I don’t like organized sports but I have been an athlete all my life and I pay respect. These shots are awesome.
I used to focus on the defense part of the game. No one would go pass thru me. Well, that’s the idea and it only works half the time. You know why? Because there is always someone bigger, smarter, and better than you. That’s what I learned from sports.
While the buffoons play politics in Washington the humans in Syria are suffering.
With permission from
July 24, 2017
The catastrophic number of civilian casualties in Mosul is receiving little attention internationally from politicians and journalists. This is in sharp contrast to the outrage expressed worldwide over the bombardment of east Aleppo by Syrian government and Russian forces at the end of 2016.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi finance and foreign minister, told me in an interview last week: “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself.”
The real number of dead who are buried under the mounds of rubble in west Mosul is unknown, but their numbers are likely to be in the tens of thousands, rather than the much lower estimates previously given.
People have difficulty understanding why the loss of life in Mosul was so huge. A good neutral explanation of this appears in a meticulous but horrifying report by Amnesty International (AI) called “At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul”.
It does not give an exact figure for the number of dead, but otherwise it confirms many of the points made by Mr Zebari, notably the appalling damage inflicted by continuing artillery and rocket fire aimed over a five-month period at a confined area jam-packed with civilians who were unable to escape.
However, even this does not quite explain the mass slaughter that took place. Terrible civilian casualties have occurred in many sieges over the centuries, but in one important respect the siege of Mosul is different from the others. Isis, the cruellest and most violent movement in the world, was determined not to give up its human shields.
Even before the attack by Iraqi government forces, aided by the US-led coalition, started on 17 October last year, Isis was herding civilians back into the city and not allowing them to escape to safety. Survivors who made their way to camps for displaced people outside Mosul said they had to run the gauntlet of Isis snipers, booby traps and mines.
Determined to hang on to its hundreds of thousands of human shields, Isis packed them into a smaller and smaller space as pro-government forces advanced. Isis patrols said they would kill anybody who left their houses; they welded shut metal doors to keep them in, and hanged people who tried to escape from electricity pylons and left the bodies to rot.
“Consequently, as IS lost territory during the course of the battle, IS-controlled areas became increasingly crowded with civilians,” says the AI report. “Mosul residents routinely described to Amnesty International how they sheltered in homes with relatives or neighbours in groups of between 15-100.”
It was these groups that became the victims of the massed firepower of pro-government forces. In many streets, every house is destroyed and I could not even enter some badly damaged districts because access was blocked by smashed masonry, craters and burned out cars.
Outside Mosul, people tend to assume that most of this destruction was the result of airstrikes – and much of it was – but Mr Zebari is correct in saying that it was shell and rocket fire from pro-government ground forces, particularly by the Federal Police, that caused the greatest destruction and loss of civilian life.
How this happened is easily explained by a look at the types of ordnance used by pro-government forces: these include 122 mm and 155mm howitzers, but also notoriously inaccurate 122mm Grad rockets and locally made Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs) that might land almost anywhere.
The Grad is a Soviet weapon that dates back fifty years, and consists of 40 rockets mounted in a vehicle which can be fired in volleys over a half minute period. Earlier versions of this weapon had a devastating effect on dug-in German infantry in fortified positions in World War II. Civilians crammed together in fragile houses in west Mosul would stand little chance.
The US-dominated coalition said that it tried to avoid carrying out air strikes where civilians were present, and its planes dropped leaflets telling them to move away from Isis positions. People on the ground in Mosul regarded this as a cruel joke, because they had nowhere else to go to and Isis would shoot them if they tried to run away.
In addition, the Isis system of defense was based on quickly moving its fighters from building to building through holes cut in the walls in the newer parts of Mosul; meanwhile in the Old City, where most houses have cellars, Isis linked these by tunnels so they could fire and retreat before the building they were in was destroyed, most commonly by 500 lb bombs.
“There were very few Daesh [Isis] in our neighbourhood, but they dropped a lot of bombs on them,” Qais, 47, a resident of Mosul al-Jadida district told me. He reckoned that between 600 and 1,000 people in the district had been killed, and he showed me pictures on his phone of a house that had once stood beside his own but had been reduced to a heap of smashed-up bricks.
“There were no Daesh in the house,” he said. “But there were seven members of the Abu Imad family there, of whom five were killed along with two passersby.”
A further reason for the devastation caused by the battle for west Mosul was the outcome of the fighting for east Mosul between 17 October and 24 January. The Iraqi government and the Americans had expected a hard fought but relatively swift victory, perhaps taking about two months to seize the whole of the city (in fact, it took nine months).
The attack on the part to the east of the Tigris River was primarily undertaken by the highly trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), fighting house to house. Air strikes were usually against carefully selected targets, and not called in at will by ground troops at the first sign of resistance.
These tactics of the pro-government forces did not work. True, they eventually captured east Mosul after three months of heavy fighting and at the cost of casualties to the CTS reported as being between 40 and 50 per cent. But they could not afford this scale of losses repeated in west Mosul, where Isis was even more deeply entrenched.
When the assault on west Mosul began on 19 February, the pro-government forces were therefore using artillery, rockets and airpower much more freely. And in addition to the CTS, they fielded the Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, both of which were far less well-trained and deemed more sectarian than the CTS. As they in turn suffered heavy casualties, they lost all restraint in use of their firepower.
Why has there not been more outcry over the destruction of west Mosul? There should be no question about the massive civilian loss of life, even if there are differences over the exact numbers of the dead.
The biggest reason for the lack of outrage is that Isis was seen as a uniquely evil movement that had to be defeated – whatever the cost in dead bodies to the people of Mosul.
It is an understandable argument, but one that in the past has meant Iraq never finds peace.
With permission from
July 27, 2017
The crumpled heap of stones, all that is left of the minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, asks questions of us all. How do we “restore” or “repair” or “rebuild” a jewel of Seljuk civilization from which millions of Muslims – perhaps even Saladin himself – were called to prayer five times each day for 900 years in one of the oldest cities of the world? I run my hands over these great blocks of masonry, chipped, gashed, some perhaps reusable, others hopelessly broken, fitted together with infinite care in 1090, less than 25 years after the Battle of Hastings. I notice others doing the same.
Mustafa Omran Kurdi has a face so deeply lined and expressive that it might be a map of ancient Aleppo, marks of mourning for both his lost brother and for the minaret of the mosque also known as the Ummayad. The Syrian war has destroyed other shrines, religious and profane. Isis blew up bits of Palmyra, the Syrian army and its enemies fought each other in the glorious souks of Homs and Aleppo. The Syrians say the rebels destroyed the Aleppo minaret, just as the Iraqis blame Isis for detonating the “leaning” minaret of Mosul. The Islamist cultists of Aleppo and Mosul, of course, both blame their opponents; rare indeed is it that the Iraqi regime and the Americans and the Syrian regime end up on the receiving end of the same accusation.
Given the surviving eyewitnesses in Aleppo, the Ummayad seems to have collapsed during a storm of shellfire, although several soldiers and civilians close to the structure say they felt the vibration of its fall when the rest of the city lay in momentary silence. The rebels of the time dug deep beneath the streets of Aleppo to advance their forces and dynamite their opponents. Did they simply undermine the Ummayad minaret in the north-west corner of the mosque? It wouldn’t have taken much of a vacuum amid the underground foundations to shift this gentle, 114-foot high stone creature off balance. The stones are covered today in a benevolent white dust, untouched since they fell more than two years ago. The dust clings to your hands. You can’t do much with dust.
But Mustafa Kurdi is the Great Mosque’s reconstruction supervisor – and if energy alone could restore history, he is the man to do it. His hands move around him like construction equipment, as fast as the Bobcat earth-shifter carries rubble from the colonnades five hundred feet away, sandbags and stones and rotting food bags, the detritus of war. “We are preparing now to bring the equipment to move the stones of the minaret and put them together and start to build as close as possible as the original minaret was,” he says. “Maybe some of the stones cannot be used again because they are broken. We shall have to find new stones from perhaps other old sites. If needs be, we can make new stones look like old ones. This is a vast task but we consider our main work is the rebuilding of the minaret.”
The black and white geometrical stone concourse of the mosque has largely survived, and although Kurdi and his men were forced to wall up part of a colonnade temporarily and support two collapsing pillars with iron bars, much of the structure is – dare one use the word? – “restorable”. There are wicked bullet gashes in the magnificent bronze chandeliers with their Koranic script in the colonnade, and stone walls pitted with holes crueller than any smallpox epidemic would leave on the human face. Once, this had been a pagan temple and then a Roman basilica, a Byzantine church – the pattern is familiar in Syria’s heritage – and then, under the Ummayads in 715 AD, a mosque.
Is there, perhaps, some comfort in the knowledge that the destruction of the Aleppo Great Mosque and its minaret is a recurring feature of ancient history? It was constantly attacked, restored after fire in 1159 by Nureddin and then totally destroyed by the Mongols in 1260. But we are supposed to be better than the Mongol hordes. Besides, there are fewer caliphs to provide the money for such work in the 21st century. And thus we come to the mysterious generosity of Chechnya.
All who work on the mosque say they have heard of this. None admits any contact with Chechens. It’s all up to the Syrian Ministry of Religious Affairs, they say. But Russia’s recalcitrant province has much to do with the Aleppo mosque these days. Chechnya’s chief mufti, Salakh Mezhiyev, arrived here to lead prayers for a delegation of Chechen officials. The Kadyrov Foundation, run by the family of Ramzan Kadyrov, the rebel-turned-loyalist Chechen leader, is apparently funding the reconstruction of the Aleppo mosque for £5.5m within one year – a snip if you believe the figures which, according to more architecturally-minded foreign experts, is far less than half the money needed for restoration. But, needless to say, it makes Russia look good. If Moscow can destroy Syria, as the Americans claim, it can also help to rebuild it. Russian reports that the Kadyrov Foundation publishes no financial data save for a 2015 asset statement of £19m – and that Chechens are forced to subscribe to the Kadyrov projects from their earnings – have not made their way into the Syrian press or television.
It is happier to return to Mustafa Kurdi and his love of the Great Mosque. “When we first entered the mosque [after the fall of eastern Aleppo last winter], the library of the mosque was full of stones and debris and pieces of iron and broken wood,” he says. “We have now cleared 95 per cent of this. Aleppo University made a three-dimensional topographical survey of the sites and the eastern colonnade is now under repair. This will open the way to the eastern souk. You must understand that the difficulty of all this is heritage, historical ‘value’. This is a living structure – a place to pray – and you cannot leave it in this condition. If my house looked like this mosque, I would not live in it.”
But Kurdi’s argument is more subtle than it might seem. “We have the materials and the experience in dealing with damage of this sort but we must remember that when the mosque is restored, everything else will return – not only those who pray but people shopping who stop in the colonnades to rest – because the mosque is the heart of this area. This is not just a religious symbol. It is a social place, part of our culture.”
He was at home in western Aleppo, he says, when he heard of the minaret’s collapse. “My wife’s tears ran down her face,” he says. “Later, these past few months, I saw young people of 16 or 17 come here to learn what happened. Some of the older people were crying. The younger ones were silent. I used to bring my daughter here when she was much younger – she was only eight or nine years old when this happened, but now she says, ‘I remember this place.’”
There is no doubt where Kurdi places the blame. “It is all these fighters who attacked this place. How can you make people leave their houses and their homes? I myself left my home in the Saef al-Dowla area and didn’t know where to go. Why did the militias attack our houses and our homes? Islam says you are forbidden from entering a home without permission. And this mosque is more important than that. After four days, I left my home in Saef al-Dowla with only the clothes I was wearing.”
By chance, I was in Saef al-Dowla on the very day that Kurdi fled his home. I don’t remember him, but I saw other men and women leaving their homes and asking the soldiers there if they would be protected if they stayed. Gunmen were attacking the soldiers too. It was a middle class area, now back under government control, although Kurdi’s imprecations about “entering a home without permission” did raise other questions in one’s mind. Should these same Islamic instructions not also apply, for example, to the state security police? This was not a question which Mustafa Kurdi asked. He took his family to his aunt’s home in western Aleppo, originally living in just one room. “We all lived there. Then my brother one day went to see our mother and on the way to her a bullet hit him and he was killed and he left four children.”
And each child’s soul, surely, was worth more than a mosque. No, this was not a question to ask Mustafa Kurdi. “We need a soul,” he said. “When Aleppo is rebuilt, it will be because of the love of its people. I have seen people in the destroyed streets putting chairs in front of their shops today, even though the shops have been destroyed. They gradually clean everything away. Aleppo will be rebuilt by its people. We need to see Aleppo again – all of it, because otherwise we will go on missing it. A poet once wrote that the ‘spirit of eagerness to see’ was sufficient for one person in just a glance at a city – but that for those who live there, even if we look constantly at it, it is not enough.”
With permission from
July 27, 2017
Like too many nations, the United States likes to think of itself as a chosen nation and a chosen people. Presidential inauguration statements are typically an exercise in proclaiming American exceptionalism, and this mentality has far too much influence in the United States. It’s particularly regrettable when individuals who should no better indulge the kind of hubris and triumphalism associated with American exceptionalism.
An excellent example of our exceptionalism appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post in the form of an op-ed by Tom Malinowski, the former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration. In a fatuous display of ignorance, Malinowski lambasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for stating that the United States frequently meddles in the politics and elections of other countries. Malinowski argued that it is Russia that interferes in democratic elections, such as the U.S. presidential race in 2016, but that the United States consistently “promotes democracy in other countries.”
One of the reasons why the United States has so little credibility in making the case against Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election is the sordid record of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency in conducting regime change and even political assassination to influence political conditions around the world. In 1953, the United States and Great Britain conspired to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran; the following year, the Eisenhower administration backed a coup in Guatemala that led to the introduction of Central America’s most brutal regime in history. Similarly, Eisenhower’s willingness to pursue the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo led to the installation of the worst tyrant in the history of Africa, Sese Seku Mobutu.
The Bay of Pigs is the “poster child” for American operational failure, and the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General put the blame squarely on what it described as “arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence” within the CIA. Ten years later, however, another American administration and the CIA tried to prevent the election of Salvador Allende, a leftist, as president of Chile. After Allende’s election, the CIA moved to subvert his government. CIA director Richard Helms was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for lying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the operation in Chile. But it was national security adviser Henry Kissinger who ordered the operation and explained that he couldn’t “see why the United States should stand by and let Chile go communist merely due to the stupidity of its own people.”
The revelation of assassination plots in Cuba, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam finally led to a ban on CIA political assassination in the mid-1970s. Nevertheless, when Libyan leader Muammar Qadafi was killed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted that “we came, we saw, he died.” In an incredible turn of events, the United States invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, although it was a CIA-sponsored coup against Colonel Abdul Kassem that led to the emergence of Saddam Hussein in the first place.
Vladimir Putin is certainly aware of CIA intervention of behalf of the Solidarity movement in Poland to destabilize the communist government there in the early 1980s; to bolster the regime of former president Eduard Shevardnadze in the Republic of Georgia in the 1990s; and more recently to undermine the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.
Putin’s intervention in Syria in 2015 was designed in part to make sure that the U.S. history of regime change didn’t included another chapter in the Middle East.
Before former U.S. officials such as Tom Malinowski decide to lambaste Putin for cynicism and treachery, it would be a good idea to become familiar with U.S. crimes and calumny. Forty years ago, former senator Frank Church said the United States “must never adopt the tactics of the enemy. Each time we do so, each time the means we use are wrong; our inner strength, the strength that makes us free, is lessened.” Malinowski should ponder William Faulkner’s admonition about the land of his birth: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
In this article, we take a look at some of these places which have left scientists bewildered.
Situated on the 27th parallel north are the Bermuda Triangle, you know the place that allegedly swallows boats, cargo ships, and even airplanes, the Pyramids of Giza, which according to many were built as massive energy machines by an unknown civilization, and the Himalayas, the Himalayas are really cool, but in addition to those three places, there another once which baffled experts.
Referred to as the zone of Silence or “Zona de Silencio,” this area of land located in Mexico is one of the most anomalous places on Earth.
According to reports, nothing seems to properly function here as scientists have failed to understand how clocks stop, radios go haywire, and the compass spins out of control.
Located some 2,000 meters above sea level, the Zone of Silence strangely coincides with the enigmatic Bermuda Triangle and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
The oldest temple on the surface of our planet is located in modern-day Turkey and is referred to as Göbekli Tepe. This fascinating ancient structure is considered to be 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and around 7,000 years older than the oldest of the Pyramids—meaning that it was created around 12,000 years ago by a mysterious civilization. This ancient temple is referred to as the Stonehenge of the desert, and experts are still trying to understand what its true meaning was.
Located in India we come across the infamous Gravity Hill, a place where if you decide to take your car for a ride and decide to park it for an awkward reason on the hill and decide to put it out of gear into neutral, the car will start moving UPWARDS, almost as if some mysterious force you can’t see was pulling the car upwards.
Located in the USA is a strange phenomenon that looks almost as if there’s a fire burning in the middle of a waterfall. This unusual waterfall is the product of mother nature, and scientists say that it’s perfectly explainable as there are small fissures in the rock which emit natural gas, causing to burn. At times the flame extinguishes and needs to be reignited. Legends say that whoever manages to reanimate the flame will be blessed with fortune.