March for Our Lives: Youth send a message with rallies across the country

Demonstrators filled the streets of Washington, DC and cities around the country, a chorus of young voices demanding change and telling legislators “enough.”

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Makes sense? Mueller says Russian ‘agents’ organized rallies for both Hillary and Trump

FBI Robert Mueller


The mainstream media’s year-long narrative that the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russian officials continued to crumble Friday, with special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment claiming foreign agents held anti-Trump, pro-Hillary rallies in 2016.

Mueller’s court filings show 13 Russian nationals attempted to sow chaos throughout the election cycle and beyond; holding competing events for both Trump and Clinton on the same day in the same city.

“On one day, Nov. 12, 2016, the defendants organized a rally in New York to ‘show your support for President-elect Donald Trump’ while at the same time organizing a ‘Trump is NOT my president rally’ that also was held in New York,” writes CNBC.

NBC News also reports that the Russian agents held a “Support Hillary” rally in July 2016 in Washington, DC.

The bombshell revelations throw even more cold water on the liberal conspiracy theory that President Trump and his staff “colluded” with Russian officials to steal the election from Hillary Clinton; just one of many excuses commonly touted by the former Secretary of State following her stunning defeat.

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New economic protests in Iran, pro-government rallies also held

iran protest dec 2017


A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran’s weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment.

The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

Thousands already have taken to the streets of cities across Iran, beginning at first on Thursday in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims.

The protests in the Iranian capital, as well as President Donald Trump tweeting about them, raised the stakes. It also apparently forced state television to break its silence, acknowledging it hadn’t reported on them on orders from security officials.

Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos,” state TV said.

The protests appear sparked by social media posts and a surge in prices of basic food supplies, like eggs and poultry. Officials and state media made a point Saturday of saying Iranians have the right to protest and have their voices heard on social issues.

Amateur video emerged on Saturday showing large protests in the central Iranian city of Hojedk. The footage showed protesters throwing stones at security officials and chanting “down with dictator”. (Dec. 30)

However, protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanted against high-ranking government officials and made other political statements, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Hundreds of students and others joined a new economic protest at Tehran University, with riot police massing at the school’s gates as they shut down surrounding roads.

Social media videos purport to show clashes between protesters and police in several areas. At least 50 protesters have been arrested since Thursday, authorities said. State TV also said some protesters chanted the name of Iran’s one-time shah, who fled into exile just before its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many in Iran are learning about the protests and sharing images of them through Telegram, a mobile phone messaging app popular among the country’s 80 million people. Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi wrote to Telegram CEO Pavel Durov on Saturday, complaining about one chat channel was “encouraging hateful conduct, use (of) Molotov cocktails, armed uprising and social unrest.”

Durov responded by saying Telegram suspended the account.

A Telegram channel (amadnews) started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police and got suspended due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule. Be careful – there are lines one shouldn’t cross.” Durov tweeted.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency later quoted the deputy commander of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard base, Brig. Gen. Ismail Kowsari, as saying: “Peace has returned to city of Tehran and its surroundings.” He added that if inflation was the reason the protesters took to the streets they should not have destroyed property, according to the report.

Earlier Saturday, hard-liners rallied across the country to support Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others. The rallies, scheduled weeks earlier, commemorated a mass 2009 pro-government rally challenging those who rejected the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid fraud allegations.

State TV aired live the pro-government “9 Dey Epic” rallies, named for the date on the Iranian calendar the 2009 protests took place. The footage showed people waving flags and carrying banners bearing Khamenei’s image.

In Tehran, some 4,000 people gathered at the Musalla prayer ground in central Tehran for the rally. They called for criminal trials for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, leaders in the 2009 protests who have been under house arrest since 2011. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, campaigned on freeing the men, though they remain held.

Mohsen Araki, a Shiite cleric who serves in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, praised Rouhani’s efforts at improving the economy. However, he said Rouhani needed to do more to challenge “enemy pressures.”

“We must go back to the pre-nuclear deal situation,” Araki said. “The enemy has not kept with its commitments.”

Ali Ahmadi, a pro-government demonstrator, blamed the U.S for all of Iran’s economic problems.

“They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?” Ahmadi asked.

Iran’s economy has improved since the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the end of some of the international sanctions that crippled its economy. Tehran now sells its oil on the global market and has signed deals for tens of billions of dollars of Western aircraft.

That improvement has not reached the average Iranian, however. Unemployment remains high. Official inflation has crept up to 10 percent again. A recent increase in egg and poultry prices by as much as 40 percent, which a government spokesman has blamed on a cull over avian flu fears, appears to have been the spark for the economic protests.

While police have arrested some protesters, the Revolutionary Guard and its affiliates have not intervened as they have in other unauthorized demonstrations since the 2009 election. The economic protests initially just put pressure on Rouhani’s administration.

Trump tweeted out support for the protests Saturday.

“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….” he tweeted. “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”

It’s unclear what effect Trump’s support would have. Iranians already are largely skeptical of him over his refusal to re-certify the nuclear deal and Iran being included in his travel bans. Trump’s insistence in an October speech on using the term “Arabian Gulf” in place of the Persian Gulf also has also riled the Iranian public.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in June to Congress saying American is working toward “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government” has been used by Iran’s government of a sign of foreign interference in its internal politics.

The State Department issued a statement Friday supporting the protests, referencing Tillerson’s earlier comments.

“Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” the statement said.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments.

“The noble Iranian nation never pays heed to the opportunist and hypocritical mottos chanted by the U.S. officials and their interfering allegations on domestic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.

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Russia Rallies World Leaders on Syria: Is the End in Sight?

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Moscow for high level discussions. Following the meeting, Putin spoke with US President Donald Trump over the phone for nearly an hour and a half.

“We’re talking about peace in Syria, very important,” Trump said during an impromptu press conference at the White House Tuesday in regards to his talk with Putin.

“The end game is upon us,” Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, told Sputnik Radio’s Loud & Clear program. “I think Putin is conducting like a maestro, bringing in the players on cue.”.

Still, Ford said the Syria-Russia bilateral talks likely focused on improving communication, as Ford doesn’t see any “fundamental differences” in Damascus’ and Moscow’s positions regarding the end of the conflict.

Ford predicts that the Astana process led by Russia, Turkey and Iran to foster peace talks between the Syrian government and Syrian opposition will lead to a new constitution in which the rebels are given some “face-saving” concessions, such as ministerial positions, but that ultimately since the government is poised to win on the battlefield, the opposition won’t have much leverage. The new “blueprint is going to look much like the blueprint of the past,” Ford said.

Putin spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, Sputnik reported. The leaders talked about avenues for “further expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas, including contacts between security services,” the Kremlin’s press office said.

Further, “a substantive exchange of views was held on the prospects for the development of the situation in the Middle East region, primarily in the context of the final stage of the fight against international terrorism in Syria,” the press service added.

Putin’s busy day with foreign leaders entailed informing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about “Russian assessments of the latest developments in the situation in Syria” about how to eliminate remaining terrorist elements, the Kremlin’s press office said. Similar discussions were held between Putin and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman as well, the Kremlin press service added.

Riyadh has long pushed for Assad’s removal; however, if Ford is right, it does not appear any longer that that will be the outcome.

“How interesting is it that what we’re talking about here is a post-war, post-violence government, negotiations for a real government in Syria — something that’s going to include the opposition, something that’s going to come about as a result of multi-party talks. It’s going to be Syrian in nature, and yet it’s not even really covered in the US media,” said Loud & Clear host John Kiriakou, a Middle East analyst who spent 14 years as a CIA officer.

One possibility is that the US media has dropped the familiar trope that “Assad must go,” and so by just ignoring potential solutions in Syria, US outlets can avoid owning up to the mistaken prediction that Assad needed to be removed for a political solution to be achieved.

Speaking from Moscow, Mark Sleboda, international security and affairs analyst, was far more skeptical about the ongoing war. Sleboda told Loud & Clear the picture painted by Ford was excessively “triumphalist.”

“There is still probably a lot of conflict in Syria to go on. There’s no question there will be guerilla-terrorist conflict for a decade-plus to come. There are still territories of Syria that are still controlled by the Islamic State [Daesh]. All of Idlib province is still controlled literally by al-Qaeda, going under its latest rebranding HTS, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham,” Sleboda said.

And then there’s Ahrar al-Sham, an al-Qaeda splinter group, which controls territory adjacent to Idlib in north-central Syria and is supported by Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has “no intention of going anywhere anytime soon” he said, concluding, the “conflict was far from over.”

“We all hope a political settlement can be reached between US proxies that are still occupying large swaths of east Syria and the Syrian government” he said, but “what the Trump administration’s policy is… is as unclear as what Obama’s policy was for the last six years.”

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Pro-Navalny rallies held in Russian cities

Rallies in support of Kremlin critic Aleksey Navalny have been held in dozens of cities across Russia, media reports. The demonstrations were organized by Navalny, a Russian blogger and government opposition activist. Small protests took place in several cities in Russia’s Far East and Siberia, while bigger demonstrations are expected in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The rallies in St. Petersburg and in Moscow are unauthorized, the Russian Interior Ministry said earlier in a statement.

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Lawmakers oppose tighter law on rallies after latest protests

The head of the lower house Committee for Legislative Work, Pavel Krasheninnikov (United Russia) said on Tuesday that in his view any tightening of the law was excessive if it only concerned underage citizens.

The responsibility must lie with those who launch various provocations and we already have this. We should not go for excesses after each real-life incident. Laws should be universal and the underage should be left alone,” Interfax quoted the MP as saying.

He added that the unauthorized anti-corruption rallies that took place in several Russian cities on Monday should not become an excuse for changing the existing laws and also that these events looked very much like to be deliberately provocative, similar to the one that took place in Russia in January 1905, when numerous casualties were suffered by workers as police broke up a peaceful rally, eventually triggered nationwide unrest.

Krasheninnikov’s statement came in reply to an initiative voiced by upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko in late May this year. Matviyenko proposed to ban minors from participating in unlicensed protest rallies, with sanctions for non-compliance applied to the parents of these minors. Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova supported the idea.

According to police reports a quarter of about 500 people who were briefly detained during the unsanctioned Monday rally in St. Petersburg were under 18 years old. Many of the 150 people who were detained in Moscow were also minors.

The detentions started as the main organizer of protests, anti-corruption blogger-turned- political activist Aleksey Navalny, ordered his supporters to march on Tverskaya Street instead of Sakharov Avenue, another location in central Moscow where the protest rally was approved by City Hall. Moscow authorities reacted by calling the change of location a deliberate provocation intended to deceive people into attending an unauthorized gathering.

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Portland mayor calls on alt-right groups to postpone rallies as new details about stabbing attack emerge

The mayor of Portland, Ore., is calling on the federal government to help him stop what he describes as two upcoming “alt-right” demonstrations as his city continues to reel from last week’s deadly train stabbings.

“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday while urging the organizers to cancel the events scheduled for June 4 and June 10.

“My main concern is that they are coming to peddle a message of hatred and of bigotry,” Wheeler said. “They have a First Amendment right to speak, but my pushback on that is that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The American Civil Liberties Union immediately rejected that stance, saying, “The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period.”

Wheeler’s appeal came just three days after two men were killed and another was wounded while trying to intervene when a man — later identified as Jeremy Christian — began hurling epithets at two young women, including one wearing a hijab, on a light-rail train.

Joey Gibson, organizer of the June 4 rally, told CNN that the mayor “is using this as an opportunity to use these two dead people to silence us.”

Gibson acknowledged that Christian, the suspect in Friday’s slayings attended one of his rallies last month, but said that he was wielding “a bat yelling and screaming, cussing at people, using derogatory names.”

“Jeremy Christian has nothing to do with us,” Gibson said. “He hated us; he threatened me. We did everything we could to kick him out. We didn’t want him with us.”

Gibson also said that even if he agreed to cancel the rally, “hundreds” of people would still show up, “with no leadership, no voice of reason.”

Christian is due to be arraigned Tuesday on multiple felony charges, including two counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder.

Related: Portland stabbing victims hailed as heroes

Meanwhile, new details of Friday’s train attack have emerged.

In an interview with KPTV, Destinee Mangum, one of two teens who were the apparent targets of Christian’s anti-Muslim slurs, thanked the men who intervened on their behalf.

“I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me,” Mangum said. “Because they didn’t even know me, and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look.”

Mangum, 16, was riding the train with her friend, who was wearing a hijab, when Christian focused his slurs at them.

“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here — to get out of his country,” Mangum said. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”

Rick Best, a 53-year-old U.S. Army veteran and city of Portland employee, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were fatally stabbed while trying to deescalate the situation, officials said. A third stabbing victim — 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher — was transported to a Portland hospital, where he was listed in serious condition Saturday.

Christian was arrested shortly after he exited the train.

Slideshow: Fatal stabbing on Portland, Ore., train

A fellow passenger told the Oregonian that Christian began shouting racial and anti-Muslim epithets as soon as he boarded.

“He was screaming that he was a taxpayer, that colored people were ruining the city, and he had First Amendment rights,” Rachel Macy told the paper. “I didn’t want to look. I was too afraid. It felt really tense. I’m a woman of color. I didn’t want him to notice me.”

Macy said that she tried to help Namkai Meche, who was covered in blood and holding his neck.

“I’m going to die,” he said, according to Macy. “I looked at him and said, ‘We can handle this. Lay down.’”

“I just kept telling him, ‘You’re not alone. We’re here,’” she added.

As Namkai Meche was carried away on a stretcher, she said, he wanted her to relay a message: “Tell everyone on this train I love them.”

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Bailout referendum rallies gather thousands in Athens

Two rival rallies took place in Athens on Friday. Police estimate that 25,000 came out to support the ‘No’ camp, which calls for the rejection of a new bailout deal with creditors in Sunday’s referendum, while 20,000 gathered to back the “Yes” vote.

Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, who called the referendum last week to add more weight to his position in talks with creditors, addressed the “No” demonstration in front of the Greek parliament.

He urged the crowd to say a “proud No to ultimatums and those who terrorize you,” saying Sunday’s plebiscite is about “staying in Europe, and deciding to live in dignity in Europe.”

But no matter the outcome, the vote will be a “celebration of democracy,” he added.

The “No” rally was marred by brief clashes between police and protestors in a square next to Syntagma. Security forces had to use stun grenades and pepper spray to disperse a few dozen aggressive youths, who were throwing rocks and vandalizing property.

The “Yes” gathering, which was staged less than a kilometer away from the “Oxi [No]” rally, saw thousands chanting pro-EU slogans.

Friday was the last day of campaigning before the July 5 referendum to decide if Greece should accept its creditors’ demands for more austerity in return for more loans.

A poll published by To Ethnos newspaper on July 3, just two days ahead of the referendum, showed that the “Yes” and the “No” camps were running neck and neck.

Of those surveyed, 41.5 percent said they would back the bailout terms and 40.2 percent said they would reject them, while the rest remained undecided or planned to abstain from voting altogether.

If the Greeks vote ‘Yes,’ the current government is likely to resign and the people will have to accept the harsh austerity measures imposed by its Troika of creditors.

EU officials and the Greek opposition have warned that a ‘No’ vote would likely lead to Greece’s exit from the eurozone and potentially the EU, raising questions about the viability of the euro currency.

The talks between Greece and its creditors have stalled since the end of June, after the Eurogroup declined to prolong a financial aid program for Greece or delay payments on earlier debts.

Smaller demonstrations involving hundreds of people expressing solidarity with Greece’s ‘No’ camp took place in other cities across the EU, including in Rome, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and Warsaw.


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