’s previous tests, 38 North said.

The explosion from the sixth test was large enough for residents of the Chinese border city of Yanji, 200 km (125 miles) north of North Korea’s nuclear test site, to feel the ground shake beneath their feet.

How a Nuclear War with North Korea Could Start: Try to Kill Kim Jong-un

October 12, 2017

(The National Interest) - Commentators in Washington—and even sometimes officials in the Pentagon—offer suggestions that among the military options available to Washington in dealing with North Korea is some sort of decapitation strike. However, this is easier said than done—and might not in fact be a viable option. It would also almost certainly start a war on the Korean peninsula.

The first challenge is to locate the elusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Finding Kim is easier said than done inside the secretive North Korean state. Layers of defenses protect the young North Korean dictator inside an already tightly controlled country where the security apparatus has the population on lockdown. Moreover, Kim is thought to use doubles of himself to act as decoys—further compounding the problem.

Technical intelligence gathering means such as spy satellites and signals intelligence can collect information about North Korea, but locating and identifying an individual requires a level of precision that those assets can’t provide. For example, analysts watching footage from drones flying over Syria and Iraq have difficulty identifying friend from foe—ISIS from the Kurdish Peshmerga—without help from ground forces. And, of course, the Kim regime is not Iraq or Syria—drones like the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk or the MQ-9 Reaper would not survive long inside North Korean airspace. Only a stealthy drone like the RQ-170 Sentinel would have any chance of survival.

The real trick would be to get human intelligence assets on the ground inside North Korea. But human intelligence assets inside North Korea are almost non-existent. The typical embassy-based asset recruiting that a Western intelligence agency might conduct inside another country is simply not possible in Pyongyang given the extremely tight North Korea security. Moreover, infiltrating into North Korea covertly is also difficult because the Kim regime uses a system of neighborhood watches similar to the Imperial Japanese Tonarigumi, which would spot anyone who does not belong immediately. That severely impairs human intelligence gathering or infiltrating special operations forces into North Korea.

If the North Korean leader is by some chance found, the next challenge is to eliminate him. However, targets such as Kim are fleeting, and the United States would have to be ready to move immediately. For example, if Kim were found to be reviewing the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a combat aircraft would have to be orbiting outside North Korean airspace waiting for the order to strike (which is why the North Korean regime takes umbrage at U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber flights north of the 38th parallel). That aircraft would likely have to be stealthy to maintain the element of surprise—and it would probably have to be fast in order to exploit what is likely to be a very short window of opportunity.

Trump Strikes Blow at Iran Nuclear Deal in Major U.S. Policy Shift

October 13, 2017

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit" of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon.

"We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout," Trump said.

Trump's hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran's arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies.

The move by Trump was part of his "America First" approach to international agreements which has led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

His Iran strategy angered Tehran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, some of which have benefited economically on renewed trade with Iran.

Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on live television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.

European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines U.S. credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord.

U.S. Democrats expressed scepticism at Trump's decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the President has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.”

October 11, 2017

How a Businessman Struck a Deal with Islamic State to Help Assad Feed Syrians

October 11, 2017

(Reuters) - While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Islamic State smuggling, a member of his parliament was quietly doing business with the group, farmers and administrators in the militants’ former stronghold said. 

The arrangement helped the Syrian government to feed areas still under its control after Islamic State took over the northeastern wheat-growing region during the six-year-old civil war, they said.

Traders working for businessman and lawmaker Hossam al-Katerji bought wheat from farmers in Islamic State areas and transported it to Damascus, allowing the group to take a cut, five farmers and two administrators in Raqqa province told Reuters.

Katerji’s office manager, Mohammed Kassab, confirmed that Katerji Group was providing Syrian government territories with wheat from the northeast of Syria through Islamic State territory but denied any contact with Islamic State. It is not clear how much Assad knew of the wheat trading.

Cooperation over wheat between a figure from Syria’s establishment, which is backed by Shi‘ite power Iran, and the hardline Sunni Islamic State would mark a new ironic twist in a war that has deepened regional Sunni-Shi‘ite divisions.

Reuters contacted Katerji’s office six times to request comment but was not given access to him.

His office manager Kassab, asked how the company managed to buy and transport the wheat without any contact with Islamic State, said: “It was not easy, the situation was very difficult.” When asked for details he said only that it was a long explanation. He did not return further calls or messages.

Damascus, under U.S. and EU sanctions over the conflict and alleged oil trading with Islamic State, strongly denies any business links with the hardline Islamist militants, arguing that the United States is responsible for their rise to power.

The self-declared caliphate they set up across large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 has all but collapsed after Western-backed forces drove them out of their Iraqi stronghold, Mosul and surrounded them in Raqqa, where they are now confined to a small area.

Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian forces are attacking them elsewhere, such as Deir al Zor on Syria’s eastern border, where Kassab says he was speaking from, in a continuing struggle for the upper hand between world powers.

Russia Setting Up Direct Shipping Line to Syria 

October 10, 2017

(Reuters) - Russia is setting up a direct shipping line to Syria and wants its companies to help build an economic recovery in the war-torn Middle Eastern country, the TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as saying on Tuesday. 

The report did not specify what a direct shipping line would entail, but any increase in agricultural and other supplies from Russia or help in reviving exports would be a boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, supports Assad in the long-running civil war in Syria and has previously helped his government with wheat aid.

“A direct shipping line between Russian and Syrian ports is being established,” Rogozin, in charge of the military industrial complex, told a meeting of a Russian-Syrian commission on trade cooperation, according to the agency.

Agricultural goods are currently transported by a company called Oboronlogistika, which is “interested in expanding its services,” he said.

Oboronlogistika says on its website it acts under the jurisdiction of Russia’s defence ministry, organising cargo transportation, customs clearance and warehouse services.

Its fleet includes three ships with loading function for transportation of cargo in trailers and containers.

Syria was once self-sufficient in wheat but continued fighting in the main grain-producing areas in its northeastern regions has reduced its crops in recent years.

Trade between Russia and Syria rose by 42 percent year-on-year to $193 million in the first seven months of 2017, according to Rogozin. However, Syria’s exports to Russia only amounted to $2 million in the period.

“This is mainly related to a lack of necessary infrastructure for exports and commissioning of local agricultural produce, which makes it economically unviable to supply Syrian vegetables and fruits,” he said.

The plan is to create a closed loop to grow, pack, store and export Syrian vegetables and fruit to Russia in the near future, he said.

“We now state that it’s time for economic restoration and expect that Russia’s businesses will play the most active role in this process,” Rogozin added.

Russia Says US Allows ISIS to Operate ‘Under Its Nose’ in Syria

October 11, 2017

(Reuters) — Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of allowing Islamic State to operate “under its nose” in Syria, saying Washington was letting the militant group move about freely in an area abutting a U.S. military base.

The allegations, made by Russia’s Defense Ministry, center on a U.S. military base at Tanf, a strategic Syrian highway border crossing with Iraq in the south of the country.

Russia says the U.S. base is illegal and that it and the area around it have become “a black hole” where militants operate unhindered.

The United States says the Tanf facility is a temporary base used to train partner forces to fight against Islamic State. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning on Tuesday said Washington remained committed to killing off Islamic State and denying it safe havens and the ability to carry out strikes.

But Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said Moscow wanted to know how around 300 Islamic State militants in pickup trucks had passed through the U.S.-controlled area and tried to block the highway between Damascus and Deir al-Zor used to supply Syrian forces.

He said the U.S. had not yet given an explanation.

“We suggest the American side also explain about another incidence of their ‘selective blindness’ towards militants operating under their nose,” Konashenkov said in a statement.

He said about 600 militants based in a refugee camp in the U.S. controlled area had driven en masse to a former customs post called Tafas on the Syrian-Jordanian border earlier this month and seized food and medical supplies meant for locals.

“You don’t need to be an expert to now forecast an attempt to rupture the peace agreement in the southern de-escalation zone,” said Konashenkov.

“We issue a warning. All responsibility for sabotaging the peace process will lay exclusively with the American side.”