Drones

The Pronk Pops Show 969, September 21, 2017, Story 1: President Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting Institutions and People Doing Business With North Korea — Communist China Trades With and Enabled North Korea Nuclear Weapon and Missile Programs — Waiting For Embargo Banning All Trade and Investment in Communist China — Videos — Story 2: Fed To Start Quantitative Tightening In October 2017 by Selling Some ($10 Billion Per Month or $120 Billion Per Year) of $4,500 Billion Bond Portfolio As U.S. Economy Slows in 2017? — Videos

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Pronk Pops Show 911, June 14, 2017

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Pronk Pops Show 903, June 1, 2017

Image result for china trade with north korea by year through 2016Image result for china trade with north korea by year through 2016Image result for federal reserve quantitative tighteningImage result for federal reserve to start selling off bond portfolio

 Story 1: President Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting Institutions and People Doing Business With North Korea — Communist China Trades With and Enabled North Korea Nuclear Weapon and Missile Programs — Waiting For Embargo Banning All Trade and Investment in Communist China — Videos —

Image result for china'smajor trading partners in 2017Image result for china'smajor trading partners in 2017

Image result for china'smajor trading partners in 2017Image result for china'smajor trading partners in 2017

Image result for china'smajor trading partners in 2017

BREAKING NEWS: President Donald Trump Announces New Sanctions on North Korea through Executive Order

Trump: China has told its banks to stop doing business with North Korea

North Korea: Trump signs new order to widen sanctions

Trump hints at ending US trade with all North Korea partners | Time To Play Trump Card

WHY NORTH KOREA IS TESTING MISSILES & NUKES? TOP 5 REASONS

Inside North Korea Newest Documentary (2017)

North Korea DARKEST SECRETS 2017 Deepest Secrets Revealed for the First Time

China Pulls Trade From North Korea! Russia RESPONDS BY Increasing Trade by 73%!

John Bolton calls for ‘sweeping’ set of sanctions on China

United Nations funding mechanism needs to be changed: John Bolton

John Bolton: We are at a ‘crisis point’ with North Korea

Trump administration undercuts his message on North Korea

Former CIA Director James Woolsey: North Korea Has Been Able To Hit Power Grid For Years | CNBC

Ralph Peters on North Korea: China will never help us

Peters: People don’t understand how desperate North Korea is

China getting away with ‘trade murder’: Ralph Peters

What Are Economic Sanctions?

Chinese sanctions will help US trade deficit, but could backfire: Andrew Peek

Gordon Chang: China understands the effects of US sanctions

Lou Dobbs : Is China helping North Korea create nuclear missiles? : 5/30/2017

Gordon Chang: NKorea is forcing the United States to act

Trump unplugging Chinese banks will end China’s economy: Gordon Chang

BREAKING: Putin To Trump – I will arm your enemies if you send arms to mine

What Is Life Really Like In North Korea?

Why China Supports North Korea

Where Are The World’s Nuclear Weapons Stored?

What Countries Have Nuclear Weapons?

Trump signs order aiming to cut off funding for North Korean missile program

  • President Donald Trump signs an executive order to expand his authority to target people and institutions doing business with North Korea.
  • With the action, he aims to reduce funding going to the dictatorship’s nuclear and missile programs.

President Donald Trump speaking as he meets with South Korean president Moon Jae-in during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 21, 2017.

Trump unveils order aiming to cut off funding for North Korean missile program  

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order expanding his authority to target people and institutions that do business with North Korea.

Through the measure, the president aims to cut off the communist dictatorship’s funding and deter its nuclear and missile ambitions amid a string of recent tests and provocations.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development is a grave threat to peace and security in our world and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said before a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind. The order enhances the Treasury Department’s authorities to target any individual or entity that conducts significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea.”

The isolated nation has tested ballistic missiles and an apparent hydrogen bomb in recent weeks in the face of international economic sanctions and warnings. On Tuesday, Trump told the U.N. General Assembly that the U.S. “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it is forced to defend itself or its allies.

President Donald Trump speaking as he meets with South Korean president Moon Jae-in during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 21, 2017.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump speaking as he meets with South Korean president Moon Jae-in during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 21, 2017.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed fresh measures to punish the communist dictatorship economically, with the support of China and Russia. Trump has repeatedly pressed China, North Korea’s only major ally, to do more to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Trump on Thursday highlighted that China’s central bank has told its banks to strictly implement U.N. sanctions. He thanked President Xi Jinping for what he called a “bold” and “somewhat unexpected” move.

On Tuesday, he also commended Beijing for signing on to two recent sanctions packages enacted by the Security Council. The U.S. sees China’s commitment to sanctions as crucial to forcing Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump appeared to try to quash speculation that he is targeting China or other North Korean trading partners with the action.

“I want to be clear — the order targets only one country, and that country is North Korea,” he said.

Trump said the order identifies industries including textiles, fishing, information technology and manufacturing, which the Treasury Department can target with “strong sanctions.” The president added that the order includes “measures designed to disrupt” shipping and trade networks to reduce North Korea’s ability to avoid the sanctions.

Earlier, national security advisor H.R. McMaster said Trump would take more action to stop North Korea “short of war.” Trump’s advisors have repeatedly said they prefer to use diplomatic methods to curb North Korea’s aggression.

The president again said that he seeks the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea.

Trump had separate bilateral meetings scheduled with both Moon and Abe on Thursday.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/21/trump-to-make-north-korea-announcement-mcmaster-says.html

 

Trump announces new economic sanctions targeting North Korea over nuclear program

 September 21 at 12:45 PM

President Trump announced an executive order on Sept. 21 to enforce economic sanctions on North Korea and countries that do business with the “rogue regime” of North Korea. (The Washington Post)

NEW YORK — President Trump announced an executive order Thursday granting the Treasury Department additional authority to enforce economic sanctions on North Korea and target foreign companies and individuals that do business with the rogue nation in Northeast Asia.

Trump said the new powers aim to cut off international trade and financing that dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime uses support its nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs. The president also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. Trump called the move “very bold” and “somewhat unexpected,” and he praised Xi.

“North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said in brief public remarks during a meeting with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to discuss strategy to confront Pyongyang.

He added that the United States continues to seek a “complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

He added that the order will give Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin the “discretion to target any foreign bank knowingly facilitating specific transactions tied to trade with North Korea.”


President Trump meets with South Korean president Moon Jae-in during the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Thursday. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

A White House fact sheet said the executive order imposes a ban on airplanes or ships that have visited North Korea will be banned for 180 days from visiting the United States, a move to crack down on illicit trade.

“This significantly expands Treasury’s authority to target those who enable this regime…wherever they are located,” Mnuchin said.

Trump’s announcement came as he has sought to rally international support for confronting Pyongyang during four days of meetings here at the United Nations General Assembly. In a speech to the world body on Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the North if necessary and referred derisively to Kim as “rocket man.” But the president and his aides have emphasized that they are continuing to do what they can to put economic and diplomatic pressure on the North in order to avoid a military conflict.

“We are witnessing a very dangerous confrontation spiral,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a speech to the United Nations, filling in for President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the forum. “We resolutely condemn the nuclear missile adventures of Pyongyang in violation of Security Council resolutions. But military hysteria is not just an impasse, it’s disaster…There is no alternative to political and diplomatic ways of settling the nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, but Mnuchin emphasized that “this action is in no way specifically directed at China,” and he said he called Chinese officials ahead of the announcement to give them a heads up.

In recent weeks, the U.N. Security Council has approved two rounds of economic sanctions but also left room for further penalties. For example, the sanctions put limits on the nation’s oil imports but did not impose a full embargo, as the United States has suggested it supports. The Trump administration has signaled it also wants a full ban on the practice of sending North Korean workers abroad for payments that largely go to the government in Pyongyang.

Sitting down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in before the trilateral discussion with Japan, Trump said the nations are “making a lot of progress.”

Moon praised Trump’s speech to the U.N., saying through a translator that “North Korea has continued to make provocations and this is extremely deplorable and this has angered both me and our people, but the U.S. has responded firmly and in a very good way.”

The Security Council had also applied tough new export penalties in August, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that there are signs those restrictions are having an economic effect.

“We have some indications that there are beginning to appear evidence of fuel shortages,” Tillerson said in a briefing for reporters. “And look, we knew that these sanctions were going to take some time to be felt because we knew the North Koreans…had basically stockpiled a lot of inventory early in the year when they saw the new administration coming in, in anticipation of things perhaps changing. So I think what we’re seeing is a combined effect of these inventories are now being exhausted, and the supply coming in has been reduced.”

There is no sign, however, that economic penalties are having any effect on the behavior of the Kim regime and its calculation that nuclear tests and other provocations will ensure its protection or raise the price of any eventual settlement with the United States and other nations.

All U.N. sanctions have to be acceptable to China, North Korea’s protector and chief economic partner. China’s recent willingness to punish its fellow communist state signals strong disapproval of North Korea’s international provocations, but China and fellow U.N. Security Council member Russia have also opposed some of the toughest economic measures that could be applied, such as banking restrictions that would affect Chinese and other financial institutions.

“We continue to call on all responsible nations to enforce and implement sanctions,” Trump said.

Trump said the United States had been working on the North Korea problem for 25 years, but he asserted that previous administrations had “done nothing, which is why we are in the problem we are in today.”

Through executive orders and other measures extending back to the Clinton administration, the United States has been trying to undermine the economic underpinnings of the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

Each new sanction from Washington has been followed by evasive measures by Pyongyang, and then another attempt from Washington to ramp up pressure. Earlier sanctions restricted trade between U.S. companies and businesses involved with the North Korean regime and its weapons efforts. Until recently, however, such sanctions had limited effects because North Korea continued an expansive trade with other countries, mainly China.

In recent years, the United States has sought to expand the economic pressure by working through the international banking system, where the country has particular leverage because so much of international trade is conducted in dollars. The “vast majority of international transactions are denominated in dollars, the world’s reserve currency,” a Congressional report found last year.

Even when the companies are outside the United States, trade conducted in dollars typically must run through U.S. banks, and last year, that provided the Obama administration an opportunity to interrupt such business.

In November 2016, a special measure implemented by the Treasury barred U.S. banks from providing the accounts that handle such transactions for any North Korean bank or any party acting on its behalf. The measure essentially cut off North Korean banks from any trade denominated in U.S. dollars.

North Korea, however, has continued to conduct such trades by using front companies located in third countries, at least some of which are in China.

The new executive order expands the U.S. pressure on the North by allowing the Treasury to single out those front companies, and any banks helping to finance any trade with North Korea, for sanctions. Those sanctions would cut off trade with those companies or forbid them from conducting transactions in dollars.

Anne Gearan in New York,  Abby Phillip in Washington and Peter Whorisky contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/09/21/trump-says-the-u-s-will-impose-new-sanctions-on-north-korea/?utm_term=.f13cecf3e9e7

US-North Korea standoff could spark economic war with China

  • The escalating saber rattling between the U.S. and North Korea has raised the prospects of an economic confrontation between America and China.
  • So far, economic sanctions against Pyongyang have done little to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to curb his ambitions to develop a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
  • Now, critics of those measures are calling for stepped-up pressure on China, North Korea’s largest trading partner.

President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.

The escalating saber rattling between the U.S. and North Korea has raised the prospects of an economic confrontation between America and China.

At issue are a series of sanctions against Pyongyang designed to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to curb his ambitions to develop a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

But those measures have had little impact on the increasingly bellicose stand-off, and on Thursday President Donald Trump repeated his complaint that Beijing needs to lean harder on Pyongyang to defuse rising tensions.

“I think they can do a lot more and I think they will do a lot more,” the president told reporters. “We lost hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It’s not going to continue like that.”

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to inflict “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continues to pursue its nuclear weapons program. A recent series of successful North Korean test launches were matched Wednesday by Kim’s threats to launch a missile at the U.S. territory of Guam.

The latest round of sanctions includes fresh restrictions, unanimously approved Saturday by the United Nation Security Council, that target North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. The measures also ban countries from hiring more North Korean laborers, bar new joint ventures with North Korea and ban fresh investment in existing joint ventures.

“We say to China, ‘You have a choice whether you do business with North Korea or you do business with the U.S. but you can’t do both.'”-Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Economic sanctions so far have proved ineffective largely because North Korea has found ways to get around them with “evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication,” according to a February U.N. report.

“Designated entities and banks have continued to operate in the sanctioned environment by using agents who are highly experienced and well trained in moving money, people and goods, including arms and related material, across borders,” the U.N. report found.

The widest flow of goods and cash, by far, crosses North Korea’s border with China. As North Korea’s largest trading partner, China accounted for roughly 85 percent of overall volume in 2015, according to data from the United Nations Comtrade database.

Coal and other minerals accounted for more than 40 percent of North Korean exports in 2015, followed by textiles (29 percent), metals (7 percent) and machinery (6 percent). North Korea’s biggest imports included textiles, machinery and raw materials including minerals, metals and plastics.

Though China has taken some steps to curb imports from North Korea, exports rose by nearly 30 percent in the first half of this year, according to Chinese customs data. During the six-month period, overall trade flows across the North Korean-China border rose 10 percent to $2.65 billion.

That’s why critics of the existing North Korean sanctions say the measures don’t go nearly far enough in cutting off the flow of cash and goods to the Pyongyang regime.

Some of those critics are calling for “secondary sanctions,” which would cut off trade and financial flows to any country doing business with North Korea.

“We say to China, ‘You have a choice whether you do business with North Korea or you do business with the U.S., but you can’t do both,'” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D.-Md., told MSNBC on Thursday. “That is what got people’s attention with the Iran sanctions, and that’s what we need to do now.”

Last month, Van Hollen co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Pat Toomey, R.-Pa., that would impose secondary sanctions targeting third parties and countries that do business with North Korean companies and individuals.

Secondary sanctions offer a powerful financial weapon by allowing the U.S. government to bar foreign banks access to the U.S. financial system.

In late June, the White House imposed limited secondary sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea develop nuclear weapons and also accused a regional Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, of laundering money for Pyongyang, Reuters reported.

Beyond cutting off cash and supplies to the North Korean regime, secondary sanctions squeeze the flow of cash to individuals, putting pressure on Kim’s political allies, according to David Cohen, a senior CIA official in the Obama administration.

“Imposing secondary sanctions would send a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the financial noose is tightening in a way that could drive a wedge between Kim and the Pyongyang elite critical to his continued hold on power,” Cohen wrote in a recent op-ed piece.

Imposing secondary sanctions that single out major Chinese banks and state enterprises comes with the risk of economic retaliation from Beijing.

To minimize that risk, the White House will need to build a much wider coalition of Asian countries, says Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO during the George W. Bush administration.

But developing that coalition will be a tough task for an administration that has yet to fill dozens of key diplomatic positions. So far, the White House has filled fewer than half of the State Department positions that require Senate confirmation.

“It really is a time for diplomacy,” Burns told CNBC on Thursday. “But there’s no American ambassador to South Korea, there’s no secretary of State for East Asia. So, you’ve also got to fill out the ranks.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/10/us-north-korea-standoff-could-spark-economic-war-with-china.html

 

How did North Korea get nuclear weapons?

North Korea showed off its arsenal of missiles during this parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017.

North Korea showed off its arsenal of missiles during this parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017.

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

North Korea is known for its bluster and outrageous propaganda, but the nuclear threat posed by the country is taken seriously by those in the know.

The “hermit kingdom” is estimated to have between 13 and 30 nuclear weapons, according to the Institute for Science and International Security. It could have up to 50 by the year 2020.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made it clear that he considers North Korea a legitimate threat. In early April, Trump dispatched the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to waters off the Korean Peninsula, and said “major, major conflict” was quite possible.

WATCH: Trump discusses military option for North Korea

Tensions have since soared over fears that North Korea may be about to conduct its sixth nuclear weapons test. On Friday, the country sent a letter to American lawmakers, saying any sanctions would only cause its nuclear testing program to “gather greater pace, beyond anyone’s imagination.”

But how did a country as isolated and impoverished as North Korea get its hands on nuclear weapons in the first place?

The Korean War

In 1950, a few months into the Korean War, U.S. President Harry Truman said in a press conference that the use of an atomic bomb was under “active consideration.”

Truman’s nuclear threat remained just that, with the Korean War formally ending in an armistice in 1953. But U.S. forces still laid waste to North Korean targets, dropping over 650,000 tons of bombs and napalm, according to The Korean War: A History.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay estimated that the U.S. “killed off 20 per cent of the Korean population.”

WATCH: North Korea propaganda video puts White House in crosshairs, simulates strike on US Capitol

After the war, North Korea tried to convince its wartime ally China to share its nuclear weapons technologies. Supreme Leader Kim Il-Sung, grandfather of present-day leader Kim Jong-Un, twice asked Chinese ruler Mao Zedong for help but was refused both times, according to The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History.

Denied an easy path to a nuclear bomb, North Korea set about cobbling together an indigenous nuclear weapons program.

Soviet support

It helped that the country already had basic nuclear infrastructure in place.

As a founding member of the Soviet-led Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, North Korea had for years sent its scientists to the Soviet Union for nuclear energy training, according to a timeline compiled by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

The Soviets even helped North Korea set up its first nuclear reactor in 1964. The reactor was used to produce radioactive isotopes for medicinal, industrial and research purposes.

READ MORE: Mike Pence urges China, Russia to pressure North Korea to abandon weapons program

But in the years that followed, the country began to explore weapons capabilities, summoning its best scientists home — including from Canada, according to NTI — to work on its fledgling nuclear weapons program.

But while North Korea’s scientists had the technical training, they lacked designs for the highly sophisticated facilities needed to produce nuclear weapons.

Path to a plutonium weapon

 In the ‘70s and ‘80s, North Korea set about acquiring sensitive nuclear technologies from Europe, taking advantage of the lack of adequate nuclear information safeguards at the time.

At one point, North Korean agents went to a conference in Vienna and chatted up some Belgian scientists who had a design for a plutonium separation plant, The Atlantic reported.

“Lo and behold, it wasn’t long before the North Koreans obtained the design information for that installation… and then eventually over a period of 10 to 15 years, they set that technology up, they deployed the plant, they started to experiment with it and use it,” Mark Hibbs, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Atlantic.

READ MORE: North Korea says it’s ready for war if Donald Trump wants

In 2003, CIA director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea “probably” has one or two plutonium-based nuclear warheads, according to The Statesman’s Yearbook 2012.

The following year, second-generation Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il invited a delegation of Western nuclear scientists to North Korea to see its plutonium extraction facility. One of them, American scientist Dr. Siegfried Hecker, revealed in a Google Tech Talk lecture that North Korean officials at one point brought out two marmalade jars of plutonium.

“Inside one was a plutonium powder and the other one had plutonium metal,” Hecker said.

He even held one of the jars in his hand, and concluded from its appearance, weight and warmth that it contained radioactive plutonium.

In 2006, two years after Hecker’s visit, North Korean state media announced the country’s first nuclear weapon test.

By then, the country’s scientists had increasingly begun redirecting their efforts away from plutonium-based nuclear weapons to uranium-based ones, according to NTI. This is because the facilities needed to produce weapons-grade uranium can more easily be hidden underground, away from prying satellites and weapons inspectors.

North Korea wanted to cover all its bases.

Pakistani proliferation

The groundwork for North Korea’s uranium nuclear weapons program was laid in the ‘90s, with substantial help from Dr. A.Q. Khan, the pioneer of Pakistan’s atomic bomb program.

Khan orchestrated the clandestine transfer of uranium centrifuges, enrichment machines and technical data to North Korea over a period of several years, according to the book Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks.

According to the book’s author, Mark Fitzpatrick, some of Khan’s deals were likely tied to existing official agreements between the two countries, wherein North Korea provided ballistic missile technologies to Pakistan.

WATCH: Pakistan test fires submarine-based cruise missile

In 2003, the U.S. learned of North Korea’s plans to build a uranium-enrichment facility with Pakistan’s help. The following year, Khan admitted to running a global nuclear proliferation ring, with Iran and Libya among his other clients.

Khan later told German magazine Der Spiegel that he was merely acting on behalf of the Pakistani leadership.

He even released what he claimed was a 1998 letter from Jon Pyong-ho, one of the architects of North Korea’s nuclear program, in which Pyong-ho assures that $3 million has been transferred to Pakistan’s army chief, and asks that Khan dispatch “the agreed documents, components, etc.” via a North Korean emissary.

READ MORE: Pakistan refuses to release doctor who helped US find Osama bin Laden

Khan was later pardoned by Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

“By freely selling enrichment equipment and putting the designs on computer disks, Khan significantly lowered the technical barriers to nuclear weapons development,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

And no country benefited more from Khan’s largesse than North Korea.

READ MORE: Pakistan issues nuclear warning to Israel on Twitter after fake news story

In 2010, Dr. Siegfried Hecker was again invited to North Korea, and was this time taken on a tour of a uranium enrichment facility. He described what he saw as “truly mind-boggling” — around 2,000 centrifuges that appeared to contain highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

“[The North Koreans] take whatever they can get, and then they build things themselves, and they do it quite well,” Hecker concluded in his Google Tech Talks lecture.

The Nuclear Silk Road

In early 2015, debris from a North Korean satellite launch were analyzed by experts and found to contain components manufactured in the U.K. and routed through Chinese companies, according to a United Nations Panel of Experts report.

The following year, foreign journalists on a tour of a Pyongyang factory spotted a shipment of boxes from Calgary-based chemical producer Dow Canada, the Washington Post reported.

These are but two of several known instances of North Korea evading international sanctions and export controls to procure weapons components.

WATCH: China says it will impose more sanctions on North Korea if missile test conducted: Tillerson


“North Korea is very creative in the way that it goes about sanctions evasion, and the patterns in which it goes about it vary,” Andrea Berger, a senior researcher with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Global News.

Berger says North Korea often sends trusted nationals to China to set up front companies, often in collaboration with Chinese citizens. These companies then import equipment from Western manufacturers, who often have no way of knowing that the companies are really fronts controlled by the North Korean regime.

“Let’s say you’re Siemens in Germany and you get a purchase request from ‘Golden Star General Trading Corporation’ in China. You look into that company and it doesn’t have a big web presence  —  because most Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises don’t  — and you assume, after some limited due diligence, that it’s probably fine,” Berger says.

READ MORE: China defends trade practices with North Korea after Chinese-made vehicles seen towing ballistic missiles

Even Chinese banks themselves often get deceived, she adds.

“The bank account might be under, say, ‘Golden Star General Trading Corporation’ or a Chinese director,” Berger says. “The Bank of China might not immediately be the wiser that there’s a North Korean beneficiary behind that account.”

By covering their tracks in this manner, front companies procure sensitive goods before re-exporting them to North Korea, evading Chinese export controls via misleading shipping labels or creative smuggling techniques.

READ MORE: U.S. mulls North Korea sanctions, targeting cash that flows through Chinese banks

The racket doesn’t exclusively involve surreptitious front operations, however.

In 2015, a large Chinese company called Shenyang Machine Tools bought equipment from a European manufacturer under the explicit condition that the items wouldn’t be re-sold to North Korea, according to the Institute for Science and International Security.

Shenyang Machine Tools promptly broke the agreement by embedding the products into its own line of industrial machines, which were then exported to North Korea.

The equipment in question is commonly used to manufacture missile parts and uranium centrifuges.

Financial skullduggery

So how does North Korea pay for the expensive parts that it acquires illegally?

Turns out it doesn’t just use front companies to buy  —  it also uses them to sell its own military products.

Earlier this year, the UN Panel of Experts reported the interception of a shipment of 45 military radios bound for Eritrea. The shipment was sent by a Malaysian-based company called Glocom — which investigators found to be controlled by the North Korean intelligence agency.

Glocom was selling the radios to developing countries at North Korea’s behest — for $8,000 per unit.

READ MORE: U.S. urges UN Security Council to increase economic pressure on North Korea over weapons program

Berger, who is familiar with the Glocom investigation, said the company was “being used to facilitate sales of that technology specifically.”

The combination of such clandestine military deals, the sale of missile technologies and the export of coal and minerals have enabled North Korea to fund its nuclear procurement, the UN report suggested.

The “disco ball” warhead

In March 2016, North Korean state media released photographs of Kim Jong-Un standing in front of what it claimed was a miniaturized nuclear warhead “standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles,” Reuters reported.

The object was silver, shiny and shaped like a giant orb. It was roundly mocked on Twitter for resembling a disco ball.

So you’re saying this new disco ball with old CDs stuck on the side will be more glittery? 

But experts aren’t laughing.

Melissa Hanham, a researcher who analyzes open source data and photos to assess North Korea’s weapons programs, says it’s “plausible” that the object is a working nuclear warhead.

“We can’t see inside it to say, ‘Yes, it is’ or ‘No, it isn’t’ a nuclear warhead,” Hanham told Global News. “But they’ve had five nuclear tests, so it wouldn’t be surprising for them to have that kind of compact warhead by that many tests.

READ MORE: North Korea’s latest missile launch could be 2nd test of new technology, experts say

“I can tell you that we’ve measured it a lot, and it does fit into the payload of many of their missiles.”

Hanham admits it’s bizarre that North Korea would let its Supreme Leader stand so close to the real thing, but points out that “there are other photographs of Kim Jong-Un engaging in really dangerous activities that confuse us as well” — referring to photos of him smoking next to a solid-fuel rocket engine and standing underneath a heavy object dangling from a crane.

A legitimate threat

The purported warhead may have been goofy-looking, but it represented one of many milestones in a ramped-up schedule of North Korean nuclear weapons development over the past year and a half.

“North Korea in 2016 spent a lot of time doing a point-for-point refutation of every major narrative of the things it ‘couldn’t do’ in its nuclear missile program,” Berger says.

“All the developments we’re seeing in the nuclear missile program are deeply serious, and the more we continue to laugh about it, the more North Korea will attempt to demonstrate that it has a credible military program that is making rapid advancement.”

WATCH: Should we be worried about North Korea?

That advancement is the result of over half a century of steadily accumulated scientific know-how and single-minded subterfuge, with North Korea taking advantage of lax regulations and shady foreign partners to hoodwink the international non-proliferation regime.

Berger says China’s “conscious negligence” — in relation to both clamping down on front companies and tightening export controls — has resulted in such a huge flow of illicit goods to North Korea that it would take “an enormous effort” to rein it in at this point.

“The problem we have is enormous policy inertia, and very few good ideas of how to address the situation,” Berger says.

READ MORE: Could North Korea’s nuclear missiles reach Canada?

Hanham agrees. “I think there are probably still opportunities to slow or disrupt their program, but they’ve already crossed a lot of important thresholds that make it unlikely that they will give up their [nuclear] program entirely,” she says.

“North Korea has shown that it’s dedicated to acquiring nuclear weapons, and it’s very hard to stop any country that’s completely dedicated.”

How did North Korea get nuclear weapons?

Story 2: Fed To Start Quantitative Tightening In October 2017 by Selling Some ($10 Billion Per Month or $120 Billion Per Year) of $4,500 Billion Bond Portfolio As U.S. Economy Slows in 2017? — Videos

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Fed will finally wind down historic rescue program

The Federal Reserve is leaving interest rates alone to give the economy room to keep growing.

But the central bank did take historic action on Wednesday: It will begin undoing the extraordinary steps it took to prop up the economy for almost a decade after the financial crisis. The Fed said it would begin shedding some of the $4.5 trillion in investments starting next month.

The announcement marks a milestone in the long recovery from 2008, and reflects confidence by Fed officials that the economy will continue to grow.

Starting in October, the Fed will begin unloading $10 billion of debt from its so-called balance sheet, including $6 billion in Treasury securities and $4 billion in agency debt each month through December.

For years, the central bank piled up purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, a strategy intended to stimulate the economy by reducing borrowing costs for everyone. At the time, it also reduced its benchmark interest rate to zero, and only began raising it in December 2015, seven year after the crisis.

On Wednesday, the Fed left rates unchanged, hovering between 1% and 1.25%.

Related: The CNNMoney Trump Jobs Tracker

The central bank has raised that rate three times since December as the economy has gradually improved. Raising rates too quickly could risk hobbling the recovery.

Still, the majority of Fed policymakers signaled on Wednesday that they expect to lift rates one more time this year.

Central bankers pointed to signs of strength in the U.S. economy, including a pickup in household spending and growth in business investments, in a statement following the Federal Open Market Committee’s two-day meeting.

“Job gains have remained solid in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low,” the Fed said in a statement.

While Fed officials cautioned that the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria would hold back the U.S. economy in the “near term,” they said the storms would not “materially alter” the country’s economy overall.

“Within a few months, rebuilding activity has typically kicked in, returning economic growth to normal—or maybe even a little higher than normal,” wrote Eric Winograd, AB senior economist in a note. “So, despite the storms, we’re still confident the U.S. economy will keep its momentum, because the foundations are sound.”

Related: Fed Chair Janet Yellen warns – Monitor your credit report!

Some Fed officials have warned against raising interest rates until inflation — which reflects the prices of everything from meat and cheese to houses and cars — meets the goal of 2% that they consider healthy for the economy.

But inflation is still running below that target, even though the job market has picked up and other explanations have fallen away. In a press conference, Fed chair Janet Yellen described it as something of a “mystery.”

In past years, she said the Fed has been able to point to root causes of low inflation: the gap between those employed versus those that aren’t, energy prices and a rising dollar.

“This year’s inflation shortfall is more of a mystery,” Yellen told reporters at the press conference. “I will not say that the committee clearly understands what the causes are.”

Central bankers have been in a bind over when to lift rates again. Inflation has been stubbornly low for years, suggesting the Fed should hold off. But economic growth and low unemployment suggest they should act.

Fed officials cautioned that they do expect inflation to be higher than normal — at least for a little while — following the hurricanes that have devastated Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico.

“Inflation remains the wild card of Fed policy and the temporary boost to gasoline prices following the hurricanes only clouds the picture further,” said Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst Greg McBride. “Whether the Fed hikes in December will remain an open question until December.”

Along with one more rate hike this year, the Fed also predicted three more possible moves next year.

“It is too soon for the committee to conclude that the recent slowing in inflation was sufficiently permanent to alter the Fed’s plans,” Michael Gapen, a Barclay’s analyst wrote in a research note.

The Fed said it continues to expect inflation to remain at 1.6%, below its target, and the unemployment rate to be 4.3%, based on its updated economic projections.

The central bank did, however, offer a rosier picture of the overall economy, upping its economic growth forecast to 2.4% from 2.2%.

Yellen again declined to address speculation about whether President Trump will nominate her for a second four-year term leading the Fed. Her first term ends in February.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/20/investing/federal-reserve-janet-yellen/index.html

Fed prepares to cut $4.5 trillion portfolio: What it means
By Matthew Rocco Published July 12, 2017 The Fed FOXBusiness Opens a New Window.

USA-FED/ The Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will be on Capitol Hill for two days of congressional testimony starting Wednesday, and investors will be closely watching the proceedings for any clues about the central bank’s plans to shrink its securities portfolio.

The Fed has begun to pave the way toward cutting its balance sheet, which grew from about $1 trillion to $4.5 trillion in five years. The large increase is the result of an aggressive bond-buying stimulus program known as quantitative easing. The program was implemented to keep interest rates low and support a collapsed housing market. Since December 2015, the Fed has gradually raised the benchmark fed funds rate from near zero amid an improved labor market and U.S. economy. But its large portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities has remained in place.

With officials phasing out its crisis-era monetary policies, the Fed is now discussing a timeline to start winding down its portfolio to about half its current size.

“[The Fed] is in uncharted territory. They’ll be very cautious because they are committed to reducing interest rates and reducing the balance sheet. The first foray will be fairly limited,” said Nariman Behravesh, IHS Markit’s chief economist.

Investors have mostly prepared themselves for the Fed’s next move by anticipating an increase in interest rates. If anything, the Fed tends to “do less than the market expected,” Behravesh added.

“I think the good thing is the Fed is raising rates in an environment that’s not gangbusters, but it’s decent. Rates will go up, no question, but if they go gradually, it won’t do a great amount of damage to the economy,” he said, noting that the fed funds rate remains historically low. “Monetary policy is becoming tighter, but at the end of next year, it still won’t be tight.”

Fed members have already decided on a plan of action. Currently, the Fed purchases new bonds to replace the ones that come due. Once it starts the clock, the central bank will allow bonds to mature and roll off its balance sheet.

At their June policy-setting meeting, members of the Federal Open Market Committee set up a plan to shed as much as $6 billion worth of government bonds and $4 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month as a starting point. The Fed would raise the amount every quarter, eventually hitting a cap of $30 billion in Treasury and $20 billion in mortgage bonds per month.

Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen holds a news conference after the Fed released its monetary policy decisions in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTS1750PExpand / Contract
Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen holds a news conference after the Fed released its monetary policy decisions in Washington, U.S., June 14. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
Demand for bonds will weaken once the Fed stays on the sidelines, thus lowering prices and forcing interest rates to climb. (Bond yields move in the opposite direction as prices.) The magnitude of that rate increase will depend on how gradually the Fed sells off its holdings, Behravesh explained.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield has declined about 0.081 percentage points since the start of the year, hitting 2.36% in recent trading.

As for when the Fed will kick off the process, several officials prefer to “announce a start to the process within a couple of months,” according to minutes of their June meeting Opens a New Window. . Others believed that a decision later in 2017 would give the Fed more time to study inflation, which has fallen short of the central bank’s target, and U.S. economic activity.

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The general consensus is that the Fed will make an announcement in September. In her prepared remarks to Congress Opens a New Window. , Yellen affirmed that the Fed will “likely” implement the program this year, as long as the economy “evolves broadly as anticipated.”
“We do not intend to use the balance sheet as an active tool for monetary policy in normal times,” Yellen said, adding that the Fed is prepared to “resume reinvestments” if it sees a deterioration in the economic outlook.

No matter when the Fed begins to shrink its portfolio, economists expect it to move in the same way it raises interest rates: slowly.

“It’s hard to tell how slowly they are going to go,” Behravesh said, but the Fed is determined to move one step at a time. The impact on the financial and housing markets isn’t fully clear, and the Fed plans to raise the fed funds rate at the same time it dumps assets.

In June, the Fed raised the fed funds rate another quarter of a percentage point to a range of 1% to 1.25%. The next rate hike is expected in December.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2017/07/12/fed-prepares-to-cut-4-5-trillion-portfolio-what-it-means.html

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The Pronk Pops Show 966, September 18, 2017, Story 1: Two Islamic Terrorists Arrested For London Train Attack — United Kingdom Threat Level Lowered From Critical to Severe — Elderly Couple Took in Several Hundred Forster Children Over The Years Including Two Suspected Terrorists — Trump: “Loser Terrorist” and “Sick and Demented” — 21-year-old Syrian refugee Yahyah Farroukh Named Suspect — Videos — Story 2: Trump Wants To Increase CIA Drone Attacks — Videos — Story 3: Third Night of Violence in St. Louis — Protesters and Vandals Damage Property With Over 120 Arrests and 11 Police Injured — Videos

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Story 1: Two Islamic Terrorists Arrested For London Train Attack — United Kingdom Threat Level Lowered From Critical to Severe — Elderly Couple Took in Several Hundred Forster Children Over The Years Including Two Suspected Terrorists — Trump: “Loser Terrorist” and “Sick and Demented” — 21-year-old Syrian refugee Yahyah Farroukh Named Suspect — Videos —

Police nab second suspect over London bombing

UK Police make second arrest in Parsons Green terror attack

UK Police Make Arrest In London Subway Blast

Parsons Green: Home raided by police owned by couple ‘who took in children & refugees’

Teenager held over parsons green bomb was arrested in Dover port departure area

Nigel Farage on the London Train Attack and More

UK terror threat lowered to severe after subway bombing

 

The Parsons Green tube bomb suspect has been named

 

UK police quiz 2 ex-foster children over London subway bomb

 

LONDON (AP) – The two suspects detained over last week’s London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports.

The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. The 21-year-old was held later the same day in Hounslow in west London. Photos published by the Sun newspaper showed a man being detained outside a fast-food restaurant in Hounslow, which was searched by police.

Both men are being held under the Terrorism Act and are being questioned at a London police station about Friday’s attack. Neither has been charged.

A man walks into Aladdins, a fast food restaurant in Hounslow, London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The two suspects detained over last week's London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old believed to be from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports. The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. The 21-year-old was held later the same day in Hounslow in west London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

A man walks into Aladdins, a fast food restaurant in Hounslow, London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The two suspects detained over last week’s London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old believed to be from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports. The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. The 21-year-old was held later the same day in Hounslow in west London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Thirty people were injured when an improvised explosive device partly exploded aboard a crowded London Underground train at Parsons Green station during the morning rush hour. None of the injuries was life-threatening, and experts said it appears the main charge of the bomb didn’t detonate.

After the rush-hour bombing, British officials raised the country’s terror threat level to the highest level, “critical,” meaning an attack may be imminent. They lowered it Sunday to “severe,” and police said the investigation was making rapid progress.

Police searched three addresses, including the house in suburban Sunbury, outside London, of Penelope and Ronald Jones. The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts.

Ian Harvey, who heads local Spelthorne Borough Council, said he believed the 18-year-old was an Iraqi orphan who moved to the U.K. when he was 15 after his parents died and had lived in the Sunbury house.

He said the 21-year-old was also a former foster child of the Joneses. Sky News and other British media named him as Yahyah Farroukh, who is originally from Syria.

West Thames College in West London said in a statement that “Yahyah Farroukh, who, according to media reports is the second suspect detained in connection with the Parsons Green incident, was a former student at the college from December 2013 to June 2015.” It said he began attending courses when he was 17 to learn English.

Suleman Sarwar, co-owner of Aladdin’s Fried Chicken in Hounslow, said Farroukh worked there and was arrested by police Saturday night at the end of his shift.

Stephen Griffiths, who lives across the street from Penelope and Ronald Jones, said police had visited the house several times, most recently two or three weeks ago.

“The police were there multiple times over the span of about a month – a few times a week,” he said.

“You always think foster kids are going to have a bit of trouble, but you don’t think terrorism,” he added.

Footage obtained by broadcaster ITV shows a man near the Sunbury address Friday morning carrying a bag from Lidl supermarket. Images posted on social media following the attack appeared to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket contained in a Lidl bag on the floor of the train carriage.

Commuters returned to Parsons Green station Monday for the first morning rush hour since the bombing. Police asked the traveling public to be vigilant and said there would be more armed police on the transit network for the time being.

Most of the injured in Friday’s explosion aboard a District Line train suffered flash burns while some were injured in the panicked rush to leave.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but British officials say there is no proof yet that it was involved.

Four other violent attacks in Britain this year have killed 36 people. Three were the work of attackers motivated by Islamic extremism, and one by anti-Muslim hatred.

In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber struck a packed concert hall in Manchester in northern England, killing 22 people. The other attacks, near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London, involved vehicles and, in two cases, knives.

___

Frank Griffiths and Gregory Katz contributed to this report.

A police officer stands by a cordon on Cavendish Road, in Sunbury-on-Thames, in England, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The two suspects detained over last week's London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old believed to be from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports. Police searched three addresses, including the house in suburban Sunbury, outside London, of Penelope and Ronald Jones. The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

A police officer stands by a cordon on Cavendish Road, in Sunbury-on-Thames, in England, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The two suspects detained over last week’s London subway bombing are an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old believed to be from Syria, both of whom were fostered by a British couple, according to a local official and media reports. Police searched three addresses, including the house in suburban Sunbury, outside London, of Penelope and Ronald Jones. The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

Commuters are seen on the platform at Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
 Commuters are seen on the platform at Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

This image made from CCTV video obtained by ITN on Sunday Sept. 17, 2017, shows what they say is a person leaving the property in Sunbury, England, on Friday, which was raided in connection with the subway bombing in London. British broadcaster ITN have released CCTV footage of what they say shows a person leaving the property in Sunbury-on-Thames where police carried out a raid in connection with Friday's bombing in London. (ITN via AP)

Commuters wait on the platform at Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Commuters wait on the platform at Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Commuters use the street and station at Parsons Green in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Commuters use Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Transport police keep guard at Parsons Green station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

An armed police officer stands nearby after an incident on a tube train at Parsons Green subway station in London, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. A reported explosion at the train station sent commuters stampeding in panic, injuring several people on Friday at the height of London's morning rush hour, and police said they were investigating it as a terrorist attack. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Police forces guard the entrance following Friday's incident on a tube at Parsons Green Station in London, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. A manhunt is under way after an improvised explosive device was detonated on a crowded subway car, injuring at least 29 people. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2010 file photo, Penelope and Ronald Jones receive their MBEs for serving children and families from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, in London. Police on Saturday launched a massive armed search in the southwestern London suburb of Sunbury which is believed to include the home of foster carer Jones and her husband after an 18 year-old man was arrested in connection with the London subway attack on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (Lewis Whyld/PA via AP, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2010 file photo, Penelope Jones receives her MBE for serving children and families from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, in London. Police on Saturday launched a massive armed search in the southwestern London suburb of Sunbury which is believed to include the home of foster carer Jones and her husband after an 18 year-old man was arrested in connection with the London subway attack on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (Lewis Whyld/PA via AP, File)

A train pulls in to the platform at Parsons Green tube station in London, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A bucket wrapped in an insulated bag caught fire on a packed London subway train at Parsons Green station on Friday Sept. 15, police are treating it as a terrorist incident. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Parsons Green attack: Police raid foster carers’ home in west London as 18-year-old man is arrested in Dover

Armed police raided the home of two respected foster carers in their hunt for the bomb factory used by the Parsons Green bomber today, just hours after arresting an 18-year-old man close to the port of Dover.

The rapidly moving developments came a day after commuters fled in terror after a homemade bomb partially detonated on a District Line train, injuring 29 people.

Kent police detained the teenager close to the Port of Dover at 7.50am on suspicion of being a terrorist, describing it as a “significant arrest”.

 Police officers were later seen searching bins close to Dover Priory rail station a few minutes walk from the port.

The suspect is due to be moved to a south London police station tonight.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We have made a significant arrest in our investigation this morning. Although we are pleased with the progress made, this investigation continues and the threat level remains at critical.

“The public should remain vigilant. This arrest will lead to more activity from our officers.”

The arrest place to close to the busiest ferry hub in Europe, which serves as a commercial gateway to the French coast, including Calais and Dunkirk – raising the prospect the suspect could have been attempting to leave the country.

Mrs Penelope Jones and Mr Ronald Jones from Sunbury-on-Thames are made MBEs by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Mrs Penelope Jones and Mr Ronald Jones from Sunbury-on-Thames are made MBEs by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. CREDIT: LEWIS WHYLD/PA ARCHIVE 

Five hours later armed police backed by the bomb squad arrived at an address in Sunbury-on-Thames, south west London, and began evacuating residents from surrounding homes.

The elderly owners of the Cavendish Road property, Penelope and Ronald Jones, are a dedicated foster couple who have taken in hundreds of young people since 1970, including refugees from several countries.

In 2009 Mr and Mrs Jones were appointed MBEs for services to children and families. The honour was presented to them by the Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Mrs Jones, 71, and her husband, 88, said at the time: “We open our hearts to all the children. Anybody that comes to us we will do whatever we can to help them with whatever they need.”

Their home is 11 miles from Parsons Green and on the overground rail line to Wimbledon, which is on the District Line. The couple were unavailable for comment.

A neighbour who gave her name as Daphne, who lives opposite the house that was raided on Cavendish Road, said: ”I am so worried about Ron and Penny, they are a lovely couple.”

The white bucket that is said to have blown up on the Parsons Green carriage
The improvised explosive device in a white bucket blew up on the final carriage of the Parsons Green train CREDIT: PRICEY1983AA/TWITTER

Mojgan Jamali, who lives close to the house, said: “I was in my house with my children and there was a knock at the door from the police.

“They told me to leave. They said: ‘You have one minute to get out of the house and get away.’

“I just got out, I got my three children and we left the house and the street.”

Friday’s device reportedly contained the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and nails, but is thought to have only partially detonated from inside a bucket.

There were fears the number of those hurt could have been much higher had the bomb, which was concealed within a supermarket carrier bag, fully exploded.

It is not yet known whether the device, which was reportedly fixed with a timer, went off at its intended target or whether it was intended to go off further into central London.

 The train, which was bound for Edgware Road, was just pulling into the station in south-west London when the device detonated in the rear carriage, sending passengers fleeing to safety.

Parsons Green station was reopened in the early hours of Saturday.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, speaking after a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee, said: “There is no doubt that this was a serious IED, it was good fortune that it did so little damage in fact.”

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said police were “chasing down suspects”, indicating that a potential network of plotters could have been involved in the Parsons Green attack.

The Met said it has spoken to 45 witnesses and 77 images and videos have been sent to detectives by members of the public.

A key plank of the investigation has focused on CCTV, with officers combing through footage to establish who planted the device, and when and where it was placed on the train.

Security minister Ben Wallace suggested CCTV images of the bomber could be released as part of the manhunt, but Scotland Yard subsequently denied there were any plans to do so.

Troops have been dispatched to key sites across the country to free up armed police officers after the country’s terror threat level was raised to its highest point.

The threat level remains at critical, which means a further attack is feared to be imminent.

In a move to reassure Londoners, the Met Commissioner Cressida Dick joined uniformed officers on patrol, travelling by tube to Waterloo Station and walking along the South Bank.

The army will deploy troops at key locations around the capital in order to free up police who were last night involved in a huge manhunt to catch the terrorist responsible for the failed Parsons Green bomb attack, which Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility.

Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic after the blast sent a “fireball” and a “wall of flame” through a District line service in west London.

But the main device, which had been fitted with a crude timer using shop-bought fairy lights, failed to detonate, meaning hundreds of people were spared death and serious injury.

Anti-terror police are understood to be working on the theory that the bomb was detonated early by accident and that the intended target may have been the Tube station at Westminster.

A police officer at the entrance to Parsons Green after the station re-opened overnight CREDIT:JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIRE

The attack – the fifth terrorist attack on the UK in just six months – caused a diplomatic row between Washington and London.

Donald Trump seemed to accuse the Metropolitan Police of knowing the identity of the attacker in advance but failing to prevent the bombing. Mr Trump posted on Twitter: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

His claim earned the US President a stiff rebuke from Theresa May. “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” said the prime minister. “The police and security services are working to discover the full circumstances of this cowardly attack and to identify all those responsible.”

Despite Mr Trump’s suggestion that the terrorist was known to police, counter-terrorism sources insisted that was not the case and that the hunt for the perpetrator of the bombing on a District Line train was ongoing.

An injured woman is assisted by a police officer close to Parsons Green station
An injured woman is assisted by a police officer close to Parsons Green station CREDIT: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

Counter terrorism specialists from Scotland Yard were working to establish his identity from CCTV footage on the train and at stations on the line. They were also combing through records of payments with Oyster cards used to buy Tube tickets.

One theory is the suspected bomber may have fled the scene among the stampede of panicking passengers and escaped among the crowds.

They were also uncertain that Parsons Green was not the planned target, pointing to reports that the bomb, which was packed with shrapnel and contained a timing device, had apparently malfunctioned.

Witnesses reported seeing people “covered in blood” after a “flash and a bang” from the device, but sent a “fireball” through the packed Tube train.

Pictures and video posted on social media showed a flaming bucket – which appeared to have wires coming from it – inside a Lidl carrier bag on the floor of a carriage.

The device is not believed to have fully detonated and it is reported that it could have been set off on a timer.

More follows – stay with us for the latest updates through the day

House raided belonged to respected foster carers

The Sunbury-on-Thames property was owned by Penelope and Ronald Jones, who were appointed MBE in 2009 for services to children and families.

Neighbours described them as a “lovely couple” and said they were worried for them.

Police search home of foster carers over London bomb attack

 00:38

The elderly couple were given their awards by the Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

At the time Mrs Jones said: “We open our hearts to all the children. Anybody that comes to us we will do whatever we can to help them with whatever they need.”

Mrs Penelope Jones and Mr Ronald Jones from Sunbury On Thames are made MBEs by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. 
Mrs Penelope Jones and Mr Ronald Jones from Sunbury On Thames are made MBEs by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.  CREDIT: LEWIS WHYLD/PA ARCHIVE 

Residents evacuated at Sunbury address

The Met Police said police officers had evacuated and were searching a residential address in Sunbury-on-Thames.

Scotland Yard said: “The evacuation is a precautionary measure following the arrest of a man in Dover, Kent, at approximately 07:50hrs this morning in connection with the investigation into the terrorist attack at Parsons Green Underground Station on Friday, 16 September.

Officers began evacuating the address at approximately 13:40hrs today.

Residents in the buildings immediately surrounding the address are also being evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Cordons are being put in place at a 100 metre radius to facilitate the Metropolitan Police Service’s operation, which is being supported by colleagues from Surrey Police.

A search of the address is ongoing and the cordons will remain in place until the operation is complete.

Police would like to thank the local residents directly affected for their cooperation and patience. Local officers are on duty in the immediate area to talk to the community and address any concerns that they may have.

No further arrests have been made.”

Police cordon set up after officers raid house in Sunbury-on-Thames

00:35

Armed police raid west London address

Police investigating the Parsons Green bombing carried out a raid on an address in Sunbury-on-Thames, close to the start of the M3 in west London, on Saturday afternoon.

Residents described a house in Cavendish Road being evacuated by armed officers. Others reported bomb squad vehicles arriving as armed officers moved in.

Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick says London “will not stop”

London will not be stopped by terror, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has said as she highlighted an increased visible police presence on the capital’s streets.

Ms Dick spoke as she joined officers on some of the city’s busiest streets, travelling on the Tube to Waterloo Station and patrolling the tourist hot spot of the South Bank

She said: “London has not stopped after other terrible attacks and it will not stop after this one.”

The Commissioner said the public should feel “utterly reassured” by the presence of police.

Met chief says London "will not stop"Met chief says London “will not stop”

02:38

She said: “I’ve been out and about today. The public seem to be very positive about the number of officers that we have.”

She added: “The great thing about London is that we don’t give in, we don’t give in to terrorists – we never have and we carry on.

“So the transport system is running just as it ever did and the events are going ahead today. People are out and about. I’ve spoken to lots of people, Londoners and tourists and business people. People are here and I would say, carry on about your business and secondly, of course, be vigilant.”

She added: “My main message is London is carrying on. Carry on with your business but be alert, don’t be alarmed but make sure you tell us anything that worries you.”

Scenes from Saturday morning

Armed police are making their presence felt in the capital following the news last night that Prime Minister Theresa May had raised the UK terror threat level to critical.

Armed police in Westminster
Increased security in Westminster CREDIT:  TOM NICHOLSON/LNP

Meanwhile, Tube passengers have been returning to Parsons Green.

A passenger walks into Parsons Green Underground station
The station reopened in the early hours CREDIT: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Scotland Yard describe the arrest as “significant”

The 18-year-old was arrested by Kent Police in the port area of Dover under section 41 of the Terrorism Act.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Senior National Co-ordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said: “We have made a significant arrest in our investigation this morning. Although we are pleased with the progress made, this investigation continues and the threat level remains at critical.

“The public should remain vigilant as our staff, officers and partners continue to work through this complex investigation. We are not, at this time, changing our protective security measures and the steps taken to free up extra armed officers remain in place.

“This arrest will lead to more activity from our officers. For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage.”

18-year-old arrested in Dover over London bombing

00:49

Man, 18, arrested in Dover

An 18-year-old man has been arrested in the Dover area under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in connection with the Parsons Green station bombing.

More information to follow as we receive it.

Tightened security ahead of Chelsea v Arsenal game

In a statement, Chelsea said:  “Following Friday morning’s incident at Parsons Green, and in order to help us fully prepare for the game, the majority of the Stamford Bridge site will remain closed until Sunday morning.

“This includes Stadium Tours, the Museum, Megastore and the Chelsea Health Club & Spa, while the ticket office will be operating via telephone and online only.

“During that time, entrance to the site will be via the Stamford Gate entrance only. On Sunday, we urge supporters to arrive at least one hour before kick-off to allow for extra security measures.

“We also request that supporters do not bring bags as this will delay your entry to the stadium. The club continues to monitor events and liaise with the police and relevant authorities on supporter safety.”

Trump under fire in US over London bombing comments

Ben Cardin, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, backed Theresa May in her rebuke of Donald Trump over the London  bombing David Millward reports.

“I think the Prime Minister of the UK was appropriate in calling the president out.”

John Cohen, former US counterterrorism official and now a professor at Rutgers University, also believed Mr Trump’s intervention was unhelpful.

“At this stage investigators are going to be doing everything they can to locate those involved in the attack, and in particular the bomb maker,”  he told the New York Times.

“These types of statements — at this stage of the investigation — can undermine law enforcement efforts because it discloses key information that the investigators may be using to locate the attackers, and it could put peoples’ lives at risk.”

Bomb ‘highly likely’ to be TATP – CNN

A source briefed by investigators told CNN that an initial assessment of the device indicates it is “highly likely” to have contained the explosive TATP but that this has not been confirmed. It also appeared to have been crude and poorly designed, the source said.

‘Excellent progress’ made in hunt for terrorist, police say

Met Assistant Commissioner, Mark Rowley, said the police were making “excellent progress” in the hunt for the terrorist.

He said officers were trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and 77 images and videos taken by members of the public at the scene were also being examined.

Mr Rowley said the IED had now been made safe and was being examined by specialist forensic scientists.

Threat level raised to ‘critical’

The UK’s terror threat level has been raised from severe to critical, indicating a further attack may be imminent, following the Parsons Green Tube bomb, Prime Minister Theresa May said.

Army troops will be assisting the police with their duties, freeing up officers to continue their investigation into the attack.

Islamic State claims responsibility for the attack

The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Amaq news agency which has links to the group.

White House defends Trump’s comments on Parsons Green attack

Mr McMaster was asked about Donald Trump’s comments this morning, in which he said the suspect of the bombing was “in the sights” of Scotland Yard.

Theresa May called that speculation “unhelpful”.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, right, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, participate in a news briefing at the White House, in Washington
National security adviser H.R. McMaster, right, and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, participate in a news briefing at the White House, in Washington CREDIT: CAROLYN KASTER 

Mr McMaster said he thought the president was speaking in general terms, and did not have any specific information.

He said: “I think what the president was communicating was that all our law enforcement efforts are focused on this threat for years.

“Scotland Yard is a leader in this, and if it happened here in the US the FBI would also have the suspect in their sights.

“I think he means generally this kind of activity is what we are trying to prevent.”

President Trump calls for renewed effort to cut terror funding

H.R. McMaster, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has just spoken about the Parsons Green attack in the White House, Harriet Alexander reports.

He said: “The US stands in solidarity with the people of the UK.

“We will defend our people and our values against these cowardly attacks, and we will always stand by countries who do the same.”

He said Mr Trump had been “unambiguous” in his policy on terrorism, urging a renewed effort at cutting financing for terrorist networks.

President Trump speaks to PM to express sympathy

The White House press secretary has revealed details of the phone call between Donald Trump and Theresa May. The US president phoned to “convey his sympathies and prayers for those injured in the terrorist attack today in London”, the White House said.

“The President pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism. ”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “President Trump called the Prime Minister earlier today to offer his condolences over this morning’s cowardly attack in London.

“They also discussed North Korea’s latest missile test, agreeing it was a reckless provocation and that China must now use all its leverage to bring pressure to bear on the North Korean regime to ensure they change course and end these illegal tests.”

Number of injured rises to 29

NHS England says 29 people have been treated after the explosion at Parsons Green tube station.

As of 5.30pm on Friday, NHS England said it was now treating 21 patients.

Eight others were discharged earlier in the day.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/16/parsons-green-explosion-uk-terror-threat-level-critical-latest/

2017 Parsons Green bombing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
2017 Parsons Green bombing
Part of Terrorism in the United Kingdom
2017 Parsons Green bombing 20.jpg

Police on Parsons Green, following the bombing

2017 Parsons Green bombing is located in London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

Parsons Green
Parsons Green
2017 Parsons Green bombing (London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham)

Show map of London Borough of Hammersmith and FulhamShow map of Greater LondonShow map of the United KingdomShow all

Location Parsons Green tube stationLondon
TQ 249 766
Coordinates 51°28′30.08″N0°12′08.14″WCoordinates51°28′30.08″N 0°12′08.14″W
Date 15 September 2017
8:20 am (BST)
Target London Undergroundcivilians
Weapons Improvised explosive device
Deaths 0
Non-fatal injuries
30[1][2]

On 15 September 2017, at around 8:20 am BST (07:20 UTC), an explosion occurred on a District line train at Parsons Green tube station, in London, England. Thirty people were treated in hospital or an urgent care centre, mostly for burn injuries.[3][4] The incident is being treated by the Metropolitan Police as a “terrorist” attack.[4]

Background

Several attacks occurred in Britain in the months preceding the bombing. These include the Westminster attack, the Manchester bombing, the London Bridge attack and the Finsbury Park attack.[5]

Incident

Map of the station area

A crude homemade bomb partially exploded on an eastbound District line train at Parsons Green tube station, in West London.[6] The District line train was packed with commuters and school children.[7] Witnesses described seeing a fireball in the rear carriage of the packed rush-hour train. Numerous passengers were reported to have suffered flash burns. Others received crush injuries in the rush to leave the scene. Thirty people received medical treatment for their injuries, 19 of whom were taken to hospital by ambulance – the remainder self-presented themselves at hospital.[8]

The device had been left in a white plastic bucket inside a shopping bag. Wires were hanging out, as well as a black towel. Reports also indicate the device had a timer attached.[9]According to Ben Wallace, the security minister, the bomb contained the triacetone triperoxide explosive (TATP), the same explosive used in the 2005 London Underground bombingsand the November 2015 Paris attacks.[10] The explosive is known to be very unstable, which may have led to critical errors in the construction of the bomb, such that it only partially exploded. According to Chip Chapman, former head of counter-terrorism at the Ministry of Defence, “This absolutely didn’t function properly because… 1 ounce (30 g) of TATP is enough to blow car doors off”.[10]

Claim of responsibility

According to the Amaq News AgencyISIS claimed that an affiliated unit of the Islamic State carried out the attack.[11][12] The Metropolitan Police described the claim as “very routine in these sort of circumstances… whether or not they have had any previous engagement with the individuals involved”.[13] On 17 September Home Secretary Amber Rudd said there was no evidence to suggest ISIS were behind the attack, and added that they would find out how the attacker was radicalised if they could.[14]

Investigation

British Transport Police are leading the investigation into the attack,[15] according to the Metropolitan Police, “hundreds of detectives” are involved in the investigation.[16] The Metropolitan Police launched a manhunt for one, possibly two, suspects.[17] On 16 September, Kent Constabulary announced that a suspect, an unnamed 18-year-old male Iraqi refugee,[18] had been arrested in the Port of Dover on suspicion of a terror offence.[19] The port area was partially evacuated and a number of items recovered by the police.[20] Later that day, police raided, and searched a house in SunburySurrey.[21] Police also arrested a 21-year old man on the same day in Hounslow, west London, and were searching a house in Stanwell, Surrey, in connection with the attack.[22][23] The 21-year-old was later reported to be Yahyah Farroukh, a Syrian refugee originally from Damascus,[24][25] who arrived in the UK about 2013,[26] and the 18-year-old to be an Iraqi orphan refugee.[27] Farroukh had been studying at West Thames College since 2013, according to his Facebook page. Both Farroukh and the 18-year-old Iraqi had been raised by the same foster carers. Their house is one of the properties in Surrey searched by police.[28]

The suspects were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act. A court extended the time period during which the suspects can be legally held.[29]

Reactions

Domestic

In a statement after the incident, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green and the emergency services who, once again, are responding swiftly and bravely to a suspected terrorist incident”.[30]

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “As London has proven again and again, we will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism. I am in close contact with the Metropolitan PoliceTransport for London (TfL), Government and other emergency services who are responding at the scene and leading the investigation. I will be attending the emergency COBRA meeting in Whitehall this afternoon with the Prime Minister. My sincere gratitude goes to all our courageous emergency responders and the TfL staff who were first on the scene. I urge all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant”.[31] Khan also said: “I am not going to apologise for saying we need more resources and more police in London”.[32]

Subsequent to the attack, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre decided to raise the terror threat level from ‘Severe’ to ‘Critical’,[33] for only the fourth time since its 2006 introduction.[34] Operation Temperer was also activated for the second time, as a result of the raise in threat level.[35] The terror threat level was then returned to ‘Severe’ by JTAC on 17 September 2017.[36]

International

US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”[37] He also touted his proposed travel ban.[38] His comments were described by Theresa May as “not helpful” and characterised the tweets as inaccurate speculation.[39]

See also

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Parsons_Green_bombing

Story 2: Trump Wants To Increase CIA Drone Attacks — Videos

Image result for cartoons drones trump cia

Image result for cartoons drones trump cia

 

CIA Drone Strikes Escalating?

Trump Broadens CIA Power to Launch Drone Strikes

Trump Gives CIA Authority To Conduct Drone Strikes

Published on Mar 13, 2017
President Donald Trump has given the CIA new authority to conduct drone attacks against suspected militants, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing U.S. officials. The move would be a change from the policy of former President Barack Obama’s administration of limiting the CIA’s paramilitary role, the newspaper reported. http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/t… http://www.wochit.com This video was produced by YT Wochit Vote It using http://wochit.com
 

Trump Gave CIA New Authority on Attack Drones

The Story Of The Drone Strike That Saved Hundreds Of Lives

 

Trump Administration Wants to Increase CIA Drone Strikes

WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump visited CIA headquarters in the first weeks of his presidency, he toured the secure floor where agency officers direct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, current and former U.S. officials told NBC News.

Impressed by what he saw, Trump conveyed to incoming CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the assembled agency officers that he wanted them to take a more aggressive posture, according to two current U.S. officials and one former official briefed on the visit.

Soon afterward, multiple sources said, the CIA began carrying out drone strikes that might not have been authorized under the Obama administration, including in Syria, where the military has taken the lead on targeting militant leaders.

The White House granted CIA officers more autonomy to decide on whether and when the U.S. can pull the trigger in various places around the world, including in Yemen, where the military carries out the bulk of the airstrikes, according to four U.S. officials who have been briefed on the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The upshot is less micromanaging of targeting decisions by the White House, these officials say.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits armed with Hellfire missiles and a 500-pound bomb in a hanger at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits armed with Hellfire missiles and a 500-pound bomb in a hanger at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016.Josh Smith / Reuters file

Now, the Trump administration is contemplating additional policy changes that will further expand the CIA’s authority to conduct drone strikes in a number of countries, both in and out of war zones. Such a move would reverse years of effort by President Barack Obama to reduce the CIA’s role in targeted killing and shift that responsibility to the military. It could also mean more civilian casualtiesin CIA drone strikes.

In reporting this story, NBC News spoke to officials at intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, Congress and the White House. All requested anonymity to discuss a classified program.

At the peak of its lethal activity in 2010 during the Obama administration, the CIA was carrying out as many as two drone strikes a week in Pakistan. Some current and former officers have argued that turning American’s premier spy agency into what one former CIA officer called “a killing machine” caused an erosion in its traditional espionage mission against adversaries such as Russia and China. A changing threat environment, and new Obama rules, led to a sharp drop off in the pace of CIA strikes in recent years.

Pompeo has pushed for more freedom of action. He wants Trump to authorize the spy agency to strike targets in Afghanistan, which had long been the domain of the military, a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge told NBC News. The New York Times first reported that news last week.

The White House also is drafting a new written policy on counterterrorist operations outside of war zones that would supercede the so-called drone playbook that the Obama administration had hoped would govern the decisions of future presidents, several officials said.

The drone playbook, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, or PPG, includes a provision that no strike should go forward unless analysts determine that there is a near-certainty that no civilians will be harmed. And it includes a provision forbidding the addition of new detainees to the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Image: An MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies past a MQ-9 Reaper RPA as it taxis during a training mission at Creech Air Force Bas
An MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies past a MQ-9 Reaper RPA as it taxis during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on Nov. 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nevada.Isaac Brekken / Getty Images file

The Trump administration is contemplating removing both of those restrictions, officials involved in the planning told NBC News.

These developments concern human rights activists, who argue that the CIA is less accountable than the military.

“The last thing the U.S. should be doing right now is expanding a global, secret killing program,” said Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs for Amnesty International USA. “By its own admission, the U.S. government’s use of drones has meant the deaths of civilians and there has been insufficient accountability.”

U.S. officials who favor the changes point out that the military’s conventional bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria appears to have killed far more civilians than U.S. drones have.

But such comparisons are hard to make. Because the CIA drone strikes are secret and the U.S. government will not officially confirm them, there is no way for outsiders to gauge their frequency or effectiveness. In recent years, officials say, the pace of CIA drone strikes has declined as the military has conducted most of the drone strikes in nearly every country in which they are occurring, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. But that also means it is not possible for outside groups to determine how many CIA strikes have occurred.

Related: Iran Has Drone Base Near U.S. Troops

Another factor is that the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command have integrated their targeted killing programs in recent years, U.S. officials say. It’s become easier for the CIA to hand off intelligence about a target and have the military pull the trigger, or vice versa.

“It’s impossible to know with Yemen, it’s impossible to know with Iraq and Syria, [how many CIA strikes have occurred],” said Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, a website that has tracked the strikes for years based on local media reports and other data.

The exception is Pakistan, where the U.S. military generally doesn’t bomb, and where the al Qaeda threat has much diminished in recent years. There have been five CIA drone strikes in Pakistan in 2017, up from three last year, according to Long War Journal.

Slick ISIS Video Shows Terror Group’s New Drones 1:12

It’s unclear whether a Trump overhaul to Obama’s drone playbook would be consequential in practice. Currently the playbook does not apply in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. It also does not apply for now in parts of Yemen and Somalia, which the military has declared to be active U.S. war zones.

But the playbook is still in place for Pakistan and anywhere else the CIA could potentially conduct drone strikes, including Libya and other parts of North Africa where ISIS is becoming an increasingly problematic presence.

In war zones such as Iraq and Syria, the so-called law of war standard applies, which tolerates civilian casualties as long as the targets are military and the collateral damage is “proportional” to the military benefit.

U.S. national security officials say they have seen no sign that Trump is seeking to follow through on some of the extreme rhetoric he employed on the campaign trail, including his calls for killing the families of terrorists and employing interrogation tactics that are “worse than waterboarding,” the simulated drowning technique used on three al Qaeda operatives that many consider to be torture.

The Pentagon and the CIA declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment

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5 Things You Should Know About the CIA’s ‘Robotic’ Drone Assassination Campaign

Since 2001 drones have become a signature weapon in America’s war on terrorists and insurgents in the Muslim world and have been deployed from sub-Saharan Africa to the Philippines. But for all the fact that drone strikes are regularly reported by the media, very few Americans have a basic understanding of the contours, tactics, geography, strategy and weaponry used in the CIA’s largest assassination campaign since the Vietnam era. The following five points provide a layman’s guide to this vast, covert campaign in exotic lands for readers who want a deeper understanding of this revolution in warfare and counter-terrorism than that conveyed by the media.

1. The drones are not actually robots. With the opening of the latest installment of the Terminator movie series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer, non-specialists can be forgiven for thinking that drones are Terminator-style, autonomous deathbots with minds of their own. In actuality, the U.S. military and CIA prefer to use the term “Remotely Piloted Vehicles” to stress the fact that human pilots are in the “kill chain” and ultimately control the drones. A two-man team consisting of a pilot and a sensor operator fly the drones remotely, usually from specially designed trailers located at U.S. Air Force bases in the states (often in Nevada) or at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Drone pilots surveil their targets from afar via high resolution cameras for up to twenty four hours a day and follow their “pattern of life” movements. This provides an intimate knowledge of the target that was never had by manned jets flying at great heights and at high speeds (the drones are slow and propeller driven). The U.S. military is now training more drone pilots than pilots for manned aircrafts. There have been widely reported cases of drone pilots, who are not in harm’s way of course (in military terms they “project power, without projecting vulnerability”), suffering from combat stress due to the intimate nature of their tracking and killing of their human “targets” on screens.

2. The drones don’t usually drop bombs. While their critics, who make wild claims that “99 percent of the victims of drone attacks are civilians,” refer to “clumsy drone bombing campaigns,” in actuality most of the ordinance deployed by drones consists of highly accurate, laser-guided or satellite-guided “smart” mini-missiles. The most commonly used missile is the 100 pound AGM 114 Hellfire missile, which was originally designed to be fired by an Apache Longbow attack helicopter. This missile was originally designed to penetrate armor, but was re-configured with a metal sleeve to be used against un-armored targets, such as cars or clay walled houses. In an effort to reduce civilian bystander deaths (“collateral damage” in military parlance), the CIA and Air Force have also taken to firing even smaller mini-missiles called Scorpions which are only 21 inches in length. These “small smart weapons” are a far cry from unguided “dumb” bombs of up to 2,000 pounds which were inaccurately dropped by fast flying manned jets in the past. Their smaller blast radius leads to less un-intended victims. The drone missiles are so smart that if an operator sees a civilian bystander coming close to a target after the missile has been fired he can divert it at the last second.

3. The drones rarely kill civilians. While drone activists focus on the occasional accidental killing of civilian bystanders in voicing their criticism of the “play station mentality” behind drone operations, various studies have shown that the drones rarely create collateral damage. For example, the Washington DC-based New America Foundation has found that the drones have killed roughly 3,000 Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, but only about 300 civilians (i.e. about ten percent of the death toll is civilian). This makes the CIA’s “bombing” campaign far more precise than any previous bombing campaigns in history (usually civilian deaths far outnumber military deaths in aerial bombing campaigns). Such unprecedented accuracy is achieved through such tactics as firing smart missiles at targets when they are clearly observable in automobiles that have left crowded venues.

4.The CIA drones primarily operate in Pakistan. While the US military ran drone operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the CIA runs drone operations in the wild tribal regions across the border in Pakistan known as the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Agencies). This is a remote, hilly region inhabited by fierce Pashtun tribesmen (the tribe that makes up the Taliban). The Pashtuns “bleed” across the frontier into neighboring Afghanistan and have long utilized the FATA as a cross-border sanctuary for waging guerilla warfare in that country. Unable to directly invade this border region, which belongs to sovereign Pakistan, the US chose instead to wage a targeted drone campaign against terrorists and insurgents who fled here after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and converted it into a refuge known as “Talibanistan.” The U.S. has carried out almost 400 drone strikes in the FATA region and these have killed the number three in the Pakistani Taliban on three separate occasions and the number three in Al Qaeda on two occasions. But for all the fact that the advanced Predator and Reaper drones indisputably kill far more militants than civilians in this region that is under de facto Taliban control, the drone campaign is deeply unpopular in Pakistan. The Pakistani public sees the drones as an infringement of their sovereignty, even though the Pakistani government covertly supports the drone campaign against Taliban terrorists who target their people and have seceded from Pakistan.

5. The drones make extensive use of spy networks. The high flying drones rely, to a tremendous extent, on techint (technological intelligence, such as eavesdropping on targets’ cellphones and high resolution cameras), but are only as good as their humint (human intelligence). The drones work closely with CIA and Pakistani ISI (Inter Service Intelligence) spy networks on the ground to track the movements of suspected Taliban militants or Al Qaeda terrorists. The spies then surreptitiously place small homing beacons known as “prathrai” (chips) on their targets which send signals to the drones. The drones then fire laser guided missiles that home in on the cigarette lighter-sized homing beacons and incinerate their targets. The Taliban are quite aware of the drones’ uncanny ability to hunt them and have launched witch hunts to kill real or suspected spies. They live in constant fear of the ever present drones (which display “deadly persistence” in military parlance) and are afraid to use cell phones, gather in large numbers, move in convoys, store ammunition in depots that can be seen from the air etc. In other words, the drones, when combined with spy networks, terrorize the terrorists and make sure that their safe haven in the FATA is neither safe nor a haven.

There is much more to understanding this complex drone campaign, from the history or the anti-drone movement to the existence of secret CIA airbases in Pakistan itself to Al Qaeda’s responses, but the above points are a good starting point for understanding some of the basics of America’s drone war on terrorists, militants and insurgents in the Islamic world. For more on this highly controversial, murky issue see: Brian Glyn Williams. Predators. The CIA’s Drone War on Al Qaeda.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-glyn-williams/5-things-you-should-know-_5_b_7848274.html

UAVs in the U.S. military

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As of January 2014, the U.S. military operates a large number of unmanned aerial systems (UAVs or Unmanned Air Vehicles): 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 Predators and MQ-1C Grey Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.[1]

The military role of unmanned aircraft systems is growing at unprecedented rates. In 2005, tactical- and theater-level unmanned aircraft alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which they are organized under Task Force Liberty in Afghanistan and Task Force ODIN in Iraq. Rapid advances in technology are enabling more and more capability to be placed on smaller airframes, which is spurring a large increase in the number of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) being deployed on the battlefield. The use of SUAS in combat is so new that no formal DoD wide reporting procedures have been established to track SUAS flight hours. As the capabilities grow for all types of UAS, nations continue to subsidize their research and development, leading to further advances and enabling them to perform a multitude of missions. UAS no longer only perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, although this still remains their predominant type. Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, strike missions, suppression or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, combat search and rescue, and derivations of these themes. These UAS range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds.[citation needed]

Classifications by the United States military

U.S. UAV demonstrators in 2005

The modern concept of U.S. military UAVs is to have the various aircraft systems work together in support of personnel on the ground. The integration scheme is described in terms of a “Tier” system and is used by military planners to designate the various individual aircraft elements in an overall usage plan for integrated operations. The Tiers do not refer to specific models of aircraft but rather roles for which various models and their manufacturers competed. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps each has its own tier system, and the two systems are themselves not integrated. The arm forces has been funding UAV project way before the terrorist attacks in 2001. Ever since 2001, there has much support from government funding of more productions of UAVs.

Use in the “War on Terror”

When the Obama administration announced in December 2009, the deployment of 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan, there was already an increase of attacks by unmanned Predator UAVs against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, of which one probably killed a key member of al-Qaeda. However, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al-Zawahiri was the likely target, according to reports. According to a report of the New America Foundation, armed UAV strikes had dramatically increased under President Obama – even before his deployment decision. There were 43 such attacks between January and October 2009. The report draws on what it deems to be “credible” local and national media stories about the attacks. This can be compared to a total of 34 in all of 2008, which was President Bush’s last full year in office. Between 2006 and 2009, UAV-launched missiles allegedly had killed between 750 and 1,000 people in Pakistan, according to the report. Of these, about 20 people were said to be leaders of al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated groups. Overall, 66% to 68% of the people killed were militants, and 31% to 33% were civilians. U.S. officials disputed the percentage for civilians.[2] The U.S. Air Force has recently begun referring at least to larger UAS like Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) to highlight the fact that these systems are always controlled by a human operator at some location.

Armed attacks by U.S. UAVs

MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles have been used by the U.S. as platforms for hitting ground targets. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, mostly aimed at assassinating high-profile individuals (terrorist leaders, etc.) inside Afghanistan. Since then, there have been many reported cases of such attacks taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.[3] The advantage of using an unmanned vehicle rather than a manned aircraft in such cases is to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment should the aircraft be shot down and the pilots captured, since the bombings take place in countries deemed friendly and without the official permission of those countries.[4][5][6][7]

A Predator based in a neighboring Arab country was used to kill suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen on 3 November 2002. This marked the first use of an armed Predator as an attack aircraft outside of a theater of war such as Afghanistan.[8]

The U.S. has claimed that the Predator strikes killed at least nine senior al-Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, depleting its operational tier in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of al-Qaeda since 2001.[9] It was claimed that the Predator strikes took such a toll on al-Qaeda that militants began turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust.[9] A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said: “They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible [for security breaches]. People are showing up dead, or disappearing.”[9]

By October 2009, the CIA claimed to have killed more than half of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda terrorist suspects in targeted killings using UAVs.[10] By May 2010, counter-terrorism officials said that UAV strikes in the Pakistani tribal areas had killed more than 500 militants since 2008 and no more than 30 (5%) nearby civilians – mainly family members who lived and traveled with the targets.[11][12] UAVs linger overhead after a strike, in some cases for hours, to enable the CIA to count the bodies and attempt to determine which, if any, are civilians.[12] A Pakistani intelligence officer gave a higher estimate of civilian casualties, saying 20% of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants.[12]

In February 2013, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs.[13]

CIA officials became concerned in 2008, that targets in Pakistan were being tipped off to pending U.S. UAV strikes by Pakistani intelligence, when the U.S. requested Pakistani permission prior to launching UAV-based attacks.[9] The Bush administration therefore decided in August 2008 to abandon the practice of obtaining Pakistani government permission before launching missiles from UAVs, and in the next six months the CIA carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined.[9]

One issue with using armed drones to attack human targets is the size of the bombs being used and the relative lack of discrimination of the 100 lb (45 kg) Hellfire, which was designed to eliminate tanks and attack bunkers.[14] Smaller weapons such as the RaytheonGriffin and Small Tactical Munition are being developed as a less indiscriminate alternative,[15] and development is underway on the still smaller US Navy-developed Spike missile.[16] The payload-limited Predator A can also be armed with six Griffin missiles, as opposed to only two of the much-heavier Hellfires.

Public opinion in the US (military use)

In 2013, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that 48% of American voters believe it is “illegal for the U.S. government to target its own citizens living abroad with drone attacks.”[17] In the same poll, however, a majority of voters approved of the U.S. military and the CIA using UAVs to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.”.[18]

There are a number of critics of the use of UAVs to track and kill terrorists and militants. A major criticism of drone strikes is that they result in excessive collateral damage. However, others maintain that drones “allow for a much closer review and much more selective targeting process than do other instruments of warfare” and are subject to Congressional oversight.[19] Like any military technology, armed UAVs will kill people, combatants and innocents alike, thus “the main turning point concerns the question of whether we should go to war at all.”[19]

Infrastructure

In 2012, the USAF trained more UAV pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time.[20] Unlike other UAVs, the Predator was armed with Hellfire missiles so that it can terminate the target that it locates.[21] This was done after Predators sighted Osama Bin Ladenmultiple times but could not do anything about it other than send back images. In addition, the Predator is capable of orchestrating attacks by pointing lasers at the targets.[22] This is important, as it puts a robot in a position to set off an attack. Their overall success is apparent because from June 2005 to June 2006 alone, Predators carried out 2,073 missions and participated in 242 separate raids.[23]

In contrast to the Predator, which is remotely piloted via satellites, the Global Hawk operates virtually autonomously.[24] The user merely hits the button for ‘take off’ and for ‘land’, while the UAV gets directions via GPS and reports back with a live feed. Global Hawks have the capability to fly from San Francisco and map out the entire state of Maine before having to return.[24] In addition, some UAVs have become so small that they can be launched from one’s hand and maneuvered through the street.[24] These UAVs, known as Ravens, are especially useful in urban areas, such as Iraq, in order to discover insurgents and potential ambushes the next block up.[25] UAVs are especially useful because they can fly for days at a time. Insurgents in the open for more than a few minutes at a time fear UAVs locating them.[21]

In the U.S., thousands of civilian UAV operators work for contractors, piloting and maintaining UAVs.[26] Up to four UAVs and about 400 to 500 pilot and ground support personnel are required for a single 24-hour-coverage combat air patrol (CAP).[27] A 2011 study by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine indicated that nearly 50% of spy UAV operators suffer from high stress.[26] The president of a civilian UAV operators’ union, the Association of Unmanned Operation (AUO), cited long working hours and decreasing wages as U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was reduced and as a result of the U.S. government’s budget sequestration.[26]

Given the increasing military use of cyber attacks against Microsoft software, the United States Armed Forces have moved towards Linux ground control software.[28][29]

Scale of use of UAVs by the U.S. military

An August 2013, Brookings Institution study reported that in the U.S. Air Force there were approximately 1,300 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots, 8.5 percent of total Air Force pilots, up from 3.3 percent in 2008.[30] The study indicated that the U.S. military’s combat air patrol (CAP) daily missions requirement is growing at a faster pace than RPA pilots can be trained, with an attrition rate during RPA flight screening being three times that of traditional pilots and a 13% lower promotion rate to Major than other officers.[30]

As of January 2014, the U.S. military operates a large number of unmanned aerial systems: 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 Predators and MQ-1C Gray Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.[1]

As of mid-2014, the U.S. air force is training more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined.[31]

Research and development

At the center of the American military’s continued UAV research is the MQ-X, which builds upon the capabilities of the Reaper and Predator UAVs. As currently conceived, the MQ-X would be a stealthier and faster fighter-plane sized UAV capable of any number of missions: high-performance surveillance; attack options, including retractable cannons and bomb or missile payloads; and cargo capacity.[32]

Development costs for American military UAVs, as with most military programs, have tended to overrun their initial estimates. This is mostly due to changes in requirements during development and a failure to leverage UAV development programs over multiple armed services. This has caused United States Navy UAV programs to increase in cost from 0% to 5%, while United States Air Force UAV programs have increased from 60% to 284%.[33]

The USAF said in 2012, that it will focus development of UAVs to be collaboratively networked with manned aircraft in “buddy attacks,” while continuing to be able to fly as standalone systems.[34]

The U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) planned in 2014 to award grants and contracts up to $5.5 million each, for its Fast Lightweight Autonomy Program (FLAP) program, which specifies UAVs capable of traveling 60 feet per second to include autonomy algorithms for quickly and autonomously navigating indoor obstacles and learning from past travels.[35]

List of U.S. military UAVs

Former
Current
Future

See also

References

Story 3: Third Night of Violence in St. Louis — Protesters and Vandals Damage Property With Over 120 Arrests and 11 Police Injured — Videos

St. Louis Cop Who Killed A Black Man Found Not Guilty | Los Angeles Times

‘Not Guilty’ Verdict In St. Louis Police Shooting Trial Sparks Protests | NBC Nightly News

St. Louis protesters stage ‘die-in’ and march for third time after police acquittal

Live: St. Louis Protest BREAKING NEWS Police Deploy Tear Gas as Protesters Turn Violent in Missouri

Police Officers Injured, Protesters Arrested In St. Louis Protests | NBC Nightly News

Arrests over Jason Stockley verdict in St. Louis

Black bloc runs amok in St. Louis street riot, 100+ arrests

USA: Violent protests continue in St Louis after following officer acquittal

Violence in St. Louis: Police & protesters clash after ex-cop acquitted of killing black man

Third night of violence rocks St. Louis

Violence breaks out on the streets of St Louis over white cop who was cleared of murdering black suspect as for the THIRD night in a row as cops arrest 80 people

  • St Louis entered its third night of protests on Sunday as demonstrators marched through traffic over town
  • They remain furious after white cop Jason Stockley was acquitted for 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith
  • As on Saturday, a peaceful daytime protest was followed by a splinter faction causing damage after dark
  • Police arrested 80 people, many for refusing orders to disperse, and confiscated several weapons
  • A man wearing a mask and carrying an Anonymous flag had body armor, a pistol and pepper spray taken
  • St Louis County cops were also sprayed with unknown chemicals from a pair of spray bottles

St Louis has entered its third consecutive night of violence over Friday’s acquittal of Jason Stockley, the white cop accused of murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.

As occurred on Saturday, thousands of protesters had engaged in a peaceful protest over Stockley’s Friday acquittal, this time gathering outside the Police Department HQ before walking through the city.

And just as on Saturday, that was followed up by a splinter group that began causing mayhem, smashing windows in downtown St Louis, with windows being smashed and police attacked.

One man in a mask and body armor who was spotted waving an Anonymous flag was stopped by police and had a pistol, pepper spray and his protective gear confiscated.

Several St Louis County sheriff’s deputies were sprayed with an unknown chemical and had to be decontaminated; others were pelted with rocks.

More than 80 people were arrested and five weapons confiscated, police said. The officers’ injuries were minor to moderate, it was announced.

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Chaos took over St Louis streets for the third night in a row on Sunday, as crowds continued to protests white ex-cop Jason Stockley's acquittal for the 2011 murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. Pictured: people running as demonstrators march

Police arrest a man in St Louis as demonstrators march in the city. In total 80 people were arrested on Sunday night - many of them for refusing to disperse at the orders of police2

Police arrest a man in St Louis as demonstrators march in the city. In total 80 people were arrested on Sunday night – many of them for refusing to disperse at the orders of police

Police stopped this man and confiscated his shield, Anonymous flag and body armor - as well as a pistol, pepper spray, his mask and other items

Police stopped this man and confiscated his shield, Anonymous flag and body armor – as well as a pistol, pepper spray, his mask and other items

These are the items confiscated from the individual, who has not yet been named. Police said he was also taken into custody after the incident

A man throws a chunk of concrete through a window in St Louis on Sunday. Several businesses and other buildings had their windows smashed in downtown St Louis, while planters and trash cans were knocked over and damaged

Cops arrive en masse to deal with protesters amid violence late at night in St Louis. Police later commended the daytime protesters for their responsible attitude - in stark contrast to the violence that came as night fell

At around 7pm Pastor Doug Hollis, an organizer of the peaceful daytime event, announced: ‘We met our goal. We are dispersing. This was a great, peaceful protest. That’s what we want.’

Tensions were raised after some declined to leave, and an unmarked police car reversed into a crowd at speed; nobody was hurt, but police said some protesters threw bottles afterward, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

‘The crowd started moving in a threatening manner toward the Impala and because of road closures, the car could not go forward,’ police said in a statement. ‘The officer driving the blue Impala backed down the street to safety.’

By 8pm troublemakers had departed that group and headed downtown.

Windows were broken at several businesses, including the Marriott hotel on Washington Avenue, a sushi restaurant and a nail salon, and the intersection of Olive and 10th Streets was particularly badly hit.

A bike officer was injured around this time and taken to hospital in an ambulance; the nature of his injuries was not immediately apparent.

Strings of arrests were made on multiple occasions as police commanded crowds to disperse, and arrested those who refused to leave.

The masked man's flag - with the Anonymous logo - can be seen in this image. The violent protesters were just a small fraction of the thousands that gathered in the daytime

Police arrive with riot shields to break up the violence downtown. The pattern was the same as the one seen on Saturday, when nine people were arrested, four of them juveniles

A cop chases after vandals in downtown St Louis on Sunday. Residents remain angry about the Stockley decision - but rioters may turn public opinion against protesters if they continue

Just as on Saturday, the violence that occurred after dark on Sunday came after the close of a peaceful early evening protest.

That peaceful protest began with thousands of protesters converging outside St Louis Police Department’s headquarters and staging a ‘die-in’ which they laid across the ground, pretending to be dead.

Authorities had closed off several blocks around the police headquarters Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the demonstration, which included young children and teenagers, as well as adults.

The crowd also observed six minutes of silence in front of the police department building, then chanted ‘stop killing us’ as officers looked on from the headquarters’ windows.

Afterward, they resumed the large-scale marching, chanting slogans such as ‘this is what democracy looks like.’

Protesters said that the six-minute silence symbolized the six years between the Smith’s death and Stockley’s acquittal.

Early Sunday evening, protesters (pictured) gathered outside the St Louis Police Department headquarters, holding Black Lives Matter signs and American flags

Sunday's protest (pictured) was the third consecutive day of action after the verdict was delivered. The judge said there was no evidence Stockley had unlawfully shot Smith or planted a gun on him, despite claims by the prosecution

Lamont Davis is one of the five adults arrested after demonstrations turned violence in St Louis on Saturday
Lakeshia Starks was also arrested. Four juveniles were also taken in but have not been identified by authorities
Tristan Muir was also among those arrested
These are three of the five adults arrested after demonstrations turned violent in St Louis on Saturday. They are (l-r) Lamont Davis, Lakeshia Starks and Tristan Muir. Four juveniles were also arrested; they have not been identified

Edward Stewart was also arrested. The violence broke out after a peaceful protest concluded earlier Saturday

The five adults named by police as suspects in Saturday’s riot were Caryn Pierson, Edward Stewart, Tristan Muir, Lakeshia Starks and Lamont Davis. Three of them live in St Louis; one in the surrounding county; and the fifth in Freeburg, Illinois.

Pierson was charged with first-degree property damage and rioting, and jailed on a $20,000 bond. Stewart was charged with unlawful assembly and resisting arrest and jailed on a $10,000 bond.

Muir was charged with rioting and fourth-degree assault; he was jailed on a $10,000 bond. Starks was charged with first-degree property damage, rioting, and resisting arrest and jailed on a $20,000 bond. And Davis was charged with first-degree property damage and jailed on a $20,000 bond.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued a warning Sunday on Facebook that anyone caught destroying property would be held accountable and could face felony charges.

‘Saturday night, some criminals decided to pick up rocks and break windows. They thought they’d get away with it. They were wrong. Our officers caught ’em, cuffed ’em, and threw ’em in jail,’ the first-term Republican governor wrote.

Demonstrators chant outside police headquarters in St Louis. Many Black Lives Matter placards could be seen among the crowds as they peacefully protested

A protester is seen being arrested in St Louis following riots on Saturday night, which saw dozens of shopfronts smashed. The violence broke out after a peaceful protest concluded earlier Saturday

Police haul off a protester as they break up the violent crowd on Saturday. A protester had thrown red paint onto the riot shield seen here. Rocks and chunks of concrete were also thrown at cops, who responded with tear gas

Jason Stockley (pictured) was aquitted on Friday in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith

Ed Sheeran’s Sunday concert at the Scott Trade Center was canceled on Saturday by Messina Touring Group on the venue’s website.

THE JUDGE WHO DECIDED THE CASE

St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson

The judge who acquitted Stockley is described as objective and well-respected by prosecutors and defense lawyers alike.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who must retire when he turns 70 in December, has ruled both for and against police during his 28 years on the bench.

‘He’s very methodical and a very objective judge,’ Jack Garvey, a lawyer and former judge told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

‘He really will review everything before he makes a decision. I don’t think he’s ideological in any way.’

People accused of crimes have the right to have their cases heard by a jury, but can opt to have the verdict rendered by a judge instead, as Stockley chose to do.

Experts say a judge is more likely to understand the concept of reasonable doubt and not be swayed by emotions.

 ‘With the safety of the fans being of upmost concern, and after consulting with local officials, who could not fully commit to providing a sufficient amount of police and other city services support, we felt it was in everyone’s best interest to cancel Sunday night’s show,’ it read.

‘While we regret to have had to come to this decision, we do look forward to returning to St Louis as soon as Ed’s schedule will allow in 2018.’

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, which had canceled its Saturday and Sunday performances of the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets scores, went ahead with its performance on Sundauy.

However, the orchestra is giving refunds on its website to those who were unable to attend due to the protests.

It also promised refunds to those who had tickets to the canceled Friday and Saturday events.

Rock band U2 also canceled a performance due to protests, saying their Saturday gig could not go ahead as ‘local crowd security personnel would not be at full capacity,’ and that they ‘cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety.’

Ticketholders will be able to claim a refund online or at their place of purchase, they added.

Saturday’s confrontation took place in an area that includes the Blueberry Hill club, where rock legend Chuck Berry played for many years.

There had been a peaceful march in the area earlier in the evening that ended with organizers calling for people to leave and reconvene Sunday afternoon.

But a few dozen protesters refused to go. Police ordered them to disperse, saying the protest was illegal. Hundreds of officers in riot gear eventually moved in with armored vehicles.

The demonstrators retreated down a street, breaking windows with trash cans and throwing objects at police.

Several protesters were taken away in handcuffs, including a man who was carried off upside down. At least one demonstrator was treated after he was hit with pepper spray.

Sam Thomas, who was helping his friend clean up the glass from the shattered windows of his clothing and accessories boutique, OSO, said he understood why people were angry. The US justice system is broken and needs to be fixed, he said.

‘I’m not saying this is the right way to fix it,’ he said of the damage. ‘The window isn’t murdered. Nobody is going to have a funeral for the window. We can replace it.’

Demonstrations began peacefully on Friday after Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson acquitted former St Louis police officer Stockley, 36, of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Smith, 24.

Protesters later clashed with police, and 33 people were arrested and 10 officers injured by early Saturday morning. Police said protesters also damaged Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home.

Police are seen here with two people - one of them unconscious after an asthma attack - during the riots. Protests continued on Sunday, but remained peaceful as of the early evening

Smith was shot in his car after Stockley and his partner chased him following an alleged drug deal, authorities said. Prosecutors argued that Stockley planted a weapon in Smith’s car.

Stockley left the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013. Smith’s family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $900,000 in 2013.

An informal group of St Louis-based activists known as the Ferguson frontline have organized the protests.

The group has focused on what it describes as institutional racism since rioting erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, a St Louis suburb, after a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot black teenager Michael Brown in 2014.

A grand jury decided not to charge Wilson, and the US Justice Department declined to bring any charges of civil rights violations against him.

Brown’s death triggered sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and around the United States, fueled by police killings of unarmed black men in other cities.

It also helped spark debate about racial bias in the US justice system.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4893094/Third-day-protests-set-police-acquittal-St-Louis.html#ixzz4t4bVqEjQ

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Vice President Pence Speaks to Troops from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Published on Jul 31, 2017

Vice President Pence Speaks to troops from Estonia, Latvia, USA and Lithuania during Visit to Eastern Europe, the Baltic’s…

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The Trump Doctrine is easy to understand — Just look at his background

Foreign policy experts all over Washington seem completely stupefied when it comes to understanding President Trump’s national security goals. And for a long time, I was one of them.

In happy hours all over town where we love to gather, some experts would describe Trump’s approach as “uneducated,”“unsophisticated” or even “unprofessional.”

Rubbish. They just can’t get over the fact that he doesn’t share their often overly polished and overly sophisticated perspectives. I should know, it’s my profession.

The simple fact is this: you don’t need a Ph.D. from Yale or Cambridge to understand Trump’s vision for America’s place in the world—you just need to take the time to study his background.

He doesn’t care about your foreign policy schools of thoughts, deep historical perspective or game-theory workshops. He just wants the best “deals” for America. Period. End of story.

Washington’s foreign policy brain trust would be wise to take heed the words of a 900-year-old Jedi master named Yoda: “Unlearn what you have learned”.

Understanding the Trump Doctrine is child’s play—just don’t overthink it.

Put away your Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz or just war theory training because President Trump has his own ideas when it comes to global affairs.

Our new president is very different than almost any other we can remember in modern times.

He does not have the professorial pontification skills or deeply intellectual mindset of Barack Obama. Nor does he have the government experience of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson or JFK.

Trump is cut from a different cloth—he’s a street fighter and certainly not a slick, ivy league educated foreign policy expert.

The Donald is a rough and tumble, school of hard knocks, New York City businessman. He doesn’t care about your foreign policy schools of thoughts, deep historical perspective or game-theory workshops. He just wants the best “deals” for America. Period. End of story.

All of this is exactly what the American people voted for. Something different—with the old models of thinking being clearly rejected. And we need to make our peace with it.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t sophisticated or doesn’t have a sense of vision when it comes to international affairs.

In fact, Trump has his own loosely crafted foreign policy playbook, based on his own success and failures as a New York City businessman, entrepreneur and branding genius.

Our new president is taking his business acumen and applying it on a global stage. He has, at least in my opinion, what can be best described as a foreign policy balance sheet in his head. Trump looks at where he thinks America is “winning,” code for where Washington’s interests are moving forward, and losing, where America’s interests are not being served. And he tackles the ‘losses’ on that balance sheet with ruthless efficiency.

And that all makes Trump’s global agenda, one in which he takes on the toughest of problems—problems that have been festering for decades—a very hard task, but one that is worth pursuing.

Taking on China over North Korea will be an immense challenge—creating tensions in a relationship with the two biggest global economies and militaries. Taking on trade deals that many times were not always in America’s best interests might be even harder. Asking our allies to spend more towards our common defense won’t be easy. But who said change ever was?

Making all of this even more difficult is when people misinterpret the president’s own words or cherry pick his ideas to change his message, all in an effort to take him down.

Will Trump abandon NATO, leave South Korea on its own to confront a nuclear North Korea and withdraw to some sort of fortress America? Never.

Again, his past clues you into his thinking. Like any CEO, our president is using his background in business to strike the best terms for the nation in its relationships. And just like any CEO, he is not going to break a signed deal, like alliances with key partners the world over – that’s bad for the business of the nation. But he will try to ask for a little more—just like many of us do in our own lives and business deals. Shocker.

What unnerves people is the patented Trump approach—blunt and straightforward—and almost never politically correct in how he sometimes goes about striking a deal. That will get smoothed out in the months and years to come, just like many other presidents in the past. The stature of the office, the highest in the land, has that impact on the occupant.

But Trump is not going to change his core thinking or personality—that much is clear.

World leaders at the G-20 should already understand by now who our president is and his approach.

Trump is not going to coddle you, make you feel all warm and fuzzy when you do something against America’s national interests—he is not Barack Obama. He’s going to tell you in his own Trumpian way he is not impressed—and press you to change your position. And he might even do it on Twitter. And the media will go crazy over it, only amplifying the power of his message.

In fact, there might be a foreign policy vision that personifies the Trump Doctrine after all: mega-realism on steroids—and it’s what the American people asked for. Trump has stayed true to what he said he would do in foreign affairs, and it’s simple to understand, you just have to see the world through his own training and life experience—not yours.

Let Yoda be your guide.

Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/07/trump-doctrine-is-easy-to-understand-just-look-at-his-background.html

VOICE

There Is No Trump Doctrine, and There Will Never Be One

There Is No Trump Doctrine, and There Will Never Be One

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him,” Dwight D. Eisenhower observed in 1952. Managing the future’s course is no small task, but in foreign policy the development and execution of sound strategy are a leader’s best hope. In January, on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, we warned in Foreign Policy that Trump’s approach to foreign policy was dangerously nearsighted and posed unacceptable risks to national security. Absent a course correction, a trainwreck is all but assured.

Six months later, there is little indication that the president and his advisors have developed the kind of strategy — what academics call “grand strategy” and pundits refer to as “doctrine” — designed to impose America’s will on the world, rather than vice versa. Indeed, it seems there will never be a Trump doctrine. In resisting the careful patience required to develop and execute a purposive course of action over time, the administration’s method of policymaking is explicitly anti-strategic.

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This deficiency results from three operational and philosophical principles that orient the president’s decision-making: a focus on short-term wins rather than longer-term strategic foresight; a “zero-sum” worldview where all gains are relative and reciprocity is absent; and a rejection of values-based policymaking. The shortcomings of this approach — which we dubbed “tactical transactionalism” — are already apparent in the Trump administration’s foreign-policy record to date.

First, Trump has made no secret of his desire to “win,” a worldview that privileges short-term, tactical triumphs.

Nowhere was this attitude more evident than in Trump’s decision to fire off 59 cruise missiles in retaliation for a Syrian government chemical weapons attack. Although administration officials herald this decision in public and private as a signal accomplishment of Trump’s foreign policy, the strike actually had little effect: The targeted airfield was operational again within days, and the attack’s muddled rationale obscured any intended signal to American adversaries. Nonetheless, the arresting images of U.S. Navy destroyers launching missiles remain the most vivid exemplar of the Trump administration’s foreign policy in its first six months.

This short-termism was also apparent in the initial enthusiastic response to the Gulf crisis that began on June 5, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and announced a blockade on the country. Trump, eager to claim a win from his trip to the Middle East, tweeted his support for the move. Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to take a more strategic view of the crisis — recognizing the centrality of the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar to the U.S.-led counter-Islamic State campaign — Trump undermined his chief diplomat with bravado, doubling down on his criticism of Qatar and asserting, “If we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.” Unsurprisingly, when the secretary of state attempted a well-publicized diplomatic effort to find a regional solution, U.S. partners refused to participate.

Though well suited to splashy successes — or at least the tweetable impression of them — a tactical-transactional approach blinds the president to the second- and third-order effects of his actions, making sound strategy nearly impossible.

Second, the Trump foreign policy is characterized by a zero-sum worldview: Every win for another country is a loss for the United States, and Washington’s best bet is to out-negotiate both allies and adversaries at every turn. Cooperation, according to the perspective explicitly articulated by top advisors H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, emerges only when narrow self-interests exactly align.

In an illustration of this principle, on his fourth day in office, Trump signed an executive order that withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. He did so after expressing a series of deep misunderstandings about the TPP’s likely impact on jobs and wages, its power over U.S. decision-making, and its inability to deal with Chinese and Japanese currency manipulation. In its place, Trump has promised to “fix” America’s trade relations with all of its trading partners through bilateral deals. “Wait till you see what we’re going to do on trade,” Trump boasted this week to the New York Times, without offering any supporting details (as always). Meanwhile, the TPP, the text of which overwhelmingly reflected American preferences, is now being redrafted without American participation; meanwhile, China is advancing its own trade agenda through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The zero-sum perspective even extends to U.S. allies, which the president views more as competitors than enduring strategic partners. Despite Seoul’s vital role in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis — undoubtedly the national security issue atop Trump’s agenda — the president has threatened to terminate the American bilateral trade agreement with South Korea and tried to renege on the U.S. commitment to pay for the THAAD anti-missile defense system.

By ignoring the multidimensional nature of international politics and denying the value of reciprocity, this relentless unilateralism denies the United States critical cooperative tools in countering threats and seizing opportunities.

Finally, tactical transactionalism is devoid of moral or ethical considerations.

President Trump has demonstrated an intuitive adoration for authoritarian leaders.

President Trump has demonstrated an intuitive adoration for authoritarian leaders. In April, he praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a habitual human rights abuser, for doing a “fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” Later in the month, he called Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to congratulate him, telling the man behind the deaths of thousands of his own citizens: “I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.… Keep up good work. You are doing an amazing job.” Perhaps most dramatically, he called North Korea’s Kim Jong Un a “pretty smart cookie,” whom he would be “honored” to meet.Though it may enhance the unpredictability Trump prizes, a foreign policy unmoored from values results in a foreign policy oriented exclusively — and nihilistically — around pursuit of the “best deal.”

Over the past six months, in the wake of Trump’s cruise missile strikes in Syria and again with soaring speeches in Saudi Arabia and Poland, foreign-policy analysts have attempted to weave the administration’s actions into a coherent strategic doctrine. Senior administration officials are in on the game as well, with various factions vying to impose their strategic vision of “America First” in a bizarre, latter-day Kennan sweepstakes. But for all the op-ed ink that’s been spilled, these attempts are little more than a fool’s errand.

Even if analysts and advisors could impose intellectual coherence on Trump’s constellation of instincts and predilections, tactical transactionalism all but guarantees the inconsistent translation of those preferences into policy.

Even Trump’s well-documented antipathy toward American allies is not a reliable guide to his actual conduct of foreign relations: Despite decades of bashing both Japan and Germany, over the past six months, Trump has embraced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — who cleverly came bearing golden golf clubs to Trump Tower in New York last November — while spurning German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Moreover, the administration lacks the capacity to implement any strategic vision — particularly one that requires the use of non-hard-power tools. Military officials have wisely emphasized that lasting solutions to the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and even Yemen are primarily the responsibility and role of the State Department. But the State Department itself has been gutted and demoralized. The White House’s fiscal year 2018 budget request was a paltry $37.6 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (a 33 percent decrease over the previous budget) and $639 billion for the Department of Defense (representing a 10 percent increase). Tillerson has also refused to fill an unprecedented number of senior diplomatic posts and ambassadorships, claiming that it would be pointless until the State Department had been fully reorganized.

To some extent, the inability of the Trump administration to develop and execute grand strategy has resulted in an astounding degree of continuity with Barack Obama-era foreign policies. Despite Trump’s pronouncement that Obama’s “strategic patience” with North Korea is over, the “peaceful pressure” policy is not discernibly distinct. Similarly, the administration’s still-secret strategy to defeat the Islamic State clearly entails tactical intensification but remains strategically similar to the Obama approach.

While surely desirable in some instances, stability is not necessarily the best response to a dynamic world.

While surely desirable in some instances, stability is not necessarily the best response to a dynamic world.Without a grand strategy, the United States cannot seize the initiative on the world stage and, simply by default, will cede ground to hostile powers, as the effects of a reactive foreign policy accrue exponentially over time. The unpredictability that Trump prizes has already injected uncertainty into America’s alliances, as international partners question whether Washington can be trusted to uphold its security commitments. Around the world, public opinion is turning against the United States, and foreign capitals can be expected to reorient their foreign policies accordingly.Come fall, the administration will likely release a wave of strategy documents, from the overarching National Security Strategy to more specific ones like the Nuclear Posture Review. These documents may provide the fleeting illusion of strategy, but they cannot elide a fundamental truth: So long as Trump’s tactical transactionalism governs the formation of U.S. foreign policy, the United States is condemned to be the object, rather than the agent, of history.

Rebecca Friedman Lissner is a Stanton nuclear security fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Micah Zenko is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

There Is No Trump Doctrine, and There Will Never Be One

Story 2: President Trump Will Sign Sanctions Bill For Russia, North Korea, and Islamic Republic of Iran — Videos

Congress and the Public

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US Senate approves Iran, Russia, North Korea sanctions

Trump will sign bill imposing stiff sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

President Donald Trump said he would sign a series of bills that will impose stiff financial sanctions on Russia.

The announcement comes after Congress this week overwhelmingly approved packages to punish Moscow for allegedly meddling in U.S. elections.

After Congress approved the sanctions, Moscow said it was reducing the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia in retaliation.

In a statement late Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had “reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it.”

The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. It also imposes financial sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Before Trump’s decision to sign the bill into law, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the bill’s passage was long overdue, a jab at Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called Putin a murderer and a thug.

“Over the last eight months what price has Russia paid for attacking our elections?” McCain asked. “Very little.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russia to reduce the number of its diplomats by Sept. 1. Russia will also close down the embassy’s recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

Meanwhile, some European countries expressed concerns that the measures targeting Russia’s energy sector would harm its businesses involved in piping Russian natural gas. Germany’s foreign minister said his country wouldn’t accept the U.S. sanctions against Russia being applied to European companies.

A spokesman for the European Commission said Friday that European officials will be watching the U.S. effort closely, vowing to “remain vigilant.”

The North Korea sanctions are intended to thwart Pyongyang’s ambition for nuclear weapons by cutting off access to the cash the reclusive nation needs to follow through with its plans. The bill prohibits ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports.

Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States, according to the bill.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/07/28/trump-to-sign-bill-levying-sanctions-on-russia-iran-and-north-korea-white-house-says.html

How U.S. Sanctions Are Working (Or Not) in 5 Countries

Jul 31, 2017

Sanctions are back in the news — though if you’re President Donald Trump, that’s not a good thing. Here’s a look at the current state of U.S. sanctions on a few key countries and how they’re faring.

Russia

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a new round of sanctions against Russia, targeting its intelligence, energy, defense, mining and railway industries. The U.S. has had sanctions in place against Russia since the 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, but this latest round also hits Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Sanctions take years to have full effect—in the short term, they’re mainly a shot across the bow (and one to which Putin has already retaliated). But you don’t often see a Republican-led Congress using sanctions as a shot across the bow of a Republican president.

Near-universal support from Congress (the sanctions bill passed the Senate by a 98-2 margin; the House of Representatives went 419-3) undermines Trump’s ability to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia—compromising the traditional power of the president to lead the country’s foreign policy (if Trump wants to try to lift these sanctions, Congress has 30 days to approve or reject this request). The bipartisan bill had been held up by ferocious White House lobbying, but the realization has since set in that the bill will pass, even if Congress has to override a presidential veto. Trump still says that accusations his campaign colluded with the Russian government are “fake news.” Fake or not, concerns about his relations with Russia are beginning to have real impact on policy.

North Korea

While the Russia component of the bill is receiving the lion’s share of media attention, it also ramps up penalties against North Korea (in addition to Iran—see below). The U.S. has kept sanctions on the North Koreans since the Korean War. Not that they’ve done much beyond adding to the misery inside a country where 41 percent of people are undernourished and more than 70 percent depend on food aid. The Kim dynasty remains in power and continues to develop the country’s nuclear program. In fact, U.S. intelligence revised estimates just this week to say that Pyongyang could develop the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the continental US within a year. Some experts believe an ICBM tested on Friday could already put U.S. cities at risk.

But recent North Korea sanctions have also ricocheted on China, North Korea’s primary benefactor and link to the outside world. More than 90 percent of North Korea’s trade volume comes from China, not to mention most of its food and energy. North Korea uses Chinese banks to fund transactions throughout the rest of the world, and recent rounds of sanctions have targeted those Chinese banks and companies. Trump continues to complain that Beijing should place more pressure on the Kim regime; this is one way to add more encouragement. It’s highly unlikely to be enough to change Beijing’s mind though, given Chinese fears of extreme instability on the Korean peninsula.

Iran

Sanctions on Iran, on the other hand, have shown some results, because unlike North Korea, Iran wants a deeper commercial and political engagement with the rest of the world. Cutting off access to global markets and investments, as well as freezing $56 billion in assets, hit the country hard. Iran had hoped that signing the 2015 nuclear deal would breathe new life into its economy by allowing it to return to oil markets, and it has—though not by as much as moderates like President Hassan Rouhani had hoped.

Iran is still being kept in the cold despite the nuclear deal because the U.S. has retained sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missiles program, human rights abuses, and state sponsorship of groups like Hezbollah that Washington considers terrorist organizations. The country’s also being held back by plummeting oil prices: when Iran first signed the 2013 interim deal that would ultimately become the nuclear deal we know today, oil was selling at $111 and Iran was producing about 2.8 million barrels a day. Today, it’s producing nearly 4 millionbarrels daily, but oil is only selling at just over $50. Sometimes, the free market can be crueler than sanctions.

Syria

U.S. sanctions against Syria have been in place since 2004, long before the country descended into civil war. The Bush and Obama administrations accused the Assad regime of supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and undermining the U.S. in neighboring Iraq.

But instituting country-wide sanctions gets harder when the country in question is falling apart. The latest round have been more precisely targeted: following Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilian populations, the U.S. government levied sanctions against 271 Syrian individuals who work for the government agency making chemical weapons in April 2017. Members of Assad’s family saw their U.S. assets frozen in May. A strength of sanctions is that they can be aimed directly at individual sectors and officials, limiting damage to ordinary citizens and creating incentives for more cooperative behavior. But that advantage isn’t worth much when the government in question is already fighting for its life.

Cuba

More than 80 percent of Americans (not to mention a majority of Republicans) supported lifting the Cuban travel embargo back in 2015; 58 percent of Americans favored reestablishing diplomatic relations. Despite that, Trump has rolled back some of those Obama provisions by limiting commerce with Cuban businesses affiliated with the military, which owns almost all of the island’s retail chains and hotels. Trump has also ordered that any American who wants to visit the island for “educational” purposes must do so through a licensed tour group. The embassies in Washington and Havana will remain open.

The U.S. has been sanctioning Cuba in one form or another since the Dwight Eisenhower administration in the late 1950s. John F. Kennedy expanded sanctions further, and they remained in place for more than 50 years until Obama eased many restrictions. Over the decades, Cuba estimates that the U.S. embargo has cost the country nearly $117 billion, yet the island is still governed by Raul Castro following his brother’s death in November.

The lesson of sanctions: context is everything. About 10 years ago, I wrote a book called The J-Curve, where I envisioned all the countries in the world plotted on an X-Y axis.

On the far left of the curve are countries like North Korea and Cuba, whose regimes are stable precisely because they’re closed off from the rest of the world. On the far right of the curve are open countries like Germany and the U.S., whose governments are stable precisely because they engage with the rest of the world. Sanctions generally shift countries further left along the curve; sometimes, if the sanctions are significant enough, they can shift the entire curve downwards for a single country.

Put another way: a government like Syria’s that is fighting for its life will always have bigger problems than sanctions guiding its choices. But when sanctions are imposed on governments that feel safer outside the international system like those in North Korea and Cuba (i.e. on the far left of the J-Curve), the penalties are unlikely to bring about change — especially when they can rely on a deep-pocketed patron. (Cuba has recently opened mainly because the friendly Chavista government in Venezuela seems fated to join the Soviet Union on the ash heap of history.)

A larger country on the left-hand side of the J-curve like Russia is more vulnerable to its own economic shortcomings than to Western sanctions. But pressure on a country like Iran (also on the left side of the J-Curve, but near the dip), one that wants to plug into international commerce but that remains small enough to isolate, has more potential for success.

http://time.com/4875370/sanctions-russia-north-korea-iran-donald-trump/

Russia sanctions bill heads to Trump after Senate approval

 July 27

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted decisively on Thursday to approve a new package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, sending the popular bill to President Donald Trump for his signature after weeks of intense negotiations.Never in doubt, however, was a cornerstone of the legislation that bars Trump from easing or waiving the additional penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees. The provisions were included to assuage concerns among lawmakers that the president’s push for better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin might lead him to relax the penalties without first securing concessions from the Kremlin.The Senate passed the bill, 98-2, two days after the House pushed the measure through by an overwhelming margin, 419-3. Both are veto proof numbers as the White House has wavered on whether the president would sign the measure into law.The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the bill’s passage was long overdue, a jab at Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called Putin a murderer and a thug.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017. The Senate voted decisively to approve a new package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, sending the popular bill to President Donald Trump for his signature after weeks of intense negotiations. The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. McCain said the bill’s passage was long overdue, a jab at Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called Putin a murderer and a thug. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

“Over the last eight months what price has Russia paid for attacking our elections?” McCain asked. “Very little.”

Trump had privately expressed frustration over Congress’ ability to limit or override the power of the president on national security matters, according to Trump administration officials and advisers. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

But faced with heavy bipartisan support for the bill in the House and Senate, the president has little choice but to sign the bill into law. Trump’s communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, suggested earlier Thursday on CNN’s New Day that Trump might veto the bill and “negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said that would be a serious mistake and called Scaramucci’s remark an “off-handed comment.” If Trump rejected the bill, Corker said, Congress would overrule him.

“I cannot imagine anybody is seriously thinking about vetoing this bill,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s not good for any president — and most governors don’t like to veto things that are going to be overridden. It shows a diminishment of their authority. I just don’t think that’s a good way to start off as president.”

Still, signing a bill that penalizes Russia’s election interference would mark a significant shift for Trump. He’s repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. And he’s blasted as a “witch hunt” investigations into the extent of Russia’s interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

The 184-page bill seeks to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

The bill underwent revisions to address concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raised the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

Lawmakers said they also made adjustments so the sanctions on Russia’s energy sector didn’t undercut the ability of U.S. allies in Europe to get access to oil and gas resources outside of Russia.

The North Korea sanctions are intended to thwart Pyongyang’s ambition for nuclear weapons by cutting off access to the cash the reclusive nation needs to follow through with its plans. The bill prohibits ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States, according to the bill.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the sanctions bill.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/russia-sanctions-bill-heads-to-trump-after-senate-approval/2017/07/27/21f0a93c-7324-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html?utm_term=.d85fb5faaa55

Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society.

Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one — a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little? Congress

 

Great deal Quite a lot Some Very little None (vol.) No opinion
% % % % % %
2017 Jun 7-11 6 6 39 44 3 1
2016 Jun 1-5 3 6 35 52 3 *
2015 Jun 2-7 4 4 37 48 5 1
2014 Jun 5-8 4 3 36 50 7 1
2013 Jun 1-4 5 5 37 47 5 1
2012 Jun 7-10 6 7 34 47 5 1
2011 Jun 9-12 6 6 40 44 4 1
2010 Jul 8-11 4 7 37 45 5 2
2009 Jun 14-17 6 11 45 34 4 1
2008 Jun 9-12 6 6 45 38 3 2
2007 Jun 11-14 4 10 46 36 3 1
2006 Jun 1-4 5 14 44 32 3 2
2005 May 23-26 8 14 51 25 1 1
2004 May 21-23 11 19 48 20 1 1
2003 Jun 9-10 10 19 50 19 1 1
2002 Jun 21-23 9 20 53 16 1 1
2001 Jun 8-10 10 16 49 20 2 3
2000 Jun 22-25 7 17 47 24 3 2
1999 Jun 25-27 9 17 51 21 1 1
1998 Jun 5-7 10 18 48 20 2 2
1997 Jul 25-27 9 13 50 24 3 1
1996 May 28-29 6 14 50 26 2 2
1995 Apr 21-24 9 12 48 28 2 1
1994 Mar 25-29 7 11 48 29 0 2
1993 Mar 22-24 8 10 40 35 4 2
1991 Oct 10-13 7 11 43 33 3 3
1991 Feb 28-Mar 3 11 19 44 21 2 3
1990 Aug 16-19 9 15 43 28 2 3
1989 Sep 7-10 13 19 42 21 3 2
1988 Sep 23-26 8 27 45 16 2 2
1987 Jul 10-13
1986 Jul 11-14 10 31 43 12 1 3
1985 May 17-20 9 30 42 15 2 3
1984 Oct 6-10 12 17 40 28 4
1983 Aug 5-8 6 22 42 23 2 5
1981 Nov 20-23 8 21 41 22 6 3
1979 Apr 6-9 11 23 39 23 1 3
1977 Jan 7-10 12 28 34 17 1 7
1975 May 30-Jun 2 14 26 38 18 1 3
1973 May 4-7 15 27 35 11 3 8
(vol.) = Volunteered response; * Less than 0.5%
GALLUP

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx

 

Story 3: Washington War Fever with Neocon Republicans and Progressive Democrats — Masking Incompetency — Videos

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Ron Paul: Dick Cheney Wants War With Russia – Deep State Desperate For WW3

Published on Mar 29, 2017

During a recent episode of The Ron Paul Liberty Report, Dr. Paul called out the recent statement from Dick Cheney that Russia meddling in the U.S. election is an “act of war.”
So the irresponsibly pro destruction viewpoint of warhawk globalists is once again on full display.

Ron Paul: Shadow Government Will Stage False Flags To Bring Trump Into War

Ron Paul – Neo-CONNED!

Elvis Presley Fever 1960

 

Is Donald Trump Morphing Into A Neocon Interventionist?

04/20/2017 07:45 am ET | Updated Apr 20, 2017

Candidate Donald Trump offered a sharp break from his predecessors. He was particularly critical of neoconservatives, who seemed to back war at every turn.

Indeed, he promised not to include in his administration “those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.” And he’s generally kept that commitment, for instance rejecting as deputy secretary of state Elliot Abrams, who said Trump was unfit to be president.

Substantively candidate Trump appeared to offer not so much a philosophy as an inclination. Practical if not exactly Realist, he cared more for consequences than his three immediate predecessors, who had treated wars as moral crusades in Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. In contrast, Trump promised: “unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.”

Yet so far the Trump administration is shaping up as a disappointment for those who hoped for a break from the liberal interventionist/neoconservative synthesis.

The first problem is staffing. In Washington people are policy. The president can speak and tweet, but he needs others to turn ideas into reality and implement his directives. It doesn’t appear that he has any foreign policy realists around him, or anyone with a restrained view of America’s international responsibilities.

Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Herbert McMaster are all serious and talented, and none are neocons. But all seem inclined toward traditional foreign policy approaches and committed to moderating their boss’s unconventional thoughts. Most of the names mentioned for deputy secretary of state have been reliably hawkish—Abrams, John Bolton, the rewired Jon Huntsman.

President Trump appears to be most concerned with issues that have direct domestic impacts, and especially with economic nostrums about which he is most obviously wrong. He’s long been a protectionist (his anti-immigration opinions are of more recent vintage). Yet his views have not changed even as circumstances have. The Chinese once artificially limited the value of the renminbi, but recently have taken the opposite approach. The U.S. is not alone in losing manufacturing jobs, which are disappearing around the world and won’t be coming back. Multilateral trade agreements are rarely perfect, but they are not zero sum games. They usually offer political as well as economic benefits.

The administration’s repudiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was particularly damaging. His decision embarrassed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made important economic concessions to join. More important, Trump has abandoned the economic field to the People’s Republic of China, which is pushing two different accords. Australia, among other U.S. allies, has indicated that it now will deal with Beijing, which gets to set the Pacific trade agenda.

In contrast, on more abstract foreign policy issues President Trump seems ready to treat minor concessions as major victories and move on. For years he criticized America’s Asian and European allies for taking advantage of U.S. defense generosity. In his speech hosted by the Center for the National Interest he complained that “our allies are not paying their fair share.” During the campaign he suggested refusing to honor NATO’s Article 5 commitment and leave countries failing to make sufficient financial contributions to their fate.

Yet Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson have insisted that Washington remains committed to the same alliances incorporating dependence on America. Worse, in his speech to Congress the president took credit for the small uptick in military outlays by European NATO members which actually began in 2015: “based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning” to “meet their financial obligations.” Although he declared with predictable exaggeration that “the money is pouring in,” no one believes that Germany, which will go from 1.19 to 1.22 percent of GDP this year, will nearly double its outlays to hit even the NATO standard of two percent. Yet after recently meeting alliance officials he even repudiated his criticism of NATO as “obsolete.”

President Trump’s signature policy initiative, rapprochement with Russia, appears dead in the water. Unfortunately, the president’s strange personal enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin undercut his desire to accommodate a great power which has no fundamental, irresolvable conflicts with the America. Moreover, President Trump’s attempt to improve relations faces strong ideological opposition from neoconservatives determined to have a new enemy and partisan resistance from liberal Democrats committed to undermining the new administration.

President Trump also appears to have no appointees who share his commitment on this issue. At least Trump’s first National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, wanted better relations with Russia, amid other, more dubious beliefs, but now the president seems alone. In fact, Secretary Tillerson sounded like he was representing the Obama administration when he demanded Moscow’s withdrawal from Crimea, a policy nonstarter. Ambassador-designate Huntsman’s views are unclear, but he will be constrained by the State Department bureaucracy.

The president is heading in an uncertain direction regarding China. How best to handle America’s one potential peer competitor is a matter of serious debate, but even before taking office President Trump launched what appeared to be confrontation on multiple fronts: Taiwan, trade, South China Sea, North Korea. Secretary Tillerson also took a highly adversarial position, suggesting in Senate testimony that the U.S. might blockade the PRC’s claimed Pacific possessions, a casus belli, and “compel,” whatever that means, compliance with sanctions against North Korea. Yet after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping President Trump appeared ready to take a more balanced approach to China. More seasoned Asia experts have yet to be appointed, however.

The Trump policy in the Middle East seems in confused flux. During the campaign he briefly pushed an “even-handed” approach to Israel and the Palestinians, before going all in backing the hardline Likud government’s practical repudiation of a two-state solution and expanded colonization of the West Bank. Since then, however, he, like other presidents before him, has backed away—though perhaps only temporarily—from the promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Moreover, President Trump has emphasized his desire to make a peace deal, which obviously would require concessions on both sides.

The president appears to be stepping into the Syrian and Iraq quagmires despite his election promises to the contrary. He sharply criticized previous policy in the Mideast: “Logic replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which led to one foreign policy disaster after another.” He explicitly denounced interventions in Iraq and Libya, promising to get out “of the nation-building business,” and emphasized the defeat of the Islamic State rather than overthrow of Bashar al-Assad.

Yet the administration launched missile strikes on Syria and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley loudly joined the “oust Assad” bandwagon. The president also proposed creating “safe zones” in Syria, which would require an extensive and potentially long-term U.S. military presence.

The Pentagon introduced a Marine Corps artillery battalion and other forces to assist in capturing the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria. Despite complaining about inadequate burden-sharing principle in the Middle East, President Trump risks encouraging the Gulf States and Turkey to reduce their efforts to defeat the Islamic State. There are reports that the administration is considering an extended military role in Iraq as well.

Finally, the president appears to have reversed himself on Afghanistan. Early in the campaign he said America should end its longest war, which has devolved into a forlorn attempt to create a centralized, liberal democratic state in Central Asia. More recently, however, he indicated he planned to keep U.S. forces there. In December he told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that he “would certainly continue to support Afghanistan security.” There may be no conflict which less advances serious American interests than attempting to sustain an incompetent, corrupt, and failing central government in Kabul.

Where the president stands on other issues is unclear. During the campaign he indicated a willingness to talk with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. But his secretary of state rejected that course, instead threatening military action—backed by an aircraft carrier battle group off of the North’s coast. President Trump’s support for Brexit has roiled relations with Europe, which also worries about his protectionist beliefs—highlighted by his attack on Germany’s alleged currency manipulation—and potentially softer approach to Russia.

Despite being highly critical of the Iran nuclear accord, he has not yet challenged the pact. He appears to be restoring Washington’s uncritical embrace of Saudi Arabia, which will undermine his expressed desire for greater burden-sharing by allies and yield long-term problems in Yemen. He has barely noticed Africa and South America.

It remains early for the Trump administration, and there’s no there there in much of the State and Defense departments, as well as other agencies. The president still could move in a more pragmatic, Realist direction. However, without allies in his administration that prospect seems small. Hopefully the American people, having voted against the promiscuous military intervention of his predecessors, will not end up with more of the same foreign policy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-donald-trump-morphing-into-a-neocon-interventionist_us_58f898dae4b081380af51913

 

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 923, July 5, 2017, Story 1: Chinese Communists Need To Replace North Korean Kim Jung Eng To Stop Nuclear Proliferation Or Face Embargo On All Chinese Goods Going To North America and European Union –Neither Diplomatic Nor Military Options Are Viable — Conventional and Nuclear War Are Not Viable Options — Videos — Story 2: Microsoft’s Founder Bill Gates Finally Gets A Clue — Open Borders Mass Migration Is Not In The Interest of Neither The American People Nor The People of Europe — Bad Ideas Have Negative Consequences — What Is Bill Gates Afraid of? — Videos

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The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts

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 Story 1: Chinese Communists Need To Replace North Korean Kim Jung Eng To Stop Nuclear Proliferation In Asia and Middle East Or Face Embargo On All Chinese Goods Going To North America and European Union –Neither Diplomatic Nor Military Options Are Viable — Conventional and Nuclear War Are Not Viable Options — Videos —

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U.N. Security Council holds emergency meeting after North Korea missile test

How North Korea’s ICBM test has “changed the game”

John Bolton calls for ‘sweeping’ set of sanctions on China

Dr. Sebastian Gorka talks US response to North Korea

A military attack would need to be severe to stop North Korea: Rep. Rooney

US vows to use “military force” against North Korea if needed

Heavy move: US threatens China for trading with North Korea after missile test

THE DEBATE – North Korea Missile Threat: Old problems, new solutions?

U.S. and S. Korea respond to N. Korea’s ICBM test with missiles

North Korea tests ICBM

North Korea launches first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test

  • he current population of China is 1,388,284,755 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • China population is equivalent to 18.47% of the total world population.
  • China ranks number 1 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in China is 148 per Km2 (383 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 9,390,784 Km2 (3,625,800 sq. miles)
  • 59.1 % of the population is urban (819,767,019 people in 2017)
  • The median age in China is 37.3 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/

  • The current population of the Russian Federation is 143,374,281 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • Russia population is equivalent to 1.91% of the total world population.
  • Russia ranks number 9 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in Russia is 9 per Km2 (23 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 16,299,981 Km2 (6,293,455 sq. miles)
  • 73.2 % of the population is urban (104,883,814 people in 2017)
  • The median age in Russia is 38.9 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/russia-population/

 

  • The current population of North Korea is 25,406,349 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • North Korea population is equivalent to 0.34% of the total world population.
  • North Korea ranks number 52 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in North Korea is 211 per Km2 (546 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 120,387 Km2 (46,482 sq. miles)
  • 61.2 % of the population is urban (15,557,359 people in 2017)
  • The median age in North Korea is 34.1 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/north-korea-population/

  • The current population of the Republic of Korea is 50,706,772 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • South Korea population is equivalent to 0.67% of the total world population.
  • South Korea ranks number 27 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in South Korea is 522 per Km2 (1,351 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 97,235 Km2 (37,543 sq. miles)
  • 81.9 % of the population is urban (41,511,797 people in 2017)
  • The median age in South Korea is 41.1 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-korea-population/

  • The current population of Japan is 126,041,849 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • Japan population is equivalent to 1.68% of the total world population.
  • Japan ranks number 11 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in Japan is 346 per Km2 (896 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 364,571 Km2 (140,761 sq. miles)
  • 94.5 % of the population is urban (119,160,931 people in 2017)
  • The median age in Japan is 46.9 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/japan-population/

  • The current population of the United States of America is 326,491,238 as of Wednesday, July 5, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
  • The United States population is equivalent to 4.34% of the total world population.
  • The U.S.A. ranks number 3 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
  • The population density in the United States is 36 per Km2 (92 people per mi2).
  • The total land area is 9,155,898 Km2 (3,535,111 sq. miles)
  • 82.9 % of the population is urban (270,683,202 people in 2017)
  • The median age in the United States is 38.1 years.

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

 

Countries in the world by population (2017)

This list includes both countries and dependent territories. Data based on the latest United Nations Population Division estimates.
Click on the name of the country or dependency for current estimates (live population clock), historical data, and projected figures.
See also: World Population 

http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/

 

The world’s 10 biggest economies in 2017

Kayakers take in the last of the day's light as they paddle past a ship anchored off Cape Town, May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: IMAGES OF THE DAY SOCIETY) - RTR2LVIK

The US dominates, but other economies are catching up
Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The economy of the United States is the largest in the world. At $18 trillion, it represents a quarter share of the global economy (24.3%), according to the latest World Bank figures.

Image: World Bank

China follows, with $11 trillion, or 14.8% of the world economy. Japan is in third place with an economy of $4.4 trillion, which represents almost 6% of the world economy.

European countries take the next three places on the list: Germany in fourth position, with a $3.3 trillion economy; the United Kingdom in fifth with $2.9 trillion; and France in sixth with $2.4 trillion.

India is in seventh place with $2 trillion, and Italy in eighth with an economy of over $1.8 trillion.

Ninth place goes to Brazil, with an almost $1.8 trillion economy.

And in 10th is Canada, with an economy of over $1.5 trillion.

The economy of the United States is larger than the combined economies of numbers three to 10 on the list.

 The world's biggest economies

Fastest-growing economy

The US may not dominate for much longer, however.

Although China trails the US by $7 trillion, it’s catching up. China’s economy grew by 6.7% in 2016, compared with America’s 1.6%, according to the IMF.

China has also overtaken India as the fastest-growing large economy. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook estimated China’s economy grew at 6.7% in 2016, compared with India’s 6.6%.

Brazil’s economy has contracted in the last year by 3.5%, the only one in the top 10 to do so.

The chart above shows the world’s 40 biggest economies individually, but grouped by colour into continents.

The Asian bloc clearly has a larger share than anywhere else, representing just over a third (33.84%) of global GDP. That’s compared to North America, which represents just over a quarter, at 27.95%.

Europe comes third with just over one-fifth of global GDP (21.37%).

Together, these three blocs generate more than four-fifths (83.16%) of the world’s total output.

The biggest economies in 2050

new study by PricewaterhouseCooper says that China will be in first place by 2050, because emerging economies will continue to grow faster than advanced ones.

India will rank second, the US will be third, and fourth place is expected to go to Indonesia.

The UK could be down to 10th place by 2050, while France could be out of the top 10 and Italy out of the top 20 as they are overtaken by faster-growing emerging economies such as Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam.

The report also says that the world economy could more than double in size by 2050, far outstripping population growth, due to technology-driven productivity.

 

 

 

Image result for u.s. trade imbalance with china

Image result for u.s. trade imbalance with china

Image result for u.s. trade imbalance with china

 

Demographics

North Korea South Korea
Population 24,851,627 (July 2014 est.) 49,039,986 (July 2014 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 21.5% (male 2,709,580/female 2,628,456)
15-24 years: 16.3% (male 2,041,861/female 1,997,413)
25-54 years: 44% (male 5,465,889/female 5,456,850)
55-64 years: 8.6% (male 1,007,667/female 1,127,455)
65 years and over: 9.7% (male 826,175/female 1,590,281) (2014 est.)
0-14 years: 14.1% (male 3,603,943/female 3,328,634)
15-24 years: 13.5% (male 3,515,271/female 3,113,257)
25-54 years: 47.3% (male 11,814,872/female 11,360,962)
55-64 years: 12.4% (male 3,012,051/female 3,081,480)
65 years and over: 12.7% (male 2,570,433/female 3,639,083) (2014 est.)
Median age total: 33.4 years
male: 31.8 years
female: 35 years (2014 est.)
total: 40.2 years
male: 38.7 years
female: 41.6 years (2014 est.)
Population growth rate 0.53% (2014 est.) 0.16% (2014 est.)
Birth rate 14.51 births/1,000 population (2014 est.) 8.26 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Death rate 9.18 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.) 6.63 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Net migration rate -0.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.) 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Sex ratio at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.51 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.13 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
Infant mortality rate total: 24.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 27.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
total: 3.93 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.13 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 69.81 years
male: 65.96 years
female: 73.86 years (2014 est.)
total population: 79.8 years
male: 76.67 years
female: 83.13 years (2014 est.)
Total fertility rate 1.98 children born/woman (2014 est.) 1.25 children born/woman (2014 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate NA less than 0.1% (2009 est.)
Nationality noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
noun: Korean(s)
adjective: Korean
Ethnic groups racially homogeneous; there is a small Chinese community and a few ethnic Japanese homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS NA 9,500 (2009 est.)
Religions traditionally Buddhist and Confucianist, some Christian and syncretic Chondogyo (Religion of the Heavenly Way)
note: autonomous religious activities now almost nonexistent; government-sponsored religious groups exist to provide illusion of religious freedom
Christian 31.6% (Protestant 24%, Roman Catholic 7.6%), Buddhist 24.2%, other or unknown 0.9%, none 43.3% (2010 survey)
HIV/AIDS – deaths NA fewer than 500 (2009 est.)
Languages Korean Korean, English (widely taught in junior high and high school)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%
male: 100%
female: 100% (2008 est.)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 99.2%
female: 96.6% (2002)
Education expenditures NA 5% of GDP (2009)
Urbanization urban population: 60.3% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 0.63% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
urban population: 83.2% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 0.71% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Drinking water source improved:
urban: 98.9% of population
rural: 96.9% of population
total: 98.1% of population
unimproved:
urban: 1.1% of population
rural: 3.1% of population
total: 1.9% of population (2012 est.)
improved:
urban: 99.7% of population
rural: 87.9% of population
total: 97.8% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0.3% of population
rural: 12.1% of population
total: 2.2% of population (2012 est.)
Sanitation facility access improved:
urban: 87.9% of population
rural: 72.5% of population
total: 81.8% of population
unimproved:
urban: 12.1% of population
rural: 27.5% of population
total: 18.2% of population (2012 est.)
improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population0% of population
0% of population
0% of population (2012 est.)
Major cities – population PYONGYANG (capital) 2.843 million (2011) SEOUL (capital) 9.736 million; Busan (Pusan) 3.372 million; Incheon (Inch’on) 2.622 million; Daegu (Taegu) 2.447 million; Daejon (Taejon) 1.538 million; Gwangju (Kwangju) 1.503 million (2011)
Maternal mortality rate 81 deaths/100,000 live births (2010) 16 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
Physicians density 3.29 physicians/1,000 population (2003) 2.02 physicians/1,000 population (2010)
Hospital bed density 13.2 beds/1,000 population (2002) 10.3 beds/1,000 population (2009)
Obesity – adult prevalence rate 3.9% (2008) 7.7% (2008)
Contraceptive prevalence rate 68.6% (2002) 80%
note: percent of women aged 15-44 (2009)
Dependency ratios total dependency ratio: 44.9 %
youth dependency ratio: 31.1 %
elderly dependency ratio: 13.8 %
potential support ratio: 7.2 (2014 est.)
total dependency ratio: 37.1 %
youth dependency ratio: 19.9 %
elderly dependency ratio: 17.2 %
potential support ratio: 5.8 (2014 est.)

Source: CIA Factbook

http://www.indexmundi.com/factbook/compare/north-korea.south-korea/demographics

 

 

Story 2: Microsoft’s Founder Bill Gates Finally Gets A Clue — Open Borders Mass Migration Is Not In The Interest of Neither The American People Nor The People of Europe — Bad Ideas Have Negative Consequences — What Is Bill Gates Afraid of? — Videos

Bill Gates Admits Trump Is Right, Warns We Will Be Overrun With Migrants Unless… – Hot News

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Bill Gates in HUGE borders U-turn: ‘Brussels must make it HARDER for migrants to reach EU’

BILL GATES has made a massive open-borders U-turn and urged Brussels to make it more “difficult” for migrants to reach Europe.

By JOEY MILLAR

He had previously called on countries to take in more migrants but now appears to have completely reversed his view.The Microsoft chief said instead of opening the  borders, Brussels should fix the push-factors at the source by sending more foreign aid.He said: “On the one hand you want to demonstrate generosity and take in refugees, but the more generous you are, the more word gets around about this – which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa.
“[ cannot] take in the huge, massive number of people who are wanting to make their way to Europe.”He said instead the EU must make it “more difficult for Africans to reach the continent via the current transit routes” while also relieving “enormous pressure” by sending foreign aid.
The 61-year-old said it was “phenomenal” German Chancellor  is currently spending 0.7 per cent of the country’s GDP on foreign aid and urged others to follow its example.Last year Mr Gates, who is worth an estimated 60 billion pounds, called on America to open its doors to Syrian migrants.
And he said Germany and Sweden were “to be congratulated” for opening its doors during the migrant crisis.He said the USA “had the capacity” to follow suit, claiming: “The total number of refugees is not a world record.”

Bill Gates migrantsGETTY

Bill Gates called on Europe to open its borders to migrants last year

Bill Gates migrantsGETTY

Last year Bill Gates praised Germany and Sweden’s approach to the migrant crisis

Mr Gates’ warnings came days after Italian interior minister Marco Minniti held emergency talks with his French and German counterparts regarding the migrant crisis.More than 80,000 migrants have already arrived in Italy this year, a rise of nearly one-fifth on the same period last year.

 

 

Bill Gates warns that Germany’s open door policy to migrants will overwhelm Europe and urges leaders to ‘make it more difficult for Africans to reach the continent via current routes’

  • Bill Gates warned of ‘huge’ number of migrants waiting to come to Europe 
  • He said generosity of European leaders will only encourage more to come 
  • 61-year-old said Europe must make it more difficult for people to cross border
  • Instead he suggested spending more money on foreign aid to treat the problem

Bill Gates has warned that European leaders risk deepening the migrant crisis by being too generous to those arriving on the continent.

The Microsoft founder said countries such as Germany will not be able to handle the ‘huge’ numbers of migrants waiting to leave Africa and find a better life overseas.

Instead, the 61-year-old suggested spending more on foreign aid to treat the root causes of migration, while making it more difficult for people to reach the continent.

Bill Gates warned European leaders they will worsen the migrant crisis by being over-generous to those arriving on the continent, and suggested spending more on foreign aid instead

Bill Gates warned European leaders they will worsen the migrant crisis by being over-generous to those arriving on the continent, and suggested spending more on foreign aid instead

Mr Gates said countries such as Germany cannot handle the 'huge' numbers of people wanting to travel to Europe (pictured, migrants arrive in Munich)

Mr Gates said countries such as Germany cannot handle the ‘huge’ numbers of people wanting to travel to Europe (pictured, migrants arrive in Munich)

Speaking in an interview with the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper, with a translation published by Breitbart, he said: ‘On the one hand you want to demonstrate generosity and take in refugees.

‘But the more generous you are, the more word gets around about this — which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa.

‘Germany cannot possibly take in the huge number of people who are wanting to make their way to Europe.’

Mr Gates praised Chancellor Merkel’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid as ‘phenomenal’, and asked other European leaders to follow suit.

But he added: ‘Europe must make it more difficult for Africans to reach the continent via the current transit routes.’

His own foundation has spent years and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to fight poverty and disease in Africa.

Mail Online contacted the foundation for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Mrs Merkel has been heavily criticised for her previous policy of open-door migration which saw 1million people arrive in Germany in a single year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticised for her previous policy of open-door migration. Italian interior minister Marco Minniti raised the prospect of closing ports to private ships helping migrants ashore earlier this week

It is thought that 82,000 migrants, largely from North Africa, have arrived in Italy since the start of the year, with 2,000 drowning in their efforts to cross

It is thought that 82,000 migrants, largely from North Africa, have arrived in Italy since the start of the year, with 2,000 drowning in their efforts to cross

Video playing bottom right…

At the time conservative European politicians warned that providing migrants with an open door into Europe would make the problem worse.

Mr Gates’ comments came as Italian interior minister Marco Minniti held emergency talks with his French and German counterparts over the migrant crisis.

Mr Minniti has threatened to close Italian ports to privately-funded vessels helping to rescue migrants from ships in the Mediterranean.

He said that other European nations must agree to shoulder some of the burden, or Italy will cut funding to those refusing to help.

An estimated 82,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, up 19 per cent on previous year, The Telegraph reports.

A German government report which leaked to the Bild newspaper suggests there could be up to 6.6million people trying to get into Europe, including 2.5million waiting to cross from North Africa.

It is thought that 2,000 people have lost their lives making the crossing since the start of the year.

Mr Gates’ comments also came after the G20 Africa Conference which took place in Berlin last month.

The summit aimed to discuss ways to improve economic growth, develop infrastructure, and strengthen private investment across the continent.

Austrian troops lock down border

Austria is sending 750 soldiers to its border with Italy in order to head off and expected influx of migrants.

The troops will join four armoured personnel carriers already stationed at the Alpine Brenner Pass to impose checks on those trying to cross.

The move comes after 82,000 migrants landed on Italian shores in the first six months of this year, and the country’s government demanded that other EU nations share the burden.

Austria is sending 750 troops to its southern border with Italy in order to head off an expected influx of migrants (pictured, riot police face off against protesters over the last time border checks were imposed)

Austria is sending 750 troops to its southern border with Italy in order to head off an expected influx of migrants (pictured, riot police face off against protesters over the last time border checks were imposed)

‘I expect border controls will be introduced very soon,’ Defence Minister Peter Doskozil said on Tuesday.

Both Italy and Austria are members of the European Union’s Schengen open-border zone, but free movement has been jeopardised by the reimposition of controls at many crossings across the bloc since the surge in migrants seen in 2015 and 2016.

There was no immediate comment from Italy or EU officials, but Doskozil’s spokesman said there was no concrete timetable for the new controls.

The spokesman added: ‘We’ll see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.’

Armoured vehicles were used by Austrian authorities during the migrant influx of 2015 to block roads and stem the flow, and would be used in a similar way this time around, authorities said.

Meanwhile the 750 troops would be able to descend on the region within 72 hours should the need arise.

The troops will join four armoured vehicles in the areas around Brenner Pass (pictured) and would be used to block roads and impose checks on arrivals

The troops will join four armoured vehicles in the areas around Brenner Pass (pictured) and would be used to block roads and impose checks on arrivals

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4665198/Bill-Gates-warns-open-door-migration-overwhelm-Europe.html#ixzz4lzmvTBwo

 

Bill Gates: Europe Will Be Overwhelmed Unless It Stems Flow of Migrants

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned that Africa’s population explosion will overwhelm Europe unless the continent makes it more difficult for migrants to reach its shores.

The American billionaire’s comments come as European leaders discuss what to do about the surging number of Africans arriving in Italy each week, with Rome calling for other European Union (EU) nations to open their ports to docking migrants so as to ease pressure on the Mediterranean nation.

In an interview with the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Gates said massive population growth in Africa will result in “enormous [migratory] pressure” on Europe unless countries increase overseas development aid payments.

Praising Germany having achieved its commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid as “phenomenal”, the 61-year-old called on “other European nations to follow its example”.

But Gates also spoke of a dilemma caused by ‘the German attitude to refugees’, referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open Europe’s borders to illegal migrants arriving from the third world.

“On the one hand you want to demonstrate generosity and take in refugees, but the more generous you are, the more word gets around about this  — which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa,” Gates told the Sunday newspaper.

“Germany cannot possibly take in the huge, massive number of people who are wanting to make their way to Europe.”

Because of this, Gates stressed that “Europe must make it more difficult for Africans to reach the continent via the current transit routes”.

Italy is demanding that other EU nations open their ports to migrants ferried from Libya as the country struggles to cope with having already received over 80,000 people this year.

Calling for African newcomers to be spread throughout Europe, the Mediterranean nation’s globalist centre-left government insisted that the EU migrant relocation programme  — which is largely limited to people from Eritrea and Syria  — should be expanded to include other nationalities, such as Nigerians.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Saturday decried an “unfolding tragedy” in Italy.

“Without a swift collective action, we can only expect more tragedies at sea,” he declared, noting that around 2,000 migrants have lost their lives on the sea route from Libya to Italy this year.

The Italian diplomat repeated calls for an “urgent distribution system” for incoming migrants and asylum seekers, and “additional legal pathways to admission”.

 

05 July 2017 – 05H40

Bye-bye locals: Europe’s city centres sound alarm

 © AFP / by Daniel Bosque and Michaela Cancela-Kieffer | Barcelona’s picturesque Gothic Quarter has gone from residential district to tourist magnet, as deserted buildings full of history make way for quaint hotels

BARCELONA (AFP) – Memories of the past come flooding back as Manuel Mourelo strolls through Barcelona’s picturesque Gothic Quarter: children playing, fun with the neighbours, traditional bars… But now, “all of that has disappeared.”

Hordes of tourists fill the narrow, winding alleys on guided tours, bike and Segway rides, while residents have deserted buildings full of history to make way for quaint hotels and tourist rentals — an issue that affects popular spots Europe-wide.

Last year, Mourelo himself joined the exodus out of a district he had lived in since 1962 when he came to the Spanish seaside city from Galicia in the northwest.

The flat he had been renting for 25 years was sold to an investor and he was evicted. Having paid 500 euros ($560) a month in rent, he was unable to find anything else affordable in the area.

“They were asking for 1,000, 1,200, 1,500 euros,” says the 76-year-old, his face framed by thick glasses and a bushy moustache.

“This was my village. I had it all here, my friends, my shops, I got married here, my children were born here, and I thought I would die here.

“I feel displaced,” he adds, his eyes welling up.

– ‘Emptying out’ –

According to the city hall, the fixed population in the Gothic district so loved by tourists has dropped from 27,470 residents in 2006 to just 15,624 at the end of 2015.

Now, 63 percent are “floating” residents — tourists or people in short-term lets.

At the same time, according to real-estate website Idealista, rental prices in Ciutat Vella, where the Gothic Quarter is located, have gone from 14.4 to 19 euros per square metre in just two years.

Rising rental prices, noise and crowds jostling for space in the streets and the disappearance of traditional, everyday stores have all contributed to forcing people out for economic reasons… or due to sheer frustration.

The arrival of Airbnb and other such home-renting platforms has only aggravated the problem, locals say.

“We’re not talking about gentrification, about substituting the original population by another more wealthy one,” says Gala Pin, a councillor in Ciutat Vella.

“We’re talking about the historic centre emptying out.”

For sociologist Daniel Sorando, co-author of “First We Take Manhattan,” an essay that analyses the phenomenon in various cities, the trend is towards “urban centres conceived as machines to make money while the working classes are displaced outside.”

– Paris, Amsterdam, London –

The problem also affects cities further afield.

In Paris, concerned residents of the 4th district, where Notre-Dame Cathedral is located, organised a symposium on the “invisible desertification” of city centres in March.

The city hall in the French capital said earlier this year that it had lost 20,000 housing units in five years, partly to tourist rentals.

This contributes to a “rise in prices” and a “drop in the population,” Ian Brossat, in charge of housing for Paris’ city hall, told AFP.

In Amsterdam, meanwhile, the ING bank found that owners could earn 350 euros more per month with seasonal rentals, pushing the prices up, Senne Janssen, author of the study, told AFP.

To try and remedy the situation, Paris, London and Amsterdam want to regulate the duration of rentals and register all flats and houses being used for short-term lets in order to better control them.

In Berlin, people are only allowed to rent out one room in their home since last year, and the whole flat or house if it is a secondary or occasional use pied-a-terre.

– ‘Too few to impact’ –

Barcelona, whose mayor Ada Colau is a former anti-eviction housing activist, has chosen to be even more strict.

The city hall last year imposed a 600,000-euro fine on home rental platforms Airbnb and HomeAway for marketing lodgings that lacked permits to host tourists.

But Airbnb Spain says housing problems existed before.

In Ciutat Vella, for instance, “there is three times more empty accommodation (that is not being rented out) than accommodation ads on Airbnb,” says Spain spokesman Andreu Castellano.

And research in cities like Berlin, Los Angeles, London and Barcelona into occupancy shows that “the amount of accommodation put online for purely professional use (rented out more than 120 days a year) is too low to have an impact,” Airbnb adds.

– ‘Tourism fast food’ –

Hard data on the impact of seasonal rentals on accommodation prices are few and far between, but all experts questioned by AFP said these could worsen the situation in already saturated areas.

Barcelona has been particularly hard hit by a rise in prices as investors are attracted by the profitability of a city that sees some 30 million visitors annually.

Sergi Leiva, of real-estate firm MK Premium, says half of his clients are foreigners, who are looking for a second home or a good investment.

And for those who hold on tight despite the prices, life is far from peaceful with the crowds, noise and lack of convenience stores.

“If the prices don’t throw you out, daily pressure does,” says Marti Cuso, a 27-year-old local activist in Barcelona.

Raised in the district, he is the only one among his friends to still live there.

For Socorro Perez, an expert in human geography, the outcome is “cities without residents, dead districts.”

“Cities transform into ‘clusters’ of entertainment and consumption, into tourism fast food.”

by Daniel Bosque and Michaela Cancela-Kieffer

 

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The Pronk Pops Show 874, April 16, 2017, Story 1: Turkey Votes To Change From Parliamentary to Presidential System of Government — Erdogan Expands Powers and Control — Moving Toward Dictatorship! — Videos — Story 2: Coalition Against Islamic State in Syria — What is Next: Wrath of Euphrates: The Battle for Raqqa: Isolate and Assault — Take No Prisoners — Videos

Posted on April 17, 2017. Filed under: American History, Blogroll, Bombs, Breaking News, Communications, Constitutional Law, Countries, Cruise Missiles, Culture, Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Drones, Economics, Education, Egypt, Empires, Energy, European History, Federal Government, Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, France, Germany, Government, Government Spending, Great Britain, History, Human, Iraq, Islam, Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic State, Law, Libya, Life, Media, Middle East, MIssiles, National Interest, Natural Gas, Natural Gas, Networking, News, Obama, Oil, Oil, Philosophy, Photos, Politics, President Barack Obama, President Trump, Radio, Raymond Thomas Pronk, Religion, Resources, Rifles, Rule of Law, Russia, Scandals, Syria, Technology, Terror, Terrorism, Trade Policy, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States Constitution, United States of America, Videos, Violence, War, Wealth, Weapons, Weather, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Pronk Pops Show 874: April 17, 2017

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Story 1: Turkey Votes To Change From Parliamentary to Presidential System of Government —  Videos —

Image result for turkey referendum 2017 result 51.4%Image result for cartoons erdogan

Where’s Turkey headed after its referendum? – Inside Story

Turkey Referendum: Erdogan’s new grip on power

Dispute over Turkey’s referendum results continues

Is Turkey Becoming a Dictatorship?: Erdogan Claims Victory in Vote to Give President Sweeping Powers

Turkey’s Choice: Nation deciding on changing political system

The Truth about Turkeys failed Coup (CIA designed Civil War)

Lionel on the Alex Jones Show: Syria False Flags, North Korea Lies, French Elections & Media Lies

The Idiot’s Guide to Turkey, Erdogan and the Phony Coup

Turkish Referendum Erdogan Wins ! | The Millennial Revolt

Published on Apr 16, 2017

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, hailing the result as an “historic decision”. The leader called on the international community to respect the result and discouraged his critics from “belittling” the outcome, saying they “shouldn’t try, it will be in vain”. The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51 per cent per cent of voters had sided with the “Yes” campaign, ushering in the most radical change to the country’s political system in modern time.

But the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would demand a recount of up to 40 per cent of the vote, saying that “illegal acts” occurred during the vote and that there were up to 2.5m “problematic ballots”. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also claimed they had information that voter fraud was implicated in up to four per cent of the ballots. Both parties said they would appeal the results. CLICK LINKS FOR SOURCES

Story 2: Coalition Against Islamic State in Syria — What is Next: Wrath of Euphrates: The Battle for Raqqa: Isolate and Assault  — Take No Prisoners — Videos 

Image result for cartoons islamic state trump bomb the shit Image result for coalition to defeat isis list of 68 countries
Image result for coalition to defeat isis list of 68 countries
Image result for map of raqqaImage result for March 2017 map of syria kurds and islamic state controlledImage result for map of raqqa cityImage result for map of syria islamic state control 2017

Image result for 2017 map of syria kurds and islamic state controlled

Image result for map showing where there are kurds

Image result for map showing where there are kurds

Image result for map showing religous sect by area in syria, iraq, iran, turkey

Image result for map showing religous sect by area in syria, iraq, iran, turkey

Image result for coalition to defeat isis list of 68 countries

US eyes assault on ISIS stronghold

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh talks to Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend near Mosul, Iraq, where coalition forces hope to make a push toward Raqqa, ISIS’ center of control in Syria.

U.S.-Led Coalition Has ‘Made Adjustments’ In Syria To Account For ‘Tensions’

Wrath of Euphrates Op: US troops spotted near Raqqa frontline (EXCLUSIVE)

400 US troops deployed outside ISIS capital Raqqa

Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS

Raqqa Battle Phase 3 outcome

Beginning of a new phase to free Raqqa

Battle for Raqqa. First phase of Wrath of Euphrates Initiative ends successfully.

Published on Nov 12, 2016

12 Nov 2016 Syria. Raqqa.
SDF, YPG, YPJ and International Brigade fighters had began to advance from Siluk and Eyn İsa southwards from two directions on November 5.

The Siluk branch has cleared an area of 30 kms and the Ayn İsa branch has cleared an area of 15 kms from ISIS gangs. Yesterday, the two branches united along the Beliz creek.

After the liberation of Xınıse and the unification of the two branches of fighters, the first phase of the initiative ended successfully.

Civilians flee Raqqa as Syrian forces advance

More U.S. Troops heading to Raqqa, Syria to fight ISIS

18 Allied Fighters Killed In US Led Syria Strike

100s killed following US-led airstrike in Syria

Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’

U.S. military says misdirected airstrike in northern Syria killed 18 allied fighters

U.S.-led Coalition Accidentally Bomb Syrian Allies, Killing 18 | True News

Syria: Kurdish fighters make gains against IS behind enemy lines

Ross Kemp The Fight Against Isis

Turkey and Russia join forces against Islamic State

US Joins Ground Forces with Kurds, Syrian, & Russian Fighters Against ISIS in Syria

Targeting the High Value Terrorists

On The Road To Raqqa – Heavy Clashes Between Kurdish Forces And ISIS During The Battle Of Raqqa

US soldiers help Iraqi troops secure Mosul

Satellite Imagery: The Cutting of Mosul’s Bridges

Satellite Imagery: The Islamic State’s Mosul Defenses

Satellite Images: The Islamic State’s Scorched Earth Tactics

Why Did the Iraq War Start? The Untold Story – Seymour Hersh – Reasons, Justification (2005)

The Breathtaking Incoherence of American Foreign Policy as to North Korea and Syria

‘Defeating ISIS No.1 US goal’: Tillerson at coalition summit coinciding with London attack

Trump Gives Generals More Freedom on ISIS Fight

Pentagon brass take lead on decisions that were made by White House under Obama; ‘I authorize my military,’ Trump says

U.S. Army trainers watch as an Iraqi recruit fires at a military base in Iraq.
U.S. Army trainers watch as an Iraqi recruit fires at a military base in Iraq. PHOTO: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES

U.S. military commanders are stepping up their fight against Islamist extremism as President Donald Trump’s administration urges them to make more battlefield decisions on their own.

As the White House works on a broad strategy, America’s top military commanders are implementing the vision articulated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Decimate Islamic State’s Middle East strongholds and ensure that the militants don’t establish new beachheads in places such as Afghanistan.

“There’s nothing formal, but it is beginning to take shape,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more—and so they are.”

While military commanders complained about White House micromanagement under former President Barack Obama, they are now being told they have more freedom to make decisions without consulting Mr. Trump. Military commanders around the world are being encouraged to stretch the limits of their existing authorities when needed, but to think seriously about the consequences of their decisions.

The more muscular military approach is expanding as the Trump administration debates a comprehensive new strategy to defeat Islamic State. Mr. Mattis has sketched out such a global plan, but the administration has yet to agree on it. While the political debate continues, the military is being encouraged to take more aggressive steps against Islamic extremists around the world.

The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored. Removing the carrot from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, some State Department officials warn, could hamper the pursuit of long-term strategies needed to prevent volatile conflicts from reigniting once the shooting stops.

The new approach was on display this week in Afghanistan, where Gen. John Nicholson, head of the U.S.-led coalition there, decided to use one of the military’s biggest nonnuclear bombs—a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB—to hit a remote Islamic State underground network of tunnels and caves.

Gen. Nicholson said Friday it was too early to say how many militants had been killed in the previous day’s bombing. The Afghan Defense Ministry retracted an earlier statement that the strike had killed 36 militants, saying it was unable to provide precise figures yet.

A military official for the coalition who viewed footage of the bombing said it was difficult to make out details of its effects beyond a “mushroom cloud” of smoke rising into the sky. He added that a second MOAB was available for use in the country, but no decision had been made on whether it should be deployed.

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency posted a statement on Friday saying none of its fighters were killed or wounded in the strike, which took place in Nangarhar province, along the country’s mountainous border with Pakistan.

Gen. Nicholson indicated that he—not the White House—decided to drop the bomb. “The ammunition we used last night is designed to destroy caves and tunnels. This was the right weapon against the right target,” he told reporters Friday. “I am fortunate that my chain of command allows me the latitude to make assessments on the ground.”

A senior administration official said Mr. Trump didn’t know about the weapon’s use until it had been dropped.

Mr. Mattis “is telling them, ‘It’s not the same as it was, you don’t have to ask us before you drop a MOAB,’” the senior defense official said. “Technically there’s no piece of paper that says you have to ask the president to drop a MOAB. But last year this time, the way [things were] meant, ‘I’m going to drop a MOAB, better let the White House know.’”

Indeed, on Thursday Mr. Trump himself emphasized the free rein he gives the Pentagon. “I authorize my military,” Mr. Trump said. “We have given them total authorization.”

On Friday, the U.S. military said it has sent dozens of soldiers to Somalia, where Mr. Trump recently gave the head of the U.S. Africa Command more leeway to carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in the area.

The more aggressive military approach comes as the long slog against Islamic State is bearing fruit. The group is on the back foot in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, and is facing a hard battle to defend its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.

The U.S. has sent more forces into Iraq and Syria, stepped up support for Saudi Arabia’s fight against Houthi militants in Yemen, and dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula amid growing evidence that North Korea is preparing for a new nuclear test.

Loren DeJonge Schulman, who served as senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, said a more assertive military campaign is destined to fail unless it is part of a broader strategy against Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

“It’s crazy that the Trump administration thinks that ‘taking the gloves off’ is either a winning strategy against ISIL or a useful narrative for the White House or the military,” said Ms. Schulman, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said giving the Pentagon more freedom is one of the most significant things Mr. Trump has done.

“It’s not clear to me that he’s making any tough decisions,” said Mr. Chollet, now executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “All that he’s essentially done is ceded decision authority down to protect himself from making tough calls.”

The flip side of the Trump administration’s emphasis on a more-free-wheeling military approach to Islamic State is an apparent reduction of the use of soft-power tools—economic development, diplomacy and democracy-building—favored by the Obama White House.

Some State Department officials describe being cut out from the White House’s counterterrorism strategy in the Mideast, with efforts to nurture democratic governments and push for more secular education systems carrying less weight in the White House’s evolving approach.

“State is being systematically sidelined,” said a State Department official who has worked on counterterrorism issues in Washington and abroad.

The official said the White House strategy of prioritizing military might over diplomacy makes it hard to persuade Mideast allies to relax their grip on power. Many of Washington’s closest Arab allies are autocratic regimes guilty of human-rights abuses that critics say fuel terrorism.

“The problem there is that in many of the places where you need carrots, those carrots are often seen as threats to local governments,” the official said, referring to democracy and society-building programs the State Department funds across the Mideast.

Egypt offers a prime example of the Trump administration’s leanings. When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a military strongman, visited the White House earlier this month, Mr. Trump gave him a warm welcome. Mr. Obama had refused to meet him because of his regime’s alleged human-rights abuses.

U.S. officials in the Mideast say a counterterror approach that focuses solely on military might without programs to fight the causes that feed extremism could backfire, leading groups like Islamic State to go underground and wait for future opportunities to re-emerge. They are particularly concerned about Raqqa, where a U.S.-led military coalition is closing in around the city but post-liberation stabilization plans aren’t finalized as State Department officials wait for White House guidance.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com and Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@wsj.com

Appeared in the Apr. 15, 2017, print edition as ‘Military Takes Lead on ISIS.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-gives-generals-free-rein-on-isis-fight-1492218994

Raqqa campaign (2016–present)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Raqqa offensive (2016–present))
Raqqa campaign (2016–present)
Part of the Syrian Civil War,
the Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present), and
the American-led intervention in Syria
Northern Raqqa Offensive (November 2016).svgBattle of Raqqa2.svg
Top: Map showing the SDF advances; Bottom: A map of the situation in Raqqa itself
Date 6 November 2016 – present
(5 months, 1 week and 4 days)
Location Raqqa Governorate, Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria
35.9500°N 39.0167°ECoordinates: 35.9500°N 39.0167°E
Status Ongoing

  • The SDF captures more than 236 villages, hamlets and strategic hills, two water and power stations,[10][11] Al-Tabqa Airbase,[12][13]and reportedly Tabqa Dam[14][15][16]
  • The SDF, after latest advances, are now at a distance of 5 km from the ISIL capital city of Ar-Raqqah[17]
  • The SDF and allies cut off all main roads out of Raqqa (minus Baath Dam)[18]
Territorial
changes
The SDF capture more than 7,400 square kilometres (2,900 sq mi) of territory from ISIL during the first, second and third phases of the campaign[19][20]
Belligerents
Syrian Democratic Forces
Self Defence Forces (HXP)[1]
Leftist/Anarchist volunteers[a]
CJTF–OIR

 Iraqi Kurdistan[8]


 Russia[9] Islamic State of Iraq and the LevantCommanders and leadersRojda Felat[21]
(leading YPJ commander)[22][23]
Kino Gabriel[24]
(MFS commander)
Syrian opposition Fayad Ghanim[25]
(Raqqa Hawks Brigade commander)
Abu Issa
(Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa chief commander)
Syrian oppositionMuhedi Jayila[26]
(Elite Forces commander)
Bandar al-Humaydi[24]
(Al-Sanadid Forces military chief commander)
Siyamend Welat[27]
(HXP chief commander)
United States Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend
(CJTF–OIR chief commander)

For other anti-ISIL commanders, see order of battleIslamic State of Iraq and the LevantAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi(WIA)[28][29]
(Leader of ISIL)
Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti[30]
(leading ISIL commander for Raqqa defenses, c. 11–26 December)[31]
Abu Saraqeb al-Maghribi[32]
(Head of security in Al-Thawrah)
Abu Jandal al-Masri[32]
(Chief of Information in Raqqa)
Abu Muhammad al-Jazrawi[32]
(Chief of Al-Hisba secret police)
Mahmoud al-Isawi[33]
(ISIL proganganda chief)
Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi [34]
(ISIL commander of Middle Eastexternal networks)
Zainuri Kamaruddin[35]
(Katibah Nusantara commander)
Abu Luqman[36]
(ISIL governor of Raqqa)

For other ISIL commanders, see order of battleUnits involvedSee anti-ISIL forces order of battleSee ISIL order of battleStrength

30,000–40,000 SDF fighters[37][38][39](70% Arab acc. to the SDF)[40]

500 HXP soldiers[1]
United States 900 American special forces,[51][52][53] 1 artillery battery[54]


Russia Several Tupolev Tu-95 bombers[9]

10,000–20,000+ fighters[55][56][57][58][59](estimate by Western SDF volunteers & some experts)

Unknown number of UAVs (drones)[64]

Casualties and losses

235+ killed[65][66][67][c]

1 killed[71]
United States 1 killed[72]


232+ killed, 30+ wounded, 15 armored vehicles lost (ISIL claim)[73][74][31]

2,098+ killed and 20 captured (SDF and US claim)[75]95 civilians killed[76][77]
14,000+ displaced[78][79][80]

The Raqqa campaign[81] (codenamed Operation Wrath of Euphrates), is an ongoing military operation launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Raqqa Governorate, with the goal of isolating and eventually capturing the Islamic State’s capital city, Raqqa. Another one of the main goals is to capture the Tabqa Dam, the nearby city of Al-Thawrah,[82] and the Baath Dam further downstream.[83] The offensive has also been dubbed the Battle to End All Battles in the War on ISIL.[84]

The offensive is concurrent with the Battle of al-Bab in the Aleppo governorate, the Battle of Mosul in Iraq, the Battle of Sirte (2016) in Libya, the Palmyra offensive (2017), and a reignition of fighting in Deir ez-Zor’s siege.

Background

In late October 2016, the United States Secretary of DefenseAsh Carter called for an offensive on Raqqa to take place concurrent with the Battle of Mosul in Iraq. He stated that the US was cooperating with its allies in order to launch an “isolation operation” around Raqqa. On 26 October, the President of TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdoğan called the President of the United StatesBarack Obama and stated that he did not want the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to participate in the planned operation, and instead planned to involve the Turkish Armed Forces. The United Kingdom‘s Secretary of State for DefenceMichael Fallon rejected the idea of non-Arab forces taking part in the offensive and demanded a purely Arab force.[85]

On the same day, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend stressed that the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces was the only armed group capable of capturing Raqqa in the near future. Fewer US-led coalition troops were to be involved than in the Battle of Mosul.[86] On 3 November, the commander of the Seljuk Brigade and SDF spokesman Col. Talal Silo rejected the participation of Turkey in the operation.[87]

After the start of the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) in Iraq, many of the 20,000 ISIL fighters estimated to be living in the city[88] fled to Raqqa, boosting the ISIL forces that were already present in their de facto capital city.[89]

Announcement

The SDF officially announced the start of the operation on 6 November in the village of Ayn Issa.[90] The intention was to proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqqa and isolating the city, advancing from three fronts, then taking control of the city itself.[91] The SDF general command called for the international coalition against ISIL to support the operation.[92] In response, Ash Carter welcomed the announcement and emphasized the importance of capturing Raqqa and defeating ISIL, while cautioning that “there is hard work ahead”.[93]

The offensive

Phase One: Isolating Raqqa from its northern hinterland[edit]

Tal Saman, ISIL headquarters in the northern Raqqa countryside, after being captured by the SDF.

On 6 November, the SDF captured six small villages,[37] including the villages of Wahid, Umm Safa, Wasita, Haran, al-Adriyah and Jurah south and southeast of Ayn Issa.[94] The Islamic State detonated four car bombs on the first day of the offensive.[95]

On 8 November, the SDF reported that they had taken control of 11 villages near Ain Issa. The SDF also claimed that ISIL used several car bombs against their forces.[96] By 11 November, the SDF had captured over a dozen villages and the strategically significant town of Al-Hisbah, which had served as a local headquarters and command center for ISIL.[97] On the next day, the SDF continued to advance against ISIL in the area around Tal Saman and Khnez, bringing the number of captured farms and villages to 26.[98]

As of 14 November, the SDF reported the completion of the initial phase of the operations, stating that 500 km2has been captured: 34 villages, 31 hamlets and seven strategic hills, along with 167 Islamic State casualties.[24]The SDF had also begun to besiege Tal Saman, the largest village and ISIL headquarters north of Raqqa,[99] while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Salok in the eastern countryside of Raqqa Governorate in order to force the SDF to split its forces and open a new front.[100] On the next day, the SDF advanced into Tal Saman, resulting in a fierce battle with its ISIL defenders.[101] At the same time, the SDF also captured 10 more villages and farms.[102][103] By 19 November, the SDF had fully captured Tal Saman and had driven ISIL completely from the surrounding countryside.[104][105] With this, the first phase of the offensive was considered completed.[106]On 20 November 2016, 200 fighters completed training, joined the SDF, and were sent to participate in the offensive.[107]

Stalemate and preparation for the second phase

A United States Air Force airstrike on an ISIL position to the north of Raqqa

The second phase of the offensive aimed to enforce a full blockade of the city of Raqqa.[106] On 21 November, the SDF captured two more villages,[108] while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Tal Saman.[109] Over the next days, the SDF attempted to further advance, such as at al-Qalita,[110] but was unable to break through ISIL’s defense line south of Tal Saman.[111] On 24 November, a US serviceman died from wounds he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device near the town of Ayn Issa, to the north of Raqqa.[112]

On 25 November, ISIL received reinforcements from Iraq, among them explosive experts and defected Iraqi Army personnel.[113] On the next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack, retaking parts of Qaltah village and a nearby water pump station, while the SDF managed to advance in the village’s vicinity.[114][115] Boubaker Al-Hakim, an ISIL commander who was linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, was reported to have been killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa on 26 November.[116][117] Iraqi military however later stated in April 2017 that he might still be alive.[118]

On 27 November, the SDF announced the offensive’s second phase was due to start,[119] though this was then delayed. At least five SDF fighters were killed in renewed clashes north of Raqqa on 29 November.[120] Meanwhile, ISIL suffered from the defection of two senior commanders, who fled from Raqqa to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Idlib.[121] On 4 December, a coalition drone strike in Raqqa killed two ISIL leaders who had helped facilitate the November 2015 Paris attacks and another who was involved in a foiled suicide attack in Belgium in 2015.[116][122] Three days later, co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim said that the first phase to surround Raqqa was almost over, while a new Arab brigade consisting of more than 1,000 men and women from the al-Raqqa area had joined the SDF as part of the second phase which was slated to be launched on 10 December.[123] More than 1,500 Arab fighters who were trained and equipped by the anti-ISIL coalition joined the SDF for the second phase on its launch day.[124]

Phase Two: Isolating Raqqa from its western countryside

Initial advances[edit]

SDF fighters advance northwest of Raqqa after the start of the offensive’s second phase.

The SDF launched the second phase on 10 December, with the aim of capturing the northwestern and western countrysides of al-Raqqa and ultimately reaching and securing the Tabqa Dam. The same day, it was announced that Arab SDF groups, consisting of the Elite Forces, Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa and the newly formed Deir Ezzor Military Council would be taking part. During the first day, the SDF began to advance south of the Tishrin Dam and captured al-Kiradi village.[125][126] The United States announced that it would send 200 more troops to assist the SDF.[51] The next day, the SDF captured seven more villages from ISIL.[127][128] On 12 December, the SDF captured four villages as well as many hamlets south of Tishrin Dam.[129][130][128] The SDF captured five villages during the next two days.[131][132][133] On 15 December, the SDF captured three villages, taking the total number of villages captured by them in the second phase to 20.[134]

Over the next four days, the SDF captured 20 more villages, while finally reaching Lake Assad‘s shore, thereby cutting off and besieging 54 ISIL-held villages to the west. In response to these territorial losses, ISIL began to carry out more suicide attacks against both the SDF as well as civilian targets within SDF-controlled areas in an attempt to hinder the offensive.[135][136][137][138][139] On 19 December, ISIL launched a counter-attack to regain four villages in the northwestern countryside,[140] but the attack was repelled after a few hours.[141] The following night, ISIL forces retreated largely unopposed from the besieged 54 villages, leaving them to be captured by the SDF.[142][143] The SDF declared that they had captured 97 villages overall during the second phase, and had begun to advance against Qal’at Ja’bar.[144]

Battle of Jabar

Killed ISIL fighters near Mahmudli.

On 21 December, the SDF seized five villages near Qal’at Ja’bar, including Jabar,[143] which served as the main weaponry storage and supply centre for ISIL in the northwestern countryside.[145] The coalition then began to move toward Suwaydiya Saghirah and Suwaydiya Kabir, the last villages before Tabqa Dam.[143][146][147] Even though an ISIL counter-attack managed to retake Jabar village soon after,[148] the SDF attacked again on 23 December, and once again took control of it, while also capturing another village.[149][150] This prompted ISIL to launch yet another counter-attack later that day, which was accompanied by several suicide car bombs.[151][152][153] As a result, heavy clashes took place between them and SDF fighters in several villages along the frontline that lasted until the early morning of 24 December. The ISIL forces were eventually forced to withdraw after the SDF first shelled and then stormed their positions, whereupon the latter took control of most of Jabar as well as two more villages,[154][155][156] though some ISIL holdouts persisted in Jabar.[145]

ISIL was pushed out of the neighboring, strategic village of Eastern Jabar on the next day, bringing SDF within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of Tabqa Dam,[157][158] and by 26 December, the SDF had finally fully secured the main Jabar village, with the last ISIL defenders being expelled after heavy fighting.[145] An ISIL counterattack on the village later that day failed,[31][159] with a US airstrike killing Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti as he commanded the assault. Al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdulmuhsin al-Zaghelan al-Tarish, was a high-ranking ISIL commander leading the defense of the whole Raqqa region against the SDF.[31][30] Meanwhile, the Amaq News Agency declared that Iman Na’im Tandil (nom de guerre: Abu ‘Umar Al-Hindi), one of the few Indian ISIL fighters active in Syria, had also been killed during the fighting near Jabar. The Islamic State’s official media wing later also officially paid tribute to Iman.[160]

Battle for Jabar’s surroundings

A YPGBMP, loaded on a truck, being transported to the frontline near Mahmudli on 4 January.

On 27 December, ISIL launched an attack on the village of Secol in the northern countryside, reportedly breaching the local SDF defences.[161] On the next day, the SDF reportedly captured Hadaj village after two days of heavy fighting, while another ISIL counter-attack against Jabar was repelled.[162] Mahmud al-Isawi, a senior ISIL facilitator who was a manager of instructions and finances for the group’s leaders as well as a provider of propaganda and intelligence support, was killed on 31 December in a US-led coalition airstrike on Raqqa.[163] After three days of heavy fighting, the SDF captured all or most of Mahmudli, the largest town of the Al-Jarniyah Subdistrict, on 1 January 2017. ISIL counterattacked later in an attempt to regain the town.[164][165] The SDF leadership said that in the clashes since the launch of the second phase they had captured 110 villages, killed 277 ISIL fighters, and captured 13.[166]

Also on January 1, the SDF resumed its offensive on the northern front, reportedly advancing 6 km south of Tell Saman against ISIL positions.[11][167] The SDF reportedly captured nine more villages in this area, within the next three days.[168][169][170][171][172] Meanwhile, with the SDF edging closer to Raqqa, ISIL further restricted Internet access and increased surveillance over Internet users in Raqqa. There were harsh punishments for accessing anti-ISIL websites, with a new special unit within the ISIL’s security office searching for offenders. Several online activists in Raqqa were captured and tortured or executed.[173] Another two villages and hamlets were captured by the SDF on 5 January.[174]

SDF fighters examine Qal’at Ja’bar. ISIL had built tunnels and weapons depots into the medieval castle.[175]

The SDF captured Qal’at Ja’bar (Ja’bar Castle) from ISIL on 6 January.[176][177] The same day, ISIL was reported to have moved its 150 prisoners from Tabqa city due to the offensive.[178] The SDF later captured eight villages and five hamlets at the Ayn Issa front.[179] On 7 January, the SDF captured five villages including the strategic Suwaydiya Gharbi[180][181] and Suwaydiya Saghirah, reaching the outskirts of Tabqa Dam.[182] ISIL reportedly recaptured Suwaydiya Saghirah by the next day after a counterattack, while a local leader of the group was killed in clashes.[183] Meanwhile, ISIL was reported to have withdrawn 150 of its fighters towards Raqqa city.[184]

On 8 January 2017, US special forces raided the village of Al-Kubar, between Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor, killing at least 25 ISIL militants in the two-hour operation.[185] It was believed that the goal of the US may have been to rescue hostages from an ISIL secret prison in the village. After the raid, ISIL forces cut off access to the village.[185]

On 9 January, the SDF captured another village, along with three hamlets.[186]

On 10 January, ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack at the Jabar frontline and reportedly recaptured several sites;[187] with pro-Free Syrian Army sources claiming Qal’at Ja’bar and the village of Jabar were among these.[188] ISIL consequently released photos of dead SDF fighters, while claiming that over 70 of them had been killed in the counter-attack.[189] However, the SDF was reported to still be in control of Jabar village and Qalat Jabar a few days later.[190][191]

An ISIL attack on Jib Shair village, trying to resist SDF advances from the north, was repelled on the next day, after which the SDF advanced and captured six hamlets around it.[192] The SDF later announced that their forces advancing from the Ayn Issa front and on the Qadiriya front linked up in Kurmanju village after capturing several villages over the past few days,[193] besieging a large pocket of about 45 villages and 20 hamlets.[194] All of them were captured by the next day, resulting in the alliance gaining about 460 square kilometres (180 sq mi) of land.[195] Another village was captured by the SDF on 13 January.[196][197] On 15 January, the SDF progressed to Suwaydiya Kabir village,[198] while ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack against Mahmudli and a nearby village, resulting in clashes within these settlements.[199] The attack was repelled after several hours of fighting.[200] The SDF captured three villages during the day,[201] while Suwaydiya Saghirah was also reported to be under its control again.[202] On 17 January 2017, 28 Arab tribes from Raqqa announced their support for the offensive and encouraged locals to join the SDF.[203][204]

The SDF attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on the next day, leading to heavy clashes in the village.[205] Meanwhile, it was announced that about 2,500 local fighters had joined the offensive since it began.[206] On 19 January, ISIL launched a counter-attack against Suwaydiya Saghirah, supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, killing or wounding several YPG fighters.[207][208] Despite this, the SDF made further progress on the next day, capturing a village and advancing against many other ISIL-held villages.[209] The SDF again attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on 20 January, reaching the outskirts of the village, and captured it on 22 January after heavy clashes, with the support of U.S. special forces.[210][211]

Tabqa Dam raid and further SDF advances in the north

The Tabqa Dam in 2014.

In late January 2017, it was reported that a number of ISIL militants were hiding inside the structure of the Tabqa Dam, including senior militant leaders who used to be “very important prisoners” wanted by the US and several other countries, in order to deter a possible US-led coalition strike on them.[212]

On 23 January, the SDF began to advance on the Tabqa Dam, spurring ISIL to open its turbines to raise the Euphrates River’s water levels. This was seen as an attempt to hinder the progress of the Kurdish-led forces and a scare tactic,[213] and caused the water level of the Euphrates to rise to its highest level in 20 years, leading to record flooding downstream.[84] Coinciding with this, pro-SDF sources reported that US special forces and SDF units had launched a raid against Al-Thawrah across the river.[214] By 24 January, SDF forces had managed to capture parts of the town, and SDF forces on the dam began working towards the Tabqa Dam’s control rooms, at the southern part of the dam, in an attempt to stop the massive outflow of water released by ISIL. However, the entrance to the dam’s control rooms was too well defended, and with the continued threat of disastrous flooding downstream, SDF and the US forces withdrew from both the Tabqa Dam and the town of Al-Thawrah, after which ISIL closed the dam’s turbines again.[84]

Over the next three days, ISIL repeatedly launched fierce counter-attacks against SDF positions in the western and northern countryside.[215][216][217] ISIL managed to retake ground in the area around the dam,[218] but the attack was later repelled.[219]

Preparation for the third phase

An SDF IAG Guardian armoured personnel carrier in February 2017, one of several APCs that were supplied by the United States to the SDF.

On 31 January 2017, the SDF received a number of armoured personnel carriers supplied by the US. The SDF spokesman stated that preparations for a new phase of the operation were continuing and the operation would begin in “a few days”.[220] Meanwhile, the leader of the SDF-aligned Syria’s Tomorrow Movement and its paramilitary wing, Ahmad Jarba, announced that 3,000 Arab fighters under his command were training with US special forces to be deployed in the battle for Raqqa against ISIL.[45]

On the night of 2–3 February, intense CJTF–OIR airstrikes targeted several bridges in or near Raqqa city, destroying them as well as the local water pipelines, leaving the city without drinking water. Meanwhile, the SDF advanced against the village of Qaltah in the northern countryside,[221] which the coalition had already unsuccessfully attacked in November.[114] ISIL maintenance crews managed to fix the pipelines during 3 February, restoring Raqqa’s water supply.[222][223] On 3 February, 251 Arab fighters in Hasaka completed their training and joined the SDF.[224]

Phase Three: Isolating Raqqa from its eastern countryside

Pressing south[edit]

YPG and YPJ fighters in combat.

On 4 February, the SDF announced the offensive’s third phase, aiming at capturing Raqqa’s eastern countryside, and to separate Raqqa city from ISIL forces in Deir ez-Zor, though operations in the west and north would continue simultaneously.[225] The SDF captured a village and three hamlets to the northeast of Raqqa later that day, with clashes being reported at al-Qaltah and Bir Said, while 750 Arabs completed training and joined the SDF.[226][227] On the next day, the Kurdish-led forces captured another two villages along with a hamlet and two farms, and besieged Bir Said,[228][229] while especially intense airstrikes hit several ISIL targets in Al-Thawrah.[230] Bir Said, along with another village, was eventually captured by the SDF on 6 February.[231][232][233] In addition to these villages, the SDF also captured another five villages on two fronts.[234] The SDF made further progress, capturing three more villages on 7 February.[235] In early February 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes destroyed much of the Deir ez-Zor-Raqqa highway, reducing it to a single-file gravel road in some spots, with the SDF patrolling other areas with minefields, in order to prevent ISIL from reinforcing Raqqa city.[84] By this point, almost all of the five bridges leading to Raqqa had been destroyed either by the US-led coalition or by ISIL, with the only exceptions being the Tabqa Dam and the Baath Dam, both west of Raqqa city.[236]

As these advances continued, ISIL responded by launching several unsuccessful counter-attacks against Suwaydiya Kabir and other strategic territories captured by the SDF.[237][238] On 8 and 9 February, the SDF advanced at the northern and northeastern frontline, capturing several villages and besieging Mizella, a major strategic ISIL stronghold in the northern countryside. The advance put them within 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of Raqqa.[239][240][241][242][243] The SDF captured Mizella the next day.[40][244] The two fronts of the alliance converged on 11 February as it also captured two villages and wheat silos to the north of Raqqa during the day;[245][246] the next day, the SDF attempted to cross the Balikh River northeast of Raqqa, leading to heavy fighting with local ISIL defenders.[247] On 12 February, a large-scale counter-attack by ISIL reportedly succeeded in retaking Suwaydiya Kabir and four other nearby villages.[248][249] However, pro-YPG sources denied these reports.[250] Another counterattack was carried out by ISIL to the northeast of Raqqa where the SDF had advanced to, leading to heavy clashes between both sides.[251] Clashes continued over the next few days.[252] On 16 February, 165 more SDF fighters completed training and joined the offensive.[253]

Capturing the eastern countryside

A destroyed bridge over the Euphrates in Deir ez-Zor Governorate. As result of the CJTF–OIR bombing campaign, as well as ISIL detonations, most bridges across the river were destroyed.

On 17 February 2017, the SDF announced the launch of the second stage of the third phase, aimed at capturing the eastern countryside of Raqqa near Deir ez-Zor, with the Deir Ezzor Military Council leading the operation.[254] On the same day the SDF captured two villages from ISIL to the north of Deir ez-Zor and came within 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of the northeast of Raqqa,[255] while the Russian Air Force conducted airstrikes on ISIL forces in Raqqa city for the second time since its entry into the war.[9] The next day, the SDF captured another village to the southwest of the Makman front (north of Deir ez-Zor) as well as another near Raqqa.[256][257] On 18 February, the SDF stormed a prison a few kilometres northeast of Raqqa, freeing some of the inmates.[258] They later captured three villages in Deir ez-Zor’s northern countryside.[259] On the next day, the SDF captured five villages to the east of Raqqa.[260] On 20 February, they captured four villages on the Makmen front, including the strategic village of Sebah al-Xêr as well as a base station of Syriatel, thus cutting off the road between Makman and Raqqa and besieging three ISIL-held villages. Furthermore, the SDF took control of a significant bridge over the Balikh River on the western front.[261][262][263][264][265][266]

On 21 February, the SDF captured two villages on the Makman front and another one near Raqqa.[267][268][269] ISIL later again assaulted Suwaydiya Kabir, attacking it from three fronts, leading to heavy fighting around it.[270] The SDF continued advancing in the eastern countryside of Raqqa on 22 February, capturing three villages, and merging the two fronts at Makman and Bir Hebe. A YPJ commander declared that the SDF had cut the road to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.[271][272][273] The SDF stated that it had entered Deir ez-Zor Governorate for the first time in the offensive.[274] On the next day, they captured six villages and sixteen hamlets.[275]

Opening of a new front

On 24 February, the SDF captured four villages in the Makman front and another three in a fourth front to the northeast of Deir ez-Zor.[276][277] They captured the strategic Abu Khashab village later that day.[278] On 25 February, they captured another three villages on the fourth front.[279][280]

On 26 February, a US airstrike near Tabqa Dam destroyed a former government facility which was being used as a headquarters by ISIL. The airstrike’s vicinity to the dam’s structure led to fears that the dam could potentially be destabilized or destroyed during the fighting.[280] Later that day, it was reported that the SDF had captured the village of Al-Kubar, on the northern bank of the Euphrates in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, further tightening the siege on Raqqa.[281] On 28 February, it was reported that the US-led coalition had completely destroyed the Tabqa Airbase in an airstrike.[282]

On 27 February, the plan that the Pentagon submitted to US President Trump to significantly speed up the fight against ISIL included a significant increase in US participation in the Raqqa campaign, with the possibility of the US increasing its ground presence on the Raqqa front to 4,000–5,000 troops.[283]

Advance to the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway

YPG/SDF fighters on the bank of the Euphrates east of Raqqa.

The offensive resumed on 5 March, with the SDF capturing at least seven villages and 15 hamlets to the northeast of the Euphrates River, east of Raqqa. The offensive had previously been paused due to bad weather, according to the SDF.[284][285][286] The area captured by SDF forces on that day was about 19 square kilometers, and about 32 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes.[287] After further advances on 6 March, the SDF cut the highway between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, which was the last road out of the city,[288][18] and reached the Euphrates River.[289] The SDF captured six villages, the Al-Kubar Military Base (a former nuclear facility), and the Zalabiye Bridge, during the day.[290][291] On 8 March, the SDF took control of the strategic West Menxer hill in the eastern countryside,[292] while elements of the US 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed to northern Syria, bringing with them an artillery battery of M777 howitzers to support the attack on Raqqa.[54] Meanwhile, about 150 ISIL militants from Hama and Deir-ez Zor managed to reinforce Raqqa, by crossing the Euphrates, despite the partial siege that had been imposed by the SDF on the city.[293]

On 9 March, SDF captured the strategic East Menxer hill and captured three villages on two different fronts. Two villages, including Kubar, were captured on the front to the far east of Raqqa, and one near Raqqa.[294][295][296] 244 Arab fighters from the Raqqa countryside also joined the SDF during the day, for the protection of the people in the region.[297] On the next day, SDF forces advancing from the Abu Khashab front captured three villages, including two near Kubar.[298][299][299][300] On 12 March, the SDF captured Khas Ujayl village, to the southeast of Raqqa, on the Abu Khashab front,[301][302] while ISIL continued to launch repeated counterattacks in the area, in an attempt to check the SDF advances.[303] Meanwhile, 230 ISIL fighters entered Raqqa to reinforce the city.[303][304]

On 14 March, the SDF captured the Khass Hibal village, as well as the Al-Kulayb grain silos, along the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway.[305][306] An SDF spokeswoman stated that Raqqa had been isolated. The advance of the SDF put them in control of the land region used by ISIL to connect to their territories in the east, stretching from al-Kubar to the northern bank of the Euphrates and measuring 30 kilometres (19 mi).[307] The SDF captured the Hamad Asaf silos and the[308] Al Kulayb village the next day. Hamad Assaf was also reportedly captured.[309][310] On 17 March, a YPG commander stated that the SDF planned to storm Raqqa city in April 2017, and that the YPG would be participating in the attack, despite the fierce opposition from the Turkish government. However, Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis denied that any decision regarding when and how an assault on Raqqa city will be carried out.[311] Meanwhile, clashes continued to take place around Khas Ujayl.[312][313]

The town of al-Karama, after the SDF had captured it from ISIL.

Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Karama, to the east of Raqqa, on 19 March.[314][315] On the next day, SDF captured al-Karama, along with Jarqa village as well as a train station and water pumping station nearby.[316][317][318][319][320] On 21 March, it was reported again that the SDF had captured Hamad Assaf in the eastern countryside from the Abu Khashab front.[321][322] Another village was captured on 22 March from the Abu Khashab front.[323][322] Meanwhile, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS) stated that coalition airstrikes hit a school being used as a shelter for displaced people in a village to the west of Raqqa on 20 March. SOHR stated that 33 civilians were killed in the airstrikes while RIBSS stated that it was unknown what happened to 50 families who were there.[324] The SDF continued advancing in the eastern Raqqa countryside on 23 March, capturing two more villages on the Abu Khashab front, allowing them to capture a small ISIL pocket.[325][326][327][328]On 24 March, the SDF took control of two more villages in the eastern countryside of Raqqa.[329][330][331]

Battle for al-Tabqa countryside and other advances

SDF fighters near Tabqa Dam on 27 March.

On 22 March, the SDF began an assault to capture the Tabqa Dam, al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, and its airbase. Five hundred SDF fighters and five hundred US Special Forces from CJTF–OIR were airlifted by helicopters of the United States military, across the Euphrates River and Lake Assad, and were dropped on the Shurfa Peninsula to the west of Al-Thawrah. The attack was supported by artillery support from United States Marines, as well as air support.[332][333][334][335] SDF and US forces also landed on the Jazirat al-‘Ayd Island (or Peninsula) to the west of Tabqa Dam, capturing it as well.[336] Four villages southwest of Tabqa were captured in the attack, including Abu Hurayrah, al-Mushayirafah, al-Krain, and al-Jameen. The SDF advanced towards the town of Al-Thawrah, where fliers were dropped, asking residents to stay indoors and avoid clashing against ISIL for now. These fliers were also dropped on Raqqa city.[337] An anti-ISIL coalition spokesman announced that the advance had cut off the highway linking the Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa Governorates. He added that around 75-80% of the attacking force consisted of Arab fighters, with the rest being Kurds. The SDF stated that the advance was also meant to block any advance on Raqqa by the Syrian Arab Army from the west.[338]

On the same day, SDF and US forces stormed the Tabqa Dam, triggering “intense” clashes with ISIL forces. US officials stated that it may take several weeks to capture Tabqa Dam, Al-Thawrah city, and the surrounding countryside from ISIL.[339][340] Airstrikes by the coalition on Tabqa city were reported to have killed about 25 civilians.[341] On 23 March, some early reports circulated that the SDF had captured Tabqa Dam from ISIL, after clashing with ISIL forces for a few hours.[342][343][8] However, these reports were unconfirmed by other sources, with neither the SDF or CENTCOM confirming the capture of Tabqa Dam, and Rudaw reported that the SDF was still preparing to capture it.[342][344][345] SDF spokesman Talal Silo stated during the day that they were still advancing on the dam and the city and expected to attack the dam soon.[346] Later on the same day, it was reported that ISIL was redeploying a large number of fighters from the Deir ez-Zor Province to Al-Thawrah and Raqqa city, in order to reinforce those fronts.[347] ISIL’s Amaq News Agency later denied later that the SDF had captured the dam.[348]

Refugees from al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, who have fled from the fighting between the SDF and ISIL.

On 24 March, SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed announced that they had reached the Tabqa Dam, and were fighting ISIL at its entrance.[349] The assault on the dam was spearheaded by SDF fighters who were backed by United States Special Operation Forces. According to early reports, the SDF and its allies had taken its outer perimeter, with the battle ongoing for its middle.[350] On the same day, it was also reported that the SDF had captured 8 villages to the southwest of Al-Thawrah.[351] On 25 March, pro-Kurdish news agency Kurdistan24 reported that the SDF had announced the capture of the Tabqa Dam.[352] On the same day, the SDF advanced on Al-Tabqa Airbase, setting off clashes in the vicinity.[353]Amaq meanwhile claimed SDF had withdrawn from the dam.[354]

On 26 March, the SDF captured 2 villages to the east of Al-Thawrah. It was also reported that ISIL was shelling the surroundings of Tabqa Dam with heavy weaponry.[355][356]On the same day, ISIL claimed that Tabqa Dam was on the verge of collapse and that all the floodgates were closed. The dam was reported to have become inoperable, which ISIL claimed was due to Coalition bombing and artillery strikes, though the SOHR stated that the actual reasons were unknown, adding that ISIL still held its main building and turbines.[357][358]SDF however denied that it had been hit, while RIBSS (Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered) stated that ISIL was informing fleeing civilians that the dam was safe.[359] Additionally, the US-led Coalition stated that the Tabqa Dam was structurally sound, and that the dam had not been targeted by any airstrikes. They also stated that the SDF controlled an emergency spillway at the northern part of the dam, which could be used in the event of an emergency.[360] On the same day, SDF spokesman Talal Silo announced that SDF had stormed the Tabqa military airport, and had taken sixty to seventy percent of it.[361] They later announced that they had completely captured the Al-Tabqa Airbase, following a 24-hour battle.[12][362][13]ISIL forces stationed at Al-Tabqa Airbase were reported to have withdrawn northward, to Al-Thawrah city. Additionally, SDF forces captured 2 villages near the airbase during the advance.[362][363]

SDF forces target ISIL positions near Tabqa Dam.

Late on 26 March, it was reported that the SDF had taken full control of Tabqa Dam, and that repairs on the dam by Coalition engineers had begun.[14][364] A day later however SDF announced they were temporarily pausing their offensive for the dam.[365][15][16] Later in the day, a spokeswoman of the SDF announced that engineers who had been permitted to check the dam and its operations did not find it was damaged or malfunctioning.[366] SDF also captured 2 villages to the west of Raqqa on the same day.[367][368][369] It resumed the offensive against ISIL at the Tabqa Dam on 28 March.[370] Syrian engineers worked on the dam during a pause in the fighting to open spillways and ease the pressure on the dam. Its southern reaches were reported to be under ISIL control. ISIL claimed that the maintenance team was killed in airstrikes by the anti-ISIL coalition while the SOHR stated that it had learned that the engineer administering the dam had been killed in airstrikes along with a technician. It also stated that the group had sent 900 fighters from Raqqa to fight against the SDF advance.[371]

On 29 March, the SDF cut the road between Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city and Raqqa. The SDF stated that ISIL had shelled the Tabqa Dam during the day, causing repair work to be temporarily paused.[372][373][374] On 31 March, SDF forces attacked the town of Al-Safsafah, to the east of Al-Thawrah, in an attempt to besiege the city.[375][376] On the same day, the Ajeel tribe of al-Raqqa announced its support for the SDF’s Raqqa campaign and sent 150 fighters. On 1 April 2017, 200 Arab youths completed training and joined the SDF, also for the Raqqa campaign.[377][378] The SDF announced during the day that over 220 new recruits had joined the offensive.[379] Meanwhile, leaflets were dropped on the city calling on ISIL to surrender.[380] Clashes continued in the countryside of Tabqa on next day as both sides attempted to advance.[381]

The SDF and some activists stated on 2 April that it had repelled a major ISIL counterattack to the northeast of Tabqa city, near the Tabqa Dam and near the Tabqa airbase. They also continued to advance in villages to the east of Tabqa city.[382] On the same day, it was reported that SDF had completely besieged Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, with Kurdish activists stating that 2 SDF units linked up to the east of the city.[383][384] SOHR, however, stated that they were still trying to besiege the city.[385] SDF fighters continued battling for Safsafah and Ibad, on the next day, to fully encircle Tabqa.[386][387] On 3 April, it was reported that ISIL was possibly in the process of moving its capital from Raqqa city to Mayadin, in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. This followed months of gradual relocation of resources and senior ISIL leaders from Raqqa to Mayadin.[388] SDF entered and besieged Safsafah on 5 April, thus also besieging Tabqa city while claiming that it had also taken control of a major part of Safsafah.[389][390] The village was captured by the next day, resulting in SDF completely encircling Tabqa city.[391][392]

The SDF captured Ibad village, to the east of Safsafah, on 9 April, further expanding their control in eastern countryside of Tabqa, while more than 25 ISIL fighters were killed in the clashes.[393][394] ISIL also launched unsuccessful counterattacks on Safsafah,[395] while also attacking Al-Tabqa Airbase.[396] The SDF captured another village near Tabqa on the next day.[397][398]

On 11 April, the US-led Coalition reported that the SDF had captured 60% of Tabqa Dam, and that they were “very close” to liberating the dam.[399][400] On 13 April, the United States military stated that CJTF-OIR had bombed a SDF fighting position near Tabqa as it was misidentified as belonging to ISIL. It added that the airstrikes resulted in deaths of 18 SDF fighters.[401]

Phase Four: Offensive directly north of and around Raqqa city; Assault on Tabqa city

On 13 April, the SDF announced the launch of the fourth phase of the campaign.[402] The new phase will involve capturing the entire area directly north of Raqqa city, including the Jalab valley, as well as completing the siege of Raqqa city.[403] The advancements may involve capturing the southern countryside of Raqqa as well, since the SDF stated that they plan to fully isolate the city before launching an attack on it.[404][403] A plan to attack Raqqa city itself was also scheduled to for April 2017, but it was postponed due to the Battle of Tabqa.[405] SDF was reported to have captured a village in the northern countryside of Raqqa on the same day.[406]

SOHR stated early on 15 April that the SDF had advanced to the edge of Tabqa, and was within hundreds of meters of the city.[407] Later, SDF captured the village of Ayad al-Saghir village near Tabqa and stormed the city itself, capturing the Alexandria suburb and bringing about 15% of the city under their control.[408][409][410] They also cleared the Mushayrifah village near Tabqa, killing 27 ISIL fighters.[411][412]

On 17 April, the SDF captured 3 villages in the northern countryside of Raqqa along with four hamlets.[413][414][415]

Civil administration of captured territory

Samer Kharkhi, one of the Raqqa Civil Council’s leading members.

On 14 November, the SDF’s civilian sister institution, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), started working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. SDC co-chair Îlham Ehmed said “such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group. This accomplishment would be a major change in the overall situation in Syria, and would help the country move towards stability, democratic change. Raqqa will be an example for the whole country.”[416]

On 8 December, Col. John Dorrian, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, stated that “a governance structure representative of the local population” similar to that in Manbij is planned for Raqqa.[417] On 10 December, Cihan ShekhEhmed, the spokesman of the SDF-led operation, said that Raqqa would be run by a local elected civilian council after it was liberated.[124] On 27 March 2017, Salih Muslim Muhammad, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said that as soon as the SDF had captured the city, “the people of Raqqa are the ones who [will] take the decision on everything”. If they wanted to do so, Muslim said, they could choose to join the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria.[418] On the same day, the Raqqa Civil Council announced that it had taken over the administration of the eastern countryside.[419]

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