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Blackout: US military spent $60 million on Afghanistan power lines to nowhere

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The US military spent $60 million on a new section of power grid in Afghanistan’s northeast. It doesn’t work and may even put residents at risk, according to a report from the US government’s reconstruction watchdog.

While the power lines have been built, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that mismanagement by the Army Corps of Engineers led to the grid remaining at best useless and at worst, dangerous.

In 2013, the US Army awarded a $116 million contract to an Afghan company to build a power grid for part of northeastern Afghanistan in several phases. The mismanaged third phase of the project cost $60 million.

Before construction was due to begin, the Afghan government agreed to purchase privately held land to clear a path for power lines. This never happened, and the Afghan contractors built the lines regardless, over the heads of Afghan farmers still living on land that should have been cleared.

The contract required the company to “provide power” but did not include any provisions for actually connecting the lines to the nearest substation, rendering them useless.
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Russia Demolishes UK Poisoning Hoax During Emergency Security Council Meeting

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Russia’s UN envoy blasted the UK’s attempt to blame the poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal on Moscow, describing the entire hoax as a “theater of absurd.”

The extraordinary UN Security Council meeting was requested by Russia, following the announcement made by the secretive British Porton Down chemical laboratory, that it had not established that the Novichok nerve agent used in the poisoning was of Russian origin.

According to RT, top British officials explicitly cited the Porton Down laboratory when pinning the blame on Moscow, so following this revelation their theory started to fall apart, said Vasily Nebenzia, noting that the UK’s secret agencies rushed to help the government, producing new claims based on some “intelligence data.”

Nebenzia asked a series of questions pointing to inconsistencies of the UK’s narrative.
I don’t even know how to comment on this. It’s some sort of the theater of absurd. You couldn’t have come up with better fake story?

Why did we have to wait eight years and [then] decided to [attack the Skripals] two weeks before the elections and several weeks before the world cup? Why did we release him from the country in the first place? Why do that in extremely public and dangerous fashion.
The fact that the victims of the nerve agent, which is believed to be among the deadliest, managed to survive the attack has also raised serious questions, Nebenzia said.
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Ron Paul: Bring troops home from Syria now

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I was disappointed to hear President Trump so quickly reverse his position on removing U.S. troops from Syria. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong,” he told an Ohio audience just a week ago. That sounded refreshingly like candidate Trump’s promises of no more nation-building. Then he flipped his position and announced we’d stay.
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In the US, Military Interventions Abroad Have Undermined Freedom at Home

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The Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal continues to be front-page news. According to current reports Cambridge Analytica obtained private Facebook data, which it used to send pro-Trump material to targeted Facebook users. These reports have been met with outrage in Washington, D.C. The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation and U.S. senators have called for Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, to testify in front of Congress.
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What’s Wrong with Trump’s New National Security Advisor

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Beyond the general concerns regarding the nomination of John Bolton as National Security Advisor, there is also the specific issue of his impending access to the most highly classified intelligence information that the United States possesses.

There are a number of reasons why Bolton should be denied a clearance, including his well-known record of abusing subordinates at State Department and colleagues at the United Nations. Bolton also has a close personal relationship with Israel and its government that may have included divulging classified information. The Israeli connection is particularly sensitive because Bolton is beholden to casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has funded his activities since he left State Department in 2006. And Bolton knows how to return a favor, approving of Adelson’s suggestion to detonate a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert, just to warn them what might be coming. Adelson, a major GOP donor, was displeased with Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, and to have been instrumental in their removal. Both men supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and both are now gone. McMaster was also targeted as “anti-Israeli” for having opposed moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Bolton’s regard for Israel has included unauthorized disclosure of classified information when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. He collaborated with the Israelis, often without the State Department being aware of what he was doing, to justify a US attack on Iran. The strategy to bring about a war included diplomatic pressure, crude propaganda, and the production of fabricated evidence by Mossad.
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The Three Most Important Aspects of the Skripal Case so Far … and Where They Might be Pointing

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I have now asked a total of 50 questions around the Skripal case, which you can find here and here. Having gone back through these questions, as far as I can see only three have been answered by the release of public information or events that have transpired. These are:

Are they (Sergei and Yulia Skripal) still alive?

If so, what is their current condition and what symptoms are they displaying?

Can the government confirm that its scientists at Porton Down have established that the substance that poisoned the Skripals and D.S. Bailey was actually produced or manufacturedin Russia?

On the first two points we are now told that Yulia Skripal’s condition has significantly improved to the point where she is said to be recovering well and talking. However, although this provides something of an answer to these questions, it also raises a number of others. Is she finally being allowed consular access? Is she being allowed to speak to her fiancé, her grandmother, or her cousin by telephone? Most importantly, how does her recovery comport with the claim that she was poisoned with a “military-grade nerve agent” with a toxicity around 5-8 times that of VX nerve agent?
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FARA: Freedom of the Press, But On the Government’s Terms

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate if Al Jazeera, the news outlet connected to the Qatari government, should register with the Justice Department as an agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA.)

This has broad implications for our First Amendment, our access to dissenting opinions, and in how the rest of the world views us.

The lawmakers claim Al Jazeera “directly undermines American interests” and broadcasts “anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel” material. Al Jazeera would joinRussian outlets RT and Radio Sputnik, Japan’s Cosmomedia, the Korean Broadcasting System, and the China Daily in registering as foreign state propaganda outlets. DOJ has also been asked to look into a range of other Chinese media.

Ironically, the bipartisan request to force Al Jazeera to register comes amid a controversy over the network’s filming of a documentary critical of pro-Israel lobbying in the US The network used an undercover operative to secure footage revealing possibly illegal interactions between advocacy groups and lawmakers.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act was never intended to regulate journalism. The legislation in fact includes finely-worded exemptions for approved journalists, scholars, artists, and the like, who are not required to announce themselves as “agents of a foreign principal” regardless of what they create.
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Interventionistas Outraged Over Trump's Syria Withdrawal: 'We Took The Oil. We’ve Got To Keep The Oil'

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Regime change advocates, neocon beltway hawks, and all the usual armchair warrior zero-skin-in-the-game think tank interventionistas are in continued meltdown mode after Trump confirmed plans to withdraw American forces - some 2000+ troops and personnel - from Syria. On Friday the president told senior White House aides that US forces will be exiting Syria after public comments made earlier.

In statements carried by Reuters, Trump said, “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.” As we noted last week, the timing of Trump's dramatic Syria turn corresponded with news of an American soldier killed in Manbij in northern Syria (killed likely by an IED alongside a British coalition soldier overnight last Thursday).

Perhaps to be expected, the weekend editorials and cable news pundit shows reacted in disbelief and horror - with charges of "chaos" at the Trump White House over Syria policy, and claims that "ISIS will come back" if America leaves. Nevermind the fact that Trump himself while on the campaign trail in 2016 stated in public speeches and in a tweet (and linking to a declassified intelligence memo) that US support to jihadists in Syria under President Obama is precisely what fueled the rise of ISIS in the first place

CNN, for example, painted a picture of mass revolt among the ranks of military officers and career State Department officials, asserting that, "Any decision by Trump to pull out of Syria would also go against the current military assessment, a fact that left some national security officials concerned about the impact of a withdrawal, another senior administration official told CNN."
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Sarkozy's Hand in the French Cookie Jar?

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There was something refreshing about watching former French president Nicholas Sarkozy being interrogated in a French jail. Particularly since he may soon be accused of conspiracy in the murder of my old friend, Col. Muammar Khadaffi of Libya.

Sarkozy and his former chief of staff, Claude Guéant, are being investigated for secretly accepting at least fifty million Euros from Khadaffi for his 2007 electoral campaign. Such a payment violated France’s maximum permissible limit for political donation, not to mention a ban on foreign financing of candidates and failure to report the payments. Sarko also faces investigation over secret payments from the Gulf oil states.

French political candidates often have to wade through the sewers to finance their campaigns because spending limits were set relatively low to prevent big money from buying the elections, as in the United States.

These charges against Khadaffi and Guéant have been percolating for years with only a muted response. Sarkozy also got into hot water after he was accused of bilking large sums of cash from a senile heiress to France’s L’Oréal cosmetics company.
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