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The [Thursday] Papers

Syria Briefing:

* "Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements," Reuters reports.

* "In the more than two years this civil war has carried on, a large part of the Syrian opposition has formed a loose command structure that has found support from several Arab nations, and, to a more limited degree, the West. Other elements of the opposition have assumed an extremist cast, and openly allied with al-Qaeda," the New York Times reports in a piece headlined "Brutality Of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma In West."

"Across much of Syria, where rebels with Western support live and fight, areas outside of government influence have evolved into a complex guerrilla and criminal landscape.

"That has raised the prospect that American military action could inadvertently strengthen Islamic extremists and criminals."

* "Days later and we still have no idea where Secretary of State John Kerry got that amazingly precise number of 1,429 killed in the alleged Syria chemical agent attack," Greg Mitchell writes for The Nation. "He hasn't cited full sourcing for it or taken questions on that. He merely claims he can't say because it would 'compromise' intelligence, which sounds like utter bull. President Obama also cited the death toll as fact in public statements beating the drums for war.

"And all other sources put the number a little or a lot lower. Why does this matter in the current debate? Obviously the higher number, particularly with the also unproven claim of more than 400 dead kids, is meant to sell a US military attack to the American people - and that's why it's a key claim. That 1,400 number makes the latest attack seem so much worse than earlier alleged Assad chem attacks, which we did not find horrible enough to claim they crossed the 'red line.'

"Despite all that, most in U.S. media for days still cited the number with little qualifying or probing. It was often said that Kerry 'revealed' the number of deaths, not 'claimed.'"

* "This is the trend in the totally subservient U.S. media: when the U.S. gets along with a foreign potentate, the coverage is favorable, and when things turn sour, the coverage turns unfavorable," As'ad AbuKhalil writes at The Angry Arab News Service.

"We have seen this before so it is one of the most predictable pattern. Let me summarize: when the potentate is in the U.S. pocket, he is a 'moderate,' and when he turns against the U.S., he become another Hitler (or a drug smuggler in the case of Noriega). Mrs. Asad was portrayed as 'glamorous' and now there are all those articles about her 'lifestyle.' But let me ask you this: when was the last time you read anything about any of the multiple wives of Saudi or UAE or Qatari rulers' wives?"

Go read the rest. It's brief but devastating.

* "In a dazzling display of chutzpah, the White House is demanding that Congress demonstrate blind trust in a U.S. intelligence establishment headed by James Clapper, a self-confessed perjurer," former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes for Consortium News.

"That's a lot to ask in seeking approval for a military attack on Syria, a country posing no credible threat to the United States. But with the help of the same corporate media that cheer-led us into war with Iraq, the administration has already largely succeeded in turning public discussion into one that assumes the accuracy of both the intelligence on the apparent Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria and President Barack Obama's far-fetched claim that Syria is somehow a threat to the United States."

* "Every U.S. soldier is taught the importance of complying with law, including international law, in every task he or she undertakes," Jack Goldsmith writes at Lawfare. "They are also taught that dishonor or worse follows from violating this law. Many of the soldiers and all of the lawyers involved in the Syria planning will surely feel at least a little uneasy about a military action that the President acknowledges does not pass the test of international legality."

Eliciting this:


* "The discussion about Syria when G20 leaders meet in St. Petersburg on September 5 and 6 should address the member countries' abysmal response to the Syrian crisis as a whole over the past two years," Human Rights Watch says. "While G20 leaders are unlikely to agree on the response to the alleged chemical attack on Syria's suburbs or the big picture for Syria, they should at least agree on concrete measures that can provide protection, justice and assistance to Syria's victims."

As HRW suggests, the alternative to military strikes isn't to simply do nothing, even if that's how the administration is framing it and the media is presenting it.

The headline on the HRW post is "G20: No Excuse for Inaction on Syria."

The subhead is: "Provide Urgent Aid, Halt Flow of Arms to Abusive Forces, Support ICC Referral."









The X Factor
Last Friday, based on the Tribune's reporting on the Amed Ahmar Affair, I wrote that "I wouldn't say [city CFO Lois] Scott is exactly being fit for the jacket on this one, but clearly her business dealings bear more scrutiny."

And I tweeted this:


The Tribune follows up today with more excellent reporting that digs the hole a bit deeper for Scott - and illustrates exactly how "wash each other's backs" politics (and business) works.

"E-mails from 2009-10 show Ahmad was the central figure clearing the way for Scott's financial consulting firm to receive bond work in Ohio," the Trib found.

After an election that knocked Ahmad and his boss out of the Ohio treasurer's office, "Scott's aide [Julia] Harris e-mailed Ahmad, asking for his resume and assuring him he'd soon have another job, records show. Harris would go on to serve as a member of Emanuel's transition team, which spearheaded the hiring of the mayor's top staffers, including Ahmad."

The whole story is highly recommended.


Half-Baked Whole Foods
With city subsidies still being worked out and Whole Foods' admitting it doesn't yet know what it will stock or how it will price its goods there, it seems even clearer today than it was yesterday that the announcement of a Whole Foods store coming to Englewood three years from now was a classic political maneuver by a mayor stung badly last week by a news report that quite simply found him to - once again - be a liar.

Suddenly, Rahm is nationally known as the guy who is bringing a Whole Foods to one of the nation's most notorious neighborhoods instead of the guy who not only makes promises he doesn't keep, but claims to have kept them despite what the record shows.

And the fact that the announced store is a Whole Foods is what makes it an international story; if it was a Jewel, nobody outside of the city would care. (In fact, there's an Aldi less than two blocks from the proposed Whole Foods site. And Aldi owns Trader Joe's, Whole Foods' chief rival. Wonder how Aldi feels today.)

But the contrast of plopping such a lifestyle brand into a community commonly thought to exist at the opposite end of that lifestyle is too much for the media to resist. The result is a certain kind of mesmerization that overwhelms an ability to do the job at hand: report skeptically.

With a groundbreaking three years off in the distance - if at all, because, you know, things happen - the immediate reporting ought to focus on why the announcement was made now and how the deal came together (if it is together). The story demands to be placed in the context of the Tribune report as well - though it's not easy when the paper has put it behind a paywall. Way to hide your work from the world!

It would be a much better(-reported) world if the media glommed on to the Trib's report the way it's glommed on to Rahm's (fact-free) media spectacular.

Meanwhile, the whole (no pun intended) of Whole Foods' dealings with the city deserve scrutiny. That doesn't assume anything evil is going on, it's just that that's our job.


For example, is this deal in any way tied to this deal?


Elsewhere on the Beachwood today:

Patriot Act Author Joins NSA Lawsuit
"Congress never intended the Patriot Act to permit the NSA's collection of the records of every telephone call made to, from and within the United States."

And A Black Unicorn Shall Lead The Bears
In The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report.

Chicagoetry: Stationary Freight Car
Do not apply vibrators.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Glom on.


Posted on September 5, 2013

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
TV - "One America News" is AT&T.
POLITICS - When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.
SPORTS - Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More!

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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