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Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria

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In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa.
The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces.
Turkey has openly criticized the Trump administration—and the Obama administration before it—for relying in the battle against ISIS on a militia led by Kurds affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. A separatist movement now at war with Turkey, the PKK has been listed by the U.S., EU, and Turkey as a terror organization.
To avoid the appearance of allying with such a group, the U.S. military set up the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have a large component of Arab recruits. But they are led by officers from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.
Although Turkey’s powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, regularly vents his anger at the U.S., it is still highly unusual for a NATO ally to reveal details of a U.S. military deployment during active operations in a war zone. But the U.S. operation in Syria is in many respects an unusual case. Not only is the United States acting against the express wishes of NATO ally Turkey, which says its national security is directly endangered, it’s also operating without the permission of the Assad regime.
After a meeting Monday evening, Turkey’s National Security Council charged that weapons provided to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia had come into the possession of the PKK. “This shows that both are the same organization,” it said, adding that other countries were using a “double standard” for terror groups, an apparent reference to the U.S. alliance with the YPG militia.
The U.S. has denied repeatedly that arms it is supplying to the Kurdish fighters have seeped into the PKK war against the Turkish state, and the Turkish government did not back up its allegations with evidence.
Two U.S. bases in Syria—in Rmeilan, in northern Hasaka province, and Kharab Ishq, near Kobani in Aleppo province—already were well-known before Anadolu published them. Anadolu said Rmeilan, in Syria’s oil-producing district, was set up in November 2016, and is big enough to handle transport aircraft, while the base south of Kobani, set up in March 2016, is used only by military helicopters.
The eight outposts, often hidden behind signs warning of a “prohibited area,” are being used both for active military operations, such as shelling into the city of Raqqa, and for desk jobs such as training and operational planning, the report said.
It claimed bases used for military operations house artillery batteries with high maneuverability, multi-barrel rocket launchers, various mobile equipment for intelligence, and armored vehicles for general patrols and security.
In Hasaka province, the U.S. has three outposts, all used to train Kurdish militia members, according to Turkish security officials. Anadolu even gave the number of U.S. Special Forces troops it believed were stationed at two of the three outposts.
There are three U.S. military outposts in Syria’s Raqqa province, Anadolu said. French special forces troops are stationed at two of them. It said one of the locations serves as a communication center for the International Coalition fighting ISIS and is also used to disrupt ISIS communications. 
In Manbij, which the Kurdish YPG militia captured last August, the U.S. now has two outposts. The U.S. sends out patrols, the agency noted acerbically, to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces from Syrian rebels operating out of the Turkish controlled part of Syria known as the Jarablus pocket.
Turkish security officials confirmed the accuracy of the Anadolu list to The Daily Beast.
The publication is certain to spark ire in the U.S. military, which is leading the operation against ISIS.
Spokesmen for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, and for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, asked The Daily Beast not to publish the detailed information reported by Anadolu.
“The discussion of specific troop numbers and locations would provide sensitive tactical information to the enemy which could endanger Coalition and partner forces,” wrote Col. Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs.
“Publishing this type of information would be professionally irresponsible and we respectively [sic] request that you refrain from disseminating any information that would put Coalition lives in jeopardy.”
Col. John Thomas, spokesman at the Central Command, also asked The Daily Beast to refrain from publishing details of coalition operations, on the grounds it would be “potentially harmful to the lives of those involved.”

'Nobody kill anybody': Murder-free weekend urged in Baltimore

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A 44-year-old mother might seem an unusual visitor on the drug corners of Baltimore, but Erricka Bridgeford has shown up for weeks to make her pitch for peace.
Forget your grudges for one weekend, she urges the young men she finds. Help bring a 72-hour truce to a city besieged by gun violence.
“It’s a citywide call,” she tells them, “but I’m talking to you.”
Bridgeford and other neighborhood leaders are drumming up support for a three-day ceasefire the first weekend of August to quell Baltimore’s violence. She admits that such peace is a tall order for a city that’s seen 188 killings this year.
Organizers aim to stop the shooting from Friday, Aug. 4, through Sunday, Aug. 6, with a unified and blunt message: “Nobody kill anybody.”
Their message has been printed on T-shirts and flyers. They designed a website and held community meetings. More than 1,600 people visited their Facebook page. The grass-roots campaign has swelled since it began in May.
“I’ve seen the momentum build over the past several weeks,” said T.J. Smith, spokesman for Baltimore police. “We are all in this together, and we’re 1,000 percent supportive of the efforts.” 
The campaign urges people to put aside their guns and join weekend events for healing, from a peace rally Friday evening to a vigil Sunday where participants will read the names of every person killed in 2017.
“The Baltimore Ceasefire was not declared by any one organization,” organizers wrote on their website. “This ceasefire is the product of Baltimore residents not only being exhausted by homicides, but believing that Baltimore can have a murder-free weekend if everyone takes responsibility.”
More than 600 people have pledged to keep the peace, they wrote. Among them are some of the young men Bridgeford has met on the corners.
“You just talk to them like they’re your little brother,” she said.
A professional mediator, neighborhood volunteer and part-time Uber driver — “Everyone who gets in my car leaves with a flyer and a speech” — Bridgeford says her younger brother was gunned down a decade ago in Southwest Baltimore. His killer was never caught.
Next month’s ceasefire would prove successful if it deters a single shooting, she said. And she figures the movement has already saved a life somewhere.
“Somebody was plotting on this weekend,” she said. “Now they’re not going to do it because of a rumbling in their soul.” 
The organizers are raising money through their website for more flyers. Some of the money will be donated to the families of anyone killed over the ceasefire weekend. Bridgeford is urging everyone she meets to echo the call for peace.
“Jumping out in open-air drug markets might not be for everyone,” she said. “But we’re asking everyone to do their part.”
Community ceasefires, however, have failed to stem the violence in the past. The group Mothers of Murdered Sons called for a ceasefire over Mother’s Day weekend, but at least four people were shot, including a 59-year-old man and 17-year-old woman. Both were killed.
Other communities have called for ceasefires after spates of violence in Birmingham, Ala., and Berkeley, Calif. Such efforts are as much about empowering residents as reducing homicide statistics, said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins-Baltimore Collaborative for Violence Reduction.
Persistent violence often leaves neighbors feeling powerless, she said.
“Communities feel like they can’t do things for themselves. They don’t have a voice. They don’t feel heard,” she said. “This effort seems to me like the people most affected by violence are standing up and saying, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore.’ ” 
A similar awareness campaign that began in Chicago in 2013 has spread across the country, with people wearing orange in June to draw attention to the scourge of gun violence. Across the country, more than 90 people are shot and killed every day, according to the Wear Orange campaign.
Baltimore, meanwhile, remains gripped by its own violent spike, with 2017 on pace to be the city’s deadliest year ever. The number of homicides shot up to 344 in 2015; another 318 people were killed last year. Baltimore had not exceeded 300 annual homicides for decades before 2015.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Crifasi said of the ceasefire. “It indicates to me there are lots of people in Baltimore still invested in the safety and security of their communities.”

629,000 Overstayed U.S. Visas Last Year, Homeland Security Says

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An estimated 629,000 visitors to the United States — just over 1 percent of all travelers — remained in the country at the end of last year after overstaying their visas as students, workers or tourists, according to a report released on Monday by the Department of Homeland Security.
Although the figure represents a tiny portion of the estimated 50 million visitors to the country, Homeland Security officials say the failure of some people to leave when their visas lapse presents a national security risk. Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Satam al-Suqami and Nawaq Alhazmi, had overstayed their visas.
The report, just the second issued in the last 20 years despite being required annually by law, tracked overstays by citizens of countries that require a visa and of the three dozen or so countries, mostly in Europe, that participate in the visa-waiver program, which allows their citizens to visit the United States without a visa on trips of 90 days or less.
The highest rates of overstays were from countries outside the visa-waiver program. For example, 13 percent of the visitors from Afghanistan overstayed their visas, while nearly 11 percent of those from Iraq overstayed. The highest rates of overstays were from African countries. A quarter of all visitors from Burkina Faso and Djibouti overstayed their tourist or business visa.
European countries like France and Germany, which are exempt under the visa-waiver program, had lower overall rates of people overstaying their visas, less than 1 percent.  
Homeland Security officials said the data captured in the report covered those arriving in the United States on planes or ships, even though more people enter the country by land. 
The new report comes as the Trump administration accelerates its efforts to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and stop illegal immigration along the border with Mexico. President Trump’s plans include building a border wall to stem the flow of illegal immigration. But research shows that the majority of people in the country without permission are those who overstayed their visas rather than walking across a border.
The Department of Homeland Security has struggled to document visa overstays. A report released this month by its Office of Inspector General found that the agency could not account for all visa overstays in data it reports to Congress.
The inspector general’s report found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for investigating in-country visa overstays, had to piece together information from dozens of systems and databases, some of which were not integrated and did not electronically share information.
Officials said the department could not properly track visa overstays because there is no comprehensive biometric exit system at the country’s ports of departure to capture information on nonimmigrant visitors who leave the United States.
Without such an exit system, the department relies on third-party departure data, such as commercial carrier passenger or shipping manifests, to confirm that a visitor has left the country. However, these commercial sources occasionally provide incorrect departure or arrival status of visitors, the report said.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an entry and exit tracking system was considered a vital national security and counterterrorism tool, and the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Department of Homeland Security introduce a system “as soon as possible.”
Since then, the federal government has spent millions of dollars on the effort, although until the release of the first report last year, officials could only roughly estimate the number of people who were in the United States illegally after overstaying visas. An executive order signed by Mr. Trump calls for the Department of Homeland Security to speed up efforts to create a biometric exit system.

In attempted suicide, man fires rifle at police, only receiving beanbag fire in return. He surrenders after three hours.

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An armed Paradise man was arrested at gunpoint after a three-hour standoff with Paradise police and Butte County sheriff’s deputies on Saturday evening.
According to a press release, the Paradise Police Department responded to a call of a possible shooting on the 1200 block of Wagstaff. Upon arrival officers found 39-year-old Basilio “Tony” Bagorio outside of the residence carrying a rifle.
Bagorio was allegedly pacing the property and demanding that officers shoot him. PPD reported the Butte County Sheriff’s Office was immediately contacted for support and a crisis intervention team attempted to persuade Bagorio to put the gun down.
Multiple times throughout the situation, Bagorio reportedly aimed the rifle at officers and deputies and according to the release “fired at least one round from the rifle in an effort to provoke a lethal response from the law enforcement officers on scene.”
Nonlethal bean bags were shot at Bagorio and hit him five times, but had no effect, Paradise police said.
After being hit by the bean bags, Bagorio then pointed the rifle at a sheriff’s deputy who fired one round at the suspect but did not hit him.
After nearly three hours, Bagorio decided to surrender and drop his weapon.
Bagorio was taken to a local hospital for medical clearance and later booked into Butte County Jail on charges of assault with a firearm on a peace officer and intentional discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner.

How To Deal With A Thief (20 pics)

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As Paperwork Goes Missing, Billions in Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away

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Tens of thousands of people who took out private loans to pay for college but have not been able to keep up payments may get their debts wiped away because critical paperwork is missing.
The troubled loans, which total at least $5 billion, are at the center of a protracted legal dispute between the student borrowers and a group of creditors who have aggressively pursued them in court after they fell behind on payments.
Judges have already dismissed dozens of lawsuits against former students, essentially wiping out their debt, because documents proving who owns the loans are missing. A review of court records by The New York Times shows that many other collection cases are deeply flawed, with incomplete ownership records and mass-produced documentation.
Some of the problems playing out now in the $108 billion private student loan market are reminiscent of those that arose from the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, when billions of dollars in subprime mortgage loans were ruled uncollectible by courts because of missing or fake documentation. And like those troubled mortgages, private student loans — which come with higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections than federal loans — are often targeted at the most vulnerable borrowers, like those attending for-profit schools.
At the center of the storm is one of the nation’s largest owners of private student loans, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts. It is struggling to prove in court that it has the legal paperwork showing ownership of its loans, which were originally made by banks and then sold to investors. National Collegiate’s lawyers warned in a recent legal filing, “As news of the servicing issues and the trusts’ inability to produce the documents needed to foreclose on loans spreads, the likelihood of more defaults rises.” 
National Collegiate is an umbrella name for 15 trusts that hold 800,000 private student loans, totaling $12 billion. More than $5 billion of that debt is in default, according to court filings. The trusts aggressively pursue borrowers who fall behind on their bills. Across the country, they have brought at least four new collection cases each day, on average — more than 800 so far this year — and tens of thousands of lawsuits in the past five years.

The Path of a Student Loan

When a student takes out a private loan, that is only the first step in a complicated process.
Students borrow money from the loan originators, mainly big banks and other institutions.
Banks bundle multiple loans and sell them to a depositor (in this case, National Collegiate Funding LLC).
National Collegiate
The depositor in turn sells the loans to various trusts, like the National Collegiate Student Loan Trust.
The trusts employ a student loan servicer — in this case, American Education Services. Borrowers send their monthly payments to the servicer, which then sends money back to the trusts.
National Collegiate
Student Loan Trust
American Education
American Education Services turns to U.S. Bank, based in Minneapolis, to collect on the debt.
U.S. Bank
U.S. Bank subcontracts the debt collection work to Transworld Systems, among other companies.
Transworld turns to its network of debt collection law firms, which may initiate lawsuits against delinquent borrowers.
Last year, National Collegiate unleashed a fusillade of litigation against Samantha Watson, a 33-year-old mother of three who graduated from Lehman College in the Bronx in 2013 with a degree in psychology.
Ms. Watson, the first in her family to go to college, took out private loans to finance her studies. But she said she had trouble following the fine print. “I didn’t really understand about things like interest rates,” she said. “Everybody tells you to go to college, get an education, and everything will be O.K. So that’s what I did.”
Ms. Watson made some payments on her loans but fell behind when her daughter got sick and she had to quit her job as an executive assistant. She now works as a nurse’s aide, with more flexible hours but a smaller paycheck that barely covers her family’s expenses.
When National Collegiate sued her, the paperwork it submitted was a mess, according to her lawyer, Kevin Thomas of the New York Legal Assistance Group. At one point, National Collegiate presented documents saying that Ms. Watson had enrolled at a school she never attended, Mr. Thomas said.
“I tried to be honest,” Ms. Watson said of her court appearance. “I said, ‘Some of these loans I took out, and I’ll be responsible for them, but some I didn’t take.’”
In her defense, Ms. Watson’s lawyer seized upon what he saw as the flaws in National Collegiate’s paperwork. Judge Eddie McShan of New York City’s Civil Court in the Bronx agreed and dismissed four lawsuits against Ms. Watson. The trusts “failed to establish the chain of title” on Ms. Watson’s loans, he wrote in one ruling.
When the judge’s rulings wiped out $31,000 in debt, “it was such a relief,” Ms. Watson said. “You just feel this whole weight lifted. My mom started to cry.” 
Joel Leiderman, a lawyer at Forster and Garbus, the law firm that represented National Collegiate in its litigation against Ms. Watson, declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Lawsuits Tossed Out

Judges throughout the country, including recently in cases in New HampshireOhio and Texas, have tossed out lawsuits by National Collegiate, ruling that it did not prove it owned the debt on which it was trying to collect.
The trusts win many of the lawsuits they file automatically, because borrowers often do not show up to fight. Those court victories, which can be used to garnish paychecks and federal benefits like Social Security, can haunt borrowers for decades.
The loans that National Collegiate holds were made to college students more than a decade ago by dozens of different banks, then bundled together by a financing company and sold to investors through a process known as securitization. These private loans were not guaranteed by the federal government, which is the nation’s largest student loan lender.
But as the debt passed through many hands before landing in National Collegiate’s trusts, critical paperwork documenting the loans’ ownership disappeared, according to documents that have surfaced in a little-noticed legal battle involving the trusts in state and federal courts in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
National Collegiate’s legal problems have hinged on its inability to prove it owns the student loans, not on any falsification of documents.
Robyn Smith, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, has seen shoddy and inaccurate paperwork in dozens of cases involving private student loans from a variety of lenders and debt buyers, which she detailed in a 2014 report
But National Collegiate’s problems are especially acute, she said. Over and over, she said, the company drops lawsuits — often on the eve of a trial or deposition — when borrowers contest them. “I question whether they actually possess the documents necessary to show that they own loans,” Ms. Smith said.
In an unusual situation, one of the financiers behind National Collegiate’s trusts agrees with some of the criticism. He is Donald Uderitz, the founder of Vantage Capital Group, a private equity firm in Delray Beach, Fla., that is the beneficial owner of National Collegiate’s trusts. (Mr. Uderitz’s company keeps whatever money is left after the trusts’ noteholders are paid off.)
He said he was appalled by National Collegiate’s collection lawsuits and wanted them to stop, but an internal struggle between Vantage Capital and others involved in operating the trusts has prevented him from ordering a halt, he said
“We don’t like what’s going on,” Mr. Uderitz said in a recent interview.
“We don’t want National Collegiate to be the poster boy of bad practices in student loan collections, but we have no ability to affect it except through this litigation,” he said, referring to a lawsuit that he initiated last year against the trusts’ loan servicer in Delaware’s Chancery Court, a popular battleground for corporate legal fights.

Ballooning Balances

Like those who took on subprime mortgages, many people with private student loans end up shouldering debt that they never earn enough to repay. Borrowing to finance higher education is an economic decision that often pays off, but federal student loans — a much larger market, totaling $1.3 trillion — are directly funded by the government and come with consumer protections like income-based repayment options.
Private loans lack that flexibility, and they often carry interest rates that can reach double digits. Because of those steep rates, the size of the loans can quickly balloon, leaving borrowers to pay hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of dollars each month.
Others are left with debt for degrees they never completed, because the for-profit colleges they enrolled in closed amid allegations of fraud. Federal student borrowers can apply for a discharge in those circumstances, but private borrowers cannot. 
Other large student lenders, like Sallie Mae, also pursue delinquent borrowers in court, but National Collegiate stands apart for its size and aggressiveness, borrowers’ lawyers say.
Lawsuits against borrowers who have fallen behind on their consumer loans are typically filed in state or local courts, where records are often hard to search. This means that there is no national tally of just how often National Collegiate’s trusts have gone to court.
Very few cases ever make it to trial, according to court records and borrowers’ lawyers. Once borrowers are sued, most either choose to settle or ignore the summons, which allows the trusts to obtain a default judgment.
“It’s a numbers game,” said Richard D. Gaudreau, a lawyer in New Hampshire who has defended against several National Collegiate lawsuits. “My experience is they try to bully you at first, and then if you’re not susceptible to that, they back off, because they don’t really want to litigate these cases.”
Transworld Systems, a debt collector, brings most of the lawsuits for National Collegiate against delinquent borrowers. And in legal filings, it is usually a Transworld representative who swears to the accuracy of the records backing up the loan. Transworld did not respond to a request for comment.
Hundreds of cases have been dismissed when borrowers challenge them, according to lawyers, often because the trusts do not produce the paperwork needed to proceed.

‘We Need Answers’

Jason Mason, 35, was sued over $11,243 in student loans he took out to finance his freshman year at California State University, Dominguez Hills. His lawyer, Joe Villaseñor of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, got the case dismissed in 2013, after the trust’s representative did not show up for a court-ordered deposition. It is unclear if the trusts had the paperwork they would have needed to prove their case, Mr. Villaseñor said. 
“It was a scary time,” Mr. Mason said of being taken to court. “I didn’t know how they would come after me, or seize whatever I had, to get the money.”
Nancy Thompson, a lawyer in Des Moines, represented students in at least 30 cases brought by National Collegiate in the past few years. All were dismissed before trial except three. Of those, Ms. Thompson won two and lost one, according to her records. In every case, the paperwork Transworld submitted to the court had critical omissions or flaws, she said.
National Collegiate’s beneficial owner, Mr. Uderitz, hired a contractor in 2015 to audit the servicing company that bills National Collegiate’s borrowers each month and is supposed to maintain custody of many loan documents critical for collection cases.
A random sample of nearly 400 National Collegiate loans found not a single one had assignment paperwork documenting the chain of ownership, according to a report they had prepared.
While Mr. Uderitz wants to collect money from students behind on their bills, he says he wants the lawsuits against borrowers to stop, at least until he can get more information about the documentation that underpins the loans.
“It’s fraud to try to collect on loans that you don’t own,” Mr. Uderitz said. “We want no part of that. If it’s a loan we’re owed fairly, we want to collect. We need answers on this.” 
Keith New, a spokesman for the servicer, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (known to borrowers as American Education Services), said, “We believe that the auditors were misinformed about the scope of P.H.E.A.A.’s contractual obligations. We are confident that the litigation will reveal that the agency has acted properly and in accordance with its agreements.”