By stepping into the middle of our Presidential race, the obvious Russian front has outed themselves.
The recent Wikileaks dump of 20,000 emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee has caused political sensation and scandal on a grand scale. These internal communications reveal nothing flattering about the DNC or Hillary Clinton, who is set to be anointed as the Democrats’ presidential nominee at their party convention in Philadelphia that gets underway with fanfare today.
Wikileaks has thrown an ugly wrench into Hillary’s coronation. DNC emails reveal a Clinton campaign that’s shady and dishonest, not to mention corrupt. Its secret dealings with Hillary’s opponents—whether Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump—have been distasteful and possibly illegal. To say this is an unflattering portrayal of Team Clinton is like saying the Titanic had issues with ice.
The ramifications of this massive leak are already serious. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the embattled DNC chair, has been forced to tender her resignation in advance of the party conclave in Philadelphia, while Senator Sanders, who’s been revealed as the target of much aggressive DNC attention during the Democratic primary campaign, stated he was “not shocked but I’m disappointed” by the Wikileaks revelations. The Democrats are anything but united now as they prepare to take on Donald Trump and the Republicans.
On the eve of the four-day Democratic convention extravaganza, this data-dump could not have been timed better to damage Hillary and her efforts to move back into the White House this November. Although it’s doubtful that leaked RNC internal emails would make any more pleasant a read for the public, Clinton will emerge from this tarred with the indelible brush of corruption and collusion with her party’s leadership to fix the Democratic presidential nomination.
Read the rest at The Observer …
It was supposed to be a festive summer weekend in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, Germany’s southernmost state. Like Texas, Bavaria has a reputation for conservatism and an independent spirit that sets it apart from the rest of the country. They also love their beer, and it’s the 500th birthday of the Reinheitsgebot, Bavaria’s famous Purity Law that set the gold standard for beer-aficionados worldwide way back in 1516.
But a festive summer weekend was not what Munich got. Shortly before six in the evening on Friday, shots rang out at the Olympia Center, a popular shopping mall north of downtown, just down the street from the site of the notorious 1972 Olympics massacre. The main scene of the crime was a McDonalds and many of the 25 people shot were children.
The killer emerged from the McDonalds’ bathroom, firing a pistol. He seems to have targeted children intentionally and there are reports that, in a diabolical twist, the murderer used a fake Facebook page to lure kids to the restaurant with the offer of free food.
Nine were killed in the rampage and 16 others were wounded, several of them critically. Mayhem followed as hundreds of police swarmed the mall and Munich’s downtown. Throughout the evening, false reports of copycat shooters or possible co-conspirators caused panic throughout the city. Jumpy authorities ordered the evacuation of Munich’s main train station and several other public places, just to be safe.
Read the rest at The Observer …
President Erdoğan survived another geopolitical game of chicken — though not without cost.
As last weekend began, Turkey was plunged temporarily into violent chaos as troops attempted to overthrow the country’s government. The military’s move was loud and bloody, including bombs dropped on the parliament and presidential palace, but ultimately ineffective. Turkey’s elected government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, reestablished its authority within hours.
As coups go, this was a total flop. The number of troops directly involved was quite small—enough to attempt the takeover of some critical government buildings and infrastructure—but far too few to seriously challenge the government. In the end, the effort reportedly cost the lives of 265 Turks, including 104 coup participants, as well as more than a hundred civilians caught in the crossfire. Most of the short-lived fighting between rebellious troops and police loyal to the government happened in Istanbul and Ankara, leaving the rest of the country largely untouched.
Turkey’s impressive military once knew how to manage a coup d’état. They pulled off full-fledged coups in 1960 and 1980, plus a “post-modern” one in 1997, forcing out a civilian government without actually rolling out the tanks. The military is the core institution of the Turkish Republic since its founding in 1923 out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. The creator of the army and the state, Mustafa Kemal, popularly known as Atatürk (Father of the Turks), wanted a powerful military to act as the guardian of the new republic’s cherished constitutional values—above all, secularism.
Thus, every so often, the Turkish military threw out a government it didn’t like, usually because it felt that the civilians were moving away from Kemalism. Since Turkey boasts the second-biggest army in NATO, the United States generally kept its protests to a minimum, not least because during the Cold War the Turkish military was a strategic necessity to keep the Soviets at bay. Neither did many in the West really mind that the Turkish military was keeping the country’s Islamic extremists at bay, too.
Read the rest at The Observer …
Jihadist truck ‘bowls’ down popular seaside avenue, killing 84 people in Nice.
All of France was out to celebrate last night. July 14 is Bastille Day, the country’s national holiday. Across France—as on our July 4—friends and families congregate, enjoy a day off work and, once darkness descends, watch fireworks in a celebratory atmosphere.
That happy ritual was shattered last night in Nice, the capital of the fashionable French Riviera, where thousands of locals and visitors were gathered on the Mediterranean seaside. As 11 o’clock approached, with festive crowds thronged on the Promenade des Anglais, the chichi waterside avenue overlooked by hotels, the dwindling fireworks show was interrupted by panic, then horror.
A white cargo truck appeared, aimed at partygoers. It drove methodically along the storied street, Le Prom as locals call it, zig-zagging to take out the maximum number of people. Most of those hit by the truck had no chance to escape. The scene, recalled survivors, was “like bowling”—with innocents crushed by the huge vehicle.
“It was a cool evening,” recalled a journalist who witnessed the rampage unfold, watching in horror as the truck rammed through dense columns of partygoers. At first he thought the approaching noise was coming from people setting off their own fireworks, only realizing, as the truck approached him, what was happening: “a huge white truck was traveling at breakneck speed… moving to mow down a maximum number of people.”
Read the rest at The Observer …
Clinton and Trump are considering admirals and generals for VP—and it’s not the best idea.
As we approach the political conventions of our major parties—the once-every-four-year summer spectacle that coronates our presidential nominees—rumors are flowing freely about who will be selected as vice president. Speculation about veep choices is attracting more attention than usual, however, since neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is exactly young, and both have a record of gaffes and screw-ups that could very plausibly lead to their Number Two taking over the White House.
So, who winds up as the vice presidential choices of this year’s nominees could actually matter for our country quite a bit. It therefore says something significant that both Trump and Clinton want it known they’re pondering senior military men—not just the usual seasoned politico types—for veep. Let’s take a look at who they’re considering.
The most interesting possibility is Mike Flynn, a retired army lieutenant general who’s been close to the Trump campaign from the start. His name has been frequently mentioned in the media as a potential running mate for Trump. Flynn is a far from conventional choice. In the first place, he was a career intelligence officer—not a combat arms guy—and his tenure as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency was cut short in 2014 when he was cashiered by President Obama.
General Flynn has worn his firing from DIA as a badge of honor, claiming the White House canned him because he demanded that the truth be told about the rise of Islamic State. In Flynn’s account, Obama refused to take jihadism generally and ISIS specifically very seriously, and the DIA director’s hardline on these issues led to his firing.
Read the rest at The Observer…
The prettiest corner of Switzerland wasn’t exactly crawling with Muslim women, so it’s worth asking what happened.
LOCARNO—Even in Switzerland, most citizens don’t think much about Ticino. It’s the southernmost of the country’s 26 cantons—roughly equivalent to American states—and the only one that’s wholly Italian in language and culture. Only half a million of the eight million people in Switzerland are Italians, and about two-thirds of them live in Ticino.
For the country’s German-speaking majority, Ticino is Switzerland’s Sonnenstube (sun porch) due to the canton’s notably brighter and warmer climate than what prevails in most of this Alpine land. South of the Gotthard Pass that has divided Teutons from Latins for centuries, Ticino’s steep mountains ring the canton at heights surpassing 10,000 feet, their peaks remaining chilly even in the summer heat that prevails on the shores of the beautiful lakes that dot the scenery.
Ticino is one of Europe’s loveliest places, combining a very Italian dolce vita with trademark Swiss efficiency. Things work here in a timely fashion as they don’t always in neighboring Italy. It’s a minor miracle that Switzerland has made Italians work like Germans—while losing none of their fine food, wine and culture. Locals aren’t excessively fond of Swiss Germans—they find them stodgy—but they look down a bit on Italians across the border too, who never can quite seem to make their trains run on time. As they do in Ticino.
That said, not much exciting happens in Ticino. The canton seldom makes Swiss headlines—much less beyond this small country. About the only noteworthy thing that happens in Locarno, the canton’s second city, situated on lovely Lago Maggiore under the Alps, is the annual international film festival every August. Since 1946, that draws movie stars and therefore press. Not much else gets the international media to Locarno.
Suddenly, that’s changed. And the issue is one of the most hot-button ones in all of Europe, indeed across the West right now: the role of Islam in public life.
Read the rest at The Observer …
Obama and Clinton don’t fear Comey — and that’s a problem.
After months of investigation and speculation, this week the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced its findings regarding Hillary Clinton’s misuse of email during her tenure as Secretary of State. To the surprise of nobody who has watched the Obama Administration operate with open eyes, the FBI is not recommending the prosecution of Clinton in EmailGate.
In his July 5 official statement, Director James Comey detailed how the FBI investigated this matter and concluded that Clinton’s personal, private email indeed contained quite a bit of classified information. It’s a singularly strange statement, since the FBI is not seeking prosecution for the crimes detailed by Comey. Neither did he spare the State Department and its notoriously slipshod security. As the director stated:
“While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general—and with respect to use of unclassified email systems in particular—was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”
It bears noting that a previous investigation 16 years ago came to identical conclusions about the State Department. Security matters at Foggy Bottom were so slipshod that then-Secretary Madeline Albright was moved to denounce her own department in blunt language we have never heard from Clinton: “I don’t care how skilled you are as a diplomat, how brilliant you may be at meetings, or how creative you are as an administrator—if you are not professional about security, you are a failure.”
Read the rest at The Observer….