Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thousands Yell 'Death to US' Near Turkey's Incirlik Base, Home to US Nukes

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shout slogans on the back of a truck during a pro-government demonstration on Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

© REUTERS/ Alkis Konstantinidis

Over five thousand joined anti-American demonstrations yelling "death to US" and demanding an immediate closure of the Incirlik Air Base for over five hours on Thursday before Turkish police came in and broke up the protesters before they could arrive at major NATO military facility, home to nearly 90 US tactical nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, a group of protesters swelled into several thousand ardent anti-American demonstrators heading towards the NATO Air Base at Incirlik, where they look to demand US forces immediately leave the country. Nationalists in Turkey have been emboldened since the failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the country's Labor Minister telling HaberTurk news that Washington was behind the coup attempt and with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim threatening all-out war against the United States.
​A critical turning point may have been the massive fire that broke out near the Izmir Air Base this weekend, with T24 news reporting that officials suspected that the cause was anti-American sabotage. The blaze came hours after President Erdogan's leading Islamist newspaper, Yeni Safak, printed the image of the NATO International Security Assistance Force Commander, US Army General John Campbell, as a leading force behind the coup along with Fethullah Gulen.
The situation at Incirlik Air Base threatens to be even more perilous, with thousands of protesters chanting "death to the US" as they head towards one of NATO's most important strategic military bases. The facility, only 60 miles (96km) from the Turkish-Syrian border, is home to as many as 90 tactical nuclear weapons, creating the danger that these weapons could fall into the hands of international terrorists.
A recent poll conducted just before the failed coup attempt found that only 17% of Turks welcomed the United States in the country and anti-American sentiment in Turkey has only grown as the US refuses to extradite the alleged coup mastermind, Fethullah Gulen, with US officials citing US law that requires a certain evidentiary standard be met before conducting such proceedings — evidence that they say Ankara has failed to provide.

Paper Tiger: Why Turkish Army is Not as Strong as It Seems

Troops parade with Turkish flag on August 30, 2013 in Ankara during celebrations for the 91st anniversary of Victory Day, with ceremonies held at Ataturk's Mausoleum known as Anitkabir in Ankara, Turkey

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While the Turkish Army is known as the second largest force in NATO, Russian political analyst Evgeni Krutikov suggests that it resembles nothing so much as a "paper tiger." The analyst notes that in the wake of the attempted military coup the country's army could be considerably weakened.

Although Turkey's army is the second largest force in NATO with its 750,000-strong military contingent, it is not as powerful as it seems, Russian journalist and political analyst Evgeni Krutikov notes.
"The attempted coup [in Turkey], the war in Syria, the Karabakh turmoil and the Russian Su-24 tragedy have attracted a lot of interest to the Turkish army. This army is looking very impressive, but only at first sight: it has had more problems and failure than success," Krutikov writes in his article for online newspaper Vzglyad.
The political analyst has called attention to the fact that the Turkish army was formed "chaotically," depending much on economic and political conditions. Krutikov underscores that for a long period of time Ankara has regarded Greece as Turkey's major rival, regardless of the fact that both Turkey and Greece are NATO member states.
Given this, it is hardly surprising that a major part of Turkey's military force is concentrated on the country's western border. Whatever happens in Syria and Turkey's Kurdish regions, the traditional balance of forces remains intact, according to the journalist.
Taking a walk down the memory lane, Krutikov insists that during the Cold War the Turkish army had not boasted any major military success except its invasion of the island country of Cyprus in 1974.
Still, the Turkish army defeated the Cyrpriots mostly because of numerical superiority, according to the journalist. In general, there were a lot of flaws in Turkey's military operation: for instance, a maritime battle near Paphos where the Turkish air force attacked its own navy.
Interestingly enough, the Turkish Army underwent significant changes in the 1990s under Tansu Ciller, Turkey's first and only prime minister to date.
FILE – In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, sits at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States.
© AP Photo/ Selahattin Sevi, File
Ciller re-equipped and transformed the Turkish Army into a modern fighting force capable of dealing with domestic challenges, including those posed by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). It is worth mentioning that it was Ciller who persuaded Washington to designate the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. At the same time, Tansu Ciller turned a blind eye to the emergence of radical nationalist parties in Turkey, most notably Grey Wolves, and had no scruples about using them as a tool in Turkey's confrontation with the Kurds and Armenians.
Despite the modernization initiated by Ciller there were still gaps in the Turkish Army's defense capabilities in the early 2000s. However, although then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to strengthen the nation's armed forces and equip the army with modern weapons, his vows often turned out to be a hot air.
Turkish soldiers stand near the Turkey-Syrian border post in Sanliurfa, on September 4, 2015.
© AFP 2016/ Ozan Kose
Turkish soldiers stand near the Turkey-Syrian border post in Sanliurfa, on September 4, 2015.
Back in 2012 Turkey's liberal newspaper Taraf shed light on problems haunting the Turkish military force in its article entitled "Turkey's Army is Mighty In Numbers, Not Weapons."
While the Turkish army comprises more than 700,000 personnel, about 470,000 of its members are not career soldiers, Taraf explained, as quoted by Al-Monitor.
The media outlet revealed that Turkey spends "most of its budget on personnel expenses" of about 40,000 officers, 100,000 non-commissioned officers, 65,000 gendarme/army specialist soldiers, 8,000 reserve officers and 470,000 soldiers doing their compulsory military service. Furthermore, the army also employs 50,000 civilian workers, it stated.
As a result, "the army is trying to make up for its technology deficit with unlimited manpower," the media outlet noted, adding that "basing Turkey's defense concept on the human element instead of technology creates weaknesses in intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance." Echoing Taraf, Krutikov highlights that the Turkish navy, air and ground forces need serious modernization. Most of the weapons obtained from NATO are obsolete and can be used only in limited local conflicts.
In addition, the country's air defense is dependent on NATO and the US' military installations in Turkey.
Moreover, there are also problems in coordination between the country's uniformed services.
Meanwhile, the failed military coup in Turkey is likely to add insult to injury with thousands of career military servicemen detained.
On Monday Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced of restructuring within the Armed Forces in the wake of the attempted coup.
"First of all, there is a serious need for restructuring in [public] institutions, especially the [Turkish] Armed Forces [TSK]. There is a security gap, as we have seen during the coup attempt. There are problems in [the] hierarchy between lower level and senior level [officials.] We will restructure [the army] in a manner that will resolve these problems," Yildirim said, as cited by Hurriyet Daily News.
"Structures which produce revolutions should no longer have a place within the [Turkish] Armed Forces. We need to stop it from becoming a threat… There will be such changes that they will not even dare to make an attempt," the Prime Minister stressed.
It seems that the Turkish Army could be considerably weakened due to the ongoing purge and new changes announced Yildirim.

Ο Πρόεδρος της Νέας Δημοκρατίας κ. Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης συναντήθηκε σήμερα, Πέμπτη 28 Ιουλίου, με τον Μακαριώτατο Αρχιεπίσκοπο Τιράνων, Δυρραχίου και Πάσης Αλβανίας κ. Αναστάσιο.

Fotografia e Συλλογος Βόρειοηπειρωτων ΚαρδίτσαςFotografia e Συλλογος Βόρειοηπειρωτων Καρδίτσας

Στο ξεκίνημα της συνάντησης, έγινε ο ακόλουθος διάλογος:

Κ. Μητσοτάκης: «Χαίρομαι πάρα πολύ που σας υποδέχομαι στα γραφεία μας. Πάντα με αγάπη και πολύ μεγάλο σεβασμό. Χαίρομαι, επίσης, πάρα πολύ που σας υποδέχομαι και με την ευκαιρία της συμπλήρωσης 25 ετών από ένα θαυμάσιο πνευματικό και ανθρωπιστικό έργο. Έχετε προσφέρει πάρα πολλά στον Ορθοδοξία. Και όχι μόνο στην Αλβανία. Είστε μια μορφή που αποπνέει έναν παγκόσμιο σεβασμό.

Τα λόγια σας είναι πάντα τόσο επίκαιρα για μια σειρά από μεγάλα κοινωνικά προβλήματα, τα οποία ξεπερνούν, θα έλεγα, και το στενό λόγο ενός φωτισμένου ιεράρχη. Θέλω να ξέρετε πόσο μεγάλο σεβασμό έχω κι εγώ και όλοι οι συνεργάτες μου στο πρόσωπό σας».

Αρχιεπίσκοπος Αναστάσιος: «Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ. Πραγματικά και εγώ αισθάνομαι ιδιαίτερη χαρά για το ότι είμαι σε έναν χώρο αναζητήσεως, δημιουργίας, έγνοιας για μια πιο δίκαιη, πιο δημιουργική και πιο φωτισμένη πορεία του τόπου μας. Να ευχηθώ δύναμη πολλή».

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Greek-Albanian Fistfight Over ‘Land Grab’ at Himara Village

Greek Reporter

By Mary Harris -


A new round of friction in relations between Greece and Albania after tension flared at Himara, a village south of Albania, with violence connected to plans to renovate the center of the city that will affect properties in the region. Greek residents believe that their property ownership rights are being violated and that the renovation could be a chance for Albanian authorities to grab some of their assets.

Private TV station SKAI reported that several people entered a meeting held to discuss the renovations with intruders attacking those present. One of the people at the meeting was slightly injured.

The Greek Foreign Ministry has reacted to the incident, calling on the Albanian government to adhere to its international obligations and protect the Greek minority.

Relations between Greece and Albania have worsened since the government tried to bring the issue of Cham Albanians to the fore.

The situation worsened after a large poster that Albanians lifted at a football match referring to the so-called Cham genocide.

History and origin of Chams Cham Albanians, or Chams, (Tsamides in Greek) are a sub-group of Albanians who originally resided in the region of Epirus in Greece, an area known among Albanians as Chameria. The Chams have their particular cultural identity, which is a mix of Albanian and Greek influences as well as many specifically Cham characteristics.
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Illegal payments bought Albania's Rama "date with Obama"

A Florida businessman has admitted to "a bizarre scheme" that allowed Edi Rama, now Albania's prime minister, to attend an event and meet with Barack Obama.
Serbia's state broadcaster RTS is quoting the website Politico, that is reporting, under the headline, "Albanian prime minister's date with Obama," that "illegal payments totaling USD 80,000 got Albanian politician Edi Rama an audience with U.S. President Barack Obama."
The website is citing filings from federal court in Newark, New Jersey that show William Argeros, as part of his plea bargain, admitting to felony charges of "aiding and abetting an illegal foreign political donation and making a false statement to a grand jury."

Argergos also "admitted to teaming up with New Jersey limousine driver Bilal Shehu to receive USD 80,000 from a foreign source and route it to the Obama Victory Fund."

That money was used to allow Rama to attend an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco, where he took a photo with Obama, and later used it "to suggest Obama supported his election, which he won following in June 2013."

There have been no charges against Rama in Albania or the U.S. for making illegal donations in the latter country.

"The heirs of the Illyrians": Craze For Foreign Names Alarms Albanian Patriots

Craze For Foreign Names Alarms Albanian Patriots

Statistics showing that none of 20 most popular names in Albania for newborn children are Albanian have some experts worried about a steady erosion of the national identity.

Fatjona Mejdini
A child in Tirana. Photo: BIRN/Ivana Dervishi

Eriselda and her husband Erjon faced a big dilemma in choosing a name for their first son.  While they wanted something short and simple, their parents wanted an authentic Albanian name for their grandson.

After a lot of discussion about choices their son got an international name: Itan, a version of the popular American name Ethan. A little bit difficult to pronounce, perhaps, but short and simple as his parent wanted it to be.

"I chose the name Itan for my son since I wanted a name that can be pronounced the same everywhere in the world," Eriselda Elmazaj told BIRN.

As a former Albanian student in Italy she recalled her own difficulties with a name originating from Albania.

"It was hard for my friends and my professor to pronounce my name correctly. I didn't want this for my son. In a world that now is open, I'm not sure where my son is going to live once he grows up," she said.

Thousands of other young parents in Albania have taken the same path and also chosen foreign names for their children.

The latest data from the Albanian Institute of Statistic, INSTAT, show that none of the 20 most used names for newborns has an Albanian root.

Of the 35,760 newborns in Albania in 2014, statistics shows that the girl's name "Amelia" was the most popular after being chosen 363 times while a simular version, "Amelja", was chosen another 166 times.

Other popular foreign girl's names on the 2014 list are Ajla, Melisa, Klea, Sara, Kejsi, Noemi, Alesia and Leandra.

When it comes to top male names, Noel was in the lead, chosen 490 times in 2014, while Joel came second, chosen 483 times, while the derivate Xhoel was used another 116 times.

Other popular names for Albanian boys that year were Mateo, Ergi, Luis, Aron, Samuel, Roan and Roel.

The trend for using foreign names is expected to continue as Albanian names for newborns become less and less fashionable.

Soe intellectuals are worried. Edmond Dragoti, a sociology professor in the University of Tirana, told BIRN that the trend towards foreign names started decades ago in Albania and is now at its peak.

Dragoti considers the phenomenon a bad legacy of the Albanian communist past, when foreign names for newborns were banned and naming your child after a famous Western movie star or author meant big political trouble for the family.

"All the frustration about not being able to name their children as they wished exploded after the 1990s, when Albania opened up. The unlimited and uncontrolled new freedom quickly surpassed the need for a national identity," he argues.

Agron Tufa, a writer and literature professor at the University of Tirana, agrees. He told BIRN that the foreign name phenomenon is a blow to Albanian identity.

"This phenomenon is dangerous for our identity and culture and harms our roots," he stated. He sees the trend as a form of parental blindness and levity that is feeding artificiality to young Albanians.

Dragoti also says the phenomenon is fuelled by the mass migration of Albanians overseas, and the perceived need of Albanians to integrate with foreign communities and raise their status among them.

"Foreign names are given to children as a maneuver to raise the family status and make the process of integration smoother," he said.

Tufa considers the fashion unhelpful and a shame, given that Albanian is one of the oldest and most unique languages if Europe.

"Our language is very rich and colorful and gives amazing opportunities for good names while preserving tradition, identity, and culture. What is happing is really a betrayal of our identity," he stated.
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Russia 'is poised to release emails from Hillary Clinton's private server', report claims

'Breach': A report claims Hillary Clinton's private email server was accessed by the Russians, who are set to release the confidential information soon

  • Kremlin is ready to give green light on releasing the emails, report says
  • Clinton has maintained no emails were intercepted by foreign sources
  • But cites US intelligence sources saying that they were
  • Clinton would be at risk of violating Espionage Act if foreign governments or sources accessed classified information through her personal server
  • Link 
The Russian government is set to publicly release emails obtained from Hillary Clinton's private server, according to a new report.
Clinton has maintained the highly classified information that passed through her controversial system was not intercepted by foreign governments.
However, according to trade site citing US intelligence sources, the government is braced for a release that would suggest the opposite.
And it could come at any time once the Kremlin gives the green light, the site reports.
'Breach': A report claims Hillary Clinton's private email server was accessed by the Russians, who are set to release the confidential information soon
'Breach': A report claims Hillary Clinton's private email server was accessed by the Russians, who are set to release the confidential information soon
Clinton would be at risk of violating the Espionage Act if foreign governments or sources accessed classified information through her personal server. 
It is not the first mention that Russia could have obtained some of the emails. 
Last year it emerged that Clinton's private server was directly connected to the internet in ways that made it more vulnerable to hackers.
A recent State Department inspector general's report indicated the server was temporarily unplugged by a Clinton aide at one point during attacks by hackers, but her campaign has said there's no evidence the server was hacked.
In each year from 2011 to 2014, the State Department's poor cybersecurity was identified by its inspector general as a 'significant deficiency' that put the department's information at risk. 
Another State Department inspector general report revealed that hacking attempts forced Clinton off her private email at one point in 2011.
Then in 2014, the State Department's unclassified email system was breached by hackers with links to Russia. They stole an unspecified number of emails. 
The hack was so deep that State's email system had to be cut off from the internet while experts worked to eliminate the infestation.
At least 47 of the emails Clinton turned over to the State Department contain the notation 'B3 CIA PERS/ORG,' which indicates the material referred to CIA personnel or matters related to the agency.
And because both Clinton's server and the State Department systems were vulnerable to hacking, the perpetrators could have those original emails.
Stewart Baker, a Washington lawyer who spent more than three years as an assistant secretary of the Homeland Security Department and is former legal counsel for the National Security Agency, said it is 'entirely plausible ... that foreign intelligence services discovered and rifled Hillary Clinton's server'.
If so, infiltrators would have copies of all her emails - unredacted. 
Baker points out another instance where Clinton's server might have been hacked.
A March 2, 2009, email warned against State Department officials using Blackberries. Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state, says the 'vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries ... considerably outweigh their convenience.'
Nine days later, another email states that Clinton approached Boswell and says she 'gets' the risk.
The email also said: 'Her attention was drawn to the sentence that indicates we (the diplomatic security office officials) have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia.'
Clinton traveled to China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in February 2009. 
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee turned over to the State Department 55,000 emails from her private server that were sent or received when she was secretary of state. 

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