Shorter Question Everything
• Syrian forces may have used gas without Assad’s permission: Syrian government forces may have carried out a chemical weapons attack close to Damascus without the personal permission of President Bashar al-Assad, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag paper reported on Sunday, citing German intelligence. Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months, according to radio messages intercepted by German spies, but permission had always been denied, the paper said. This could mean Assad may not have personally approved the attack close to Damascus on August 21 in which more than 1,400 are estimated to have been killed, intelligence officers suggested. Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) could not be reached for comment. Bild said the radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing close to the Syrian coast.
• Top Syrian diplomat passes Assad’s thanks to Russia: Syria’s foreign minister on Monday passed on the personal thanks of President Bashar al-Assad to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for his support, as he held talks in Moscow amid growing expectations of military action against the regime. Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem held talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov as US lawmakers were to return Monday from a summer break and debate whether to approve limited US military action in Syria. “The president asked me to pass on his thanks to Putin for his position during and after the G20 summit” in Saint Petersburg last week, Muallem told Lavrov at the start of talks.
• Syria chemical weapons case remains in doubt as U.S. refuses to release concrete evidence: The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence – no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications – connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people. In its absence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Neither has produced evidence for that case, either.
Stupid things rightwingers say
• Juan Williams shuts down Benghazi hype at Fox News: ‘It’s gone, baby. It’s all in your head’. Fox News political analyst Juan Williams on Sunday told conservative colleagues Karl Rove and Brit Hume that their obsession about a so-called scandal over last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi was “all in your head, baby.” During a Fox News Sunday panel segment devoted to the one year anniversary of the Benghazi attack, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz agreed that there were unanswered questions, but that “there is a drumbeat among conservatives — including some at Fox News — to turn this into a full-fledged scandal as opposed to a horribly tragic episode that killed four Americans.” “And I do think that some Republicans — I’m not saying all — are trying to use this as a weapon against Hillary Clinton,” he added.
• Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says that one of the best reasons to oppose a U.S. military strike on Syria is that Congress should be focusing on the so-called scandal over last year’s terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
• Bachmann, Gohmert and King’s surreal Egyptian presser blames Muslim Brotherhood for 9/11: Tea party-backed Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) on Saturday held a press conference in Egypt to thank the country’s military for overthrowing the elected government, and at one point even seemed to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood had been behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. “Together, we’ve gone through suffering. Together, the United States and Egypt, have dealt with the same enemy,” Bachmann explained. “It’s a common enemy, and it’s an enemy called terrorism.” “We want to make sure that you have the Apache helicopters, the F-16s, the equipment that you have so bravely used to capture terrorists and to take care of this menace that’s on your border,” she continued. “Many of you have asked, do we understand who the enemy is? We can speak for ourselves. We do.” “We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed here for the people in Egypt. We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world. We stand against this great evil. We are not for them. We remember who caused 9/11 in America. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans. We have not forgotten.”
Christian televangelist Pat Robertson is threatening legal action against a Canadian documentary team over their film alleging that Robertson used a bogus charity as a supply line for his diamond mining business in Africa. Right Wing Watch reported Friday that Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network are threatening to sue Lara Zizic and David Turner, whose film “Mission Congo” is set to premiere this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival.
“Mission Congo,” according to the Guardian, details how Robertson reportedly used aid money donated to his foreign ministry program Operation Blessing International to provide mining equipment and other services to his diamond-mining operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Robertson also used images of doctors and tents provided by the international medical aid group Médecins sans Frontières (MSF aka “Doctors Without Borders”) to promote Operation Blessing, saying that his group had provided the tents and the doctors and that donor money from his Christian empire was the main source of aid to the war-torn region.
Operation Blessing, says the film, still pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, money that Robertson is using to enrich himself and his family. The film contains damning testimony from former Operation Blessing workers, who say that humanitarian mission flights were routinely diverted hundreds of miles off course to deliver mining equipment and other supplies to Robertson’s diamond mining operation in Kamonia.
In other news
• Japan scrambled fighter jets Monday after an unidentified drone flew near Tokyo-controlled islands at the centre of a bitter dispute with China, a defence ministry spokesman said. On Sunday, Japan scrambled fighter jets against two Chinese bombers that flew from the East China Sea into the Pacific, through a gap between islands in the Okinawa chain, the defence ministry said. And two weeks ago, fighters were dispatched to head off a Chinese government plane flying towards the Senkaku islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus and claims as its own.
• Why is this even a thing you’d debate?: Iowa Debates Permitting Blind People To Carry Guns In Public. As lawmakers across the country debate gun safety laws, law enforcement officials in Iowa are split on whether the state should continue issuing guns to blind people. So far the state has already issued several such permits, though it has not tracked how many.
• New Breaking Bombshell NSA News: The NSA Spies on Terrorists’ Cell Phones!: Here we go again with another deliberately misleading article on the NSA, this time at Der Spiegel, where Glenn Greenwald’s collaborator Laura Poitras is happily leaking away: Privacy Scandal: NSA Can Spy on Smart Phone Data. I just read to the end of the article — and you know what? The government doesn’t really seem to be interested in what’s on my iPhone after all. Once again, the ability to do something is being conflated with the act of doing it. “The material viewed by SPIEGEL suggests that the spying on smart phones has not been a mass phenomenon. It has been targeted, in some cases in an individually tailored manner and without the knowledge of the smart phone companies.” In other words, as with every other NSA story, they’re burying the exculpatory information as deep in the article as they can, far from the overheated, misleading headline. The NSA is only spying on cell phones used by terrorists, but the Axis of Greenwald sure wants you to believe otherwise.
• The GOP’s New Obamacare Attack: If You Can’t Beat the Law, Beat the People Who Benefit From It: As Republicans come to terms with the futility of their incessant efforts to repeal, defund, undermine and otherwise trash Obamacare, they’re turning to a new last-ditch strategy: make it harder for people who desperately need health care to get it under the new law. The tactic du jour is attacking “navigators,” the nonprofit organizations charged with helping millions of consumers sign up for insurance coverage or public benefits beginning Oct. 1. The GOP logic is simple: The harder they make it for navigators to do their jobs, the harder it will be for people to get life-saving health coverage provided by Obamacare. For many, it would be the first time in their lives they have had health insurance.