News Items August 5 2017
Russia flies 2,000 mercenary troops into Syria
Debkafile’s military and intelligence sources reported exclusively on Wednesday, August 2, that 2,000 mercenaries had just been airlifted into the country, boosting to a total of 5,000 the number of mercenaries on hire from the Wagner Group private contractors for service under the Russian flag in Syria. They are all retirees from elite units of the Russian ground forces, air force or navy.
In another new Russian project, our military sources also report the arrival in the past few days of Muslim troops from the republic of Ingushetia. Although clad in Russian military police uniforms, they are actually commandoes trained in anti-terror warfare. They have been posted as “ceasefire monitors” at the three de-escalation zones established by Russia and the United States along the Syrian borders with Israel, Jordan and Iraq.
President Vladimir Putin and his defense minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu have ramped up the Russian military presence in Syria without adding ground and armored troops – even though the Russian constitution bars the recruitment of mercenaries to fight overseas for profit.
Moscow is a veteran client of the Wagner Group contractors, which largely resemble the US Blackwater security contractor now calling itself Academi. It was hired to provide military personnel during 20014 and 2015 for Moscow’s battle to conquer Crimea and in support of the pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Their mercenaries first arrived in Syria in October 2015, right after Moscow stepped up its intervention in the civil war. In March 2016, several hundred of them fought in the big battle that wrested Palmyra from ISIS.
Ironically, the Wagner Group does not officially exist and is not listed anywhere in Russia. However, a company bearing that name operates out of Argentina, even though its recruits receive training in Russia. They are trained, our sources reveal, at a base of the 10th special forces brigade of GRU military intelligence, located near the village of Molkino in the Krasnodar area of southern Russia, about 150km northeast of the Black Sea. The identity of Wagner’s boss is held secret, but Western intelligence sources name him as Dmitry Utkin, who until 2013 was a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Spetznaz brigade.
The placement of Russian Muslim forces or hired mercenaries on Israel’s northern border – in the guise of ceasefire monitors – poses a serious problem for Jerusalem. Russia’s record for keeping its promises and commitments on its military moves in Syria is far from good. The US has confirmed that Russia gave Israel a commitment that Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, including Hizballah, would not be allowed to approach the Syrian-Israeli border. But Israel can’t be certain how the Ingushets or the mercenaries will react if confronted with such troops. Will they resort to arms to evict them or let them stay?
The coming DEBKA Weekly out on Friday, Aug. 4, expands on the Russian buildup in Syria and its repercussions.
Dawn of the bionic age: Body hackers let chips get under their skin
If you’re prone to forgetting your card key for the office or your computer password, here’s a solution: Get a microchip implanted in your hand.
That’s what Brian McEvoy has done multiple times. He’s got five implants, mostly for functional reasons but one just for fun.
“There’s a glow-in-the-dark implant on the back of my right hand,” said McEvoy, a 36-year-old electrical engineer from St. Paul, Minnesota.
For years, owners have implanted microchips in their pets to recover them if they go astray. Farmers use them in cattle. Now, humans are experimenting with subdermal microchips, which are the size of a large grain of rice, to make modern life easier.
Ever so slowly, a trend that began in the hacker community is moving toward the mainstream. A Wisconsin firm that specializes in designing company break rooms, Three Square Market, announced last month that it was offering implanted chips to all its employees.
The chips will allow employees to “make purchases in the company’s break room market, open doors, log in to computers, use copy machines, among other things,” it said in a statement.
It can emulate every card in your wallet, so you can chuck your wallet away.
Australian biohacker Meow-Ludo Meow Meow
Many hackers gathered here for a recent global hacker conference, DefCon 2017, view implants as a way to interact seamlessly with a technological world and to enhance human senses. They await the day when microchips give humans the ability for echolocation, and to see infrared and ultraviolet light, enhance the capacity to smell, sense direction, even feel vibrations that reveal movement in the stock market.
It is a sharp departure from the use of implants, like pacemakers and insulin pumps, to restore function lost through impairment or ill health.
Tim Cannon, a software engineer who co-founded a company that sells implantable chips, Grindhouse Wetware, said some critics believe tinkering with the body’s capabilities is improper, even unethical.
“It tends to be viewed as something like hubris,” Cannon said.
But he doesn’t care. The coming years will be “about breaking through that barrier and saying it’s okay to want to be more than what biology offered you,” he said.
We need to stop pretending that we are perfect and the pinnacle of evolution.
Tim Cannon, cofounder of Grindhouse Wetware
Dozens of hackers lined up on a recent night at the DefCon conference to have microchips installed in the fleshy web between thumb and index finger of their hands.
The biohackers call themselves “grinders,” a term taken from a comic book by Warren Ellis. The technology they implant is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Most opted for a small radio frequency identification (RFID) or a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip suitable for subdermal use.
“This is my train ticket,” said an Australian hacker who goes by the name Meow-Ludo Meow-Meow, pointing to a spot on his hand where a chip containing a rechargeable rail token was implanted. He said he just swipes his hand, rather than a ticket, over a rail sensor.
Implantable chips will soon carry out the functions of credit cards and keys, he said.
“It can emulate every card in your wallet, so you can chuck your wallet away,” he said.
Some consumers fear that an implanted microchip will allow greater government surveillance, and only advances that “are spectacular can overcome that queasiness,” he said.
“If Johnny Depp puts one of these in his hand, they’ll be everywhere,” he added.
The public is certainly not there yet. A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that seven in 10 Americans were “somewhat” or “very” worried about implanting a computer chip in the brain to improve concentration and the processing of information. The more religious the respondent, the less likely they were to favor such an implant, it found.
Cannon said the melding of technology and physiology can improve human experience.
“We need to stop pretending that we are perfect and the pinnacle of evolution,” he said.
Implanting a chip can cause discomfort.
“There will be some blood, some pain,” said Doug Copeland, who works with one of the handful of companies that offer implants, Dangerous Things, based in Seattle, as he implanted a chip in a client’s hand.
“A lot of people frown on this kind of thing but it’s really not anything much different than getting a body piercing or a tattoo,” said a California man, giving his name only as Keith.
Others asked if the implanted chips could allow government surveillance (they contain no GPS, so no), or cause problems if a patient undergoes an MRI test in a hospital (maybe not advisable).
Copeland said he’d been through airport checkpoints numerous times and never been flagged: “Unless you show it to them, they don’t know it’s there.
Former Facebook executive says society will COLLAPSE within 30 years as robots put half of humans out of work
Antonio Garcia Martinez fears revolution and armed conflict will erupt in America in the coming decades
A former Facebook executive has quit his job and now lives as a recluse in the wilderness – because he is convinced that machines will take over the world.
Antonio Garcia Martinez worked as a project manager for the social media giant in Silicon Valley but became terrified by the relentless march of technology. He now claims to live as a recluse
Could society collapse when robots take half of all humans’ jobs?
He reckons that machines will have taken half of humanity’s jobs within 30 years, sparking revolt and armed conflict.
So he quit his job, fled his home and now lives in woodland north of Seattle with a gun for protection.
He spoke to new two-part BBC2 documentary “Secrets of Silicon Valley”, which explores the growing influence of the tech hub on global development.
Mr Martinez said: “If the world really does end, there aren’t going to be many places to run.
“Within 30 years, half of humanity won’t have a job. It could get ugly. There could be a revolution.
“I’ve seen what the world will look like in five to 10 years.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says he prefers to eat animals he’s killed
“You may not believe it but it’s coming, and it’s coming in the form of a self-driving truck that’s going to run you over.
“There are 300 million guns in this country, one for every man, woman and child, and they’re mostly in the hands of those who are getting economically displaced. There could be a revolt.
“You don’t realise it but we’re in a race between technology and politics, and technologists are winning. They’re way ahead.
“They will destroy jobs and disrupt economies before we even react to them and we really should be thinking about that.”
Doomsday sperm bank on the MOON could help us survive an apocalyptic disaster. Brits are terrified of a robot apocalypse as they fear androids could take over
Inside the luxury Doomsday bunkers for billionaires… with swimming pools, spas, wine cellars and cinemas.Noah’s Ark-style doomsday bunker stocked up with crops as apocalypse feat grow.
He said other ex-Silicon Valley employees had also resigned and were living on land isolated from society because they were equally frightened of what the future held.
Programme host Jamie Bartlett, director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, said: “The tech gods are selling us all a better future but Silicon Valley’s promise to build a better world relies on tearing up the world as it is. They call it ‘disruption’.
“The mantra of Silicon Valley is that disruption is always good, and through smartphones and digital technology we can create more efficient, more convenient, faster services and everyone wins from that.
“But behind that beautifully designed app or that slick platform there’s a quite brutal form of capitalism unfolding and it’s leaving some of the poorest people in society behind.
“There’s a risk Silicon Valley’s promise to build a better world could inflict a nightmare future on millions of us.
“The big secret in Silicon Valley is that the next wave of disruption could tear apart the way capitalism works, and as a result the way we live our lives could be utterly transformed.”
China Reveals Terrifying Military Weapons with Vast Parade
Includes stealth jets, nuclear missiles, attack helicopters and thousands of elite troops
TheSun.co.uk – July 30, 2017
Image Credits: Cui Nan/CHINA NEWS SERVICE/VCG via Getty Images.
CHINA launched an awesome show of its military might – just hours after warning Donald Trump about his involvement in North Korea.
Tens of thousands of Chinese troops marched alongside tanks and nuclear weapons as stealth fighters and attack helicopters roared overhead.
President Xi Jinping – wearing his military fatigues – inspected his troops personally just hours after the latest North Korea crisis.
The Americans were warned by Beijing after stepping up the deployment of its THAAD missile defence system in South Korea.
President Vladimir Putin on Sunday oversaw a pomp-filled display of Russia’s naval might as the Kremlin paraded its sea power from the Baltic Sea to the shores of Syria.
Some 50 warships and submarines were on show along the Neva River and in the Gulf of Finland off the country’s second city of Saint Petersburg after Putin ordered the navy to hold its first ever parade on such a grand scale.
“Today much is being done to develop and modernize the navy,” Putin told servicemen after surveying the military hardware from his presidential cutter.
“The navy is not only dealing with its traditional tasks but also responding with merit to new challenges, making a significant contribution to the fight against terrorism and piracy.”
Record Number Of Jews Visit Temple Mount, Could Be Pretext For More Terror
Originally published at JNS.org – republished with permission.
The Temple Mount–a site of significance to the world’s three major monotheistic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity–remains in the middle of a geopolitical standoff as Jews described as “ideological” are visiting the Muslim-controlled prayer compound in greater numbers.
More than 1,300 Jewish visitors ascended the Temple Mount Aug. 1 on the annual Tisha B’Av day of mourning over the First and Second Jewish Temples, which were both destroyed on the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av, in years 587 B.C. and 70 A.D., respectively.
The number of Jewish visitors in a single day Aug. 1 was the most permitted by Israeli police to enter the site since Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. Tens of thousands of additional Jewish worshippers prayed at the Western Wall complex adjacent to the Temple Mount.
According to Israeli law, Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, but not to utter words of prayer. Several Israeli worshippers were arrested this past week for praying at the site.
Members of the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, which administers the site, follow the Jewish visitors to ensure that they do not pray. Israeli police also follow the Jewish visitors to ensure that members of the Waqf do not harm them.
Yitzhak Reiter–a professor of Middle East, Israel and Islamic studies at Ashkelon Academic College, and a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research–said Arabs within Israel, Jordan and the greater Islamic world have taken note of the increased visits by Jews to the Temple Mount.
Reiter warned that these visits might be used as a pretext for additional terror attacks.
The recent Temple Mount controversy was ignited July 14, when Arab terrorists killed two Israeli Druze policemen near the holy site. Israel immediately installed metal detectors at the site, and Arabs rejected the bolstered security measures by refusing to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque complex and rioting in eastern Jerusalem.
Amid the riots, an Arab terrorist murdered three members of an Israeli family in their home, during a Friday night meal July 21 in Halamish. Due to fear of additional violence, Israel removed the metal detectors in an attempt to restore calm.
“Jewish groups are ascending the Mount in more and more numbers. They are being considered ideological visitors, and the [Jordanian] Waqf, the Islamic Movement and others are reacting,” Reiter told JNS.org. “There are challenges ahead of us, and any minor incident can bring us back to the same situation.”
Temple Mount security
In a poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 2, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Israelis said Israel’s security cabinet “capitulated” in its decision to remove the metal detectors, while 67 percent of respondents took a negative view of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis.
In response to the general dissatisfaction, perceived by Israelis as a display of weakness by their government, Netanyahu told the security cabinet July 30, “I am attentive to public feeling. With that, as the prime minister of Israel, as the one who carries on his shoulders the responsibility for the security of Israel, I must make decisions coolly and judiciously. I do that out of a view of the big picture, a wide view of the challenges and threats that are facing us. Some of them are not known to the public and as is the nature of things I can’t go into details.”
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett challenged the decision to remove the metal detectors, saying, “Israel comes out weakened from this crisis. Instead of sending a message about Israel’s sovereignty on the Temple Mount, it sent a message that Israel’s sovereignty can be questioned.”
Who is sovereign?
While Israel has sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, custodianship of the Temple Mount and other Islamic holy places in the city belong to the Jordanian Waqf, which controlled the Temple Mount during Jordan’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem and the disputed territories from 1948-1967. Israel controls the perimeter of the complex.
Dr. Oded Eran, Israel’s former ambassador to Jordan, told JNS.org that Jordan “plays a significant role in the decisions taken by Israel on the Temple Mount, to begin with because of the international peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994, in which Israel recognized the special interests that Jordan has in Islamic sites in Jerusalem.”
Israeli media reported that the head of Israel’s General Security Service went to Jordan to negotiate the removal of the metal detectors. “I think that Jordan played a paramount role in the solution of the crisis around the Temple Mount in the last two weeks,” said the Ashkelon Academic College’s Reiter.
Yet according to Reiter–who has authored several books on the geopolitics of the Temple Mount–while Jordan plays a diplomatic role in conversations on the status of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, the Waqf holds the power to instigate violence, but not the power to prevent violence.
“The Palestinian street’s rioting was a main cause of the decision to remove the metal detectors,” Reiter said.
“The Waqf can incite, and it is a signal to the Palestinian public to go and riot,” he said. “But once a violent accident occurred on the Temple Mount, the Waqf is not the party who is able to calm things down. It is not so powerful. It’s not an authentic leader of the Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
Once the metal detectors were removed, the current Arab pretext for violence against Israel was removed as well. Yet Israel’s backtracking on security measures at the sensitive holy site may have lasting consequences.
“Palestinians realize that Israel had to withdraw and they feel that they had a victory by rallying the people to the street, and they may use it in future campaigns with Israel,” Reiter said.
“Arabs around Israel see this as a matter of victory,” he said, “and they are celebrating.”
US plans ‘global’ drills to counter Russia & other ‘complex threats’ – top US military official
https://www.rt.com/news/398508-us-global-drills-russia/© David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters
The US military is shifting towards a “more global” exercise program in preparation to deter what they term a “more assertive Russia” as well as countering other complex threats, a senior officer commanding the US forces in Europe has said.
“What we’re eventually going toward is a globally integrated exercise program so that we (are)… all working off the same sheet of music in one combined global exercise,” Air Force Brigadier General John Healy, who directs the drills of US forces in Europe told Reuters.
Healy said troops need to be prepared for increasingly complex threats across all domains of war – land, sea, air, space and cyber sphere. The general went on to say the training must include rehearsing possible conflicts and take into account the global nature of the military threats facing the US.
The goal of the Pentagon is to hold exercises that would involve troops from all nine US unified combatant commands instead of being limited to a specific region or a military branch, he said. Such drills could be staged as early as 2020, he added.
Healy said Russia was his primary concern in Europe and expressed the West’s unease over the September Zapad-2017 exercises involving Russian and Belarusian troops.
The US general, citing ‘experts’, claimed the joint Russian and Belarusian drills could involve about 100,000 soldiers. He then criticized Moscow for being “non-transparent” in its military exercises, referring to the the fact that Russia has not invited US and NATO observers to its war games.
“They’re not being as transparent as we are,” he said, adding, that Russian observers attended the recent US and NATO drills in the Black Sea region.
Healy, though, is not the first high-ranking US officer to speculate about the upcoming Russia-Belarus drills. Last month, another top military official, Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe, called it “a Trojan horse” and said “people are worried” about the exercises.
Earlier, the Polish Ambassador to the US, Piotr Wilczek, claimed the maneuvers are potentially dangerous for Ukraine and other regional countries. The Baltic States also seemed to be particularly concerned over the drills as Estonia planned to host more US and other allied troops in light of the war games while Lithuania issued a report claiming it could be a provocation against the Baltic state.
Moscow and Minsk have repeatedly issued assurances surrounding the planned war games. The joint exercises pose no threat to any other country and are defensive in nature, the Belarusian defense minister Andrei Ravkov said in July. Ravkov also pointed out that Zapad-2017 is far less modest than the Anaconda drills in Poland last year. Zapad-2017 involves around 12,700 troops alongside 680 pieces of weaponry compared to the more than 30,000 soldiers from NATO states and their allies with 3,000 items hardware involved in the 2016 NATO drills.
While the planned scale of the war games is below the threshold that requires the invitation of foreign military observers, the Belarusian foreign ministry spokesperson said last month that invitations will still be sent to military attaches accredited in Belarus.
Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin denounced the allegations concerning the drills by saying that they are aimed to “artificially justify” the NATO military buildup around Russia.
The alliance’s buildup includes the modernization of airfields, ports and other military sites, as well as the deployment of new elements of the US missile defense system, Russia’s defense minister Sergey Shoigu said.
In June, Shoigu also expressed concerns over NATO’s “unjustified actions” and the “blatant unwillingness” of certain Western states to stop “pursuing an anti-Russian agenda” which together “leads to [an] erosion of the global security system.”
and the Black Sea steadily gathers pace.
The military bloc particularly holds regular military exercises close to Russia’s borders. On July 31, US tanks and armored vehicles headed to Tbilisi to take part in joint drills with Georgia. A week earlier, British and Turkish warships arrived in Ukraine for the joint NATO-Ukraine Black Sea drills.
In mid-July, less than a week before the bloc’s naval drills in the Black Sea, NATO forces staged drills in Romania. On June 19, British, Polish, American and Lithuanian troops took part in military exercises on the border between Poland and Lithuania, “protecting” NATO’s soft spot from the “Russian threat” for the very first time.
Around the same time, another 10-day NATO exercise called Iron Wolf was staged in Lithuania. The two drills were part of a broader NATO exercise known as Saber Strike, playing out in the Baltic states and Poland, also aimed at deterring the alleged “Russian threat.”
And if this was not enough, the US military for the first time, deployed Patriot anti-aircraft systems to Lithuania as part of the ‘Tobruq Legacy 2017’ air defense drills in July.
In his interview with Reuters, Healy confirmed that over 40,000 US and allied forces took part in the various military maneuvers performed across Europe this summer, adding, that the initial assessment of the exercises was positive.
The military buildup trend is apparently catching on. Sweden, which is not a NATO member, plans to hold what it calls the “first and largest” exercise of its kind in over 20 years involving all of its military branches together with several NATO members in September.
Healy also offered a glimpse of some of the US military’s plans for next year. It involves 11 major exercises bringing together air, ground and naval forces that will be held in a number of the European countries, including the UK, the Baltic States and even Finland, which like Sweden, is also not a NATO member.
Kim Jong-un launched the thinly veiled threat in the wake of its latest ICBM test as tensions reach breaking point between Pyongyang and Washington.
North Korea’s state media declared the US was sitting on the “knife edge of life and death” as it appeared to threaten nuclear war.
The White House led the world in condemning Pyongyang’s unstoppable quest of nuclear weapons, amid fears their new missiles can strike the continental US.
Today, one of US President Trump’s top advisors H.R McMaster warned Kim to “not sleep easily at night” as the peninsula faces conflict.
Kim is marching the region towards a nuclear conflict despite increased sanctions and calls for calm from old allies Russia and China.
North Korea’s latest war rant was published in state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun – which often carries threats against the US.
Pyongyang believes securing nuclear weapons will secure the rule of regime of the Kim family against Washington and South Korea.
In the column, it said: “Every minute and every second, the new reality that U.S. mainland is on the knife’s edge of life and death is forcing U.S. administration to wave a white flag and fundamentally change her North Korea policy.”
It went on: “If the US still refuses to accept such a realistic demand and doggedly pursue hostile policy against North Korea in order to save face, she will receive unexpected ‘gift packages’ which we will continue to send.”
The “gift packages” are believed to be nuclear missile tests – which have previously been described as “gifts to the Ameircan b*****ds”.
North Korea carried out a second ICBM test last week, following its first ever successful launch on July 4.
Kim was said to be “greatly satisfied” after the Hwasong-14 flew 620 miles before crashing down into the Sea of Japan.
Experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately launch a nuclear attack.
South Korea is getting ready to deploy antimissile system THAAD in the wake of the recent terrifying launch.
The nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula has risen to the top of the agenda as Trump calls on China to take action on Kim.
Daily Star Online revealed the horrifying consequences of war with North Korea as diplomats predicted the last missile test.
China warns Trump over North Korea: ‘Don’t stab us in the back’
China has hit back at Donald Trump over North Korea, with a top official blaming Washington and Pyongyang for raising tensions, while state media warned the US not to “stab China in the back”.
The US president said in two angry tweets at the weekend that he was “very disappointed” with China and that he would no longer allow Beijing to “do nothing” over North Korea.
Mr Trump has long believed that China holds the key to forcing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, given that Beijing is Pyongyang’s only diplomatic backer and a key trading partner.
But Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, said: “No matter how capable China is, China’s efforts will not yield practical results because it depends on the two principal parties.
“They (the United States and North Korea) hold the primary responsibility to keep things moving, to start moving in the right direction, not China,” he told a news conference at the end of China’s month-long presidency of the Security Council.
Mr Trump’s furious comments came after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of United Nations sanctions on Friday.
Nikki Haley, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, said on Sunday that the US was “done talking about North Korea” and that it was time for China to act.
Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State said: “China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability.”
China’s official state news agency, Xinhua, also waded into the row with a commentary which poked fun at the US President for his use of Twitter.
“Trump is something of a character, and he enjoys tweeting,” the commentary said. “But an emotional response cannot be the guiding policy to solve the Korean peninsula’s nuclear issue.”
“In order to solve the nuclear issue on the peninsula, relevant parties should use practical action and show sincerity, stop shirking responsibility, and especially should not stab China in the back.”
Angry Trump says Russia ties at ‘very dangerous low’
Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump claimed relations with Russia had hit an all-time and “very dangerous” low Thursday, putting the blame on Congress after he reluctantly approved sanctions against Moscow.
After Moscow called the sanctions a declaration of “economic war” that had exposed the US president’s weakness, an angry Trump lashed out at his own lawmakers who had overwhelmingly approved the measures.
“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” he added in reference to a recent defeat in the Senate on his health care reform plans.
Senator John McCain, a noted Russia hawk, hit back on Twitter, suggesting Trump had misdiagnosed the source of the problem.
“Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies,” McCain said.
Trump’s outburst came a day after he grudgingly signed off on the sanctions, calling the legislation “significantly flawed” and adding that some of its provisions were unconstitutional.
Trump’s presidency has been overshadowed by allegations that his team colluded with Moscow during last year’s US presidential campaign in which he defeated Hillary Clinton.
On Thursday, reports emerged that special investigator Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury to investigate the issue, a step toward possible criminal indictments.
The move is a sign that the sweeping federal investigation — which includes allegations that Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russia to tilt the election in the Republican’s favor — is gathering pace.
– Trump thwarted –
After meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Germany last month, Trump said he wanted to work more closely with Moscow on areas such as the conflict in Syria.
But the sanctions law — which also includes measures against North Korea and Iran — greatly limits his room for maneuver and underlines the lack of trust from lawmakers, even though his Republican Party controls both houses of Congress.
The sanctions target the Russian energy sector in particular, giving Washington the ability to sanction companies involved in developing Russian pipelines.
The measures also place curbs on some Russian weapons exporters and constrain Trump’s ability to waive the penalties.
– ‘Economic war’ –
Moscow, which announced a series of retaliatory measures over the weekend, has painted the bill’s passage in the Senate as a humiliation for Trump.
Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev took to Facebook late Wednesday to say Trump’s signing of the bill “ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration.”
“It is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia,” Medvedev wrote.
“The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way.”
Moscow has already ordered the US to slash diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 personnel in response.
The Kremlin said Trump’s formal approval did not “change anything” and no further retaliation was planned.
– Sanctions ‘backfiring’ –
The head of Russia’s largest oil firm Rosneft — which has already been targeted by earlier US sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis — promised the company would try to avoid more pain.
“We will seek to work in such a way as to minimize the impact of the sanctions,” Igor Sechin told Russian news agencies, adding that sanctions had “started backfiring” to damage American interests.
Iran reacted angrily, saying the new sanctions against it “violated” its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and warned it would respond “appropriately.”
The sanctions seek to penalize the Kremlin for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Washington has already slapped several rounds of sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine since 2014, and in December, then leader Barack Obama turfed 35 Russian diplomats out due to accusations of election interference.
Trump had received the legislation at 1:53 pm on Friday, but waited until Wednesday to sign it.
The delay had raised speculation that Trump might veto or try to somehow shelve the sanctions, which were approved in a 98-2 Senate vote.
By signing it, he avoided the humiliating prospect of Congress overriding his veto.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that he would meet with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the weekend, but warned US-Russia ties could still get worse.
Poll: Most Israelis, Arabs, don’t believe in Palestinian state
Small majority of respondents want Palestinian state, but most don’t think it will happen in the next five years, poll shows.
A small and nearly equal majority of Israelis and Palestinian Arabs back a two-state solution, a new poll shows, but the Arabs’ support is rising.
Support among Israelis is at 53 percent, a decline of 2 percentage points since December, and at 52 percent among Arabs both in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, an increase of 8 points, according to the the “Palestinian-Israeli Pulse: A Joint Poll” published Monday.
Tel Aviv University’s Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah conducted the survey with funding from the European Union and the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah.
The poll was conducted in June and early July among representative samples of 1,200 Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and 900 Israelis, with an additional sample of Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and Arab citizens. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent for both.
The survey tested the details of a permanent peace agreement, with incentives for those who are opposed; perceptions of the other; and alternate scenarios to the two-state solution, including both equal and unequal versions of one state, and a confederation of two states.
When presented with a peace agreement package based on previous rounds of negotiations – including a demilitarized Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines with land swaps; family unification in Israel of 100,000 Palestinian-Arab refugees; western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eastern Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine,” with the Old City divided among the two sides; and the end of the conflict and claims — overall Israeli support declined to 41 percent from 46 percent in December, with backing among Jewish Israelis falling to 32 percent from 41 percent. Arab support rose 4 percent to 43 percent, with much of the rise coming from Gazans.
Incentives offered to those who opposed the peace agreement package caused the total support to rise on both sides. Among the incentives offered was the release of all Palestinian-Arab prisoners, which caused Palestinian-Arab support to rise to 73 percent; Palestinian-Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which spurred support among Jewish Israelis to rise to 58 percent; and changing educational textbooks on both sides to remove incitement, raising support by one-third on both sides.
Some 57.5 percent of all Arabs and 58.3 percent of all Israelis opposed the idea of a confederation of a Palestinian state and the State of Israel in which citizens of each country could live on the territory of the other under their laws with security and the economy handled jointly by both countries.
A majority of Arabs, or 52.3 percent, believe a two-state solution is no longer viable, and 43.9 percent of Israelis agree. In a separate question, 58 percent of Arabs and 61.4 of Israelis opposed one state for Arabs and Israelis.
Some 47.2 percent of Israelis support or strongly support the eviction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria under a peace agreement, with 44.8 percent opposing or strongly opposing such a move.
In a question on the perception of others, 39.6 percent of Arabs said they agree or certainly agree with the statement “I feel fear toward Israeli Jews,” and 67.5 percent of Jewish Israelis agreed or certainly agreed with the statement “I feel fear toward Palestinians.”
Some 53.3 percent of Arabs said they disagree or certainly disagree with the statement “Most Israelis want peace,” and 62.2 percent of Israelis said they disagreed or certainly disagree with the statement “Most Arabs want peace.”
In May, a poll showed that just under half of Israeli Arabs support the idea of a Palestinian state, and only 4% would ever want to live in such a state.
Israelis March Demanding Access to Temple Mount and Building of Third Temple
http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/32094/Default.aspxTuesday, August 01, 2017 | Israel Today Staff
Monday evening marked the beginning of the Jewish fast of Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
Thousands of Israelis participated in an annual march around the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, with a special focus on the Temple Mount.
Though it is Judaism’s holiest site, Jews are still not allowed to pray there due to threats of Muslim violence.
Government officials participating in the march noted that the people of Israel are seeking much more than just the right to pray atop a Muslim-occupied Temple Mount.
They want the Third Temple.
“Everyone who came here tonight proved with his feet that we want the Temple back – and quickly,” Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan told Arutz 7.