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About That Trump - Putin Phone Call...

Making good on campaign promises to improve relations with Russia after eight years of a building new Cold War, President Donald Trump spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, over the weekend. Is this the beginning of a thaw and where do US/Russia relations go next? Should we expect sanctions lifted soon? Is a joint US/Russia operation in Syria on the horizon -- and would that be a good thing? RPI's Daniel McAdams speaks with RT on what might be to come...
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The End Of Mingling - 'Moderate Rebels' Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

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Lots of confusion about the infighting in the "rebel" held Idleb governate in Syria, the situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the "moderate rebels" but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)
The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the US and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest "rebel" group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and US supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar is now joining al-Qaeda.

The "new" Tahrir Al-Sham is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.
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Did the CIA Ruin Classical Music for the Masses?

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As both a classically trained musician and an audiophile, the 1950s and 1960s was something of a golden age of recorded music.

It was at this time that some of the most remarkable conductors of the 20th century were invited to make recordings on new stereophonic technology, whose sonic qualities equal and in some cases surpass that available in the 21st century. Marketed to eager consumers in the west on  super hi-fidelity reel-to-reel tapes or more commonly high quality stereophonic LPs, it was something of a renaissance for classical music listeners. Whilst nothing can equal the magnitude of a powerful live performance, some of the recordings of this era came very close.

It should be said that in the same era, in the Soviet Union, Melodiya Records were churning out masterful symphonic recordings as well, though most only became easily obtainable in the West, many decades later.

This was of course popular culture, and European and Russian classical music was as readily consumed as vocal music, pop and easy listening.

But behind the scenes, something more sinister was happening. Behind what seemed to be the perfect marriage between ageless and peerless music and new shiny stereophonic recording and listening equipment, there were dark forces at work which would ultimately destroy this renaissance. The dark forces in question were those of the CIA.
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Trump Bull in the Mideast China Shop

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President Donald Trump is getting ready to plunge into the burning Mideast with all the zeal and arrogance of a medieval crusader. The new administration’s knowledge of the region is a thousand miles wide and two inches deep.

Reviving a truly terrible idea originated by know-nothing Congressional Republicans, Trump proposes US-run safe zones in Syria for refugees from that nation’s conflict. The president went out of his way to insist that such safe zones would spare the United States from having to shelter Syrian refugees.

He should better worry about Chicago where 762 citizens were murdered last year.

At the same time, Trump, declaiming from his new Mount Olympus of New York’s Trump Tower, vowed to impose a 30-day halt on immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals."
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Those ‘Resignations’: What Really Happened at the State Department

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Yesterday at the State Department five officials resigned or retired. Another one today.

The media has gone near-insane, claiming State is crumbling in protest under the Trump administration. This is not true. What happened at State is very routine.

Leaving the Department are head of the Management Bureau Pat Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, arms control official Tom Countryman, and Victoria Nuland.

Here’s the story:

— No one at the State Dept resigned in protest.

— No one was formally fired.

— Six people were transferred from or retired from political appointee positions. Technically those who did not retire can be considered to have “resigned,” but that is a routine HR/personnel term used, not some political statement. The six are career Foreign Service career personnel (FSOs) They previously left their FSO job to be appointed into political jobs and now have resigned those (or retired out of the State Department) to return to career FSO jobs. A circle. They are required to submit a letter of resignation as a matter of routine when a new president takes office.
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The Syrian People Desperately Want Peace

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As much of Washington prepared for the inauguration of President Donald Trump, I spent last week on a fact-finding mission in Syria and Lebanon to see and hear directly from the Syrian people. Their lives have been consumed by a horrific war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and forced millions to flee their homeland in search of peace.

It is clear now more than ever: this regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.
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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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Perpetual Drug War Deja Vu

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The Justice Department is ecstatic that it finally secured the extradition from Mexico of notorious drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo. Arraigned in New York City, El Chapo is being charged with running a multibillion dollar drug enterprise, which allegedly included the murder of countless people.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream press gave the arrest and arraignment major publicity. The story received a half-page article in the New York Times.

Also not surprisingly, law enforcement officials also made a huge deal out of the extradition and arrest. According to the Times, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn called it a “milestone in the pursuit of a trafficker who achieved mythic status in his homeland as a Robin Hood-like outlaw and a serial prison escapee.”

So, does this mean that the decades-long drug war has finally come to an end?

Well, not exactly. Actually, it means the the drug war will continue into perpetuity until the American people finally demand that this failed, destructive, deadly, expensive, and futile government program come to an end.

El Chapo’s arrest is nothing more than perpetual deja vu because this type of thing has been going on continuously since the 1960s. The cycle never stops. they arrest a big drug kingpin, they give it massive publicity, they convict the person and send him to jail for the rest of his life, and … the drug war continues and continues.

It’s just simple laws of supply and demand. As soon as they bust one guy, he is quickly replaced either by someone else within the organization or by competitors. So, they bust another one. Same thing happens. it never stops.
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How To Really Reform Military Spending : Is Cutting Waste Enough?

Washington is talking about military spending reform...again. Much of the noise emanating from the think tanks on this subject is intended to maintain the policy status quo at all costs while giving the impression that money is being spent more carefully. But the issue is not whether the practice of charging $800 for hammer can be eliminated, but rather whether the United States really needs to maintain 800 military bases overseas. Real reform versus phony reform in today's Liberty Report...
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