aubiefifty

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About aubiefifty

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  1. that is up to auburn right? they will do what is right when they deem it is the right time to do it. you guys are pouring all your wrath on gus when our ex president is the one that made that decision and gave gus such a huge buy out that even if auburn folks are not happy with gus they still have to pony up huge money which will once again have all the pundits laughing in the press and tv shows across america. i will support gus until he is replaced and i will give the next coach the same support as long as they are not doing something horrible like happened at baylor. and since you never mentioned it i guess you are ok with someone making up stuff about another poster to further their own agenda? that was the main point of my statement. am i right to believe you care about nothing but win / loss records?
  2. just quit dude. show me where mikey is content with 8 and 4 records? you think it is funny making fun of people that love auburn and now you are basically lying. mickey never said that.....you said that. you are just trying to make yourself look good at someone else's expense. the only person abusing mikey is you making claims on here that are just not true. there is not one single auburn fan i know of that does not want auburn to be the best we can be. the difference is how we get there. period.
  3. if we come out flat we still win. from what i have heard from different people talking arkie just does not have the joes to seriously compete with almost any team with a pulse. i think ol bert messed them up pretty good.
  4. Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies — ProPublica Heather Vogell 17-21 minutes Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices. Documents obtained by ProPublica show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax. For instance, Trump told the lender that he took in twice as much rent from one building as he reported to tax authorities during the same year, 2017. He also gave conflicting occupancy figures for one of his signature skyscrapers, located at 40 Wall Street. Lenders like to see a rising occupancy level as a sign of what they call “leasing momentum.” Sure enough, the company told a lender that 40 Wall Street had been 58.9% leased on Dec. 31, 2012, and then rose to 95% a few years later. The company told tax officials the building was 81% rented as of Jan. 5, 2013. A dozen real estate professionals told ProPublica they saw no clear explanation for multiple inconsistencies in the documents. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.” New York City’s property tax forms state that the person signing them “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.” The punishments for lying to tax officials, or to lenders, can be significant, ranging from fines to criminal fraud charges. Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate. “Certainly, if I were sitting in a prosecutor’s office, I would want to ask a lot more questions,” said Anne Milgram, a former attorney general for New Jersey who is now a professor at New York University School of Law. Trump has previously been accused of manipulating numbers on his tax and loan documents, including by his former lawyer, Cohen. But Trump’s business is notoriously opaque, with records rarely surfacing, and up till now there’s been little documentary evidence supporting those claims. That’s one reason that multiple governmental entities, including two congressional committees and the office of the Manhattan district attorney, have subpoenaed Donald Trump’s tax returns. Trump has resisted, taking his battles to federal courts in Washington and New York. And so the question of whether different parts of the government can see the president’s financial information is now playing out in two appeals courts and seems destined to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Add to that a Washington Post account of an IRS whistleblower claiming political interference in the handling of the president’s audit, and the result is what amounts to frenetic interest in one person’s tax returns. ProPublica obtained the property tax documents using New York’s Freedom of Information Law. The documents were public because Trump appealed his property tax bill for the buildings every year for nine years in a row, the extent of the available records. We compared the tax records with loan records that became public when Trump’s lender, Ladder Capital, sold the debt on his properties as part of mortgage-backed securities. ProPublica reviewed records for four properties: 40 Wall Street, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas and Trump Tower. Discrepancies involving two of them — 40 Wall Street and the Trump International Hotel and Tower — stood out. Trump’s personal attorney at the time, Michael Cohen, keeps watch as supporters lay hands on the then-presidential nominee. “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes,” Cohen later testified, “and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) There can be legitimate reasons for numbers to diverge between tax and loan documents, the experts noted, but some of the gaps seemed to have no reasonable justification. “It really feels like there’s two sets of books — it feels like a set of books for the tax guy and a set for the lender,” said Kevin Riordan, a financing expert and real estate professor at Montclair State University who reviewed the records. “It’s hard to argue numbers. That’s black and white.” The Trump Organization did not respond on the record to detailed questions provided by ProPublica. Robert Pollack, a lawyer whose firm, Marcus & Pollack, handles Trump’s property tax appeal filings with the city, said he was not authorized to discuss the documents. A spokeswoman for Mazars USA, the accounting firm that signed off on the two properties’ expense and income statements, said the firm does not comment on its work for clients. Executives with Trump’s lender, Ladder Capital, declined to be quoted for the story. In response to ProPublica’s questions about the disparities, Laura Feyer, deputy press secretary for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, “The city is looking into this property, and if there has been any underreporting, we will take appropriate action.” Taxes have long been a third rail for Trump. Long before he famously declined to make his personal returns public, a New York Times investigation concluded, Trump participated in tax schemes that involved “outright fraud,” and that he had formulated “a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns.” Trump’s former partners in Panama claimed in a lawsuit, which is ongoing, that Trump’s hotel management company failed to pay taxes on millions in fees it received. Spokespeople for Trump and his company have denied any tax improprieties in the past. In February, Cohen told Congress that Trump had adjusted figures up or down, as necessary, to obtain loans and avoid taxes. “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes,” Cohen testified, “and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” The two Trump buildings with the most notable discrepancies shared a financial trait: Both were refinanced in 2015 and 2016 while Trump was campaigning for president. The loan for 40 Wall Street — $160 million — was then the Trump Organization’s biggest debt. The fortunes of 40 Wall Street have risen and fallen repeatedly since it was constructed in 1930. Once briefly in the running to become the world’s tallest skyscraper (before being eclipsed by the Chrysler Building and then others), the 71-story landmark had an illustrious history before falling into disrepair as it changed hands multiple times. Trump says in his book “Never Give Up” that he took over 40 Wall Street for $1 million during a down market in 1995. Others have reported the price as $10 million. Trump gave the property his signature treatment, decking out the lobby in Italian marble and bronze and christening it “The Trump Building.” Tenants such as American Express moved in. But the rent rolls suffered when big-name tenants fled to Midtown in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Less blue-chip operations replaced them. In recent years, there were more setbacks. About two years ago, for example, high-end food purveyor Dean & Deluca canceled plans to locate an 18,500-square-foot emporium on the higher-priced first floor. The space remains empty. The building at 40 Wall was underperforming, charging below-market rents, according to credit-rating agency Moody’s. Its profits were lagging. Trump’s company, which has sometimes struggled to obtain credit because of his history of bankruptcies and defaults, turned for relief to a financial institution where Donald Trump had a connection: Ladder Capital, which employs Jack Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg. Ladder is a publicly traded commercial real estate investment trust that reports more than $6 billion in assets. In 2015, and still today, Jack Weisselberg was an executive director whose job was to make loans. Trump and Jack Weisselberg had history together. Jack was at UBS, in its loan origination department, in 2006, when the Swiss bank loaned Trump $7 million for his piece of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Allen Weisselberg had bought a condo from Trump in one of his buildings for a below-market price of $152,500 in 2000. He deeded it to Jack three years later for about $148,000. Jack sold the unit for more than three times as much in 2006. (Jack Weisselberg declined to comment on Ladder’s loans or his relationship with the Trump Organization.) Even with a sympathetic lender, the struggles at 40 Wall Street would normally raise questions. Trump’s representatives needed to demonstrate signs of the building’s financial health if they wanted a new loan with a lower interest rate. They had a compelling piece of data, it seemed. Trump’s team told Ladder that occupancy was rebounding after registering a lackluster 58.9% on Dec. 31, 2012. Since then, Trump representatives reported, the building had signed new tenants. Income from them hadn’t fully been realized yet, largely because of free-rent deals, they said. But after 2015, they predicted, revenues would surge. “That’s a selling point for people in the business,” said Riordan, who was previously the executive director of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. Borrowers “want to show tremendous leasing momentum.” The steepness of such a rise in occupancy at the Trump building was unusual, Riordan and other experts said. Documents submitted to city property tax officials show no such run-up. Trump representatives reported to the tax authorities that the building was already 81% leased in 2012. “What is bizarre is that you have these tax filings that are totally different,” Riordan said. A gap of at least 10 percentage points between the two occupancy reports persisted for the next two years, before the figures in the tax and loan reports synced in January 2016. The portrayal of a rapid rise in occupancy, and the explanation that income would soon follow, were critical for the refinancing. Indeed, Ladder’s underwriters were predicting that 40 Wall Street’s profits would more than double after 2015. Having reviewed Trump’s financial statements and rent roll, they estimated the building would clear $22.6 million a year in net operating income. Ladder needed credit ratings agencies like Moody’s and Fitch to endorse its income expectations and give the loan a favorable rating, which would in turn make it easier for the next step of the plan: to package the loan as part of a bond, a so-called commercial mortgage-backed security, and sell it to investors. Without the expected rise in income, Riordan said, the loan size or terms would likely have needed to be renegotiated to satisfy the ratings agencies and investors, which would mean less favorable terms for Trump and Ladder. “There was a story crafted here,” Riordan said. “It’s contradicted by what we see in the tax filings.” Wallace, the University of California professor, added: “Especially in underwriting loans, you are supposed to truthfully report.” Both the lender and the borrower are required to supply accurate information, she said. Moody’s and Fitch analysts found the underwriter’s projections slightly too rosy, but Fitch conferred an investment-grade rating on the loan, allowing it to proceed as planned. Trump ultimately received a 10-year loan with a lower interest rate than the building previously had as well as terms that would allow him to defer paying off much of the principal until the end of the loan. Once granted, the loan to 40 Wall Street ran into trouble: The year after it went through, the loan servicer put it on a “watch list” because of concerns that the building wasn’t making sufficient profit to pay the debt service with enough of a margin. It stayed on the list for three months. (Trump’s company has continued making payments.) As of 2018, the most recent year available, the building had never met the underwriters’ profit expectations, trailing by more than 8%, according to data from commercial real estate research service Trepp. Experts say that, given the amount of research underwriters do, a property typically meets their expectations fairly quickly. The 40 Wall Street documents contain discrepancies related to costs as well as to occupancy. Generally, there are “more opportunities to play games on the expense side,” said Ron Shapiro, an assistant professor at Rutgers Business School and a former bank senior vice president, “particularly because there are many more kinds of expenses.” Comparing specific expense items in both sets of records is challenging, because accountants may group categories differently in reports to tax and loan officials. But some differences on 40 Wall Street documents elicit head-scratching. For example, insurance costs in 2017 were listed as $744,521 in tax documents and $457,414 in loan records. Then there was the underlying lease. Trump technically doesn’t own 40 Wall Street. He pays the wealthy German family that owns the property for the right to rent the building to tenants. In 2015, both Trump’s report to tax authorities and a key loan disclosure document asserted that Trump’s company paid $1.65 million for these rights that year. But a line-by-line income and expense statement, which Trepp gathered from what the company reported to the loan servicer, reported the company paid about $1.24 million that year. “I don’t know why that would be off,” said Jason Hoffman, who is chair of the real estate committee for a professional association of certified public accountants in New York state. Like other experts, he said there are legitimate reasons why tax and loan filings might not line up perfectly. But Hoffman said the firm where he works makes sure the numbers match when it prepares both tax and loan documents for a client — or that it can explain why if they don’t. Financial information for the Trump International Hotel and Tower raises similar questions. Trump owns only a small portion of the building, which is located on Columbus Circle: two commercial spaces, which he rents out to a restaurant and a parking garage. Trump’s company told New York City tax officials it made about $822,000 renting space to commercial tenants there in 2017, records show. The company told loan officials it took in $1.67 million that year — more than twice as much. In eight years of data ProPublica examined for the Columbus Circle property, Trump’s company reported gross income to tax authorities that was typically only about 81% of what it reported to the lender. Trump appeared to omit from tax documents income his company received from leasing space on the roof for television antennas, a ProPublica review found. The line on tax appeal forms for income from such communications equipment is blank on nine years of tax filings, even as loan documents listed the antennas as major sources of income. Trump has an easement to lease the roof space; he doesn’t own it. But three tax experts, including Melanie Brock, an appraiser and paralegal who has worked on hundreds of New York City tax cases, told ProPublica that the income should still be reported on the tax appeals forms. It’s hard to guess what might explain every inconsistency, said David Wilkes, a New York City tax lawyer who is chair of the National Association of Property Tax Attorneys. But, he added, “My gut reaction is it seems like there’s something amiss there.” Tax records for Trump personally and for his business continue to be subjects of contention in multiple investigations. The Justice Department has intervened in the investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, whose office has sought Trump’s personal tax returns. Congressional lawmakers investigating his business dealings have sought documents from his longtime accountant, Donald Bender, a partner at Mazars. Trump is fighting the subpoenas in court. (Bender did not respond to requests for comment.) Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has said the committee is seeking to determine if Cohen’s testimony about Trump inflating and deflating his assets was accurate. Cummings asked for Mazars’ records related to Trump entities, as well as communications between Bender and Trump or Trump employees since 2009. Such communications, the subpoena stated, should include any related to potential concerns that information Trump or his representatives provided his accountants was “incomplete, inaccurate, or otherwise unsatisfactory.”
  5. Auburn’s defense should cash betting ticket at Arkansas Updated Oct 15, 2019; Posted Oct 15, 2019 By Christopher Smith The last time Auburn took the field, it scored 13 points on 4.4 yards per play and turned the ball over four times. Laying 19 points on the road may make you feel leery. I liked the line better at Auburn -17.5 on Sunday, but I’d still bet Auburn at this price. The handicap comes down to Auburn’s defense against Arkansas’ offense. Count on Auburn to exceed 30 points Why do I feel confident that the Tigers can score enough to cover nearly a three-touchdown number? The Arkansas defense ranks 58th in SP+. In three games against SP+ No. 1 defense Oregon, No. 16 Florida and No. 29 Texas A&M, Auburn’s offense averaged 4.8 yards per play. Bo Nix was 36 of 79 for 422 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. In three games against SP+ defense No. 42 Mississippi State, No. 57 Tulane and No. 105 Kent State, Auburn’s offense averaged 6.9 yards per play. Nix was 47 of 74 for 703 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Based on the line and total (55), oddsmakers are suggesting a score in the neighborhood of 35-17 or 38-17. Auburn’s offense should score in the 30s against Arkansas by playing a normal game, and could reach the 40s with a non-offensive touchdown or some long scores on good Gus Malzahn play calls. Against FBS competition, Arkansas has allowed 31, 34, 31, 31 and 24 points. Auburn could be the best offensive team that the Razorbacks have faced. The 24-point game came Saturday against Kentucky, during which the Wildcats started a receiver at quarterback. Arkansas allowed him to rush for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be scared off by the offensive performance in Gainesville, because that isn’t going to repeat itself in Fayetteville. Can one-dimensional Arkansas offense produce against Auburn? The Arkansas offense ranks 89th in SP+. That’s worse than Toledo, Marshall and Florida International and just ahead of Eastern Michigan and New Mexico. Arkansas’ quarterbacks were 12 of 27 for 122 yards against Kentucky on Saturday, a defense far inferior to Auburn’s. Rakeem Boyd, the lone Razorbacks skill player who has been consistently productive, must face Derrick Brown and an Auburn defensive line off a bye week. More specifically, the Arkansas offensive line must go against that group. Considering it ranks 90th in power success rate and 70th in stuff rate, one can surmise that the Tigers defense will get in the backfield early and often on Saturday. Boyd may have decent success on standard downs. He usually does. But against a quality defense like Auburn’s, which does not have to show any respect to the Arkansas passing game, can Boyd carry his team to 20+ points? I’m skeptical. The Chad Morris era isn’t good for Arkansas fans Since a 55-20 win against Eastern Illinois in his Arkansas debut, head coach Chad Morris has won three times – against 2018 Tulsa (3-9), 2019 Portland State (4-3) and 2019 Colorado State (2-5). Morris seems headed toward a two-year record of 5-19. Forgive Arkansas fans if they miss Bret Bielema (first two seasons: 10-15) and Bobby Petrino (first two seasons: 13-12). Four of Arkansas’ six games this season have finished within one possession. The problem is that three of those came against Portland State, San Jose State and a Kentucky team that, again, started a receiver at quarterback. Since he became Auburn’s head coach, Malzahn is 5-1 ATS against Arkansas, covering the spread by an average margin of 12.3 points. The only non-cover came in 2015. That Auburn team, which finished 2-6 in the SEC, went to Fayetteville as a seven-point underdog and lost by eight … in four overtimes. The fact that Auburn is coming off an ugly loss and a bye week makes me believe we’ll see one of this team’s better games. I don’t think the Arkansas offensive line will be up to the task, so I expect Auburn to cover on the strength of its defense. Final score: Auburn 38, Arkansas 17 Christopher Smith is a professional handicapper who specializes in college football and basketball. He’s the founder of Sports Locksmith.
  6. Bo Nix’s confidence unshaken after struggles against Florida Posted Oct 15, 8:36 AM By Tom Green | tgreen@al.com Bo Nix didn’t let the worst performance of his young career linger. After throwing three interceptions in a 24-13 loss to Florida in Week 6, Nix took the weekend to think on the game and then put it behind him. Auburn’s freshman quarterback’s confidence was unshaken, and he was ready to get back to work during the Tigers’ first off week. "He's just got confidence,” wide receiver Will Hastings said. “You look at him, and the dude — he doesn't care. He knows he didn't have a good game, but he's like, 'You know what, forget it. Next game.' He's got confidence that we can run the table and beat everyone on the whole schedule. So, when you have a dude who's that confident — it's not even cocky, it's just straight confidence. “He comes about it in the nicest way and he just thinks that we can beat anyone and everyone. So, when you have a dude like that, you're going to follow him into war. It's pretty cool being able to watch him being so young and be able to have that maturity and that confidence." Nix struggled during the loss to the Gators, completing just 11-of-27 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, including one in the red zone when the Tigers were in position to take the lead late in the third quarter. It was the first time since the first half of the season opener against Oregon that Nix threw an interception, and it was the first time all season that Nix — who was coming off his best game of the year a week earlier against Mississippi State — truly looked like a freshman quarterback. Assessing Bo Nix midway through his first season Auburn's season is halfway over. How far has its freshman quarterback come? It was a learning experience for Nix, but for Malzahn as well, as the seventh-year Auburn coach had an opportunity to see how his five-star freshman responds to adversity. “I think he’s got a chance to be really good,” Malzahn said. “He’s a competitor and he wants to be good. I think he’s a good leader.” Although Nix had his issues against Florida, Malzahn said there was no consideration of making a change at the position. He also placed his quarterback’s struggles on himself as a coach, saying he needs to put Nix in better situations in the second half of the season. That was one of the key objectives of the off week — figuring out how to simplify things offensively and make life easier for Nix within the scheme. Malzahn felt like it was a successful bye week for the team and that the Tigers accomplished everything they set out to do. For Nix in particular, that meant assessing his performance not just against Florida, but throughout the first six games of the season. “He did just about like our team did; we woke up on Monday morning, that’s over with,” Malzahn said. “We’ve just got to get better. No matter if it was the good things about leading us back against a good Oregon team to win the game or having a tough game, you put it behind you. He’s done that. He’s determined to lead our team. We had a really good week of practice last week. I expect us to continue to get better and I expect us to play good football. He’s in that same boat.” How Auburn can rebound from midseason loss to Florida Auburn's loss to Florida was a tough one for the Tigers, but by no means did it derail their season. The extra days of practice without a game allowed Nix to continue to work on his rapport with the Tigers’ now-healthy receiving corps; getting more touches for playmakers Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams will be a focus down the stretch. Malzahn also gave the team 48 hours off as part of fall break, which Nix used to return home and decompress on Friday and Saturday before the team reconvened Sunday with its focus solely on Arkansas. While Nix responded well in practice last week following the poor effort against Florida, whether that carries over into the second half of the season — beginning Saturday against Arkansas — remains to be seen. One thing seems certain, at least: The three-interception performance in The Swamp didn’t do much to shake Nix’s confidence. “He's handled it well,” Hastings said. “… I just know he's re-energized, refueled and ready to go for the next portion of the season.” Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
  7. had to throw that clinton deflection out there. yeah right she has tons of people killed every single year that rolls around. and of course all american law enforcement and our intel agencies are protecting her........lol. you guys kill me. get back to me when you guys quit mangling the truth about trump.
  8. Pentagon planned to challenge ‘illegal’ hold on Ukraine aid before Trump phone call revealed Published 5 days ago on October 11, 2019 By Travis Gettys 5-6 minutes The Pentagon was preparing a legal challenge to the White House scheme to block Ukraine aid in an apparent effort to force an investigation of Joe Biden. Congress had approved hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the U.S. ally in late 2018 as Ukraine fought against Russian aggression, and Pentagon officials began to worry as the funds unsent just weeks before the appropriation was set to expire Sept. 30, reported Yahoo News. Pentagon officials were baffled that the funding hadn’t been sent, even after John Rood, an undersecretary of defense for policy, gave Congress a detailed plan for what weapons and other aid Ukraine could expect from the package. The Department of Defense conducted a series of interagency meetings starting in mid-July to figure out how the money could be freed up, and the Pentagon conducted a legal analysis of the holds. That analysis determined the delays were illegal, but the Office of Management and Budget argued the holds were authorized by President Donald Trump — which essentially made them legal. “This is part of the basis for our investigation and overall impeachment inquiry,” one congressional staffer told Yahoo News. Pentagon officials were not aware at the time that Trump was planning to use the congressionally approved aid package to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate the former vice president and his son Hunter Biden. A call by Trump to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky discussing that scheme was the subject of a whistleblower complaint which has now turned into an impeachment inquiry.
  9. it is out there you just did not look hard enough. and the point is not that trump did not make it but one of his golf resorts was playing it for their patrons. pretty sure you are one of those cats that could care less if trump did kill someone in broad daylight.
  10. well they green lighted the money to help an allie who is fighting right now. since they approved money out of their budget i believe this makes the point that they have a valid point.
  11. i am pretty sure the turks want to wipe the kurds off the face of the earth according to several talking heads on the tele. also pretty much all the military brass AND the gop are furious with the way trump handled all this. we have asked the kurds for help three times if i am not mistaken. once before sadddam in iraq and one after saddam in iraq and now this mess with the turks. they deserved better and we could have done better.
  12. Tired of Winning: Trump Surrenders Northern Syria to Turkish Jihadists Seth Harp 16-20 minutes × How I Wrote This: Bastille "Bad Decisions" Dan Smith of Bastille explains the meaning behind their song 'Bad Decisions,' from their apocalypse-themed album 'Doom Days.' He then performs an exclusive solo rendition of the song on piano. Filmed at La MaMa Experimental Theater in New York City. Get The Magazine Subscribe to the all-new Rolling Stone! Everything you need to know from the authority on music, entertainment, politics and pop culture. Order today and save over 66%! Subscribe Now Newsletter Signup Sign up for our newsletter and go inside the world of music, culture and entertainment. October 14, 2019 11:39AM ET It’s unreal how much damage and death Trump can cause with the drop of a single tweet Smoke rise from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, from the Turkish side of the border at Ceylanpinar district in Sanliurfa, on the sixth day of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images For the last eighteen years, the United States has done nothing but lose wars in the Middle East. That’s what made the 2014 – 2019 campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria so exceptional. The Pentagon actually accomplished the mission it set out to accomplish. Mosul and Raqqa were liberated. The terrorists were driven into the desert. The failed-state caliphate no longer exists. Our tier-one operators and billion-dollar warplanes were not what made the difference. For the most part, the ISIS fighters who died in Kobane, Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, and Der Ezzor were shot by the men and women of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led coalition of militias that also has thousands of Arabs in its ranks, as well as an all-female brigade, and people of all races and ethnicities, who adhere to a secular creed. As American personnel in Syria will be the first to tell you, the trustworthy and competent SDF did virtually all the hard work of killing and dying during the many costly battles of the last five years, and not for “massive amounts of money,” as Donald Trump said on Monday. The Syrian Kurds don’t have any money. There aren’t even banks in Rojava, as the Kurdish part of Syria is called. Nor were they, as Trump also said, “fighting for their own land” during the battles of Raqqa and Der Ezzor. The war between the Kurds and the Islamic State is primarily ideological, and a cause worth supporting. Still, no one can expect a man like Trump to exhibit a sense of reciprocity, gratitude, or fair dealing towards our military allies. To him, the Kurds have outlasted their purpose, so they’re fired. Sorry, losers. Buh-bye. Even before Trump was elected, the Kurds themselves fully expected to be abandoned by the United States in the end, as has happened several times before, in Iraq. What doesn’t make sense, and what fewer expected, was for Trump to simply surrender the SDF’s hard-won territory in Syria for absolutely nothing in return, giving it to a conniving strongman who is certain to upend the fragile peace. Even if you believe, as I do, that the United States should wind down virtually all its military engagements abroad, and shrink the military to a fraction of its current size, it counts as one of the dumbest moves an American president has ever made in the Middle East. As of last week, the United States, through the SDF, controlled a quarter to a third of Syria. That’s pretty big bargaining chip, and it could have been used to buy any number of concessions from other parties to the long-running conflict. As the stated American policy goal with respect to Syria is “a negotiated political solution,” control of Raqqa and provinces on the Turkish border could have been used as leverage to force a winding down of the war. Among other options, American withdrawal could have been traded for a reciprocal drawdown by Russia, or an Iranian exit. Or the United States could have withdrawn troops, but maintained a no-fly zone, creating an autonomous Kurdish enclave in Syria like the one in Iraq. That would have made sense, given the Kurds’ demonstrated commitment to secular democracy and human rights, as well as their proven lethality towards terrorists. Considering all that’s been spent since 9/11, it would have been a cheap investment in a force capable to keeping a lid on ISIS, the most toxic byproduct of the war in Iraq. Instead, last Sunday, four-dimensional chess-master Donald Trump, after a call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced American forces would simply withdraw unilaterally. He added Turkey would “soon be moving forward with a long-planned operation into northern Syria.” That is, in addition to withdrawing support for the Kurds, he would deliver them into the hands of their worst enemy, who fully intends to kill them in large numbers. It’s as if, in addition to simply stiffing his workers, as he was liable to do as a real estate developer, he had the guys who laid the tile and installed the windows handed over to the mafia. During the Nixon administration, the CIA armed the Iraqi Kurds and encouraged them to rebel against Saddam Hussein, in order to inconvenience him militarily. However, the Americans didn’t really want the Kurds to gain independence, and abruptly cut off support, leaving them at the mercy of Saddam’s forces. “Promise them anything, give them what they get, and **** them if they can’t take a joke,” Henry Kissinger said to an aide, explaining his philosophy towards the Kurds. It was a cold-blooded move, but at least it was rational. Delivering the Kurds over to Erdogan is plain nihilism. I can’t imagine how an otherwise Trump-enthusiastic young marine currently stationed in Syria must feel right now. The JSOC types are probably used to making reptilian decisions towards third-world proxy forces, but many of the soldiers over there are conventional troops, including National Guard. They’re being asked to stand down and passively witness the slaughter of their comrades-in-arms — a hard thing to swallow, especially given the antipathy in the ranks towards Turkey, which has a habit of bombing very near U.S. bases. That’s in addition to other skullduggery and sabotage, including taking potshots at Army Rangers around Manbij. The last time Trump announced a surprise withdrawal, in a tweet almost exactly a year ago, Jim Mattis resigned in protest. But as it turned out, nothing really happened on the ground. Eventually everyone just sort of forgot about what the titular commander-in-chief had said, and the war against ISIS carried on in Der Ezzor. This time, however, Turkey took swift advantage of the green light Trump gave them. A wave of airstrikes and shelling took place almost immediately, throwing the SDF into disarray, and sending civilians fleeing in their thousands. After a delay of several days, US forces now appear to be retreating from some of their bases (they have about a dozen, strung between the Tigris and the Euphrates, some that cost billions to build, with relatively luxurious amenities). The Turks have cut the main highway, which will complicate American efforts to evacuate. Sunday night, the Kurds announced that they would have no choice but to align themselves with the Assad regime, and opened the way for the Syrian Arab Army to enter Kobani and Manbij. That places the Americans in the middle of three clashing forces as they try to retreat into northern Iraq. The United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab League condemned Turkey’s invasion as illegal under international law. In the United States, Trump appeared to be caught off guard by the vehemence of Republican criticism, although his loudest critic, Lindsey Graham, was re-re-re-revealed as a phony via a prank phone call. (The senator says he thought was the Turkish minister of defense. He wasn’t.) Compounding Trump’s own blundering, he is now trying to partially walk back his decision by describing the Turkish invasion as a “bad idea,” and saying the US “does not endorse” the operation that he endorsed in writing days before. “We will not stop the military operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria no matter what anyone says,” was Erdogan’s response. Most likely he moved so swiftly because he knew Trump was liable to reverse himself. He’s been wheedling Trump for this favor since he took office. Erdogan’s government never fails to state, and needlessly credulous western reports never fail to repeat, that Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist force, as if there could be two sides to the story. Put aside the fact that the SDF just defeated the world’s worst terrorist organization. In the aftermath of World War I, the Kurdish people had their homeland of thousands of years divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran by western powers drawing arbitrary lines on a map. Since then, there have been Kurdish independence movements in all four countries, with substantial overlaps between them. The one in Turkey is active and militant, but has only ever fought the Turkish state, and has never carried out deliberate attacks on civilians, which is the defining feature of terrorism. For their part, they are resisting a century of Turkish efforts to erase Kurdish identity and language within the country’s borders, as the Turks have done to other ethnic minorities in the past. Let’s not forget, the very ground we’re speaking about in northern Syria, down the Euphrates River Valley, is the same location to which survivors of the Armenian genocide fled, having become the first victims of Turkish nationalism. Besides stamping out Kurdish autonomy wherever it might arise, the Turkish government says its secondary objective is to “cleanse” northern Syria of remaining ISIS fighters. Such statements are intended for the consumption of people who know nothing about the war in Syria. Erdogan’s past enablement of the Islamic State is well documented. He shares certain goals with them, including military defeat of the Kurds, and Assad’s ouster. In any case, there are no ISIS fighters in Syrian Kurdistan, except for the 11,000 or so whom the SDF has locked up in a string of prisons that will now go over to Turkish control. That is cause for alarm, because to speak of Turkish forces in this context is to refer to an auxiliary militia known as the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, or TFSA. This is a hard-bitten assortment of Sunni survivors of the long jihad against the regime, a rabble of defeated rebels, foreign fighters, mujahedeen from abroad, Nusra Front veterans, and other takfiri mercenaries. No small number of men now fighting under the Turkish flag are former ISIS, who went over to the TFSA after the fall of Raqqa. Erdogan has already used the TFSA to take over the Kurdish enclave known as Afrin, where they were filmed executing civilians, smashing bottles of liquor, forcing women to cover up, and so on. The TFSA is likely to impose the same brand of gangster Sharia on the population the US is abandoning. Here, here, here, here and here you can see videos, all shot in the last few days, of bearded, long-haired TFSA fighters shouting “Allahu akbar,” “death to the atheists,” and “takfir” while unloading on Kurdish positions. In this video, shot just before the Turks attacked the SDF in Ras al-Ayn, the TFSA fighters celebrate by shouting “baqiya,” short for “dawlat al-Islam baqiya,” a slogan that means, “the Islamic State still stands.” As feared, ISIS prisoners have been seen escaping in advance of the ground invasion. On Sunday, some 700 ISIS family members fled a detention camp after a Turkish airstrike nearby. American forces reportedly failed to evacuate a number of high-priority detainees, and the prospect of a mass prison break is very real. “Protecting the prisons,” said SDF general Mazloum Abdi, “is not a priority for us anymore.” After many months of dormancy, ISIS sleeper cells set off car bombs in Qamishli and Hasakah, not the first time that a Turkish attack has coincided with a surprise ISIS offensive. Meanwhile, the TFSA has already been filmed carrying out summary executions of unarmed Kurds, including a female politician. The arrival of the Syrian army should bolster the Kurdish defense, but Erdogan surely expected the Kurds to go over to Assad, and the SAA to enter the fray. The Turkish army backing up the TFSA is one of the largest in NATO, setting up the potential for a catastrophic escalation, with massive displacement, upheaval, and human suffering. Incredible to think that little more than a week ago, Rojava was the safest and freest part of Syria. It’s unreal how much damage and death Trump can cause with the drop of a single tweet. Equally unreal is the apparent capacity of Trump’s base of supporters to absorb shocks like this without losing faith in their leader. Are these not the same people who caterwauled so interminably about Benghazi, the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, and a dozen other supposed instances of turning tail, betraying our buddies, and surrendering to the enemy? Trump could get on the phone with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and trade Florida to ISIS for dirt on Pete Buttigieg, and the MAGA sheep would still fall down before the Golden Calf of 666 Fifth Avenue. Trump says it’s about putting a stop to “endless wars,” but just this Friday, he deployed more troops than there are in all of Syria to Saudi Arabia, one of the only countries in the region more terrorism-curious than Turkey. The move is almost certainly attributable to elements in his administration trying to start a war with Iran. PMC
  13. How Auburn can rebound from midseason loss to Florida Today 8:55 AM 7-9 minutes Auburn Football Getty Images Win or lose, Auburn’s coaching staff institutes a 24-hour rule. Players have 24 hours to either celebrate and bask in a victory or linger on a loss. After that, it’s on to the next week. That could be somewhat tricky after Auburn’s first loss of the season, a 24-13 setback at Florida in Week 6, as the Tigers were off last week. There was no immediate opponent to turn the page to, and the team instead focused on self-evaluations during the bye week. Still, Auburn was sure to move past that loss as it hit the midway point of the season and took some time to reflect on the big picture. “You’ve got 24 hours to soak on it,” defensive tackle Derrick Brown said. “After that, what else are you going to be mad about? You can’t go back and replay the game. You have to let it go because if you hold onto that, it’s going to stop you from progressing on everything we’re doing this week. And if you keep holding onto it, now you face the issue of, ‘This guy is mentally messed up.’” Was Auburn’s loss to Florida ideal? Certainly not. No loss ever is, but by no means was it one that derailed the Tigers’ season. Auburn is 5-1 at midseason and 2-1 in the SEC, though both of its wins are within the division and the one loss coming to an SEC East opponent. With the second half of the season officially underway for the Tigers, everything they set out for at the start of the season — a division title, a chance to play for the SEC Championship and a shot at the College Football Playoff — is still attainable. Auburn, ranked 11th in the latest AP poll, is still in the thick of the SEC race and controls its own path to the CFP. It won’t be easy, though. While three very winnable games remain -- at Arkansas, at home against Ole Miss and Samford -- for Auburn, it also still has three of its toughest games ahead of it in the second half of the season. Auburn travels to No. 2 LSU on Oct. 26 and then hosts rivals No. 10 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium in November. Those games are all hugely important, though the toughest may be the trip to Death Valley later this month, as it’s a venue Auburn has not won in since 1999. Auburn, this season at least, has proven it can win big games away from home -- as it did against Oregon and Texas A&M -- but Tiger Stadium, which has been a personal house of horrors for Auburn over the last two decades, will be a different challenge. Auburn has also been a much tougher team at home under head coach Gus Malzahn, as the Tigers have swept the Bulldogs and Tide on the Plains in two of the three years — 2013 and 2017 — that they hosted their two biggest rivals under Malzahn, which makes this year’s closing stretch even more intriguing (and certainly difficult for prognosticators to predict). “We've got the first half of our season completed,” Malzahn said last Sunday. “And the facts are, right now, we're 5-1. We've played three top-20 teams away from home, and we're 5-1. We have a week off, and it's a much-needed week off. I think the timing right now is good. We're going to self-evaluate. You know, we're going to get a head start on our next opponent, and get healthier, then work on our improving our execution this next week. “You know, looking at the second half, we can big-picture it right now, but we're looking at playing three of the top 5 teams in the country — one of those being on the road. So great opportunities for this team. Like I said, we're feeling tough today -- tough loss. But we'll wake up tomorrow and we'll turn the page and we'll be looking forward to this second half of the season.” Auburn’s players and coaches aren’t thinking about those games yet, though Malzahn surely has his off-field analysts already scouting and preparing for the big three ahead on the schedule. For Auburn, first thing’s first coming off the loss to Florida — and that’s a trip to Arkansas this week for an 11 a.m. kickoff against the Razorbacks. It’s a prime opportunity to Auburn to bounce back and get on track after the setback in The Swamp. Arkansas has lost 14 consecutive SEC games, while Auburn is 8-0 coming off bye weeks since Malzahn has been head coach. That’s a testament to Malzahn’s ability to evaluate during off weeks, as well as his team’s ability to refocus after the time off. It’s a trend the Tigers hope to keep alive this season when they travel to Fayetteville, Ark. Auburn spent its bye week largely focusing on itself, though there were some early preparations for Arkansas. Most importantly was the self-scouting, though. The coaching staff and players took a step back to look at the entirety of the first half of the season — every snap, the good and the bad, the highs and the lows — to figure out what the team has done well and where in needs to improve. “There’s a lot of different things you learn,” Malzahn said. “A lot of times from a coach’s standpoint you can evaluate things on what you can do to make each group better. A lot of times it could be something very simple. It could be a communication. It would be a tendency. It could be personnel. We evaluated all three of those things. It was good.” Defensively, Noah Igbinoghene said the secondary has focused on limiting explosive plays, which were costly during the loss to Florida, as well as finding ways to create more turnovers — particularly interceptions, as the team has just one through six games. On the other side of the ball, look for Auburn to simplify things some for quarterback Bo Nix as Malzahn tries to make things easier for his freshman quarterback. The Tigers also need to regroup at running back following the loss of leading rusher Boobee Whitlow to a knee injury, and Malzahn has stressed the need to get more touches for big-time playmakers like Anthony Schwartz and Seth Williams. After re-evaluating things early in the week, Auburn gave players Friday and Saturday off for fall break — a chance to decompress and spend time with family — before reconvening Sunday. It wasn’t a typical Sunday practice; it was longer and more detail-oriented than usual, and Malzahn could sense his players had a “hope in their step” when they returned to the field. Auburn has seemingly flushed the loss against Florida. The Tigers know what awaits them in the second half of the season, as well as what’s within their reach — and Malzahn is confident his team is up for the challenge. “You've got to move on,” Malzahn said. “You've got to learn from situations. And every time we didn't make it to the championship game or win, we learned from the situation. We were better because of it. That's our challenge with this group. The great thing about it — we've got great leadership. And also, we've got some big-time players that we have that we can lean on, too. And a lot of these guys that we have, these older guys, have actually been through it. In 2017. So that also helps with that.” Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
  14. Auburn’s running back depth to be tested in 2nd half of season Today 1:00 PM 5-6 minutes Auburn Football AP Cadillac Williams understands better than most the importance of having more than one capable running back in the SEC. He was part of a talented stable of backs during his time as an Auburn player, splitting carries with the likes of Ronnie Brown, Brandon Jacobs, Casinious Moore and Tre Smith during his career. That experience informed Williams’ approach to coaching, when he returned to his alma mater this spring as running backs coach with the goal of developing a deeper committee of backfield options this season. As No. 11 Auburn embarks on the second half of its schedule, that running back depth will be tested following a knee injury to leading rusher Boobee Whitlow, who will miss four to six weeks after undergoing a procedure during the bye week. “They're all ready to get going,” wide receiver Will Hastings said. “They have that fire in their gut to say, 'I'm the next man up,' and make the plays to do what they need to do to win the game. So, it's exciting watching them all fight for that job, because it's kind of like fall camp again and everybody is going 110 percent." So, all of them are prepared and ready to go.” Whitlow’s injury was a tough blow for Auburn. He leads the team with 544 yards and is tops in the SEC with seven rushing touchdowns on the year. His production will be difficult to replace as the Tigers’ every-down back, but Gus Malzahn seems confident in the options that Auburn still has available in the backfield. The fortunate thing for Auburn, at least, is the timing of Whitlow’s injury. Since the team found out about it early on during the bye week, it gave the team some extra time to figure out how to fill that void and prepare the remaining running backs for larger roles as the team turns the page to Saturday’s trip to Arkansas and the remainder of the 2019 schedule. Auburn held three practices during the off week — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — before reconvening Sunday evening. During those four sessions, Malzahn and Williams rotated the running backs evenly with the first- and second-team offenses “for the most part.” That meant relatively equal reps for the likes of Kam Martin, Shaun Shivers, D.J. Williams, Harold Joiner and Malik Miller. “Really trying to get some continuity,” Malzahn said. “… You can never have enough depth at running back. That was good information.” That rotation will continue into Tuesday, when Malzahn expects to formulate a clearer picture of how the backfield gameplan will shake out ahead of Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks. As it stands, Martin will likely draw the start at running back against Arkansas as the team’s most experienced backfield option. The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder is the team’s third-leading rusher this season, with 34 carries for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he’s the only healthy running back on the roster who has handled a larger share of carries at the college level — meaning the coaching staff also has the most information available on him. Shivers will also have a chance to show what he can do, while Joiner — who had a “really good week” of practice — could get some reps against the Razorbacks and Miller will continue to see situational work, primarily on third downs. The wildcard, so to speak, will be D.J. Williams. The impressive freshman is finally healthy and “responded well” during the off week in practices. He is expected to get an early opportunity against Arkansas, and if he performs well, his role will expand throughout the game and moving forward with the rest of the season. “He's special, for sure,” Hastings said. “The way he runs and the way he can read stuff out, he's a special kid. And he's just a freshman. He's a guy that's had a couple of nicks and bruises, but the dude, he's going to be real good. I'm excited for him." D.J. Williams has appeared in three games this season after dealing with a hip injury early in the year, but he has recorded carries in just one, rushing for 32 yards on seven touches against Mississippi State in Week 5. At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, however, he is built most similarly to Whitlow and has impressed since arriving on campus in the spring. “He has got natural instincts,” Malzahn said. “Very rarely do you have to tell him to slow down or do this or that. He has got natural instincts when he has the ball in his hands.” Just what he can do with a more prominent role remains to be seen, but Auburn will find out soon as its backfield depth is put to the test coming off the bye week. “I think he is ready for the moment,” Malzahn said. “He will be more involved this second half of the season, for sure.” Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
  15. i watched that on rolling stone. i did not care for it. the fact he shows this at a campaign rally should be a wake up call. i wonder how many folks get hurt. i can tell you no true christian would show this just like they would not wear "make america great again, shoot a lib" t shirts. trump is nothing but a thug but his base will ignore or deflect this. i mean he is the anointed one sent her by jesus to save the country right?