Visualizing Guam’s Strategic Importance To The US

In apparent response to Trump's promise of "fire and fury" in the event of any threat to the United States from North Korea, Pyongyang has said it is "carefully examining" a plan to attack the U.S. Territory of Guam, saying they will engulf the island with an "enveloping fire".

As well as being home to over 162 thousand people, Statista's Martin Armstrong notes that Guam is of key strategic importance to the U.S. military.

Infographic: Guam's Strategic Importance to the U.S. | Statista

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With a large proportion of the 544km² occupied by the Andersen Air Force Base in the north, home to rotating deployments of B-1, B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers, and a naval base in the west, it is understandable why the island is sometimes referred to as America's 'permanent aircraft carrier'.

In terms of personnel, as of March 31, Guam was home to 4,290 active duty Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, 1,739 National Guard/Reserves, as well as 2,133 APF civilians.

Whitehead Rages “Anything Goes When You’re A Cop In America”

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“There is one criminal justice system for citizens – especially black and brown ones – and another for police in the United States.”

 

Redditt Hudson, former St. Louis police officer

President Trump needs to be reminded that no one is above the law, especially the police.

Unfortunately, Trump and Jeff Sessions, head of the Justice Department (much like their predecessors) appear to have few qualms about giving police the green light to kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.

Between Trump’s pandering to the police unions and Sessions’ pandering to Trump, this constitutionally illiterate duo has opened the door to a new era of police abuses.

As senior editor Adam Serwer warns in The Atlantic, “When local governments violate the basic constitutional rights of citizens, Americans are supposed to be able to look to the federal government to protect those rights. Sessions has made clear that when it comes to police abuses, they’re now on their own. This is the principle at the heart of ‘law and order’ rhetoric: The authorities themselves are bound by neither.”

Brace yourselves: things are about to get downright ugly.

By shielding police from charges of grave misconduct while prosecuting otherwise law-abiding Americans for the most trivial “offenses,” the government has created a world in which there are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its gun-toting agents, and another set for you and me.

No matter which way you spin it, “we the people” are always on the losing end of the deal.

If you’re a cop in the American police state, you can now break the law in a myriad of ways without suffering any major, long-term consequences.

Indeed, not only are cops protected from most charges of wrongdoing—whether it’s shooting unarmed citizens (including children and old people), raping and abusing young women, falsifying police reports, trafficking drugs, or soliciting sex with minors—but even on the rare occasions when they are fired for misconduct, it’s only a matter of time before they get re-hired again.

For example, Oregon police officer Sean Sullivan was forced to resign after being accused of “grooming” a 10-year-old girl for a sexual relationship. A year later, Sullivan was hired on as a police chief in Kansas.

St. Louis police officer Eddie Boyd III was forced to resign after a series of incidents in which he “pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report,” he was quickly re-hired by another Missouri police department.

As The Washington Post reports: “In the District, police were told to rehire an officer who allegedly forged prosecutors’ signatures on court documents. In Texas, police had to reinstate an officer who was investigated for shooting up the truck driven by his ex-girlfriend’s new man. In Philadelphia, police were compelled to reinstate an officer despite viral video of him striking a woman in the face. In Florida, police were ordered to reinstate an officer fired for fatally shooting an unarmed man.”

Much of the “credit” for shielding these rogue cops goes to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, police contracts that “provide a shield of protection to officers accused of misdeeds and erect barriers to residents complaining of abuse,” state and federal laws that allow police to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing, and rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats.

Whether it’s at the federal level with President Trump, Congress and the Judiciary, or at the state and local level, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

It’s a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, I suppose: protection from the courts, immunity from wrongdoing, paid leave while you’re under investigation, the assurance that you won’t have to spend a dime of your own money in your defense, the removal of disciplinary charges from your work file, and then the high probability that you will be rehired and returned to the streets.

It’s a chilling prospect, isn’t it?

According to the New York Times, “Some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.”

It’s happening all across the country.

This is how perverse justice in America has become.

Incredibly, while our own protections against government abuses continue to be dismantled, a growing number of states are adopting Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBoR)—written by police unions—which provides police officers accused of a crime with special due process rights and privileges not afforded to the average citizen.

In other words, the LEOBoR protects police officers from being treated as we are treated during criminal investigations.

Not only are officers given a 10-day “cooling-off period” during which they cannot be forced to make any statements about the incident, but when they are questioned, it must be “for a reasonable length of time, at a reasonable hour, by only one or two investigators (who must be fellow policemen), and with plenty of breaks for food and water.”

These LEOBoRs epitomize everything that is wrong with America today.

Now once in a while, police officers engaged in wrongdoing are actually charged for abusing their authority and using excessive force against American citizens.

Occasionally, those officers are even sentenced for their crimes against the citizenry.

Yet in just about every case, it’s still the American taxpayer who foots the bill.

Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: “once to cover their salaries while they commit abuses; next to pay settlements or civil jury awards against officers; and a third time through payments into police ‘defense’ funds provided by the cities.”

This is a recipe for disaster.

“In a democratic society,” observed Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “people have a say in how they are policed.”

Yet as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, America is a constitutional republic, not a democracy, which means that “we the people” not only have a say in how we are policed—we are the chiefs of police.

From Coke To Coors: Philly Soda Tax Leading To Alcoholism As Beer Now Cheaper Than Soda

Perhaps The Burning Platform summarized the idiocy of Philadelphia’s soda tax better than anyone to date:

In a shocking development, the Philadelphia soda tax is a big fucking fail. Who could have predicted that. Democrat government drones and their brain dead minions are so desperate for money to fund their gold plated union pensions and bloated salaries, they lie, cheat and tax the poor into oblivion. Result: lost jobs, further impoverished poor people, no help for children, more closed businesses, and a further hole in the city budget. But at least the city union workers can keep their gold plated pensions – for now. Maff is hard for liberals, but it always wins in the end.

But, as The Washington Free Beacon points out, the unfortunate side effects of Philly’s disastrous soda tax may not be limited just to the economic consequences enumerated above.  As a study by the Tax Foundation recently found, there are social consequences as well with people now choosing to substitute beer for soda in light of the fact that, well, beer is just cheaper.

Philadelphia’s tax on sugary drinks has made soda more expensive than beer in the city.

 

The Tax Foundation released a new study on the excise tax last week, finding that the 1.5-cent per ounce tax has fallen short of revenue projections, cost jobs, and has forced some Philadelphians to drive outside the city to buy groceries.

 

The study finds that the tax is 24 times higher than the Pennsylvania tax rate on beer.

 

“Purchases of beer are also now less expensive than nonalcoholic beverages subject to the tax in the city,” according to the study, written by Courtney Shupert and Scott Drenkard. “Empirical evidence from a 2012 journal article suggests that soda taxes can push consumers to alcohol, meaning it is likely the case that consumers are switching to alcoholic beverages as a result of the tax. The paper, aptly titled From Coke to Coors, further shows that switching from soda to beer increases total caloric intake, even as soda taxes are generally aimed at caloric reduction.”

Soda

 

While not terribly surprising, the study found that while Philly’s soda tax was sold to taxpayers as a way to raise money for local schools, less than half of the proceeds are actually being used for that purpose. 

The Tax Foundation points out that unlike most cities, Philadelphia passed the tax specifically to raise revenue, not to fight obesity. The city even includes diet sodas in its tax, as a way to raise money for pre-kindergarten programs.

 

However, less than half of the $39.4 million collected since the tax went into effect on Jan. 1 has gone to education funding.

 

“[T]he tax was originally promoted as a vehicle to raise funds for prekindergarten education, but in practice it awards just 49 percent of the soda tax revenues to local pre-K programs,” Shupert and Drenkard write. “Another 20 percent of the soda tax revenues fund government employee benefits or city programs, while the rest of the money will go towards parks, libraries, and community schools.”

Meanwhile, lower soda sales have already started to claim the jobs of grocery and soda distribution workers.

Collections from the soda tax are also well below original projections of $92 million per year, due to tax avoidance.

 

“Soda sales in Philadelphia have also declined since the tax went into effect at the beginning of 2017, threatening the long-run sustainability of the tax,” Shupert and Drenkard write. “According to some local distributors and retailers, sales have declined by nearly 50 percent. This is likely primarily due to higher prices, which discourage purchasing beverages in the city.”

 

Earlier this year PepsiCo announced it was laying off up to 100 workers because of the tax, which the company blames for costing a 43 percent drop in business.

 

Philadelphians are also no longer able to buy 12-packs or 2-liters of Pepsi products in grocery stores due to the tax, the Tax Foundation said.

Way to think it through…

This Is The Closest That The U.S. Has Been To Nuclear War Since The Cuban Missile Crisis

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Are we on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea?  It has now been confirmed that North Korea has successfully created a miniaturized nuclear warhead, and last month they tested a missile that can reach at least half of the continental United States.  Since 1994 the U.S. has been trying to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, and every effort to do so has completely failed.  Last September, the North Koreans detonated a nuclear device that was estimated to be in the 20 to 30 kiloton range, and back in January President Trump pledged to stop the North Koreans before they would ever have the capability to deliver such a weapon to U.S. cities.  But now the North Koreans have already achieved that goal, and they plan to ultimately create an entire fleet of ICBMs capable of hitting every city in America.

Right now, North Korea and the Trump administration are locked in a game of nuclear chicken.  Kim Jong Un’s regime is never, ever, ever going to give up their nuclear weapons program, and so that means that either Donald Trump is going to have to back down, find another way to deal with North Korea, or use military force to eliminate their nuclear threat.

And time is quickly running out for Trump to make a decision, because now that North Korea has the ability to produce miniaturized nuclear warheads, the game has completely changed.  The following comes from the Washington Post

North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.

 

The new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller.

The truth is that nobody actually knows how many nukes North Korea has at this point, and they are pumping out more all the time.

Yes, the Trump administration could order an absolutely devastating military strike on North Korea.  But if the North Koreans even get off one nuke in response, it will be the greatest disaster for humanity since at least World War II.

But at this point Trump doesn’t sound like someone that intends to back down.  In fact, on Tuesday he threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if they keep threatening us…

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said from the clubhouse at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J.

 

“He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

In response to Trump’s comments, the North Koreans threatened to hit Guam with a pre-emptive strike…

If Trump thought that his bluff would be sufficient to finally shut up North Korea, and put an end to Kim’s provocative behavior, well… bluff called because North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported moments ago that not only did N.Korea escalate the tensions up another notch, but explicitly warned that it could carry out a “pre-emptive operation once the US shows signs of provocation”, and that it is “seriously considering a strategy to strike Guam with mid-to-long range missiles.”

Most Americans appear to be completely oblivious to the seriousness of this crisis.  Once we hit North Korea, they will respond.  A single nuke could potentially kill millions in Tokyo, Japan or Seoul, South Korea.  And the North Koreans also have some of the largest chemical and biological weapons stockpiles on the entire planet.  If things take a bad turn, we could see death and destruction on a scale that is absolutely unprecedented.

And if the North Koreans launch an invasion of South Korea, we will instantly be committed to a new Korean War and thousands upon thousands of our young men and women will be sent over there to fight and die.

There is no possible way that a military conflict with North Korea is going to end well.  If things go badly, millions could die, and if things go really badly tens of millions of people could end up dead.

But members of the Trump administration continue to insist that “a military option” is on the table…

In an interview broadcast Saturday on MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt Show, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the prospect of a North Korea armed with nuclear-tipped ICBMs would be “intolerable, from the president’s perspective.”

 

“We have to provide all options . . . and that includes a military option,” he said.

Of course letting North Korea construct an entire fleet of ICBMs that could endanger the entire planet is not exactly a palatable option either.  The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all kicked the can down the road year after year, and now we facing a nightmare problem that does not appear to have a good solution.

Unfortunately for Trump, time has now run out and a decision has to be made

“Today is the day that we can definitely say North Korea is a nuclear power,” Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told USA TODAY.

 

“There is no more time to stick our heads in the sand and think we have months or years to confront this challenge.”

And then there is today's statement from The Pentagon:

"The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack.

 

Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council's unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability.

 

The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

 

President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces.

 

While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.

 

The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."

Roughly translated – stop… or you'll lose (bigly).

Let us pray that a way can be found to derail North Korea’s nuclear program that does not involve us going to war.

Because the moment that U.S. forces start striking North Korea, the North Koreans could literally unleash hell if they are inclined to do so.

It appears that we are now closer to nuclear war than we have been at any point since the Cuban missile crisis. 

A nuclear holocaust was avoided back then, and hopefully a way will be found to avoid one now.

Syrian Army Poised To Retake Last Al-Qaeda Held District In Damascus

This week the Syrian Army has been pounding the last al-Qaeda held district of Damascus, and as Alarabiya TV reports, an all out ground assault by the army is looking "imminent". Jobar lies within the Syrian capital's eastern side and extends close to the center of the city. The district has been held by armed opposition groups since 2013, and quickly became ground zero for al-Qaeda presence in Damascus over the past years. While the neighboring Old City and downtown districts have largely returned to normalcy after years of nation wide fighting – even including a thriving nightlife of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants – mortar shells have routinely been lobbed from Jobar. Christian and Shia neighborhoods of the Old City near "Straight Street" have been especially impacted.

But now as external supply lines to various armed opposition pockets throughout Syria have been more or less reduced and restricted, especially with Trump's recent closure of the CIA's Syrian arms program and with Saudi-Qatari GCC infighting, and as the Syrian Army has mostly confined al-Qaeda fighters operating in the country's North to Iblib, the army is promising a full and final liberation of Jobar.


Explosions light up the Damascus sky with Mt. Qasioun in the background.
Photo provided by a local Damascus photographer, via Leith Fadel.

Middle East based Al-Masdar News spoke to a military officer of Syria's elite 42nd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division, now advancing in Jobar, and summarized the situation as follows:

His unit captured more than ten building blocks around the Al-Manasher Roundabout, killing and wounding several militants from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and Faylaq Al-Rahman.

 

The officer added that the Syrian Army will continue to advance on the ground during the day and pound the Islamist rebels with surface-to-surface missiles at night; they will stop their assault once Jobar is cleared or the militants surrender.


The specific groups operating in Jobar primarily include the Islamist group Faylaq Al-Rahman and al-Qaeda linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS/al-Nusra). HTS also recently made headlines after emerging victorious against other Islamist factions in consolidating control over Idlib Province, where it currently seeks to establish a caliphate. It forced out main rival, Ahrar al-Sham, which was favored by Turkey and other external powers seeking to topple the Syrian government. Western media outlets and prominent think tank 'experts' had long defended al-Qaeda linked Ahrar al-Sham as 'moderate' – yet in reality HTS dominance over Idlib was strengthened only after, according to multiple reports, "thousands of hardline Ahrar al Sham fighters, who are sympathetic to al-Qaida, defected from the movement to join JFS in forming the HTS alliance." Currently, Russia in conjunction with other international powers are weighing military operations to dislodge the northwestern province from HTS control. 

Residents throughout Damascus are currently experiencing frequent rattling and shaking of buildings as fighting is now at the most intense it's been in months or perhaps years – mortars, rockets, and tank fire is lighting up the night sky. This week dozens of Syrian soldiers have been reported killed during fighting in and near the capital.

A number of areas in Damascus that once had heavy barricades and frequent checkpoints are reducing the restricted movement zones as life begins to return to normal. The impending liberation of Jobar district from al-Qaeda would take the pressure off of the millions of Syrians living in urban Damascus who have long been under constant threat of mortar fire and terror attack. But liberation of all of East Ghouta, which stretches far outside the city environs, is likely going to be a long extended campaign against what is already morphing into an endless 'underground' insurgency which will keep the fires burning in Syria.