July 12/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die
John 11/17-27: "When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’"

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 11-12/18
The Fl of extras without any weight in these elections/Roger Bejjani/July 11/18
Iran’s Two-Front Strategy/Tony Badran/The Tablet Magazine/July 11/18
Israel Shoots Down Syrian Drone Infiltrating 10 Kilometers Into Israeli Airspace/Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/July 11/18
France: Freeing Extremistsé450 Radicalized Islamists to Be Freed by 2019/Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
Germany Outlaws Turkish Boxing Gang/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
The UN Fraudulently Addresses "Extreme Poverty" in the United States/Francis Menton/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
Drop in Cyclical Stocks Isn’t a Hard Fall for the Economy/Stephen Gandel/Bloomberg July 11/18
NATO and the Putin-Trump Summit/James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/July 11/18
How Trump is using the same thought processes as Obama in the Middle East/Michael Young/The National/July 11/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 11-12/18
The Fl of extras without any weight in these elections
Lebanon: Cabinet Formation Talks Resume after Christian Truce as Obstacles Persist
UAE Ambassador: Abu Dhabi Supports Lebanon’s Stability, Sovereignty
Yemen Slams Hizbullah 'Support of Huthis' in Letter to Bassil
Aoun Urges U.N. to Facilitate Refugee Return, Export via Jordan
Berri Calls for Parliament Meeting to Elect Committees on Tuesday
Report: How a Govt. Lineup Draft Will Distribute Portfolios
Central Bank Governor Dispels Fears of Financial Crisis
Geagea Says Parties Should Facilitate Hariri’s Task in Forming Govt.
Huge Fire, Faintings as 50 Gas Cylinders Explode in Kfar Tibnit
ISG Meets Hariri, Urges 'Balanced Govt. of National Unity'
Iran’s Two-Front Strategy
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 11-12/18
Ontario reverting to old sex-ed curriculum in fall, education minister says
Israel Not Ruling Out ‘Eventual Ties with Syria's Assad’
Pompeo Accuses Iran of Using its Embassies to Plot Terror Attacks
Russian Mixed Signals about the ‘Iranian Knot’
Israeli Navy Seizes Freedom Ship 2 as it Tries to Break Gaza Blockade
PA Grand Mufti Issues Fatwa Forbidding Land Sales to Israelis
Egypt Says Arab Quartet Demands are Essential for Lifting Qatar Boycott
Egypt: At Least 11 Terrorists Killed in Northern Sinai
Libyan Army Inspects Suspected Arms Shipment from Qatar
China Signs Documents to Draw a Road-map for Future Ties with Arabs
Yemen President, UN Envoy Discuss Humanitarian Issues, Prisoner Swap
Yemeni Army Deals Houthis Heavy Blows in Saada
Trump Insists He Has 'Very Good' Relations with Merkel
US Slaps Terror Designation on Iran-Linked Group in Bahrain

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 11-12/18
The Fl of extras without any weight in these elections
Roger Bejjani/July 11/18
There is no limit to the stupidity of people who are convinced that Michel Aoun's election is due to the support of the fl. These people don't know how to count and make sure that aoun was at the beginning of Hezbollah's candidate. Only the's contribution was decisive. The rest was just posturing. Mustaqbal decided to accede to it after understanding that hezbollah and the moraouns were going to continue the boycott of elective sessions until the blue-Blue Accession to aoun. The Fl of extras without any weight in these elections. With or without them, Aoun candidate hezbollah would have been elected.

Lebanon: Cabinet Formation Talks Resume after Christian Truce as Obstacles Persist

Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/ Political talks between Lebanese parties resumed on Tuesday on several levels to overcome obstacles that are hindering the birth of a new government. The greatest obstacle pits the main Christian parties of the Lebanese Forces (LF) and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). A first step towards calming situation came when the LF and FPM announced that they will exercise calm to pave the way for drawing a roadmap of their mutual relations and resume dialogue that stopped as a result of the eruption of the crisis. Meetings between both parties are expected to be held in the coming days, particularly after Bkirki intervened by calling for a meeting Thursday between caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi of the LF and MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the FPM. The two officials are sponsors of the 2016 Maarab Understanding that brought FPM founder, Michel Aoun, to the presidency. On Tuesday, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri met with Speaker Nabih Berri, while both Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq met separately with Aoun to tackle developments related to the cabinet formation. Hariri said that obstacles remain, hoping that the Christian truce will help resolve them. Moreover, he remarked that Lebanon has a golden opportunity to implement the CEDRE Conference and the necessary reforms, revealing that disputes over ministerial shares are impeding the government formation process. “All political parties should make sacrifices for the sake of Lebanon and its economy. Everyone needs to know that government formation is a priority," he told reporters following his two-hour meeting with Berri. He added that the speaker is also keen on speeding up the formation process and reviving the economy. Rahi, for his part, said that talks with Aoun touched on the delay in the government formation. "The president reassures that the government will be formed," the Patriarch told reporters. FPM ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun’s meetings with Rahi and Mashnouq were “very good,” signaling the presence of a positive mood, particularly after the two Christian parties announced a period of calm. “Aoun is keen on protecting the Christian reconciliation and preventing its collapse,” they added.

UAE Ambassador: Abu Dhabi Supports Lebanon’s Stability, Sovereignty

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Lebanon Hamad Al-Shamsi underlined his country’s continued support for the stability, sovereignty and development of Lebanon, and its willingness to promote cooperation between the two sides. The envoy visited President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace on Tuesday and discussed Lebanese-Emirati relations and the means to develop and activate cooperation in all fields. “The UAE has always supported the Lebanese leadership and people and continues to support its stability, sovereignty and progress. It also looks forward to further boost cooperation in all fields,” he said after the meeting. “Lebanon has made many achievements over the past few months, most importantly strengthening its safety and that of its citizens,” the UAE diplomat added, reiterating his country’s keenness on seeing Lebanon a sovereign, independent and happy nation. “The president has extended his greetings to the UAE leadership. He recalled the good deeds of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE and the leader of its unity, and whose support to Lebanon had been accompanied by positive repercussions that continue to shape the foundations of relations between the two brotherly countries,” Al-Shamsi added.

Yemen Slams Hizbullah 'Support of Huthis' in Letter to Bassil
Naharnet/July 11/18/Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Hussein al-Yamani has protested alleged Hizbullah support for Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels, in a letter sent to his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil. “We in the Yemeni Republic reserve the right to present the matter to the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the U.N. Security Council,” Yamani warned. He noted that “the party’s support for the Huthi militia appeared to be clear in the televised speech of (Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan) Nasrallah on June 29, 2018, in which he incited them to fight the Yemeni government forces, and expressed his ambition and that of his party's militants to fight in Yemen in favor of the coup.”Nasrallah's speech, he said, “supported the Huthi militia against the internationally recognized legitimate authority, in a blatant interference in the internal affairs” of Yemen. This “would seriously damage the interests of Yemen and its national security and would fuel the flames of war, which will continue to destabilize security and stability in the region,” al-Yamani warned. And urging the Lebanese government to “rein in” Hizbullah “in line with the dissociation policy,” Yamani accused the Iran-backed party of “taking part in training, plotting and incitement” in support of the Huthi rebels. In his speech, Nasrallah had denied that any of Hizbullah's fighters were killed in Yemen after recent claims by the Saudi-led coalition that it killed eight of its members there. "We've recently said that for certain reasons and interests, we do not say whether we have a presence in Yemen," Nasrallah said during a televised address. "But whether we're there or not, I categorically deny that there are Hizbullah martyrs in Yemen -- not in the last few days nor in recent years," he said. Nasrallah has denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen in the past. "Is there something else? We do not deny, we do not confirm," he said on June 29. The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly accused Hizbullah and its backer Iran of providing help to Huthi rebels, including ballistic missiles from Tehran that have targeted Saudi Arabia. Iran denies arming the Huthis.

Aoun Urges U.N. to Facilitate Refugee Return, Export via Jordan
Naharnet/July 11/18/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday called on the United Nations to “facilitate” the return of Syrian refugees to their country as well as Lebanon's exportation of goods via the Nassib border crossing between Syria and Jordan. In a meeting with Acting U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel, Aoun also urged the U.N. to help Lebanon continue the demarcation of its maritime and territorial southern border with Israel, including in the occupied Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba Hills. “This is Lebanese territory and its residents are Lebanese,” Aoun stressed during the meeting, referring to the two occupied regions. Moreover, the president called on the U.N. to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) without any modification in order to “activate its role in the implementation of Resolution 1701 and to guarantee continued stability in the South.” Aoun also briefed Kardel on the main points of the national economic plan that is expected to be discussed and approved by the new government. Turning to the Syrian issue, the president called on the U.N. to “facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to safe Syrian areas, especially after Syrian officials announced that they will provide protection, care, food and shelter to the returnees.” “The U.N. has a role to play in facilitating the flow of the importation and exportation movement via the Nassib border crossing, which would revive Lebanon's industrial exports and accordingly revitalize the economy and its various sectors,” Aoun added, referring to a border crossing that the Syrian regime has recently seized from rebel hands.

Berri Calls for Parliament Meeting to Elect Committees on Tuesday
Naharnet/July 11/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a meeting of the Parliament on July 17 to elect members and heads of the parliamentary committees, MP Ali Bazzi said after the weekly meeting of MPs with Berri in Ain el-Tineh. Bazzi said the Speaker has given some time for the parliamentary committees to be elected but “two months have passed since the parliamentary elections, and more than one month and a half since the designation of the premier (and the government has not been formed yet.) “Therefore Berri has set July 17 as the date for electing the committees. If a progress is not recorded and a government is not formed, he may invite lawmakers for consultations in that regard,” he added. Berri’s weekly meeting with lawmakers was his first since the parliamentary elections.

Report: How a Govt. Lineup Draft Will Distribute Portfolios
Naharnet/July 11/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s faces a tough task to lineup a new government in light of “inflexible” stances of political parties and their wrangling over Cabinet shares and ministerial portfolios. Al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday that a draft government lineup will reportedly grant three ministerial portfolios for AMAL Movement's leader, Speaker Nabih Berri which will include the portfolios of finance, youth and sports, and administrative development. Meanwhile, Hizbullah would allocate the ministries of health, economy and trade and the state ministry for parliamentary affairs. On the other hand, al-Mustaqbal Movement would get the ministries of interior and telecommunications as part of its share, said the daily. A “large share”, said al-Joumhouria, would be given to the Free Patriotic Movement and the President (FPM founder). It would include the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, justice, environment, economy, ministry of state for presidential affairs, ministry of state for planning affairs, ministry of state to combat corruption. It is noteworthy that said draft excludes the Progressive Socialist Party of MP Walid Jumblat who was a partner in the previous governments, added the daily. Hizbullah has reportedly stressed it won’t waiver any part of its ministerial share. Discussions among senior officials and political parties regarding the government formation intensified in the past hours.

Central Bank Governor Dispels Fears of Financial Crisis 11th July 2018/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh dismissed claims that the country’s monetary and financial situation was at stake, assuring that the Lebanese Lira is and will remain stable. In an interview with Annahar newspaper, Salameh said that there are no economic or financial reasons behind the recent collpase of two major real estate developers, noting that the crisis has been depicted differently than the reality. "There is no link between the crisis jolting the real estate sector and the suspension of the subsidized housing loans," Salameh pointed out. "The real estate sector has been in decline since 2011."

Geagea Says Parties Should Facilitate Hariri’s Task in Forming Govt.
Naharnet/July 11/18/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea urged political parties to meet Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri halfway in his quest to form a new government. “The general situation in the country can not bear any more delay in the cabinet formation,” said Geagea. “Hariri is exerting strenuous efforts at that level, but all political parties must meet his endeavors so that a new government is formed,” added Geagea whose remarks came Tuesday during Women's Empowerment and Syndicates cadres graduation. Several obstacles regarding the shares of political parties in the cabinet have been delaying the lineup of the government which Hariri was tasked with forming on May 24.
Huge Fire, Faintings as 50 Gas Cylinders Explode in Kfar Tibnit
Naharnet/July 11/18/Around 50 gas cylinders exploded Wednesday in the southern town of Kfar Tibnit, sparking a huge blaze in a building containing a gas cylinder shop and a furniture showroom, the National News Agency reported. “In addition to the major material damage, the incident caused a lot of fainting cases among citizens as a result of heavy smoke inhalation,” NNA said, adding that the smoke had engulfed the entire region. The agency said the fire reportedly started when a gas cylinder exploded on one of two pickup trucks carrying other cylinders outside the gas shop. “The flames spread to the entire furniture showroom and the gas cylinder shop,” NNA said. “Crews from the various Civil Defense centers in the Nabatieh region, the Islamic Health Committee, the civil defense department of the Islamic Risala Scout, Nabatieh's ambulance services, and residents of the town worked on dousing the flames and keeping citizens away from the incident site to prevent a tragedy resulting from the explosion of any gas cylinder,” the agency added.

ISG Meets Hariri, Urges 'Balanced Govt. of National Unity'
Naharnet/July 11/18/Representatives of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) held talks Wednesday with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri at the Center House and urged the formation of an “inclusive, balanced government of national unity.”At the meeting, the ISG shared a copy of the Aide Memoire, originally presented by the Group to President Michel Aoun on 14 June 2018. “The Aide Memoire sets out some informal principles for consideration, in line with the statement adopted by the Ministerial meeting of the ISG on 8 December 2017, as well as with the outcome documents of the international conferences held in Rome, Paris and Brussels during the first half of 2018, and relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” the ISG said in a statement. The ISG encouraged that these principles be “taken into consideration as the incoming Government prepares its Ministerial Statement.”The ISG and Hariri also discussed government formation and expressed “their hope that an inclusive, balanced government of national unity will be formed soon, enabling Lebanon to pursue the needed reforms,” the statement said. The International Support Group has brought together the United Nations and the governments of China, France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, together with the European Union and the Arab League. It was launched in September 2013 by the U.N. Secretary-General with former President Michel Suleiman to help “mobilize support and assistance for Lebanon’s stability, sovereignty and state institutions and to specifically encourage assistance for the Lebanese Army, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and host communities and government programs and public services impacted by the Syrian crisis.”

Iran’s Two-Front Strategy
طوني بدران: استراتجية إيران فتح جبهتين لتطويق إسرائيل واحدة في غزة والثانية في الجولان

By Tony Badran/The Tablet Magazine/July 11/18
Israel is about to face two active fronts on its borders: one in Gaza, and the other in the Golan Heights. As factions in Gaza fired rockets at Israel, an offensive of the alliance backing the Assad regime was underway in southern Syria, which is likely to reach the Golan soon. While this might appear as random coincidence, it’s more by design: The escalating attacks from Gaza should be seen as part of a coordinated Iranian strategy.
After the outbreak of the Syrian war, the Iranians eyed establishing southern Syria as yet another active front on Israel’s borders. This is a red line for Jerusalem. Consequently, over the past year especially, the Israeli Air Force has been bombing Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria at will. Russia’s presence in Syria has not translated into protection for Iran and the forces it commands in the war-torn country. And the Iranians have had no effective answer to Israel’s intelligence dominance and military superiority in Syria. The feeble rocket attack on the Golan Heights in May underscored this point.
That, however, doesn’t mean the Iranians are folding. Tehran might not be about to sacrifice its holdings in Lebanon by heating up the Lebanese front against Israel, which would lead to Jerusalem devastating Hezbollah’s home base. But there is another, less costly options to turn the heat on Israel: Gaza.
The Iranian logic is simple enough. Even though southwestern Syria was part of the so-called de-escalation agreement, which the United States, Russia, and Jordan reached last summer, the Assad regime camp, backed by Russian air power, is now in the middle of an offensive to retake the area and return the Assad regime to the borders with Jordan and Israel. Of course, the Russians pinkie promise that only the Syrian “state” will be present at the border. The Iranians and Hezbollah, the Russians say, either will not be deployed there, or, if they are, would gradually withdraw. Vladimir Putin guarantees it! The Israelis, on their end, hope that their proven record will deters the Iranians from moving on the Golan. At the same time, the Iranians will keep the Gaza front simmering. Their play, in other words, is to try and deter the Israelis from taking decisive action on either front.
Anyone looking for further evidence in support of this observation should simply study the Assad regime’s offensive in southern Syria, which has been mainly in the eastern part of Daraa, down to the Jordanian border. This is the safer approach. The push toward the western part, Quneitra and the Golan, carries the risk of Israeli action, especially since the Iranian-led militias are embedded with whatever remains of Assad’s military, and there is documentation of their participation in the offensive. Despite reports over the past month of an understanding between Russia and Israel concerning the regime’s return to the area, there’s been no agreement on the issue of Iran’s presence.
There’s been a lot of speculation about what the conversation with Russia will lead to. But in all likelihood, the rules of whatever “deal” may be reached is that Moscow is not responsible for either what the Iranians or the Israelis do. That is to say, Russia will do nothing about Iran, and Israel will continue to target the Iranians in Syria at will. The benefit Putin is eyeing is for him to become the broker that everyone has to go through—without having his advanced weapons systems publicly destroyed.
Once the military campaign finds its way to Israel’s border, Iran will as well—whether immediately or down the road makes little difference. Israel will have to take action, with the de facto buffer zone on its border gone.
Iran’s assets don’t stand a chance against Israel in a full-on war. But low-intensity conflict can work to their advantage. The Iranians’ strategy, consequently, is to try and strip Israel of its advantage. The purpose of all the activity in Gaza, therefore, is to tie down and distract Israel, and then look to divide its forces between two active fronts, in the hope of deterring them from truly acting on either. If successful, Iran will have set up fronts on Israel’s borders with Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
As long as Iran is able to avoid high-intensity conflict in these arenas, it can press ahead with its plan. As my colleagues and I explain in a forthcoming Foundation for the Defense of Democracies paper, the Israelis have made clear they will not accept low-intensity conflict on their borders as a norm, and will not allow the Iranians to entrench themselves not just on the Golan but in Syria more broadly, no matter the cost.
There is debate in Israel about whether the time has come to hit Gaza hard now. And, all the chatter about a deal with Russia notwithstanding, there is equal need for Israel to intensify its targeting campaign against Iran’s infrastructure, personnel, and logistical lines in Syria.
“We have just one option,” Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shimon Shapira, an Israeli scholar of Hezbollah and Iran, told me. “And that is to act with force, overtly and covertly, against the Iranian presence in Syria. Consenting to or accepting the Iranian presence, be it direct or indirect, in the end will lead to a war with Iran in Syria and in Lebanon.”
Israel will need to carry out its strikes with a posture signaling readiness to go to full war. Normalizing protracted low-intensity war, akin to the situation with Lebanon between 1996 and 2006, will prove to be a costly mistake. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it recently, “if there needs to be” conflict with Iran, “it is better now than later.”
**Tony Badran, Tablet magazine's Levant analyst, is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 11-12/18
Ontario reverting to old sex-ed curriculum in fall, education minister says
The Canadian Press/July 11, 2018./TORONTO — Ontario schools will go back to teaching the same sex-ed curriculum they did in the late 1990s this fall after the province's new government announced Wednesday it was revoking an updated version brought in by the previous regime. Just over a week into the summer break, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said ministry staff were working to inform school boards of the decision to revert to the curriculum that was in place before 2015. The older curriculum will remain in effect until the government completes a "fulsome consultation respecting parents" on how to modernize the material, she said. The newer sex-ed curriculum sparked controversy, particularly among social conservatives, when the Liberal government introduced it three years ago. It was the first time the curriculum had been updated since 1998, and it included warnings about online bullying and sexting that were not in the previous version. But protesters zeroed in on discussions of same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation. The updated document has its supporters, however, including tens of thousands of people who signed a petition to save it after the Tories — who vowed to scrap it during the election campaign — were elected last month. A group also paid for a three-metre-long sign defending the curriculum. "Dear PC MPPs," read the sign, which was parked outside the legislature Wednesday. "Don't let the religious right hijack sex-ed."Ontario's two largest teachers' unions said they oppose the decision, noting that parents and educators were consulted extensively before the curriculum was updated. Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, said the move is a "huge disservice" to students, who need to learn about critical issues such as consent. What's more, given the amount of input teachers, experts and parents had in the update, any new consultations are likely to give a similar result, Hammond said. He encouraged parents to call on Thompson to save the updated curriculum. The decision also doesn't leave teachers much time to alter their plans for the fall semester, said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. "Nobody wants to be unprepared, it's certainly not the best approach to classroom practice to make last-minute decisions or to have last-minute decisions foisted upon our members," he said. "And so it doesn't feel like a thoughtful approach, it feels like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction."
Some parents, too, said they would have to make adjustments in light of the change. Megan Houston, a mother of three — aged two, four and 21 — said it will affect how she talks to her younger children about sex, mental health and other subjects that were addressed in the newer curriculum. "It makes me, as a parent, more vigilant," she said. "For my four-year-old, for example, we're talking about things like personal space." The earlier curriculum, which was taught to her oldest daughter, glossed over some key issues, she said. "While there were mechanics of things talked about, it was separating this idea of sex and feeling and emotion. Whereas with this new curriculum, it really ties in this idea of 'sex is not just something that your body does, it's something that will affect you emotionally,'" she said. Others rejoiced at the news, saying parents and medical professionals should play a bigger role in creating the curriculum. An organizer with the Thorncliffe Parents Association, a group that opposed the curriculum brought in by the Liberals, said the move was a victory for parents. Khalid Mahmood, a father of five, said he was uncomfortable with grade school children learning about homosexuality, a topic that was covered in the updated curriculum. Some observers raised concerns about how Wednesday's announcement would affect inclusion in schools. "Our schools should be more understanding of all diversity, of all religions, of all sexual orientations and gender identity," said Susan Gapka, a Toronto-based transgender activist who has run for school trustee. "To repeal this would take us back about 20 years before texting and smartphones," she said. Lee Airton, a professor in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University, said teachers can still create an inclusive environment even with the older curriculum. However, the change could affect how some teachers feel in the workplace, the professor said. "I worry about new, young and precariously employed teachers who are gender and sexual minority people and whether they will experience a chilling affect in their teaching and whether they will feel less supported by their administration," they said.
—With files from Daniela Germano and Paola Loriggio/Nicole Thompson and Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Israel Not Ruling Out ‘Eventual Ties with Syria's Assad’
Jerusalem - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/Israel on Tuesday held out the prospect of eventual contacts with Syria under Bashar al-Assad presidency, citing the advances made by his government forces in the seven-year of civil war that Israeli officials had initially expected to topple him. Assad’s Russian-backed forces have advanced in southwest Syria and are on course to reach Quneitra, a rebel-held district abutting the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights frontier with Israel. These advances have raised Israel's concern over Assad's attempt to deploy Syrian troops there, in defiance of the 1974 UN demilitarization accord on the Golan, which bans or imposes restrictions on military deployment on both sides of the Golan Heights. Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman toured Golan Heights on Wednesday and ramped up threats to use armed force should Damascus’s forces encroach. “Any Syrian soldier who will be in the buffer zone risks his life,” Lieberman told reporters. However, according to Reuters, Lieberman appeared to signal acknowledgment that Assad would regain control of the Syrian side of the Golan. Asked by a reporter if he anticipated a time when the Quneitra crossing would be reopened under the UN-monitored armistice between Israel and Syria, and whether the two old enemies could establish “some kind of relationship”, Lieberman said: “I reckon we are a long way from that, but we are not ruling out anything.” His remarks could foreshadow a more open approach to Assad ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Syria talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. He also warned against "the Iranian presence in Syria", vowing that the Israeli military would retaliate "with force" against any terrorist infrastructure that it identifies in the region. Under the reign of Assad family, Syria had held direct negotiations with Israel in the United States in 2000 and indirect talks brokered by Turkey in 2008. Talks then were based on the possibility that Israel would hand over all or part of the Golan Heights in 1967; however, the two sides did not sign any agreements. After the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, Israeli officials, including former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, predicted the topple of Assad within weeks. Yet, Assad’s forces made advances in 2015 when Russia intervened militarily to support him. Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah also sent reinforcements to Syria.

Pompeo Accuses Iran of Using its Embassies to Plot Terror Attacks

Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused on Tuesday Iran of using its embassies to plot terrorist attacks in Europe and warned Tehran that its actions have "a real high cost" after it threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies. "Just this past week there were Iranians arrested in Europe who were preparing to conduct a terror plot in Paris, France. We have seen this malign behavior in Europe," Pompeo said in an interview with Sky News Arabia. The US official said the administration takes the arrest of the diplomat "very seriously" and sees it as evidence that Iran is using diplomatic compounds in Europe and elsewhere as cover to plot terrorist attacks. The official dismissed Iranian suggestions that it was a "false flag" operation intended to falsely accuse Iran of terrorism. Meanwhile, Germany ordered on Wednesday that an Iranian diplomat held over a bomb plot be remanded in custody on charges of foreign intelligence activities and conspiracy to murder. German prosecutors said that these charges did "not preclude" his extradition requested by Belgium.The suspect, a Vienna-based accredited Iranian diplomat whom opposition groups have named as Assadollah Assadi, 46, was one of several suspects detained in Germany, Belgium and France over a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris on June 30. They had planned to bomb the rally by the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) group in Villepinte near Paris that was attended by several US politicians. Assadi was believed to be a member of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which is tasked with the "observation and fight against opposition groups inside and outside Iran", the prosecutors' statement said. They said Assadi had in March ordered a married couple living in Antwerp "to carry out an explosives attack" on the annual rally and had handed them the explosives in a June meeting in Luxembourg. The couple were arrested in Brussels on the day of the rally by Belgian security services who said they found them in possession of 500 grams (about one pound) of the volatile explosive TATP and a detonator. They were identified only as Amir S., 38, and Nasimeh N., 33, and as being Belgian nationals of Iranian origin. French police arrested another three people but later released two of them, French legal sources said. US President Donald Trump over two months ago abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran had pledged to halt most nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Washington considers Iran to be the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism because of its links with the “Hezbollah” party in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and other networks in Iraq and Yemen. News of the bomb plot broke in the week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was visiting Switzerland and Austria to rally European support for the endangered nuclear agreement. The Paris rally by the NCRI was attended by Trump's personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who both urged "regime change" in Iran. Pompeo intends to raise the need to scrutinize Iranian diplomats more closely when he meets with European counterparts in Brussels, where he was to accompany Trump at a NATO summit.

Russian Mixed Signals about the ‘Iranian Knot’
Moscow, Beirut - Raed Jaber and Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/A “very important” meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday could stumble on the “knot” of the Iranian presence in Syria, particularly after circles close to the Kremlin revealed contradictory reports about the file. One side said Moscow is close to reaching a deal with Tel Aviv and Washington about decreasing the presence of Iranians in Syria, while another doubted that Moscow has the “will and capacity” to exert any pressure on them. Russia is racing against time and preparing proposals to arrange some agreements with regional and international parties on Syria after it succeeded in seizing complete control of its southern region. Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin will mainly focus on tackling Israel’s demand that all Iranian forces leave Syria. The Kremlin said Tuesday that the officials are expected to discuss pressing cooperation issues and problems on the global agenda, including Syria and ways to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that Russia first invited Netanyahu for talks, hoping to arrange a meeting between him and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, the Israeli PM demanded that the agenda be changed to instead focus on Syria. Accordingly, the Kremlin’s protocol administration set up a meeting between Putin and Netanyahu on condition that it does not exceed 40 minutes due to the Russian president’s busy schedule. On the battlefield, talks between a Russian delegation and representatives from opposition factions in the western Daraa countryside have still not reached any final deal through which the fighters can hand over areas under their control to the regime. A similar agreement was reached for the eastern countryside. On Tuesday, the regime alluded that it may launch a military operation in the western countryside after dropping leaflets calling on opposition fighters to hand over their arms.

Israeli Navy Seizes Freedom Ship 2 as it Tries to Break Gaza Blockade
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/The Israeli army announced Tuesday that it seized a Palestinian vessel that attempted to break the 11-year siege on the coastal Gaza Strip enclave and head to Cyprus. The flotilla was carrying sick and injured Palestinians, who have been unable to travel abroad for medical treatment as a result of the blockade. "After the boat and the Palestinians on board are searched, the boat will be towed to the Israeli navy base in Ashdod," a statement by the Israeli military said. Four of these aboard were involved in the sailing of a first flotilla in May, the spokesperson noted, accusing the Hamas movement of trying to provoke the navy and exploit injured and disabled people. Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege held Israel responsible for the safety of ship's passengers, captain and assistant and demanded their immediate release. It stressed that the sailing of the freedom ships is a message to the world that the suffering of the people in Gaza must end. The first flotilla set sail from Gaza on May 29, transporting Palestinian patients -- mostly those injured during the army’s crackdown on months-long rallies against Israeli occupation. That flotilla, which was composed of a main boat accompanied by smaller vessels, was swiftly intercepted and seized by the Israeli navy. The 17 Palestinian activists on board were taken into custody. “We announced plans to launch another flotilla… more than a month ago and won’t back down from the decision until we meet our objectives,” Bassam Manasra, a spokesman for Gaza’s National Committee for Breaking the Siege, said at a press conference in the coastal enclave. He went on to urge local and international officials to provide the flotilla and its Palestinian passengers with protection “against any possible Israeli violations”.

PA Grand Mufti Issues Fatwa Forbidding Land Sales to Israelis

Ramallah – Kifah Zaboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/Palestinian Authority Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Hussein issued a fatwa on Tuesday forbidding any contribution to the process of transfer of ownership of Palestinian land in Jerusalem to occupying Israeli forces. Sheikh Hussein’s fatwa came in light of recent aggressions carried out by occupation authorities to take control over Palestinian territories through discussing a bill allowing Jews to own land in the West Bank. Considering Palestine a sacred land, the fatwa said it is forbidden to sell Palestinian property to enemies. Citing Islamic principles on preserving general benefits of Islamic public, Sheikh Hussein said that Palestinian lands are not regarded as private property. “He who sells his land to his enemies or accepts any compensation is a sinner -- because the seller of the land to enemies is working for the removal of Muslims from their homes,” said the PA Mufti. The Mufti in the strongest condemnation of selling Palestinian territory said that broker or seller are cast out of the religion and are accused of treason of God, the prophet and the homeland. “The actor (anyone involved in sales of property to Israeli parties) is an apostate of Islam, a traitor to God, the Messenger peace be upon him, and their homeland-- Muslims must boycott them,” he added. Boycotting someone from within the Islamic community translates into complete social and economic disengagement. Any party boycotted will not be allowed to marry, receive prayers nor be given proper Islamic burial. It is worth noting that this is not the first fatwa forbidding the sale of land to Jews throughout the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, it is the first officially issued fatwa in years. Grand Mufti Hussein referred his fatwa to a 1996 decision by the Supreme Fatwa Council. The religious statement reinforces the efforts of the security authority to curb the transfer of Palestinian land to Israelis.

Egypt Says Arab Quartet Demands are Essential for Lifting Qatar Boycott
Cairo – Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, on the sidelines of his China visit, said that Qatar's policies on sponsoring terrorist organizations have harmed the region, caused a lot of damage, and the shedding of innocent blood. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt consequentially cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of fueling regional unrest and supporting terrorism and rapprochement with Iran. A year into the quartet’s boycott, all diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and supported by Western powers failed to resolve the dispute after Doha refused to implement a list of 13 demands, which included ending its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, closing Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and rolling back its relations with Iran. In an interview with Chinese Arabic-speaking satellite channel CGTN, Shoukry stressed the four Arab countries, which cut ties with the oil-rich state of Qatar, insist on their stance towards Doha so long it persists adopting the same approach. The Egyptian foreign minister stressed that in the event of a change in the Qatari policy and Doha cutting support of terrorism and attempts to destabilize the region, a breakthrough will happen and things will return to normal. Should Qatar uphold its detrimental policy, the four countries will continue their position. Shoukry pointed to the shortcoming in direct negotiations with Qatar, or expected to announce its readiness to cooperate with the four countries and show a new political will to change. Egypt’s top diplomat had kickstarted a two-day visit to China last Saturday, during which he met Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Egypt: At Least 11 Terrorists Killed in Northern Sinai

Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday that at  least 11 terrorists were killed in the military and security forces’ ongoing operation in northern Sinai. The MENA news agency quoted an unnamed security official as saying that they were killed during a shootout when forces raided a hideout in the city of al-Arish. The security forces dismantled two explosive devices and seized weapons. The terrorists were planning to target next month anniversary of the Rabaa and al-Nahda demonstrations, but the security forces’ preemptive measures thwarted their plot, said the ministry. Egypt has been battling militants for years, but the Sinai-based insurgency gained strength after the 2013 overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In February, Egypt launched a massive operation against militants in Sinai and other parts of the country.

Libyan Army Inspects Suspected Arms Shipment from Qatar

Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/The Libyan National Army is verifying reports that a ship, loaded with weapons provided by Qatar to terrorists, had docked at the al-Khums port east of the capital Tripoli. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are investigating any suspicious activity that may pose a security threat, provide support to terrorists or deepen the Libyan crisis.”“We are checking whether the ship may have sailed from Qatar. We cannot confirm its source as of yet,” he added. Security sources at Khums port said that the ship had arrived from Bulgaria and was carrying many types of heavy weapons. Its wheat shipment was used as a cover to hide this illicit activity. Port authorities have since seized the vessel and its cargo. Separately, the military operation room that is protecting oil fields announced that its forces have encircled a terrorist group that had breached the area two days ago. The group had entered an oil field belonging to the Harouge company in the eastern city of Zella. In addition, the military forces announced that they went on alert after receiving information that pro-ISIS groups were gathering their fighters in an area that is located far from the oil fields.

China Signs Documents to Draw a Road-map for Future Ties with Arabs
Beijing - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi commenced the joint conference with saying that China reached additional and new agreements with the Arab world related to developing bilateral ties – he also announced signing three documents: forum executive program 2018-2020, Arab-Chinese Executive Declaration for the Belt and Road Initiative and Beijing Declaration. Responding to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Tuesday, the Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit of the Arab League and Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia affirmed that the Arab states occupy a strategic location among three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe, which is significant for the success of Belt and Road Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping.This came in the conclusion of the 8th ministerial meeting of China-Arab Cooperation Forum. Jubeir said that the wide areas in the Arab states and their containing of three water channels (Strait of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb, Suez Canal) mean that the region is strategic for the success of Belt and Road Initiative. Jubeir said that one of the most important outcomes of the forum is lifting Sino-Arab ties to a strategic level, also the initiatives presented by the Chinese president were approved, given that they would reinforce bilateral ties. Aboul Gheit stated that the Belt and Road Initiative has a methodology and vision represented in the fact that China seeks via its economic power and intellect to build a huge launch of China through Asian territories reaching the Mediterranean Sea and on the way to Europe.

Yemen President, UN Envoy Discuss Humanitarian Issues, Prisoner Swap
Aden, Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi held talks on Tuesday with UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths in Aden on humanitarian affairs and the release of detainees, Yemeni official sources said. “We held a fruitful session with the president and we focused on humanitarian aspects throughout Yemen. We talked about releasing all prisoners and detainees from different parties", he told reporters after sitting down with Hadi. Following the meeting, the president set up a ministerial committee, supervised by the Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, aimed at crystallizing ideas about consultations that should precede any direct negotiations between the warring parties and study any suggestions that may be put forward by the UN's envoy. It is the second trip by Griffiths to the temporary capital Aden in less than a month. He had informed the UN Security Council last Thursday about his plans to hold talks with Hadi and Saudi-led Arab coalition leaderships to place the outcome of his talks with both sides on paper, particularly Houthi militia pledges to put Hodeidah’s harbor under UN supervision. On Tuesday, Hadi accused the Iran-backed Houthis of prolonging the conflict in Yemen. “They do not understand the concept of peace. They just ostensibly agree to negotiate a peace settlement whenever they suffer setbacks in order to buy more time to plant landmines and cause more destruction and suffering for the Yemeni people", he said. He cited the ordeal of the people in Hodeidah and the atrocities committed by the Houthis. He also noted their control of the strategic Hodeidah port to smuggle weapons, squander humanitarian aid and exploit the harbor's revenues to prolong its war against the people.

Yemeni Army Deals Houthis Heavy Blows in Saada
Taiz - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 11 July, 2018/The Yemeni national army dealt the Iran-backed Houthi militias heavy losses in their Saada stronghold, while also liberating new regions in the northern Jawf province, revealed Yemeni military sources. An army unit carried out a significant operation on Saada’s Baqim front, leaving dozens of Houthis dead and injured. A large amount of TNT they use to build explosives was also seized, reported the website. The weapons seized included rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, various mines and dozens of rounds of ammunition, said field commander Saleh Qaroush. In Jawf, the army liberated the areas of Tabat al-Laqm and al-Falikh after waging fierce battles with the Houthis, added the website. Another field commander, Haykal Hantaf, said that the battles were still ongoing amid the national army’s rapid advance towards the Khab al-Shaaf region. “The operations will continue until all areas of the province are liberated,” he vowed. He also hailed the Saudi-led Arab coalition for offering military support for the army during the battles, saying they launched air strikes against militia reinforcements, dealing them major losses. On the West coast, the Amaliqa Brigades, backed by the coalition, announced that they were completing imposing their control over the recently liberated Tahita city. Demining teams immediately began working on removing mines that were planted by the Houthis throughout the city. In addition, they revealed that the militias blew up two schools before the brigades entered the city. A video posted by the military unit also showed the Houthis booby-trapping all government buildings in the city. These explosives have since been dismantled by specialized teams.

Trump Insists He Has 'Very Good' Relations with Merkel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 11/18/U.S. President Donald Trump insisted Wednesday that he gets on well with Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite earlier savaging Germany's trade and defense policies. "We are having a great meeting, we are discussing military expenditure and we are talking about trade," Trump told reporters as he met the German leader at a NATO summit in Brussels. "We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany," he said. Trump had begun the day by attacking Merkel's government, accusing Germany of becoming "captive" to Russian interests through over-reliance on its gas exports. As the pair met alongside the main summit, Trump confirmed he had brought up the issue of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. But Merkel nevertheless insisted Washington and Berlin remain allies, saying: "We are partners, we are good partners and wish to continue to cooperate in the future. "I am pleased to have this opportunity to be here for this exchange of views," she said, through a translator. "Indeed we have an opportunity to have an exchange of our economic developments on issues such as migration and also the future of our trade relations." Trump, who has long criticized Berlin for not spending enough on NATO's mutual defense and for alleged unfair trade practices noted Germany's "tremendous success."
"And I believe that our trade will increase and lots of other things will increase, but we'll see what happens," he added, before reporters were ushered out of the room.

US Slaps Terror Designation on Iran-Linked Group in Bahrain

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 11/18/The United States designated a Shiite militant group in Bahrain as a foreign terrorist organization Tuesday to ramp up pressure on Iran. The al-Ashtar Brigades are "yet another in a long line of Iranian-sponsored terrorists who kill on behalf of a corrupt regime," Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, said in a statement detailing the designation. The militant group has been critical of a violent crackdown by Bahrain's Sunni-led government on a 2011 Shiite-led uprising. It has since claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police. The designation, which prohibits Americans or U.S. companies from doing business with the group, is the latest Trump administration effort to increase pressure on Tehran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear accord. During a short trip to the United Arab Emirates Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is on a mission to convince Iran its behavior "is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them."Iran supports a number of armed groups across the Middle East including Hezbollah in Lebanon, armed forces propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and powerful armed groups in Iraq who fought against the so-called Islamic State there. The United States is preparing to re-introduce sanctions on Iran later this year including secondary sanctions aimed at severely restricting the country's ability to export oil. In turn, Iran has threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies. The Trump administration has targeted the al-Ashtar Brigades with sanctions before. In March 2017, the State Department blacklisted two individuals affiliated with the group, Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on July 11-12/18
Israel Shoots Down Syrian Drone Infiltrating 10 Kilometers Into Israeli Airspace
Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/July 11/18
Rocket sirens triggered in Golan Heights, Jordan Valley ■ Army says threat removed ■ Unarmed drone flew over Israeli territory for 16 minutes before interception
The Israeli military fired a Patriot missile at a drone that approached from Syria and infilitrated Israeli territory, the army confirmed Wednesday afternoon.
The army said the unmanned aerial vehicle was intercepted by the missile after infiltrating 10 kilometers Israeli territory, and was shot down over the Sea of Galilee. The army said that the was removed.
An Israeli Defense Forces statement said that a preliminary examination of the wreckage shows this was an unarmed Syrian reconnaissance drone, which also flew over Jordan before entering Israeli airspace.
The IDF added that at this point it is still unclear whether the drone was on a reconnaissance mission when it flew into Israeli territory, saying that it may have veered off track.
Overall, the drone was flying within Israeli territory for a total of 16 minutes before it was intercepted.
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said that "in recent weeks we are prepared for the possibility of Israeli sovereignty being violated as a result of the fighting in Syria. Our intention is not to allow the 1974 agreement to be violated and not to create a risk for the State of Israel."
The head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council told residents that, according to witnesses, parts of the drone fell in the eastern part of the Kinneret. Residents were warned not to approach or touch parts of the intercepted drone.
The firing of the missile triggered rocket alert sirens near the Israel-Syria border at the Golan Heights and in Israeli communities in the Jordan Valley, the military said.
Residents of the northern city of Safed recounted seeing a Patriot missile fly over their heads. "There was a very loud noise, residents came outside, there were some tourists who got scared on the main street," said one woman. The last time Israel fired a Patriot missile at an unmanned aerial vehicle was in June, when the Israeli military targeted an aerial vehicle that approached from Syria. As a result of the launch, the drone moved away from the border.
Tensions have been high along the northern border in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Syria accused Israel of attacking an air force base near Homs known to be housing Iranian forces. The official Syrian news agency SANA said air defenses were activated as warplanes, reportedly coming into the country from Jordan, approached the T4 base near Tiyas.
Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday while touring the border that Israel will not stand the presence of even one Syrian soldier in the buffer zone on the Israel-Syria border, and will hold the Assad regime responsible for any terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights.
"This attempt to establish terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights under the regime's purview is unacceptable to us," Lieberman added. "We will operate with full power against any terrorist infrastructure we identify in the area."Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew out to Russia on Saturday night to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
This will be the third meeting between the two leaders in the last six months, and it will take place in the shadow of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s retaking control of southern Syria and the withdrawal of rebels from that area, as well as Israel’s efforts to keep the Iranians from gaining strength in Syria.

France: Freeing Extremistsé450 Radicalized Islamists to Be Freed by 2019

Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
The same government that wants to deport Japanese investors, accepted 100,000 migrants from Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa alone in 2017 -- most of them with no skills and no money.
The same government that wants to deport the Japanese creators of a spectacular new wine in France is about to release from prison an Al Qaeda terrorist, Djamel Beghal, linked to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015.
"We fear a possible connection between Muslim gangs from the suburbs and jihadists soon to be liberated on one hand, and jihadists coming back from war in Iraq  on the other". — A source who asked to remain anonymous.
A curious story is getting attention in France. Two Japanese winemakers who have been living in Banyuls-sur-Mer since 2016 were notified that they would have to leave France due to a lack of financial resources. Rie Shoji, 42, and Hirofumi Shoji, 38, had arrived there in 2011 with the idea of ​​ becoming winemakers. First they worked as farm workers and wine merchants in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and studied and received degrees in farm management and oenology. In 2016, they invested 150,000 euros ($170,000) to buy land. Their plan was to produce a natural, organic wine, in an area -- the eastern Pyrenees -- where everything is done by hand.
Their first wine, named Pedres Blanques, appeared in 2017, and was considered a "revelation". It is already on the wine list of many famous restaurants in France and Spain. "Its price is skyrocketing," said  their lawyer, Jean Codognès, "and the prefecture is saying that their wine has no future. The government is not thinking straight".
The same government that wants to deport Japanese investors has accepted 100,000 migrants from Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa just in 2017, most of them with no skills and no money.
The same government that wants to deport the Japanese creators of a spectacular new wine in France is about to release from prison an Al Qaeda terrorist, Djamel Beghal, linked to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015.
On August 5, 2018, Djamel Beghal, 52, will reach the end of his combined prison sentences for a series of crimes that include planning to blow up the American Embassy in Paris. France wants to deport Beghal to Algeria the day he leaves Vezin prison, in Rennes. Beghal has an Algerian passport, but his lawyers insist that his life would be in danger if he returned to the country where he was born. Until now, the Algerian government has not replied to French government requests. On June 13, Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet said in a radio interview, "It is not yet assured that [the Algerian government] will welcome Beghal, who is no longer a French citizen..." What will happen if Algeria does not want him? "He will be settled under house arrest."
According to a new anti-terrorism law adopted in 2017, "house arrest" can be expanded to encompass a district in a city or enlarged to cover the city of residence, in order to ensure greater freedom for a terrorist to enjoy a work life and a family life.
Djamel Beghal's is not an isolated case. From now to the end of 2019, the justice minister announced, France is poised to release 50 Islamic terrorists and 450 radicalized prisoners from their cells. "450 radicalized prisoners will be out of prison by 2019, plus 50 Islamic terrorists," she said to the news channel BFMTV.
"There will be 20 Islamic terrorists who will leave prison this year and 30 other Islamic terrorists next year. 450 radicalized prisoners will get out of prison from now to 2019. Among them, we find simple criminals who have been radicalized during their jail-time ...
"Of course, I believe that everything is implemented to protect our fellow citizens. We are really determined to track these people. The creation of a national bureau to centralize information about the most dangerous is an effective answer."
We have to remember that the 19-year-old ISIS jihadist who slit the throat of a priest, Father Jacques Hamel, in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray had been under surveillance and was being monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.
The ISIS jihadist who slit the throat Father Jacques Hamel (left), in his church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray (right) on July 26, 2016 had been under surveillance and was being monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.
In January 2018, the same, much-too-kind justice minister, Nicole Belloubet said publicly that France would intervene if a French jihadist were sentenced to death in Syria or Iraq. "The French state," she said, "would intervene, by negotiating with the other state in question." That announcement took place just after that an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to ISIS -- the first such sentencing involving a European woman. France and the European Union have a long-standing policy against capital punishment and all member states have abandoned the practice.
In fact, the French officials display mixed feelings about how ISIS jihadists should be dealt with. Publicly, they extend a hand to pull jihadists into French society. But in reality, they seem, not surprisingly, to be afraid of these types of citizens. In May 2017, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation claiming that French special forces had provided a hit list to Iraqi forces of around 30 men who were "identified as high value targets". Former French President François Hollande confirmed that he personally had authorized at least four killings of "high value targets" by special forces in what are known as "homicide" operations in France.
According to figures released by the government in November 2017, about 1,700 French Muslims joined ISIS in Iraq and Syrian since 2014. At least 278 died and 302 returned to France, including 66 women and 58 minors. The others were captured in Syria or Iraq, killed in the fighting or fled to the remaining IS-held territories or other jihadist fires (in Libya in particular).
According to a government source, who requested anonymity, however, French officials are beginning to be particularly concerned about a possible connection between radicalized Muslims liberated from prison and jihadists coming back from Syria and Iraq to France on one side, and Muslim gangs from the suburbs on the other side. "Suburbs" in France have come to mean "no-go zones" -- areas that are mainly Muslim, and controlled by Salafists and drug dealers. According to the source:
"We know for sure that a significant flow of weapons is flooding into the suburbs. Most of these weapons [Kalashnikovs, Uzis] were for many years in the hands of drug dealers. The news is that those people are now using these weapons to control their territory more tightly."
In May 2018, a video showing gang members dressed in black and shooting Kalashnikovs at members of other gangs and at the police went viral on social networks. According to multiple sources, "Three to seven million illegal weapons are in circulation in France".
"We fear a possible connection between Muslim gangs from the suburbs and jihadists soon to be liberated on one hand, and jihadists coming back from war in Iraq on the other, " said the source. " We lack information. The question is not the threat, the question is our capacity to fight back. At present, we have no preparation or capacity to strike back at such a possible alliance".
To understand the danger, we have to make a simple calculation, says the source:
"We have 400 'suburbs' in France. They represent five million people, mainly Muslim. Ninety percent of this population are working hard to survive. But 10% -- half a million people -- are working for the Salafists or the drug dealers. If 10% of that 10% make an alliance with jihadis, it represents an army of 50,000 soldiers. The police are not able to fight an internal enemy like that 
*Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde. He is completing a book, "Collaborators and Useful Idiots of Islamism in France," to be published in 2018.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Germany Outlaws Turkish Boxing Gang

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
The gang, most of whose members are Turkish Germans, is said to be involved in organized criminal activity in all of Germany's 16 federal states. It is also believed to have close ties to the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The gang, which profits from prostitution, extortion and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, operates across Europe. The group claims to have more than 3,500 members in Germany and elsewhere.
The German ban comes less than a day after Buzzfeed, an American internet media company, falsely accused Gatestone Institute of fabricating the existence of such gangs in Germany.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned a Turkish boxing gang called "Osmanen Germania BC" ("Germania Ottomans") on the grounds that it poses a serious threat to public order. The gang, most of whose members are Turkish Germans, is said to be involved in organized criminal activity in all of Germany's 16 federal states. It is also believed to have close ties to the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The German ban comes less than a day after Buzzfeed, an American internet media company, falsely accused Gatestone Institute of fabricating the existence of such gangs in Germany.
Seehofer said the gang "poses a serious threat to individual legal interests and for the general public." He added:
"Once again, the federal government and the federal states have shown that they are resolutely fighting all manifestations of organized crime in Germany, including rocker-like groups such as Osmanen Germania BC, whose members commit serious crimes. Those who reject the rule of law cannot expect any kind of leniency from us."
The announcement came as police carried out raids on Osmanen Germania in the states of Baden Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Osmanen Germania, which claims to be a boxing club concerned about the welfare of young people, was founded after the Hells Angels, the world's biggest outlaw biker gang, decided to allow non-Turkish migrants to enter their ranks. Police believe Osmanen Germania is an effort by former Turkish German members of the Hells Angels to protect their market share of organized crime.
Osmanen Germania resembles the Hells Angels in appearance and structure, but without the motorcycles. German security agencies classify the gang as "a rocker-like group" (rockerähnliche Gruppierung). The Interior Ministry wrote:
"The club describes itself as a boxing club and pretends to want to get young people 'off the street.' In fact, its common purpose lies in the violent development of territory and power as well as in the self-assertion against competing rocker-like groups. In the past, there were repeated serious injuries and attempted homicides, especially in disputes with the now defunct Kurdish rocker-like group 'Bahoz.'"
Osmanen Germania has been one of the fastest-growing gangs in Germany. Within months of its founding in Frankfurt in April 2015, the group had established dozens of chapters across the country. Today the gang, which profits from prostitution, extortion and the trafficking of weapons and drugs, operates across Europe, despite repeated police raids. The group claims to have more than 3,500 members in Germany and elsewhere.
In an interview with the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, Oliver Huth, an expert on organized crime and deputy state chairman of the Federal German Criminal Investigation Office in North Rhine-Westphalia, said that Osmanen Germania's recruiting methods are modeled on those of the Hells Angels:
"They offer an identity by means of a uniform and try to gain members through a sense of community. Members then get involved in the criminal milieu and make their living there. The clubs are organized in a very hierarchical way, thus enabling a career path for those who are there long enough. The group's members are conspicuous in the city centers, they post photos of themselves on the internet and thereby show other gangs: 'This is city is mine now.'"
Osmanen Germania is especially active in North Rhine-Westphalia, with chapters in Aachen, Bielefeld, Bochum, Cologne, Dortmund, Duisburg and Düsseldorf.
The group is known for extreme violence. In Baden-Württemberg, for example, eight members of the group, including three of its highest-ranking leaders, are currently on trial for: murder, extortion, drug trafficking, forced prostitution as well as pimping and deprivation of liberty.
The brutality of Osmanen Germania was recently on display in an incident involving Celal S., a former member who was tortured because he allegedly violated the group's honor code. The newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that members of the gang lured Celal S. to an apartment in Herrenberg, tied him up, knocked out his teeth with an iron bar, shot him in the thigh and then, without anesthesia, removed the bullet with knives and tweezers. After three days, he managed to escape.
German authorities believe Osmanen Germania is close to the Turkish government, which uses the group to fight Turkey's internal political struggles in Germany. "Most of the gang's members are Turkish nationalists, and also carry out punitive actions in Germany against opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan," according to Der Spiegel.
German media have also reported on links between Osmanen Germania and Turkey's MIT intelligence agency, which has been accused of having up to a network of 6,000 informants in Germany to spy on critics of Erdogan.
Stefan Striefler, a lawyer representing two high-ranking members of Osmanen Germania, denied that the gang had ties to Erdogan: "The Osmanen Germania BC have never been political and is certainly not the Turkish president's thug team."
However, according to research by Frontal 21, an investigative news program on public broadcaster ZDF and the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Erdogan confidant Metin Kulunk, a member of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), directly and indirectly provided money to Osmanen Germania. That money was allegedly used to purchase firearms, including a Scorpion sub-machine gun, which was subsequently seized by police.
Kulunk instructed Osmanen Germania to attack Kurds and other critics of Erdogan living in Germany, according to police. Phone taps indicate that Kulunk instructed gang members to carry out assaults on Kurds, film the acts and provide videos to the Turkish state to be used as a "deterrent" against Erdogan's critics.
Police say Osmanen Germania also has ties to the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), the AKP's external lobby group. In a tapped phone conversation, Kulunk urged the former head of the UETD in Mannheim, Yilmaz Ilkay Arin, to get Osmanen Germania to punish German comedian Jan Böhmermann for a controversial poem criticizing Erdogan. Böhmermann was warned, put under police protection and spent several weeks outside of Germany.
German authorities say that Osmanen Germania is also involved in terrorist financing and cooperates with some German Salafists, many of whom are committed to overthrowing Germany's liberal democratic political system and replace it with one governed by Islamic law.
On July 9, a day before the German ban on Osmanen Germania, Buzzfeed falsely accused Gatestone Institute of exaggerating the threat posed by such gangs. The author of the Buzzfeed article, Ishmael N. Daro, an Afghan immigrant living in Canada, also accused Gatestone of pushing "anti-Muslim propaganda" for drawing attention to the growing problem of Muslim gangs — including Osmanen Germania — enforcing Islamic extremism in Germany.
In July 2017, Gatestone, based on a story published by Die Welt, reported on the emergence of a Muslim biker gang in Mönchengladbach called "Germanys Muslims" (the possessive apostrophe is not used in German). The group said its aim was "to protect and support our brothers and sisters from the ever-growing hatred of Islam."
Gatestone's original story, which was well-sourced, noted that German police had questioned the group's founder, a German convert to Islam named Marcel Kunst, because he was a Salafist. As previously mentioned, many Salafists want to replace liberal democracy in Germany with Sharia law. In an interview with Die Welt, Isabella Hannen, spokeswoman for the Mönchengladbach Police Department, revealed that police met with Kunst and warned him that "vigilantism will not be tolerated." The questioning apparently succeeded in its deterrent effect: "Germanys Muslims" subsequently issued a statement saying that they were non-violent and respected the authority of the state.
Gatestone noted that although German police did not know how many people belonged to "Germanys Muslims," its Facebook page (now deleted) had more than a thousand followers. The group appears to have fizzled out after warnings by German police.
Gatestone also noted that German authorities are concerned about Muslim vigilantes enforcing Islamic extremism and the rise of anti-Muslim counter-vigilantes. In an annual report, Germany's BfV intelligence agency warned that an escalating action-reaction cycle could result in open warfare on German streets.
Moreover, Gatestone's report specifically reported that German authorities were concerned about the rise of Osmanen Germania. Yet, Buzzfeed accused Gatestone of "promoting anti-Muslim misinformation and conspiracy theories" for reporting on the problem.
The decision by German authorities to ban Osmanen Germania is a singular testament to the veracity of Gatestone's reporting. Gatestone Institute will not allow false accusations of Islamophobia to detract from its mission of providing quality reporting and analysis — thoroughly sourced and fact-checked before being published — about events in Europe and beyond.
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The UN Fraudulently Addresses "Extreme Poverty" in the United States
Francis Menton/Gatestone Institute/July 11/18
You may be aware that the UN actually has an official definition of "extreme poverty," which is "liv[ing]... on less than $1.90 per person per day." $1.90 per day would come to just under $700 per year.
An April 2018 study by John Early for the Cato Institute found that counting the $1.2 trillion of annual redistributions toward the income of the recipients -- a sum often misleadingly excluded from poverty statistics -- reduces the official poverty level in the U.S. from 12.7% all the way down to about 2%. And the remaining 2% would be people who for some reason had not sought out the benefits.
In other words, the U.S. distributes to its low-income residents resources beyond their income equal to an additional 40 times per person the amount officially deemed by the UN to constitute "extreme poverty."
Is the United Nations a group of people of good faith, joining together in the effort to help bring peace and justice and economic development to the world? Or is it a group of haters of freedom and capitalism engaged primarily in spewing ignorance, malice or both toward the United States? For a clue, you might take a look at the "Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to the United States of America," recently issued by the UN's so-called Human Rights Council.
Yes, this is the same Human Rights Council from which the U.S. just announced its withdrawal. It is also the same Human Rights Council that includes among its members China, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela -- with ambassadors who think that the best use of their time and resources is to criticize the economic and human rights record of the U.S.
The UN's Report grew out of a two-week (December 1-15, 2017) "visit" to the United States by an Englishman, Philip Alston, designated the "Special Rapporteur." After its issuance in May, the Report drew more attention than it might have otherwise because on June 12 it brought forth a letter to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley from a collection of Members of Congress, led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, expressing supposed "deep concern" about the findings. This letter in turn provoked a sharp rebuke from Haley on June 21.
You may be aware that the UN actually has an official definition of "extreme poverty," which is "liv[ing] . . . on less than $1.90 per person per day." $1.90 per day would come to just under $700 per year. This March 2017 post from Our World in Data -- using data sourced from the World Bank -- contains a country-by-country list of the total number of people in the world deemed to be living in this condition of "extreme poverty." The United States (along with the main countries of Western Europe, and also such places as Canada and Australia) does not even appear on the list. So you might expect the Report of the UN's Special Rapporteur on "extreme poverty" regarding the U.S. to be a one-liner saying something like "there is nothing like that here."
You would be wrong. The UN Report contains an extraordinary degree of both ignorance and malice. Here is the basic methodology: Despite having a title stating that its subject is "extreme poverty" in the U.S., the Report immediately abandons the UN's own official definition of that concept. Instead, the Report adopts the U.S. government's own so-called "official poverty measure," by which some 12.7% of Americans (about 41 million people) were said to be living "in poverty" in the most recent statistics. (Report, ¶16: "According to the official poverty measures, in 2016, 12.7 per cent of Americans were living in poverty.") The UN Report never mentions that the U.S. "official poverty level" is in the range of $7000 per year per person, or about ten times higher than the UN's defined level of "extreme poverty."
Once having adopted the 12.7% poverty figure for the U.S., the Report immediately switches to talking about "extreme poverty" (Report, ¶17: "[T]he persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated."), without ever mentioning that this term has a completely different definition than the U.S. official poverty level. Nothing in the UN Report even attempts to establish that anything remotely resembling "extreme poverty" by the UN's definition exists in the U.S.
The UN Report then systematically excludes from consideration, and completely omits any quantitative discussion of the more than $1.2 trillion of annual cash and in-kind redistributions to low-income people in the United States, nearly all of which are also excluded from arbitrarily-defined "income" when the U.S. determines who is "in poverty." These annual redistributions – in scores of different programs ranging from direct welfare grants to the earned income tax credit to food stamps to energy assistance to school lunches to Pell grants to public housing to Medicaid to legal services and on and on -- amount to almost $30,000 for every single person deemed to be "in poverty" by the U.S. official poverty measure.[1]
In other words, the U.S. distributes to its low-income residents resources beyond their income equal to an additional 40 times per person the amount officially deemed by the UN to constitute "extreme poverty." Instead of recognizing the huge amounts in question and the extraordinary generosity of the American taxpayers toward the less-well-off, the Report belittles these distributions as "the meagre welfare arrangements that currently exist." (Report, ¶29)
Had Mr. Alston done even the most basic due diligence for his Report, he would quickly have found that the vast distributions of cash and in-kind benefits to low-income people in the U.S. are sufficient in nearly every case to provide them with resources in excess of the so-called "official poverty level" – in many cases, far in excess. For example, an April 2018 study by John Early for the Cato Institute found that counting the $1.2 trillion of annual redistributions toward the income of the recipients would reduce the official poverty level in the U.S. from 12.7% all the way down to about 2%. And the remaining 2% would be people who for some reason had not sought out the benefits.
The malice and ignorance of this Report, however, is by no means limited to its systematic dishonesty as to the measure of "extreme poverty" and the number of people experiencing it. Once having made its bogus claims about levels of "extreme poverty" in the U.S., the UN Report then veers wildly off the economic topic to attack the United States on everything from the criminal justice system to income inequality to alleged racism. On that last subject of "racism," for example, here is what Mr. Alston claims to have uncovered during his two-week visit (Report,
"In imagining the poor, racist stereotypes are usually not far beneath the surface. The poor are overwhelmingly assumed to be people of colour, whether African Americans or Hispanic 'immigrants'".
Note the use of the passive voice -- the poor "are overwhelmingly assumed" to be people of color. By whom? Did Alston do some kind of survey? Obviously, he is just throwing around a wild accusation, based on his own pre-existing prejudice, with the passive voice that enables him to avoid even stating whom he is accusing.
On the subject of the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs in the U.S., the UN Report adopts the pervasive fraudulent convention of spending advocates of not counting the government spending when they want to present a high rate of poverty, and then switching to counting the spending when they want to claim the spending is effective.
In case one is unfamiliar with the central deception of the poverty fraud, it works like this:
Most people -- indeed, nearly everyone -- have no idea that when our government measures "poverty" they systematically exclude many things from the definition of "income" in order to keep the number of people said to be "in poverty" artificially high. Almost all government handouts and benefits are excluded, including things essentially indistinguishable from cash like food stamps, EITC, and Pell grants. Also excluded are moneys taken or received sporadically as opposed to regularly. Thus, if you convert your 401(k) to a regular monthly annuity, it counts as "income," but if you take irregular sporadic withdrawals it does not. Once you learn even a little about this, you realize that this is a total scam to gin up poverty numbers that are fraudulently high, and thus useful to advocate for more spending to address this seemingly pervasive problem.
The convention, however, of not counting spending in measuring "income" to determine poverty status leaves advocates for more spending wide open to the criticism, that the annual trillion plus in spending has been completely ineffective in reducing poverty as measured. Thus, you get advocates stating, as Alston does, "EITC reduces people in poverty by 6 million" or some such number, but never mentioning that this is the reduction that would occur if the EITC were counted; but is, in fact, not counted.
In other words, they have adopted a "convention" of not counting things such as EITC and food stamp spending when they want to claim high numbers of people in poverty, and then counting them when they want to claim that the programs work to reduce poverty. They just switch back and forth to whatever they think will deceive the mark.
"[T]he Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program kept 3.8 million children out of poverty in 2015, and in 2016, the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit lifted a further 4.7 million children out of poverty."
Actually, as the source cited by Alston makes clear, SNAP (food stamps), the EITC and the child credit do not remove anyone from measured poverty in the U.S., because these benefits are not counted in the official poverty measure. Apparently, Alston assumes that his readers are too uninformed to notice his bait and switch.
Alston then moves on to "environmental pollution," and comes up with this howler:
"In Alabama and West Virginia, a high proportion of the population is not served by public sewerage and water supply services. Contrary to the assumption in most developed countries that such services should be extended by the government systematically and eventually comprehensively to all areas, neither state was able to provide figures as to the magnitude of the challenge or details of any planned government response."
Alston appears to be completely unaware that in rural areas in America, people dig wells for water and provide their own septic systems for sewerage -- even the richest people. It has to be the same in Europe, of course. Nobody would pay to dig a sewer line for ten or fifty miles to serve one house.
Ignorance, even ignorance this extreme, could be forgiven. But the malice, not. Alston repeatedly excoriates the U.S. for not adopting massive new socialist-model "solutions" to ameliorate poverty that existing trillions of spending cannot solve, while seemingly remaining completely unaware that the socialist model, foisted on the world by the UN, is what keeps the real poor of the world really poor. And not U.S.-level poor, with a "poverty level" 10 times or so the world standard, and additional resources of another 30+ times the world standard provided to be sure they are comfortable in their "poverty." No, the UN keeps the world's poor in real poverty, $1.90-per-day-or-less poverty.
Given the pervasive ignorance displayed in this UN Report, and the transparently fraudulent use of poverty statistics in a way that is indigestible to anyone who knows anything about the subject, you might think that politicians in the U.S. would be smart enough to stay away from it. But, as mentioned, a June 12 letter signed by some 20 Democratic Members of Congress, led by Senators Sanders and Warren, latches onto some of the most over-the-top accusations of the UN Report as if they had some relationship to the real world:
"Specifically, the report notes, 'in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.' ... We believe the massive levels of deprivation outlined in the report – as well as the immense suffering this deprivation causes – are an affront to any notion of the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Given the breadth of poverty outlined in the report, these rights are simply illusory for millions in this country."
Haley's response was: "It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America." Thank you.
"It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America." — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
Francis Menton retired on December 31, 2015 after 40+ years (31 as partner) with the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. He currently practices law in a solo practice, and blogs at Manhattan Contrarian.
[1] 12.7% official poverty rate times 325 million (population of U.S.) = 41.3 million people "in poverty". $1.2 trillion (amount of annual redistributions) divided by 41.3 million = approximately $29,000 per person in poverty. The $1.2 trillion figure can be found in Early's study from Cato Institute, but is also available from many other sources.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Drop in Cyclical Stocks Isn’t a Hard Fall for the Economy
Stephen Gandel/Bloomberg July 11/18
Investors appear to be losing faith in an economy that does not yet appear to be losing steam.
For the first time since late 2015, cyclical stocks are all of a sudden the market’s biggest losers. The Vanda Cyclicals-Defensives US index, which as the name suggests measures the relative performance of cyclical stocks against defensive ones, is down 7 percent since peaking on June 6. In 2015, falling oil prices and worries about the Chinese economy prompted the decline in cyclicals. The unusual aspect of the latest drop is that the economy appears to be doing well by most accounts.
The latest evidence came from the jobs market. On Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employers added 213,000 jobs to their payrolls in June, which was 18,000 more than expected. The unemployment rate rose to 4 percent from 3.8 percent, in part because more people entered the workforce.
The biggest worry is that President Donald Trump could drag the U.S. into a trade war, which the market seems to think could essentially wipe out all the gains from the tax cut. Even so, few economists think a U.S. recession is possible this year or even in 2019. Of course, the stock market often reflects what investors think will happen, not what the economy is actually doing. Still, the recent drop in cyclicals may be less predictive than it appears.
The sector with the biggest drop in the past month was financials. The main culprit was most likely the nearly flat yield curve, which will curtail lending profits. A flattening yield curve can signal a slowing economy, but this time around the curve is narrowing in part because the Federal Reserve is raising short-term interest rates in light of what it perceives as a strong economy. International investors may be driving down long-term rates because the U.S. economy looks better than those elsewhere. Also holding back bank stocks in the past month were the results of the Fed’s annual stress tests, which were positive but seemed to unnerve investors anyway.
Consumer discretionary stocks, perhaps the best indicator of the U.S. economy, were actually up slightly in the past month. In fact, the story of the market of the past month seems to be less about a drop in cyclical stocks and more about a rapid rebound in defensive ones. Utilities were the big winner, up nearly 10 percent in the past month, once again most likely because of the yield curve — longer-term interest rates have not be rising as much as expected. Many investors reach for utilities when rates are low. Consumer staple stocks were up more than 6 percent, but those companies had been hit by investor fears that seemed unrelated to the economy, and those appear to have eased a bit lately.
The economy will sour eventually. But the recent dip in cyclical stocks could just be the market’s version of a trust fall, not a signal that the economy will soon be on its back.

NATO and the Putin-Trump Summit
James Stavridis/Bloomberg View/July 11/18
In some ways, of course, we have been here before. When I served as NATO’s supreme allied commander from 2009 to 2013, we had controversy and disagreements aplenty over Afghanistan and Libya, for example, and endless arguments over equitable burden-sharing between the US and the other allies. Indeed, reports on the decline of NATO have been constant over the decades, especially immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What is different now, however, is the obvious personal antipathy of the US president toward the alliance in general and some of the key leaders in particular. Donald Trump’s open dislike of Germany’s Angela Merkel, the UK’s Theresa May and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, for example, feels deeply rooted and intractable. (While there was a flash of affection toward President Emanuel Macron of France during an April visit to Washington, that relationship has cooled considerably since.)
This personal animosity between the alliance’s most important national leaders comes at an especially infelicitous time, with Vladimir Putin’s Russia applying pressure around NATO’s periphery, using “hybrid warfare” techniques to destabilize the Baltic and Black Sea nations, and employing cyber operations to undermine democracy as far away as the US.
The fear is that Trump will conduct another slash-and-burn mission at the NATO summit, then follow it up with a warm and chatty engagement with Putin a few days later in Helsinki. This would follow the pattern he established several weeks ago when he trashed the G-7 gathering in Canada and then all but hugged North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
A second round of such behavior will solidify the view in Europe that the president is irredeemable as a reliable partner, leading to one of the deepest crises in the alliance’s 70-year existence.
What makes it particularly hurtful is the evident personal affection and admiration Trump has for Putin. This seems inexplicable given the Russian leader’s support for the war criminal Bashar al-Assad in Syria, his illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, and above all the Russian intrusion into the US political process in 2016 and since — which Trump refuses to recognize.
While it is in no one’s interest to stumble backward into a Cold War, the huge political disconnect between Trump’s dislike of NATO’s democratic leaders and his frequently expressed admiration for Putin is an enormous discontinuity for the alliance.
America’s partners are particularly concerned about a surprise Trump giveaway during his meeting with Putin: announcing a withdrawal of significant Americans troops from Europe, cutting defense funds to US European Command, or stopping exercises with NATO’s easternmost members, which Russia protests as “provocative.” And given the script he is executing with North Korea — including a pause on military exercises with South Korea that apparently blindsided not only Seoul but also Secretary of Defense James Mattis — these fears would appear very justified.
Ironically, all this is happening as the push to increase defense spending on the part of the Europeans and Canada, begun during the Obama administration, is actually working. Most of the non-US NATO members are moving closer to the entirely reasonable goals of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 20 percent of that on modern equipment. But it cannot go fast enough to satisfy Donald Trump, and his anger and petulance will probably increase.
What this summit should be about is a handful of difficult strategic and tactical challenges facing the alliance. These include the seemingly endless mission in Afghanistan (about 25,000 NATO troops remain there, 15,000 of them from the US); protecting the alliance members in the Baltics from Russian cyberattacks; a plan for approaching the rapidly opening Arctic Ocean (five NATO allies have significant coastlines threatened by an increasingly activist Moscow); and NATO’s role in the Middle East, especially the continuing fight against terrorists.
Instead, we can look forward to Trump continuing his uninformed commentary about nations failing to “pay their dues” — as if NATO was one of his country clubs — and musing about whether the US should even stay in the alliance. (After being told recently that Sweden not a member, he reportedly commented that perhaps the best thing for the US would be the “deal” that Sweden has of picking and choosing which operations to join.) This would a waste of rare face time between the world leaders, especially with vastly more important issues to address.
One hopes that Mattis — who served as a 4-star NATO commander while on active duty — can drive a sensible level of discourse on the key topics. What the US should be pushing for is straightforward: ongoing commitment of trainers and funding in Afghanistan, where the key will be forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table; increasing cyber resources for both defensive and offensive activities; establishing a greater level of formal NATO participation in the fight against ISIS; generating a coherent surveillance and operational plan for the Arctic; and — above all — synchronizing NATO responses to ongoing Russian aggression around the border of the alliance.
Defense spending by our allies is certainly worthy of discussion — as it has been for years. But if that is the end of the conversation, the Brussels summit will be a missed opportunity for the US and the democratic world.

How Trump is using the same thought processes as Obama in the Middle East

Michael Young/The National/July 11/18
The Trump administration has been living a contradiction in the Middle East. On the one hand it seeks to contain Iran’s influence, while on the other Donald Trump has been adamant about withdrawing American forces from Syria, where Iran is currently exercising its power most aggressively.
Mr Trump’s defenders at home should be disconcerted, but they haven’t been. Many of them are supporters of Israel, which feels most threatened by Iran’s ambitions. One would have thought that they would push the president to adopt a more interventionist regional role. That they haven’t can be put down to the fact that they believe Israel’s military power, not America’s, is the main mechanism to contain Iran.
Mr Trump does not appear to disagree. Last May, he sent letters to the leaders of several Arab states urging them to bear more of the burden in containing Iran. He has repeated this theme several times. While Mr Trump may be a devoted promoter of Israel, everything about his attitude suggests he would have no problem if the Israelis also picked up the slack. This Israel has done to an extent, through its repeated bombardment of Iranian or allied outposts in Syria.
However, does Mr Trump’s willingness to subcontract management of power relations in the Middle East to Israel make much sense? Even if the Israelis were to tacitly collaborate with other states in the region, their primary instrument of thwarting Iran is the use of force. Yet containment involves more than military action, and the Israelis have next to no regional influence beyond their own borders.
In other words, down the road depending on Israel is a recipe for greater regional instability and fragmentation. If Israel is at the forefront of Iran’s containment, the prospect of war will greatly increase. In that context the region could become much more polarised, creating openings that, paradoxically, benefit Tehran, as Arab societies such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and perhaps even Jordan, become places where the Iran-Israel rivalry plays out.
The irony of all this is that Mr Trump is very much adopting an approach to the region that approximates that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The current president’s backers loathe Mr Obama, but they also seem strangely indifferent to the reality that Mr Trump is just as keen as he was to compel the Middle East to manage its own affairs without constant involvement by the United States.
In his long interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic in April 2016, Mr Obama had hinted at such an ambition, when he urged the Saudis to “share” the Middle East with Iran. This may contrast sharply with what Mr Trump has said, but there is an underlying similarity. Mr Obama regarded such a step as a way of bringing about a balance of power that would allow the United States to disengage from the region. Mr Trump may rail against Iran, but he also would like to see Israel curb Iran’s power so that Washington can head for the exits.
Mr Trump’s allies would argue the difference is fundamental. Whereas Mr Obama sought a balance in the region and empowered Iran through the conclusion of a nuclear deal, Mr Trump seeks the victory of Israel and Iran’s Arab rivals. Perhaps, but how likely is such a scenario? Some Gulf states have disengaged from Lebanon and Syria, are of two minds on Palestine and Jordan, and face a complicated situation in Iraq. They are in only slightly better a position than Israel when it comes to limiting Iran’s sway in several Arab states.
So, in the absence of an Israeli-Arab triumph over Iran, Mr Trump is not so very different than Mr Obama. Both men want America out of the Middle East; both men view the solution in a greater reliance on regional parties; and both men believe that the United States has simply spent too much money over the years to sustain its dominance in the region, with few tangible returns.
But Mr Trump’s solution is not any better than Mr Obama’s was. The former president only heightened instability by refusing to play the role of regional stabiliser after 2009, while his opening to Iran alarmed American allies. Mr Trump hasn’t done that, though shifting regional supervision onto Israel’s shoulders is just as likely to provoke a strong Arab backlash if Israel assumes that it now has a blank cheque to wage wars everywhere to inhibit Iran.
There often seems to be an attitude in the United States that Israel can be a deus ex machina in the Middle East, a state whose actions can cut through the region’s irresolvable problems. While Israel has military power, Iran can play on the conflicts within Arab societies to reinforce itself. Worse, it can only thrive in those environments that Israel will destroy to hurt Iran. Israel can devastate the region’s frail states, but Iran is in the better position to make the most of this.