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A Special Relationship: The United States is teaming up with Al Qaeda, again

By Andrew Cockburn

One morning early in 1988, Ed McWilliams, a foreign-service officer posted to the American Embassy in Kabul, heard the thump of a massive explosion from somewhere on the other side of the city. It was more than eight years after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the embassy was a tiny enclave with only a handful of diplomats. McWilliams, a former Army intelligence operative, had made it his business to venture as much as possible into the Soviet-occupied capital. Now he set out to see what had happened.

It was obviously something big: although the explosion had taken place on the other side of Sher Darwaza, a mountain in the center of Kabul, McWilliams had heard it clearly. After negotiating a maze of narrow streets on the south side of the city, he found the site. A massive car bomb, designed to kill as many civilians as possible, had been detonated in a neighborhood full of Hazaras, a much-persecuted minority.

McWilliams took pictures of the devastation, headed back to the embassy, and sent a report to Washington. It was very badly received — not because someone had launched a terrorist attack against Afghan civilians, but because McWilliams had reported it. The bomb, it turned out, had been the work of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mujahedeen commander who received more CIA money and support than any other leader of the Afghan rebellion. The attack, the first of many, was part of a CIA-blessed scheme to “put pressure” on the Soviet presence in Kabul. Informing the Washington bureaucracy that Hekmatyar’s explosives were being deployed to kill civilians was therefore entirely unwelcome.

“Those were Gulbuddin’s bombs,” McWilliams, a Rhode Islander with a gift for laconic understatement, told me recently. “He was supposed to get the credit for this.” In the meantime, the former diplomat recalled, the CIA pressured him to “report a little less specifically about the humanitarian consequences of those vehicle bombs.”



Sunday's Non Sequitur- Three Kings

Toon: Hazard Warning

Weekend Toon Roundup- Hunter would have had a field day with this bunch



The Issue


Toon: Softening Us Up

Sums up for me why we need Bernie to win.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is Acting Just Like the Villain Bernie Sanders Says She Is

By Jim Newell
Sen. Bernie Sanders had been having a lovely little week. He scored the endorsements of both the Communications Workers of America union and the progressive grass-roots group Democracy for America. On Thursday, his campaign announced that it had received more than 2 million donations. “We are enormously proud,” Sanders said in a statement, “that we have received more individual contributions at this point in the campaign than any candidate who is not an incumbent president.” The campaign said on Thursday that it had raised more than $3 million in contributions since Monday.

But by Friday morning, the Sanders campaign found itself locked out of the Democratic National Committee’s 50-state voter file and its own proprietary voter information that it maintains on the DNC’s platform.

The DNC suspended the campaign from access after a software glitch on the system, run by the vendor NGP VAN, broke down the “firewalls” between each campaign’s information and some number of Sanders campaign tech employees breached and downloaded some of Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s data. The Sanders campaign fired its national data director on the spot and is doing an internal investigation of its staffers’ activities.

The Sanders campaign is reacting to the DNC’s incredibly punitive response as another instance of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC treating all non-Clinton presidential campaigns unfairly and generally making a mess of the primary process. This shouldn’t excuse the members of the Sanders campaign who did, in fact, screw up. The campaign should come fully clean about what proprietary Clinton campaign information they do or don’t have.

But do they have a case that Wasserman Schultz’s DNC has generally facilitated the Clinton campaign throughout the cycle? Oh God, yes, and it’s no shock that the Sanders campaign and its supporters are treating this as a declaration of war.


Bernie Sanders on politics, Clinton and guns: The Guardian Interview

Dan Roberts in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Friday 18 December 2015
Q: Thank you, senator, for sitting down with the Guardian here in New Hampshire. Your schedule is pretty gruelling – I can testify having followed you around for the last week in Iowa and Baltimore. One of the things that struck me was the energy in many of the rooms that you keep filling. Is that how you keep going?

A: That’s a very good question and the answer is absolutely. When I see large numbers of people who are excited, who want to see real change in this country, who want to participate in the political process, it really does. It physiologically changes me. As opposed to sometimes you give speeches. … They go ‘Oh no, these academic types,’ and there’s not a lot energy in the room. That has an impact. So the answer to your question is yes: I feed off the energy of the people that we talk with.

Q: One of the other things that’s noticeable in these rooms is just how many young people there are. That must be pretty daunting in some respects. You are almost like the voice of a generation here. What happens if you let them down?

A: You are absolutely right and if we had been sitting here six months ago, I would never have predicted that would happen and today I cannot tell why that is the case. This generation, the younger generation, are supposed to apathetic, they are supposed to be not interested in politics and yet they are flocking out there to our meetings. All the polls out there show us winning – and sometimes by big numbers – from people, not just young people – 45, 50 years of age and younger. In fact our problem now is getting to the older people and we’re gonna focus on that. Why that’s so, I can’t tell you, but I think there is a hunger out there on the part of an entire generation that understands that something is profoundly wrong in the country today and we have got to move in a very, very different direction. I am deeply gratified by that kind of support and trust that we are seeing from young people. And, you’re right, the fear about letting down people is something that worries me very much. But we are going to do our best to keep the faith and to fight to create a world that they will be part of and they will be proud of.



Obama Commutes Sentences of 95 Prisoners and Pardons Two

Source: NYT

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced on Friday that he had commuted the sentences of 95 federal prisoners and granted two pardons, building on his push to re-orient the nation’s criminal justice system with a year-end stroke of his pen.

The commutations are the most that Mr. Obama has done at a single time, and will more than double the number he has granted since taking office. Forty prisoners serving life sentences will be freed.

The move comes as the president is pressing for a rewrite of criminal justice laws that would reverse a decades-long trend of steep penalties for nonviolent offenses. Those penalties have swelled the nation’s prison population, disproportionately impacting African-American and Hispanic men. The vast majority of Friday’s commutations went to nonviolent drug offenders who have been imprisoned for more than a decade, behaved well in prison and would have been sentenced to fewer years under current rules.

“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Mr. Obama wrote in separate letters to each of the prisoners, which he signed one by one in the Oval Office on Thursday. “Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/19/us/politics/obama-commutes-sentences-of-95-prisoners-and-pardons-two.html?_r=0

Drunk NM Governor tries to call police off from complaints about staff party at hotel

SANTA FE (KRQE) — The Office of Governor Susana Martinez is refusing to comment on a late-night phone call made by the governor to Santa Fe police following a noise complaint involving a party for the governor’s staff held at a posh Santa Fe hotel.

Recordings of the phone call obtained by KRQE News 13 reveal a conversation between emergency dispatchers and the governor, as she tries to convince police that there’s no need for them to respond to the complaint.

No report was filed by police. A spokesman for the city of Santa Fe told KRQE News 13 that the officers who arrived on scene spoke to the governor, state police and hotel staff. After receiving “assurances” from staff and hotel security that the matter was under control.

The episode began with a phone call at 1:31 a.m. from the front desk at the four-star Eldorado. The front desk attendant told police she’d received several complaints from hotel guests about a fourth-floor room that had been “partying” and throwing bottles off the balcony. The attendant said hotel staff had warned the partiers and told them to leave and now wanted the guests to be kicked out.

more (listen to her!)

NASA's About to Have Its Biggest Budget in a Decade

If Congress passes the omnibus spending bill that it’s now considering, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will enjoy a larger budget in 2016 than it has had in at least half a decade.

NASA will be able to spend $19.3 billion next year, according to the budget, an increase of more than $1.3 billion over 2015 funding levels. That’s $700 million more than the funding requested by the White House.

“Everyone who supports space should be very pleased with this, if it passes as is,” said Casey Dreier, the director of advocacy at the Planetary Society. “This is a great budget.”

NASA did not return a request for comment.

2016 will be a busy year for the U.S. space agency. If all goes well, the geological mission InSight will land on the surface of Mars, the robotic orbiter Juno will reach Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx will launch from Earth. OSIRIS aims to eventually touch down on the surface of the asteroid Bennu, spend almost two years there, then send a capsule home to this planet with asteroid samples.


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