The Evening Blues - 2-23-16


Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features boogie and blues piano player, Memphis Slim. Enjoy!

Memphis Slim - Born With The Blues

"For at least the last four decades now I feel like I've been living in Beached America: a nation that has lost its values, even as it writhes in violent agitation, inflicting its military on the vulnerable regions of the planet."

-- Robert C. Koehler

News and Opinion

Emails Show Hillary Clinton Aides Celebrating F-15 Sales to Saudi Arabia: “Good News”

The shockingly brutal Saudi air campaign in Yemen has been led by American-made F-15 jet fighters.

The indiscriminate bombing of civilians and rescuers from the air has prompted human rights organizations to claim that some Saudi-led strikes on Yemen may amount to war crimes. At least 2,800 civilians have been killed in the conflict so far, according to the United Nations — mostly by airstrikes. The strikes have killed journalists and ambulance drivers. ...

A few years earlier, as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made weapons transfer to the Saudi government a “top priority,” according to her closest military aide.

And now, newly released emails show that her aides kept her well-informed of the approval process for a $29.4 billion sale in 2011 of up to 84 advanced F-15SA fighters, manufactured by Boeing, along with upgrades to the pre-existing Saudi fleet of 70 F-15 aircraft and munitions, spare parts, training, maintenance, and logistics.

The deal was finalized on Christmas Eve 2011. Afterward, Jake Sullivan, then Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and now a senior policy adviser on her presidential campaign, sent her a celebratory email string topped with the chipper message: “FYI — good news.” ...

The congratulatory tone continues through the email chain with other officials, also with redacted names, calling the weapons deal “Great news!”

Sniper Rifles From the US and Canada Ended Up in Yemen's War

What is a Canadian-made sniper rifle doing in the war in Yemen? 

Bolt-action .50 caliber rifles have been spotted, thanks to social media, in the conflict that has ravaged Yemen since last year, drawing focus on Canada's weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a military campaign against Houthi rebels.

The social media reports, picked up by Armament Research Services (ARES) — an intelligence consultant agency that monitors the flow of weapons worldwide — indicate that the heavy-duty LRT-3 sniper rifle was "seized by Houthi forces on 11 June 2015 after clashes with Saudi border guards," ARS writes in a November, 2015 blog post.

Canadian broadcaster CBC reports that Saudi border guards appeared to be equipped with the Canadian-made rifles as of last year.

Other videos reportedly show Houthis brandishing American-made M82A1 semi-automatic rifles, also originally provided to Saudi Arabia by the United States.

Obama's last Guantánamo closure plan does not name new sites for detainees

Barack Obama’s final plan to close Guantánamo Bay does not name alternative sites in the United States for sending remaining detainees, according to sources familiar with it.

Moving Guantánamo detainees to the mainland US remains central to the clash between the White House and Congress over closing the facility in Cuba. However, the plan, due to be sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, declines to name alternative venues, despite a months-long field review undertaken by Pentagon officials. ...

Officials declined to identify a desired site, in part to avoid any proposed destination becoming a rallying point for political opposition.

Instead, the last-ditch plan offers to engage legislators in a dialogue about lifting the ban on the military transferring Guantánamo detainees back into the US that has been in effect since 2011.

Even inside the administration, there is widespread skepticism that the Republican-led Congress will relent in a presidential election year on an issue that it has used to portray Obama as weak on terrorism.

“The odds are pretty slim that Congress is going to go along with the plan, particularly the House,” conceded a US official who was not cleared to discuss the plan ahead of Tuesday’s release.

The Syrian Government and Opposition Groups Agree to Temporary Truce

The Syrian government said on Tuesday it accepted a halt to "combat operations" that does not include actions taken against the Islamic State (IS) group, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, or groups connected to it, in line with a US-Russian plan announced on Monday.

It was followed by a statement from the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents Syria's main opposition groups, which said it had "given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities."

The Syrian government said it would coordinate with Russia to decide which groups and areas would be included in the cease fire which is due to take effect on Saturday at midnight local time, according to the US-Russian plan.

Syria: Fighting continues despite US and Russia's agreement to enforce cessation of hostilities

Does US-Russia Deal in Syria Spell End of 'Assad Must Go' Policy?

Suggesting that a more sober U.S. position is emerging—and cautious hope that bloodshed in the war-torn country may soon lessen—the United States and Russia on Monday announced that a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria will go into effect on Saturday, February 27. ...

Middle East Eye notes that "[c]rucially, it states that opposition groups signing up to the terms will be guaranteed protection from military action by Russia, the US and Syria."

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would do "whatever is necessary" to ensure that Damascus respects the agreement, adding: "We are counting on the United States to do the same with its allies and the groups that it supports."

Though inherently tenuous given the volatility and complexities of the current situation, analysts have seen the prospect of a firmer U.S.-Russian agreement as the best hope for a lasting ceasefire in the war-torn country.

What's more, Monday's developments go further to suggest U.S. officials have "gotten down off their 'Assad must go' high horses," as investigative journalist Robert Parry put it last October.

The agreement announced Monday will likely require the U.S. to adjust its diplomatic strategy "to take into account the likelihood that the Nusra Front will now be substantially weakened," as Gareth Porter wrote last week.

In fact, he said, "Russian-Syrian success offers the most realistic prospect for an end to the bloodletting in Syria and would also reduce the likelihood of an eventual Al Qaeda seizure of power in Syria."

ISIS Profits on US Airstrikes Destroying Currency Piles

Despite claiming just a week ago that ISIS is operating its entire economy on US dollars, the latest reports about ISIS are reporting they are making a significant profit in controlling the exchange between dollars and the Iraqi dinar, which by and large are what they are paying people in. ...

Though traders are complaining this amounts to ISIS “rigging” the Mosul market, they can and almost certainly are justifying this as simple supply and demand, as recent US airstrikes in Mosul have destroyed large amounts of US currency, making it scarcer in the ISIS caliphate than it is in Baghdad.

Instead of hamstringing ISIS operations, as the US claimed it was doing at the time, they’ve simply shifted the exchange rate in ISIS territory by creating a new scarcity, and positioning ISIS to profit on the fact that they’re the only ones with serious currency reserves left. The losers, in the end, are the average people in ISIS territory, and any losses the airstrikes inflicted on ISIS will be made back on exchange.

Col. Wilkerson: All War Games Between China and US Lead to Nuclear Attacks

Stop Causing Trouble Over South China Sea, Beijing Tells US

China's South China Sea military deployments are no different from US deployments in Hawaii and the White House should stop deliberately creating tension, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday — striking a combative tone ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United States this week.

"The US has recently made quite a lot of remarks about militarization. It is actually trying to confuse the public," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson