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The World Below / Docs claim US trained UAE pilots for combat in Yemen
« Last post by Rudi Jan on Yesterday at 08:10:16 PM »
Docs claim US trained UAE pilots for combat in Yemen, signaling deeper involvement in conflict

Published time: 19 Jan, 2019 14:57

File Photo: UAE F-16s © AFP / HO / PETRA

The American military has trained UAE fighter pilots for combat missions in Yemen, indicating Washington’s deeper involvement into the ongoing conflict, a recent report citing US Air Force documents claims.

The papers were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Yahoo News. They appear to show how United Arab Emirates (UAE) pilots and crew were prepared for the Yemen conflict by US instructors under the UAE’s “F-16 pilot training program.”

It was completed at the USAF’s Warfare Center in Al Dhafra, just south of the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

The training which, according to the documents, took place between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017, resulted in four new instructors and 29 combat wingmen prior to their immediate deployment “for combat operations in Yemen.”

Also revealed was the escorting of four UAE F-16s to the USAF’s Red Flag exercises in the Nevada desert. The two-week advanced aerial combat training oversaw 150 Emirati personnel participate in “challenging exercises” with the goal to “prepare” them for combat action in Yemen.

The UAE has been involved in Yemen’s civil war as part of a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels who rose up against the government in 2015.

While Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in the country has garnered the most international criticism, the UAE’s role has received less coverage. However, it has been an active partner in the coalition, contributing both troops on the ground in addition to planes in the sky.

When pressed for comment on the UAE training by Yahoo News, both a US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson and a second CENTCOM official, Lt. Col. Josh Jacques, repeatedly denied the claims of prepping pilots for Yemen sorties.

“We do not conduct exercises with members of the [Saudi-led coalition] to prepare for combat operations in Yemen,” Jacques said.

US officials have long been coy regarding the true extent of their support for the coalition, insisting that arm sales, air-to-air refueling, as well as intelligence training and sharing constitute the extent of their involvement.

However, in November, the US government said it would end mid-air refueling of coalition aircraft in response to growing outrage that the Saudi-led bombing campaign was unlawfully targeting civilians and putting the country on the brink of famine. For its part, Riyadh has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and not military related infrastructure on purpose.

In December, top US military brass reiterated Washington’s lack of involvement. Speaking at a Washington Post event, General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the US was not participating in the civil war, “nor are we supporting one side or the other.”

R ~ I don't doubt that the US 'trainers' are flying in the sorties themselves.
Money & Markets / Rising Credit-Card Use Shows Consumers Are Strapped
« Last post by Rudi Jan on Yesterday at 10:57:20 AM »
Rising Credit-Card Use Shows Consumers Are Strapped

by Tyler Durden
Sat, 01/19/2019 - 14:40

Americans are increasingly reaching for the plastic in their wallets to cover what their paychecks won’t.

Even though evidence is mounting that the U.S. economy may be soon heading into a recession, there are plenty of analysts who say that the surge in credit card borrowing is a sign of strong confidence among households. That's hardly the case. In fact, households' confidence in the future growth of their incomes has been cooling since late last summer, which means borrowers will only reach for what’s in their wallet to compensate for what their paychecks will not cover.

Many working adults have no recollection of credit card borrowing not being a mainstay among their financing options. But then, few would be able to identify a Diners Club card, which was a popular brand during the 1980s "yuppie" era when Americans first began to embrace credit card spending in earnest. These days, consumers are not keen to lean on credit cards, partly due to a cultural and financial shift in the industry.

The financial crisis arguably altered households’ views on charging beyond their means. It didn’t hurt that the availability of subprime credit all but disappeared for a few years or that the interest rate on credit cards remained in double-digit territory despite the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy. That said, the idea of frugality re-entered many households’ thinking in the wake of the severe hardship the foreclosure crisis brought to bear on millions of working Americans. Debit cards became the predominant form of plastic used at the checkout.

And yet, consumer credit likely rounded out 2019 at a new $4 trillion milestone as runaway higher educationand car-price inflation coupled with ridiculously looser lending standards pushed households to take on record levels of student loan and auto debt. At roughly $1 trillion, credit cards are but a co-star in a star-studded, full-length feature film. A long history of credit card borrowing suggests that we would have multiples of today’s $1.04 billion in outstanding balances had the growth rate of spending on plastic maintained the headier double-digit paces clocked in the 1980s and 1990s.

Credit Card Borrowing Decouples from Income Expectations in Current Cycle

Several factors worked to slow the rate of credit card usage, few of which were virtuous. The past several recoveries were characterized as “jobless” due to the prolonged period required to recapture prior cycle highs in the employment-to-population ratio and anemic wage growth that persisted in such environments. And while credit card spending certainly held up during the years the housing bubble was inflating, households didn’t have to lean near as hard on plastic when their homes had infamously become de facto ATM machines.

The question is where credit card borrowing goes from here in view of the deteriorating economic outlook. August marked the high in income expectationsas measured by Conference Board data. If history is precedent, there will be a rush to tap available credit as households become increasingly aware that the economy is headed into recession.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas layoff announcements began rising on an annualized basis in August. And the quits rate, as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, peaked in August. Janet Yellen, a labor economist by training, was known to lean heavily on the quits rate, which rises as workers gain increased confidence in the availability of jobs. And finally, confidence among small businesses, which we know are the largest source of job creation, also peaked in August. There is a pattern.

You may note that the effective personal income tax rate -- defined as the taxes paid on income, including realized net capital gains and on personal property -- has tended to move up alongside credit card borrowing with two exceptions in the history depicted. The 1980s and the current episode are marked by falling income taxes, hence the decline in this tax rate ahead of recession. It’s intuitive that this holistic tax rate also rises as stocks rally throughout an expansion and declines into recession as the swing factor of capital gains drives the marginal moves.

Add it all up and it’s likely that any rush to "charge it" will be a last gasp as income expectations continue to decline and eventually cross lines with credit card borrowing. The closer we get to recession, the more desperate a sign credit card borrowing is anything but a reflection on strengthening in household finances. Households wouldn’t be reporting that they expect their incomes to rise less if that was the case.
‘Emotional Bond’: Top Berlin Official Defends NATO as Necessary for World

22:03 19.01.2019(updated 22:08 19.01.2019)

© AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski

The 'World still needs NATO' wrote German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in an impassioned appeal to support the increasingly unpopular military bloc.

In an effusive New York Times opinion piece published Friday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pleaded for support for the continuation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), even as the bloc increasingly comes under fire from nationalist political movements across Europe.

Describing NATO as an "emotional bond" between Europe and the US, the top Berlin military official appealed for a continuation of the alliance, now seen as being under threat of dissolution after 70 years, particularly at the hands of an acrimonious US president, Donald Trump, according to the New York Times.

Trump has made it a point to doubt the utility of US membership in the bloc, describing NATO as a Cold War relic and "obsolete," according to USA Today.

Von der Leyen instead beseeched members to support the alliance, asking nations to increase support and to recognize its importance, according to the New York Times.

NATO is an "irreplaceable building block for an international order that favors freedom and peace," she wrote, adding that terror threats — including those posed by Daesh — are limited as long as the bloc remains in power.

"Maybe the most basic benefit of NATO is that it provides reliability in an unreliable world," she added, cited by

In making what many suggested was a deeply personal plea for NATO, von der Leyen stated that the military bloc "represents a special, even emotional bond between the American and European continents."

The top German defense official's plea follows recent reports that Trump met recently with senior US military officials regarding Washington's withdrawal from the 1947 alliance.

R ~ 'NATO is an "irreplaceable building block for an international order that favors freedom and peace," she wrote... this is the very argument for having it dismantled. Instead we are fed emotional tripe to secure this bitch's job. Who would have thought that women in government would be so in love with guns when in their hands but the most vocal opponents of the right to bear arms for real people? The hypocrisy of women slipped into agency positions advocating war is well over the top. But then saying anything that contradicts these war mongers is sure to get you vilified as an anti-semite, the jews being the culture demons tearing our white culture apart and to whom women have turned as their guides to what men should be - rich perverts.
Super Blood Wolf Moon: Your essential guide to rare lunar event

Published time: 19 Jan, 2019 08:56

File Photo: Three cosmic elements are coming together to create a ‘super blood wolf moon' on January 20th. © Reuters / Yiannis Kourtoglou

Stargazers are in for an epic astronomical treat this weekend, when three cosmic elements merge to create a ‘super blood wolf moon’, something that’s only going to happen three times this century.

Here’s RT’s guide to the rare lunar event.

Why all these names

A ‘wolf moon’ is the name given for a full moon that happens in January, and derives from early Native American tribes noting when wolves would allegedly howl at the moon, according to the Farmer's Almanac. A total lunar eclipse is called a ‘blood moon’, and gets its name from the tint it gets when the Earth and moon briefly line up, casting a shadow over the lunar surface.

It’s considered a ‘supermoon’ because the moon will reach its closest orbital point to Earth, making it appear 10 to 15 percent bigger than usual.

Why it’s worth seeing

In a nutshell, this is a rare enough occurence to be worth you standing outside on a blisteringly cold January night, staring up at the sky. While Earthlings can catch scores of supermoons and blood moons in their lifetime, a combination of the two taking place together in January only happens three times this century.

Also, this will be the last total lunar eclipse until May 2021, so miss this and you’ll be waiting over two years for the next one.

When to look up

The key timeframe is Sunday evening (January 20) or early Monday morning, depending on where you live in the world. The event starts at 02:36 UTC, however the part you don’t want to miss (totality) starts at 04:41 UTC and will last for about an hour. Unlike solar eclipses, you don’t need eye protection to witness this one, and if the sky above is clear, stargazers should be able to look on from cities and villages alike.

Map of global visibility for the Super Blood Wolf Moon 2019. © NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Where to watch

People in North and South America should have a particularly spectacular view of the celestial proceedings, but they will also be visible from Greenland, Iceland, parts of western Europe and parts of Western Africa. Meanwhile, eastern Europe, eastern Africa and a lucky few on the fringe of east Asia will be able to see a partial lunar eclipse.

The vast majority of Asia, and all of Australia, will not be able to see the eclipse this time, according to NASA.

1000s of police on guard as Yellow Vests hit streets in France for 10th week in a row

Published time: 19 Jan, 2019 12:16
Edited time: 19 Jan, 2019 17:16

Yellow Vest protesters during a rally in Paris, January 19, 2019. © Zakaria Abdelkafi

For the 10th week in a row, Yellow Vest protesters filled the streets of Paris and other cities in France, with thousands of police standing guard. Earlier, President Emmanuel Macron launched his “national debates” on the crisis.

Around 27,000 people had joined the protests across the country by midday on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said. In Paris, the Yellow Vest occupied the Champs-Elysees and the Esplanade des Invalides near the nation’s parliament. People were seen waving national flags and setting off firecrackers.

Some protesters brought cardboard coffins, in memory of the people who have died since the beginning of the protests (the majority was killed in traffic accidents during road blockades). They marched under a large banner reading “Citizens in danger.”

The law enforcers used water cannons to disperse some of the protesters in Paris. At least, 20 protestors were arrested in the capital for carrying illegal items, BFMTV reported citing the police.

The Yellow Vest processions took place in Caen and Rouen, both in northern France. The rallies were also held in Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, Dijon, Beziers, Avignon, among other places.

The authorities deployed 5,000 police officers in Paris, and 80,000 nationwide, according to local media.

Armored police cars were filmed moving through the streets of the southern city of Toulouse. There were also reports of armored vehicles stationed in the capital.

Twelve people have been detained in Paris for carrying weapons, police told BFMTV. They were apprehended during “random checks.” But overall, the rallies in the capital have so far remained peaceful, police said.

Some protesters carried placards, reading "Freedom, Equality, Flash-Ball," referring to the type of ‘less-lethal’ guns used by law enforcement to quell the protests. The placards also contained pictures of Marianne – a national symbol of liberty – with an injured eye. That was apparently an allusion to a high-publicized incident in December when a young woman was hit in the eye by a projectile the activists say was fired from a Flash-Ball.

The Yellow Vest protests began in November as a movement against planned fuel tax hikes, but eventually grew to include wider demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government.

Previous rallies have seen violent clashes with police. There have been injuries on both sides, and over 1,000 people have been detained in connection to the unrest, which has at times spilled out into street battles.

Saturday’s rallies take place days after President Emmanuel Macron launched“grand national debates,” a series of public discussions about the government’s policies. He hopes the debates will help in reaching a compromise with the protesters, but many have expressed skepticism regarding the format and intentions. As a result, some protesters appeared with placards denouncing the debates as a “scam.”

The World Below / Turkish Army attacks Syrian Kurds in northern Aleppo
« Last post by Rudi Jan on January 18, 2019, 03:52:19 PM »
Turkish Army attacks Syrian Kurds in northern Aleppo

By News Desk - 2019-01-19

Turkish army soldiers stand guard as Kurdish people wait in a hope to enter Cizre, a town subject to a curfew as
part of a controversial operation against Kurdish rebels, on March 22, 2016 in Mardin, for Newroz celebration. Nowruz,
the Farsi-language word for 'New Year', is an ancient Persian festival, celebrated on the first day of spring, March 21,
in Central Asian republics, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran. / AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN

The Turkish troops, deployed in Syria’s Afrin, opened fire on Friday at the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in response to the latter’s fire from the city of Tall Rifat, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Units of the Turkish Armed Forces, deployed in Afrin, gave a relevant response to the attack by YPG terrorists from Tall Rifat,” the statement said.

The ministry’s comment comes after in early December, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Ankara was ready to launch a military operation against Kurdish militias — which it considers to be terrorist groups — on the eastern bank of the Euphrates as well as in Syria’s Manbij, located near the Turkish border, if the United States did not facilitate the pullout of the militia from the region.

Erdogan later said that the operation had been postponed following his December 14 phone conversation with US President Donald Trump, who later announced plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.
Fueled by Western sanctions Russia outshines China to become world’s 5th biggest holder of gold

Published time: 18 Jan, 2019 12:34

© Getty Images / Anthony Bradshaw

The Central Bank of Russia reported purchasing 8.5 million troy ounces of gold in January-November 2018. With its 67.6 million ounces of gold Russia is now the world's fifth largest holder behind the US, Germany, France and Italy.

China dropped to sixth place as it reported an increase in gold reserves just once in more than two years – to 59.6 million ounces in December 2018 from 59.2 million ounces in October 2016.

Industry sources told Reuters that Western sanctions against Russia lifted the country’s gold buying to record highs in 2018. One of the reasons Russia's Central Bank was betting on the yellow metal was because it could not be frozen or blacklisted, sources explained.

“It seems that there is an aim to diversify from American assets,” said a source in one of Russia’s gold producers, referring to the Central Bank's holdings.

While purchases of the precious metal by Russia jumped last year the country continued getting rid of US Treasury securities.

Earlier this month, Russia’s Central Bank reported that it cut the share of the US dollar in the country’s foreign reserves to a historic low, transferring nearly $100 billion into the euro, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. The step came as a part of a broader state policy on eliminating reliance on the greenback.

According to sources, the Central Bank has been purchasing a significant portion of Russia's domestic gold production, which is also rising.

The world's third largest gold producer, Russia boosted its 2017 gold output by six percent. Data from Russia's Finance Ministry showed the country produced 8.5 million ounces (265 tons of gold) in January-October 2018. The Russian gold mining sector has nearly doubled its volume of extraction over the last two decades.

R ~ sceptics might point out that the US, Germany, France and Italy, if they own much gold, would have to admit it's leased.
The World Below / US-led Coalition Airstrikes Kill Scores Of Civilians Fleeing ISIS
« Last post by Rudi Jan on January 18, 2019, 02:11:53 PM »
US-led Coalition Airstrikes Kill Scores Of Civilians Fleeing ISIS In Euphrates Valley


On January 18, US-led coalition warplanes killed more than 20 civilians who were trying to flee the ISIS-held town of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani in the middle Euphrates River Valley, according to several Syrian sources.

“The number of victims is expected to raise as many wounded are in critical condition,” a reporter of the Deir Ezzor 24 blog said.

Local activists revealed that the victims, most of them were women and children, had managed to escape from al-Baghuz al-Fawqani and reached a checkpoint of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). However, the US-backed group refused to let them pass and coalition warplanes targeted them on their way back to the town.

The US-led coalition and the SDF have not commented on these reports about the massacre in al-Susah so far. Usually, the coalition addresses such incidents within a few months claiming that there were no civilian casualties or their number was very low.

This was not the first time the US-led coalition committed a massacre in the Euphrates Valley. According to a recent report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 373 civilians have been killed by coalition forces since last September.

Written by Caitlin Johnstone; Originally appeared at her blog

A suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria has reportedly killed 19 people including four Americans, two of whom were US soldiers and two of whom worked with the US military. ISIS, which has an extensive history of falsely claiming responsibility for attacks it had nothing to do with, has claimed responsibilityfor the attack. Despite the fact that ISIS would claim responsibility for a housewife stepping on a Lego block, and despite the complete absence of evidence that it had anything to do with the deadly explosion, all the usual cheerleaders of endless war are pointing to the Manbij suicide bombing and shrieking “See?? Trump said ISIS is defeated and it’s not!”

“ISIS is still a very real threat here,” CNN international corespondent Clarissa Ward told Jake Tapper from northern Syria. “And the real concern that we are hearing over and over again on the ground, Jake, is that when US troops withdraw, a power vacuum is created, and that only gives them more strength.”

Virulent Syria war pundit Charles Lister, who is notorious for praising Al Qaeda and is a senior fellow at the Gulf state-funded neoconservative think tank Middle East Institute, told AFP that this attack invalidates Donald Trump’s order last month to withdraw troops from Syria.

“Trump’s order was reckless and driven far more by domestic political concerns than it was by facts on the ground,” Lister said, adding, “To suggest ISIS is ‘defeated’ because it no longer controls territory is to fundamentally misunderstand how ISIS and similar organizations seek to operate.”

Former John McCain ventriloquism dummy Lindsey Graham pounced like a rat on a cheese doodle on the opportunity to call for continued US troop presence within hours of the attack, interrupting the confirmation hearing of Attorney General nominee William Barr with an ejaculation about Trump’s Syria withdrawal.

“I would hope the President would look long and hard at where he’s headed in Syria,” Graham said after repeating the baseless claim that the attack was perpetrated by ISIS. “I know people are frustrated, but we’re never going to be safe here unless we’re willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology.”

Not to be left out when there are moronic war agendas to be sold, Fox News leapt into the fray with a quote from an anonymous foreign diplomat saying “This attack today is a direct result of the announcement made by President Trump that U.S. forces are pulling out. These troops had a bullseye on them when the president telegraphed that he was ordering a pullout.”

“ISIS has already claimed responsibility for today’s suicide attack, a reminder that the group is not defeated,” added Fox’s Jennifer Griffin.

MSNBC’s deranged intelligence analyst Malcolm Nance topped everyone as usual with a babbling nonsensical post about how US troops were killed in Manbij because there were no US troops in Manbij, proving that Assad and Putin may have allowed the attack to happen, which proves Trump is a Russian asset.

“The moment Russia and Assad took over patrolling Manbij on Trumps go ahead we get hit with suicide bombers for the first time. It’s possible Russia/Assad let the attack happen. Trump’s treachery on this matter now kills our special operators. #RussianAsset,” Nance tweeted between huffs of paint thinner.

Other voices are treating the reports about the bombing with a little more skepticism.

“If ISIS were smart it would hold its fire especially against Americans,” tweetedprofessor and author Max Abrahms. “The main justification for leaving Syria is the (contested) assessment ISIS is defeated. ISIS attacks convey the opposite, weakening the strategic rationale of withdrawal while making it politically harder.”

“Ok, so Trump announces that the U.S. will begin a phased withdrawal from Syria, which according to his critics, would only benefit ISIS who they say is still operational and would welcome a U.S. pull out. But not waiting for pull out ISIS then targets U.S. troops! Yeah right,” tweeted former Green Party vice presidential nominee Ajamu Baraka.

These are interesting points. If ISIS is indeed responsible for the bombing, as war pundits are unquestioningly asserting is the case, then they’re either really, really stupid or they really want US troops to remain in Syria. Or perhaps the attack was engineered by someone else who has a vested interest in keeping a US military presence in Syria, either using ISIS as a patsy or completely separate from ISIS. Wouldn’t be the first time a suspicious attack took place in Syria while the Trump administration was working to withdraw troops.

Of course, this whole debate ignores the most obvious point of all: that if there was no US military presence in Syria, there would be no US military personnel being killed in Syria. The fight against the terrorist forces who nearly overtook the nation with the help of the western power alliance’s imperialist support have been beaten to the brink of total defeat not by the US, but by the Syrian government and its allies. If US troops were removed Damascus would quickly restore stability to the region and continue rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. But this is precisely what these war whores do not want.

Syria is a strategically crucial geopolitical nation for reasons having to do with natural resources and the power dynamics of Israel, Iran, and the empire-aligned Gulf states. It is not a coincidence that so much energy gets poured into this small stretch of land and its surrounding nations by the western military alliance and its propaganda machine, and it’s unlikely that the global dominators will lose interest in Syria any time soon. Stay skeptical.
Syrian Army eliminates entire group of militants infiltrating from US-controlled Al-Tanf

By Leith Aboufadel - 2019-01-17

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) eliminated an entire group of militants that were attempting to infiltrate from the U.S.-controlled Al-Tanf Zone in southern Syria, a source told Al-Masdar News.

According to the source, the armed militants were trying to sneak past the Syrian Arab Army’s patrol units when they were spotted by the military.

The militants then opened fire on the Syrian military in response, prompting a short firefight that resulted in the death of all but three of the armed combatants.

The remaining three militants were arrested by the Syrian Arab Army and later transferred to the military police nearby.

The source added the Syrian military is not sure what group these militants were a part of.
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