donderdag 31 december 2020

Yes, Americans are Fat. The US Military is Fatter.

 DECEMBER 31, 2020

Yes, Americans are Fat. The US Military is Fatter.

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Photograph Source: Robert Couse-Baker – CC BY 2.0

“Military leaders are worried about the shrinking pool of young people who qualify for military service,” Gina Harkins reports at Military.com. “More than 70% of young Americans remain unable to join the military due to obesity, education problems, or crime and drug records.”

Mission: Readiness, a group of retired military officers, wants the US Department of Defense to create an “advisory committee on military recruitment,” with a view toward getting the next generation in shape so that they’re qualified, as the old saying goes, to “travel to exotic, distant lands; meet exciting, unusual people; and kill them.”

I’ve got a better idea: Instead of trying to trim fat off America’s adolescents, trim fat off the US Armed Forces.

The US military employs nearly 1.4 million active duty personnel and about 850,000 reservists.

The latest National Defense Authorization Act — vetoed by President Trump but looking likely as I write this to be passed over his objection — calls for $740 billion ($2,300 for every man, woman, and child in the country) in theoretically “defense”-related spending next year.

The US, which is separated by oceans from all credible potential enemies and hasn’t fought anything resembling a defensive war in 75 years, boasts the third largest (after India and China, far more populous countries with real adversaries on their borders), and far and away the most expensive, military apparatus on Earth.

While the US defense budget and the armed forces’ staffing levels could probably be cut by 90% without significantly degrading actual national defense capabilities, I understand the impulse to moderation.

So how about a 50% cut in military spending and active duty troop levels over five years, with an upward bump in reservist numbers to a full million?

That would leave the US with 700,000 active duty personnel (still the world’s fifth largest military), and still the world’s number one military big spender (about twice as much as China, three times as much as Saudi Arabia, and nearly five times as much as Russia or India).

With 2 million Americans reaching military age each year and some veterans re-enlisting, the Pentagon would have little problem finding the skinny, literate, non-criminal people it needs to fill its ranks.

Yes, some US arms manufacturers would take big hits to their lavish corporate welfare paychecks, but they could retool — every American taxpayer would be better off by about $1,250, meaning fatter markets for products that don’t kill people.

It’s time to put the Pentagon on a diet.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/12/31/yes-americans-are-fat-the-us-military-is-fatter/



Russia and China

 

Russia is our most important ally, say over 50% of Chinese people, as leaders Xi & Putin discuss closer ties between countries


Russia is our most important ally, say over 50% of Chinese people, as leaders Xi & Putin discuss closer ties between countries
Neighbors don’t always make the best of friends but, faced with growing international tensions, China and Russia are being drawn closer together. It comes as Chinese citizens increasingly write off better relations with the US.

A new poll published by the widely read Global Times newspaper, which has close links to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, found that over half of the nearly 2,000 respondents viewed Russia as the country’s most important relationship.

There was a sharp reduction in the number of people saying that ties with the US had the biggest impact on China, dropping to only 47.5 percent, compared to 82.1 percent when the question was asked last year.

ALSO ON RT.COMBiden’s call for building anti-China blocs is like telling EU ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’, easier said than done

Diao Daming, an expert on US studies at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the results showed Chinese people are “seriously offended by the unilateral moves made by the US government to harm bilateral ties; but, on the other [hand], their favorable impression toward American society and culture has not been affected too much by some irresponsible moves made by US politicians.” 

At the same time, China’s official state news network Xinhua reported on Monday that the country’s premier, Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin had shared warm words over future partnerships earlier this week. According to the outlet, which is closely linked with Chinese decision makers, the two leaders resolved to “unswervingly develop the comprehensive strategic partnership”between their countries.

Beijing has become the most significant commercial partner for Moscow, and the country is the leading destination for the export of Russian commodities, and a source of more than $56 trillion in imports. Some Western commentators have previously argued that China, the world’s most populous country, would struggle to see Russia as an equal partner given its growing monopolization of world trade. However, shared political obstacles with the EU and the US appear to be playing a role in the two nations stepping towards closer and closer political ties.

ALSO ON RT.COMAs rival US administrations antagonize China & Russia in turn, it’s clear for Beijing & Moscow they must stick together

https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=68337


The American System Is One Big Grift

 The American System Is One Big Grift

The Bidens, and even the Clintons, are small-time players. The real corruption is much bigger, much higher, and entirely unpunished.


DECEMBER 29, 2020|12:01 AM

PETER VAN BUREN

I learned the facts of life from a drunk uncle. He was not an American, and worked in international construction in Asia. His main job was to bribe people. Over the course of many tiny glasses of some awful, clear Asian liquor I learned every yard of concrete poured required money to gangsters who controlled unions and to politicians who controlled permits. A fact of life, he said. You get used to it. He even had a joke—my hands are dirtier than the guys who dig the foundations.


You come to realize someone is pulling the strings behind everything and it usually isn’t you, he said. The odd official just doing his job for his salary is a rube. You feel embarrassed for him, saying no for moral reasons. You learn, uncle slurred, to trust nothing. That politician on TV? The company just dropped off a nice check to his “charity.” Play by the rules? Those were the rules.



The first bribe I ever paid was to an Indonesian immigration officer, who noticed some small defect on my passport. Of course, he said, it could be resolved. Between us. With a fine (so many euphemisms). Off to the side. In cash. It was all of $20 to save a vacation but I felt filthy, cheated, a chump. But I learned the rules.


In New York we use the euphemism “tip,” and it is as required as oxygen to get through the day. A restaurant table pre-COVID. A last minute anything. A friendlier handling by a doorman. Timely attention to fix-it requests. My, um, friend, used to pay a lot of money for better hotel rooms until he learned $20 at check in with a friendly “anything you can do” often got him upgraded to the same thing at a fraction of the price. What, you still paying retail, bro?


I used to think it was all small stuff, maybe with the odd mafia king bribing a judge with real money or something else Netflix-worthy. In America we were ultimately… fair, right? But things started to add up. We have our petty corruption like anywhere, but our souls are filthy on a much larger scale. America goes big or it goes home.


Things like the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from the Saudis to help with women’s empowerment, an issue of course dear to the heart of the Kingdom. When it looked like his wife was going to be president, Bill made six-figure speeches to businesses seeking influence within the U.S. government, earning $50 million during his wife’s term as secretary of pay-for-play state. The Foundation, now mostly out of business, was at its peak a two-billion-dollar financial dangle. It spent in 2013 the same on travel expenses for Hillary and her family as it did on charitable grants. The media, forever big Clinton fans, told us we should be used to it. Hey, Nixon was so much worse.


Trump refused to be very specific about who his charity donated to. We know its offshoot, the Eric Trump charity, donated to a wine industry association, a plastic surgeon supposedly gifting nose jobs to kids, and an artist who painted a portrait of Donald. Trump-owned resorts received $880,000 for hosting Trump-sponsored charity events. Trump donated money from his foundation to conservative influencers ahead of his presidential bid.


With Joe as vice president, the Bidens made $396,000 in 2016. But in just the four years since leaving the Obama White House, Joe and Jill made more than $15 million. In fact, as his prospects for election improved, Joe and his wife made nearly twice as much in one year as they did in the previous 19 years combined. Joe scored $10 million alone for a book no one read. Jill was paid more than $3 million for her book in 2018. Joe has a tax-dodge S Corporation that donated money back to his own political PAC. Then of course there was Hunter, who scored millions in Chinese and Ukrainian money for doing nothing but being Joe’s son.


About half the nation got very twisted over Trump’s corruption and actively avoided noticing the Clintons and Bidens, and vice-versa, to the point of covering their ears NYANYANAYNYA. Yeah, politicians are corrupt, but does anyone think the donors in all three cases didn’t know what they were buying? What, you still voting retail, bro?


But even all those millions, measured in Epsteins (a unit of influence buying I just made up) are petty cash. Real corruption scales. Pre-COVID America’s 614 billionaires were worth $2.95 trillion. As the Dow hit record highs this month, there are now 650 billionaires and their combined wealth is $4 trillion. The 400 richest Americans own 64 percent of the country’s wealth.


Where’d all their money come from? You.


Dan Gilbert, chair of Quicken Loans, worth $7 billion in March, is now at $43 billion (thanks for paying on time each month.) Who benefited more from COVID and everyone buying from home then Amazon and Jeff Bezos? It takes a lot of poor people to sustain that amount of wealth at the top.


Money is always good. But it is wrong to think just in dollars. That’s how small-time grifters like waiters and the Bidens think. The real rich understand wealth as power. The power to shape society and government to ensure they make more money for more power until someday they Have. It. All. You hope one day for an upgrade to business class; they own the jet.


To talk about conspiracy theories is to imply something “different” happened, that the system does not work as intended; for example, instead of an election the president was assassinated to change leaders. So let’s not call what happened this autumn to elect Joe Biden a conspiracy. But here is what happened.


Corporate media owned by the wealthiest Americans spent four years attacking Trump. Working as a single organism fused to the Democratic party as its host, they tried to bundle Trump into a SuperMax as a literal Russian agent. When that failed they ginned up an impeachment with more holes in it than a bad joke about Stormy Daniels. The same media then pivoted to defense when it mattered most, sending information about Hunter Biden that would have changed the election down the memory hole, and policing social media to Joe’s advantage.


Corporate pharma, also owned by the same people, held back announcement of COVID vaccines until just after the election. The intel community, tightly bound with Big Tech and its super-wealthy owners, did its part leaking and concealing information as needed. They too worked to discredit the Hunter Biden story by calling it Russian disinfo. Money that actually controls information is gold.


Earlier in the contest something happened, again, in Democratic primaries which began with some of the most progressive candidates in the running since Henry Wallace. Instead a politician known as the Senator from Mastercard was pushed into the White House. It was just a coincidence two promising candidates, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, dropped out nearly simultaneously just ahead of the South Carolina vote Biden desperately needed to end Bernie, again. How many people in America are powerful enough to have made those phone calls to Pete and Amy?


Biden promptly returned the favor, filling his Cabinet with the same old thinkers corporate America liked from the Obama years. A highlight is Janet Yellen (net worth $13 million) at Treasury, who helped swizzle the corporate bailout that created the .01 percent out of the one percent after the Great Recession. Notice how crises for most of us like the Recession and COVID end up benefiting the wealthy? Biden was wrong when he told donors “nothing would fundamentally change” for the wealthy when he’s in charge—actually, things’ll get better.


A tiny percentage of Americans own, control, and benefit from most everything; some call them the one percent but a large number of even those people are just slugs and remoras (hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers) who feed off the crumbs left by the really powerful. You know a handful of the names—Bezos, Gates, Buffet—because they own public-facing companies. Most of the others prefer less public lives while they control the public. And silly you, you worried that it was the Russians who stole the election. What, you aren’t down with using Prime points to vote in the next election, bro?


Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-american-system-is-one-big-grift/?mc_cid=65a83549af&mc_eid=6700c96e95



Did UK’s Secret Libya Policy Contribute to Manchester Terror?

 

Did UK’s Secret Libya Policy Contribute to Manchester Terror?


There is no point in the U.K. inquiry unless it asks difficult questions the British establishment would rather avoid, writes Peter Oborne.

Two fully armed RAF Tornados over Mediterranean Sea en route to Libya as part of the U.K. operation to enforce the UN no-fly zone, March 2011. (Ed Marshall/MOD, OGL v1.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Peter Oborne 
Declassified UK

Four days after the terrorist atrocity at the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017, which killed 22 people, Jeremy Corbyn made the bravest speech of his career. 

The then Labour leader went much further than the pro forma condemnations of terrorist barbarity customary in the wake of such attacks. 

He raised the forbidden subject of British foreign policy. Corbyn highlighted a connection between “wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.”

This intervention was all the more remarkable because he made it in the middle of a general election campaign. At first Conservative strategists could not believe their luck. 

Thinking that Corbyn had gifted them the election, Ben Wallace, then security minister (and today defence secretary), went on the offensive. He declared: “We have to be unequivocal that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about a foreign policy here or a foreign policy there can be an excuse.”

But the Conservative strategists were wrong. Corbyn probably rose rather than fell in the polls after his speech. 

Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Glasgow, December 2019. (Jeremy Corbyn, Flickr)

The British public could see the Labour leader had a point. He was echoing the explicit warning given by British intelligence to then Prime Minister Tony Blair ahead of the Iraq war in 2003:

“The threat from al-Qaeda will increase at the onset of any military action against Iraq.” 

In other words, there is an undeniable link between foreign adventurism and so-called blowback at home. 

Politicians rarely admit this connection. Indeed, Blair refused to accept the relevance of the Iraq invasion in the aftermath of the London terrorist attacks in July 2005, which killed 56 people. 

Neither Blair nor David Cameron allowed a full, independent public inquiry into the London bombings, so links to British foreign policy were never properly investigated.

Headlines outside Waterloo station after the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks on London. (CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedai Commons)

I am beginning to wonder whether the current inquiry into the Manchester Arena atrocity will duck the issue as well. 

Elephant in Room

The inquiry was launched on 15 June this year. Since then Sir John Saunders, the chairman, has devoted his time to a minute examination of the response of the emergency services and security arrangements at the Manchester Arena.

But he has side-stepped the elephant in the room: Britain’s role in the downfall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in the war of 2011. 

Yet the facts are hard to ignore.

The Manchester bomber was Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old with a Libyan background whose family had fled and settled in Manchester to escape Gaddafi’s regime. 

Abedi’s father, Ramadan, was a long-standing member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was founded to overthrow Gaddafi. The primary opposition force to Gaddafi, the LIFG was until 2009 an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

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In 2011, both Ramadan and a young Salman Abedi returned to Libya to fight in the civil war that toppled Gaddafi, partly thanks to a Nato bombing campaign in which the U.K. played a key role. 

Salman was later known to have made repeated trips to Libya, including one shortly before his attack in Manchester.

Perhaps Salman Abedi’s links to Libya are irrelevant. It would be wrong to rule out the idea that Abedi was “radicalized” in Britain. 

Yet questions abound. Questions which scream out to be asked. Questions which Saunders has so far shown little sign of examining.

Manchester Arena in 2019, two years after the bombing. (G-13114, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The first concerns Britain’s “open door policy,” which allowed Libyan exiles and British Libyan citizens, most of whom lived in Manchester, to join the 2011 uprising. 

Some of these British Libyans had previously been under control orders, which subjected them to electronic tagging and required them to remain at a registered address for 16 hours a day.

Control orders are designed for the purpose of “protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism.” 

Yet in advance of the Libyan intervention, the British government had decided that the Manchester Libyans no longer posed a terrorist threat.

An article by Middle East Eye interviewed Libyans who claimed strings were pulled by Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, to allow them to travel to Libya and fight with “no questions asked.”

In other words, the U.K. was allowing individuals they suspected of involvement in terrorist activity to travel to Libya and join up with radical Islamist groups, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

Why were these control orders lifted and on whose advice? What caused the government to change its mind? Were the control orders lifted in connection with the Libyan conflict – or is there some other explanation?

CCTV of Salman Abedi, the Islamist terrorist who killed 22 people in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.

Ministerial Accountability

Saunders has the power to call then Home Secretary Theresa May and probably her immediate predecessor Alan Johnson and ask them. He should do so.

He also needs to call Cameron, the prime minister who ordered Britain’s military intervention in 2011. We need to know whether he was advised that domestic consequences might flow from his Libyan mission. 

MI5 warned in advance about the danger of bloodshed on British streets as a result of the Iraq invasion. Was a similar warning issued in private ahead of British meddling in Libya? 

The inquiry also needs to hear about Britain’s relations with the LIFG, which in the 1990s seems to have been in hock with MI6, and paid by the agency to carry out an assassination attempt against Gaddafi.

When their attempts at regime change failed, the Libyan radicals fled to Manchester – sometimes called the “second capital” of Libya.

June 2010: British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, with U.S. President Barack Obama, during G-20 Summit in Toronto. (White House, Pete Souza)

After 9/11, the British state changed its approach and Gaddafi became an unexpected ally. Now, LIFG exiles in Britain were deprived of their passports. 

In 2011 the LIFG came back into favor as Cameron ordered airstrikes and secretly deployed some ground troops to help local forces remove Gaddafi.

This has rarely been acknowledged. But General David Richards, then chief of the defence staff, told a parliamentary inquiry in 2016 that Britain “had a few people embedded” with rebel forces in Libya, saying that they were “in the rear areas” and “would go forward and back”. 

Shouldn’t we be able to know more details about this? Who exactly did they work with? What support did they provide? Did it include armed support or training to Islamist forces?

These questions are supremely important since Abedi and his father were among those rebel forces at the time. I cannot establish whether they had been under control orders.

The questions are especially relevant because of the circumstances which applied during the British military action in Libya.

The terms of the United Nations resolution, which authorized British and French intervention, specifically prohibited sending in ground troops. 

Britain mainly seems to have thrown our weight behind Islamist fighters, including the LIFG, who had a long-standing hatred of Gaddafi. 

2010: Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi, at right, with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. (Government of Spain, Wikimedia Commons)

Some LIFG fighters in Libya in 2011 had earlier fought alongside the Islamic State of Iraq – the al-Qaeda entity which went on to establish a presence in Syria and then became Islamic State.

Put another way, Qaeda-connected forces were Britain’s boots on the ground in the war against Gaddafi.

In 2018, then Foreign Minister Alastair Burt admitted to parliament that the U.K. “likely” had contacts with “former members” of the LIFG and another Islamist group, the 17 February Martyrs Brigade, in Libya in 2011. What were these contacts?

Following the 2011 war, there are grounds for assuming that Abedi came into contact with other militant Islamist groups on his trips to Libya. There are suggestions, for example, that Abedi was trained in a camp complex run by Islamic State in Sabratha, near the border with Tunisia. 

After the Gaddafi regime fell, Libya became a largely lawless country and a base for terrorism, including a launch pad for terrorist attacks in Europe.

We need to know what groups Abedi met, whether they trained him, and whether they were a danger to Britain. 

And what were the true circumstances of Abedi being “rescued” by the British military in 2014, when he and other British citizens in Libya at the time were brought back to the U.K.? Why was Abedi allowed to return to Britain unhindered? 

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6) should be able to shed light on this, making it frankly odd and absurd that no SIS officer seems to have been called to give evidence (an MI5 witness has been scheduled). Saunders’ inquiry will have limited credibility without SIS testimony.

What did they know about Abedi’s visits to Libya? Did SIS press for control orders to be relaxed? And the key question – what role did SIS play, exactly, in Libya in 2011?

Floral tributes to the victims of the attack in St Ann’s Square in Manchester city center. (Tomasz “odder” Kozlowski via Wikimedia Commons)

Blood Price?

Did innocent Manchester citizens pay a blood price for Britain’s cynical policy six years earlier? Was the British state itself ultimately part of the apparatus of terror which killed innocent people in Manchester?

This is why Saunders also needs to call William Hague, foreign secretary in 2011, to face forensic questioning about the relationship between the LIFG and the British state. 

Did Hague understand what he was doing? 

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee later concluded he didn’t: “We have seen no evidence that the UK government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya. It may be that the UK government was unable to analyse the nature of the rebellion in Libya due to incomplete intelligence and insufficient institutional insight.”

It added: “It failed to identify the militant Islamist extremist element in the rebellion.”

But was the Foreign Office really that naïve? Did Britain blindly stumble into an alliance with terrorist forces which might later turn on it? Or did we know exactly who we were getting involved with? 

Since the hearings began in September, Saunders has spent three months interrogating the emergency services, and those responsible for Arena security. I have no doubt that there are important lessons to be learnt.

However, the purpose of the Manchester inquiry is to ensure a similar catastrophe can be averted in future. That’s why Saunders should spend at least the same amount of time interrogating British foreign policy. 

There is no point in his inquiry unless it asks the difficult questions the British establishment would rather avoid, and look into the underlying causes.  

Some might feel that this is unfair to Saunders. These questions would have been answered if there had been a formal inquiry, as there should have been, into Cameron’s calamitous decision to intervene in Libya. 

In the absence of such an inquiry it’s up to Saunders. 

Peter Oborne is a columnist for Middle East Eye. His new book, The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism,  will be published by Simon & Schuster in February. 

This article is from Declassified UK

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/12/30/did-uks-secret-libya-policy-contribute-to-manchester-terror/



woensdag 30 december 2020

Israel is Gek Op Joodse Spionnen

 

Jonathan Pollard, die 30 jaar vastzat in de Verenigde Staten vanwege spionage voor Israël, is aangekomen in Israël. Hij landde vanochtend samen met zijn vrouw Esther op de luchthaven van Tel Aviv, waar hij werd verwelkomd door premier Netanyahu.

"Nu kun je het leven opnieuw beginnen, in vrijheid en geluk. Nu ben je thuis", zei premier Netanyahu toen hij het echtpaar hun nieuwe paspoorten overhandigde. Pollard sprak de wens uit zo snel mogelijk "een productieve burger" te worden. "We zijn verheugd eindelijk thuis te zijn. Er is niemand die trotser is op dit land of zijn leider, dan wij."

Beelden van de aankomst op de luchthaven Tel Aviv Ben Gurion:

Spion verwelkomd in Israël: 'Niemand is trotser op dit land of onze leider dan wij'

Pollard was inlichtingen-analist bij de Amerikaanse marine. In november 1985 werd hij gearresteerd nadat was gebleken dat hij jarenlang voor Israël had gespioneerd. Hij had honderden geheime documenten naar Israël doorgespeeld en belangrijke informatie aan de Mossad onthuld, in ruil voor tienduizenden dollars.

De nu 66-jarige Pollard kreeg een levenslange straf opgelegd. Vijf jaar geleden werd hij al onder strikte voorwaarden vrijgelaten uit de gevangenis. Zo mocht hij 's avonds zijn huis niet uit, moest hij een enkelband dragen en werden zijn online activiteiten in de gaten gehouden. Die beperkingen zijn afgelopen maand opgeheven, zodat hij vrij was om naar Israël te reizen.

De zaak-Pollard was een smet op de doorgaans vriendschappelijke betrekkingen tussen de Verenigde Staten en Israël. Alle Israëlische staatshoofden probeerden decennialang hem vrij te krijgen als ze op bezoek waren in Washington. 

Pollard, van Joodse afkomst, kreeg in 1995 de Israëlische nationaliteit. Het echtpaar gaat nu volgens de regels eerst in quarantaine en verhuist daarna naar Jeruzalem.





CIA in Ukraine, directing proxy war on Russia

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