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Why It Is The Rebels Who Have Been Undermining The Ceasefire Around Aleppo

The real situation in Aleppo is misunderstood and misreported.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the great problems in understanding the course of the Syrian war is that it is so completely misreported, the battle in and around Aleppo being a case in point.

The real situation in Aleppo is not of a threatened government attack on a city under rebel control.

It is of repeated attempts by the rebels to capture a city that is overwhelmingly loyal to the government and of a long and bitter siege of that city when those attempts have been unsuccessful.

As for the latest fighting, reports show that in recent weeks it is not the government that has been on the offensive in and around the city. It has been the rebels as they have sought to reverse the government’s recent gains.

Before the war Aleppo was Syria’s biggest city and its largest commercial centre. Though a predominantly Sunni city it initially held aloof from the protests which began in Syria in 2011. Those tended to be centred on in urban centres further south such as Hama and Homs. Media reports from Aleppo at the time of the protests confirmed that the people of the city tended to support the government, as did the people of Damascus, Syria’s capital, further south.

Aleppo was however the focus of a major rebel offensive in 2012, which did succeed in capturing a district in the east of the city.

Western media reports sometimes speak of “rebel-held eastern Aleppo”, which they contrast with “regime-held western Aleppo” conveying the impression of a city evenly divided into government and rebel controlled areas.

This is a misrepresentation. The area of the city under rebel control consists of roughly 25% of its territory and 300,000 of its people out of a total population of roughly 2 million. It is a district of the city not half of it.

Despite the fact that only a part of the city is under rebel control in recent months the trend in Western media reporting has taken the level of misreporting a step further by referring to the rebel held district of eastern Aleppo as simply “Aleppo” giving the completely wrong impression that the whole city is under rebel control and that it supports the rebels.

This in turn has made it easy to misrepresent the fighting in and around the city as a government attack on the city whereas in reality it is the government which is defending it.

There is also constant misrepresentation of who the rebels in Aleppo actually are. They are consistently misrepresented as “moderate rebels” supposedly opposed to both the Syrian government and the Islamic State/Daesh. This despite the fact that reports from the city show the rebel fighters in the city are overwhelmingly jihadi Islamists affiliated to terrorist organisations such as Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch) and the Islamic State/Daesh.

All of this leads to the nature of the fighting in and around the city being completely misunderstood.

Within the city itself the front lines are essentially static and they have basically been so since the end of the rebel offensive in 2012.

Both sides routinely shell and bomb each other. Whilst the focus in media reporting has been on the bombing of the rebel-held quarter carried out by the government there has been little reporting of the constant shelling of the government controlled areas of the city by the rebels even though it is at least as indiscriminate.

The most important fighting however has not been happening in the city but in surrounding countryside where support for the rebels is stronger than it is in the city itself.
What is called the battle of Aleppo is essentially the story of a siege as the rebels over the course of the previous three years have sought to cut the city’s communications with the other government controlled areas of the country.

By the late summer of 2015 this process was essentially complete with all the main roads linking Aleppo to the rest of the country cut by the rebels and the government obliged to ferry supplies into the city by air.

The rebels also managed to gain control of Aleppo’s thermal power plant which enabled them to cut the city off from most of its electricity supply. Repeated negotiations to persuade the rebels to restart the electricity supply were unsuccessful despite the fact that this caused severe hardship to the civilian population of the city whilst being of limited military use.

What has changed in Aleppo over the last few weeks is that the siege has been broken though not yet fully lifted.

A combination of Russian air support and Russian arms supplies have enabled the government to reopen one of the main roads to the city and to recapture the thermal power plant. Supplies to the city can therefore once more be sent by road whilst the electricity supply to the city has been partially restored.

This is not the complete lifting of the siege. The rebels remain entrenched in the district of eastern Aleppo which they continue to control. Other roads into the city remain cut. Shelling still continues.

The rebels have also made repeated attempts to reverse the government’s recent gains. The largest rebel group in the area appears to be Jabhat Al-Nusra – Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate – which is not part of the cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by the Americans and Russians. It sought to capitalise on the cessation of hostilities agreement and the partial Russian withdrawal by launching its own counter-offensive. Whilst this has since been repulsed the danger from this group and from other rebel factions remains.

Recent western media reports that the ceasefire around Aleppo was on the brink of collapse were true. However, as has been consistently the case since the start of the conflict, they have been placing all the blame on the wrong party. It was the rebels who broke the ceasefire agreement by launching an offensive not the government.

The government for the moment is not seeking to storm the eastern district of Aleppo held by the rebels. Its priority is to secure its gains by consolidating its control of the area around the road it has recaptured and by gradually reopening more of the roads into the city. Only once the siege is fully and completely lifted will the government be in a position to take the offensive to recapture the part of the city under rebel control.

It is the rebels who have been undermining the ceasefire through the various offensives they have launched to try to reverse the government’s gains.

What is now happening is that the failure of those offensives is causing the rebels and their backers to reverse their position on the ceasefire. Since the failure of their offensives has left them in a weaker position than they were in before the offensives began they have now suddenly discovered the advantage of a ceasefire they had previously violated.

This is the background to the renewed ceasefire that is being declared in Aleppo.

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Denmark As A Model For American Socialists?

In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high.

The Duran

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Authored by Lars Hedegard via The Gatestone Institute:


Here are some facts to consider before American “democratic socialists” look to Denmark for guidance, as Senator Bernie Sanders did during the 2016 presidential campaign.

First of all, Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy enough to work, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.

The willingness of all the Danes to pay high taxes is predicated on the country’s high degree of homogeneity and level of citizens’ trust in each other, what sociologists call “social capital.” By and large, Danes do not mind paying into the welfare state because they know that the money will go to other Danes like themselves, who share their values and because they can easily imagine themselves to be in need of help — as most of them, from time to time, will be.

Whenever politicians propose tax cuts, they are met with vehement opposition: So, you want to cut taxes? What part of the welfare state are you willing to amputate? And that ends the debate.

Danes, in contrast to American socialists gaining ground in the Democratic Party, are increasingly aware that the welfare state cannot be sustained in conditions of open immigration. A political party agitating for “no borders” could never win a Danish election. Danes do not suffer from historical guilt: they have not attacked any other country for more than two centuries and have never committed a genocide.

Moreover, there is an even deeper truth to ponder: Denmark is not really socialist but constitutes a sui generis fusion of free-market capitalism and some socialist elements. Denmark has no minimum wage mandated by law. Wages, benefits and working conditions are determined through negotiations between employers and trade unions. 67% of Danish wage-earners are members of a union, compared to 19% in Germany and 8% in France. Strikes and lockouts are common, and the government will usually stay out of labor conflicts unless the parties are unable to agree.

It is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. To alleviate the pain, the state has in place a number of arrangements such as generous unemployment benefits and programs to retrain and upgrade redundant workers.

Danish companies must make ends meet or perish. They generally will not get handouts from the government.

Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is number 12, ahead of the United States (number 18). Venezuela is at the bottom, one place ahead of number 180, North Korea.

Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark’s respected pro-free-market think tank CEPOS, comments:

“Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by protecting property rights, by low corruption, relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark’s relatively high affluence.”
Trish Regan recently claimed on Fox Business that Danes pay a “federal tax rate” of 56% on their income. This is misleading. The 55.8% is the levied on the marginaltax for the top income bracket, only on the part of their income above DKK 498,900 ($76,500). Any income under DKK 498,900 is taxed at lower rates. And the 55.8% marginal rate does not represent a “federal” or “national” rate. It represents the total of all taxes on income: national tax, regional tax, municipal tax and labor market tax. It does not, however, include Denmark’s 25% value-added tax (VAT), paid on all purchases.

Regan also claimed that Danes pay a 180% tax on cars. While it is true that there was once a maximum tax of 180% on care in Denmark, the vehicle tax rates have been lowered in recent years. Today, the first DKK 185,100 ($28,400) of the price of a gas- or diesel-powered car is taxed at 85%, and if the car’s price is above DKK 185,100, the remaining amount is taxed at 150% — which is of course bad enough.

Denmark’s total tax burden amounts to 45.9% of GDP, the highest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As pointed out in the Fox Business segment, all education for Danes is tuition-free, all the way through to a Ph.D. Not only that; the state will, within certain time constraints, pay students to study. For students at university level no longer living with their parents, the monthly cash grant comes to almost $1,000 per month. No fewer than 325,000 students out of a total population of 5.6 million benefit from this generous arrangement setting the state back to the tune of DKK 20.9 billion or 1% of GDP (latest 2018 figures just in and supplied by Mads Lundby Hansen). Denmark even pays student support to 20,000 foreign students.

Attempts by fiscal conservatives to cut down on payments to students have been successfully resisted by the vociferous and influential student organizations; at present it would appear impossible to muster anything like a parliamentary majority to limit the student handouts.

Fox Business is right that a great many Danes are on public transfer payments. Government figures from 2017 indicate that 712,300 Danes of working age (16-64) — not including recipients of student benefits — get public financial support. But Regan’s claim that most Danes do not work is ludicrous. According to Statistics Denmark, 69.9% of Danes aged 16-64 are active in the labor market.

How can Denmark pay for its comprehensive welfare state, which includes free medical care regardless of the severity of your condition? Regan claims that Denmark is “heavily in debt.” Not so. As it turns out, Denmark is among the least indebted countries in the world, even when compared to other Western countries. The Danish government’s gross debt stands at 35.9% of GDP. Compare that to, e.g., The United Kingdom (86.3 %), The United States (108%), Belgium (101%), Canada (86.6%), France (96.3%), Germany (59.8%), The Netherlands (53.5%), Italy (129.7%), Spain (96.7%) and even Switzerland (41.9%).

Comparing Denmark to the US, Madsen notes that the latter has a problem with fiscal sustainability that may necessitate tax increases. Denmark enjoys what he labels fiscal “oversustainability” (“overholdbarhed”).

At a time when socialism appears to be popular among certain sections of the American population, its proponents would do well not to cite Denmark as a model. The Danish fusion of free-market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state has worked because Denmark is a small country with a very homogeneous population. This economic and social model rests on more than 150 years of political, social and economic compromises between peasants and landowners, business-owners and workers, and right- and left-leaning political parties. This has led to a measure of social and political stability that would be hard to emulate in much larger and more diverse counties such as the United States.


Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Speech Society, is based in Denmark.

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Ron Paul: Protectionism Abroad and Socialism at Home

One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians.

Ron Paul

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Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians. For example, government interference in health care increased health care costs, making it difficult or even impossible for many to obtain affordable, quality care. The effects of these prior interventions were used to justify Obamacare.

Now, the failures of Obamacare are being used to justify further government intervention in health care. This does not just include the renewed push for socialized medicine. It also includes supporting new laws mandating price transparency. The lack of transparency in health care pricing is a direct result of government policies encouraging overreliance on third-party payers.

This phenomenon is also observed in foreign policy. American military interventions result in blowback that is used to justify more military intervention. The result is an ever-expanding warfare state and curtailments on our liberty in the name of security.

Another example of this is related to the reaction to President Trump’s tariffs. Many of America’s leading trading partners have imposed “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods. Many of these tariffs target agriculture exports. These tariffs could be devastating for American farmers, since exports compose as much as 20 percent of the average farmer’s income.

President Trump has responded to the hardships imposed on farmers by these retaliatory tariffs with a 12 billion dollars farm bailout program. The program has three elements: direct payments to farmers, use of federal funds to buy surplus crops and distribute them to food banks and nutrition programs, and a new federal effort to promote American agriculture overseas.

This program will not fix the problems caused by Tramp’s tariffs. For one thing, the payments are unlikely to equal the money farmers will lose from this trade war. Also, government marketing programs benefit large agribusiness but do nothing to help small farmers. In fact, by giving another advantage to large agribusiness, the program may make it more difficult for small farmers to compete in the global marketplace.

Distributing surplus food to programs serving the needy may seem like a worthwhile use of government funds. However, the federal government has neither constitutional nor moral authority to use money taken by force from taxpayers for charitable purposes. Government-funded welfare programs also crowd out much more effective and compassionate private efforts. Of course, if government regulations such as the minimum wage and occupational licensing did not destroy job opportunities, government farm programs did not increase food prices, and the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies did not continuously erode purchasing power, the demand for food aid would be much less. By increasing spending and debt, the agriculture bailout will do much more to create poverty than to help the needy.

Agriculture is hardly the only industry suffering from the new trade war. Industries — such as automobile manufacturing — that depend on imports for affordable materials are suffering along with American exporters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (who supports tariffs) has called for bailouts of industries negatively impacted by tariffs. He is likely to be joined in his advocacy by crony capitalists seeking another government handout.

More bailouts will only add to the trade war’s economic damage by increasing government spending and hastening the welfare–warfare state’s collapse and the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Instead of trying to fix tariffs-caused damage through more corporate welfare, President Trump and Congress should pursue a policy of free markets and free trade for all and bailouts for none.

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In Monsters We Trust: US Mainstream Media No Friend of the American People

Over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day denouncing Trump, an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink.

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Over the course of his turbulent presidency, Donald Trump has accused various media companies, with special attention reserved for CNN, as being purveyors of ‘fake news.’ In one early-morning Tweet last year, he slammed the “FAKE NEWS media” as the “enemy of the people.”

This week, over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day – an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink – denouncing Trump’s insensitive portrayal of them, as if the notion that journalists were not in the same sleaze league as lawyers, politicians and professional con artists never crossed anyone’s mind before. Even the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi recommended “equality for everyone except reporters and photographers.”

But is the MSM really an “enemy of the people?”

First, it cannot be denied that the US media, taken in all its wholesomeness, has been overwhelmingly consistent in its ‘style’ of reporting on Donald Trump, the 45th POTUS. And by consistent I mean unprecedentedly critical, misleading and outright aggressive in its guerilla coverage of him. If one is not convinced by the gloom-and-doom Trump stories featured daily in the Yahoo News feed, then a study by the Media Research Center (MRC) should do the job. From January 1 through April 30, evening news coverage of the US leader – courtesy of ABC, CBS and NBC – were 90 percent negative, which is pretty much the same incredible average revealed by MRC one year earlier.

The study looked at every one of the 1,065 network evening news stories about Trump and his administration during the first four months of 2018. Total negative news time devoted to Trump: 1,774 minutes, or about one-third of all evening news airtime. That’s pretty much the definition of a circle jerk.

“Nearly two-fifths (39%) of the TV coverage we examined focused on Trump scandals and controversies, while 45 percent was devoted to various policy issues,” MRC wrote in its report.

Meanwhile, the farcical Russia ‘collusion’ story was consistently the main grabber — clocking in at 321 minutes, or nearly one-fifth of all Trump coverage. Of the 598 statements MRC calculated about Trump’s personal scandals, virtually all of them (579, or 97%) came out of the media wash cycle tarred and feathered.

If this represents an orchestrated attack on the Commander-in-Chief, and in light of those numbers it would be difficult to argue it isn’t, the strategy appears to be falling flat. Despite, or precisely because of, the avalanche of negative media coverage, Trump’s popularity rating smashed the 50 percent ceiling in early August and continues to remain high.

In Monsters We Trust

Although it can be safely stated that the MSM is an entrenched and relentless enemy of Donald Trump, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an “enemy of the American people,” as Trump argues it is. Let’s be a bit more diplomatic and say it isn’t our friend.

One yard stick for proving the claim is to consider the steadily mounting concentration of media holdings. In 1983, 90 percent of US media were controlled by 50 companies; today, 90 percent is controlled by the Big Six (AT&TComcastThe Walt Disney Company21st Century FoxCBS and Viacom control the spoken and printed word from sea to shining sea).Although many people are aware of the monopolistic tendencies of the US mainstream media, it’s important to understand the level of concentration. It means the vast majority of everything you see and hear on any electronic device or printed publication is ‘democratically’ controlled by six average white guys and their shareholders.

However, keeping track of who owns what these days is practically impossible since the dozens of subsidiary companies that fall under each main company are themselves fiefdoms, each with their own separate holdings. In fact, the already short ‘Big Six’ list is already dated, since National Amusements, Inc. has gobbled up both Viacom and CBS, while 21st Century Fox merged with Disney this year. As for the 350 US newspapers that penned tortured editorials decrying Trump’s critical opinion of them, many of those ‘local’ publications get their marching orders from either the Hearst Communications or the Gannett Company on the East Coast.

Now, with this sort of massive power and influence lying around like dynamite, it stands to reason, or unreason, that the corporate and political worlds will succumb to the law of attraction and gravitation, forging powerful and impregnable relationships. It’s no secret that the politicians, our so-called ‘public servants,’ are mostly in the game to make a fast buck, while the corporations, desperate for ‘democratic representation’ to control regulation and market share, have an inexhaustible source of funds to secure it. Naturally, this oligarchical system precludes any sort of democratic participation from the average person on the street, who thinks just because he remembers to yank a lever once every several years he is somehow invested in the multibillion-dollar franchise.

As far as media corporations being ‘private enterprises’ and therefore free to demolish the freedom of speech (even censoring major media players, like Infowars, simply because they whistle to a different political tune), that is quickly becoming revealed as nothing more than corporate cover for state-sponsored machinations.

“In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship,” writes Caitlin Johnstone. “Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the US government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the US unquestionably has a corporatist system of government.”

Meanwhile, it cannot be denied, from the perspective of an impartial observer, that the mainstream media is nearly always positioned to promote the government narrative on any number of significant issues. From the media’s unanimous and uncritical clamoring that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 (even the FBI has admitted it has no “hard evidence” that bin Laden carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon), to its gung-ho enthusiasm for the 2003 Iraq War, to the sycophantic cheerleading for a war in Syria, the examples of media toeing the government line are legion. And if US intel is in bed with Hollywood you can be damn sure they’re spending time in the MSM whorehouse as well.

Is it any surprise, then, that public trust in the US media is reaching all-time lows, while news consumers are increasingly looking to alternative news sites – themselves under relentless attack – to get some semblance of the elusive truth, which is the God-given right of any man? Truth is our due, and we should demand nothing less.

As Thomas Paine reminded the world in the face of a different foe: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

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