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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Iranian vessels come within 300 yards of US destroyer

This is the kind of thing that tends to happen when you got this for a president.


A US Navy official told CNN four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels conducted a "high-speed intercept" of the USS Nitze in waters near the Strait of Hormuz Tuesday, deeming the incident "unsafe and unprofessional."

The official said two of the vessels slowed and turned away only after coming within 300 yards of the US guided-missile destroyer as it transited international waters near the Strait of Hormuz, and only after the destroyer had sent multiple visual and audio warnings.

The incident is only the latest in a series of all-too-close encounters with Iran in the region since December. These brushes have included Iranian rocket launches, drones flying over US vessels and the capture of US sailors in January. They come against the backdrop of renewed US diplomatic contacts with Iran, which has triggered a political backlash among Iranian hardliners, including the powerful IRGC.

In the wake of Tuesday's incident, the Nitze and US Naval Forces Central Command have determined that the Iranian vessels were violating international law and maritime standards, acting dangerously and unprofessionally.

Iran video appears to show U.S. sailor in tears 02:23

The Iranian vessels moved at high speed toward the Nitze, which was operating in accordance with international law in international waters and ignored maritime "rules of the road" as set out in the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. According to the Navy official, the IRGC vessels ignored multiple warnings, creating a dangerous, harassing environment that could have pushed the Nitze to take defensive measures, escalating the situation.

The US Naval Forces Central Command is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area that stretches from the Arabian Gulf to the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, parts of the Indian Ocean and 20 countries.

Tuesday's encounter took place as the Nitze and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason were conducting what the official said was a routine transit near the internationally recognized strait. The official spoke to CNN anonymously to discuss military matters.

The four IRGC vessels approached at high speed. After identifying them, the Nitze tried 12 times to make contact by radio without receiving a response, according to the Navy official. As two of the Iranian vessels continued to barrel toward the Nitze at high speed, the destroyer used an internationally recognized maritime danger signal three times.

Photos: U.S. aircraft carriers

That signal -- five short blasts of the ship's whistle -- is used when another vessel's intentions are not understood or its indicated course is dangerous. At the same time, the Nitze also used visual warnings, firing 10 flares in the direction of the approaching vessels. Again, the destroyer got no response, the official said.

Despite the Nitze's close proximity to off-shore oil rigs, the ship altered course to move away from the approaching Iranian vessels and avoid a potential collision. Only after the two Iranian vessels had closed to within 300 yards of Nitze did they slow their speed before ultimately moving away.

The intercept was another tense incident between the longtime foes over the past year.
In December, as part of a life-fire exercise, Iran's military fired a rocket near the American aircraft carrier, the USS Harry Truman.

And in January, the IRGC captured 10 American sailors when their two Riverine Command Boats accidentally strayed into waters near Iran-controlled Farsi Island, in the Persian Gulf. The sailors were released soon after.

Later that month, Iran reportedly flew an unarmed drone over a US warship, a move that a US navy official called "abnormal and unprofessional."
In July, Iranian ships sailed close to USS New Orleans while Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Central Command, was aboard. 


Trump steps back from hardline stance on deporting illegal immigrants

Another cave. Proving once again illegals hold the upper hand. No one, not even Trump is going to get rid of them. And what kind of message does that send to others planning on coming here?


Trump says government can 'work with' illegal immigrants.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump continued to insist Wednesday in a "Hannity" town hall with Fox News' Sean Hannity that there will be "no amnesty" for illegal immigrants, but suggested that he would be willing to "work with them."

His remarks were the latest in a series of recent interviews where he has said he is considering softening a previous pledge made at the onset of his campaign to deport 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. During a “Hannity” town hall on Tuesday, Trump said he was open to “softening” laws dealing with illegal immigrants.

On Wednesday, Trump told Hannity there would be "no citizenship" for those illegal immigrants.

"Let me go a step further- they'll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, but we work with them," Trump said.

He also spoke of how hard it would be to deport people who have lived in the country for decades and raised a family.

"Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out," Trump said. "But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, 'Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump,' I have it all the time! It's a very, very hard thing."

The Republican nominee then returned to one of his tougher stances by slamming sanctuary cities for "protecting criminals," where he claimed police are at the point "where they almost give up."

"It's so hard for the police to--if somebody is protected between the sanctuary city nonsense," Trump said. "We got to get rid of the sanctuary cities, we're protecting these people. We're protecting criminals. And the police, who are phenomenal people, they're at a point where they almost give up. They catch them, they have them, they know they did it and then they know nothing is going to happen. You know, ok, so if you're a killer and you're in this country, they go after you big league and it's tough. If you're a killer and you're an illegal immigrant, the police don't know what to do."

He added that he is expected to announce a decision on his stance regarding illegal immigration "very soon."

Trump is expected to unveil his new immigration policy next week during a speech in Phoenix, the Associated Press reported late Wednesday.

Trump plans to speak at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix Aug. 31.

Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham confirmed the event to the AP, and that the speech would cover "policy." Two officials with knowledge of the Trump campaign's plans confirmed the topic was immigration to the AP. They weren't authorized to speak on the record about campaign plans.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Obama administration says $400M to Iran was contingent on release of prisoners

1. Muslim Terrorist attack...after spin job <> Workplace Violence.

2. Ransom is not Ransom... it is a contingency on the release of American prisoners being held in the country. Aka muddling the water.


The Obama administration admitted Thursday that a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was contingent on the release of American prisoners being held in the country – while still denying that the payment was a ransom.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the negotiations to return the money – originally from a 1979 failed military equipment deal made between Iran and the U.S. – were conducted separately from negotiations to free the four prisoners.

The four detainees who were released on January 17 were Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati; Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, whose case had not been publicized before the release.

However, Kirby said that the U.S. withheld the cash delivery until Iran made good on its promise to release the prisoners.

“In basic English you are saying you wouldn’t give [Iran] the 400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?” asked a reporter at Thursday’s State Department briefing.

“That’s correct,” Kirby responded.

The new details, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, added to criticisms from Republicans that it was a ransom paid by the Obama administration. Kirby’s admission only served to add fuel to the controversy.

“What the State Department admitted today was the dictionary definition of a ransom payment and a complete contradiction of what they were saying just two weeks ago,” RNC Spokesman Michael Short said in a statement. “It’s time for the Obama White House to drop the charade and admit it paid a ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

"If it quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If a cash payment is contingent on a hostage release, it's a ransom,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “The truth matters and the President owes the American people an explanation."

Earlier this month, after the revelation the U.S. delivered the money in pallets of cash, the administration flatly denied any connection between the payment and the prisoners.

"Reports of link between prisoner release & payment to Iran are completely false," Kirby tweeted at the time.

"This wasn’t some nefarious deal," Obama said during an August 4 press conference. "We do not pay ransom for hostages."

The agreement was the return of the $400 million, plus an additional $1.3 billion in interest, terms that Obama described as favorable compared to what might have been expected from a tribunal set up in The Hague to rule on pending deals between the two countries.

Abedini has claimed that he and the other hostages were kept waiting at an Iranian airport for more than 20 hours before their departure. Abedini said he was told by a senior Iranian intelligence official that their departure was contingent on the movement of a second plane.

State Department officials denied Abedini's claims to the Journal, saying the delay was due to issues locating Rezaian's wife and mother, who accompanied him on the flight.

According to the Journal, GOP leaders say they plan to hold hearings on the payment next month, when Congress returns from its summer recess. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, last week sent letters to the Justice and Treasury Departments, as well as the Federal Reserve, requesting more information the transaction.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Julian Assange Sees 'Incredible Double Standard' In Clinton Email Case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has lived for four years to avoid extradition to Sweden.Carl Court/Getty Images

Julian Assange says if the United States government sees him as a threat to national security, it should see Hillary Clinton as one, too.

In an interview with Morning Edition's David Greene, the founder of WikiLeaks called the Department of Justice's decision not to prosecute Clinton for handling classified information on her private email server an "incredible double standard."

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for four years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on suspicion of rape.

In a statement last month, FBI director James Comey said the FBI "did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws," but that the use of a private email server was "extremely careless." Comey advised the Justice Department "no charges are appropriate in this case," and career prosecutors agreed.

Assange noted that, had a case proceeded, Clinton could have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, which bans the disclosure of classified information to an unauthorized person "with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States."

Assange said in the past courts have found that a lack of intent to harm the United States did not absolve the accused of guilt.

"There has been an interpretation saying that it doesn't matter that you didn't intend to harm the United States, but they seem to have changed the standard."

In 2013, U.S. Army Pfc. Chelsea Manning was convicted of the Espionage Act after disclosing classified military information to WikiLeaks. Some have criticized the conviction, arguing Manning was a whistleblower, not a spy with intent to harm the United States.

In his NPR interview, Assange regarded the open disclosure of information with reverence. He referred to WikiLeaks' 11 million documents as a "rebel Library of Alexandria."

"I believe that the way to justice is education," Assange said. "By bringing out into the public domain how human institutions actually behave, we can understand frankly, to a degree, for the first time the civilization that we actually have," Assange said.

As an example, he cited one of WikiLeaks' more recent publications: The 20,000 hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. Those emails revealed that some senior DNC staffers had worked to promote the candidacy of Hillary Clinton over her opponent Bernie Sanders. Four DNC officials resigned in the aftermath, including its chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Assange called the leak "a great journalistic scoop."

"That's a remarkable and important contribution to U.S. democracy by our sources and by WikiLeaks," Assange said. He questioned how other publications might have handled the information.

(The same way they always do)

"What media organization who had received that information would not publish it? I think that's a real question. I would like to say the answer is, no media organization would censor that material," Assange said.

But, he added, "I'm not confident that in fact all media in the United States would have published those emails," referring to what he called the partisan nature of the U.S. media landscape leading up to the election.

The potential source of the leaked material has intrigued some as much as its substance: U.S. officials have said they're "highly confident" the DNC hack was the work of the Russian government. Assange, however, said he could not give any information to Greene about who his sources are.

"So far we have a perfect record of WikiLeaks having never revealed information that exposed a source over ten years," Assange said.

In the interview, Assange also spoke about the Trump campaign - he'd happily receive any authentic "internal documentation" from it. And when asked about the murder of a DNC staffer early last month, who some have speculated was a WikiLeaks source, Assange repeated that WikiLeaks does not disclose its sources, "even dead sources."


Monday, August 15, 2016

...And they were worried about Zika

Ryan Lochte, other US swimmers robbed in Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (CNN)Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and three other US swimmers were safe and cooperating with police Sunday after being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. Olympic Committee said. 

One of the bandits reportedly put a gun to Lochte's forehead. 

Lochte and fellow swimmers Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen had left a hospitality house hosted by France early Sunday in a taxi bound for the Olympic Village. 

The vehicle was "stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes' money and other personal belongings," said USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky. 

Appearing on NBC, Lochte offered chilling details. 
"We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a police badge, no lights, no nothing -- just a police badge and they pulled us over," Lochte told NBC. "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground -- they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so -- I'm not getting down on the ground.

"And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet -- he left my cell phone, he left my credentials."
"I think they're all shaken up," Lochte's mother, Ileana Lochte, told USA Today.

Lochte released a statement thanking family, friends, and fans for their support.

"While it is true that my teammates and I were victims of a robbery early Sunday morning, what is most important is that we are safe and unharmed," he said.

Bentz tweeted, "We are all safe. Thank you for your love and support."

@TheGunnyBunny P.s. the gold medal is safe 😂— Gunnar Bentz (@TheGunnyBunny) August 14, 2016

Rio de Janeiro civil police told CNN they have opened an investigation, a few hours after first learning about the robbery from the media, and had not been contacted by the USOC.

Fellow Team USA swimmer Nathan Adrian said he heard the news about the incident when he woke up, but said he wasn't worried.

"[I'm] certainly very happy that all those boys are safe, you know that's the number one priority on top of everything," he said. "Rio is an amazing city and there is going to be problems anywhere you go."

"We were given briefings in a couple of meetings coming into this," American swimmer Ryan Murphy added. "I think we all trust our security guys and they have done a great job throughout this whole trip with us."

Lochte's mugging comes after a handful of incidents that have brought Rio's safety into question.

Cellphone thefts in Rio: Pickpockets eye Olympics 

A Paralympic athlete was mugged in June, and a few days before the Opening Ceremonies, Australian Olympians were robbed after their building was evacuated. 

The window of a media van was hit by an unidentified object -- which one reporter thought was a bullet -- and shattered 

And two stray bullets were also found at the equestrian site.

With 12 Olympic medals, Lochte, 32, is the second-most decorated male Olympic swimmer of all time, behind Michael Phelps.