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Senate’s First Act: “An Implicit Rebuke” Of Trump’s Syria Draw Down

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 01/05/2019

The Republican-held Senate’s first order of business as it reconvened on Friday for 2019 was to push back against President Trump’s planned Syria withdrawal, as the first bill Republican leadership introduced, led by hawk Marco Rubio, is being described as “an implicit rebuke” of the president’s Syria policy.

Senate Bill 1, expected to be one of the first pieces of legislation under consideration of the new Senate, was introduced Thursday by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is being co-sponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho. Sen. McConnel subsequently announced this means Congress is finally set to debate Syria policy; however ironically at the very moment Trump is attempting a “full” and “immediate” pull out of some 2,000+ US forces. This after US officials reiterated on Friday that “no fixed deadline” for troop withdrawal has been given and they would seek to ensure “no power vacuum” in previously occupied northeast Syria would remain.

NBC describes the proposed legislation, which focuses on a new round of sanctions against Damascus, as follows:

Although Congress can’t force the commander-in-chief to keep troops in Syria, Senate aides say the move is designed to illustrate the need for a strong, continuing U.S. presence in the Middle East and re-assert the role of Congress on national security. It comes as many of Trump’s GOP allies have joined Democrats in deploring his announcement of a Syria withdrawal without consulting allies and lamenting the subsequent resignation of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The Senate is moving quickly to assert its point-of-view on U.S. policy regarding Syria and in the broader Middle East, and it could serve as a rebuttal to the decision by President Donald Trump to pull back U.S. forces from Syria.

Of note is that Congress is only attempting to “re-assert” its role on national security the moment a US president is seeking to pull out of the Middle East.

Statements by the bill sponsors referenced consulting “steadfast” allies first. While naming Israel and Jordan specifically, Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch said, “This package of legislation is an important step toward finishing the work of the last Congress. Israel and Jordan have been steadfast allies of the United States that deserve this support.”

Also noticeable was the complete lack of appeal to American self-defense and the unpopularity among the American public of remaining in Syria, according to recent polls.

Sen. Risc continued to cite foreign allies first and foremost as necessitating the bill: “Also, it is vital to confront Syrian government atrocities and end discrimination against Israel,” he said while calling for it to move forward rapidly.

And well-known Iran hawk Sen. Rubio echoed the same:

It is in America’s national security interests to ensure that our allies in the Middle East like Israel and Jordan remain secure amid the region’s growing destabilizing threats posed by Iran and Syria’s Assad regime… This important bill will also impose new sanctions against the Assad regime and its supporters who continue to commit horrific human rights violations against the Syrian people.

On Wednesday President Trump altered his language after immense pushback in Washington, saying the US will get out of Syria “over a period of time” and in such a way that will protect America’s Kurdish partners on the ground, at a moment pro-Turkish forces backed by Turkey’s army are set to invade and annex Kurdish enclaves in the north of the country.

Notably, Trump also told reporters on Wednesday: “Syria was lost long ago. we’re not talking about vast wealth. we’re talking about sand and death,” while also noting: “It’s not my fault. I didn’t put us there.”

But it appears senators like Rubio, McConnell and Risch want to come keep the US there indefinitely, continuing what’s unfortunately becoming an American tradition of “forever wars” and quagmires.

January 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mexico Set to Become Third Country to Fully Legalize Marijuana

21st Century Wire | January 5, 2019

Following in the footsteps of Uruguay and Canada, as well as 30 US states, Mexico is set to adopt a new law which will make cannabis legal for both medicinal and recreational use. New legislation by Mexico’s ruling majority party hopes to “cut the chain” of illegal supply.

Olga Sánchez Cordero, interior minister in Mexico’s new leftist nationalist government, has recently submitted a Bill to Congress which would effectively end prohibition of cannabis, placing the new rescheduled substance under a regime of state regulation.

Mexico had a brief foray into the legalization of drugs back in 1940 when Lázaro Cárdenas, the former Mexican president who had nationalized Mexico’s oil sector in 1938. Cárdenas lifted all state restrictions on narcotics like heroin, morphine and cocaine, which allowed addicts to be treated as patients, rather than felons. State dispensaries sold small amounts to individuals at prices which vastly undercut those of illegal street dealers. The move was reversed after only after 6 months – because of intense diplomatic pressure from the US.

The new law could also open up numerous opportunities for independent entrepreneurs like 17-year-old Nicolás Calderón who hopes to open a cannabis shop and art venue in Mexico City, as well as develop his own cultivation site and supply chain.

“I don’t just see an opportunity to make money but also to help Mexico […] I think this is going to help reduce el narco [the cartels] a lot,” said Calderón to the Financial Times.

However, as on the world’s largest producers of illegal narcotics, the Mexican state will no doubt face intense competition from black markets run by the country’s vast organized crime cartels on which former president Felipe Calderón had unsuccessfully declared ‘war’ 12 years ago.

“I think the cartels will lose 40 per cent of their income with [marijuana] legal here and in the US,” said Vicente Fox, Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006, in an interview with the FT. Fox currently sits on the board of Canadian cannabis company Khiron Life Sciences – which hopes to enter the Mexican cannabis market later this year.

READ MORE CANNABIS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Cannabis Files

January 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thomas Friedman Shows Us Why Democracy is Facing Huge Problems

By Dean Baker | Beat the Press | December 19, 2018

When the columnist with the longest tenure at the country’s leading newspaper has no clue on the biggest issues facing the world, then it is a good sign that the elites in general have no idea what they are doing. He notes the disaffection of large numbers of middle class people in both Europe and the United States with the status quo.

Friedman correctly observes that “average work no longer returns an average wage that can sustain an average middle-class lifestyle.” However he absurdly blames this on “rapid accelerations in technology and globalization.”

This is the big lie. Bill Gates is not incredibly rich because of rapid accelerations in technology and globalization, he is incredibly rich because the government gives Microsoft patent and copyright monopolies on Windows and other software. It will arrest people who make copies without his permission. In fact, it negotiates trade deals (wrong called “free trade” deals) that require other countries to arrest people too. Patent and copyright monopolies may transfer as much as $1 trillion a year from average workers to people who have these forms of property in the United States alone. That’s 5 percent of GDP or 60 percent of after-tax corporate profits.

The reason there are very rich people in finance, who can bid up property prices in major cities to make them unaffordable to the middle class, is that we coddle the financial industry. Remember when the market was about to work its magic on Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and the rest back in 2008? The leaders of both parties could not run fast enough to rescue these bloated turkeys from being destroyed by their own greed and stupidity.

And the reason globalization puts downward pressure on the pay of factory workers, but not doctors and dentists, is that we have protection for doctors and dentists. We make it very difficult for foreign professionals to practice their professions in the United States.

There is a longer list, but the point is that we have screwed middle class workers by deliberate policy, it was not just something that happened, as in “rapid accelerations in technology and globalization.” The fact that our elites refuse to acknowledge this reality and treat the plight of the middle class as a result of personal failings, as in not the right skills, will inevitably cause many to be angry, like yellow vest protestors in France. As long as this is the standard line in policy debates, their anger is not likely to go away.

(Yes, this is the theme of my [free] book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer.)

January 5, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Economics, Timeless or most popular | | 5 Comments

Israel threatens family of ‘wanted’ Palestinian with expulsion

Ma’an – January 5, 2019

RAMALLAH – The Israeli army informed members of the al-Barghouthi family from Kobar village, northwest of central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and al-Bireh, on Saturday, that the family would be expelled to the Jericho district, if their son, Assem, does not turn himself in to the Israeli army.

Israel accuses Assem of carrying out an attack killing two Israeli soldiers near Ramallah on December 13, one day after his brother, Saleh, was reportedly shot and killed by Israeli soldiers north of Ramallah.

Assem has been ‘wanted’ by Israeli forces since then; on December 19th, Israeli forces took measurements of al-Barghouthi’s home in preparation for its demolition as punishment.

Saleh’s family says that Saleh was detained alive and might have died in custody.

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq had sent a sent a joint urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures regarding the enforced disappearance of al-Barghouthi.

Israeli soldiers claim that Saleh, who they say was allegedly responsible for shooting and injuring seven Israelis days earlier near Ramallah, was shot and critically injured and later died of his wounds.

Al-Barghouthi’s mother said that large numbers of Israeli force raided their home early Saturday morning, interrogated her and told her son, Assem, has three days to turn himself in or the entire family will be expelled to Jericho.

She added that Israeli forces also detained her youngest son, Muhammad, 17, and her brother, Lutfi al-Barghouthi.

Israeli forces had previously detained her husband and other son a day after the alleged attack.

Clashes erupted between Israeli forces and locals of Kobar; soldiers fired tear gas, causing tear-gas suffocation cases.

Last week, Israeli forces detained 10 Palestinians from Kobar as part of Israel’s “collective punishment” policy against the village following al-Bsrghouthi’s alleged attack.

January 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Spy Suspect’s Brother Confirms Whelan Has Four Citizenships

Sputnik – 05.01.2019

David Whelan confirmed to Sputnik that his brother Paul, detained in Russia on spy charges, has four citizenships. David also refused to disclose what little information they have about the friend of Paul’s that was getting married in Moscow.

Paul Whelan was detained during a “spy operation” in Moscow in late December on suspicion of espionage, according to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Whelan had allegedly gone to Moscow to attend a friend’s wedding.

“I’m aware that he has 4 citizenships,” David Whelan said on Friday. “And I do not have any plans to visit Russia, nor does my family,” he added.

The Irish and UK embassies in Russia have confirmed that Paul Whelan is a citizen of their respective countries. Global Affairs Canada told the local CBC broadcaster earlier this week it was aware that a Canadian national had been arrested in Russia.

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan and offered him assistance earlier this week, Andrea Kalan, the spokeswoman of the US embassy in Moscow told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Paul Whelan is currently employed as the director of global security with Michigan-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner. Whelan is also a former US marine. His service record, released by media, showed he had been convicted in 2008 on theft charges.

January 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception | | 1 Comment