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Tyler Durden

US Urges All Nationals In North Korea To 'Depart Immediately,' Bans Tourists From Visiting

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Dennis Rodman will be disappointed to learn that the US is set to ban all citizens from traveling to North Korea, according to two agencies that operate tours there. Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours said the ban would be announced on 27 July to come into effect 30 days later, the BBC reported. "After the 30-day grace period any US national that travels to North Korea will have their passport invalidated by their government." The ban comes one month after US student Otto Warmbier died following his imprisonment by the Kim regime.

China-based Young Pioneer Tours, which had taken Warmbier to North Korea, and Koryo Tours said the ban will come into force on July 27 - the anniversary of the end of the Korean War - with a 30-day grace period. Koryo Tours added that the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which handles consular affairs for the United States in the North, informed it of the ban, but did not say how long it would last. The U.S. embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would "give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work". Simon Cockerill, of Koryo Tours, said: "It remains to be seen what the exact text is, but the indication is it's just a straight up ban on Americans going." Mr Cockerill told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.
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Photos Of Aleppo Rising: Swimsuits, Concerts And Rebuilding In First Jihadi-Free Summer

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When taxi and bus drivers take journalists into Syria via the Beirut-Damascus Highway these days, there's a common greeting that has become a kind of local tradition as the drivers pull into their Damascus area destinations. They confidently tell their passengers: "welcome to the real Syria." Local Syrians living in government areas are all too aware of how the outside world perceives the government and the cities under its control. After years of often deceptive imagery and footage produced by opposition fighters coordinating with an eager Western press bent on vilifying Assad as "worse than Hitler", many average Syrian citizens increasingly take to social media to post images and scenes of Syria that present a different vision: they see their war-torn land as fundamentally secular, religiously plural, socially tolerant, and slowly returning to normalcy under stabilizing government institutions.

As the most intense phase of fighting in Aleppo was unfolding in 2016, veteran journalist Stephen Kinzer took to the editorial pages of the Boston Globe to remind Americans that the media has created a fantasy land concerning Syria. Kinzer painted a picture quite opposite the common perception:
Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press... For three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold it...

The United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story.
Now, during the first summer of relative calm Aleppo residents have seen in over four years of grinding conflict, the city commonly referred as "the jewel of Syria" is once again rising from the ashes.
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Israel Minister: 'The Time Has Come To Assassinate Bashar Assad'

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Israel's Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant called for the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad following yesterday's US State Department report that the Syrian regime was using a prison crematorium to hide mass killings outside Damascus, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Speaking at a conference outside Jerusalem, Galant, a retired Israeli Defence Forces general, said that in light of recent allegations that Assad’s regime carried out mass executions and burned the bodies of the victims, he had to be killed.

"The reality in which people are executed in Syria, being hit deliberately by chemical weapons, their bodies being burned, something we haven’t seen in 70 years. In my view, we are crossing a red line. And in my view, the time has come to assassinate Assad. It’s as simple as that,” said Galant, who previously served as the head of the IDF’s Southern Command. The minister said Assad’s actions in Syria amount to nothing less than a “genocide,” with “hundreds of thousands killed."
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Assad Calls US Forces In Syria 'Invaders,' Loses Faith In Trump

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With the Trump administration rapidly shifting its foreign policy stance in recent weeks as the Goldman-led group inside the White House steamrolls all opposition, in the process dashing hopes of a detente between DC and Moscow which now appear set to continue the "cold war" diplomatic ways set under Obama and Hillary Clinton, another foreign leader who is losing faith that Trump will bring any notable change is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix said US forces in Syria were "invaders" and that he had yet to see "anything concrete" emerge from US President Donald Trump's vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State. 

Quoted by Reuters, Assad said he initially saw promise in Trump's vows to battle the Islamic State in Syria, where US policy under President Barack Obama had mostly backed rebels fighting Assad and shunned him as an illegitimate leader. That promise, however, has now faded, especially after Trump recently stated he would boost US troops in Syria in an attempt to create "safe zones" in the nation, in the process likely further escalating the 6 year old proxy war in Syria.

"We haven't seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric," Assad said in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix. "We have hopes that this administration in the United States is going to implement what we have heard," he said. Well, so do millions of Americans who are hoping that Trump will end Obamacare, not to mention all those still expecting Trump to unveil the "tremendous" tax plan. Maybe get in line.
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TSA Launches 'Invasive' Pat-Downs With 'More Intimate Contact Than Before'

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As a result of a study, which found that weapons routinely make it past airport security, the TSA is introducing “more rigorous” and “comprehensive” physical inspections at airports around the country, according to Bloomberg. The security agency, which until now had the option of using five different types of physical pat-downs in the screening line, is eliminating the "options" and replacing them with a single, universal method which would involve heavier groping.

The Transportation Security Administration made the announcement to its agents this week, and in the case of Denver International Airport employees, advised employees and flight crews on Thursday that the “more rigorous” searches “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”

In an ominous warning, TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson told Bloomberg that "people who in the past would have gotten a pat-down that wasn’t involved will notice that the [new] pat-down is more involved." The shift from the previous, risk-based assessment on which pat-down procedure an officer should apply was phased in over the past two weeks after tests at smaller airports. In their notice, Denver airport officials said employees are subject to search at random locations: “If a pat down is required as part of the operation, badged employees will be required to comply with a TSA officer’s request to conduct a full body pat down.”
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US Special Forces Deployed To 70 Percent Of The World In 2016

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US Special Operations Command launched a raid in Yemen’s Baida Province on Jan 29, targeting Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The first high-profile special forces operation of Trump’s presidency, the raid resulted in the deaths of at least 14 Al Qaeda fighters, 20 civilians and Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.

Three other Americans were reportedly wounded and an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed by US forces after it was heavily damaged in a forced landing. Over the past few days, it has emerged that al-Rimi survived the raid and he has subsequently released an audio message taunting President Trump.

As The Burning Platform's Jim Quinn notes, special forces operations like the one in Yemen are nothing new. America’s elite troops have found themselves on the frontlines constantly since 9/11, conducting operations everywhere from the dusty back alleys of North Africa to the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan.
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US Tanks, Troops Arrive In Estonia As Part Of NATO Anti-Russia Build Up

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As part of continued a NATO build-up and US efforts to counter an alleged Russian threat, US military hardware, including M1A2 Abrams battle tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles have arrived in the northern Estonian town of Tapa, shortly after similar deployments were made to other Eastern European nations including Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany.

"The movement of equipment and troops into and around Europe marks the beginning of a continuous rotation of armored brigade combat teams from the United States as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve," the US Defense Department said in a statement, commenting on the move. It added that "Atlantic Resolve is a demonstration of continued US commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine."

In July 2016, NATO members agreed to the “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War,” posting four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
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Trump Proposal For Syria 'Safe Zones' To Escalate US Military Involvement In The Region

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As part of his blitz of latest executive orders, which as reported yesterday would institute sweeping changes to US refugee and immigration policies including a ban on people from countries in the Middle East and North Africa deemed as a "terror risk", a separate order also lays the groundwork for an escalation of US military involvement in Syria by directing the Pentagon and the State Department to craft a plan to create safe zones for civilians fleeing the conflict there.

Trump said on Wednesday he "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria" for refugees fleeing violence. According to a document seen by Reuters, Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and the State Department in the coming days to come up with a plan for the zones.

Such safe zones could provide an alternative to admitting refugees to the US according to Trump, but would also force greater US military deployment to the region.

According to the WSJ, the safe-zone proposal represents a significant policy reversal from the administration of Barack Obama, who long resisted pressure for such an approach from Congress and US allies in the Middle East because he believed it would draw the US too deeply into another war.

Establishing safe zones in Syria would mark an escalation in America’s military involvement there. In addition to the initial military buildup that likely would be needed to create the zones, ground troops and additional air power will be needed to protect them, military officials have said. Such zones would also put US-allied forces in dangerous proximity to foreign troops, including forces from Russia and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
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American Troops 'Roll Into Poland' In Largest Deployment Since The Cold War

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"American soldiers rolled into Poland on Thursday, fulfilling a dream Poles have had since the fall of communism in 1989 to have US troops on their soil as a deterrent against Russia."

That's how the AP begins its report on the first deployment of US soldiers into the central European country, previewed here earlier in the week as "One Of Largest Deployments Since The Cold War", even as Russia warned that the move represented a threat to its national security, and the Kremlin said "Russia regarded the move as an aggressive step along its borders."

NATO, however, has ignored Russian concerns and threats of retaliation and as a result soldiers in camouflage with tanks and other vehicles crossed into southwestern Poland on Thursday morning from Germany and headed for Zagan, where they will be based.

While in the past the US and other Western nations have carried out exercises on NATO's eastern flank, this deployment, which includes around 3,500 US troops and 2,800 tanks, trucks and other military equipment, marks the first-ever continuous deployment to the region by a NATO ally. It also represents a commitment by outgoing President Obama to "protect" a region that became deeply nervous over Russia's response to the CIA-orchestrated presidential coup in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and the resulting proxy war in east Ukraine.
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Obama Under 'Intense Pressure' To Release Evidence Proving Russians Hacked The Election

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As noted previously, at some point today the White House is set to unveil new sanction, and other retaliatory "measures" against Russia and specifically the Kremlin, in retaliation for what according to a constantly repetitive narrative has been Russian hacking of the US election. Obama will do so by using a 2015 executive order that would allow the president to freeze the US assets of Russians overseas who have engaged in cyber acts, even though such order only applies to actions that have threatened US national security or financial stability, neither of which have yet been invoked in the current "hacking" scandal. Further, per a "senior administration official," use of the existing law would require (1) actual election infrastructure to be designated as 'critical infrastructure' and (2) the administration to prove that such infrastructure was actually "harmed," conditions which the National Security Council say have not been met.

The problem is that if the administration relies on the 2015 Executive Order to launch this latest round of diplomatic "retaliation", it will also have to demonstrate some proof that the individuals or entities it names were involved in the scheme, and until now, the White House has provided no documentation to back up its official October assessment that the Russian government was attempting to “interfere” in the US election besides just repeating the allegation over and over and over, as if that somehow makes it true.

Which perhaps is why this morning The Hill writes that the Obama administration is "under intense pressure to release evidence confirming Russian interference in the presidential election before leaving office."
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