All foreign forces will leave Afghanistan, says President Ghani
Al Jazeera – President’s comments come as both US and Taliban officials hailed progress after six days of talks in Qatar ended.
Al Jazeera – Heavy winds overturned vehicles, uprooted trees, knocked down lamp posts, and left part of the capital in the dark.
ZeroHedge – Military option on the table — that’s what Axios reporter Jonathan Swan was told when discussing the Venezuela crisis with Sen. Lindsey Graham. In a breaking exclusive Sunday evening, Axios has revealed key explosive contents of a recent meeting between President Trump and Sen. Graham wherein the president “mused to him about the possibility of using military force in Venezuela, where the U.S. government is currently pushing for regime change using diplomatic and economic pressures.” According to Axios:
Graham, recalling his conversation with Trump a couple weeks ago, said: “He [Trump] said, ‘What do you think about using military force?’ and I said, ‘Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m surprised, you want to invade everybody.’”
Graham laughed. “And I said, ‘I don’t want to invade everybody, I only want to use the military when our national security interests are threatened.’”
Sen. Graham explained further to Swan in a phone call that “Trump’s really hawkish” on Venezuela, and added the president’s willingness to use military force against the Maduro regime actually surpasses Graham’s.
Graham summarized the unusual and unexpected takeaway from the contents of his discussions with president with the conclusion that “Trump was even more hawkish than he [Graham] was on Venezuela.”
This follows a week of unrest and mass protests, along with some very limited military defections, inside the socialist country and after about a dozen countries have joined the United States in recognizing opposition held National Assembly head Juan Guaido as the “Interim President of Venezuela” possessing sole legitimacy. After Trump’s controversial declaration of Maduro’s illegitimacy as president last week, a senior administration official followed by saying that “all options are on the table”.
And now it appears the “military option” is perhaps more prominent on that table in Trump’s mind than many believed, which Axios muses is related to being “stymied at home” after the wall/government shutdown crisis, thus “Trump is now moving faster than ever on foreign policy.”
While this doesn’t mean Trump will invade Venezuela anytime soon, it increasingly appears escalating diplomatic and economic pressures could fast put Washington on such a path toward overt regime change in Caracas. Toward this end, Axios notes: “We expect the Trump administration will target Nicolás Maduro’s oil and offshore wealth in the coming weeks and try to divert that wealth to the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó…”.
The worry over potential military confrontation or civil war inside the country is increasingly looking very real as over the weekend reports surfaced online of a build-up of Venezuelan military assets along the borders, specifically near Columbia — a key US ally in Latin America.
Global Research – With April’s elections looming, Benjamin Netanyahu has good reason to fear Benny Gantz, his former army chief. Gantz has launched a new party, named Israeli Resilience, just as the net of corruption indictments is closing around the prime minister.
Already, at this early stage of campaigning, some 31 per cent of the Israeli public prefer Gantz to head the next government over Netanyahu, who is only months away from becoming the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history.
Gantz is being feted as the new hope, a chance to change direction after a series of governments under Netanyahu’s leadership have over the past decade shifted Israel ever further to the right.
Like Israel’s former politician generals, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Gantz is being portrayed – and portraying himself – as a battle-hardened warrior, able to make peace from a position of strength.
Before he had issued a single policy statement, polls showed him winning 15 of the 120 parliamentary seats, a welcome sign for those hoping that a centre-left coalition can triumph this time.
Global Research – Britain rejected Venezuela’s request to withdraw $1.2bn in gold stored in the UK, according to reports. It was enough for the self-declared and US-backed ‘president’, Juan Guaido, to support the alleged move.
The Bank of England blocked Venezuela’s attempts to retrieve $1.2 billion worth of gold stored as the nation’s foreign reserves in Britain, sources told Bloomberg on Friday.
According to the media outlet, officials in Caracas have for weeks been trying to withdraw the gold, with Calixto Ortega, the head of Venezuela’s central bank, traveling to London in mid-December to seek access to the nation’s assets.
The talks were “unsuccessful,” as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the national security advisor to President Donald Trump, John Bolton, pressured their British counterparts to freeze the Venezuelan assets, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
By some estimates, Venezuela holds more than $8 billion in foreign reserves. According to earlier reports, the amount of Venezuelan gold kept in the Bank of England doubled in recent months, growing from 14 to 31 tons.
The South American nation has reportedly experienced problems in extracting its own gold from the Bank of England in the past. Bankers in Britain were allegedly concerned that Venezuelan officials would sell the state-owned gold “for personal gain.”
The Bank of England, along with press officials for Pompeo and Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, declined to comment.
Despite the fact that the story was not confirmed, the alleged move of the British bank was swiftly praised by the self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ of Venezuela.
“The process of protecting the assets of Venezuela has begun,” Juan Guaido tweeted.
“We will not allow more abuse and theft of money intended for food, medicine and the future of our children.”
Guaido, the speaker of the national parliament, declared himself ‘interim president’ of the state earlier with week in opposition to Maduro. He was subsequently recognized as the “legitimate” leader of Venezuela by the US, Canada, and the majority of South American nations.
The Guardian – The Trump administration has lifted sanctions on three companies, including the aluminum giant Rusal, linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Democrats had led a push in Congress to continue the restrictions.
Trump administration officials and many Republicans who opposed the effort to keep the sanctions in place said they worried about the impact on the global aluminum industry.
They also said Deripaska had lowered his stakes in the companies so he no longer controlled them, a sign the sanctions were working.
In its statement on Sunday, the US treasury said the three companies had reduced Deripaska’s direct and indirect shareholding stake and severed his control.
U.S. News, Politics & Government
Breitbart – Monday, Roger Stone spoke with reporters about his arrest early Friday morning, saying greater force was used to arrest him than was used “to take down Bin Laden or El Chapo’
Stone said how it went down was a “raw abuse of power” because a CNN reporter was able to film his arrest.
“It is frustrating,” Stone outlined. “It’s a raw abuse of power in the fact that a CNN reporter was allowed to film my arrest when the street was sealed off and the fact that the CNN producer in question is a former assistant to James Comey at the FBI and formally worked for the FBI. His claim that he just had a hunch is not credible.”
Stone’s remarks echo what former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday on “CBS This Morning,” in which he accused the FBI of trying to “intimidate” Stone with their “over the top” arrest tactics.
Free Thought Project – Klickitat County, WA — In reaction to the tragic shootings throughout 2018, Washington state has passed and is planning to pass a slew of new anti-gun bills that will make them one of the most regulated states in the country. But these bills are being met by resistance from an unlikely group. A handful of sheriffs is standing up to the “unconstitutional” nature of the bills and is promising disobedience.
Sheriff Bob Songer is one of these sheriffs who is outspoken about his resistance. During an interview with the Guardian, published over the weekend, Songer told the newspaper that the anti-gun legislation passed last November “is unconstitutional on several grounds. I’ve taken the position that as an elected official, I am not going to enforce that law.”
Songer—like every single sheriff and law enforcement officer in the country—swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and now he’s overtly honoring it by protecting the Second Amendment.
As the Guardian reports:
Songer also cited ongoing litigation by the National Rife Association gun industry lobby and others which aims to demonstrate the laws violate both the second amendment and the state’s constitution. He also said that if other agencies attempted to seize weapons from county residents under the auspices of the new laws, he would consider preventively “standing in their doorway”.
n November, the state’s voters handily passed an initiative, I-1639, which mostly targeted semi-automatic rifles. As of 1 January, purchasers of these weapons must now be over 21, undergo an enhanced background check, must have completed a safety course, and need to wait 9 days to take possession of their weapon. Also, gun owners who fail to store their weapons safely risk felony “community endangerment” charges.
Feeling the wind at their backs after the ballot, gun campaigners and liberal legislators have now gone even further in the new legislative session. Bills introduced in the last week to Washington’s Democrat-dominated legislature look to further restrict firearms. Some laws would ban high capacity magazines and plastic guns made with 3D printers. Others would mandate training for concealed carry permits, and remove guns and ammo during and after domestic violence incidents.
The sheriff of Ferry County agrees with Songer and is also promising not to enforce the laws. Sheriff Ray Maycumber told the Guardian that he will resist the legislation as well.
Police officers standing up for the gun rights of the citizens they serve is rare, but it has happened before. In Connecticut in 2014, legislators passed into law highly restrictive gun control, gun bans, and bans on high capacity magazines.
The laws were so overreaching and unconstitutional that hundreds of law enforcement officers came together to resist it.
Infowars – Nancy Pelosi is still planning to block President Trump’s State of the Union speech despite the government re-opening after being shut down.
The Speaker of the House has merely promised discussions on holding the SOTU, which means that the address itself will almost certainly be postponed or even cancelled altogether.
“What I said to the president is when the government is opened we will discuss a mutually agreeable date,” Pelosi said, adding “I’ll look forward to doing that.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto also confirmed that the SOTU will not take place this week and that there is “No information about when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might invite President Trump to deliver the address.”
A concurrent resolution must be passed to officially invite the president to House chambers, where Trump wants to make the speech in its traditional setting having ruled out an alternative venue.
According to USA Today, the exact day on if or when the speech will happen is “still up in the air.”
Newsmax – The Trump administration is protecting religious adoption and foster care agencies that were targeted by Obama-era regulations that required those receiving federal assistance what it called “discriminatory” standards in placing children.
“Faith-based organizations that provide foster care services not only perform a great service for their communities, they are exercising a legally protected right to practice their faith through good works,” Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children in a statement, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
Economy & Business
Breitbart – Economic growth accelerated and was much stronger than expected in January, according to a basket of indicators collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index for December rose to 0.27 from 0.21 in November. Economists had expected the index to decline to 0.15.
The three-month moving average of the index, seen as a more stable guide to the economy because it smooths out month to month volatility, gained to 0.16 from an unrevised 0.12, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago reported Monday.
Science & Technology
BBC – Hundreds of popular cars – including four of the five best-selling models in the UK – are susceptible to “keyless theft”, new research claims.
Consumer group Which? found the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Focus were all at risk.
Thieves are increasingly thought to be using technology to bypass entry systems on keyless cars.
But industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) said “new cars are more secure than ever”.
Which? analysed data on keyless – or “relay” – attacks from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC), a roadside recovery organisation.
ADAC tested 237 keyless cars and found that all but three were susceptible.
The latest models of the Discovery and Range Rover, and the 2018 Jaguar i-Pace, all made by Jaguar Land Rover, were found to be secure.
Of the top-selling cars in the UK, only the Vauxhall Corsa was deemed safe because it is not available with keyless entry and ignition.
“Thieves have been using keyless theft for several years, but manufacturers continue to make new models that can be stolen in this way, meaning there is an ever-larger pool of vehicles for thieves to target,” Which? said in a statement.
Health Impact News – Prominent British cancer physician Martin Gore, MD died on Jan. 10, 2019 just hours after receiving a routine yellow fever vaccination.
The vaccine is recommended for people traveling to parts of Africa, the Caribbean and South and Central America.
Dr. Gore was 67, and suffered from total organ failure.
A professor of cancer medicine at The Royal Marsden NHS (National Health Service) Foundation Trust and the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom, Dr. Gore was considered a pioneer in cancer research.
Read more at The Vaccine Reaction.
Award-winning BBC foreign correspondent Malcolm Brabant also received the yellow fever vaccination in order to go on a business trip to the Ivory Coast in Africa in 2011.
His wife, Trine Villemann, wrote about their experiences for Sanevax.org:
Until April 15th 2011, I was a great believer in vaccines. My son was born prematurely and very ill and in order to protect him he had every vaccination available because I trusted the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies when they told me that vaccines are safe and prevent diseases and death.
Now I know better – because on that April afternoon disaster struck. My husband, BBC Correspondent Malcolm Brabant, went across a busy road to a vaccination-centre in a suburb of Athens, Greece, where we lived, to have a yellow fever vaccination in order to go on a business trip to the Ivory Coast in Africa.
20 minutes later he was back. I didn’t know it at the time, but the vaccine had already begun its devastating journey through his body towards his brain. (Source: Vaccines: A descent into madness)
Natural Health News – People who live in leafy, green neighborhoods may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and strokes, according to new research.
In this study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers from the University of Louisville investigated the impact of neighbourhood green spaces on individual-level markers of stress and cardiovascular disease risk.
Over five-years, blood and urine samples were collected from 408 people of varying ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels, all of whom were at elevated risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.
Blood and urine samples were drawn and the risk of cardiovascular disease was assessed using specific chemical substances produced by the body that can act as ‘biomarkers’ indicating a higher risk of blood vessel injury and the risk of having cardiovascular disease.
The density of the greenspaces near the participants’ residences was measured, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a tool that indicates levels of vegetation density created from satellite imagery collected by NASA and USGS. Air pollution levels were also assessed using particulate matter from the EPA and roadway exposure measurements.
Less oxidative stress
Results showed that living in areas with more green vegetation was associated with:
They also found that associations with epinephrine were stronger among women, study participants not taking beta-blockers (which reduce the heart’s workload and lower blood pressure) and people who had not previously had a heart attack.
What is more, the connection between residential greenery and a lower levels of certain markers of heart problems held up even after researchers accounted for other factors that can independently influence the risk of heart disease like age, sex, ethnicity, smoking status, patients’ use of statins to control cholesterol, neighborhood poverty and proximity to pollution from traffic fumes.
Newsmax – Illegal immigrants stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are coming sick and potentially diseased, as 2,224 have required hospitalization in the past month, including one with with flesh-eating bacteria, according to reports.
A man detained in a remote New Mexico border area, diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a potential fatal infection, was among the thousands requiring hospitalization after being stopped at the border by CBP since Dec. 22.
The 2,224 sick – representing 5.3 percent of those detained at the U.S.-Mexico border in that time – were treated for the flu, parasites, tuberculosis, and pneumonia, according IJR.com.