Daesh chief Baghdadi likely still alive: US general

Fri, 2017-09-01 00:32

WASHINGTON: Elusive Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and likely hiding in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, a senior US general said Thursday.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-Daesh coalition in Iraq and Syria, told reporters in a conference call.
Townsend admitted he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdad is precisely, but believes he may have fled with many other Daesh soldiers into the Middle Euphrates region stretching from Syria to Iraq, after coalition and local force assaults on the Daesh bastions of Mosul, Raqqa and Tal Afar.
“The last stand of Daesh will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said.
“When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, said in mid-June that it had heard from senior Daesh leaders in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.
Russia’s army said in mid-June that it was seeking to verify whether it had killed him in a May air strike in Syria.
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead…. There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive,” said Townsend.

Main category: 
Daesh convoy in Syria appears to have turned back, US-led coalition says
Lebanon says it has arrested Daesh commander
Iraq says retakes Tal Afar and surrounding areas from Daesh

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Qatar accuses the boycotting countries of putting the Gulf Cooperation Council at risk

On Thursday, Mohamed Ben Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, the Qatari Foreign Minister, accused the countries that are boycotting his country of putting the Gulf Cooperation Council at risk by “violating the basic principles of the council, and directly resorting to attacking a nation member instead of opting for conflict resolution measures”. This statement was made during a conference in the European parliament headquarters in Brussels, as an answer to a question about the repercussions of the Gulf crisis on the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Qatari minister said “the Gulf Cooperation Council is an important entity, and its most important pillar is the security of the Gulf. Doha has been adhering to the principles of the Council. However, these countries (boycotting countries), […]

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Come Melania’s-Heels-Or-High-Water, ‘Stupid News’ Rules The Media

Authored by David Weisberg via TheHill.com,

Tropical Storm Harvey has by now flooded the Houston area with over four feet of rain, causing the deaths of more than 30 people, forcing more than 30,000 residents to flee their homes, and destroying property worth many tens of billions of dollars.

Given the biblical proportions of the deluge, one would think that journalists would be hard-pressed to choose among an over-abundance of gripping and newsworthy stories.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, two pillars of the journalistic establishment, have both identified one such story: the height of Melania Trump’s heels.

I am not making this up; I couldn’t if I tried.

Both newspapers recently featured stories focusing on the height of the heels the first lady was wearing when she boarded a helicopter to take her and the president to Air Force One, which would then fly them from Washington to Texas.

“Melania Trump’s stilettos aren’t insensitive — but using shoes to sow discord is” https://t.co/hs5kMdFobz pic.twitter.com/wnzLCp3nXY

— The Hill (@thehill) August 31, 2017

When she exited the plane in Texas, Trump was wearing sneakers, but that fact apparently did not diminish the newsworthiness — at least in the minds of the reporters and editors of those two august newspapers — of the heels she had worn earlier that day.

We’ve encountered the phrase “fake news” quite often over the last year. There was, however, nothing fake about the stories that were published in the New York Times and the Washington Post: Trump was in fact wearing high heels. In that sense, the stories were genuine rather than fake.

So, perhaps we need a new phrase. I would suggest “stupid news,” meaning that, even if the story is factually accurate, you would have to be stupid to think it was worth reporting.

Just what is going on here?

So-called mainstream news outlets are so determined to damage the image and reputation of the president and anyone associated with him that they will publish anything – literally anything – that, in the minds of their news and editorial leaders, might help to achieve that end.

Even the pretense of fairness or objectivity has been abandoned; if a story might possibly damage President Trump, it will be published. “All the news that’s fit to print, including the stupid news.”

Who exactly is the media serving with these stories? Whose interests are being served other than their own?

In 1981, when then-Pres. Ronald Reagan was wheeled into the operating room after being shot by John Hinckley, he said to the surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”

It was light-hearted and humorous because the people he was addressing were all doctors, and everyone knows that doctors take an oath to do their utmost to heal every patient, regardless of their personal feelings toward the patient.

Melania Trump’s office: It’s sad that people are worried about her shoes during a natural disaster https://t.co/II7zVZeJtK pic.twitter.com/97GIKSQOTM

— The Hill (@thehill) August 30, 2017

In fact, those lines of work that we think of as “professions” typically require that practitioners must put the interests of the people they serve above their own interests.

Fledgling doctors and lawyers, at the beginning of their careers, pledge to put the interests of their patients and clients ahead of their own. Of course, those pledges are not always fulfilled as they should be, but professionals are subject to disciplinary measures when they transgress.

Journalists and journalistic institutions are supposed to serve the interests of the people who consume their stories. Journalists don’t take any oath, but their readers expect them to use their best judgment in choosing the stories they write and the content they include. The editorial and opinion pages, as we all know, are different beasts. The news stories, however, are supposed to reflect what a competent and (dare I say?) professional journalist has learned about an important issue of the day.

There were plenty of stories in the Times and the Washington Post that focused on important aspects of Harvey and also on other major news items. Not everything in those publications is “stupid news.” But some of the stories are just that.

Sometimes little things say a lot. Stories about Melania Trump’s heels, published in the middle of a catastrophic event of almost unimaginable proportions, reveal much more about the media than they do about Mrs. Trump or the Trump administration.

They reveal with startling clarity that certain journalistic institutions are hell-bent on damaging the current administration in any way they possibly can.

And they reveal, in addition, that those institutions have abandoned the practice journalism as a profession; to them, journalism is just a job. They’re not committed to delivering high-quality stories to their readers, because that is what their readers expect and deserve.

Rather, they’re committed to publishing anything that they think will damage the president and his administration, because they just don’t like this president.

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4 Reasons Why “Gold Has Entered A New Bull Market” – Schroders

– 4 reasons why “gold has entered a new bull market” – Schroders
– Market complacency is key to gold bull market say Schroders
– Investors are currently pricing in the most benign risk environment in history as seen in the VIX
– History shows gold has the potential to perform very well in periods of stock market weakness (see chart)
– You should buy insurance when insurers don’t believe that the “risk event” will happen
– Very high Chinese gold demand, negative global interest rates and a weak dollar should push gold higher

This week gold broke through the key resistance of $1,300. For some time market commentators have been signalling this level as the point of entry for a new bull market.

Often price can be distracting when it comes to trying to figure out what is going on. Two Schroders fund managers called the new bull market in gold about a week before the price broke through the key level.

Gold has entered into a new bull market. As we have discussed previously, there are four main reasons for our stance:

  1. Global interest rates need to stay negative
  2. Broad equity valuations are extremely high and complacency stalks financial markets
  3. The dollar might be entering a bear market
  4. Chinese demand for gold has the potential to surge (indeed, investment demand in China for bar and coin already increased over 30% in the first quarter of 2017, according to the World Gold Council)

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Russia Responds: “The US Has Declared The Hot Phase Of Diplomatic War”

Just minutes after Russia was given 2 days to implement today’s decision by the State Department, shuttering Russia’s consulate in San Francisco, California and two diplomatic annexes in Washington, DC and New York City, in “the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians”, the Russian responses started coming in, and they were not happy. 

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was first on the tape, saying he  “expressed regret about the escalation of tensions in bilateral ties”, noting “it wasn’t Russia that started the escalation.”

Lavrov told Tillerson that Moscow would “closely study” the new US measures and would inform Washington of its reaction in due course. Ironically, earlier in the day the US said that it “is prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted,”even as the State Department prompt tweeted that the “US hopes to avoid further retaliation & move forward with improved relations & cooperation with #Russia

US hopes to avoid further retaliation & move forward with improved relations & cooperation with #Russia https://t.co/M3frokDACn

— Department of State (@StateDept) August 31, 2017

To be sure, former US ambassador to Moscow and vocal Putin critic, Michael McFaul, was skeptical:

Let’s see. https://t.co/zkIWW51zdF

— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) August 31, 2017

And judging by the immediate outpouring Russian reactions, he has every right to be. According to AP, the newly arrived Russian ambassador to the US invoked Vladimir Lenin in saying Moscow will carefully consider its response to the latest US diplomatic escalation: Anatoly Antonov flew into Washington on Thursday, hours after the State Department’s announcement of the closure.

Russian news agencies quoted him as saying: “We have to act calmly and professionally. Speaking like Lenin, we don’t need hysterical impulses,” citing a Lenin maxim.

But the heavy artillery was as usual relegated to domestic Russian politicians:  Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee, accused the U.S. of a sharp escalation in diplomatic tensions.

Slutsky, one of the top Russian diplomats, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying, “It’s a highly unjust step. It means that the U.S. is declaring the hot phase of diplomatic war.”

Leonid Slutsky

Cited by AP, he also said that closing institutions abroad is more serious than the U.S. decision last year to expel 35 Russian diplomats and close two estates used by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Other takes on the latest diplomatic spat were just as skeptical. Former US diplomat Jim Jatras said that while President Trump says he wants better relations with Russia, he recently qualified that with “some day” and “eventually.”

For a lot of people in Washington, having bad relations with Russia is an end in itself, it’s not a means to an end. And they are calling the shots, not President Trump,” Jatras said. “If there is anybody in his administration who wants to improve ties with Russia, it is him – but as far as I can tell, he’s about the only one.”

“This is all part of an escalation of tensions between the US and Russia which, I am sad to say, the US initiated,” Dan Kovalik, who teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, told RT. “Just when there appeared to be a welcome breakthrough between the US and Russia at the G-20 Summit, the US Congress reacted to the possibility of a détente by immediately and overwhelmingly acting to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia aimed at Russia’s natural gas trade in Europe,” Kovalik said.

The sanctions were adopted with veto-proof majorities, so President Donald Trump had to sign them into law at the beginning of August.

“It appears that there is strong, bipartisan opposition in the US to a peaceful relationship with Russia, and this opposition is putting the entire world at risk of more war and conflagration,” Kovalik said. “It is high time the US pull back from such provocations of Russia and find a way to work with Russia as a friend and partner, just as Russia has wanted for many years.”

“This tit-for-tat will mean eventual catastrophe for everyone on earth, unless we finally get some sanity in US leadership, to pull back from the brink,” said Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University. “Judging from the warlike posture of both parties and the US media, it’s hard to see where such restraint will come from; and yet those of us who see the danger must do all we can to warn against it.”

Finally, retired FBI agent Coleen Rowley told RT that US foreign policy sometimes looks as if five-year-olds were in charge of it. “This childish tit-for-tat game will not end well unless there’s a grown-up in the room who can put an end to it.”

So far the only grown ups in the room are intent on further escalating said “game.”

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North Korea threatens S. Korean reporters over book review

The Associated Press
Thu, 2017-08-31 03:00

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea on Thursday vowed to execute reporters from two South Korean newspapers, saying they insulted the country’s dignity while reviewing and interviewing the British authors of a book about life in the isolated country.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency carried a state court statement expressing anger over the descriptions of North Korean lives as increasingly capitalist. It also objected to the translated title of the South Korean edition as “Capitalist People’s Republic of Korea” and the book’s cover that replaced the red star in North Korea’s official seal with the US dollar mark.
North Korea’s Central Court also “sentenced to death” the presidents of the newspapers and said the North will “track down to the end and cut off the dirty windpipes” of those responsible for such provocations.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry denounced the North Korean comments as an “absurd threat” and said it “sternly warns” the North to immediately stop threating South Korean citizens. Seoul’s government is ready to take “every measure needed” to protect its citizens, the ministry said in a statement.
The North didn’t directly threaten the British authors of “North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors,” but said the book “viciously defamed and distorted” the country’s realities.
The book was written by Daniel Tudor, a former Economist reporter, and James Pearson, a Reuters correspondent.
North Korean propaganda is often filled with odd and extreme threats. In June, it vowed to execute South Korea’s former president and her spy chief over an alleged plot to assassinate its leadership. Seoul’s National Intelligence Service denied the claim.
The North also threatened South Korean news organizations in 2012, when its military warned that its troops had aimed artillery at the specific coordinates of some Seoul-based newspapers and TV stations over their critical reports on children’s festivals that had been taking place in Pyongyang. The North didn’t carry out on the threat to wage a “merciless sacred war” over the perceived insults.

Main category: 
US heavy bombers, jets in show of force against N. Korea
As US ban on travel to North Korea kicks in, tourist says he would return
Russia warns US against using force over North Korea

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