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Jason Ditz

US Preparing Charges Against Julian Assange

US officials have repeatedly vilified WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over the past several years, and intermittently called for his assassination, but just now appear to be nearing a decision to file charges against him, accusing him of crimes for involvement in the whistleblower organization. What the charges might be remain a matter of speculation, as Assange’s lawyer says they’ve heard nothing from the Justice Department. CIA chief Mike Pompeo, however, suggested the charges could be speech related, insisting Assange doesn’t get “First Amendment freedoms” because he isn’t American.
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Trump: NATO Is ‘No Longer Obsolete’

After fueling a lot of tensions with his comments during the 2016 campaign that NATO is an obsolete alliance, President Trump today declared that the alliance is “no longer obsolete” following meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Though Trump presented this in part as NATO having capitulated to his demands for the alliance to be reorganized around fighting against ISIS, the comments will also be seen in the context of soaring tensions between the US and Russia.
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White House Sends Confusing Message on Syria Barrel Bombs

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s tendency to improvise when asked questions about US policy has sparked a new round of speculation about exactly where the Trump Administration stands of launching further attacks against Syria, after he declared barrel bombs to be a red line.

Asked about red lines by the press, Spicer insisted that “if you put a barrel bomb into innocent people you will see a response from this president.” He went on to brag about Trump’s decisiveness in having attacked Syria last week, and insisted that there were many red lines, but that Trump didn’t want to make them all public knowledge.
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Reports: US Airstrikes Killed 230 Civilians in Mosul Overnight


As the US airstrikes in the Iraqi city of Mosul are increasingly concentrated around densely populated neighborhoods in the city’s west, the death toll from those airstrikes in spiraling rapidly out of control, with the most recent figures out of the area suggesting around 230 civilians were killed overnight in US and coalition strikes in just a single neighborhood.

That’s an enormous toll, of course, but is reported from several sources telling largely the same story, including that a single US airstrike against a large building full of civilians in Mosul killed over 130 people, while the other 100 or so were killed in the surrounding area.

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US Airstrikes Continue in Yemen, Killing Former Gitmo Detainee

Heavy US airstrikes that began Thursday and continued through the weekend have not halted yet, with at least one strike reported on Monday, with the drone strike destroying a car and killing both people within, labeled “suspected terrorists,” though both were burned beyond recognition and unidentified.

On the other hand, we finally do have one identified victim among the flurry of strikes in the past five days, with reports that former Gitmo detainee Yasir al-Silmi was slain. Officials say they think he was part of al-Qaeda, though they say he was not a “high-value” target.
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Syrian Rebels Fret Over Trump’s Planned Syria Overhaul

President-elect Donald Trump is planning a major overhaul to US policy in Syria, and that’s got the putative “moderate” rebels that have been getting US funds and weapons fretting, as the CIA program responsible for smuggling that gear in is set to be cancelled.

The CIA has been eager to regularly increase the amount of weapons provided to the rebels, and has sought to shift the focus of US policy in Syria toward imposing regime change, and to dial down efforts to go after ISIS. Trump campaigned on the oppose, moving away from the regime change efforts and focusing on fighting ISIS.
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Pentagon Seeks Another $6 Billion for Overseas Troop Deployments

The Pentagon has announced it will file a “budget amendment” seeking another $6 billion in funding for the current fiscal year to pay for additional overseas troop deployments above and beyond what was already in the budget for this year.

The $6 billion request comes as an “urgent” request from the Pentagon, and would pay for additional ground troops in Iraq, the additional troops left in Afghanistan by stalling the drawdown, and to pay for escalated airstrikes around the world.
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Turkey Air Raid Kills 200 Kurdish Fighters in Syria

Turkey has long insisted they view the Kurdish YPG and ISIS as basically the same thing. Overnight incidents around the city of Afrin, however, show that when the two forces are in close proximity, the Turkish military is definitely going after the Kurds.

The Kurdish YPG forces were launching an offensive near Afrin against the ISIS fighters when a flurry of Turkish airstrikes were launched against them, described as the single biggest attack Turkey has launched against Kurds since their invasion back in August. Turkish officials estimated 200 Kurds killed.
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