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TBR News April 19, 2018

Apr 19 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 19, 2018:” In the early days, the public depended on the print media for information. After the Civil War and the rise of organized industry, the media slowly came under the influence and later the control of a combination of the oligarchs and the government until the media did as it was told and worked together with its overlords to convince the trusting public of the rightness of official actions. But with the advent of the internet, the power of the media began to shrink to the point where today, the once mighty major newspapers are soon to be a thing of the past. Now, all of them are nothing but shills for what is often called the ‘deep state’ and useful only as liners for the cat box.”

 

Table of Contents

  • A President Held Hostage? 
  • An Alternative Explanation to the Skripal Mystery
  • Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests
  • The sorriest urban scene: why a US homelessness crisis drags on
  • Real Unemployment Rate With Calculations
  • Michael Cohen drops libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS
  • Trump says Stormy Daniels sketch is of a ‘nonexistent man’
  • Secrecy News
  • Lenin’s Stroke: Doctor Has a Theory (and a Suspect)

 

A President Held Hostage? 

He’s surrounded by liars, leakers, saboteurs, and traitors

April 19, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

Poor Nikki Haley: she doesn’t get that having presidential ambitions and actually being the President are two different things! She went ahead and announced new sanctions on Russia – and was promptly contradicted by the White House, which averred that Nikki is “confused,” and that no new sanctions are contemplated. “I don’t get confused,” said Nikki – and yet she clearly doesn’t understand that nobody voted for her. They voted for Donald J. Trump, who campaigned on a platform of “Wouldn’t it be good if we could get along with Russia?” Trump’s preferred Russia policy has a mandate from the voters – and yet we don’t see it being implemented.

Why is that?

A remarkable bit of reporting in the Washington Post perhaps explains what is happening in the White House. When the phony “poisoning” of Sergei Skripal was cited by the Usual Suspects as evidence of Russian perfidy – despite the lack of credible evidence that the Russians were responsible — the Europeans expelled Russian diplomats and Trump went along with it, specifying that we would expel an equal number – that is, a number equal to each individual country. When he discovered that his aides had lied to him, and the US expelled the total number expelled from Europe, “There were curse words, a lot of curse words.”

Surrounded by warmongering liars, Trump is being held hostage in the White House – at least that’s what the Washington Post would have us believe:

“Some close to Trump say the recent measures are the product of an ongoing pressure campaign to push the president to take a more skeptical view of the Russian leader….

“Others note Trump’s ongoing unease with his own policy. Even as his administration has ratcheted up the pressure on Putin’s inner circle, Trump has continued in recent weeks to make overtures to the Russian leader, congratulating him on his election win and, in a move that frustrated his national security team, inviting him to visit the White House.”

“His own policy”? But is it his policy, or is it being imposed on him by a White House staff that seems to be working against him and a Deep State apparatus that is actively seeking to oust him?

His aides combined to convince him to support arming with “lethal aid” the Ukrainian government, which has been busy slaughtering its own people. Trump refused, initially, saying “I want peace,” words which must have caused Haley, Mattis, and the rest of the warmongering hacks no small amount of heartburn. When Trump finally allowed himself to be hectored into it, he did it on the condition that it be kept under wraps: but the War Party and their Deep State allies, always eager to advertise their power, leaked it. Trump, we are told, was “furious.” But what’s done is done. And then came the Skirpal “poisoning,” another occasion for his traitorous aides to play their role as saboteurs:

“Initially, the president was hesitant to believe the intelligence that Russia was behind the attack – a fact that some aides attributed to his contrarian personality and tendency to look for deeper conspiracies. To persuade him, his advisers warned that he would get hammered in the press if he was out of step with U.S. allies, officials said.”

Yes, because only a “contrarian personality” would demand proof – something that we have not seen as yet. The assessment by the Brits and our alleged “allies” in Europe was made on the basis of … social media reports! In short: we’re taking the word of the “Army of Islam” that occupied Douma. Because jihadis affiliated with al­-Qaeda wouldn’t lie – would they? Oh but to doubt these head-chopping barbarians would be “to look for deeper conspiracies.”

The real Trump — as opposed to the Trump who is sanctioning Russia, bombing Syria, and arming Ukraine – is closer to the Trump who campaigned for a foreign policy of “America First” and promised no more regime changing. He was in constant conflict with H. R. McMaster, a real Russia-hater:

“Anytime McMaster came in with a recommendation, [Trump] always thought it too much. They were oil and water on everything. So [Trump’s] natural impulse was, if this is your recommendation, it must be too far.”

But hold on – how can this be? Isn’t the President the most powerful person on earth? Doesn’t he (or she!) determine US foreign policy?

Well, no, the President is not a dictator, nor is he the final arbiter of US policy: he is, in large part, at the mercy of the “permanent government,” i.e. the career bureaucrats who persist no matter which party is in power, and without which the government cannot function.

Yes, but then why is Trump appointing people like Haley, and John Bolton – the archetypal warmonger?

I think he appointed Haley for the same reason Barack Obama appointed Hillary Clinton to head up the State Department – he saw in her a potential rival, and sought to defang her by bringing her on board. As for Bolton, it seems that Trump likes to have a variety of opinions at the table, and Bolton’s is just one, while Mattis – a restraining factor – is another. And there’s also the politics of it: appointing Bolton is a crumb thrown to the neocons and straight-out Republican militarist types of the Rumsefeldian variety. It doesn’t mean they’re going to get the whole cake.

Trump’s invitation to Putin to visit the White House is opposed by the White House staff, and, we are told, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Which is very odd, to say the least: what’s preventing it?

They’re blackmailing him with this eternal Russia probe – imagine the brouhaha if the visit actually happened! The War Party would go ballistic:  Bob Mueller would drop a few more indictments – and suddenly we’d be inundated with yet another “invasion” of Russian “bots.”

The whole thing is one great big hoax: the “collusion” investigation, the Skripal “poisoning,” the “poison gas” attack by Assad – fake faker fakest! And it’s brought to you by the same people who brought you “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq – our clueless power-hungry “intelligence” agencies, various and sundry discredited neocons, and Hillary Clinton and her numerous enablers and excuse-makers.

Surrounded by liars, leakers, traitors, and saboteurs, President Trump has managed to minimize the damage done by the War Party, while he’s not entirely able to neutralize them. His Korean peace initiative is going ahead, as both North Korea and the South jointly declare the never-settled Korean war to be finally over.

There’s a battle going on inside this administration, and as yet we don’t know who the victor will be. It’s Trump versus practically everyone else – which basically means the two sides are evenly matched. I know who I’m rooting for….

A final note: And I have to say that this “Trump held hostage” scenario is a bit far-fetched – after all, what’s preventing him from following his policy instincts when push comes to shove? One possible factor I haven’t brought up and that is the blackmail scenario. What if there is a “pee tape” – or some kind of incriminating evidence that our spymasters of the Deep State are holding over his head? Remember the power that J. Edgar Hoover wielded: it’s not like such a thing is unprecedented.

 

An Alternative Explanation to the Skripal Mystery

April 19, 2018

by Gareth Porter

AntiWar

For weeks, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have insisted that there is “no alternative explanation” to Russian government responsibility for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last month.

But in fact the British government is well aware that such an alternative explanation does exist. It is based on the well-documented fact that the “Novichok” nerve agent synthesized by Soviet scientist in the 1980s had been sold by the scientist–who led the development of the nerve agent– to individuals linked to Russian criminal organizations as long ago as 1994 and was used to kill a Russian banker in 1995.

The connection between the Novichok nerve agent and a previous murder linked to the murky Russian criminal underworld would account for the facts of the Salisbury poisoning far better than the official line that it was a Russian government assassination attempt.

The credibility of the May government’s attempt to blame it on Russian President Vladimir Putin has suffered because of Yulia Skripal’s relatively rapid recovery, the apparent improvement of Sergei Skripal’s condition and a medical specialist’s statement that the Skripals had exhibited no symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.

How a Crime Syndicate Got Nerve Agent

The highly independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has published a detailed account of how Russian organized crime figures obtained nerve agent in 1994 from Leonid Rink, the head of the former Soviet government laboratory that had synthesized it.

The newspaper gleaned the information about the transaction from Rink’s court testimony in the 1995 murder of prominent banker Ivan Kivelidi, the leader of the Russian Entrepreneurs’ Round Table, an organization engaged in a conflict with a powerful group of directors of state-owned enterprises.

Rink testified that after the post-Soviet Russian economic meltdown had begun he filled each of several ampoules with 0.25 grams of nerve agent and stored it in his own garage. Just one such ampoule held enough agent to kill 100 people, according to Rink, the lead scientist in the development of the series of nerve agents called Novichok (“newcomer” in Russian).

Rink further admitted that he had then sold one of the ampoules in 1995 to Artur Talanov, who then lived in Latvia and was later seriously wounded in an attempted robbery of a cash van in Estonia, for less than $1,800.

In 1995, some of that nerve agent was applied to Kivelidi’s telephone receiver to kill him, as the court documents in the murder case reveal. Police found that there were links between Talanov and Vladimir Khutsishvili, who had been a board member of Kivelidi’s bank, according to the Kivelidi murder investigation. Khutsishivili was eventually found guilty of poisoning Kivelidi, although it was found that he hired someone else to carry out the poisoning.

But that wasn’t the only nerve agent that Rink sold to gangsters. Rink admitted in court in 2007 that he had sold four of the vials to someone named Ryabov, who had organized crime connections in 1994. Those vials were said to have been seized later by Federal Security Police.

But the investigation of the Kivelidi murder found that vials had also fallen into the hands of other criminal syndicates, including one Chechen organization. Furthermore, Rink testified that he had given each of the recipients of the nerve agent detailed instructions on how it worked and how to handle it safely.

The Mystery of the Non-Lethal Nerve Agent

The newly-revealed story of how organized crime got control of hundreds of doses of lethal nerve agent from a government laboratory sheds crucial light on the mystery of the poisoning in Salisbury, especially in light of the timeline of the Skripals on the day of the poisoning and their unexpectedly swift recovery.

Reports of their activities on March 4 show that they were strolling in central Salisbury, dining, and visiting a pub for several hours before collapsing on a park bench sometime after 4 pm.

The announcements of Yulia’s rapid recovery on March 28 and that Sergei was now “stable” and “improving rapidly” about a week later appears to be in contradiction with the British insistence that they were poisoned by a Russian government intelligence team. The Novichok-type nerve agent has been characterized as quick acting and highly lethal.

But the official Russian forensic investigation in conjunction with the Kivelidi’s murder, as reported by Novaya Gazeta, concluded that the Novichok did not take effect instantaneously but generally took from one and a half to five hours.

The Russian government has now made an official issue of the fact that the nerve agent used in the poisoning proved not to be lethal. In his news conference on April 14 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Swiss Spiez Laboratory, working on the case for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had found traces in the Skripals’ bloodsample, of the nerve agent BZ, which was never developed by Soviet scientists but was in the arsenals of the United States and Britain.

Lavrov also acknowledged that the lab had in addition found traces of “A-234”–one of the nerve agents in the Novichok series – “in its initial state and in high concentration”. Lavrov argued that had the assassins used A-234 nerve agent, which he noted is at least eight times more deadly than VX nerve gas, it “would have killed the Skripals.”

But if the poisoning had been done with some of the A-234 nerve agent that was sold by Rink to organized crime figures, it probably would not have been that lethal.

Vil Mirzayanov, the counter-intelligence specialist on the team that developed Novichok and who later revealed the existence of the Novichok program, explained in an interview with The Guardian that, the agent lost its effectiveness. “The final product, in storage, after one year is already losing 2%, 3%,” Mirzayanov said, “The next year more, and the next year more. In 10-15 years, it’s no longer effective.”

Exposure to even a large dose of such a normally lethal poison more than 25 years after it was first produced could account for the apparent lack of normal symptoms associated with exposure to that kind of nerve agent experienced by the Skripals, as well as for their relatively speedy recovery. That lends further credibility to a possible explanation that someone with a personal grudge against Sergei Skripal carried out the poisoning.

An Absence of Nerve Agent Symptoms?

Also challenging the official British line is a statement by a medical specialist involved in the Salisbury District Hospital’s care for the Skripals revealing that they had not exhibited any symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.

Stephen Davies, a consultant on emergency medicine for the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Salisbury District Hospital, wrote a letter published in The Times on March 16 that presented a problem for the official British government position. Davies wrote,“[M]ay I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury, and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning.” Obviously, Sergei and Yulia Skripal were “patients” in the hospital and were thus included in that statement.

The Times made the unusual decision to cover the Davies letter in a news story, but tellingly failed to quote the crucial statement in the letter that “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury” or to report on the significance of the statement.

To rule out the possibility that Davies intended to say something quite different, this writer requested a confirmation or denial of what Davies had written in his letter from the press officer for the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Patrick Butler. But Butler did not respond for a week and then refused directly to deny, confirm or explain the Davies statement.

Instead Butler said in an email, “Three people were admitted and treated as inpatients at Salisbury District Hospital for the effects of nerve agent poisoning as Stephen Davies wrote.” When he was reminded that the letter had actually said something quite different, Butler simply repeated the statement he had just sent and then added, “The Trust will not be providing any further information on this matter.”

Butler did not respond to two separate requests from the writer for assistance in contacting Davies. The refusal of the NHS Foundation Trust to engage at all on the subject underlines the sensitivity of The British government about nerve agent that didn’t work.

There are many individuals in Russia whose feelings about Sergei Skripal’s having become a double agent for Britain’s MI6 – including former colleagues of his – could provide a personal motive for the poisoning. And it is certainly plausible that those individuals could have had obtained some of the nerve agent sold by Leonid Rink that entered the black market.

Neither the British government nor the Russian government is apparently eager to acknowledge that alternative explanation. The British don’t want it discussed, because they are determined to use the Salisbury poisoning to push their anti-Russian agenda; and the Russians may be reluctant to talk about it, because it would inevitably get into details of a secret nerve agent research project that they have claimed they closed down in 1992, despite Rink’s testimony in the court case that he was still doing some work for the Russian military until 1994.

 

Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests

Оценка г-на Трампа как актива для интересов России

Russian evaluation edited by Christian Jürs

Russian intelligence has had an interest in Donald Trump since the year 1977 when we received an alert from a sister unit in Prague.

He was described as impressionable young man with large ambitions and money from his family real estate business.

His marriage to a Czech woman whose father was an element in that countries’ intelligence agency brought him to our attention and we went to some lengths to ascertain his potential value for Russian interests.

The initial impression of Mr. Trump was that he was extremely self-important and egotistical to a remarkable degree.

As our first hand knowledge of him progressed it became evident that Mr. Trump fancied himself as a man to whom beautiful women were attracted.

That they were attracted to his money is more evident.

Although it is true he is a person with whom one could establish good business contacts, Mr. Trump was, and is, an overbearing and intolerant person.

He is subject to mood-swings in that what is acceptable today is not tomorrow.

He is easily led by women to whom he is initially very attentive and once he feels he had their purchased loyalty, proceeds to turn his attentions to other women.

It was our experience with Mr. Trump that by supplying him a number of beautiful Russian women, he became besotted and was willing to agree to almost any proposal presented to him.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump is erratic in the extreme. He owes very large sums of money, for example, to the Deutsche Bank, sums he somehow forgets to pay. He also owes large sums to Russian banks but in this case, he dare not neglect to pay.

Although he and President Putin got on well together, Mr. Trump’s promises ought to be taken very cautiously.

Mr. Trump is so convinced of his superiority to others and is so easy to influence that promises to one person could easily be forgotten when making identical promises to another.

His current wife, Melanija Knavs, has produced a son and this boy, quite attractive, is the idol of his mother. She has stated to one of our people that she is not happy with her marriage because of her husband’s constant, and often very obnoxious, persuit of other women and does not want her young son to associate with his father lest he hear Mr. Trump’s constant flow of foul and obscene language or see him grab at some woman’s breasts.

She planned to divorce him and take her son back to Yugoslavia but the scandal would do so much damage to Mr. Trump’s public image that she was dissuaded from divorce by the payment of a large sum of money and promises on the part of Mr. Trump to let his wife rear and be responsible for his son.

Insofar as his use to Russian interests, this is problematical due to Mr.Trump’s disturbed personality. He does recall, however, that we released unpleasant material about Mrs. Clinton and that the same sort of material could very easily be released about him.

On the one hand, he has no problem taking Russian money for his businesses but on the other, he is susceptible to pressure from American power groups such as the Christian religious sector, Jewish groups and the military which have virtual control of current American politics and governance.

 

The sorriest urban scene: why a US homelessness crisis drags on

Despite approving billions in funds to fight the problem, Los Angeles has seen its homeless population continue to grow. What can politicians do?

March 16 2018

by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles

The Guardian

In Los Angeles, the more the politicians push to solve the city’s festering homelessness crisis, the worse it seems to get.

The city leadership has taken one bold step after another: restructuring the budget to free more than $100m a year in homelessness funding, sponsoring one voter-approved initiative to raise more than $1bn for housing and backing another regional proposal to raise the sales tax and generate an estimated $3.5bn for support services over the next decade. And yet the tent cities continue to proliferate, in rich neighborhoods and poor, by the beach, the airport, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and within view of City Hall itself.

It’s the sorriest urban scene anywhere in America, and the same voters who not so long ago opened their hearts and their wallets to put an end to it are growing increasingly impatient. As the numbers of homeless people continue to rise – the latest figures put the countywide number at 58,000, up more than 20% in a single year – and new encampments spring up on sidewalks, under freeways, and along stretches of river and rail lines, the politicians who not so long ago were earning praise for their courage are facing the beginnings of an angry backlash.

“How many people have we housed?” the Los Angeles Times asked impatiently in a blistering series of editorials late last month. “How many are we on track toward housing? Is Los Angeles setting the national standard for rapid and effective response to a vexing problem? Or are its leaders merely mastering the art of appearances while passing the buck and hoping things turn around? … Who’s in charge here?”

Most infuriating, to the Times and to many others, has been the reluctance of many LA city council members to move forward on supportive-housing projects. More than a year after the money became available, just two of the first 10 sites identified  as easiest to build quickly have broken ground, leaving the others hostage to neighborhood groups anxious about having people with addiction and mental health problems move in next door.

The politicians are clearly feeling the heat from the Times series. Two city council members responded by announcing they were pushing ahead with housing projects they’d previously blocked.

 

 

Real Unemployment Rate With Calculations

Does the Government Lie About Unemployment?

April 6, 2018

by Kimberly Amadeo

The Balance

The real unemployment rate (U-6) is a broader definition of unemployment than the official unemployment rate (U-3). In March 2018, it fell to 8.0 percent.

The U-3 is the rate most often reported in the media. In the U-3 rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics only counts people without jobs who are in the labor force. To remain in the labor force, they must have looked for a job in the last four weeks.

The U-6, or real unemployment rate, includes the underemployed, the marginally attached, and discouraged workers. For that reason, it is almost double the U-3 report.

Underemployed people are part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs. The BLS counts them as employed and in the labor force.

The marginally attached are those who have looked for work in the last year but not the previous four weeks. They are not included in the labor force participation rate.

Among the marginally attached are the discouraged workers. They have given up looking for work altogether. They could have gone back to school, gotten pregnant, or become disabled. They may or may not return to the labor force, depending on their circumstances. Once they haven’t looked for a job in 12 months, they’re no longer counted as marginally attached.

The BLS issues both the U-3 and the U-6 in each month’s jobs report. Surprisingly, there isn’t as much media attention paid to the real unemployment rate.

But even former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said it paints a clearer picture of actual U.S. unemployment.

Real Unemployment Rate Formula Using Current Statistics

In March 2018, the real unemployment rate (U-6) was 8.0 percent. It’s almost double the widely reported unemployment rate (U-3) of 4.1 percent.

Here’s how to calculate both.

Step 1. Calculate the official unemployment rate (U-3).

U-3 = 6.585 million unemployed workers / 161.763 million in the labor force = 4.1 percent.

Step 2. Add in marginally attached workers. There were 1.454 million people who were marginally attached to the labor force. Add this to both the number of unemployed and the labor force.

U-5 = (6.585 million + 1.454 million) / (161.763 million + 1.454 million) = 8.039 million / 163.217 million = 4.9 percent.

Step 3. Add in part-time workers. There were 5.019 million people who were working part-time but would prefer full-time work. Add them to the unemployed with marginal workers. They’re already in the labor force.

U-6 = (8.039 million + 5.019 million) / (163.217 million) = 13.058 million / 163.217 million = 8.1 percent. (Source: “Table A-15,” Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Compare the Real Unemployment Rate

To put things in perspective, here’s the official unemployment rate compared to the real rate since 1994. That’s the first year the BLS collected data on U-6. The rates given are for January of each year. To see unemployment since 1929, go to Unemployment Rate by Year.

Throughout the years, the official rate is a little more than half the real rate.

That remains true no matter how well the economy is doing. Even in 2000, when the official rate below the natural unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, the real rate was almost double, at 7.1 percent. In 2010, when the unemployment rate was its highest at 9.8 percent, the real rate was still almost double, at 16.7 percent.

 

Year (as of January) U3 (Official) U6 (Real) U3/U6 Comments
1994 6.6% 11.8% 56% The first year BLS reported U6
1995 5.6% 10.2% 55%  
1996 5.6% 9.8% 57%  
1997 5.3% 9.4% 56%  
1998 4.6% 8.4% 55%  
1999 4.3% 7.7% 56%  
2000 4.0% (Record Low) 7.1% 56% Stock market crashed in March
2001 4.2% 7.3% 58%  
2002 5.7% 9.5% 60% U3 closest to U6
2003 5.8% 10.0% 58%  
2004 5.7% 9.9% 58%  
2005 5.3% 9.3% 57%  
2006 4.7% 8.4% 56%  
2007 4.6% 8.4% 55%  
2008 5.0% 9.2% 54%  
2009 7.8% 14.2% 55% High of 10.2% in Oct
2010 9.8% 16.7% 59%  
2011 9.1% 16.2% 56%  
2012 8.3% 15.2% 55%  
2013 8.0% 14.5% 55%  
2014 6.6% 12.7% 52%  
2015 5.7% 11.3% 50%  
2016 4.9%   9.9% 49% Both return to pre-recession levels
2017 4.8%   9.4% 51%  
2018 4.4%   8.2% 50%  

The point is to make sure you compare apples to apples. If you say the government is lying during a recession, then you’ve got to make the same argument when times are good. (Source: “Table A-1. Historical Household Data,” Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

The Real Unemployment Rate Was Never as Bad as During the Depression

The unemployment rate during The Great Depression was 25 percent. Unemployment rates were calculated differently back then, but this was likely similar to the real rate today. Did the real unemployment rate during the Great Recession ever reach that level? Despite what many people say, a simple calculation shows this is not true.

In October 2009, the official unemployment rate (U-3) reached its height of 10.2 percent. There were 15.7 million unemployed among 153.98 million in the labor force. Add to that the 2.4 million marginally attached, including 808,000 discouraged workers, and you get a U-5 rate of 11.6 percent. Then add in the 9.3 million part-time workers who preferred full-time, and you get the U-6 rate of 17.5 percent. That gives a better sense of 2009 unemployment.

Therefore, even if you stretch the definition of unemployed to include marginally attached and part-time workers, unemployment was never as bad as during the height of the Great Depression. But, unemployment wasn’t that high throughout the entire Depression, which lasted for 10 years. If you wanted to make the case, you could say the real unemployment at the height of the Great Recession was as high as unemployment during parts of the Great Depression.

 

Michael Cohen drops libel suits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS

  • Cases concerned claims about Cohen in Steele dossier
  • Trump lawyer denied he visited Prague to help 2016 campaign

April 19, 2018

by Jon Swaine in New York

the Guardian

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s embattled legal fixer, has dropped libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and a political research firm over the dossier that alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.

Cohen voluntarily dismissed his lawsuits against the news website and Fusion GPS on Wednesday, according to documents filed by his attorney, David Schwartz, at federal court and state supreme court in Manhattan.

His decision to abandon the legal actions followed the raiding of his home and office by the FBI and the confirmation by US prosecutors that Cohen is the subject of a criminal investigation relating to his private business interests and personal finances.

Cohen sued after BuzzFeed published the dossier compiled for Fusion by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, which alleged Cohen met Russian operatives in the Czech Republic in August 2016 as part of an effort by the Kremlin to assist Trump’s campaign. Cohen has repeatedly denied the allegation.

The alleged trip to Prague, the Czech capital, was said by Steele’s sources to have been “a cover up and damage limitation operation”, after news reports had disclosed payments made to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, by pro-Kremlin authorities in Ukraine, and meetings held in Moscow by Carter Page, an adviser to the Trump campaign. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Cohen’s complaint against Fusion GPS and its founder, the former investigative reporter Glenn Simpson, said that he was “collateral damage” in a hostile political operation conducted by the company.

The withdrawal of Cohen’s lawsuits also followed a report by McClatchy that said Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Russia and the Trump campaign, had found evidence suggesting that Cohen did, in fact, make the trip to Prague. Cohen again denied this, claiming the report was based on “bad information”.

Cohen’s team did not immediately respond to an email asking whether his decision related to the McClatchy report.

“The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one,” his attorney Schwartz told Politico, which first reported that the lawsuits had been dropped. “We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr Cohen’s rights was – and still remains – important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”

 

Trump says Stormy Daniels sketch is of a ‘nonexistent man’

April 18, 2018

by Makini Brice

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a man portrayed in a sketch released by porn star Stormy Daniels, who she said warned her to stop discussing her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump, does not exist.

In response, Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti said his client would likely update a lawsuit she has filed against the president to include a charge of defamation.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, says she had sex with Trump in 2006. She is fighting a 2016 nondisclosure agreement arranged by Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in which she was paid $130,000 to keep silent.

Trump’s lawyers are seeking at least $20 million in damages from Daniels for violations of the nondisclosure agreement.

On Tuesday, she and Avenatti released a sketch of a man whom she said had threatened her in 2011, and they offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to his identification.

Avenatti announced on Wednesday the reward had been increased to $131,000.

The picture they released showed a man with facial stubble and a chiseled jaw, who was wearing a hoodie. Daniels described him in an interview with ABC on Wednesday as “sort of handsome.”

Trump has largely remained quiet on the subject, although he told reporters earlier this month that he did not know about the payment to Daniels.

On Wednesday, in his first reference to Daniels via Twitter, he said in a post: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

In an interview with CNN, Avenatti said a defamation claim would likely be added to Daniels’ standing lawsuit.

“He’s effectively now told the American people that she is a liar, that she is a con, that she has made up this threat and this sketch,” he said. “We’re likely going to be amending our complaint – we’re looking at doing that now – to add a defamation claim directly against the president.”

The sketch was released the day after a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, where Trump attorney Cohen fought to limit the capability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized in a raid by FBI agents on his home, office and hotel room.

A source familiar with the raids said that the agents were looking for more information on payments to Daniels within materials related to Cohen’s business dealings. The raids are related to a separate investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham; editing by Tim Ahmann and Rosalba O’Brien

Comment: In reading this article, a point arises: How can Trump say that the man in the sketch does not exist? Does he know something he does not want to talk about? Why did his lawyer pay off the Daniels woman if she never had a relationship with the current President? If the lawyer gives such sums of money away on mere impulse, I ought to write him to see how much he would give me. Of course I never had an affair with the President. On the other hand, strange men do not come up to me in parking lots and threaten me.Ed

Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 28

April 19, 2018

A FORUM FOR CLASSIFIED RESEARCH ON CYBERSECURITY

By definition, scientists who perform classified research cannot take full advantage of the standard practice of peer review and publication to assure the quality of their work and to disseminate their findings. Instead, military and intelligence agencies tend to provide limited disclosure of classified research to a select, security-cleared audience.

In 2013, the US intelligence community created a new classified journal on cybersecurity called the Journal of Sensitive Cyber Research and Engineering (JSCoRE).

The National Security Agency has just released a redacted version of the tables of contents of the first three volumes of JSCoRE in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

JSCoRE “provides a forum to balance exchange of scientific information while protecting sensitive information detail,” according to the ODNI budget justification book for FY2014 (at p. 233). “Until now, authors conducting non-public cybersecurity research had no widely-recognized high-quality secure venue in which to publish their results. JSCoRE is the first of its kind peer-reviewed journal advancing such engineering results and case studies.”

The titles listed in the newly disclosed JSCoRE tables of contents are not very informative — e.g. “Flexible Adaptive Policy Enforcement for Cross Domain Solutions” — and many of them have been redacted.

However, one intriguing title that NSA withheld from release under FOIA was publicly cited in a Government Accountability Office report last year:  “The Darkness of Things: Anticipating Obstacles to Intelligence Community Realization of the Internet of Things Opportunity,” JSCoRE, vol. 3, no. 1 (2015)(TS//SI//NF).

“JSCoRE may reside where few can lay eyes on it, but it has plenty of company,” wrote David Malakoff in Science Magazine in 2013. “Worldwide, intelligence services and military forces have long published secret journals” — such as DARPA’s old Journal of Defense Research — “that often touch on technical topics. The demand for restricted outlets is bound to grow as governments classify more information.”

USA V. TERRY ALBURY: A GUILTY PLEA

The second prosecution of an accused leaker in the Trump Administration (after Reality Winner) will yield the first conviction. Former FBI special agent Terry J. Albury pleaded guilty this week to unlawful disclosure and retention of national defense information, each of which is a felony under the Espionage Act statutes.

The plea agreement, signed by the defendant, outlines the facts of the case and sets the stage for sentencing.

“Terry Albury betrayed the trust bestowed upon him by the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick in an April 17 news release.  “Today’s guilty plea should serve as a reminder to those who are entrusted with classified information that the Justice Department will hold them accountable.”

But Albury’s attorneys said that his actions were those of a whistleblower. “His conduct in this case was an act of conscience. It was driven by his belief that there was no viable alternative to remedy the abuses he sought to address. He recognizes that what he did was unlawful and accepts full responsibility for his conduct,” they said in a statement quoted in Politico.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, “The defendant waives all rights to obtain, directly or through others, information about the investigation and prosecution of this case under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974.”

THE F-35 JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER PROGRAM, AND MORE FROM CRS

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the single largest procurement program in the Department of Defense, which anticipates acquiring thousands of these aircraft.

But while “the F-35 promises significant advances in military capability…, reaching that capability has put the program above its original budget and behind the planned schedule,” according to the Congressional Research Service. See F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, updated April 13, 2018.

Other new and updated CRS reports that have not been made publicly available include the following.

FY2018 Defense Appropriations Act: An Overview, CRS In Focus, April 5, 2018

The President’s FY2019 Military Construction Budget Request, CRS In Focus, April 4, 2018

Legal Authorities Under the Controlled Substances Act to Combat the Opioid Crisis, April 16, 2018

Regulatory Reform 10 Years After the Financial Crisis: Dodd-Frank and Securities Law, April 13, 2018

Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework, updated April 13, 2018

NASA Appropriations and Authorizations: A Fact Sheet, updated April 16, 2018

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Legal Authority and Limitations on Independent Executive Investigations, updated April 13, 2018

Cuba After the Castros, CRS Insight, April 17, 2018

US GIFTS TO FOREIGN INDIVIDUALS REPORTED

The Obama Administration gave dozens of wrist watches to various foreign leaders in 2014.

A newly released State Department report to Congress lists all of the gifts presented by President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Vice President Biden, Mrs. Biden, and Secretary of State Kerry to foreign individuals.

The 32 page report reflects the fact that the presentation of gifts is a customary feature of personal encounters between US and foreign leaders, as is the recording and reporting of each gift.

Based on the descriptions in the report, most of the gifts seem generic and unimaginative, not reflecting any particularized esteem. The most common gift was a “custom men’s watch in a wooden presentation box with inscription plaque” with a reported value of $465.

One exception was a “custom seed chest… containing nine varieties of American seeds” (declared value $1964.87) that was presented to Pope Francis. Also noteworthy is a rare edition of a book about the 1893 World’s Congress of Religions that featured Swami Vivekananda and other luminaries (declared value $1375 — but now half that price on Amazon) that was given to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

Lenin’s Stroke: Doctor Has a Theory (and a Suspect)

May 7, 2012

by Gina Colata

New York Times

BALTIMORE — The patient founded a totalitarian state known for its “merciless terror,” Dr. Victoria Giffi told a rapt audience of doctors and medical students on Friday afternoon. He died suddenly at 6:50 p.m. on Jan. 21, 1924, a few months before his 54th birthday. The cause of death: a massive stroke.

The man’s cerebral arteries, Dr. Giffi added, were “so calcified that when tapped with tweezers they sounded like stone.”

The occasion was a so-called clinicopathological conference, a mainstay of medical schools in which a mysterious medical case is presented to an audience of doctors and medical students. In the end, a pathologist solves the mystery with a diagnosis.

But this was a conference with a twist. The patient was long dead — he was, in fact, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The questions posed to the conference speakers: Why did he have a fatal stroke at such a young age? Was there something more to his death than history has acknowledged?

At the University of Maryland, a clinicopathological conference focused on historical figures has been an annual event for the past 19 years; attending doctors have reviewed the case records of Florence Nightingale, Alexander the Great, Mozart, Beethoven and Edgar Allan Poe. The pathologists’ conclusion that Poe died of rabies even became a final question on the “Jeopardy!” game show.

Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak, vice chairman of the university’s school of medicine and organizer of these conferences, said he later did a much more comprehensive review of Poe’s medical records and concluded that Poe’s doctor had embellished Poe’s medical history.

“Poe was a hopeless alcoholic,” Dr. Mackowiak said in a telephone interview. “He almost certainly died of delirium tremens.”

On Friday, two experts were called upon to solve the mystery of Lenin’s death: Dr. Harry Vinters, professor of neurology and neuropathology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Lev Lurie, a Russian historian in St. Petersburg.

Dr. Vinters began by telling the audience some details of Lenin’s medical and family history.

As a baby, Lenin had a head so large that he often fell over. He used to bang his head on the floor, making his mother worry that he might be mentally disabled.

As an adult, Lenin suffered diseases that were common at the time: typhoid, toothaches, influenza and a painful skin infection called erysipelas. He was under intense stress, of course, which led to insomnia, migraines and abdominal pain.

At 48, he was shot twice in an assassination attempt. One bullet lodged in his collarbone after puncturing his lung. Another got caught in the base of his neck. Both bullets remained in place for the rest of his life.

Lenin’s father died early, too, at 54. The cause of death was said to be cerebral hemorrhage, but Lenin’s father had an illness at the time of his death that may have been typhoid fever.

Most of Lenin’s seven brothers and sisters died young, two in infancy. A brother was executed at age 21 for plotting to assassinate Emperor Alexander III, and another brother died of typhoid at 19. Of the three who survived past young adulthood, a sister died of a stroke at age 71, another sister died of a heart attack at 59, and a brother died at age 69 of “stenocardia,” an archaic medical term whose meaning is no longer clear.

In the two years before he died, Lenin had three debilitating strokes. Prominent European doctors were consulted and proposed a variety of diagnoses: nervous exhaustion, chronic lead intoxication from the two bullets lodged in his body, cerebral arteriosclerosis and “endarteritis luetica.”

Dr. Vinters speculates that the last term referred to meningovascular syphilis, inflammation of the walls of blood vessels mainly around the brain, resulting in a thickening of the interior of the vessel. But there was no evidence of this on autopsy, and Lenin’s syphilis test was said to have been negative. He had been treated anyway with injections of a solution containing arsenic, the prevailing syphilis remedy.

Then, in his last hours and days of his life, Lenin experienced severe seizures.

An autopsy revealed a near total obstruction of the arteries leading to the brain, some of which were narrowed to tiny slits. But Lenin did not have some of the traditional risk factors for strokes.

He did not have untreated high blood pressure — had that been his problem, the left side of his heart would have been enlarged. He did not smoke and would not tolerate smoking in his presence. He drank only occasionally and exercised regularly. He did not have symptoms of a brain infection, nor did he have a brain tumor.

So what brought on the stroke that killed Lenin?

The clues lie in Lenin’s family history, Dr. Vinters said. The three siblings who survived beyond their 20s had evidence of cardiovascular disease, and Lenin’s father died of a disease that was described as being very much like Lenin’s. Dr. Vinters said Lenin might have inherited a tendency to develop extremely high cholesterol, causing the severe blockage of his blood vessels that led to his stroke.

Compounding that was the stress Lenin experienced, which can precipitate a stroke in someone whose blood vessels are already blocked.

But Lenin’s seizures in the hours and days before he died are a puzzle and perhaps historically significant. Severe seizures, Dr. Vinters said in an interview before the conference, are “quite unusual in a stroke patient.”

“But,” he added, “almost any poison can cause seizures.”

Dr. Lurie concurred on Friday, telling the conference that poison was in his opinion the most likely immediate cause of Lenin’s death. The most likely perpetrator? Stalin, who saw Lenin as his main obstacle to taking over the Soviet Union and wanted to get rid of him.

Communist Russia in the early 1920s, Dr. Lurie told the conference, was a place of “Mafia-like intrigue.”

In 1921 Lenin started complaining that he was ill. From then until his death in 1924, Lenin “began to feel worse and worse,” Dr. Lurie said.

“He complained that he couldn’t sleep and that he had terrible headaches. He could not write, he did not want to work,” Dr. Lurie said. He wrote to Alexei Maximovich Gorky, “I am so tired, I do not want to do anything at all.”

But he nonetheless was planning a political attack on Stalin, Dr. Lurie said. And Stalin, well aware of Lenin’s intentions, sent a top-secret note to the Politburo in 1923 claiming that Lenin himself asked to be put out of his misery.

The note said: “On Saturday, March 17th in the strictest secrecy Comrade Krupskaya told me of ‘Vladimir Ilyich’s request to Stalin,’ namely that I, Stalin, should take the responsibility for finding and administering to Lenin a dose of potassium cyanide. I felt it impossible to refuse him, and declared: ‘I would like Vladimir Ilyich to be reassured and to believe that when it is necessary I will fulfill his demand without hesitation.’”

Stalin added that he just could not do it: “I do not have the strength to carry out Ilyich’s request and I have to decline this mission, however humane and necessary it might be, and I therefore report this to the members of the Politburo.”

Dr. Lurie said Stalin might have poisoned Lenin despite this assurance, as Stalin was “absolutely ruthless.”

Dr. Vinters believes that sky-high cholesterol leading to a stroke was the main cause of Lenin’s death. But he said there is one other puzzling aspect of the story. Although toxicology studies were done on others in Russia, there was an order that no toxicology be done on Lenin’s tissues.

So the mystery remains.

But if Lenin had lived today, or if today’s cholesterol-lowering drugs had been available 100 years ago, might he have been spared those strokes?

“Yes,” Dr. Vinters said. “Lenin could have gone on for another 20 or 25 years, assuming he wasn’t assassinated. History would have been totally different.”

 

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