The Manchester Bombing is Blowback from the West’s Disastrous Interventions and Covert Proxy Wars

Max Blumenthal writes for AlterNet:

The heinous suicide bombing by British-born Salman Abedi of an Arianna Grande concert in Manchester was not merely the work of an “evil loser,” as Donald Trump called it. It was blowback from interventionist policies carried out in the name of human rights and “civilian protection.” Through wars of regime change and the arming and training of Islamist proxy groups, the US, UK and France played out imperial delusions across the Middle East. In Syria and Libya, they cultivated the perfect petri dish for jihadist insurgency, helping to spawn weaponized nihilists like Abedi intent on bringing the West’s wars back home.

The son of anti-Qaddafi immigrants to the UK, Abedi grew up in Manchester’s community of Libyan exiles. A  report in the London Telegraph indicated that he had traveled just weeks before his attack to Libya, where Salafi-jihadi militias are competing for control of the destabilized country. Abedi had also reportedly traveled to Syria to join up with the extremist rebels that have waged a six-year-long insurgency against the country’s government, with billions of dollars in assistance from the West and its Gulf allies. According to French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, it was in these conflict zones where Abedi was radicalized.

The impressionable 22-year-old returned to the UK with enough training to make a fairly sophisticated bomb that massacred 22 concert goers, many of them children. “It seems likely — possible — that he wasn’t doing this on his own,” Britain’s home secretary, Amber Rudd, told the BBC. She described the bomb as “more sophisticated than some of the attacks we’ve seen before.”

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‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK Government Sent British-Libyans to Fight Gaddafi

Amandla Thomas-Johnson and Simon Hooper report for Middle East Eye:

The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Several former rebel fighters now back in the UK told MEE that they had been able to travel to Libya with “no questions asked” as authorities continued to investigate the background of a British-Libyan suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Monday’s attack in Manchester.

Salman Abedi, 22, the British-born son of exiled dissidents who returned to Libya as the revolution against Gaddafi gathered momentum, is also understood to have spent time in the North African country in 2011 and to have returned there on several subsequent occasions.

British police have said they believe the bomber, who returned to Manchester just a few days before the attack, was part of a network and have arrested six people including Abedi‘s older brother since Monday.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said that Abedi was known to security services, while a local community worker told the BBC that several people had reported him to the police via an anti-terrorism hotline.

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Alex Jones Calls Manchester Victims ‘Liberal Trendies’ Who Promote Open Borders

Tim Marcin reports for Newsweek:

jonesAlex Jones, head of the conspiracy-theory-laden website Infowars, seemed to criticize the victims of the horrific attack in Manchester, England, that left 22 people dead, including children as young as 8 years old. The Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing outside of Manchester Arena.

Jones related the attack to President Donald Trump‘s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

“And less than 24 hours after President Trump finishes that speech, a big bomb goes off at a pop star’s rock concert bombing a bunch of liberal trendies,” Jones said in a video posted to YouTube. “The same people, god love ’em, on average who are promoting open borders, bringing Islamists in.”

Jones went on to claim Trump was blocking such people from making their way into the U.S.

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The British Establishment Is Putting Our Lives At Risk With Its Support For Saudi Arabia

Mark Curtis, author of Secret Affairs and Web of Deceit, writes:

Image result for The British Establishment Is Putting Our Lives At Risk With Its Support For Saudi ArabiaThe country is in shock after the worst terrorist attack in 12 years. The deranged extremist who detonated the bomb bears sole responsibility for the outrage and is not a soldier – for Islam or whoever – but a murderer. The Manchester suicide bombing is an act of barbarism inflicted on entirely innocent people.

This wave of terrorism driven by Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, derives from a complex infrastructure of forces, working over time. But it springs ultimately from the ideology promoted by the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, who were at least until recently funding and backing IS: they have done so to support their goal of overthrowing Assad in Syria and championing Sunni Islam in the face of rivalry with Iran. These are Britain’s allies. Whitehall has a deep, long-standing special relationship with the extremist Saudis: it is arming them, backing them, apologising for them, and supporting their regional policies. At the same time, the Saudis have been helping to create the monster that now threatens the British public. So, too, have the policies of the British government.

This is terrible, in the true sense of the term: the British establishment is putting our lives at risk in its obsessive obsequiousness in backing the Saudi state. We have to recognise that we are caught between two extremisms – that of IS and that of our own state’s priorities.

The British elite is perfectly aware of the insidious role that Saudi Arabia plays in fomenting terrorism. In October 2014, General Jonathan Shaw, a former Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, told the Telegraph that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were primarily responsible for the rise of the extremist Islam that inspires IS terrorists. He said:

“This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop.”

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The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

trump-saudi.jpeg[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.

The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.

But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.

Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.

On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.

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Why Jeremy Corbyn Has the Best Long-Term Plan for Tackling Terrorism on British Soil

Kadira Pethiyagoda writes for The Independent:

corbyn.jpgTragic terror attacks like that in Manchester, inspiring fear and anger, often drive voters to back the incumbent. It is ironic then that one of the essential long-term solutions to the terror threat lies within the foreign policy agenda articulated by leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. In articulating his international vision at Chatham House, Corbyn went on the front foot, laying out a comprehensive vision for Britain’s place in an insecure world.  Seeking to throw off the caricature-like branding of him as an ageing hippy, Corbyn’s approach evinced the rational thinking of a seasoned observer of global politics.

Corbyn has been on the right side of history since he began his long political career, and his response to terrorism inspired by events in the Middle East is no different. Corbyn has been astute enough to realise the link between Western interventions in the Middle East and the terror threat emanating from the region. This is a link which is rarely discussed except in dismissive terms due to a form of right wing political correctness. As such, his approach targets some of the root factors driving terror ideology and facilitating the conditions under which terror spreads. It is also the most cost-effective method, important given the apparent lack of funds available for other policy areas like the NHS and the elderly.

Corbyn opposed the ill-fated regime changes in Iraq and Libya. He questioned the justifications when it was unpopular to do so. He was right. He warned of the repercussions. He was right. There is no longer any debate that both of these helped provide the space, motivation and chaos for extremist groups to thrive. Isis of course would not even exist if not for the Iraq War, and Al Qaeda would have less recruits. With regard to Libya, a 2016 report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the intervention was based on “erroneous assumptions”, not on accurate intelligence.

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Reactions to Manchester Bombing Show How Anti-Muslim Bigots Are “Useful Idiots” for ISIS

Mehdi Hassan writes for The Intercept:

If you want to defeat ISIS, listen to former ISIS hostage Nicolas Henin. The group is “heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia… [and] drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media,” wrote the French journalist in November 2015, in the wake of the Paris attacks. “Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence.”

Get that? Islamophobia plays right into the hands of ISIS. Wittingly or unwittingly, anti-Muslim bigots have become recruiting sergeants for a group they profess to hate and claim to want to destroy. The Islamophobes, to borrow a line from Lenin, are ISIS’s useful idiots.

Consider their reaction to the latest terrorist atrocity: Monday’s suicide bombing at a concert hall in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. Could ISIS, which claimed the horrific attack, have asked for a better response from their useful idiots on the British right?

MailOnline columnist and talk radio host Katie Hopkins – you might call her the UK’s Ann Coulter, except with a much lower IQ – has a long history of demonizing Muslims and took to Twitter in the hours after the bombing to demand a “final solution” (she later deleted her Nazi-esque tweet after being reported to the police). Hopkins, who once called “Islam the problem” because it is a “backward religion”, also tweeted that “Western men” should: “Stand up. Rise Up. Demand Action.”

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Armed Soldiers Deployed Across UK Streets in Wake of Manchester Attack

The British government has deployed armed soldiers on the streets of the UK in response to the Manchester bombing. It reflects a growing concern that public gatherings could be targeted by attackers sympathetic to ISIS. (Al Jazeera)

Manchester Bombing: Libyan Chaos Proving Fertile Breeding Ground For Extremists

Robert Fox writes for the London Evening Standard:

[…] Libya today is a bewildering chaos of competing militias and jihadi groups broadly following IS, al Qaeda and affiliates such as Ansar al-Sharia, and the Muslim Brotherhood in several guises and shadowy forms.

Despite serial attempts by the UN to patch up a viable national government, Libya is gripped by the standoff between those grabbing power in Benghazi in the East – with the military strongman General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army to the fore, and the UN sponsored Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli to the West.

In between are hundreds of militias, furnished with the arms from the Gadaffi arsenals and residues of funds from Libya’s $100 billion oil industry – garnered when the oil was still flowing.

There have been suggestions that Salman Abedi may have been trained in an IS camp in Syria. But as such expertise can easily be picked up in Libya, and neighbouring Tunisia.

IS has recently been losing its hold on towns like Derna and Sirte, but it is present along the coast in places like Sabrata and Zawia towards Tunisia.

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British Intelligence Warned Tony Blair of Manchester-Like Terrorism if the West Invaded Iraq

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

TOPSHOT - Emergency response vehicles are parked at the scene of a suspected terrorist attack during a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, northwest England on May 23, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS        (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to say anything about Monday’s heinous, nihilistic suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. According to current reporting, the attack has been claimed by ISIS and was carried out by a 22-year-old man born in Manchester to Libyan refugees.

But when Blair does speak, we can be certain he won’t mention one key fact: Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. and U.K., he was forcefully and repeatedly warned by Britain’s intelligence services that it would lead toexactly this type of terrorist attack — and he concealed these warnings from the British people, instead claiming the war would reduce the risk of terrorism.

We know this because of the Chilcot Report, the seven-year-long British investigation of the Iraq War released in 2016. The report declassifies numerous internal government documents that illustrate the yawning chasm between what Blair was being told in private and his claims in public as he pushed for war.

On February 10, 2003, one month before the war began, the U.K.’s Joint Intelligence Committee — the key advisory body for the British Prime Minister on intelligence matters — issued a white paper titled “International Terrorism: War With Iraq.”

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Manchester Bombing Suspect Identified, Islamic State Claims Responsibility

Griff Witte and Karla Adam report for The Washington Post:

The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that one of its “soldiers” carried out an apparent suicide blast in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, including teenagers and others streaming out of a pop concert.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins named the suspected attacker as 22-year-old Salman Abedi but declined to provide other details.

A senior European intelligence official said the attacker was a British citizen of Libyan descent. The official said the suspect’s brother has been taken into custody.

The Islamic State’s claim came as British investigators intensified their search for possible accomplices and police teams fanned out across the northern city after the worst terrorist strike in Britain in more than a decade.

The Islamic State did not give any details about the attacker or how the blast was carried out late Monday. Its statement was posted on the online messaging service Telegram and later noted by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant websites.

The Islamic State often quickly proclaims links to attacks, but some previous claims have not been proven.

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Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

On the Internet today you will find thousands, perhaps even millions, of people gloating about the death of elephantine Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The happy face emojis are getting a workout on Twitter, which is also bursting with biting one-liners.

When I mentioned to one of my relatives that I was writing about the death of Ailes, the response was, “Say that you hope he’s reborn as a woman in Saudi Arabia.”

Ailes has no one but his fast-stiffening self to blame for this treatment. He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

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I Wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ With Trump, His Self-Sabotage Is Rooted In His Past

Tony Schwartz writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for trump art of the dealWhy does President Trump behave in the dangerous and seemingly self-destructive ways he does?

Three decades ago, I spent nearly a year hanging around Trump to write his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” and got to know him very well. I spent hundreds of hours listening to him, watching him in action and interviewing him about his life. To me, none of what he has said or done over the past four months as president comes as a surprise. The way he has behaved over the past week — firing FBI Director James B. Comey, undercutting his own aides as they tried to explain the decision and disclosing sensitive information to Russian officials — is also entirely predictable.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

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As Trump Travels to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s D.C. Lobbying Surge Is Paying Off

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

An examination by The Intercept of lobbyist disclosures filed with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act shows that Saudi Arabia has greatly expanded its spending on influence peddling during the past two years. Since 2015 the Kingdom has expanded the number of foreign agents on retainer to 145 individuals, up from 25 registered agents during the previous two year period.

Perhaps not coincidentally, President Trump, who less than a year ago vilified Saudi Arabia’s influence over the American political establishment, is now marching to the Saudi lobbyists’ tune.

The selection of Saudi Arabia as the first foreign nation Trump will visit as president when he embarks on his maiden overseas trip is just the latest example of Trump changing his behavior to embrace a country responsible for widespread human rights violations, a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the export of an intolerant form of Islam.

Gone are the days when Trump mocked a prominent member of the Saudi royal family for wanting to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money,” openly alleged that the Kingdom was behind the September 11 terror attacks, and demanded that the U.S. receive free oil for protecting the Saudi elite. During his trip this week, Trump is expected to give an address that backs the Saudi government as a strong Muslim ally and a partner in

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Democrats Are Falling For Fake News About Russia

Zack Beauchamp writes for Vox:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sandersand Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

[…] The unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was forced to apologize for spreading a false claim that a New York grand jury was investigating Trump and Russia. His sources, according to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine, were Mensch and Palmer.

Members of the Russiasphere see themselves as an essential counter to a media that’s been too cautious to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russian ties.

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Don’t Lionize James Comey, The FBI Did Some Terrible Things Under Him

Trevor Aaronson writes for The Intercept:

Image result for James ComeyWhen Donald Trump asked FBI Director James Comey in February to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser (and then-unregistered foreign agent) Michael Flynn, the president apparently didn’t realize that Comey would behave like one of his more than 13,000 special agents.

As the New York Times reported from a source close to Comey, the FBI director went back to his office and wrote down from memory a summary of his conversation with Trump.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to a memo the FBI director wrote. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

About three months after Trump allegedly said this, the president fired Comey.

Had this been a normal criminal investigation, and had Comey been a special agent in the field, the memo he would have written would have been known, in the FBI’s parlance, as an FD-302. The FBI does not record conversations with subjects related to criminal investigations. Instead, FBI agents, using their memory and sometimes handwritten notes, draft memos that summarize the conversations and include purportedly verbatim quotes. Federal judges and juries have consistently viewed these memos as indisputable fact. For this reason, Comey’s memo is no normal government memo. It could do lasting damage to Trump’s presidency, if not contribute to costing him the nation’s highest office altogether.

While Comey is now positioned for history to remember him as the cop who took down Trump, or tried to at great professional expense, there should be wariness about lionizing Comey in the way the news media have in recent days. Under Comey, the FBI pushed investigative and surveillance powers to new and controversial limits and employed tactics that were morally and ethically bankrupt.

In short, Comey’s FBI did some terrible things.

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Julian Assange Defiant as Sweden Drops Rape Investigation

BBC News reports:

Julian Assange speaks to reporters at the Ecuadorean embassy - 19 MayWikileaks founder Julian Assange has said he will not forgive and forget attempts to arrest him over rape allegations which led him to seek asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy.

Hailing an “important victory”, he said he was prepared for dialogue with the US and UK authorities.

Mr Assange, 45, is wanted in the US over the leaking of military and diplomatic documents.

Sweden said on Friday it had decided to drop its rape investigation.

Meanwhile Ecuador urged the UK to allow him safe passage out of the country.

The Wikileaks founder has chosen to remain in the embassy as he fears extradition to Sweden would lead to extradition to the US.

“Today is an important victory for me and the UN human rights system, but by no means erases seven years of detention without charge… while my children grew up. That is not something I can forgive or forget,” he told journalists from a balcony at the embassy.

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Could Narrow Scope of New Special Counsel Miss Wider Corruption in Trump White House?

Amy Goodman speaks with Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net. (Democracy Now!)

Special Counsel Investigating Trump Campaign Has Deep Ties to the Deep State

Paul Jay speaks with former FBI agent and 9/11 whistleblower Colleen Rowley who says former FBI head Robert Mueller, now appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, participated in covering up the pre 9/11 role of the U.S. intelligence agencies and the Bush Administration, helped create the post 9/11 national security/surveillance state, and helped facilitate the pre-Iraq war propaganda machine. (The Real News)

Chelsea Manning is Free

Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof and Nathan Fuller of the Courage Campaign, who have both remained deeply involved in her case, discuss Chelsea Manning’s freedom and her global impact. (The Real News)

Alex Jones Settles Chobani Lawsuit, Retracts Comments About Refugees

David Montero reports for the Los Angeles Times:

Image result for alex jones chobaniAlex Jones backed down. Again.

The far-right conspiracy theorist agreed Wednesday to settle a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani. The key component of the settlement agreement required him to retract inflammatory comments about refugees and the company he made on his Infowars broadcast last month.

“During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the Infowars, Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani LLC that I now understand to be wrong. The tweets and video have now been retracted, and will not be re-posted,” Jones said. “On behalf of Infowars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did.”

It marks the latest blow to Jones, who in March apologized and issued a retraction to a Washington, D.C.-based pizzeria for his broadcast’s role in pushing a false story about a child sex ring that involved Hillary Clinton.

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John Kiriakou on Blowing the Whistle on CIA Torture and Why Trump’s Presidency Worries Him

Amy Goodman speaks with CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou about his own case and the significance of Trump divulging classified secrets to Russia. (Democracy Now!)

Alex Jones and Roger Stone: Trump Must Go After His Critics

Alex Jones and Roger Stone continue to show their fascist tendencies by calling on President Trump to go after his critics on the left and within the Democratic Party. (Right Wing Watch)

Google, Not the Government, Is Building the Future

Farhad Manjoo writes for The New York Times:

One persistent criticism of Silicon Valley is that it no longer works on big, world-changing ideas. Every few months, a dumb start-up will make the news — most recently the one selling a $700 juicer — and folks outside the tech industry will begin singing I-told-you-sos.

But don’t be fooled by expensive juice. The idea that Silicon Valley no longer funds big things isn’t just wrong, but also obtuse and fairly dangerous. Look at the cars, the rockets, the internet-beaming balloons and gliders, the voice assistants, drones, augmented and virtual reality devices, and every permutation of artificial intelligence you’ve ever encountered in sci-fi. Technology companies aren’t just funding big things — they are funding the biggest, most world-changing things. They are spending on ideas that, years from now, we may come to see as having altered life for much of the planet.

At the same time, the American government’s appetite for funding big things — for scientific research and out-of-this-world technology and infrastructure programs — keeps falling, and it may decline further under President Trump.

This sets up a looming complication: Technology giants, not the government, are building the artificially intelligent future. And unless the government vastly increases how much it spends on research into such technologies, it is the corporations that will decide how to deploy them.

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How China Is Building the Post-Western World

Patrick Lawrence writes for The Nation:

China's New Silk Road[…] Beijing has been into big-think for a long time. In the late 1990s, when there was talk of an Asian Monetary Fund and “regional financial architecture,” China took considerable measures to stabilize other Asian currencies devastated by speculative onslaughts. It simultaneously developed formal relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at bottom a creature of the Cold War. In 2001, a big step: It founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, bringing together the four Central Asian republics plus Russia to develop mutual interests across the board—political, economic, diplomatic, strategic, and so on. India and Pakistan—sign of the times—joined as full members two years ago.

Look at a map and forget about the South China Sea for a moment: China has been pushing westward and southwestward in pursuit of ports and land routes, stable economies, and global markets. And by “westward,” it soon became clear, Beijing meant “Westward.”

Xi became general secretary of the Communist Party in 2012 and president of the People’s Republic a year later. Since then, it has been one big move after another: He announced the AIIB, the World Bank’s aforementioned alternative, as soon as he became president. As Obama and Jack Lew folded their arms, the world piled in. The bank is now capitalized at $250 billion, can lend two and a half times that, and has 77 members—seven inducted the day before this week’s big-tent forum. (I would have loved to be in the room when Lew got word that even the British joined, which was quickly after the bank was launched.)

This week’s summit was called the Belt and Road Forum. This initiative sits atop all just outlined. When Xi announced it—again, as soon as he assumed the presidency—it was called the Silk Road Project. It is almost certainly the largest single infrastructure program in human history, intended to build linkages connecting China and the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Side streets, let’s call them, lead into Southeast Asia and elsewhere. It is about highways, rails, power plants, bridges and tunnels, communications grids. The projects now number nearly 1,700, and the money is breathtaking: Financing—public and private investments, joint ventures, loans, development aid—will come to trillions of dollars.

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Trump Expanding War From Syria to Afghanistan As Media Focuses on Comey

Paul Jay speaks with Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College and the author of around 20 books, who says while the media continues its frenzy over James Comey’s firing and the ‘Russia connection’, Trump is readying his ‘global war against Islamic Fascism’ to be fought ‘without restraint’, (The Real News)

Spread of Combat, Cholera Wreaks Misery, Collapse in Yemen

Noah Browning and Mohammed Ghobari report for Reuters:

Image result for Spread of Combat, Cholera Wreaks Misery, Collapse in YemenSpilling into the hallways of crowded Yemeni hospitals, children writhe in pain from cholera. Displaced villagers roam baking hot plains and barren mountains to evade warring militias.

The escalating outbreak of disease and displacement of tens of thousands by recent fighting has inflamed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, pushing Yemen’s war-pummeled society ever nearer to collapse.

Cholera – a diarrheal disease spread by food or water tainted with human faeces – has killed 180 people in less than three weeks, according to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

[…] The United Nations now estimates that in Yemen a child under the age of five dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, two million people have fled fighting near their homes and only half of hospitals have staff and supplies to function normally.

Already one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen was engulfed in 2015 by civil war pitting the Houthis against the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States intervened on Hadi’s side and has carried out thousands of air strikes targeting the Houthis, though U.N. officials said last year these had killed more than 2,000 civilians as well.

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Upcoming Iranian Presidential Vote Tight Race Between Conservative and Moderate Incumbent

Sharmini Peries speaks with Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and the author of several books including Losing An Enemy, about the upcoming Presidential elections in Iran where the main issue has been the sluggish Iranian economy. (The Real News)

A Murderous History of Korea

Bruce Cumings, the author of several books on the Korean Peninsula, writes for the London Review of Books:

Image result for A Murderous History of KoreaMore than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that ‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’ American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population: ‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’ How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea.

North Korea celebrated the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army on 25 April, amid round-the-clock television coverage of parades in Pyongyang and enormous global tension. No journalist seemed interested in asking why it was the 85th anniversary when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was only founded in 1948. What was really being celebrated was the beginning of the Korean guerrilla struggle against the Japanese in north-east China, officially dated to 25 April 1932. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters; they have continued to resist the US ever since; and they even resisted the collapse of Western communism – as of this September, the DPRK will have been in existence for as long as the Soviet Union. But it is less a communist country than a garrison state, unlike any the world has seen. Drawn from a population of just 25 million, the North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world, with 1.3 million soldiers – just behind the third largest army, with 1.4 million soldiers, which happens to be the American one. Most of the adult Korean population, men and women, have spent many years in this army: its reserves are limited only by the size of the population.

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Will Donald Trump Start The Second Korean War?

Doug Bandow writes for The Huffington Post:

[…] It’s hard to assess whether President Donald Trump is serious about going to war. He has no constitutional or legal authority to attack North Korea.

A majority of Americans say they are “uneasy” with his approach. Moreover, South Korean and Japanese assent would be necessary for Washington to use American forces stationed on their soil — unlikely given the potentially catastrophic consequences of starting the Second Korean War.

For the last quarter century a nuclear North Korea was prospect rather than reality. No longer. The North is believed to possess enough nuclear material for 20 bombs today and may accumulate enough material for 100 by 2024. With Pyongyang developing long-range missiles, the U.S. appears destined to face a small but potent North Korean nuclear deterrent.

The possibility is disconcerting, to say the least, even though there is no reason to believe that the North’s 33-year-old Kim Jong-un is suicidal. Still, who wants to rely on his good judgment to keep the peace, especially when matched against the equally impulsive and unpredictable Donald Trump?

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