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Tuesday, September 19

Guadeloupe also battered by Hurricane Maria

For damage to Dominica, see Maria caves in roof at Dominica PM's residence, devastates rest of island; Pundita, published 3:16 AM EDT today.

Hurricane Maria video update: powerful winds batter Guadeloupe as storm lashes Caribbean

[see website for very brief footage of the winds striking in the area of Guadeloupe's regional capital city]

HURRICANE MARIA has left a swath of devastation in the Caribbean with shocking video capturing the sheer force of the storm in Guadeloupe.
By DARREN HUNT
PUBLISHED: 09:26 - Sep 19, 2017 
[U.K.] Express

[...]

The path of the Category Four storm [upgraded again to Cat 5 at about 5 AM EDT today] also crashed into Basse-Terre, the capital of Guadeloupe just weeks after Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean and United States. 

In the shocking footage, winds can be seen battering a car park in Basse-Terre with trees and lampposts shaking in the intense conditions.

The video, posted online from the French local authorities said: “Winds are extremely violent. Stay confined. Don't go out under any circumstances.”

[...]

From Wikipedia:
Guadeloupe (/ɡwɑːdəˈluːp/; French pronunciation: ​[ɡwadəlup]; Antillean Creole: Gwadloup) is an insular region of France located in the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. Administratively, it is an overseas region consisting of a single overseas department. With a land area of 1,628 square kilometres (629 square miles) and an estimated population of 400,132 as of January 2015, it is the largest and most populous European Union territory in North America.

Guadeloupe's two main islands are Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east, which are separated by a narrow strait that is crossed with bridges. They are often referred to as a single island. The department also includes the Dependencies of Guadeloupe, which include the smaller islands of Marie-Galante and La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes.

Guadeloupe, like the other overseas departments, is an integral part of France. As a constituent territory of the European Union and the Eurozone, the euro is its official currency and any European Union citizen is free to settle and work there indefinitely. As an overseas department, however, it is not part of the Schengen Area. The prefecture (regional capital) of Guadeloupe is the city of Basse-Terre, which lies on the island of the same name. The official language is French and Antillean Creole is spoken virtually by the entire population except recent arrivals from metropolitan France.

[...]

********

Ustad Nusrat & Co., putting it all in context again for me

Jaani Door Gaye - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Listening to this song always reminds me of a time in India when I was walking alone on a road. It was very hot and I was very thirsty. Then I saw by the road a tree with many branches and leaves; the tree was so huge it must have been hundreds of years old. Under the canopy of tree branches was a man selling green coconuts. He lopped the top off a coconut, plunked a straw in it, and wordlessly handed it to me. I drank and drank and drank. Then I paid him and continued on my journey, refreshed.

Well, onward.

*********

Maria caves in roof at Dominica PM's residence, devastates rest of island

My notes from CNN Breaking News televised report (See CNN website for the report): 
Latest text CNN update, filed at 2:27 AM Sept. 19:

Dominica PM: Hurricane Maria 'devastates' island
By Euan McKirdy, Joe Sterling and Holly Yan, CNN


The Caribbean island of Dominica has been "devastated" by Hurricane Maria, the country's Prime Minister tells CNN.

The powerful storm, which made landfall Monday night, has since been downgraded to a Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph. After it passes over Dominica it is on course to score a direct hit on the US territory of Puerto Rico -- the first hurricane of its strength to do so in 85 years. [Another report cited 1928 as the last time a Cat 4 or 5 hit Puerto Rico.]  

"We're just waiting for daybreak to do an assessment of the damage," Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told CNN's Rosemary Church.

"Our first order of business will be search and rescue to ensure we can account for every single citizen and residents who were on the island during this really devastating hurricane."

A statement from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that its record-topping winds reached 160 miles per hour when it hit the island nation. In an update the Center said that reports "indicate significant damage to structures has occurred in Dominica."

Maria made landfall on Dominica late Monday, coming ashore at 9:15 p.m. ET. It was so powerful that it tore the roof off the Prime Minister's residence.

"Personally I was affected," Skerrit said. "The roof of the residence caved in because of the strength of the wind. But I was taken to safe ground by ... police officers, thank God.

"This hurricane stayed in the country for a very, very long time and (was) just unrelenting. I don't think there were very many roofs which would survive the hurricane."

In a Facebook post he added: "So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains."

The storm will continue moving toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as a strong Category 4 or a Category 5 and is not expected to diminish [appreciably] in strength.

Relentless march

After Dominica, Puerto Rico is in Maria's sights. It is moving toward the island as an "extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island," the hurricane center said.

Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has declared a state of emergency ahead of that landfall, which will likely happen Wednesday.

A hurricane warning from the NHC remains in effect for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat, the US and British Virgin Islands as well as Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.

US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for the US territory for federal assistance to augment the territory's storm-response initiatives.

The ferocity of Maria bears striking similarities to Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane which hit the Bahamas and Florida in 1992 [and was the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida since record-keeping began], says CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. 

Both storms are compact, and Maria's wind speed comes close to that of Hurricane Andrew -- 165 mph -- when it hit southern Florida.

[...]

********

Maria now Cat 5. Nature takes command of U.S. news cycle again.

How did that storm grow so fast into a monster? I guess the meteorologists know, but within less than 24 hours Maria went from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane and then leapfrogged last night into a Cat 5. [shaking her head]   

See CNN for latest update, filed at 1:12 AM EDT September 19.

Hurricane Maria packs a Category 5 punch toward Dominica
Approx 10:00 PM EDT September 18, 2017
By Holly Yan and Joe Sterling *
CNN via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A "potentially catastrophic" Hurricane Maria is now a Category 5 storm, packing 160 miles per hour winds -- with even higher gusts -- as it nears Dominica and takes aim at the US territory of Puerto Rico.
"The extremely dangerous core of Maria is expected to pass over Dominica within the next hour or two," the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. ET advisory. "Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane, and a hurricane warning has been issued for that island."
A US Air Force Reserve C-130 Hurricane Hunter data measured the intense storm, which heightens the chance of life-threatening storm surge and "hitting the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico."
For the first time in 85 years, Puerto Rico is expected to suffer a direct landfall from such a strong hurricane. Puerto Rico's governor has declared a state of emergency ahead of that landfall, which will likely happen Wednesday.
The hurricane center statement said Maria was centered about 15 miles east-southeast of Dominica and 40 miles and 70 kilometers north of Martinique. The mammoth storm was moving west-northwest at 9 mph.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico for federal assistance to augment the territory's storm-response initiatives.
Track the storm here

Bracing for impact in Dominica

Dominica is a small island with a population of nearly 74,000 about halfway between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago, according to the CIA World Factbook. It's nearly 290 square miles (751 square kilometers) and "slightly more than four times the size of Washington DC."
"The Dominican economy has been dependent on agriculture -- primarily bananas -- in years past, but increasingly has been driven by tourism as the government seeks to promote Dominica as an 'ecotourism' destination," the factbook said.
Hours before Maria's expected landfall on Dominica -- and just over week after the island was brushed by Irma -- Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit urged residents to take any belongings that could become dangerous projectiles indoors.
"The next few hours should be placed on cleaning up around the house and on your properties rather than stockpiling weeks of foods and other supplies," Skerrit said in a televised speech.
"This is not a system that will linger very long. Therefore, the goal must not be on stockpiling supplies but on mitigating damage caused by flying objects."

Puerto Rico braces

Puerto Rico sheltered many of the evacuees who fled Hurricane Irma's wrath in other Caribbean islands. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for another catastrophic hurricane.
The governor ordered evacuations ahead of Tuesday's deteriorating conditions.
"We want to alert the people of Puerto Rico that this is not an event like we've ever seen before," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told reporters.
Puerto Rico housing authorities said there are 450 shelters able to take in 62,714 evacuees, and up to 125,428 in an emergency situation. But there are six fewer shelters available post-Irma, since some schools still have no electricity.

"We expect to feel storm winds, tropical storm winds, since Tuesday up until late on Thursday. That's about two-and-a-half days of tropical storm winds, and on Wednesday we will feel the brunt -- all of the island will feel the brunt of sustained category four or five winds, Rosselló said.
"This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic, and our main focus -- our only focus right now -- should be to make sure we save lives."
Rosselló added that Maria's size means all of Puerto Rico will experience hurricane conditions.
"It is time to seek refuge with a family member, friend, or move to a state shelter because rescuers will not go out and risk their lives once winds reach 50 miles per hour."
If Maria strikes the island as forecast, it will be "more dangerous than Hugo and Georges," he said.
Hurricane Hugo killed five people in Puerto Rico in 1989, and Hurricane Georges caused more than $1.7 billion in damage to the island in 1998.

Hurricane and tropical storm warnings

The storm will affect parts of the Leeward Islands and the British and US Virgin Islands for next couple of days, the center said.
Other Leeward Islands are now under hurricane warnings, including Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. The US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands are under warnings.
Trump issued an emergency declaration for the US Virgin Islands.
There are tropical storm warnings in effect for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Lucia.
The government of the Dominican Republic has issued a hurricane watch from Isla Saona to Puerto Plata, and a tropical storm watch west of Puerto Plata to the northern Dominican Republic-Haiti border.
The British Foreign Office said more than 1,300 troops are in the region, on affected islands or nearby locations, ready to help after Maria goes by. One military team has been deployed to the British Virgin Islands.
A British military reconaissance team is on standby to go to Montserrat and assess needs, the office said. The HMS Ocean is set to arrive in the area at week's end with 60 tons of government supplies.

Hurricane Jose

Another hurricane, Jose, is also churning in the Atlantic and has spawned tropical storm warnings for part of the US East Coast.
While forecasters don't anticipate Jose making landfall in the US, it's still expected to cause "dangerous surf and rip currents" along the East Coast in the next few days, the hurricane center said.
* CNN's Brandon Miller, Marilia Brocchetto, Judson Jones, Taylor Ward, Deborah Bloom, Leyla Santiago, Michael Holmes, Matt Wotus and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.
Here are my notes from NBC News and Associated Press/CBS News reports-updates, both filed around 5:15 PM EDT 9/18:
  • Maria grew from a tropical storm to Category 4 hurricane in less than 24 hours. Now approaching Category 5. 
  • Per National Hurricane Center update approx 5 PM 9/18 Maria an "extremely dangerous" storm with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. It was centered about 15 miles east-southeast of Dominica -- or 40 miles east of Martinique -- and heading west-northwest at 9 mph late Monday afternoon.
  • Hurricane warnings posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique and St. Lucia. A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Anguilla. On Wednesday Maria is expected to be near or over Puerto Rico.
  • Maria's projected path will take it near many of the islands already wrecked/battered by Hurricane Irma.
  • Defensive preparations underway across Caribbean countries. 
  • Puerto Rico has imposed rationing of basic supplies including water and baby formula.
  • Puerto Rico as with other islands damaged by Irma is facing double catastrophe. 85 percent of customers in the capital are still without electricity from Irma; 6,000 are still without drinking water.
  • Forecasters said Maria would dump up to 18 inches of rain across Puerto Rico and whip the U.S. territory with heavy winds for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Puerto Rico hasn't been struck by a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane since 1928.
5:11 PM EDT - September 18, 2017
NBC News *
Hurricane Maria was strengthening fast into a monster storm Monday as it barreled toward Puerto Rico and other Irma-battered Caribbean islands.
Maria grew — in less than 24 hours — from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane that the National Hurricane Center called an "extremely dangerous" system.
At 5 p.m. ET it was just 45 miles east-southeast of Dominica, an island of 72,000 people in the Lesser Antilles, and producing maximum sustained winds of 135 mph.
Maria could begin threatening the Virgin Islands on Tuesday evening and Puerto Rico by Wednesday morning, said the hurricane center, which issued hurricane warnings for Puerto Rico and its satellite islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Puerto Rico has not been hit by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane since 1928, NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins said.

Maria, however, could be "catastrophic" for Puerto Rico, which was largely spared by Hurricane Irma, Karins said. It passed 50 miles north of the island and caused only wave damage, but even that was enough to knock out power to about 1 million people.

"There's an excellent chance that Maria will be a major hurricane very close to Puerto Rico in 48 hours," he said, adding that it could also hit the Irma-devastated U.S. and British Virgin Islands.

"Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 6 to 12 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night," the hurricane center warned.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló warned Sunday the storm could bring more rain, wind and water than Irma, which killed three people there.
Rosselló said 46,000 people — or about 85 percent of customers in the metropolitan area of the capital, San Juan — remained without electricity. Another 6,000 were still without drinking water.
Help is already on the way. A ship from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] was expected to arrive early Tuesday with more than 1 million gallons of water and 111 generators, and the island is ready to house 67,000 people across 450 shelters, Rosselló said.
"The priority is to be prepared and save lives," he said.
[...]
Last updated 5:22 PM EDT 9/18
Associated Press/CBS News
Puerto Rico imposes rationing as Hurricane Maria approaches

MIAMI -- Puerto Rico has imposed a rationing of basic supplies including water and baby formula as Hurricane Maria approaches as a Category 5 storm.
Officials said Monday that the rationing is necessary to ensure everyone has access to basic items such as batteries, milk, canned foods, flashlights and other supplies. It does not apply to gasoline or other fuels.
Shelves at many stores were emptying out quickly as people rushed to finalize hurricane preparations.
Many posted desperate pleas on social media for help in finding certain items.
Some stores were already imposing their own rationing measures and stressed that more merchandise was scheduled to arrive on Monday to replenish shelves, officials said.
[...]
[Puerto Rican Governor] Rossello said officials had prepared about 450 shelters with a capacity for nearly 68,000 people -- or even 125,000 in an emergency. Schools were cancelled for Monday and government employees would work only a half day.
*****
* NBC News report filed by RACHEL ELBAUM, DANIELLA SILVA, JASON CUMMING and CORKY SIEMASZKO

********


Monday, September 18

Shoe on other foot: third time in a week al Qaeda poobah assassinated in Idlib

Yes indeed, it's getting mighty dangerous to be an AQ leader in Idlib province. Note the old-fashioned way they're doing it; no messing around with fancy bombs and IEDs, no suicide belts. 

Another Al-Qaeda leader ripped apart by assassin gunfire in Idlib, third in 1 week
By Andrew Illingworth
August 18, 2017
AMN

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:55 P.M.) – Another senior leader of the Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda) has been assassinated in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

Abu Yaser al-Shami, a chief of real estate for Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham, was killed last night as he was passing through the town of Harm in Idlib’s northern countryside.

According to reports, the jihadist leader’s car was lit up by a torrent of gunfire coming from multiple assailants, killing him instantly.

The assassins who carried out the attack remain unidentified, either as individuals or as a group. No faction, rebel or pro-government, has taken credit for the hit.

This is now the third time in one week that a high-ranking Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham leader has been killed in Idlib at the hands of unknown assailants.

[END REPORT]

********

Al Saud plans largest mass deportation in modern history

Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, appointed Saudi Arabia's heir apparent to the throne (Crown Prince) in June 2017


August 1, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- New Delhi started to sending food for more than 10,000 Indian laborers stranded in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with no wages after losing their jobs, in what Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj called a "food crisis".

In a series of tweets, Swaraj said the migrant workers were facing "extreme hardship" and that two junior foreign ministers will be sent to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to take up the issue with authorities, Middle East Eye reported.

"Large numbers of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages and closed down their factories," Swaraj said.

"As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. While the situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia. "The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over ten thousand." ...


August 29, 2017 
John Batchelor's interview with Gregory Copley, Editor and Publisher, Defense & Foreign Affairs for the John Batchelor Show (below is my transcription of the interview; above link is for the podcast):   

JB: ... The imminent dislocation of millions of workers now in Saudi Arabia without nationality. The plan is overwhelming and will dislocate the whole of the region, not just the Gulf but into Africa and eventually into Asia Minor.  

Gregory, you say that there is a plan imminent in Saudi Arabia to expel the non-national workers -- how many, who are they and why this plan now; what does it achieve?

GC:  It's perhaps the most significant deliberate population transfer we've seen attempted for decades, perhaps almost since World War Two. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the son of the current king and heir designate ["MbS"] is planning under his Vision 2023 program to reduce the population of Saudi Arabia by at least 10 million; he probably will need to [expel] more than that. 

What he's trying to do is expel people from the kingdom who are foreign workers or illegal workers in the country.     

The population is currently estimated at about 32.28 million; it  would be more than that, it could be less -- we don't know; the census is unreliable. 

The suggestion is that under the census 8.5 million people were in the kingdom as foreign workers. The reality is that it's probably 2 to 3 times that number of people. So expelling 10 million people from the population in Saudi Arabia will not markedly impact the totality of the foreign workers there.

A lot of these workers come from the [Indian] subcontinent -- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the like  -- and from the Philippines. But perhaps the dominant portion is from Yemen. Huge numbers, particularly the undocumented numbers, are from Ethiopia and  Eritrea. A lot of these people will not be easily able to return to their home countries.  

What we're seeing is an exodus that totally dwarfs the exodus coming from Syria, for example, during its current war. So this could have profound impacts on a lot of neighboring countries.  But it will also have an impact on the countries which provided legal workers because they've been sending home foreign exchange -- remittances from their salaries; this has been a huge amount of capital [for the legal workers' home countries].

But if MbS's plan works, it will save the Saudis $20-48 billion a year just in remittances sent out of the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is running at a really serious currency deficit at the moment. Its GDP has been dropping progressively since 2014 and is likely to go down even further in the coming decade as the petroleum and social and defense expenses continue to rise.

JB:  And how will [the Saudi government] do this? Is this a roundup, an expulsion? Are they giving [foreign workers] tickets home? Do they just deprive them of their residence cards so they can arrest them and deport them en masse?

GC:  It's been underway for some time, these deportations, particularly to the Horn of Africa countries -- Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia -- and it's been a very messy process. I believe most [deportees] have had to fund their own exits. But if MbS is going to get his way, I think the government will have to start airlifts by chartered Saudi aircraft to get [a large number of] people out of the kingdom.

It's not going to be easy. We're talking at least half a million Ethiopians. A couple days ago the Saudi government said they had 450,000 Ethiopians slated for deportation, but in fact it will go over a half billion [because] Ethiopian deportations have been underway for some time. 

Eritreans [face] an even more difficult situation. None of them want to go back to Eritrea because the country is in desperate straits economically right now. The government there is forcing men of all ages into conscription in the armed forces and keeping them there indefinitely. Reminiscent of the old Tsarist practice of conscripting people and keeping them for 20 to 40 years in the armed forces. That is what's going on now in Eritrea.

JB:  What will this large returning number do to Yemen or to Eritrea, which are volatile to begin with? Will it deepen the crisis at home, will it solve it; can the government refuse to accept its own nationals? I'm asking about Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen.

GC: I don't think these countries will refuse to accept their own nationals but the problem is that arrivals could face arrest and detention in Ethiopia or Eritrea. 

[Pundita note:  I am not sure why this would be so, unless it's that they left their countries illegally to work in Saudi Arabia and/or did not declare their foreign earnings to the home government.] 
  
In Yemen the situation is a lot more fluid because of the conflict [war]. And actually the Saudi deportation of Yemenis, literally pushing them across the border by land transportation, could have an even further damaging effect on Yemen's stability.

As we know Crown Prince Mohammad has now said he doesn't want to continue the war in Yemen. So, pushing [deportees in large numbers] back into Yemen might actually do more damage to the country than the Saudi bombing did.

But Yemen in any event is slated to polarize into its original two components -- south Yemen and north Yemen -- or even fracture even further into earlier incarnations with the Hadramaut sultanates and the like perhaps becoming sovereign again on the Indian Ocean side of Yemen.

JB: What about those remittances? [Being deprived of them] would damage the economies. These are fragile economies surrounding Saudi Arabia. Iraq's got a fragile economy, Jordan is fragile, certainly the Horn of Africa. Do we expect those governments to become unstable because the [remittance] money's not coming in anymore?          

GC:  It will certainly mean enormous difficulties for those countries, as it will for countries like the Philippines that have provided a lot of the household servants and workers in Saudi Arabia. This is going to have a really significant impact.

In 2016 we saw that remittances out of Saudi Arabia from foreign workers totaled about $40 billion. That's actually down a little bit from previous years. So [the loss of] $40 billion will have an impact on these countries. For example when you think that Ethiopia's total GDP is about $25 billion and worker remittances into the country are around $5-6 billion.  So you knock a billion or two off that, and you're really having a significant impact on the economy and GDP of a country like Ethiopia.

JB:  Now about Saudi Arabia. Losing this number of workers -- can it make up for the lost labor? The OECD is telling us right now there is a labor shortage around the world. Is Saudi Arabia going to force out the dependents of the foreign workers and keep the trained people?

GC: I think it will keep the highly trained people. But you've got a situation in Saudi Arabia where the country is becoming increasingly polarized between the higher income brackets and the foreign workers, who are becoming of some concern to Saudi Arabia's social fabric. [However, the government] will have to provide more social services for [foreign workers] in any event -- even the remaining ones; it will have to provide a lot more social services and infrastructure to sustain them. 

So the real thing is getting [the large number of foreign workers] out of the country before more [social] damage is created. The Saudis can't afford to keep them. They will have to learn to do without them as cheap labor. But I think that's also MbS's Vision 2030 program -- to make the country much more productive and self reliant, and less reliant on oil and gas revenues as well.

JB:  I'm speaking with Gregory Copley, the Editor and Publisher of Defense & Foreign Affairs. We're going to move from focusing on Saudi Arabia to the whole of the Arabian peninsula and then the Gulf, and then the entire region because of a new quadripartite strategic bloc just forming now. One of the players in the bloc is Russia. 

***

The next part of the discussion starts at the 11:35 minute mark on the Audioboom podcast.  

https://audioboom.com/posts/6255406-turmoil-in-the-arabian-peninsula-the-new-axis-bloc-gregory-copley-defense-foreign-affairs

********

Sunday, September 17

American movies - crap. American pop music - crap. American entertainment - crap.

After struggling through Wikipedia's review of the movie It and Rex Reed's by now-famous review of mother! ("Maybe the worst movie of the century") I'll pass on watching a politically correct movie about cannibalism of children by a circus clown (It) -- but it's okay because the child protagonists are Social Victims (bullied, etc.) -- and cannibalism of an infant (mother!) but it's okay because the director is an Artiste --  

After plowing through the Guardian's explanation that American 'hardcore' punk music is fueling the antifa political gangs -- and learning that a black American rapper's latest offering, appropriately titled Look at me, features a 'symbolic' lynching of a white child -- 

After getting one glance at the American fashion and cosmetic industry's Gender Fluidity -- 

I'm actually afraid to learn about the Fall lineup of TV programs on American broadcast and cable television -- but that's okay because I stopped watching television in 2013. 

Which I suspect points to the problem for the American entertainment industry. 

Like an aging teen idol pop singer who engages in progressively wilder antics to keep media attention, industrialized American entertainment has entered the gross-out phase in a desperate bid to keep market share.
  
********

Saturday, September 16

Okay, if the money has been accounted for, USAID can reveal where it went

"Explanations of where the money had gone varied from country to country. Only the UK and Germany published transparent reports of what they had done with the money. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said not all of the money it pledged had gone towards schooling, but all of it had been accounted for."

While I am not a fan of Human Rights Watch, their investigation seems to be on the level:
 
Millions of Western dollars meant to save ‘lost generation’ of Syrians vanished – HRW
Published time: 15 Sep, 2017 16:48
Edited time: 15 Sep, 2017 17:38

Millions of dollars pledged by the international community to pay for the education of Syrian refugee children has gone missing, according to an investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In 2016, a conference in London attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as David Cameron and John Kerry, then-UK prime minister and US secretary of state, respectively, pledged $1.4 billion to help over 1.5 million displaced Syrian children go to school to prevent the emergence of a “lost generation.” 

The six largest donors were the European Union, the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Japan, and the money was due to go to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon – the three countries hosting the most Syrian refugees.

The HRW investigation found “large discrepancies”between the money that was pledged and what was actually received by the host countries.

“Donors and host countries have promised that Syrian children will not become a lost generation, but this is exactly what is happening,” said the report’s author, Simon Rau. “More transparency in funding would help reveal the needs that aren’t being met so they could be addressed and get children into school.”

According to HRW, most of the money that was supposed to be used to buy books, hire teachers, and plan curriculums only reached the hosting countries after the school year started, which was too late for it to enroll many of the children. 

By early September 2016 Jordan faced a $171mn shortfall and Lebanon $181mn. Although the funds slowly trickled in, Jordan still had a $41mn budget gap by the end of the year, and Lebanon $97mn.

Meanwhile, the UN agencies working with Syrian refugees in Turkey only received $111mn out of the $137mn they requested in 2016.

“Despite global concern about Syrian refugee children, it is still impossible to find answers to basic questions about whether their key educational needs are being met,” said Rau. 

“Donors should fix the transparency deficit that is undercutting their own support for Syrian children, who cannot afford to wait any longer to get back into school.”

Explanations of where the money had gone varied from country to country. Only the UK and Germany published transparent reports of what they had done with the money. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said not all of the money it pledged had gone towards schooling, but all of it had been accounted for.

“Clarity about aid can help pinpoint the reasons why, despite donor support, hundreds of thousands of Syrian children still lack access to education,” the report said.

Other problems identified by HRW include poorly-trained teachers, harassment and discrimination at school, and widespread poverty, which makes classes unaffordable and puts pressure on boys to work and girls to marry. As of the 2016-2017 school year, over 530,000 Syrian children have not been able to attend classes.

Russia has been providing humanitarian aid on the ground directly to affected areas in Syria. Earlier in September, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria sent food aid and living essentials, including water purification stations, portable diesel generators, medicine, and bottled water, to the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor after it was liberated from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in a joint operation with Syrian forces.

[END REPORT]

**********

Turning Point: Last of Syrian de-escalation zones established at Astana meeting


Emphasis in the following report is mine:

"The negotiations in Astana also influence the parallel Geneva peace process ..."
‘Turning point’: Syrian peace process delegations on de-escalation zones
Published time: 16 Sep, 2017 16:57
Edited time: 16 Sep, 2017 16:59
RT

Russia, one of the guarantor states of the Syrian peace process, sees the recent agreement on de-escalation zones as “a turning point” in resolving the crisis. Meanwhile, Syria says the agreement will be an “exam” for the crisis settlement parties.

The three guarantors of the peace settlement in war-torn Syria – Russia, Iran and Turkey – signed the document on the boundaries of the final de-escalation zone in Idlib in the Kazakh capital, Astana on Friday. It is the last of the four de-escalation zones, initially proposed by Moscow, to separate extremist groups, including Islamic State terrorists (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), from the moderate opposition.

For the next six months, the forces of Russia, Iran, and Turkey will monitor Idlib Province to help maintain the ceasefire and fight terrorism, while Russia will be responsible for the de-escalation zone in the south.

“We see this as a turning point. The creation of de-escalation zones represents a turning point in people’s minds,” Russia’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told reports in Astana.

“They feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that they do not have to tremble for their lives anymore.”

However, there is still much to be done to unite all the forces in the struggle with terrorism, the head of the Russian delegation said. Despite the armed Syrian opposition taking part in the peace negotiations and welcoming the Russian-Turkish-Iranian initiative, it did not give any concrete guarantees on its participation, according to Lavrentiev.

The opposition says that “until there are no developments from the Syrian government forces, there will [not be] our participation in the fight against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra,” the envoy explained. [Pundita: Huh? Does he mean until there are developments from the SAA? Or that the opposition won't cooperate until the SAA ceases operations in certain areas?]

“It’s regretful to hear such statements,” he said, adding that all the sides are trying to coordinate their actions, including those with the US. Washington backs the operations of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Kurdish fighters as well as Arab militia groups on Syrian territory despite no official permission from the authorities.

“We are trying to attract as much forces and means as we can to close this issue and move to peacebuilding and restoration of Syria,” Lavrentiev said.

“We hope that we will be able to change the mind of the opposition on this issue.”

An 'exam' for crisis settlement parties

The Russian-Turkish-Iranian agreement is a six-month-long exam for the peace settlement guarantors, especially for Ankara, the Syrian government’s chief negotiator, Bashar Jaafari, told an RT Arabic correspondent following the Astana talks. However, it may fail to pass the test as it has been supporting terrorists for years, Jaafari says.

The next six months, a period that was settled at the negotiations, will show if the “guarantors, and especially the Turkish side” can fulfill their commitments, “as two other countries – Russia and Iran – are fighting terrorism at the request of the Syrian government, while Turkey has been helping terrorists for years,” Jaafari stated.

He also explained that Turkey opposed having Russian-Iranian forces at the border between Idlib and Turkey, as Ankara does not want anyone to witness how Turkey is helping the terrorists and letting them move freely across the border.

“This agreement is an exam. The exam for the countries involved in the process of settlement of the Syrian crisis,” he said, adding that it will show the extent to which Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara are willing to follow the agreement.

The mechanisms of monitoring, prosecution, and punishment, as well as a monitoring center, were established in the final communique, according to the Syrian envoy.

“The whole world will observe how the agreement is being implemented,” Jaafari told RT.

“Either we read poetry at such meetings or have a serious political conversation and meet political commitments.”
‘Devil in the details’

The difficulties connected with the latest negotiations and the establishment of the last de-escalation zone were also voiced by the Iranians.

“As the famous Arab proverb says, ‘the devil is in the details,’” the head of the Iranian delegation at the Astana talks, Hossein Ansari, told RT.

“During the discussion and working out of the details we have faced some challenges, especially regarding de-escalation zone in Idlib,” Ansari said.

The Iranian envoy also confirmed that Moscow asked to mention “the southern zone” in the final document.

“Russia, as a guarantor state which is a participant of the agreement on the southern zone, is responsible [for it],” Ansari stated.

The negotiations in Astana also influence the parallel Geneva peace process, aimed at providing ground for reconciliation between the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition under the auspices of the United Nations.

“First of all, in Geneva we will… continue talking and not only talking, but to take actions on the humanitarian aspect – which is a natural consequence of this coalition. The more of this coalition, the more of this humanitarian access,” UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura told RT.
READ MORE: ‘Not satisfied’ till Assad gone: US pushes for regime change as war in Syria winds down
READ MORE: Millions of Western dollars meant to save ‘lost generation’ of Syrians vanished – HRW


[END REPORT]

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British police arrest 18-year-old man in connection with London subway bomb

By William Booth, Karla Adam and Rick Noack
September 16, 2017 - 6:48 AM EDT
The Washington Post

 Following a fast-moving investigation and manhunt, British police on Saturday morning arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the attack on the London subway that injured at least 29 people in what police called a terrorist incident.
Authorities said the man has been arrested by Kent police in the port area of Dover on the English Channel.
Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu called the operation a “significant arrest.” He said the investigation is ongoing.
The man is being held for questioning under the Terrorism Act. “For strong investigative reasons we will not give any more details on the man we arrested at this stage,” Basu said.
[...]
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Group of IS fighters in Deir Ezzor grow a brain and surrender to Syrian Army

They must be Syrian fighters. Remember, the local Islamic State fighters in Deir Ezzor have been left to rot by their foreign commanders -- told to stay and fight to the last man while the commanders evacuated. From the report today at Sputnik it's a small group, and the source didn't say (or didn't know) why they surrendered, but maybe word is traveling among those fighters that they were betrayed. 

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How to get your dog's head out of a cookie jar without killing the dog or breaking the jar



Puppy gets head stuck in biscuit jar in Southampton
September 15, 2017
BBC

I have dealt with a lot of animals over the years and I always say, "If they can get it in, I can get it out."

A puppy bit off more than he could chew when he raided his owner's biscuit jar and ended up with his head stuck inside it.

The pug-Chihuahua cross, called Buddy, was trying to lick crumbs out of the container when he became trapped at his home in Wavell Road, Southampton.

His owner smeared washing-up liquid around the pup's neck but could not free him so he had to call firefighters.

Rescuer Anton Phillips eased out Buddy's ears before releasing his head.

The animal rescue specialist said: "This was an unusual job and it was strange being able to see the animal's doleful expression through the glass.

"I was keen not to risk breaking the glass as this could have injured the animal.

"I pulled back the loose skin and positioned it so I could get one ear out then the other. There was a pop as I got its head free.

"I have dealt with a lot of animals over the years and I always say 'if they can get it in, I can get it out'."

Buddy was said to be fine after his ordeal on Monday afternoon.

You can see more stories about stuck animals needing to be rescued on our Pinterest board.
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Get on the Good Foot

James Joseph Brown, the 'Godfather of Soul,' the American who taught the world to dance freestyle.





Richard Wayne Penniman, the American who laid the foundation for rock 'n roll and soul pop music. 


      

But of course they were both raised in the Gospel music tradition.  

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Friday, September 15

Surprising ways to reduce cancer risk

From: 

10 Surprising Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk
By Jacqueline Ho 
 Aug 21st 2014 Updated Jul 28th 2017
Health Central

Reviewed by: Todd Gersten, MD

[I knew about the other six ways but the ones above, especially arsenic in brown rice, were news to me]

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