Reader’s Links, December 28, 2018

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Thank you all for those that take the effort to assist this site in keeping the public informed. Below, typically people can find the latest enemy propaganda, news items of related materials from multiple countries and languages, op-eds from many excellent sites who write on our topics, geopolitics and immigration issues and so on.

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

126 Replies to “Reader’s Links, December 28, 2018”

  1. Ebola BREAKOUT: 24 patients flee treatment centre sparking emergency search

    AN URGENT search is under way for 24 patients who have fled an Ebola centre as it came under attack.

    The patients, some of whom had not yet been tested, broke out of the treatment centre in the Congolese city of Beni.

    Officials have tracked three of them, but the rest remain at large, sparking a fear of the deadly disease spreading.

    The attack was orchestrated by demonstrators angry at being excluded from voting in the weekend’s election.

    Beni and its surrounding area has had voting cancelled by the government due to the ebola outbreak and militia violence.

    • Take it outside if you want to call me sir again!’ Furious transgender woman rages at store clerk after he calls her ‘sir’ instead of ‘ma’am’

      Isn’t evolution wonderful? We’ve gone from bull dyke to bull scheit. What progress!

  2. Tunisian police, protesters clash again over unemployment

    Protesters clashed with police for a third consecutive night in Tunisia after a journalist set himself on fire and died this week to denounce the economic problems engulfing the North African nation.

    National Guard spokesman Housameddine Jebabli said Thursday that protests took place in six different towns including Kasserine, in west central Tunisia, where journalist Abderrazak Zorgui set himself ablaze this week.

    Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiane Zaag said 14 people were arrested overnight, in addition to the 18 arrests announced Wednesday.

    Protests started after Zorgui posted a video online before his self-immolation describing his desperation and calling for revolt. He expressed frustration at the country’s high unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia’s 2011 Arab Spring revolution.

  3. New Knowledge Brags About Avoiding Media, Affecting Vote in Leaked Internal Doc (sputniknews, Dec 28, 2018)

    “The internal report from the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving. Friday’s offering? A leaked internal document revealing how the company bragged about evading detection despite its operations’ “impact” on “voting outcomes.”

    The New York Times first revealed the company’s efforts to sway a special Senate election in Alabama in 2017 with a black ops disinformation campaign involving messaging aimed at splitting the Republican vote and a self-professed “false flag” operation involving Twitter accounts designed to give the appearance of being Russian bots following the Republican candidate Roy Moore en masse.

    That was just the beginning, though. What has followed since is a slow drip of near-daily updates, beginning with the revelation that one of the actors behind the influence operation, New Knowledge CEO Jonathon Morgan, also helped create the discredited “Hamilton 68 Dashboard,” blamed “Russian trolls” for meddling in the Alabama race — which he was actively meddling in — and was then banned from Facebook for, you guessed it, meddling.

    Journalist Dan Cohen exposed how New Knowledge “sometimes mistakes real people who post anti-imperialist arguments about US foreign policy for Kremlin trolls.” Then, reporter Aaron Mate revealed that the Russian meddling report that New Knowledge delivered to the US Senate last week was no “bombshell,” as the media had made it out to be, but in fact revealed a “small, amateurish” campaign by Russian LLC the Internet Research Agency, which is accused by US special counsel Robert Mueller of using social media to influence the 2016 presidential election. (Mueller, of course, is investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to affect the election.) New Knowledge also claims to have modeled its Alabama project on IRA tactics.

    “This whole thing is a set-up. It’s a frame-up,” Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear host Brian Becker said. “It’s a covert operation. It wasn’t an experiment to imitate Russian tactics — these were their tactics.”

    On Thursday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall reportedly worried that the Alabama “operation could have affected the closely fought Senate race” and announced an investigation into the campaign.

    These revelations — among others — illuminate the efforts of a shady cabal of former Obama administration acolytes and national security state apparatchiks-turned-cyber capitalists to weaponize social media tactics cynically blamed on Russia against the American electorate, both through election interference and corporate counter-insurgency in the realm of social media.

    On Friday, BuzzFeed News reported that it had obtained a copy of the internal New Knowledge report that has served as the fountainhead of revelations about the cyber firm, but declined to publish it, arguing that their source told them “the report’s claims about its influence are overblown.”

    BuzzFeed did reveal, however, that New York Times reporter Scott Shane, one of the two authors of the original report on New Knowledge, spoke at an event in September alongside participants in the Alabama operation.

    The meeting “was held by American Engagement Technologies (AET), and this is according to the event agenda, which BuzzFeed actually has a copy of — and that’s run by Mikey Dickerson, who served in the Obama administration,” Loud & Clear producer Nicole Roussell said. “So again, this entire event is a Democratic Party thing. We know that the people from New Knowledge have worked with, have advised, have given strategy advice to members of the Democratic Party.”

    American Engagement Technologies is the name of the company that funneled money to New Knowledge for the Alabama operation, AET funder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman admitted earlier this week.

    The Times, in its headline, referred to the project as an “experiment,” but that word is not found inside a leaked version of the internal report. On three other occasions, the Times downplayed the effectiveness of the campaign through an assertion, a quote from an “expert” and comments from Morgan.

    “Our sustained targeting of these likely voters had enormous effect on [Republican] turnout in these counties. The [Republican] depression in these countries was measurably higher compared to the rest of the State,” a portion of the document reads.

    “In total, we manufactured approximately 45k Twitter followers, 350k Retweets, 370k Tweet Favorites, 6k Facebook Comments, 10k Facebook reactions, 300k Imgur upvotes and 10k Reddit upvotes forcing targeted communities to interact with our narrative,” it adds. New Knowledge’s budget for the project was around $100,000.

    Prior to the surfacing of allegations that Roy Moore had sexually assaulted minors, New Knowledge “provided major news outlets with 4 million social signals (web traffic, clicks, comments, shares) indicating that anti-Moore articles were popular, which generated artificial ad-revenue for those publications and influenced their internal metrics.”

    Presumably, the goal of such an effort was to financially incentivize negative news coverage of Moore.

    “In spite of our impact in the press and in voting outcomes, not a single story about our activities appeared in any press outlet,” the report boasts.”

  4. USA – Dramatic video shows electrical explosions in La.

    (28 Dec 2018) A video shared to social media shows the dramatic moment of multiple electrical explosions in Kenner, Louisiana. (Dec. 28)

  5. Google Erases Map of Kurdistan After Turkey Complains of ‘Terrorist Propaganda’ (breitbart, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Kurdish news agencies report on Friday that a map of greater Kurdistan – featuring territory belonging to Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria – no longer appears on Google Earth, replaced by a message stating that the map violated “our Terms of Service and/or policies.”

    The map, which appeared to be user-generated and not a recognition of a sovereign state of “Kurdistan,” became the focal point of controversy this week after several Turkish lawmakers complained that the map was “at the service of terrorist organizations” by recognizing the existence of a territory where ethnic Kurds are the majority…”

  6. Yemeni Forces Fire 2 Zilzal-1 Missiles on Saudi Positions in Asir (+Video) (tasnimnews, Dec 28, 2018)

    “The missile units of the Yemeni army on Thursday targeted gathering positions of Saudi- backed forces with two missiles in Asir border province.

    According to a Yemeni military official the Zilzal-1 missiles hit the positions of Saudi-backed forces off Aleeb crossing and led to killing and injuring of dozens of the militias, Saba News reported.

    Meanwhile videos released by Yemeni war media shows the Ansarullah Houthi forces advancing toward Saudi- backed forces in Abwab Al-Hadid area in Asir province.

    The army and popular forces ground and missile attacks have forced the Saudi-backed troops to retreat from multiple regions in Asir border province.

    Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for more than three-and-a-half years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far…”

  7. Withdrawal from Syria Sign of US Defeat in Region: Iranian Cleric (tasnimnews, Dec 28, 2018)

    ““Despite all the sidelines and what happens behind the scenes, there is no doubt that this (withdrawal from Syria) is a failure of the US in the region,” Khatami said, addressing a gathering of worshipers in Tehran on Friday.

    They have also accepted their defeat, the cleric said, adding that the resignation of US Defense Secretary (Jim Mattis) proves this.

    Those who used to call on Bashar al-Assad to step down, now, clearly state that they have retreated from this position, he noted…”

  8. Asia’s Iran Crude Imports Hit Lowest Level as Nov. Sanctions Took Effect (aawsat, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Iranian crude oil imports by major buyers in Asia dropped to their lowest level in more than five years as November US sanctions on Iran’s oil exports took effect in November, according to government and ship-tracking data.

    China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported about 664,800 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the data, down 12.7 percent from the same month a year earlier, Reuters reported.

    South Korea cut imports to zero for a third month in November while Japan followed suit. India’s November imports are down about 40 percent from October, the data showed.

    Asia’s Iranian oil imports are set to rise from December after the United States granted eight countries waivers from sanctions against Iran’s oil exports for 180 days.

    China’s Iranian oil imports rebounded to close to 390,000 bpd in November, up from about 247,000 bpd in October, the lowest in more than five years.

    According to Reuters, Sinopec, Tehran’s biggest crude buyer, resumed Iran oil imports shortly after China received its waiver in November while China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) will restart lifting its own Iranian oil production in December.

    India is expected to restrict its monthly purchases of Iranian oil to 1.25 million tonnes, or 9 million barrels, during the waiver period from November.”

  9. Bahrain: Court Revokes Nationality of 9 Members of ’14th February’ Organization (aawsat, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted 14 Bahrainis of the 14th of February organization on charges of establishing, joining and funding a terrorist group.

    The court sentence included revoking the nationality of nine convicts and issued a BD100,000 fine for one of the members.

    The court issued a life in jail sentence against one defendant, seven years to nine others, and three years in jail against three convicts, according to Chief of the Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate General Chancellor Ahmed al-Hammadi.

    The defendants were accused of carrying terrorist assaults, unlicensed demonstrations, rioting, and handling of explosive devices.

    The case file explained that the 14th of February, listed as a terrorist organization, had fugitive elements abroad that recruited two defendants and tasked them to form a terrorist cell affiliated with the organization. They were also asked to carry out acts of riot, vandalism, arson, plant fake explosive devices on public roadside, and target Sitra Police Station.

    They also staged unlicensed demonstrations in Sitra, while the leaders of the terrorist organization living abroad financed those activities.

    The first defendant was in charge of leading illegal demonstrations. He received financial support to implement the terrorist cell activities. He also filmed the terrorist attacks on Sitra Police Station and police personnel.

    The second defendant led the field operations of attacking the policemen and Sitra Police Station, aiming to kill the policemen, damage private and public property and terrify the people.

    The Prosecution presented witness testimonies, defendant confessions, technical evidences and referred the defendants to the High Criminal Court which deliberated the case during its sessions in the presence of defense attorneys who submitted their arguments.”

  10. Iraq discovers Daesh missile manufacturing plant in Anbar (memo, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Iraqi officials have discovered a missile manufacturing plant in the Anbar province which they believe belonged to Daesh, an official statement said.

    Thirteen missiles, 13 oxygen pipes and two 225 litre barrels of C-4 explosives were found in the plant in the town of Al-Qa’im, the Directorate of General Military Intelligence said.

    All the items were taken and later destroyed by specialised government engineers…”

  11. Saudi women step on face veils in social media protest (memo, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Saudi women are stepping on the face veils some are made to wear in the conservative kingdom and posting it on social media with the hashtag “the niqab under my foot“.

    The campaign marks the latest protest against strict dress codes for women in Saudi Arabia, who are required to wear abayas – loose, all-covering robes – in public and in most of the country to cover their hair and faces.

    Women took to Twitter with stories of being forced to wear the face veil, using the hashtag. Some posted photos of them stepping on the garment in protest.

    “When I decided to take off my niqab my mother’s reaction was to tell me that she would never forgive me,” said one.

    “I stood by my decision and endured months of emotional-blackmail and verbal abuse on her part. It wasn’t a choice for me and it isn’t for many girls in my country.”

    The campaign attracted criticism, with some saying it was disrespectful to women who chose to wear the niqab.

    “You don’t want to wear it that’s your choice but you should also respect those who wear it. Your hashtag in Arabic (i. e. The Niqab is under my foot) is very disrespectful to those who wear it by their will as religious devotion,” tweeted one.

    It is not the first time Saudi women have protested on social media against religious dress. Last month women wore their abayas inside out in protest.

    Saudi Arabia has no written legal code to go with the texts making up sharia – the Islamic law that effectively governs the kingdom – but police and judiciary have long enforced a strict dress code.

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in March that women only needed to dress modestly and were not required to wear abayas. But Saudi women say that in practice nothing has changed, and demanded more freedom.

    Saudi women have started wearing more colorful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black. Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.”

  12. France admits military presence in northern Syria (memo, Dec 28, 2018)

    “The French General Staff Office confirmed on Friday that French ground forces have served in northern Syria, Anadolu Agency reports.

    The office responded to Anadolu Agency’s questions on whether France has its land forces in northern Syria and how it supports YPG/PKK.

    The statement revealed that the French Army has been fighting Daesh terrorists since 2014 through a series of military operations from land, air and sea.

    Some 1,100 French soldiers have been serving in the Middle East, the military said.

    Anadolu Agency reported previously that since March 30, the French Army has expanded its military action spots from five to nine in Syria.

    According to reliable local sources, roughly 200 French soldiers have coordinated with YPG/PKK terrorists. But France had previously denied military presence in northern Syria.

    The statement also reaffirmed that the US withdrawal from Syria will not affect its ongoing military operation called “Chammal” in Syria.”

  13. Saudis in orbit: Riyadh sets up national space agency alaraby, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Saudi Arabia’s king has ordered the creation of a national space agency in a wide-ranging series of royal decrees that overhauled many of the kingdom’s top government posts.

    King Salman on Thursday appointed his eldest son, Prince Sultan bin Salman, to head the freshly commissioned Saudi Space Agency, the official SPA news agency reported.

    Prince Sultan, who became the first Arab and Muslim astronaut to fly in space in 1985, was removed as head of the tourism authority for the new role.

    The move was part of a sweeping government reshuffle that saw the foreign minister effectively demoted to minister of state for foreign affairs.

    Pro-government news website Sabq published an article on Thursday, laying out the objectives of the agency.

    “The new body will establish the kingdom as a centre of excellence in the field of satellite communications and promote this service to the region,” the report said.

    “It will pursue investment in the emerging space industry… to stimulate and diversify the economy,” it added.

    Saudi Arabia this month launched two reconnaissance satellites into orbit, using launch pads in China.

    Riyadh is the latest Arab country to establish its own space authority, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria already having their own agencies.”

    • Saudi Arabia’s king has ordered the creation of a national space agency in a wide-ranging series of royal decrees that overhauled many of the kingdom’s top government posts.

      More shuffling than a professional bridge tournament!

  14. Exclusive: U.S. commanders recommend letting Kurdish fighters in Syria keep weapons (reuters, Dec 28, 2018)

    “U.S. commanders planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria are recommending that Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State be allowed to keep U.S.-supplied weapons, four U.S. officials said, a move that would likely anger NATO ally Turkey.

    Three of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the recommendations were part of discussions on a draft plan by the U.S. military. It is unclear what the Pentagon will ultimately recommend to the White House.

    Discussions are still at an early stage inside the Pentagon and no decision has yet been made, the officials said. The plan will then be presented to the White House in the coming days with U.S. President Donald Trump making the final decision.

    The Pentagon said it would be “inappropriate” and premature to comment on what will happen with the weapons.

    “Planning is ongoing, and focused on executing a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety,” said Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman.The White House did not comment.

    Trump last week abruptly ordered a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, drawing widespread criticism and prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation.

    The U.S. officials said Trump’s announcement has upset U.S. commanders, who view his decision as a betrayal of the Kurdish YPG militia, which has led the fight to eradicate Islamic State from northeastern Syria.

    Ankara views the YPG as an extension of a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey. Turkey has threatened to launch an offensive against the YPG, raising fears of a surge in violence that could harm hundreds of thousands of civilians.

    The United States told the YPG that they would be armed by Washington until the fight against Islamic State was completed, one of the U.S. officials said.

    “The fight isn’t over. We can’t simply start asking for the weapons back,” said the official.

    The proposal to leave U.S.-supplied weapons with the YPG, which could include anti-tank missiles, armored vehicles and mortars, would reassure Kurdish allies that they were not being abandoned.

    But Turkey wants the United States to take the weapons back, so the commanders’ recommendation, if confirmed, could complicate Trump’s plan to allow Turkey to finish off the fight against Islamic State inside Syria.

    The Pentagon keeps records of the weapons it has supplied to the YPG and their chain of custody. But, the U.S. officials said, it would be nearly impossible to locate all of the equipment.

    “How are we going to get them back and who is going to take them back?” one of the officials asked.

    The debate over whether to leave weapons with the YPG coincides with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton’s visit to Turkey and Israel next week for talks on Syria.

    In May 2017, the United States started distributing arms and equipment to the YPG for an offensive against Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-declared caliphate that Islamic State overran in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

    The United States told Turkey that it would take back the weapons after the defeat of Islamic State, which has lost all but a few slivers of territory in northeastern Syria.

    “The idea that we’d be able to recover them is asinine. So we leave them where they are,” said a U.S. official.

    A person familiar with the discussions of the U.S. withdrawal plan said the White House and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would oppose the proposal to allow the YPG to keep its U.S.-supplied weapons.

    The recommendation “is a rejection of Trump’s policy to withdraw from Syria,” said the person, who asked not to be further identified.

    Turkey has said weapons supplied to the YPG have in the past ended up in the hands of its Kurdish separatists, and described any weapon given to the insurgents as a threat to Turkey’s security.

    A phone call between Trump and Erdogan led to the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria…”

  15. Triple Talaq speech goes viral (gulfnews, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Indian politician Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), has voiced his dissent on the Triple Talaq bill passed on Thursday in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament.

    Owaisi said that the proposed legislation is prone to misuse. He also alleged that the Triple Talaq bill will bring “Muslim women to the roads, ruin them and weaken them; it will also put Muslim men in jails.”

    (Triple Talaq bill will bring) ‘Muslim women to the roads, ruin them and weaken them; it will also put Muslim men in jails.
    – Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen
    The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Triple Talaq bill — which makes the practice a criminal offence with a provision of three-year jail term for the husband.

    If the bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha it will become a law.

    In a video that went viral on Twitter, Owaisi was heard questioning the reason behind the government criminalising triple talaq — while supporting decriminalisation of homosexuality and adultery law.

    Highlighting the protests over the recent Sabarimala verdict, he said: “Your faith is faith, but my faith is not faith? Is this not violation of culture? Is this not violation of Article 29 of Constitution (cultural and educational rights, protection of interests of minorities)? The intention of the government is not clean.”

    Many applauded Owaisi for his speech, and for questioning the double standards of the current Indian government.

    He said that if the government is so concerned about women, “they must put food on their table and provide them shelter”.

    Referring to embattled minister MJ Akbar over the #MeToo allegations against him, Owaisi said, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should have expelled him. Instead, it gave him a place in the party. Now, the party is suddenly “worried” about Muslim women.

    The new legislation has a provision for bail and mandates that an FIR should be filed only by the aggrieved woman or a blood relative.

    The case can be withdrawn if the man and his estranged wife reach a compromise.

    On Thursday, calling the Triple Talaq Bill passed by the Lok Sabha as “arbitrary, excessive, and violative of fundamental rights”, rights activists and organisations appealed to Rajya Sabha members to “withdraw the Bill and significantly redraft” it in the interest of Muslim women.

    Last year, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law that allowed Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering “talaq” three times in quick succession.”

  16. Turkey hails Pakistan move on FETÖ schools (hurriyetdailynews, Dec 28, 2018)

    “Turkey has welcomed a ruling by Pakistan’s top court to designate FETÖ a “terrorist group,” saying it should set a precedent for other countries.

    In a statement on Dec. 28, the Turkish Foreign Ministry appreciated the Pakistani Supreme Court’s ruling of handing over the FETÖ-linked schools to Turkiye Maarif Foundation.

    “The decision, which we consider as the manifestation of mutual cooperation based on strong bonds between Turkey and Pakistan, should set a precedent for all countries,” the ministry added.

    Earlier on Dec. 28, the Pakistani court ordered the government to declare the FETÖ a terror group and to ban its affiliated schools in the country.

    On Dec. 13, a local lawyer Sohail Sajid had filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court and requested to declare the group a terrorist outfit in the country.

    The court directed the Interior Ministry to declare FETÖ-linked Pak-Turk International Ça? Education Foundation (PTICEF) a “proscribed organization” and include its name in the list of terrorist outfit.

    “Today is historic day as our country’s top country has declared FETÖ as a terror outfit, which staged the defeated coup in our brotherly country.

    Turkey in July 2016,” Sajid, the petitioner, told Anadolu Agency.

    Asset seizure

    The court also directed the country’s financial institutions to immediately freeze the bank accounts of FETÖ-linked foundation and give custody of the such assets to Turkiye Maarif Foundation.

    A bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, ordered the hand over FETÖ’s “all the movable and immovable assets.”

    Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETÖ. The foundation also establishes schools and education centers abroad.

    Currently 28 schools are running under the FETÖ-linked organization in Pakistan.

    FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen are accused of orchestrating the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

    Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.”

  17. Turkey: record high tourism, 37 mn visitors in 11 months (ansamed, Dec 28, 2018)

    “ISTANBUL – After a bad period inked to security problems, terrorist attacks and the 2016 attempted coup, Turkey has this year got back on its feet and seen a record-breaking year for tourism.

    Over 37.5 million foreigners visited the country in the first 11 months of 2018, a 22.2% increase on an annual basis, according to figures announced on Friday by the tourism ministry.

    The figure is likely to rise with the New Year’s Eve festivities, especially given the depreciation of the Turkish lira. Russians account for the lion’s share of the visitors with almost 5.9 million, a clear sign of ever closer relations between the two countries.

    Following were the Germans with 4.3 million and the Brits with 2.2 million. Over 260,000 Italians visited Turkey in the first 11 months of the year.

    In top place for prime destination was the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya followed closely by Istanbul with 12.3 million visitors.”

  18. Germany to curb mosque funding from Gulf states (DW, Dec 28, 2018)

    “The German government has started to request that those countries register any funding they may provide to mosques in Germany, a report says. The move aims to discourage radicalization in German mosques.

    The German Foreign Ministry wants Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and other Gulf states to register any donations or state subsidies intended for mosques in Germany.

    According to daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and German broadcasters WDR and NDR, the government has involved both the domestic and foreign intelligence services to monitor who sends the money and who receives it.

    The Gulf states are also required to alert German authorities if a religious group from Germany seeks support or advice in their country.

    The new practice, which the report says has already been in place since the spring, follows on from Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s comments at Germany’s Islam conference in November, where he pledged to reduce “foreign influence” on Germany’s mosques.

    The report says that cooperation with Kuwait, in particular, on this issue is already bearing fruit. Other states are apparently more hesitant…”

  19. House GOP quietly ends probe into FBI’s 2016 decisions

    WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans say more investigation is needed into decisions made by the FBI and the Justice Department in 2016 as they brought an unceremonious end to their yearlong look at the department’s handling of probes into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

    In a letter released Friday evening, less than a week before Republicans cede the House majority to Democrats, the chairmen of two House committees described what they said was the “seemingly disparate treatment” the two probes received during the presidential election in 2016 and called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate further.

    House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte and Rep. Trey Gowdy, House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, both of whom are retiring next week, sent a letter to the Justice Department and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying they reviewed thousands of documents and conducted interviews that “revealed troubling facts which exacerbated our initial questions and concerns.” Republicans have said since the election that they believe Justice officials were biased against President Trump when they started an investigation into his ties to Russia and cleared Clinton in a separate probe into her email use.

    The wrapping up of the congressional investigation, done in a letter and without a full final report, was a quiet end to a probe that was conducted mostly behind closed doors but also in public as Republican lawmakers often criticized interview subjects afterward and suggested they were conspiring against Trump.

    The investigation’s most public day was a 10-hour open hearing in July in which former FBI special agent Peter Strzok defended anti-Trump texts he sent to a colleague as he helped lead both investigations. Strzok fought with Republican lawmakers in a riveting spectacle that featured Strzok reading aloud from his sometimes-lewd texts, and Democrats and Republicans openly yelling at each other.

    Goodlatte and Gowdy laid out several concerns in the letter, many of them echoing a report issued this year by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog. That report concluded that Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages cast a cloud on the agency’s handling of the probe and also that fired FBI Director James Comey repeatedly broke from protocol, including when he announced his recommendation against charging Clinton. But unlike the congressional investigation, the report also found there was no evidence that Comey’s or the department’s final conclusions were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.

    Democrats have blasted the GOP-led congressional probe, saying it was merely meant as a distraction from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the oversight panel, are expected to end the investigation when they take power in January. Nadler has called it “nonsense.”

    California Rep. Adam Schiff, who does not sit on either panel but is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, tweeted Friday evening that the Republican investigation is ending “not with a bang, but with a Friday, buried-in-the-holidays whimper, and one foot out the door.”

    The Republicans have insisted that they were not trying to undermine the Mueller probe.

    “Contrary to Democrat and media claims, there has been no effort to discredit the work of the special counsel,” Goodlatte and Gowdy wrote in the letter. “Quite the opposite, whatever product is produced by the special counsel must be trusted by Americans and that requires asking tough but fair questions about investigative techniques both employed and not employed.”

    Republicans have repeatedly asked for a special counsel to look into the 2016 questions, but former Attorney General Jeff Sessions never granted their request. The department is now led by Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who also received a copy of the letter.

    Goodlatte and Gowdy have also asked for the Justice Department release transcripts from their investigation. The committees sent the transcripts to the department last week so they could be reviewed for any classified information, but they have not been released.

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