Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2016 Grammy Awards- Taylor Swift Wins Album Of The Year At Grammys 2016, Disses Kanye West

Saudi, Turkey boots in Syria may trigger regional war: Ex-soviet states

A security alliance of post-soviet states says plans by Turkey and Saudi Arabia to deploy ground troops into Syria could escalate tensions in the conflict-ridden Arab country and result in direct military clashes between countries in the Middle East.
Nikolay Bordyuzha, the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), made the warning in a statement released on Tuesday.
"Mass shelling of the Syrian territory by Turkey, Ankara’s and Riyadh’s plans to start ground operations in Syria may upgrade the Syrian crisis to a new, dangerous level – a direct military confrontation between countries in the region," Bordyuzha stated.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia say they are waiting for a US nod after announcing their bid for ground operations inside Syria. 
Although swiftly welcomed by the United States, the initiative attracted heavy criticism from Damascus, with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem saying “coffins” await any aggressor to the country “whether they be Saudis or Turks.”
Turkey's military has been shelling Kurdish positions in northern Syria since February 13. Turkey’s strikes came after the Kurdish fighters, backed by Russian airstrikes, drove foreign-backed militants from areas near the Turkish border.

Kurdish female fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG) take part in a training session at their camp in the city of al-Qahtaniyah, northeastern Syria, on December 1, 2015. ©AFP

Elsewhere in his comments, Bordyuzha said Saudi and Turkish boots on the ground in Syria would threaten the CSTO member states.
"Further instigation of hotbed of war in Syria’s territory in direct proximity from the zone of the CSTO’s responsibility is a threat to security of the organization’s member states," he said.
The CSTO is a regional security group comprising six post-Soviet Union countries of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Tajikistan.
Tensions in the Middle East have heightened in the past months after regional powers sided with warring sides to the conflict in Syria.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of some 470,000 people and left 1.9 million injured, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

Video Report - Will the Syria ceasefire yield results?

China - Julie Bishop’s hypocritical remarks expose lack of commitment

According to media reports, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday called on China to respect international law concerning the South China Sea in a speech to Japan's Press Club in Tokyo. As she is flying to Beijing Wednesday to meet with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, she also intends to ask the Chinese government what the reclamation work in the waters "will be used for" and what public goods it will provide. 

These remarks are not unexpected. In an October interview, Bishop called on all relevant parties to negotiate in accordance with international law. Given the rising tension surrounding the South China Sea now, her remarks seem to imply that China is the one that needs to comply with international law. 

In a paper published in 2013, Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the University of Sydney, argued that many countries expect China to accord with higher standards of international law than Western nations, including the US and Australia. In fact, China has respected international rules by and large "comparable to other powerful countries."

Unsettled by the rapid rise of China, in recent years Australian officials such as foreign and defense ministers have switched from discretion to blatant criticism of China and enhanced coordination with the US and Japan. However, at the same time Canberra walks a fine line by promoting strategic and economic cooperation with China given the latter's sizable market and investment capability. 

After the China-Australia free trade agreement came into force late last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that Australia's opportunities in the Chinese market would be "limited only by our imagination and enterprise," full of exhilaration for the potential flows of wealth. 

How can these politicians believe that they can benefit enormously from relations with China and meanwhile feel free to castigate China in disputes? Perhaps these politicians feel they are under pressure from domestic public opinion and to balance other regional relationships, but such remarks only expose their lack of any real commitment.

China has repeatedly elaborated about the purpose of the construction on the islands in the South China Sea and Bishop does not need to manufacture such an excuse to find faults with China. Otherwise, such hypocrisy will amount to nothing but harm to Australia's relationship with China.

Will Media Accuse Putin of ‘Being Responsible for Merkel's Haircut' Next?

The West makes Russian President Vladimir Putin out to be responsible for all of the ills of the modern world, German magazine Spiegel Online wrote.

However, most accusations against Putin are made up and not based on any evidence. Whether you switch on your computer, read the newspaper or turn on the TV, the negative image of Russian President is everywhere, the magazine wrote.

"From the Ukrainian conflict and migration crisis to Pegida, the Russian President seems to be responsible for all the problems on the continent. Soon, probably for Merkel's haircut as well," the article said.

When the Ukrainian conflict started, Putin was simply perceived by the West as a madman. At that time, Angela Merkel said that "he lives in his own world", but now, he is considered a real "devil."
According to the magazine, there is poor habit among Western countries to see everything in black and white.
"Europe is bright, reasonably controlled. And there's a dark Russia, prone to violence, tyranny, chaos, craving for our destruction," the article said, referring to the most common prejudices about Russia in Western countries.

US Senator Dan Coats, a former ambassador to Berlin, accused Russia of using the "migration crisis as a weapon," while German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen angrily said that Putin plays a "double game" in Syria, the magazine wrote.

In late September, Russia started a military campaign in Syria. Over the course of six months, the Russian operation fundamentally improved the situation in the country and achieved "irretrievable" success, as the German newspaper FAZ wrote on Sunday.
At the same time the West had watched in silence as 250,000 people died and more than 11,000,000 lost their homes over the course of the five-year civil war.
"Through the prism of indifference and incompetence of the calculation we watched how Syria was turning into a slaughter. We have lost the right to moralize," the magazine concluded.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/europe/20160216/1034868317/western-media-putin.html#ixzz40NlnSfF7

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Black vote pushes Hillary Clinton to huge South Carolina lead over Bernie Sanders

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CNN/ORC poll: Hillary Clinton with a healthy lead over Bernie Sanders

We Investigated, Donald Trump is Named in at Least 169 Federal Lawsuits


Donald Trump has been named in at least 169 federal lawsuits, according to a LawNewz.com investigation. They read like a history of  Trump’s business failures, successes, and bombastic personality. With Trump threatening a lawsuit against Ted Cruz, his surge in the polls, and his big win in New Hampshire, we thought now was as good a time as any to review of some of the Donald’s legal skirmishes. The federal lawsuits that we reviewed date back to 1983 and involve everything from business disputes, antitrust claims and, more recently, accusations that Trump’s campaign statements are discriminatory against minorities. Some of the cases have been resolved, some were dismissed as frivolous, and others were privately settled. He’s been sued by celebrities, personal assistants, prisoners, people in mental hospitals, unions, and wealthy businessmen. Of course, Donald Trump has also done his fair share of suing as well.  The lawsuits on both sides provide a unique glimpse into some of the biggest battles involving the presidential candidate.  Just a note, the cases listed below only include those filed in U.S. federal court. Who knows how many others were filed in state courts around the country.
Here are some highlights in chronological order:
  • The U.S. Department of Justice sued Trump for an antitrust violation in 1988 and won. Trump was forced to pay $750,000. The real-estate magnate agreed to pay the penalty stemming from his attempted takeovers of two companies. The feds said that his stock purchases in the companies violated the FTC’s notification requirements.
  • 1990 was a big legal year for Donald Trump. He was named as a defendant in 21 lawsuits filed by different businesses and individuals. Several sued him for securities fraud and breach of contract. Most of the complaints stem from the Trump’s corporation filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy from creditors following the building of the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. By 1991, the resort was nearly $3 billion in debt, according to the New York Times.
  • It’s not just Trump being sued. He has sued Palm Beach, where he has a home, at least three different times. In 1992, he filed a $100 million lawsuit over the membership club Mar-a-Lago, the council eventually “acquiesced” and allowed him to make some of his property into a private club. He then sued the Palm Beach Airport for noise violations, and tried to prevent them from expandingnear his private club. Palm Beach County estimates that legal fights with Trump related to the airport have cost taxpayers at least $600,000. The most entertaining is probably the $25 million lawsuit he filed against the town, who cited him for displaying an American flag on his property. “The town council of Palm Beach should be ashamed of itself,” Trump said, according to Politico. “They’re fining me for putting up the American flag. This is probably a first in United States history.”
  • In 1995, the personal assistant to Donald Trump’s ex-wife Marlafiled a federal lawsuit against them that went on for years. It readslike an article in the National Inquirer, with accusations of nude pictures being sent to tabloids, and panty stealing. In 2003, a judge finally dismissed the case, calling the plaintiff’s case full of “ramblings.”
  • New Hampshire man, upset he didn’t appear on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice, sued for allegedly discriminating against an older contestant. The 51-year-old withdrew his lawsuit after entering into a settlement agreement, according to Law 360.
  • A college student filed a lawsuit against Trump’s profit seeking college, Trump University, and a federal judge eventually ordered the school pay $798,000 in legal fees, according to Courthouse News. The student claimed the university and Trump engaged in deceptive practices, and that the seminars were nothing more than infomercials. Trump’s name was eventually dropped from the suit.
  • Rafel Oliveras and Lopez De Victoria who live in Puerto Rico filed a lawsuit last year.  The duo claim “Candidate Donald Trump publicly disgraced and discriminated against Hispanics by wholesale comparing them with murderers, rapists and known gang members.” The couple wants him barred him from seeking the office of President of the United States all together. Good luck, with that one.
  • The most recent lawsuit was filed in December by Federick Banks — who says he is an American Indian Witch. He also sued the CIA director.

From inmates to millionaires, Donald Trump has become a familiar name on courtroom dockets and his legal battles will almost certainly continue so LawNewz will review any new lawsuits filed, or missed, and dutifully add them to our list.

Op-Ed: In Court Fight, History Backs Obama

“THE American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, announced after news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Many of the Republican presidential contenders have heartily endorsed this argument.
Contrary to those claims, however, President Obama has constitutional and historical precedent on his side and should announce a nominee.
Article II of the Constitution directs the president to nominate and, “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” appoint judges of the Supreme Court. (“He shall,” it says.) Nothing in the Constitution stipulates that this power does not apply in an election year.
In fact, history supports Mr. Obama. On 13 occasions, a vacancy on the nation’s highest court has occurred — through death, retirement or resignation — during a presidential election year. This does not include the most recent and frequently cited example, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in November 1987 to fill a vacancy and won confirmation from a Democratic-controlled Senate in February 1988.
In 11 of these instances, the Senate took action on the president’s nomination. In all five cases in which a vacancy occurred during the first quarter of the year the president successfully nominated a replacement.
In the first of these instances, in January 1804, Justice Alfred Moore resigned from the court, and President Thomas Jefferson, who was running for a second term, successfully nominated a successor. In January 1892, the death of Justice Joseph Bradley prompted President Benjamin Harrison to nominate George Shiras Jr. to take his place. Although Mr. Harrison was locked in a race for re-election against Grover Cleveland, the Senate confirmed Mr. Shiras at the end of July. Mr. Harrison lost, but Justice Shiras remained on the court for the next decade.
In January 1916, as President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election, the death of Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar created one vacancy on the court, and that summer the resignation of Justice Charles Evans Hughes created another. Mr. Wilson filled both seats: the January opening with Louis D. Brandeis, and the July vacancy with John H. Clarke. Mr. Wilson won a second term.
In January 1932, when few expected Herbert Hoover to win a second term, Justice Oliver W. Holmes retired from the court. Rather than wait until after the election, President Hoover nominated and the Senate confirmed Benjamin N. Cardozo, a great justice. Even the Great Depression did not prevent the president and the Senate from fulfilling their constitutional duties.
In March 1888, when Chief Justice Morrison Waite died suddenly and unexpectedly — not unlike Justice Scalia — just as President Grover Cleveland was running for a second term, the president nominated a new chief justice, Melville W. Fuller, to replace him. The Senate confirmed the nomination at the end of July.
Of course, none of these represents an exact parallel to today’s situation. In all but one of these instances, the president and Senate majority were of the same political party, unlike today. Only Mr. Cleveland (a Democrat) faced a Senate controlled by the opposition party, while President Hoover’s Republican Party held only a one-vote majority in the Senate. Still, in both of these instances, the nominees were confirmed by wide margins. In fact, the 1932 confirmation of Justice Cardozo was unanimous.
Three times presidents who were on their way out of office — “lame ducks” in the truest sense — appointed justices to the court. In December 1800, the resignation of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth allowed John Adams, who had already lost to Thomas Jefferson, the chance to select the justice’s successor. Mr. Adams chose John Marshall, who went on to serve 34 years as the nation’s fourth and greatest chief justice. In February 1845, a month before he left office, John Tyler nominated Samuel Nelson, who won Senate confirmation and served for the next 27 years.
And when the resignation of Justice William Strong occurred after the 1880 election, the departing president, Rutherford B. Hayes — not his successor, James A. Garfield — nominated Justice Strong’s successor, Justice William B. Woods. In the Adams and Tyler examples, two unpopular departing executives carried out their constitutional duties and overcame political factionalism from inside and outside of their own parties.
To be sure, the Senate has rejected nominees for political reasons, increased the size of the court (for instance, during the Civil War) or reduced it (immediately after the Civil War). But in cases when vacancies have arisen during election years, the weight of history is clearly on the side of the president naming a successor and the Senate acting on that nomination.
The Republicans, who frequently cite the Constitution and look to historical precedent, have an opportunity to be true to their principles. They should ignore Donald Trump’s urging to “delay, delay, delay,” and help ensure our Constitution functions as it should — and as it has in the past.

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Pashto song - Gulnar Begum -- wakht maspakheen de

Profiting off of chaos: How the U.S. privatized its war in Afghanistan — Antony Loewenstein on “Disaster Capitalism”

By Ben Norton

Journalist Antony Loewenstein tells Salon how corporations exploit violent conflicts in Afghanistan and beyond.

“The corporation is now fundamentally more powerful than the nation-state,” writes journalist Antony Loewenstein in his new book “Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe.”

“Many ongoing crises seem to have been sustained by businesses to fuel industries in which they have a financial stake,” he explains. “Companies that entrench a crisis and then sell themselves as the only ones who can resolve it.”
Loewenstein, a columnist for the Guardian, traveled the world in order to understand just how multinational corporations profit off of such chaos. The Australian-born yet decidedly cosmopolitan journalist devotes the meticulous and daring tome to reporting on the foreign exploitation he witnessed in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and the destructive mining boom in Papua New Guinea, along with seemingly dystopian prison privatization in the U.S., predatory for-profit detention centers for refugees in Australia and ruthless austerity in Greece.

In the book, Loewenstein expertly shows how corporate control of not just the domestic, but also the global political system has led to a drastic “erosion of democracy.”
A quote he chooses as the overture sets the tone for the ensuing pages. “It is profitable to let the world go to hell,” warns scholar Jørgen Randers, a professor of climate strategy at Norwegian Business School, while railing against “the tyranny of the short term.” This quote succinctly summarizes exactly how disaster capitalism operates.
The concept of disaster capitalism is derived from a similar work, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” an influential 2007 book by journalist Naomi Klein. In some ways, “Disaster Capitalism” can be seen as a sequel to Klein’s book, yet Loewenstein’s formidable work stands out in its own right.
Salon sat down with the journalist to discuss one of the more explosive controversies he uncovers in his book: how the U.S. war in Afghanistan was privatized.
Loewenstein spent time in war-torn Afghanistan, as well as neighboring Pakistan, researching for “Disaster Capitalism.” His compelling recounting of his experiences paints a picture of a crisis-stricken world in which virtually everything has been privatized, in which private military companies, or PMCs — 21st-century warlords — exercise more control over countries than their own inhabitants.
A slew of Western multinational corporations quite familiar to Americans appear throughout the chapter, including Northrop Grumman, DynCorp, Halliburton and more.
The personal interactions Loewenstein has with military contractors on the ground are some of the most fascinating. A British PMC managing director the journalist met in Kabul, whom he refers to simply as Jack, bluntly admits his corporation “survives off chaos.”
Predicting future U.S. wars in Africa, Iran and Korea, the corporate military executive tells Loewenstein, “If we can make money, we’ll go there.”
“I’m my own government,” Jack boldly declares.
“Disaster Capitalism” bolsters Loewenstein’s growing body of important work. Among his other books are “Profits of Doom: How Vulture Capitalism Is Swallowing the World,” a kind of 2013 prequel to “Disaster Capitalism”; “The Blogging Revolution,” a 2008 investigation of how bloggers around the world challenge their oppressive governments; and the best-selling “My Israel Question,” an exhaustive 2007 account of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, and a profound and intimate exploration of the author’s Jewish identity.
For his previous books, Loewenstein traveled widely, from Palestine to Iran, from Saudi Arabia to China, from Cuba to Egypt and beyond. For “Disaster Capitalism,” Loewenstein went even further. When Salon contacted him to schedule an interview, the intrepid journalist seemed every time to not only be in a different country, but even on a different continent.
This is the first in a two-part review of Loewenstein’s reporting in “Disaster Capitalism.” Another piece will be devoted to Loewenstein’s findings in Haiti, a small country that has been virtually taken over by Western NGOs. Loewenstein spoke with Salon about both little-discussed yet tremendously important issues.
Jack, the British PMC managing director you met in Kabul, said “we don’t call ourselves mercenaries.” Are they mercenaries? Should they be called that?
Not all private security interests in Afghanistan are mercenaries; many men are just security guards protecting embassies or Western interests. But mercenaries are a little-reported aspect of the war, either directly engaged in killing or capturing suspected insurgents (a key failing of the Western war in the country has been its insistence on designating any opponent of the conflict as “Taliban” and therefore “terrorist”) or training Afghan forces to do the same thing, often inflaming conflicts in local villages.
You call imperialism “the dirtiest word in modern English” and note, “There is not a country I visited for this book in which the legacy of imperialism does not scar the landscape and people.” You also point out that “there were often more contractors than soldiers in Afghanistan.” Jack said it is cheaper for countries to use PMCs than it is to put their own boots on the ground.
Do you see this as an outsourcing of imperialism and neo-colonialism, if you will? Is this how war will work in the future?
The U.S. government, along with its many allies, likes using private assets to further geo-political interests. The initial motivation when invading Afghanistan was revenge for 9/11, but this quickly morphed into a messy project to control the nation and partner with a corrupt central government and warlords across the country.
The reason I use the term “imperialism” to describe the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and beyond — along with U.S.-backed autocratic partners in the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa — is that there’s no other way to describe attempts to secure energy reserves and economic influence in the modern age.
War has always worked this way, but the inclusion of globalized private entities removes one more level of accountability. Today in Afghanistan there are around30,000 contractors working for the Pentagon alongside the U.S. military and Special Forces. And the Pentagon won’t acknowledge how many soldiers are truly fighting ISIS in Iraq.
Can you talk more about Afghanistan’s enormous natural resources, the TAPI pipeline, drugs, etc.? This is little discussed. Why do you think that is?
During both the Soviet and American occupations of Afghanistan, huge discoveries of natural resources occurred. There is an estimated U.S. $1-4 trillion of untapped minerals, oil and gas and yet most of it is unreachable due to security concerns and corruption.
I have been investigating these issues for my book, and also the documentary in progress, “Disaster Capitalism,” with New York filmmaker Thor Neureiter.
Natural resources will not sustain Afghanistan after most of the Western aid dries up, and neither the U.S. government nor Afghan authorities have any answers for long-term sustainability (the proposed TAPI pipeline crossing Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Turkmenistan is ambitious but prone to problems).
Drug cultivation has soared during the U.S. occupation. Too many Western reporters have framed the Afghan war as simply between U.S. forces and the Taliban when in reality Afghanistan has a complex history that never tolerates long-term occupation.

You write about the “military-enforced bubble,” in which the foreign occupying army is completely out of touch with the locals. An Afghan translator told you the U.S. “only understood force.” Can you expand?
A constant refrain I heard in Afghanistan, during my visits there in 2012 and 2015, was the inability and unwillingness of U.S. and foreign forces to listen to the Afghan people. It’s one reason the U.S. relied on faulty intelligence to understand what Afghans were thinking about their presence.
As the security situation deteriorated after 2004-2005, and U.S. forces falsely framed any Afghan who opposed the occupation as Taliban, the U.S. used a failedcounterinsurgency program (designed by David Petraeus and Australian David Kilcullen) that inflamed Afghans.
There has never been accountability for this plan, including by the countless Western journalists seduced by U.S. military talking points.
You talk about the relationships between the U.S. military, USAID and private companies, and say “military and humanitarian work were all too often fused in the post-9/11 world.” Can you comment?
A key component of USAID in the post 9/11 world is using the military to deliver its goals. This fundamentally misunderstands the importance of maintaining neutrality when delivering aid.
The U.S. government’s SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) regularly reports on the U.S. $110 billion spent in Afghanistan on so-called nation building since October 2001, and how USAID was regularly used as a mask for a corporate and military agenda across the country.
Where else is the private security industry growing?
The definition of private security is expanding to include the growth of private armies in often unregulated and chaotic places (from Iraq to Afghanistan and Libya to Syria). South African mercenaries were working in Nigeria against Boko Haram and Colombian forces operated in Yemen thanks to the United Arab Emirates.
You write “the Bush administration saw its ‘war on terror’ as a boon for the private sector.” Has the Obama administration has done the same?
Post 9/11, the Bush administration saw an opportunity to implement an extreme neoconservative agenda with the support of its friends in the private sector. They claimed it would save money and be more efficient but the reality was uncontrolled mercenaries and private security in countless war zones.
When Barack Obama was a candidate for President in 2007, he pledged to change this out-of-control contracting since 9/11. However, nothing has improved since he took office due to a number of factors including failing campaign finance laws and Congressional inertia to punish corporations breaking the law.
You conclude the chapter saying, “we created chaos.” What do you think the legacy is of the now 15-year U.S. occupation, especially now, with the rise of ISIS and the resurgence of the Taliban?
The Taliban now control more of Afghanistan than at any time since October 2001. President Obama has now pledged to maintain an indefinite occupation and the U.S. military claims U.S. forces will need to stay in the country for decades to support a failing Afghan state.
The presence of ISIS only complicates the picture, especially for Afghan civilians.
The longest war in U.S. history has not achieved any of its stated goals and the Afghan people, often forced to choose between the Taliban and a U.S.-backed warlord, often pick the former. That’s the legacy of the U.S. war.