Friday, July 22, 2016

Gunmen kill at least eight in Munich shopping mall, shooters on the run


Gunmen opened fire in a busy mall in the German city of Munich on Friday evening, killing at least eight people and sending shoppers running for their lives in the third attack against civilians in Western Europe in eight days.Authorities told the public to get off the streets as the city - Germany's third biggest - went into lockdown with transport halted and highways sealed off.
A police spokesman said up to three gunmen were on the run after the initial shooting. The Bavarian capital was placed under a state of emergency as police hunted for them and special forces deployed in the city.
"We are telling the people of Munich there are shooters on the run who are dangerous," he said. "We are urging people to stay indoors."
Police said eight people had been killed and an undetermined number wounded. A ninth body had also been found about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the scene and they were checking to see it was one of the gunmen.
Munich newspaper TZ said one of the shooters was dead. German news magazine Focus said a gunman had shot himself in the head.
At the height of the incident, people in the Olympia shopping center either fled or sought to hide.
"Many shots were fired, I can't say how many but it's been a lot," said a shop worker hiding in a store room inside the mall.
It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.
A police spokesman said there was no immediate indication that it was an Islamist attack but it was being treated as a terrorist incident.
Friday is also the fifth anniversary of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in which he killed 77 people. Breivik is a hero for far-right militants in Europe and America.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the motive for the attack was not yet clear.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

‘Greater Albania’ statement awakens old ghosts in Balkans


 EU gives Albania ultimatum over judicial reform

Albania must pass anti-corruption reforms of its judiciary on Thursday (21 July) or sacrifice its hopes of starting negotiations to join the EU, MEPs warned today (19 July).
The Thursday deadline is the last possible one, Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner responsible for EU’s neighbourhood policy and enlargement, told MEPs.
He spoke in a hastily organised session of the Parliament foreign affairs committee, which also discussed the aftermath of the foiled Turkish coup.
“We want to make sure that the legislation has teeth,” Hahn said. He added that the EU institutions also needed time to monitor how the reform worked.
It is widely assumed that if Albania passes the test, the December EU summit could decide  to launch accession talks.
Albania obtained the status of EU candidate country in June 2014. The next step of its path toward EU accession is starting accession negotiations.
The country has disappointed its EU partners with its protracted in-fighting between government and opposition. That has resulted in an inability to pass legislation and encouraged to corruption and organised crime.
The Albanian mafia is, according to various reports, becoming a major threat to the EU. Statements in favour of a ‘Greater Albania’ are also hardly conducive to the country’s rapprochement with the EU.

‘Greater Albania’ statement awakens old ghosts in Balkans

Belgrade was upset. Left out of Europe, an isolated Albania had threatened to unify with Kosovo, and awaken conflicts in the Balkans, Prime Minister Edi Rama had said.
Attempt to create a protectorate?
EU and US diplomats have been seeking to convince MPs from the opposition Democratic Party to back the proposed legislation, which is aimed at reducing corrosive political influence on the judiciary.
An important element of the proposed legislation is that candidates for judges and prosecutors would be vetted by an international committee of EU and US officials.
A majority of 94 out of 140 MPs’ votes is necessary to pass the reform, meaning that the vote of the Democratic Party is absolutely needed.
The compromise proposal was delivered by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Tirana this week as diplomatic pressure on Albania escalated.
The Democratic Party has objected to the idea, arguing that it compromises Albania’s sovereignty.
Hahn said that arguement had come as a surprise. He repeated that Thursday was the last possible deadline for passing the legislation, adding that if there were no decision, there was the possibility of holding a referendum. Reportedly, 90% of the population is in favour of a comprehensive judicial reform.
Slovenian MEPs were particularly vocal in the debate.
MEP Ivo Vaigl (Slovenia, ALDE), said that Albanians should realise how difficult EU enlargement has become, and that they should do their utmost to catch “the last train” on Thursday.
Aloiz Peterle (Slovenia, EPP), argued that the EU had a “political problem” with Albania, because the push for adopting the legislation was interpreted as an attempt to create a protectorate.
Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovenia), said as long as the main Albanian negotiators were not assured of their “immunity, when it comes to life, family and power base, in that order”, it would be “extremely difficult” to achieve judicial reform.
Elmar Brok, the chair of the foreign affairs committee, said there would be “telephone conversations in the next hours” with Albanian politicians, to convey the message of the European parliament.
Hahn said the judicial reform in Albania had the potential to be an example for other countries in the region.
Serbia and Montenegro have already started accession talks, but Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are lagging behind Albania in their EU accession process.

Mystery of 14 Turkish navy ships 'still missing' after failed coup and a commander who has not been seen in four days

  • Fourteen navy ships are reportedly missing following the Turkey coup 
  • They have failed to return to their ports and could be headed to Greece 
  • Commander of the navy Admiral Veysel Kosele also remains missing  
More than a dozen Turkish navy ships are reportedly still at sea and remain unaccounted for following the botched military coup.
The commander of the Turkish navy Admiral Veysel Kosele also remains missing, having been out of contact since Friday evening.
It is unclear if he was part of the coup attempt or if he is being held against his will after local media reports said he was tricked into boarding one of the missing ships after being told there was a terrorist attack.
More than a dozen Turkish navy ships are reportedly still at sea and remain unaccounted for following the botched military coup (file picture) 
More than a dozen Turkish navy ships are reportedly still at sea and remain unaccounted for following the botched military coup (file picture) 
According to the Times, the 14 missing ships were on active duty in either the Aegean or Black Sea on Friday.
They have failed to return to their ports even though they are likely to be traceable through radar on satellite. 
It has prompted speculation that the ships may be on their way to Greek ports where the sailors will attempt to seek asylum.
The Turkish government refused to comment on the but told the newspaper: 'We assess that there are sleeper cells that might try to hijack helicopters or engage in other violent acts against peaceful demonstrators and government buildings.' 
Meanwhile eight other military personnel who flew a helicopter to Greece amid the coup have tried to claim asylum in the country.
Today they will appear before immigration authorities for interviews on their applications.
Eight other military personnel who flew a helicopter to Greece amid the coup have tried to claim asylum in the country. One is pictured being led into a court in the Greek city of Alexandroupolis 
Eight other military personnel who flew a helicopter to Greece amid the coup have tried to claim asylum in the country. One is pictured being led into a court in the Greek city of Alexandroupolis 

The eight were being interviewed today near the north-eastern city of Alexandroupolis.
One of their lawyers has said they deny involvement in Friday's attempted coup in Turkey, saying the helicopter had been used to transport wounded and had come under fire from police, at which point they fled fearing for their lives.
Turkey is seeking their return and Greece has said their asylum applications must be examined under international law, but the fact that they are accused of participating in a coup would be taken into account.
The eight face trial on Thursday for illegal entry into Greece.
Meanwhile the former Turkish air force chief Akin Ozturk has confessed to prosecutors his role in plotting the coup that attempted to topple the government over the weekend, the state-run Anadolu Agency reports.
General Ozturk was quoted as having told interrogators that he 'acted with intention to stage a coup'.
Former Turkish air force chief Akin Ozturk, centre, has confessed to prosecutors his role in plotting the coup that attempted to topple the government
Former Turkish air force chief Akin Ozturk, centre, has confessed to prosecutors his role in plotting the coup that attempted to topple the government
General Ozturk was quoted as having told interrogators that he 'acted with intention to stage a coup'
General Ozturk was quoted as having told interrogators that he 'acted with intention to stage a coup'
Earlier today officials accused of masterminding the uprising, including Ozturk, were paraded on camera with their hands bound and ordered to give their name and rank before being taken to be interrogated.
Photographs appeared to show several injuries to Gen Ozturk's head and upper body.
More than 200 people were killed after a faction in the military launched the coup attempt on Friday night, sealing off a bridge across the Bosphorus, trying to capture Istanbul's main airport and sending tanks to parliament in Ankara.
General Ozturk had earlier denied any involvement in the coup attempt and insisted he worked to stop it.
Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan faced down the coup bid late on Friday by elements in the military disgruntled with his 13-year rule.
However, a a US-based Turkish cleric accused of plotting the coup to overthrow the Ankara government has said President Erdogan staged the rebellion himself to justify a major clampdown on opposition forces.

Erdogan: Link Between Pilots Who Shot Down Russian Su-24 and Gulen Movement

Russian Su-24 front-line bomber jet

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated that there could be a link between the pilots who shot down a Russian jet last November and the Gulen movement, blamed for last week's failed coup attempt, and suggested that foreign countries may have been involved in the attempt, as well.

"Two pilots who downed a Russian plane have been detained in connection with the coup attempt. They could have links to Gulen organizatoin, but we do not have clear evidence at this point, it will be established by the court," Erdogan said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
Erdogan also suggested that there may have been foreign countries involved in the coup attempt that left nearly 300 people and hundreds more injured.
"Other states could be behind this coup attempt. Gulenists have a 'supreme intelligence,' which could have plotted all this. The time will come for all these links to be revealed."
The Gulen movement is led by religious and political figure Fethullah Gulen, currently living in exile in Pennsylvania. The Turkish government has accused him of being behind the failed coup attempt and filed a formal extradition request with the US government. Turkey is awaiting a decision.
While Ankara seeks to detain Gulen, Erdogan suggested that there is "another superior mind" above the Gulen movement leader.
As the Turkish government cracks down on those suspected of being involved in last week's events, Erdogan has suggested that he will approve the death penalty for mutineers if parliament approves. He also stressed that the European Union must respect Turkey's wishes if capital punishment is reinstated.
"I believe that this decision is up to the people. If the people say this must be done, any country that believes in democracy must respect this decision," Erdogan said. "We have been knocking on the EU door for the past 53 years. They have made us wait for 53 years. Many countries who came after us are already in."
On press liberties, Erdogan said he has never been anti-media, but does not believe freedom of expression should be used as a weapon.
On Monday, a Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity told Bloomberg News that the pilots responsible for shooting down the Russian jet had been arrested.
Speaking to Sputnik on Wednesday, Dursun Cicek of Turkey's Republican People's Party warned against drawing a connection between the the downing of the Su-24 and last week's coup, since the pilots could not have acted without higher orders.
"Therefore the pilot could not shoot without obtaining the relevant permission. Could the pilot decide all by himself? Yes, he could, but in any case, the shot was fired in line with the established legal norms," he said. "I think that is not right to link this incident with the coup attempt."
The Russian Su-24 was shot down while flying through Syrian airspace near the Turkish border on November 24. Following the incident, Russia imposed a number of restrictive measures on Turkey and has repeatedly said that Ankara should apologize for downing the plane and cover the cost of any associated material losses to the country and the pilot's family.
Erdogan send a letter of apology to Russian President Vladimir Putin late last month.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Other regions of Ukraine to join LDPR in autumn


With the beginning of the heating season, the People's Republics proclaimed in Donbass will be in a much better position than Ukraine where the population is faceing a sharp increase in tariffs. Since prices have not risen in the LDPR, this model may be attractive to other Ukrainian regions.
It was stated by Alexander Dubinsky, the host of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky's TV channel "1 + 1", on his page in the social network.
'A few facts about the "reintegration" of Donbass. Or rather, why it will never happen. Tariffs for utility services for a standard 2-room apartment (with heating) are about 700 rubles per month, or $12. In Ukraine, they are about three times higher.
Tariffs for gas for households are roughly about 2.5 UAH per cubic meter. In Ukraine, they are about three times higher.
So, never. Another process is much more probable. Namely, other regions joining Donbas. Look at all the screens of the country from the beginning of the heating season,' predicts Dubinsky.
DONi News Agency

Μητροπολίτης Κονίτσης: «Η Βόρεια Ήπειρος θα ξαναενωθεί με την Ελλάδα»

ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΗ ΤΟΥ «ΠΥΡΙΝΟΥ» ΙΕΡΑΡΧΗ ΣΤΟΝ ΠΡΟΚΛΗΤΙΚΟΤΑΤΟ ΕΝΤΙ ΡΑΜΑ
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του Θεόφραστου Ανδρεόπουλου
Την ένωση της Βόρειας Ηπείρου με τον εθνικό «κορμό» της Ελλάδας προέβλεψε ο Μητροπολίτης Κονίτσης Ανδρέας, σε δήλωσή του μετά τις προκλητικές δηλώσεις του Αλβανού πρωθυπουργού Ε.Ράμα ο οποίος με μεγάλο θράσος είπε ότι οι ελληνοαλβανικές σχέσεις είναι πολύ κακές με ευθύνη της Ελλάδας.
 
Ο Μητροπολίτης του υπενθύμισε ότι «όχι μόνο δεν σέβεται τα στοιχειώδη ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των Ελλήνων της Βορείου Ηπείρου, αλλά απροκάλυπτα και προκλητικά αρπάζει τις περιουσίες τους και απεργάζεται τον αφελληνισμό της Χειμάρρας»
 
Συν τοις άλλοις ο Αλβανός πρωθυπουργός προχώρησε στην ψήφιση ενός φωτογραφικού νόμου κατά των Βορειοηπειρωτών με βάση τον οποίο όσοι Αλβανοί υπήκοοι δεν μένουν μόνιμα στην Αλβανία, διαγράφονται από τους εκλογικούς καταλόγους
 
Aκολουθεί η δήλωση του Μητροπολίτη Δρυϊνουπόλεως, Πωγωνιανής και Κονίτσης κ. Ανδρέα:
 
«Εκδήλωση μισελληνισμού και αχαριστίας συνιστούν οι δηλώσεις του πρωθυπουργού της Αλβανίας Έντι Ράμα. Οι δηλώσεις του δημοσιεύθηκαν, εν περιλήψει, στην ημερήσια αθηναϊκή Εφημερίδα «ΕΣΤΙΑ», το ΣαββατοΚύριακο 16-17.7.2016 και έχουν ως εξής:
 
«Νέα επίθεση κατά της Ελλάδος εξαπέλυσε ο Αλβανός Πρωθυπουργός, Έντι Ράμα, χαρακτηρίζοντας τις ελληνοαλβανικές σχέσεις τις πλέον προβληματικές των Τιράνων με τις γείτονες χώρες. Μιλώντας σε πρέσβεις, ο κ. Ράμα επέρριψε στην Ελλάδα την πλήρη ευθύνη για την συσσώρευση τόσο πολλών προβλημάτων» (οι υπογραμμίσεις, δικές μας).
 
Αλλά αν οι Ελληνοαλβανικές σχέσεις είναι - κατά τον κ. Ράμα - οι πιο προβληματικές για τα Τίρανα, γι’ αυτό ο μεγάλος ένοχος είναι η Αλβανία.
 
Διότι όχι μόνο δεν σέβεται τα στοιχειώδη ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των Ελλήνων της Βορείου Ηπείρου, αλλά απροκάλυπτα και προκλητικά αρπάζει τις περιουσίες τους και απεργάζεται τον αφελληνισμό της Χειμάρρας.
 
Αρνείται με πείσμα την συγκέντρωση και ταφή των οστών των Ελλήνων ηρώων αξιωματικών και οπλιτών, όπως αρνείται, με το ίδιο επίσης πείσμα, την δημιουργία Ελληνικού Στρατιωτικού Νεκροταφείου στην Κορυτσά.
 
Προπαγανδίζει αναίσχυντα την δήθεν «Μεγάλη Αλβανία», και κυκλοφορεί χάρτες στους οποίους η Φλώρινα, η Καστοριά, τα Ιωάννινα και ολόκληρη η Ήπειρος μέχρι την Άρτα και την Πρέβεζα «υπάγονται» στην ... Αλβανία.
 
Μήπως, ακόμη, ξέχασε ο κ. Ράμα, ότι, τελευταία, η κυβέρνησή του εψήφισε τον εξωφρενικό εκείνο νόμο, σύμφωνα με τον οποίο όσοι Αλβανοί υπήκοοι δεν μένουν μόνιμα στην Αλβανία, διαγράφονται από τους εκλογικούς καταλόγους ; Αλλά είναι φως - φανάρι, ότι ο πανάθλιος αυτός νόμος, στοχεύει στους Βορειοηπειρώτες.
 
Υπάρχουν, βέβαια, και άλλα προβλήματα, για τα οποία επανειλημμένως έχουμε διαμαρτυρηθή. Ας κατεβάση, λοιπόν, τον τόνο της φωνής του ο λαλίστατος κ. Ράμα. Εμείς του λέμε ξεκάθαρα, ότι η πλήρης «ευθύνη για την συσσώρευση τόσο πολλών προβλημάτων» ανήκει αποκλειστικά και μόνο στην Αλβανία, για να μην αναφερθούμε στις τελευταίες ανθελληνικές εκδηλώσεις των «Τσάμηδων» - απογόνων των εγκληματιών εκείνων, που στα χρόνια της Κατοχής διέπραξαν ανήκουστα εγκλήματα στην Θεσπρωτία, συνεργαζόμενοι πρώτα με τους Ιταλούς και μετά με τους Ναζιστές Γερμανούς.
 
Ας αφήση, λοιπόν, στην άκρη το θράσος και την αναίδεια ο Έντι Ράμα. Γιατί είτε το θέλει, είτε δεν το θέλει, η Βόρειος Ήπειρος, αργά η γρήγορα, θα ενωθή με την Ελλάδα, της οποίας αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο κομμάτι. Αλλά και ο πολιτικός κόσμος της Ελλάδος ας αναλάβη, επί τέλους, τις ευθύνες του απέναντι στον χειμαζόμενο εισέτι Βορειοηπειρωτικό Ελληνισμό ».

Goal Reached? Military Coup Attempt Disempowers Turkish Armed Forces

Pro-Erdogan supporters wave Turkish national flags during a rally at Taksim square in Istanbul on July 18, 2016 following the military failed coup attempt of July 15

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Despite the much-discussed failure of the coup attempt in Turkey, retired Turkish Admiral Turker Erturk told Sputnik Turkiye that it has actually reached its point: the actual target of the attempted overthrow, instigated by CIA, were the Turkish military, out of fear that they would hamper the “Greater Middle East” project.

“My view is that the CIA was behind the coup,” Turker Erturk told Sputnik Turkiye. “The major blow was delivered at the Turkish military.  And the coup attempt was a success, in a sense that certain aims pursued by some certain forces, have been reached.”
The retired Admiral further explained that the attempt turned out to be a failure for the supporters of the Gulen Movement, led by Turkish opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, but for the CIA, which was “pulling the Gulen supporters by the strings” it was a success because the actual purpose of the attempt was to paralyze the Turkish military, disempower them and spoil their image.
“Why has the CIA done it?” he asked himself. He then replied:
“They wanted to hit the Turkish Armed Forces out of fear that Turkey, especially after normalizing its relationship with Russia, could hamper the creation of the so-called Kurdish corridor they are trying to set up in the north of Syria. And it’s all part of the 'Greater Middle East' project.”
Turker Erturk explained that under this project, they don’t want the forces which oppose the setup of hegemony in the Middle East to be present in the region, where Turkey, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria are the key nations.
Hence they try to polarize the key players according to ethnic or religious criteria.  And the high-ranking American officials are openly saying: do what you want, but without an attack on the Turkish military; it is impossible to implement the part of the project which involves Turkey.
The first blow, he says, was leveled by the court trials “Sledgehammer” and “Ergenekon.” And the recent attempt comes as the second blow under the very same project.
Its purpose was to deliver a fatal blow to the image and influence of the Turkish Armed Forces, who tried to hamper the “revamping of the region in a new way.” It was a success: the Turkish Armed Forces have been practically destroyed.
Turker Erturk claims that the "imperialist forces" did not actually want to see Erdogan ousted. They actually wanted a coup attempt to weaken the power of the military, factor them out of the active ongoing processes, and liquidate the mere opportunity that Ankara would pose a threat to projects aimed against Syria, Iraq and Russia, as well as projects aimed at breaking down Turkey.
“This is why I am saying that the coup has failed but the coup attempt has reached its goal,” the retired Turkish Admiral told Sputnik.
“If the imperialistic forces really wanted to oust Erdogan with the help of a successful coup, why would they need Gulen supporters?” he wondered. “They would have set the Armed Forces leadership against him, everything would have been done with insubordination, and the coup would have been a 100 percent success,” he explained.
Turker Erturk thus summarized that the final objective had not been a coup and the ouster of Erdogan, but an attempted coup which was designed to fail, delivering a hurtful blow at the Turkish Armed Forces, depriving them of public support and spoiling their image. It was a success, he concluded.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Turkish soldiers in court after fleeing to Greece amid coup attempt

Eight soldiers who sought refuge in Greece have until Thursday to prepare for trial, as Turkish government calls for extradition
Police escort Turkish military officers to court in Alexandroupoli.Police escort Turkish military officers to court in Alexandroupoli. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstoc
in Athens
Dramatic developments in Turkey reverberated across the Aegean on Monday as eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece as the army attempted to overthrow the government in Ankara appeared in court charged with illegally entering the country.
Two days after landing a Black Hawk helicopter in the border town of Alexandroupoli, the military personnel, who have sought refuge in Greece, were given until Thursday to prepare for a trial that has unsettled officials in both countries.
Calling for their extradition, Turkey’s government has been quick to brand them traitors.
“They fear for their lives and do not believe they will be given a fair trial there,” said Vasiliki Marinaki, one of three Greek lawyers representing the men. “They insist they were not involved in the coup,” she added, saying that the officers had been on a mission to save wounded civilians when they decided to flee after coming under police fire.
The eight, who had initially removed the insignia from their uniforms but have since been identified as two colonels, four captains and two sergeants, left court handcuffed to each other in pairs.
Turkish officers escorted by Greek police officers leave court in AlexandroupoliTheir appearance – in civilian clothes and with heads covered – elicited howls of protest from members of Greece’s Turkish-speaking Muslim minority who had also gathered for the hearing.
Marinaki said she had asked that all eight remain in detention for security reasons.
The sight of the Black Hawk not only entering Greek airspace but requesting to make an emergency landing after issuing a May Day alert unnerved the leftist-led Athens government and military top brass, who immediately demanded the scrambling of F-16 fighter jets.
Though Nato allies, the two countries are also long-time regional foes that have clashed over Cyprus and come close to war on numerous occasions. This is the first time Turkish military personnel have requested asylum in Greece.
The attempted coup had barely been foiled when Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, to demand that the men be speedily returned.
Turkish military helicopter at Alexandroupolis airport
“Politically and diplomatically it is a hot potato for Greece,” the defence expert Thanos Dokos told the Guardian. “This is a government that is sensitive to human rights issues but also knows that the cost of not sending them back could be great. Ultimately much will depend on whether the death penalty is reinstated [in Turkey].”
With officials in crisis-hit Greece also concerned about the ability of Turkish authorities to stop new waves of migrants pouring into the country following the coup, Athens has attempted to walk a middle line.
On Monday, the deputy defence minister, Dimitris Vitsas, insisted that while the asylum requests had to be dealt with under international law, Turkey had a strong argument for their extradition because the officers were accused of participating in an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Ex-Commander of Turkish Air Force Pleads Guilty to Organizing Coup Attempt

Akin Ozturk

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The ex-commander of the Turkish Air Force has pleaded guilty to organizing the coup attempt, Anadolu news agency reported.

"I started to act aiming to stage a coup," Akin Ozturk said during the interrogation.
Ozturk was the commander of the Turkish Air Force from 2013 until 2015.
Earlier, Akin Ozturk, who is the leader of the military coup attempt in Turkey and the former commander of the country's air force, was detained in Turkey.
According to Sabah newspaper, Ozturk may be linked to Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen staying in self-imposed exile in the United States, who was blamed by Ankara for the attempted coup. Late on Friday, Turkish authorities said that an attempted coup is taking place in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Turkish citizens to take to streets, stating that the coup attempt was carried out by a small group within the military.
The coup attempt was suppressed by early Saturday, with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stating that all coup supporters have been detained and the country is returning to normal life.
Some 208 people were killed and over a thousand wounded in a coup attempt by a faction in the military on Friday. Turkish authorities have arrested over thousands of people, including a number of high-ranking military officials in connection with the failed coup.

3x Olympic Champion Pyrros Dimas is the New Technical Director for USA-Weightlifitng


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UPDATE: USA-W has just named Pyrros Dimas, the most decorated weightlifting Olympian of all time, as technical director for USA-W. In his new role, he will serve as both head coach to USA-W’s elite athletes as well as work with the national coaching staff to prepare the USA for international success. Read on to learn more about Pyrros Dimas from what he shared during the Q and A session the USA-W Olympic trials this past May.

The following is a guest post by Dane Miller, owner of “Garage Strength: The World’s Fittest Strength Farm.” Dane is one of the best up and coming weightlifting coaches in the United States, as well as a coach for track and field and a strength coach for wrestlers.  He has developed some of the best youth lifters who have gone on to perform well on the senior national stage, including Hayley Reichardt who placed 2nd in the 48kg division at US Senior Nationals and Jacob Horst, the Senior National champion at 62kg.  He also is the coach for US American record holder, Norik Vardanian, and recently coached five athletes at the United States Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene, Oregon.  He is the only coach in the United States to have coached an athlete at the Olympic Trials in both weightlifting and track and field. He also owns Earth Fed Muscle, a protein supplement company. (Use code “BarbellPress” for 5% off all products).
Pyrros Dimas
When Pyrros Dimas was a child in Greece, he would climb trees in order to pick fruit for himself. One time he was caught climbing a  neighbor’s tree and like any child would be, he was frightened and readied himself for a scolding. Instead, the neighbor, who recognized his strength, suggested he get into weightlifting.
Though he played many sports as a child, such as soccer, Dimas soon recognized that his talent lies in weightlifting and he decided to pursue it seriously. His intention, at the time, was simply to improve his snatch technique.
Technical development is the most crucial aspect of training for a young lifter. Because of this, Dimas spent his early years (from age 7 until age 19) focused primarily on developing a greater understanding of the movements. He followed a Russian program focused on volume and variation in his lifts. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 19 that he began to lift heavy weights in training. His training intensified and rather than focusing on volume, he hit many heavy singles in training.
As a youth lifter, he competed in the 67kg class, snatched 140, and clean and jerked 167. By 17, his body had matured and he moved up to the 75kg class  As a result, he accomplished 145kg in the snatch and 185kg in the clean and jerk.
Perhaps the most positive influence on his training was the addition of his training partner, Kakhi Kakhiashvili, who moved from Georgia in the then USSR to Greece where Dimas trained. Lifters tend to spend more time with their teammates than they often get to spend with their wife and children. Positive relationships, thus, are essential to the athletic development of lifters.
Around the same time, Dimas switched from primarily split jerking to competing with the power jerk. This was never his intention, but he had already trained the power jerk in order to develop a stronger split jerk. His coach recognized that he was a better power jerker and thus, he adopted this style of jerking. Suddenly, training became even more enjoyable.
But even still, there were times when he questioned his dedication. The road to success in this sport demands a great deal of mundane repetition in training. There were many times when he contemplated quitting in order to live a more “normal” lifestyle. Yet, it was his love for competition which kept him involved in the sport. Nothing could beat the feeling of chalking his hands and approaching the bar in front of spectators.
One of his inspirations was Yuri Vardanian. From a young age, he was in awe of the way Vardanian smiled as he held so much weight overhead. The strength and control that Vardanian exhibited during competition was both fascinating and inspiring. Thus, as Dimas grew in the sport, he drew upon the same Vardanian-like theatrics in order to intimidate his opposition.
Looking back, he reflected upon the importance of his relationship with his coach. Though at times he enjoyed irritating his coach with his attempts to gain more control over his own training regimen, he always respected his coach and allowed him the final say regarding both training and competitions.
Clearly his coach made effective decisions because Dimas had incredible numbers in training. At a bodyweight of 92kg, he was able to front squat 292kg and back squat 325kg. However, in hindsight, he wishes he hadn’t trained with such heavy squats as he would have preferred to have spent more time improving his technique in the lifts instead. Even still, his best snatch in training was 190kg with straps and his best clean and jerk was 220kg. His best clean was 225kg.
Of course, it is not his training numbers, but rather his impressive accomplishments on the Olympic platform that made Pyrros Dimas a legend. When competing, he always cut to an 83 (which was a weight class of the time). To cut, he would change his eating habits a few weeks out from competition so that he would be able to lose 5-6 kilos but still feel strong.  He liked to eat a small bowl of rice and chicken with a little bit of gravy and salt leading up to a competition. While cutting, he drank water with vitamin C to maintain his energy levels and ate bananas to prevent cramping.
Once competition day arrived, he followed a very specific routine in order to ensure that he did his best. Leading up to a meet, he would wait to shave his face until the competition day arrived. Also, he would bring his bag of “lucky charms.” Among his “lucky charms” was an article of his daughters’ clothing which reminded him of why he was competing.
In order to focus, he did not talk to anyone on the day of competition, but instead, spent his time visualizing his success. He imagined all of his lifts and the feeling of being successful after each attempt. To Dimas, this routine was just as important as the training that led up to competition, and he stressed that every competitor should have their own way of preparing.
His preparation was effective as he won three Olympic golds and three World Championships. His loss to Shahin Nassirina at the 1999 World Championship was not for lack of preparation, but rather because he was battling a shoulder injury that required him to fly to New York City in search of the best medical care available. Even with such an injury, he took second place and after the World Championships ended, he was able to rehabilitate his shoulder in time to win the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
In fact, he took gold in three of the four Olympics he participated in which makes him the most decorated weightlifting Olympian of all time. It was in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, his home country, that he finished third. By these games, he had already had his fair share of injuries and was thirty-three years of age, which is relatively old in the world of weightlifting. Despite placing third, the experience was tremendously moving as he competed at the highest level possible in front of his home crowd. For Dimas, this was the highlight of his career.
The toughest battle for Dimas was his retirement. After so many years of being an elite athlete earning Olympic and World medals for his country, he found himself irritable and depressed. Without weightlifting, he struggled to find what would make him happy. Eventually he came to realize that there is life beyond weightlifting and his joy came from spending time with his family.  And of course, he still finds his way to the gym where he lifts for sheer enjoyment these days.
The McKenna's Gym Family meets Pyrros Dimas.
The McKenna’s Gym Family meets Dimas.
Reflections: It was incredible that USA Weightlifting was able to bring Pyrros Dimas to the Olympic trials.  Anyone who is interested in weightlifting is aware of his ability and his past performances.  During the question and answer session, he was open to sharing information and even fielded a question regarding the current socio-economic situation that Greece and the Greek people are currently facing.  It was refreshing to hear that one of the best lifters to have ever walked the planet struggled with the same issues that American lifters do. It was impressive that Dimas was critical of his own training despite being a multi-time World Champion, a three-time Olympic champion and four-time Olympic medalist. He still critically analyzed his training and reflected upon how his training could have been improved just as all athletes should do. This question and answer session at the Olympic trials is one thing I will never forget!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

42 Helicopters Missing in Turkey Sparking Concerns of a Second Coup Attempt

Turkish combat Cobra helicopter

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At least 42 helicopters have gone missing from Turkey's military inventory in the wake of the failed coup attempt on Friday evening causing concern that there may be another act to the attempted overthrow of Erdogan.

CNN Turk anchor Serdar Tuncer reports that at least 42 helicopters have gone missing from the Turkish military inventory and says concern is brewing that another coup effort may soon be underway. "It is as though this rogue will try more things. Can they succeed? No! But will they try?" said the reporter.
Unrest continues in Turkey in the wake of Friday's failed coup attempt that left at least 265 dead and over 2000 people wounded, most of whom were civilians answering the call of President Erdogan to put down the coup attempt.
​The Turkish government asserts that it has retained full-control of the government and has begun a "systematic purge of the military." On Saturday, the government rounded up over 6,000 individuals who will face prosecution under the country's treason laws with President Erdogan refusing to rule out applying a death sentence to the traitors. The arrested include 2,745 judges and over 2,800 soldiers in the Turkish military including Erdogan's top military adviser.
The US State Department cautions that the situation in Turkey remains unstable in the wake of the failed coup plot and warns foreign travelers against visiting the country citing an increased terror threat as chaos ensues across the country.
NATO also maintains roughly 90 tactical nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base, from where the 42 helicopters have gone missing, causing concern about the security of US weapons in Turkey and raising the specter that terrorists may ultimately be able to get their hands on advanced weaponry or potentially a nuclear bomb.

Did Turkey Just Threaten War Against the United States After Failed Coup?

U.S President Barack Obama and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Turkish officials threaten to go to war with “any country” supporting exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of the coup plot, which would put the US right in Ankara’s crosshairs.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim threated to go to war with any country that would "stand by" exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a resident of Pennsylvania in the United States who Washington refuses to extradite citing a lack of evidence that he was behind the attempted overthrow of the Erdogan government.
This appears to be a pointed threat against the United States with an implicit demand that Washington must extradite Gulen or face Ankara’s wrath. The provocative comments came after Turkish Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu shocked the world by accusing the America of manufacturing the overthrow effort.
"The US is behind the coup attempt. A few journals that are published there [in the US] have been conducting activites for several months. For many months we have sent requests to the US concerning Fethullah Gulen. The US must extradite him," said the Labor Minister in a statement.
Secretary of State John Kerry responded by saying that Turkey has failed to provide sufficient evidence for the Obama administration to even consider their request to extradite the cleric. He also went on to condemn Ankara’s provocative statements saying that remarks alleging US involvement do serious harm to relations between the two countries.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that during a conversation on Saturday evening with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu, the Secretary of State warned Turkey to never make such an accusation.
"He made clear that the United States would be willing to provide assistance to Turkish authorities conducting this investigation, but the public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations," said Kirby.
The cleric allegedly behind the overthrow effort has also strongly condemned the coup.
"I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force," said Gulen to the New York Times. "As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations."
Gulen later questioned whether the failed coup attempt was a legitimate effort to overthrow the government or political theater at the hands of Erdogan.
The situation for the United States is now as perilous as ever with Turkey in possession of roughly 90 US tactical nuclear weapons that are stored at the Incirlik Air Base. Turkish officials have blocked access to the air base and the commander in charge of securing those weapons was arrested on Sunday.

Coup Supporters Seize Turkish Frigate, Hold Turkish Fleet Commander Hostage

Yavuz class frigate

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Turkish military coup supporters have seized Yavuz frigate and taken head of Turkish fleet as a hostage, CNN Turk reported on Saturday.

ATHENS (Sputnik) — The frigate was seized at the Golcuk naval base on the east shore of the Marmara Sea, according to CNN Turk. The Turkish government warned of the possibility of repeated attempts to take over.
Earlier, a Turkish helicopter allegedly carrying several coup supporters landed in Greece, according to local TV ERT.
Late on Friday, Turkish authorities said that an attempted coup is taking place in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Turkish citizens to take to streets, stating that the coup attempt was carried out by a small group within the military. The coup attempt was reportedly suppressed by early Saturday, with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stating that all coup supporters have been detained and the country is returning to normal life.
In total, over 180 were killed and 1470 were injured during the events, while nearly 3,000 people have been detained, according to the prime minister.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

CIA warns change of borders in the Balkans

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In an interview to the Serbian newspaper "Vecernje Novosti", former deputy chief of the CIA, Steven Meyer, said that borders between Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia will son change.

According to Meyer, the country with the highest risk in the Balkans is Macedonia, not only because of the problems between the Orthodox Macedonians and Albanians, but also because of the problems between Orthodox Macedonians themselves.

Meyer spoke about the situation in Bosnia and Republika Srpska, as well as the 21st anniversary of the "Storm" operation which set free parts of Croatia occupied by Serbs.

He notes that Republika Srpska will survive, but in another form, while adding that there is no change in the US policy towards Kosovo.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Military Aircraft Stop Flights Above Ankara as Coup Attempt Fails in Turkey

Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet

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Military aircraft have stopped flying above Ankara as relative calm emerged in the city following the failed attempted coup, a RIA Novosti correspondent reports.

ANKARA (Sputnik) – The intensity of fire exchanges at the parliament building is going down and no explosions have been heard in Ankara the past hour, according to the correspondent. According to the Ankara prosecutor’s office, at least 60 people were killed amid the military coup attempt in Turkey, 42 of them died in Ankara. The victims include civilians and military servicemen.

Military Coup Attempt Underway in Turkey

Police officers stand guard near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey.

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The Turkish military claims it has taken over the government and seized all power in the country.

In a statement read on television, Turkish General Staff announced that "Turkish Armed Forces took full control of power." Earlier in the day, military vehicles, soldiers, and security forces were deployed on the streets of Istanbul and the capital of Ankara. Military jets and helicopters were seen flying over both major cities. Gunfire has been reported in the capital of Ankara. Bridges leading over the Bosphorus out of Istanbul have also been closed. A blast has been heard in Ankara.
The Turkish military is currently led by General Hulusi Akar, however Turkish Anadolu news agency reports that he has been taken hostage by the military.
Turkish Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar
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Turkish Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar
According to Justice Minister Bozdag, the government prosecutor's office in Ankara and Istanbul has opened an investigation into the actions of the rebels.
"I consider it necessary to reassure our citizens that the government has taken and continues to undertake all necessary steps," he said.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim went on national television to stress that some elements in the military attempted to overthrow the government, but "the government elected by the people remains in charge.This government will only go when the people say so."
"Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command," Prime Minister Yildirim added.
It is unclear who is currently controlling the situation in the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reportedly on holiday in the Turkish city of Bodrum.

Congress releases secret '28 pages' on alleged Saudi 9/11 ties

Story highlights

  • The secret document was part of a 2002 congressional investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks
  • The Saudi government has long called allegations of involvement unfounded
Washington (CNN)A long-classified U.S. report released Friday found that some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with and received support from individuals likely connected to the Saudi government.
Known as the "28 pages," the secret document was part of a 2002 Congressional Joint Inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks and has been classified since the report's completion, despite repeated calls for its release. The document, which the administration finally delivered to Congress earlier Friday, actually contains 29 pages of material plus a letter from then-CIA Director George Tenet.
"While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi Government," the document says.
The pages also say that the inquiry obtained information "indicating that Saudi Government officials in the United States may have other ties to al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups," but the commission that authored them acknowledged that much of the info "remains speculative and yet to be independently verified."
Saudi Ambassador to the United States Abdullah Al-Saud put out a statement after the document's release Friday welcoming its publication, though he didn't address the details it contains.
"Several government agencies, including the CIA and the FBI, have investigated the contents of the '28 Pages' and have confirmed that neither the Saudi government, nor senior Saudi officials, nor any person acting on behalf of the Saudi government provided any support or encouragement for these attacks," he said. "We hope the release of these pages will clear up, once and for all, any lingering questions or suspicions about Saudi Arabia's actions, intentions, or long-term friendship with the United States."
"It should be clear that this Joint Inquiry has made no final determinations as to the reliability or sufficiency of the information," the report says.On the one hand, the report notes, it is possible that these kinds of connections could suggest "incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi Government. On the other hand, it is also possible that further investigation of these allegations could reveal legitimate, and innocent, explanations for these associations."
The report also criticizes the lack of effective intelligence-sharing in the U.S. government, highlighting an episode where a CIA memorandum "which discusses alleged financial connections between the September 11 hijackers, Saudi Government officials, and members of the Saudi Royal Family" was placed into an FBI case file and never forwarded to FBI headquarters until the memo was discovered by the inquiry.
It also says that there was a lack of emphasis on intelligence-gathering directed at Saudis in the U.S. in the time before the attacks.
"Prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative resources on [[redacted]] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia's status as an American 'ally.' "
But the report also references instances where the Saudi government was "uncooperative" in counterterrorism interrogations both before and after 9/11.
"A number of FBI agents and CIA officers complained to the Joint Inquiry about a lack of Saudi cooperation in terrorism investigations both before and after the September 11 attacks," citing one New York FBI agent who said "the Saudis have been useless and obstructionist for years."
The report details one post-9/11 episode where an FBI agent couldn't get the Saudi government to provide information on Saudi nationals despite providing copies of the subjects' Saudi passports.
Under pressure from the victims' families and lawmakers, President Barack Obama said in April his administration would declassify the pages.
Sources told CNN ahead of the report's release that intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the State Department had all reviewed and approved the release of the pages with "minimal redactions." But the report Congress put out had multiple inked-out sections.
Still, the release of the pages on Friday was welcomed by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who has co-sponsored a bill, co-sponsored that opens the door for families of 9/11 victims to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism.
"Preliminary readings show that there may well have been Saudi involvement in the terror of 9/11 both in the Saudi government and within the Saudi country, within Saudi Arabia," he told reporters in New York.
"The families who I have fought for long and hard now will be able to go to court, and soon, and if the Saudi government was complicit in 9/11 they should pay the price to the families who deserve justice," he continued. "And they should pay the price so no other government will think of playing footsie with terrorists the way the Saudi government may well have done in 2001."
Jerry Goldman, a lawyer who represents families of victims in a class-action suit seeking to sue Saudi Arabia, said ahead of the report's release that his clients were pleased. "The families are happy just as the American people should be happy that information that has been kept hidden for well over a decade is finally coming to light."
One of those who looked forward to reading the pages is Terry Strada, who has been pushing for the right to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged involvement in the attack. Her husband, Tom, was working on the 104th floor of the North Tower when the planes struck. The couple's third child had been born just four days eariler.
"The American people deserve this just as much as the 9/11 families deserve it, but we're the ones that are suffering by not having them released," Strada said.
The Saudi government itself had repeated called for the pages to be made public so that it could respond to any allegations, which it has long called unfounded.
"We've been saying since 2003 that the pages should be released," said Nail Al-Jubeir, director of communications for the Saudi Embassy, ahead of Friday's developments. "They will show everyone that there is no there there."
After the pages appeared online Friday afternoon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement saying that their declassification and release did not constitute a national security risk.
But it noted that the decision to authorize the release "does not indicate the Intelligence Community's agreement" with the report's "accuracy or concurrence with any information it contains."
In the wake of the release, the chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee issued a joint statement endorsing the declassification of the pages.
Chairman Devin Nunes added, however, that "it's important to note that this section does not put forward vetted conclusions, but rather unverified leads that were later fully investigated by the Intelligence Community."
Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the chair and top Democrat of the Senate intelligence committee issued a statement of their own, saying that they agreed with the decision to declassify the report. But they warned, "These pages include unconfirmed allegations and raw reporting and have been the subject of conspiracy theories for years."
They called for the public to review related documents from the director of national intelligence that "debunk many of the allegations contained in the declassified section of the report."
The concluded, "We need to put an end to conspiracy theories and idle speculation that do nothing to shed light on the 9/11 attacks."