Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing NetworksPosted: June 9, 2017
Susan Crabtree reports: The Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement investigative units across the federal government focused on disrupting Iranian, Syrian, and Venezuelan terrorism financing networks out of concern the work could cause friction with Iranian officials and scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, according to a former U.S. official who spent decades dismantling terrorist financial networks.
David Asher, who previously served as an adviser to Gen. John Allen at the Defense and State Departments, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday that top officials across several key law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement activities targeting the terrorism financing operations of Iran, Hezbollah, and Venezuela in the lead-up to and during the nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
“Senior leadership, presiding, directing, and overseeing various sections [of these agencies] and portions of the U.S. intelligence community systematically disbanded any internal or external stakeholder action that threatened to derail the administration’s policy agenda focused on Iran,” he testified.
Asher now serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and is an adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, two national security think tanks.
He attributed the motivation for decisions to dismantle the investigative units to “concerns about interfering with the Iran deal,” a reference to the nuclear deal forged between the U.S., five other world powers, and Iran during the final years of the Obama administration.
As a result, “several top cops” retired and the U.S. government lost their years of expertise. Read the rest of this entry »
The patriotic revolution continues.
Daniel Greenfield writes: The Dutch Labor Party used to dominate Maastricht. The ancient city gave its name to the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union. In this election, the Labor Party fell from a quarter of the vote to a twentieth.
Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, which advocates withdrawing from the EU, is now the largest party in the birthplace of the European Union.
And the growing strength of the Freedom Party can be felt not only on the banks of the Maas River, but across the waterways of the Netherlands. A new wind of change has blown off the North Sea and ruffled feathers in Belgisch Park.
In The Hague, where Carnegie’s Peace Palace hosts the World Court while the humbler Noordeinde Palace houses King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, the internationalist institutions colliding with the nationalist ones, the United Nations rubbing up against the Dutch parliament and Supreme Court, the Freedom Party has become the second largest party despite the 15% Muslim population.
In Rotterdam, where Muslim rioters shouted, “Allahu Akbar” and anti-Semitic slurs and where Hamas front groups are organizing a conference, the Freedom Party is now the second largest political party. In that ancient city on the Rotte that had the first Muslim mayor of a major European city, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of the Labor Party who was being groomed for Prime Minister, estimates are that Labor fell from 32 percent to just 6 percent. That is strikingly similar to what took place in Maastricht.
But nearly half of Rotterdam is made up of immigrants. Muslims make up 13% of the population. But turnout hit 72% and after the Muslim riots, the Freedom Party only narrowly trails the ruling VVD.
The Freedom Party has become the largest party in Venlo while the Labor Party has all but vanished.
And that is the real story of the Dutch election. Read the rest of this entry »
Once again, President Trump has come to Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s defense by throwing America under the bus.
From Our Partners: Asked About Russia Sanctions, Donald Trump Says ‘We Ough…
“He is the leader of his country,” Trump said, adding the usual boilerplate about wanting to have good relations and help fighting Islamic State.
O’Reilly interjected, “Putin’s a killer.” And a vexed Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?”
This was no gaffe. A similar conversation played out between MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Trump in December 2015. Scarborough asked about Trump’s bromance with Putin and Trump responded, “When people call you brilliant, it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”
Putin “kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries,” objected Scarborough. “Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”
“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said, referring to then-President Obama.
“But, again, he kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” protested Scarborough.
“Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,” Trump said.
In July, Trump said something similar in response to questions from the New York Times about the bloody repressions and mass arrests by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”
One might expect to hear that kind of logic from a dorm room full of Marxists. And if Obama had ever suggested the same, conservatives would have pounced. Of course America isn’t without sin. But ethically speaking, America has towered above Russia – including Russia under Putin. Read the rest of this entry »
Footage appears to show a number of ambulances and police vehicles outside the Reina nightclub, in the Besiktas area of the city.
One of the Istanbul shooters disguised as Santa. pic.twitter.com/DfSPh8DNPk
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) December 31, 2016
NTV says two attackers were involved, with CNN Turk reported they were dressed in Santa costumes.
Istanbul had been on high alert for any terror attacks, with some 17,000 police officers on duty in the city…
Source: BBC News
Around 50 people injured
Around 50 people have been injured according to the latest reports.
Armed police are on the scene at the Reina club. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.
Reuters reports: Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
“This is a dark cloud over Iraq. But we will stay here in our land no matter what happens. God is with us.”
— Bishop Shemani, Christmas Eve sermon in Bartella.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to ISIS’ blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptized.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during ISIS’ time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years.
At Mar Shimoni, the congregation sang and prayed in Syriac, a language close to the one spoken by Jesus.
“It’s the church where I was baptized, where I was educated, where I was taught the faith,” said Bahnam Shamanny, the editor of Bartelli al-Syriann, a monthly local newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »
David French writes: The world just got more dangerous. A gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey and then stood over his body, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and began ranting about Syria and Aleppo. I won’t embed video of the shooting, but you can see the entire thing here. Warning, the footage is extremely disturbing.
Early reports are often wrong, but it appears the shooter was a Turkish police officer:
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) December 19, 2016
We can’t forget that this incident comes just a little more than a year after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet, and it comes after Erodgan has comprehensively purged Turkish security forces to allegedly leave only his loyalists on staff. Read the rest of this entry »
This is as serious as you say it is, and it tells you how far we have fallen in the region. We were the ones, before the evacuation in Iraq, we were the ones — for all the blood and the toil and the waste of the initial invasion — who controlled that area. We controlled the airspace. We had airbases in Iraq — we controlled everything. No country would ever have said to us, and nobody was in a position to say to us, ‘You can’t have a no-fly zone, or we will patrol and shoot you down.’”
“The Russians are now in Syria, they have the approval of the government, so they have international law — I think it is ridiculous to worry about that, but the administration does — on their side, and they are telling the United States, which were the dominant power for half a century here: ‘If you go up in the air we’ll shoot you down.’ They have just installed in Tartus — which is a naval base, the Russian naval base — S-300 missiles which can do that, meaning they actually have not only a threat, but they have the capacity to shoot American airplanes down. Its probably a bluff because it could trigger a war, it could trigger something extremely serious. But it means we are excluded and the Russians are in charge. Think about the reversal of fortunes, of a place where we were the dominant power since the 1970s.”
56 Journalists Killed in Russia/Motive Confirmed
Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, Novoye Delo
July 9, 2013, in Semender, Russia
Mikhail Beketov, Khimkinskaya Pravda
April 8, 2013, in Khimki, Russia
Kazbek Gekkiyev, VGTRK
December 5, 2012, in Nalchik, Russia
Gadzhimurad Kamalov, Chernovik
December 15, 2011, in Makhachkala, Russia
Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, Hakikat and Sogratl
August 11, 2009, in Makhachkala , Russia
Natalya Estemirova, Novaya Gazeta, Kavkazsky Uzel
July 15, 2009, in between Grozny and Gazi-Yurt , Russia
Anastasiya Baburova, Novaya Gazeta
January 19, 2009, in Moscow , Russia
Telman (Abdulla) Alishayev, TV-Chirkei
September 2, 2008, in Makhachkala, Russia
Magomed Yevloyev, Ingushetiya
August 31, 2008, in Nazran, Russia
Ivan Safronov, Kommersant
March 2, 2007, in Moscow, Russia
Maksim Maksimov, Gorod
November 30, 2006, in St. Petersburg, Russia
Anna Politkovskaya, Novaya Gazeta
October 7, 2006, in Moscow, Russia
Vagif Kochetkov, Trud and Tulsky Molodoi Kommunar
January 8, 2006, in Tula, Russia
Magomedzagid Varisov, Novoye Delo
June 28, 2005, in Makhachkala, Russia
Pavel Makeev, Puls
May 21, 2005, in Azov, Russia
Paul Klebnikov, Forbes Russia
July 9, 2004, in Moscow, Russia
Adlan Khasanov, Reuters
May 9, 2004, in Grozny, Russia
Aleksei Sidorov, Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye
October 9, 2003, in Togliatti, Russia
Yuri Shchekochikhin, Novaya Gazeta
July 3, 2003, in Moscow, Russia
Roddy Scott, Frontline
September 26, 2002, in Galashki Region, Ingushetia, Russia
Valery Ivanov, Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye
April 29, 2002, in Togliatti, Russia
Natalya Skryl, Nashe Vremya
March 9, 2002, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Eduard Markevich, Novy Reft
September 18, 2001, in Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region, Russia
Igor Domnikov, Novaya Gazeta
July 16, 2000, in Moscow, Russia
Aleksandr Yefremov, Nashe Vremya
May 12, 2000, in Chechnya, Russia
Vladimir Yatsina, ITAR-TASS
February 20, 2000, in Chechnya, Russia
Shamil Gigayev, Nokh Cho TV
October 29, 1999, in Shaami Yurt, Russia
Ramzan Mezhidov, TV Tsentr
October 29, 1999, in Shaami Yurt, Russia
Supian Ependiyev, Groznensky Rabochy
October 27, 1999, in Grozny, Russia
Anatoly Levin-Utkin, Yurichichesky Peterburg Segodnya
August 24, 1998, in St. Petersburg, Russia
Larisa Yudina, Sovietskaya Kalmykia Segodnya
June 8, 1998, in Elista, Russia
Ramzan Khadzhiev, Russian Public TV (ORT)
August 11, 1996, in Grozny, Russia
Viktor Mikhailov, Zabaikalsky Rabochy
May 12, 1996, in Chita, Russia
Nina Yefimova, Vozrozhdeniye
May 9, 1996, in Grozny, Russia
Nadezhda Chaikova, Obshchaya Gazeta
March 30, 1996, in Gehki, Russia
Viktor Pimenov, Vaynakh Television
March 11, 1996, in Grozny, Russia
Felix Solovyov, freelance
February 26, 1996, in Moscow, Russia
Vadim Alferyev, Segodnyashnyaya Gazeta
December 27, 1995, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Shamkhan Kagirov, Rossiskaya Gazeta and Vozrozheniye
December 13, 1995, in near Grozny, Russia
Natalya Alyakina, Focus and RUFA
June 17, 1995, in Budyonnovsk, Russia
Farkhad Kerimov, Associated Press TV
May 29, 1995, in Chechnya, Russia
Vladislav Listyev, Russian Public Television (OTR)
March 1, 1995, in Moscow, Russia
Viatcheslav Rudnev, Freelancer
February 17, 1995, in Kaluga, Russia
Jochen Piest, Stern
January, 10, 1995, in Chervlyonna, Russia
Vladimir Zhitarenko, Krasnaya Zvezda
January 1, 1995, in Grozny, Russia
Cynthia Elbaum, Freelancer
December 22, 1994, in Grozny, Russia
Dmitry Kholodov, Mosckovski Komsomolets
October 17, 1994, in Moscow, Russia
Yuri Soltis, Interfax
June 12, 1994, in Moscow, Russia
Aleksandr Smirnov, Molodyozhny Kuryer
October 4, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Aleksandr Sidelnikov, Lennauchfilm Studio
October 4, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Sergei Krasilnikov, Ostankino Television Company
October 3, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Yvan Scopan, TF-1 Television Company
October 3, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Vladimir Drobyshev, Nature and Man
October 3, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Igor Belozyorov, Ostankino State Broadcasting Company
October 3, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Rory Peck, ARD Television Company
October 3, 1993, in Moscow, Russia
Dmitry Krikoryants, Expresskhronika
April 14, 1993, in Grozny, Russia Read the rest of this entry »
Emperor Akihito, 82, spoke publicly for the first time about retiring, saying he feared it would become ‘more difficult’ to fulfill his duties.
Jonathan Noble reports: It has been something of an open secret in Japan that Emperor Akihito would like a privilege most people take for granted: At 82, he wants to retire. The question is whether the Japanese and their elected leaders will let him.
In an extraordinary televised address on Monday, the popular emperor spoke publicly about the issue for the first time. Though his words were characteristically vague — he discussed his age, his rigorous daily schedule and what he called his increasing physical limitations — the message was unmistakable.
“I am concerned that it will become more and more difficult for me to fulfill my duties as a symbolic emperor,” he said in a prerecorded address that lasted about 10 minutes and was broadcast on multiple Japanese television networks.
If Akihito steps down, the move could redefine Japan’s royal family, the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. While the emperor now has only symbolic power, an abdication could also resurrect a contentious issue in Japan: the debate over allowing a woman to occupy the throne.
First reported in banner headlines by the Japanese news media in July, Akihito, who has been treated for cancer and heart problems, was said to want to retire and pass the title to his son Crown Prince Naruhito, 56. Prince Naruhito appears to share his father’s quiet temperament and wish to keep the monarchy apolitical.
But abdication is complicated because of Japanese law, which says an emperor serves until death. Parliament would have to change the law for Akihito to step down. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan’s Emperor Akihito is set to deliver his second ever televised address to the nation, after reports he wants to step down in coming years.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito is set to deliver his second ever televised address to the public.
Last month, Japanese media reported that the emperor wanted to step down in coming years, which would be unprecedented in modern Japan.
He is not expected to use the word “abdicate” because he is barred from political involvement.
The palace said on Friday he would be speaking about his “feelings regarding his duties as a symbol of the nation”.
Five things about Japan’s emperor
People in Tokyo sum up Japan’s Emperor in one word
- Has adopted a more modern style, making efforts to draw the imperial family closer to the people.
- He married a commoner in 1959 – their love story captured the nation and was dubbed the “tennis court romance” as they met over the nets. Together he and Empress Michiko have three children.
- Has sought to heal the scars of World War Two, saying last year: “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.”
- Acknowledged his Korean ancestry in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, which Japan and South Korea jointly hosted. This surprised many in Japan given the country’s bitter colonial legacy on the Korean peninsula.
- His passion is marine biology and he is an expert on the goby fish.
There is no legal provision for abdication in Japanese law, which would mean a law change would be required.
Under the constitution the emperor is not allowed to have political powers so a wish to abdicate could be seen as him interfering in politics.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to issue a statement after the emperor’s speech.
A pre-recorded message from the 82-year-old emperor, who is revered in Japan, will be made public at 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT).
Public broadcaster NHK reported the emperor, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, would ask Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife to take over many of his public duties. Read the rest of this entry »
“Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are.”
Assange was speaking in a CNN interview following the release of nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by suspected Russian hackers.
However, Assange refused to confirm or deny a Russian origin for the mass email leak, saying Wikileaks tries to create ambiguity to protect all its sources.
“It raises questions about the natural instincts of Clinton that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, et cetera.”
“Perhaps one day the source or sources will step forward and that might be an interesting moment some people may have egg on their faces. But to exclude certain actors is to make it easier to find out who our sources are,” Assange told CNN. Read the rest of this entry »
Turkey retreats further into dictatorship.
Welcome to the New Turkey, where people can get locked up for saying something critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
When the AKP came to power in the early 2000s, Western liberals claimed the party’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was pro-democracy. He was supposed to be enlightened; an innocent Islamic version of a Christian Democrat.
An Istanbul court convicts a former Miss Turkey of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan through social media postings and gives her a 14-month suspended sentence.The court finds 27-year-old model Merve Buyuksarac guilty of insulting a public official but immediately suspends the sentence on condition that she does not re-offend within the next five years.
Back in 2014, Buyuksarac (who now goes by her married name of Ciner) shared a satirical poem on her…(read more)
Source: PJ Media
The cartoon appeared on the front page after a Dutch journalist was detained in Turkey.
After a Dutch journalist was arrested in Turkey this weekend for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the most-read newspaper in the Netherlands on Monday published a front-page editorial cartoon that shows Erdogan as an ape, apparently crushing Europe’s free speech.
The cartoon, published by the populist daily De Telegraaf, has an ape with Erdogan’s face squashing a woman who appears to be Ebru Umar, the Dutch writer with a Turkish background who was arrested in Turkey on Sunday. In the cartoon, the Turkish president is standing on a rock labeled “Apenrots” — a Dutch term meaning “monkey rocks” that is used to refer to the Dutch Foreign Ministry but can also refer to a place where one dominant individual holds power.
The cartoon is titled “the long arm of Erdogan.”
Umar, a columnist for the newspaper Metro, had been detained by Turkish authorities who were investigating tweets she had sent about Erdogan. Umar was released Sunday, but she says she has been ordered to remain in the country as the investigation proceeds.
The detention of Umar has added another layer to what many in the Netherlands think is a growing crackdown on free speech within Turkey — and outside its borders, too. Last week, the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam came under fire after appearing to send an email that called for Turkish organizations in the Netherlands to report insults against Erdogan to it. The Turkish Embassy later said that the email had been poorly phrased and misunderstood, but it sparked controversy within the Netherlands, which is one of many European countries that still has “lèse-majesté” laws that prohibit insults against friendly heads of state. Read the rest of this entry »
“The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them.”
— Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church
The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.
Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.
They claim it was made on the grounds that authorities intend to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the city, which has been partially destroyed by 10 months of urban conflict between government forces and militants from the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).
Merkel Bows to Primitive Censorship: Comedian Faces Prosecution for Poem About Turkish president Recep Tayyip ErdoğanPosted: April 15, 2016
Under section 103 of the criminal code, insults against organs or representatives of foreign states are punishable with up to three years in prison, or three months to five years if a court judges the insult to be slanderous.
Philip Oltermann reports: Angela Merkel, has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from Ankara to prosecute a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The German chancellor insisted her government’s decision did not amount to a verdict on whether Jan Böhmermann was guilty or not, but should be understood as a reaffirmation of the judiciary’s independence.
“I consider this to be the wrong decision. Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”
— Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction
“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday.
The chancellor expressed “grave concerns” about the prosecution of individual journalists in Turkey, as well as growing limitations to the right to protest, but emphasised Germany’s close diplomatic ties with the country.
Merkel was left with the final decision on whether Germany’s state prosecutor should start proceedings against Böhmermann after Erdoğan requested the comedian be prosecuted.
“Throughout his reading, the comedian is advised by another comedian impersonating a media lawyer, who tells him this poem is precisely the sort of thing that does not qualify as satire and is therefore illegal.”
Under an obscure section of Germany’s criminal code, prosecution for insults against organs or representatives of foreign states requires both a notification from the offended party and an authorisation from the government.
Merkel and other ministers confirmed reports that there had been disagreements on how to handle the Böhmermann affair between ministers within her coalition government.
The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Social Democrat ministers, including himself and the justice minister Heiko Maas, had been overruled by Merkel in allowing the prosecution to proceed. “It is our view that the prosecution should not have been authorised,” Steinmeier said. “Freedom of the press, freedom of expression and artistic freedom are the highest goods requiring protection in our constitution.”
“I consider this to be the wrong decision,” said Thomas Oppermann, leader of the Social Democratic party’s parliamentary faction. “Prosecuting satire on the basis of a lèse-majesté law is not appropriate to the modern age.”
The little-used paragraph of the German legal code that had allowed the Turkish president to request the prosecution is likely to be scrapped in the aftermath of the affair. Merkel said on Friday that she considered the law unnecessary, and that legal steps would be taken towards deleting it from the penal code within the next two years. Read the rest of this entry »
A Russian jet has been shot down by Turkish warplanes this morning, near the border with Syria.
Russia’s defence ministry claims the aircraft at no point strayed into Turkish airspace, with authorities insisting it remained in Syria “at all times”, according to Interfax.
However, a Turkish military official told Reuters that the Nato member country’s F-16s had fired on the then-unidentified aircraft only after warning it was violating Turkey’s airspace.
Palace Intrigue: Putin’s Aide Mikhail Lesin Found Dead in Hotel ‘Murdered for Being an FBI informant’ – or ‘Could Even Still Be Alive’Posted: November 12, 2015
Will Stewart reports: The death from a ‘heart attack’ of a longtime close ally of Vladimir Putin in a Washington hotel has led to a swirl of speculation that he was murdered on Moscow’s orders after offering to help the FBI.
“Nicknamed the ‘Bulldozer’, Lesin was one of the key props of the Putin presidency, personally masterminding a wide-ranging media crackdown which has left the vast majority of Russian TV stations and newspapers obedient to the Kremlin.”
Mikhail Lesin, 57, was announced last weekend to have been found dead in the US capital. He was a Svengali figure for Putin, who was alleged to have menaced the Russian media into idolizing the strongman president.
“He also set up Russia Today, now RT, seen by critics as a ‘propaganda’ channel aimed at the West.”
The shock death has created an eave of speculation in Moscow that it is related to previous reports that he was helping the FBI – and could be murder.
There are even separate allegations that Lesin may still be alive, with his demise faked by the US authorities.
According to this version, he is being kept safe as part of a witness protection scheme, while spilling to the FBI all he knows on Putin’s Russia.
Daily Mail Online can reveal that only weeks before his death was announced, he fathered a child with glamorous model and flight attendant Victoria Rakhimbayeva.
Murdered? Mikhail Lesin and his new love Victoria Rakhimbayeva, who were photographed when she was pregnant. He was found dead last Friday in a Washington DC hotel – and now speculation is mounting about him
Claim: Lesin was reported by the TV station he set up – RT, known to be pro-Kremlin – to have died from a longstanding illness while staying at the Dupont Circle Hotel (pictured)
World traveler: Victoria Rakhimbayeva, believed to be 29, posted photographs from around the world and said that she and Lesin were planning to live in New York, although she preferred Los Angeles
“There are unsubstantiated claims in Moscow that when he died he was in debt to billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, one of Putin’s closest big business friends.”
She is believed to be aged 29, with whom he had enjoyed a close relationship since at least mid-2014.
She has not commented on his death other than to thank friends on social media for their commiserations, but before the tragedy she made clear that they intended to set up home permanently in New York.
Despite Russian reports of a heart attack, police in DC have said no cause of death has been determined while also indicating there was no obvious sign of foul play.
‘A ruling on the cause and manner of death is pending further investigation,’ said a Saturday statement.
Nicknamed the ‘Bulldozer’, Lesin was one of the key props of the Putin presidency, personally masterminding a wide-ranging media crackdown which has left the vast majority of Russian TV stations and newspapers obedient to the Kremlin.
He also set up Russia Today, now RT, seen by critics as a ‘propaganda’ channel aimed at the West.
But earlier this year, after the break-up of his marriage, and in a new relationship with his Siberian lover who he may have wed – she referred to him as her ‘husband’ – he suddenly quit the latest of several high profile positions, as head of Gazprom Media, a major state owned media conglomerate. Read the rest of this entry »
How do you boost a song’s popularity? In China, now there’s a new option: put it on a government blacklist.
Hu Xin reports: China’s Ministry of Culture this week banned 120 songs for “containing content that promotes sex, violence or crime, or harms public morality.” According to a notice posted on the ministry’s website late Monday, streaming music sites and karaoke parlors must remove the offending songs within 15 days or else face an unspecified “severe punishment.” The songs are also banned from commercial performance.
Of the 120 blacklisted tunes, many contain explicit language or touch on amorous themes, with lyrics about “making love” and “one night stands.”
“You see why China will never have its own Eminem now. Hip-hop is popular in America because you can sing everything you want.”
— Music fan on Weibo
Some stars such as Taiwan’s Ayal Komod and MC Hotdog have songs that made the list. Yet about one-fifth of the banned songs were penned by two Chinese hip-hop groups, In 3 and Xinjiekou. While lauded by fans of the genre, the two bands – who sing about their daily lives and sometimes voice their anger towards society — are little-known outside mainland hip-hop circles.
“Have they really listened to those songs or did they just judge them based on their titles?”
MC Han, one of the founders of Xinjiekou, told China Real Time in a phone interview Tuesday that he is not frustrated by the sudden blacklisting of eight of his songs.
“It actually serves as a reminder for composers like us and helps guide our music creation,” he said of the ban. “Those songs were written to express our true feelings when we were less mature.”
‘A Good Day’s Work’: SAS sniper gunned down a knife-wielding Islamic State maniac just as he was trying to brutally behead a father and his young son.
Nick Gutteridge reports: The brave British marksman saved the terrified eight-year-old and his father after taking out the crazed jihadi with a head shot from 1,000 metres away.
The special forces crack shot then killed two other members of the hated terror group, who were also taking part in the sick planned execution.
“Through binoculars the soldiers could see that the crowd were terrified and many were in tears….They were both wearing blindfolds and looked terrified…A tall bearded man emerged and drew a long knife…He began addressing the crowd and slapping the father and his son around the head and kicking them on to the floor.”
ISIS militants had decreed that the little boy and his father must die after branding them “infidels” because they refused to denounce their faith.
They were just seconds from death when the hero sniper intervened to stop the barbaric killing in the Syrian desert. The pair were part of the minority Shia sect of Islam which ISIS considers to be heretical.
“Standing either side of the executioner were two other Isis fighters, both armed with AK47s…The ISIS thug who was about to decapitate the father was shot in the head and collapsed…Everyone just stared in confusion. The sniper then dispatched the two henchmen with single shots – three kills with three bullets…”
They were saved from a cruel and painful death at the hands of the fanatics after an Iraqi spy tipped off British special forces to the planned execution.
Special forces troops who arrived at the killing site, where ISIS was carrying out a series of rigged ‘trials’ of locals, discovered a gruesome scene with several headless bodies already lying bloodied on the desert floor.
The dramatic rescue operation took place last month near the Syrian border with Turkey, where an elite SAS unit had been conducting covert patrols.
Defence sources described how the SAS unit moved into a position just outside a village where ISIS members were holding the ‘trial’ in front of a crowd of locals who had been forced to attend at gunpoint.
The crack team considered calling in an air strike using a Reaper Drone, but the elite troops feared many of the innocent civilians who had been forced to watch the executions might also be killed.
Instead the SAS unit decided on a risky long-range kill using the team’s sniper.
SINJAR MOUNTAIN, Iraq—Nine years ago, Zind Ruken packed a bag and left her majority-ethnic-Kurdish city in Iran, escaping a brutal police crackdown and pressure to marry a man she’d never met.
“America’s association with a terror-listed Maoist-inspired militia, even if indirect, shows how dramatically Syria’s conflict has reconfigured regional alliances and eroded once-rigid borders.”
Now the 24-year-old is a battle-hardened guerrilla, using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to fight Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq.
She has deployed to reverse their advances on self-governing Kurdish communities. Last summer, she says, she helped rescue Kurdish-speaking Yazidis besieged on Sinjar Mountain. Her unit has fought Islamist insurgents and conventional armies in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq—countries where an estimated 30 million Kurds live.
“Constantly shifting alliances in the region mean the PKK’s rise isn’t certain to continue. But the guerrilla group’s growing stature has alarmed Turkey, a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S., with whom the PKK has fought a three-decade war costing some 40,000 lives.”
Ms. Ruken’s journey provides a glimpse behind the remarkable rise of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the cultlike Marxist-inspired group she fights for and whose triumphs against Islamic State have helped it evolve from ragtag militia to regional power player.
The PKK and its Syrian affiliate have emerged as Washington’s most effective battlefield partners against Islamic State, also known as ISIS, even though the U.S. and its allies have for decades listed the PKK as a terrorist group. The movement in the past has been accused of kidnappings, murder and narcotics trafficking, but fighters like Ms. Ruken have presented the world an appealing face of the guerrillas—an image of women battling as equals with male comrades against an appallingly misogynist enemy.
“Obama administration officials acknowledged the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG.”
U.S. war planners have been coordinating with the Syrian affiliate—the People’s Defense Units, or YPG—on air and ground operations through a joint command center in northern Iraq. And in two new centers in Syria’s Kobani and Jazeera regions, YPG commanders are in direct contact with U.S. commanders, senior Syrian Kurdish officials said.
“There’s no reason to pretend anymore,” said a senior Kurdish official from Kobani. “We’re working together, and it’s working.”
By contrast, Ankara agreed only on Thursday to allow coalition airstrikes from an eastern-Turkey air base, after months of negotiations in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ’s government resisted international calls to enter the war with Islamic State. U.S. officials said the base deal shouldn’t affect U.S. air support to Kurdish fighters in Syria and may help increase collaboration with the YPG because jets and drones will be closer to the battlefield. Read the rest of this entry »
Members of the illegal left-wing organization the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front have broken into a Turkish prosecutor’s office and taken him hostage
Yael Klein writes: The prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, was targeted by the organization because he represented the state in the sensitive case of a young man’s death during anti-government protests in 2013. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the Turkish prime minister at the time of the protests, exercised a very strict policy against the protestors. The young man was killed after the police used excessive force against the demonstrators, and the organization has taken Kiraz hostage as an act of protest against Erdogan.
The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front has issued a message in the social media, threatening to execute the prosecutor by 3:36 pm (local time) if its demands are not answered. The members of the organization demand that the police officers who caused the death of the young man in the 2013 protests confess to killing him on live television. Read the rest of this entry »
Two Turkish caricaturists have been fined for insulting President Tayyip Erdogan after a court ruled that one of their cartoons implied he was gay, local media said on Wednesday.
“Erdogan, who brooks little dissent, has dominated politics for more than a decade in Sunni Muslim Turkey, where homosexuality is widely frowned upon.”
Bahadir Baruter and Ozer Aydogan were prosecuted for an illustration on the front page of satirical magazine Penguen last August in which an official greeted Erdogan while apparently making a circle with his thumb and forefinger.
“Others to fall foul of his sensitivities include a former Miss Turkey winner, who is facing a possible jail term for allegedly insulting him on social media, and a 13-year old boy who was this month questioned over a Facebook post.”
Prosecutors launched the indictment after a citizen complained that the hand signal, commonly used in Turkey to insult homosexuals, was against the country’s moral values.
Lawyers representing Erdogan then got involved in the case, demanding that the court punish the cartoonists for “insulting a public official”, Hurriyet newspaper reported. Read the rest of this entry »
Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, violence and hatred against Jews is on the rise, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe
Jonathan Sacks writes: Last Tuesday, a group of Holocaust survivors, by now gaunt and frail, made their way back to Auschwitz, the West’s symbol of evil—back to the slave-labor side of the vast complex, with its mocking inscription Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work makes you free”), and back to the death camp, where a million and a quarter human beings, most of them Jews, were gassed, burned and turned to ash. They were there to commemorate the day, 70 years ago, when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and saw, for the first time, the true dimensions of the greatest crime since human beings first set foot on Earth.
“Today Christian communities are being ravaged, terrorized and decimated throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, and scores of Muslims are killed every day by their brothers, with Sunnis arrayed against Shiites, radicals against moderates, the religious against the secular. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”
The moment would have been emotional at the best of times, but this year brought an especially disturbing undercurrent. The Book of Genesis says that, when God told Abraham what would happen to his descendants, a “fear of great darkness” fell over him. Something of that fear haunted the survivors this week, who have witnessed the return of anti-Semitism to Europe after 70 years of political leaders constant avowals of “Never again.” As they finished saying Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for mourners, one man cried out, “I don’t want to come here again.” Everyone knew what he meant. For once, the fear was not only about the past but also about the future.
The murder of Jewish shoppers at a Parisian kosher supermarket three weeks ago, after the killing of 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, sent shivers down the spines of many Jews, not because it was the first such event but because it has become part of a pattern. In 2014, four were killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In 2012, a rabbi and three young children were murdered at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
“In 2008 in Mumbai, four terrorists separated themselves from a larger group killing people in the city’s cafes and hotels and made their way to a small Orthodox Jewish center, where they murdered its young rabbi and his pregnant wife after torturing and mutilating them.”
In 2008 in Mumbai, four terrorists separated themselves from a larger group killing people in the city’s cafes and hotels and made their way to a small Orthodox Jewish center, where they murdered its young rabbi and his pregnant wife after torturing and mutilating them. As the Sunday Times of London reported about the attack, “the terrorists would be told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews.”
An ancient hatred has been reborn.
Some politicians around the world deny that what is happening in Europe is anti-Semitism. It is, they say, merely a reaction to the actions of the state of Israel, to the continuing conflict with the Palestinians. But the policies of the state of Israel are not made in kosher supermarkets in Paris or in Jewish cultural institutions in Brussels and Mumbai. The targets in these cities were not Israeli. They were Jewish.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009 on Al Rahma, a popular religious TV station in Egypt, made the contours of the new hate impeccably clear: “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”
“Anti-Semitism has existed for a very long time. One critical moment came around the end of the 1st century C.E., when the Gospel of John attributed to Jesus these words about the Jews: ‘You belong to your father, the Devil.’ From being the children of Abraham, Jews had been transformed into the children of Satan.”
Not everyone would put it so forcefully, but this is the hate in which much of the Middle East and the Muslim world has been awash for decades, and it is now seeping back into Europe. For Jews, “never again” has become “ever again.”
“If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”
— Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009
The scope of the problem is, of course, difficult to gauge precisely. But recent polling is suggestive—and alarming. An Anti-Defamation League study released last May found “persistent and pervasive” anti-Jewish attitudes after surveying 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories world-wide. The ADL found that 74% of those surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa held anti-Semitic attitudes; the number was 24% in Western Europe, 34% in Eastern Europe and 19% in the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »
— Anne Bayefsky (@AnneBayefsky) January 6, 2015
Both Countries Urge the Other to Halt ISIS Advance on Kobani
Turkey and the U.S. warned that a major Syrian border city was in imminent danger of falling to Islamic State, with the two countries putting the onus on the other to halt the extremist group’s advance.
“You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes. If you don’t support them on the ground by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it.”
— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed the U.S.-led coalition on Tuesday to move ahead with plans to arm and train Syrian and Iraqi ground forces to battle Islamic State, saying airstrikes alone weren’t enough.
An American military official said the U.S. believes the situation in the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani is increasingly dire, and that the city is likely to fall shortly if Turkey doesn’t intervene.
The complications for Turkey stemming from the advance on Kobani were mounting rapidly. Beyond U.S. pressure to step in, protests by the country’s restive Kurds were spreading quickly. At least a dozen people were killed in clashes with security forces in several Kurdish-majority cities, local media reported. The demonstrations reached Istanbul.
Airstrikes Tuesday by the coalition fighting Islamic State hit positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. But Kurdish officials and Syrian opposition members said the militants were still advancing against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Mr. Erdogan declared Kobani was “about to fall” while he was visiting a refugee camp in the border province of Gaziantep.
“You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes,” he said. “If you don’t support them on the ground by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it.”
The U.S. and its partners have conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State in recent weeks. But they have so far ruled out the deployment of their own ground forces, opting instead to train and support local forces.
U.S. defense officials reiterated Tuesday that they are not going to directly coordinate operations with any force on the ground in Syria until at least some of the vetted moderate rebels have been through upcoming military training and are ready to enter the fight. Read the rest of this entry »
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) May 31, 2014
Reporting from Taksim Square in Istanbul, CNN’s Ivan Watson was showing the audience lines of riot police, stationed there to prevent a resurgence of anti-government protests on the anniversary of last year’s Gezi Perk riots.
That’s when he was surrounded and detained on camera.
“Where is your passport?” an official begins yelling, as Watson tries to keep the broadcast going. Read the rest of this entry »
AFP – An online Islamic sex shop selling condoms, massage oils and perfumes has been launched in Turkey, becoming the first of its kind in the predominantly Muslim country.
The “Halal Sex Shop” website presents its products as being “entirely safe,” and in compliance with Islamic norms.
Internet users who enter the site find two different links directing them to separate sections for male and female products.
Other sections of the website are designed to discuss sex in the context of Islam under various headings: “Oral sex according to Islam”, “Sex manners in Islam” and “Sexual life in Islam.” Read the rest of this entry »