Real News Mashup–Feb 11, 2019

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Real News Mashup is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please feel free to share articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can remember that the world is bigger than the propaganda storm.

 

Things That Might Make You Want to Slap Someone

Apple and Google Accused of Helping “Enforce Gender Apartheid” by Hosting Saudi Government App That Tracks Women and Stops Them Leaving the Country

 

Midterm Assessment: Hezbollah

 

Hezbollah Parade in Beirut
Image by Voice of America, public domain

New Gun Bill Would Require Buyers to Reveal Social Media History

 

They Got “Everything” Inside a Demo of NSO group’s Powerful iPhone Malware

 

Text of Green New Deal

IMHO, it reads like a lovely letter to Santa Claus, or perhaps a Utopian Manifesto.

It’s worth noting that the text does not specify that taxpayers should guarantee “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work,” as many sources are quoting. Rather, it does say “providing all people of the United States” with “economic security.”

The following document, taken by NPR from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s website, does actually endorse providing “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work,” or, in other words, “all people of the United States.” This document was taken down and disavowed by Ocasio-Cortez after an uproar.

 

Green New Deal FAQ

 

Stepping Back from the Edge . . .

Colorado Man Kills Mountain Lion with Bare Hands in Self-Defense

And an Idaho woman say, “Hold my beer!” . . .

 

Idaho Woman Accidentally Grabs Mountain Lion in Attempt to Break Up “Dog Fight”

Bad week to be a mountain lion.

 

One Woman’s Selfless Act Spurs Group to Rent 60 Hotel Rooms to Keep Homeless People Off Chicago Streets During Historic Cold

 

Woman Becomes First Black Female Pilot in Georgia Air National Guard

 

1st Lt. Andrea Lewis
Image public domain

 

CIA Paid This Soviet Traitor Millions–But Got Billions in Return

 

And These are Just Fun . . .

This Army Wife’s Wedding Dress is Made from the Parachute That Saved Her Husband

 

Study Finds Those Who Read Books Live Longer Than Those Who Don’t

 

El Paso Zoo Will Name a Cockroach After Your Ex and Feed It to Their Meerkats

Now that’s a fundraiser!

 

What Did Ancient Babylonians Eat? A Yale-Harvard Team Tested Their Recipes

 

Rare Century-Old Images of the Inuit People

 

Incredible Photos of Freezing Penguins, Waterfalls, and Isolated Communities Reveal Earth’s Stunning Natural Beauty

 

All the best to all of you for a loving Valentine’s week.

 

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Syria is Heating Up

By HOLMES

This past Wednesday, November 16, the rebellion in Syria escalated significantly.* A team of rebel commandos lead by, and possibly completely manned by, deserters from the Syrian military attacked an important intelligence center that Syria’s secret police used to combat the rebels. On Thursday, November 17, a second raid was conducted against the offices of Syria’s Ba’ath party headquarters.

One of the interesting things about the raids is that the attackers may be based in Lebanon. A glance at a map indicates that, in geographic terms, launching a raid from Lebanon would make good sense. But in political terms, it represents a new turn of events.

Both Syria and Iran have maintained strong influence in Lebanon for several decades, and Syria has acted as Iran’s forward base for the Iranian controlled Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. My best guess is that Turkey has not yet reached the point where they will allow anti-Assad activists to conduct raids from Turkish soil. Therefore, if the raids are, in fact, being conducted from Lebanon, it begs certain questions.

Have the Iranian and Syrian governments suddenly lost so much control of events in Lebanon?

Also, as recently as a week ago, Lebanon had allowed Syrian government forces to repeatedly enter its territory to kill and capture escaped Syrians. So why would Lebanon now allow the Syrian Free Army or other Syrian rebels to conduct raids in Syria?

The answers will, at least in part, lie with Hezbollah, and Hezbollah makes no decisions without Iran first telling them in detail what those decisions will be. Has Iran decided to stab their only ally, Syria, in the back? Is Iran now betting against Assad? Is Iran placing more then one bet on the same game? It may be. If Iran is indeed burning a political candle at both ends, then what payoff is it expecting?

Based strictly on the open source news available from Syria and Lebanon, I will make a guess. Iran may likely have been trying to find a contingent replacement for their Syrian boy, Assad, for the last two months. Iran backs and controls Hezbollah, but it does not trust Hezbollah with more information than it absolutely has to. Any contacts generated by Iran likely occurred without the use of their Hezbollah Pizza and Bomb Delivery Service. But Iran may not have succeeded in “going to the mountain” as they say in that region. The mountain may have gone to Iran.

It was only a matter of time before one or more senior Syrian spooks or army officers approached Iran to offer their services as newer, better, more loyal despotic pals with great new features. What particular gifts might the would-be kings be carrying to Iran?

The gift that always matters most to Iran is any gift having to do with Israel. We likely will never know, but I can’t help but wonder if the latest spy round-ups in Iran came with help from some senior member of the Syrian intelligence community who needed a bit of assistance with his retirement planning.

Experienced analysts working on Syria won’t be betting on an overtly Iranian-controlled rebel succeeding in Syria. The Syrians have fallen out of love with Assad, but they haven’t fallen in love with the archaic Iranian leadership.

People seeking “progress” are not beating down the doors to get into Iran or hoping for Iran to drop in and settle things for them. There is an Islamic fundamentalist contingent in Syria, but it is badly outnumbered. So why would Iran place such a long shot bet?

Iran would bet against Assad for two reasons. For one, it’s a low cost bet. They are simply telling Hezbollah to allow certain events to occur. Even if Assad were to survive the uprising and become aware of Iranian duplicity, so what? In the first place, he never thought that the Iranians were anything but weasels. They were simply weasels who let him play on their team. With no other teams offering a place Team Weasel, was a great gig for Assad 1.0 and Assad 2.0.

And beyond that, what choice does Assad have? Is he going to become France’s new best friend? Is he going to be invited to take a front row seat at the christening of Kate and William’s baby? Is Michelle Obama going to give him a kiss on his robotic face? No, no, and no.

Assad has no choice but to put up with whatever Iran does. He needs Iran more than Iran needs him. From Iran’s point of view, it is better to pick the potential new despot or multiple potential new despots rather than allow someone else to decide the issue, because anyone installed in Syria that Iran doesn’t back is not likely to be its new pal.

The other reason why Iran would act with seemingly little concern for its own long-term interests is that it usually does. Iran is convinced that it can continue to get away with doing pretty much whatever it wants to do. It has, at times, paid a heavy price for its petulant, anti-social behavior, but that has never prevented Iran from repeating its mistakes.

If Hezbollah no longer has Assad’s back, then it’s time for Bashar Assad to dial up London and ask for a last minute date to the prom. If Assad had assurances that he would not face arrest after killing nearly four thousand Syrian rebels this year, then he might go down to the river and pay the boatman to cross back over to the UK.

London might not answer Assad’s call, but the UK would at least ask Turkey to call him back. (“We already have a date. . . . Why don’t you take Assad to the prom?”) At a time when Turkey is desperate to increase its stature in the Islamic world and, in particular, with the Gulf States, it would like nothing better than to be seen as the peacemaker in Syria.

A bigger blood bath in Syria can still be avoided, but time is running out.

Any questions about the situation in Syria?

Click here for a recent run down on Syria, Syria’s Assad has Crossed the Rubicon

Syria’s Assad has Crossed the Rubicon

By Jay Holmes

On January 27 of this year, protests began in Syria against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Bashar (a.k.a. Assad 2.0) quickly attempted to crush the protests before they could gain any momentum. He was unable to declare a state of emergency because Syria was already under a state of emergency. He did not revoke the civil rights of the people because they didn’t have any civil rights to revoke. The state of emergency and revocation of civil rights happened in 1963, and Bashar’s father, Hafez Assad (a.k.a. Assad 1.0), never lifted the state of emergency after taking power in Syria in 1970.

Assad 2.0 — Contrary to appearances and popular belief, Bashar Assad was not kidnapped by Western scientists and replaced with a remote controlled robot. This is an actual picture of the actual Assad.

So who are these Syrian protestors, and what do they want? They are a variety of groups from culturally distinct areas across Syria. They are, basically, a combination of anyone in Syria who doesn’t happen to be a member of Assad’s Alawi Islamic sect.

Like his father before him, Assad 2.0 has relied on his fellow Alawi sect members to fill most of the important government positions, including military and police leadership. However, 88% of Syrians are not Alawi. Most of the protestors are from the 72% Sunni, 10% Christian, and 3% Druze populations.

Bashar Assad replaced his dead father as Syrian dictator in January 2000. He has spoken of economic reforms since then, but effective economic reform in Syria would require Assad to reduce corruption. In order to reduce corruption, he would have to remove from office the same Alawi officials who guarantee his security and replace them with non-Alawi officials, eliminating that security for the Assad clan. By violently suppressing the Syrian “Arab Spring” protestors, Assad avoided this scary task, but the road of protest suppression took him somewhere he had not intended to go.

On a windy March morning, Assad woke up to find himself on the wrong side of the Rubicon. While the Syrian protestors failed to gain his ear, they succeeded in gaining the ear of the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”). The ICJ did more than talk. They listened. Now, Assad can no longer take his money, his wife, and his mistresses and buy an estate and some social standing in England.

Bashar Assad is, in large part, the product of the powerful Alawi sect, but he is also the product of a British medical education. During his father’s three decades of bloody gang war rule that included a bloody gang war between his father and his uncle, Assad 2.0 had been given the luxury of living in the comparatively bucolic Western Europe as an ophthalmologist.  Whatever pleasant visions he might have harbored concerning the future of Syria, they were quickly banished by the day-to-day reality of remaining in power in that country.

Standing now on the wrong side of the Rubicon with no way to cross to the peaceful, distant shore, Assad has few options and fewer friends. His minority ruling class can count as friends the Iranian-controlled Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon and the distant Iranian government. Syria had, at times, fantasized that Turkey was it’s staunch ally, but Turkey has now opened its country to political asylum seekers from Syria.

Key Syrian anti-Assad activists, such as Syrian Ba’ath party founder Shibliy Aisamy, mistakenly sought safe haven in Lebanon, and have been kidnapped by Syrian police. Hezbollah holds sway in Lebanon and will continue to back Assad as long as it is told to by the Iran’s ruling mullahs.

Turkey is another story. Hezbollah has no power in Turkey, and it cannot influence Turkey’s friendly treatment of anti-Assad protestors.

The death of Libyan gangster Moammar Qaddafi was bad news for Bashar Assad. With Europe and NATO now free of their military obligations in Libya, Assad can no longer count on NATO nations being too busy to bother with him. But not all NATO nation taxpayers are anxious to burn more cash and spill more blood by intervening in Syria. If the future complexion of the Libyan government is difficult to discern, then any future Syrian government is nearly impossible to predict. NATO nations can’t know what they would be backing.

Hezbollah maintains a disciplined and ruthless rule in southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah’s puppet masters in Iran are desperate to prevent a secular government from forming in Syria. Various factions in the chaos that we call Iraq also want to avoid secular government in Syria. Saudi Arabia wants Saudi-friendly Sunni rule in that country, and Jordan, Israel, and the West would be happy to see a secular, democratic government installed.

So what do the Syrians want? It’s perfectly clear that the majority of them want the Assad cabal gone. It’s completely unclear as to what they want in its place.

In the short term, Assad will use what he calculates to be the minimum force necessary to remain in power. He does not want to attract intervention, but he does not want to leave, and his options for leaving Syria grow less attractive as the bodies pile up.

In order for the Syrian protestors to remove Assad from power, they will need outside help. To get that outside help, they will need to decide what their vision of Syria will look like, and they will need to share that vision with the outside world. If the Syrian uprising presents the world with a view of Syria’s future that is significantly more appealing to the West than the status quo, then Western governments might be motivated to intervene on their behalf.

That intervention, if it happens, need not be military. Everyone living on the shores of the Mediterranean understands what NATO is, and now they understand how far it will go in intervening to remove a despot from the Mediterranean shores. They also understand just how easily NATO can do that. Syria does not present Europe with the same petroleum motive that Libya did, but there are limits as to how much Europe, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States will tolerate from Assad.

If the Syrian Transitional Council succeeds in forming and sharing a vision beyond Assad’s departure, there will still be an easy way out of the potential violent mess that is brewing in Syria. If Assad is offered an escape from the hell of his and his father’s own making, he might be willing to board that ferry to re-cross the Rubicon. Trying Assad in court is less valuable and less important to mankind than allowing the Syrian people a chance to move forward into the twenty-first century without a repeat of the chaos that we now see in Iraq.

Whatever hopes and visions others might harbor for the Syrian people, only they can form and communicate those visions.

When I gaze into my crystal ball I don’t see the opposition going away. What do you see in your crystal ball? Any questions?

Who Impacts Egypt?

By Jay Holmes

This is in response to “mr blue,” who asked last Monday, “So what countries currently have the biggest impact in Egypt besides the Egyptians?”

First Mr. Blue, take a deep breath. Except in Las Vegas, blue is not a good color for people to be.

On paper the USA has the biggest impact, or at least the biggest potential impact. To what degree the USA decides to attempt to impact the political future in Egypt remains to be seen.

The real total is hard to know, but the USA is spending at least 2 billion US$ a year on or for Egypt. If nothing else, Mubarak proved that 2 billion doesn’t always get you much in that neighborhood. I say always because the potential is there. Although the USA is in a position to strongly influence events in Egypt, we do not know how far they will go or how successful they will be.

Right now Mubarak’s pals are still running the show in Egypt, and they have little reason to feel confident in any promises that this administration makes, but they do have every reason to fear a withdrawal of financing and military support. All of the USA’s potential impact will mean little unless wisdom and skill are brought to bear in attempting to influence events. In order to achieve a desired force vector, one must first know the starting position of the object to be moved, then one must know where one would like the object to end up. The western governments seem confused on both points. There is a general, vague agreement that nobody wants “Ayatollah 2″ in Egypt, but beyond that simple desire and the wish to have more oil every day, there has always been trouble refining long-term goals in the Mideast from the US, European Community or NATO points of view. It seems we just bounce from crisis to crisis, trying to figure out how to keep the oil flowing.

The other player attempting to create a sizeable impact in Egypt is, of course, Iran. Iran has the determination, the cash, and the manpower to make a big difference. They also lack the need to entertain any domestic or foreign arguments about anything like ethics. That sounds like a winning formula on the surface, but most Egyptians are as disgusted with Iran as the average westerner is. Iran’s skill at dealing through intermediaries is very limited. They call the shots with Hezbollah, and Syria is frightened of disagreeing with Iran, but beyond that small playground, the Iranian government is a drunken one-eyed bull in a china shop. I do not speak Persian, but I am wondering if there is a word for “subtle” in the Persian dictionary, or if the hash-heads and thugs calling the shots in Iran have outlawed that word in Iran. Iran keeps itself so busy trying to intimidate and abuse Iranians inside and outside of Iran that they have little time for establishing any positive initiatives anywhere. Iran is undoubtedly making every imaginable effort to take over the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but the vast majority of Egyptians do not want a radical theocracy theater company running their country. Another factor for the Iranian government is that they are very busy this week trying to fend off Iranians.

Israel will work subtly and quietly and will at least be clear about their goals. Hilary is perhaps on the phone right now with them. I can imagine the conversation.

Hilary: “The situation is critical and your cooperation is essential.”

Israel: *suppresses a laugh* “Uhm, yea …uhm you’ll be the first to know if anything comes up. What do you guys know so far?”

Hilary: “Well naturally we know EVERYTHING…except maybe a few things…and a few other things…or anything about Egypt…but we’re, uh, working on it and, uhm, we’re trying our best to bring about a peaceful solution.”

Israel and Hilary simultaneously laugh out loud.

Israel: “Yea, us too. . . . Ok. I’ll call you if anything comes up. My mom is calling on the other line. . . . I gotta go.”

Then the next conversation on the Israeli side.

Mossad: “You didn’t tell her anything did you?”

Israeli foreign ministry: “What? Do I look like a lunatic? Just don’t attack any US spy ships and leave the diplomacy to us!”

Mossad: “I’ve told you a thousand times, we had nothing to do with that USS Liberty business. . . .”

Israeli Foreign minister: “Save that line of crap for the press!”

Mossad: “Alright, alright, nobody is attacking any US ships! I swear!”

The various powerful Mideast business elites will not be concerned by where Egypt ends up, but will concentrate on profiting from whatever the results are. The same can be said of most European and Western business magnates.