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TBR News April 20, 2018

Apr 20 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 20, 2018:” A Chinese businessman goes into a Jewish-owned establishment to buy black bras, size 38.

The Jewish store keeper, known for his skills as a businessman, says that black bras are rare and that he is finding it very difficult to buy them from his suppliers. Therefore he has to charge $50.00 for them.  The Chinese businessman buys 25 bras.

He returns a few days later and this time orders 50.  The Jewish owner tells him that they have become even harder to get and charges him $60.00 each.

The Chinese businessman returns a month later and buys the store’s remaining stock of 50, and this time for $75.00 each.  The Jewish owner is somewhat puzzled by the large demand for black size 38 bras and asks the Chinese businessman, “Please tell me – What do you do with all these black bras?”

The Chinese businessman answers:  “I cut them in half and sell them as skull caps to Jewish men for $200.00 each.”

Table of Contents

  • Syria airstrikes violated international law: German parliamentary report
  • The Western rape of Russia
  • Facebook’s damage limitation drive hits trouble in Germany
  • Comey memos detailing conversations of Trump meetings published
  • Trump May Have a $300 Million Conflict of Interest With Deutsche Bank
  • Soros foundations to quit Hungary amid political hostility
  • Secrecy News
  • Early mass surveillance
  • The Timmerrman letters
  • The Second Coming

 

Syria airstrikes violated international law: German parliamentary report

The German government supported the airstrikes by the US, UK and France in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack. But a new report has said the airstrikes infringed upon international law.

April 20, 2018

by Alexander Pearson (with dpa and AFP)

DW

The United States, France and the United Kingdom violated international law by launching airstrikes against Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack, an independent German parliamentary report has found.

“Military force used against a state to punish it for infringing an international convention violates the prohibition of force under international law,” said the report by the German parliament’s non-partisan research service (the “Unterabteilung Wissenschaftliche Dienste”).

The three countries launched airstrikes on Saturday after accusing the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack near the capital Damascus on April 7 that allegedly killed at least 40 people.

Hours after the operation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said the operation was “necessary and appropriate” to preserve the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty outlawing the use of chemical weapons

Legal problems

The report was commissioned by Germany’s Left party, which asked the civil servants to ascertain if the strikes conformed with international law. The findings cited the UN Charta, which calls on members to “refrain … from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

This ban on using military force, the report added, still applies when a country breaches an international treaty such as the CWC.

The UK’s argument that airstrikes would remedy a humanitarian crisis and were therefore exempt from this ban was “not convincing,” according to the report. The strikes, it said, could not stop the suffering caused by the ongoing civil war and it was not clear why a chemical weapons attack was a “decisive” event that required humanitarian intervention.

Moreover, the report disagreed with an argument voiced by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who had cited the UN Security Council’s inability to react to the suspected chemical attack as part of his support for the airstrikes.

The Council’s indecisiveness, based on Russia’s opposition to US-backed proposals to investigate the suspected attack, was irrelevant from a legal perspective, it said.

‘Slap in the face’ for the German government

Left lawmakers Heike Hänsel and Alexander Neu called the WD report a “slap in the face” for the German government, which had helped “erode” international law by supporting airstrikes.

Omid Nouripour, the foreign policy spokesman for the Green Party, said it was “high time that the government publicly declare [it had broken international law].”

But the foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s conservatives, Roderich Kiesewetter, defended the government’s support for the airstrikes despite the WD’s findings.

In a Twitter post, he wrote: “Sometimes a politically suitable assessment of how to deal with violations of international law is needed … The [WD] report found the airstrikes were contrary to international law. I think the government reacted wisely!”

 

The Western rape of Russia

April 20, 2018

by Christian Jürs

 

In the early 1990s the newly democratic Russian government conducted a number of privatization auctions to divest itself of the money losing and obsolete industrial factories, the State could no longer afford to run. In a characteristically Russian style the dinosaurs of the Soviet industrial era were sold in secretive auctions at fire sale prices to politically connected interest groups. The bidding involved time tested auction frauds, forbidden even on Ebay Internet bazaar: bid shielding, denial of access, sniping, collusion, closed-door political maneuvering, bribery and death threats.

From the winners of such auctions arose a unique social class of Russians, the oligarchs. The new Super-Russians were granted political and economic power, unprecedented in post-Soviet Russian history. They proceeded to siphon capital from the productive properties so generously gifted to them, directing hard currency away from Russia and into the Swiss banks, shady offshore companies, and Western investment management firms. The oligarchs made news buying Rolls Royce cars, sports teams and castles in Europe, and vacation homes all over the world.

The oligarchs also managed and operated their holdings, with varying degrees of success. By far the most triumphant of such ventures was the OAO NK YUKOS. One of the world’s largest non-state oil companies, Yukos had proven oil reserves of 14.7 billion barrels, employed 100,000 people, pumped 1.6 million barrels a day (2% of world output), and had shares listed in on stock exchanges in Russia, Germany, England and the USA.

MFO Group Menatep, an investment holding company created by Mikhail Khodorkovsky had controlling interest in the company and held 61% of its stock.

Group Menatep attracted top Western talent to reorganize, modernize and expand the company, increased production to 591 million barrels in 2003, secured financing from Societe Generale and other foreign banks, and created one of the world’s largest oil producers by completed the first merger of formerly State owned oil companies: Yukos and Sibneft. Western investors observed in wonder as Yukos achieved previously unseen in Russia standards for honorable business practices and financial transparency. Yukos published independently audited financial statements, issued securities in America and Europe, and even funded a private pension plan for its 100,000 employees.

Foreign investors lent over $1.2 billion to Yukos and bought up about 20% of the company’s common stock.

Like all good things in Russia, this era of wealth building came to an abrupt halt when the oligarchs broke the sacred covenant with the Russian government – the oath of loyalty. Wealth and politics are intimately intertwined in Russia, where capital is skillfully and secretively deployed to achieve political influence, which in turn is used to increase and perpetuate wealth. The oligarchs made a fatal mistake of threatening President Putin’s power by funding dissident political parties like the liberal Yabloko group lead by Grigory Yavlinksy, who has openly criticized the government.

Since the beginning of time the goal of perpetuating its power was of primary importance to the ruling party. Everything else, including effective administration of the government came secondary.

Putin declared war on its unfaithful Oligarchs with the July 2003 arrest of Group Menatep director Platon Lebedev. He was charged with defrauding the state in the 1994 privatization sale of Apatit fertilizer manufacturer. A week later KGB raided Yukos offices removing computers and documents. On October 25, 2003 masked gunmen arrested Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky on a business trip to Siberia. He was charged with fraud and tax evasion and jailed in Moscow. In December 2003 the government demanded $3.5 billion in back taxes from Yukos. On March 4, 2004 Stephen Curtis, who replaced Platon Lebedev as Group Menatep director after Mr. Lebedev’s arrest on fraud and tax evasion charges is killed. Witnesses report that a helicopter carrying Mr. Curtis from London exploded in midair. Prolonged imprisonment and brutal treatment of Mrs. Lebedev and Khodorkovsky brought about dramatic overseas flight of other Yukos managers.

With opposition on the run, the Russian government began to dismantle the oligarchic empire with nationalization of Yuganskneftegaz unit, which delivers 60% of Yukos’ oil production, in the best traditions of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

On December 19 a previously unknown BaikalFinansGroup won Yuganskneftegaz in a circus-like state sponsored auction for about $9.3 billion. Why did BaikalFinansGroup win? Well, it was the only one bidding. State controlled oil and gas giant Gazprom declined to bid, while British Petroleum, Shell and ExxonMobil were not invited.

Three days later BaikalFinansGroup was purchased by State owned oil company Rosneft, which is being folded into Gazprom. The transaction effectively nationalized Yuganskneftegaz.

Very little is known about BaikalFinansGroup, but bits and pieces journalists did dig up create more questions than they answer. Operating out of a vodka bar located at Novotorzhskaya 12b, in the provincial town of Tver, BaikalFinansGroup was nevertheless able to quickly secure a $1.7 billion loan from the state-owned Sberbank Savings Bank as a down payment for participating in the auction. Meanwhile Russian government controlled gas giant Gazprom, the only other bidder permitted to attend the auction, was unable to secure financing from Societe Generale led group consortium of Western banks.

Surprising coincidence is that Russia’s fourth biggest energy supplier Surgutneftegaz, located directly across the Siberian river Ob from Yuganskneftegaz, has business interests in Tver. Rumor has it that Surgutneftegaz managers Igor Minibayev and Valentina Komarova represented BaikalFinansGroup at the Yuganskneftegaz auction.

Having won Yuganskneftegaz for $9.3 billion, about half the company’s estimated value, BaikalFinansGroup had 14 days to come up with the money. Wild speculations as to the source of funding include “The Chinese Connection”. Russians have a history of amazing generosity demonstrated by the sale of Alaska, packed with treasures of natural resources from oil to uranium. Why not sell Siberia to the Chinese: they need the raw materials and can afford to pay. According to Russia’s Finance Minister Mr. Alexei Kudrin, China, who had long-term delivery contract with Yuganskneftegaz, had put up $6 billion to help fund Rosneft’s purchase of the company. An unnamed consortium of Russian banks, likely consisting exclusively of the state-owned Sberbank Savings Bank funded the balance.

Dismantling of the oligarchy is underway, with the Russia’s second largest cell phone carrier, Vimpel Communications already under attack. Defending oligarch is Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group Consortium, one of Russia’s largest holding companies with interests in oil and gas, banking, insurance, retail trade, telecommunications and technology assets.

President Putin’s stated goal is to destroy “an economic empire which had certain strategic goals of political influence.” In so doing the Russian government effectively transforms Russia from an oligarchy into a monarchy with president Vladimir Putin sporting the crown.

Benefiting from skillful injection of Western capital and management talent, the failing State owned dinosaurs of soviet industry have evolved into well-functioning and profitable competitive business enterprises. With some oligarchs locked up in Moscow jail and others watching helplessly from abroad, Putin wastes no time in taking back control of mining and manufacturing, media communication and banking, as well as strategic energy resources. Hard currency revenues from exports of products as well as raw materials like oil and gas will further enhance the political power of the Russian government. This will enable former KGB lieutenant colonel and now Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to wipe out any political or economic dissent in the best traditions of the Soviet Empire.

Western investors, having a blissfully short memory, failed to heed the painful lessons of 1998 Ruble devaluation and almost total default on Russia’s sovereign debt. Another stern lesson in Russian business policy and financial market behavior will be served presently.

The in vestigation by police in several countries into alleged money-laundering by Russian organised crime through the Bank of New York (BoNY) and other big western banks has illuminated some important issues and obscured others.

Firstly, the scandal has highlighted the desperation with which the grandest of the established western banks sought to lend money into Russia. The New York Times described how the BoNY “aggressively pursued relationships with Russia’s largest banks”, and came to dominate the “highly competitive market” in setting up cash and securities accounts for Russian banks in the US. In other words the impetus for the growth of Russian debt came not from Russia but from the heart of capitalism; it was a phenomenon intrinsic to capitalism, not an aberration.

Secondly, the scandal has underlined just how direct was the connection between the high priests of US capitalism and the Russian financial oligarchy. For example Natasha Gurfinkel, who resigned as head of the BoNY’s Eastern European department, was appointed specifically because of her access to the Russian financial oligarchs, chiefly the empires of Mikhail Khodorkovsky (the now-collapsing Menatep bank group) and Vladimir Vinogradov (the Inkombank group, which collapsed last year). The fact that not only banks but also international financial institutions were attendant on the oligarchy’s birth is emphasised by the biography of Gurfinkel’s husband Konstantin Kogalovsky. In 1991 he was Russia’s representative to the International Monetary Fund, and a member of the “St Petersburg clan” headed by Anatoly Chubais, on whom the monetarist gurus of Harvard University relied to impose “shock therapy” on Russia. In 1993 he left the government and joined Khodorkovsky’s Menatep, the most parasitic of Russia’s parasite banks; when Menatep acquired control of Yukos, Russia’s second largest oil company, Kogalovsky became Yukos’s vice chairman. Kogalovsky “has been widely portrayed as a reformer who sold out his ideals to make his fortune”. Actually the making of fortunes by the oligarchy was very much in line with the “ideals” of “shock therapy” imparted to the “reformers” by Harvard. Those “ideals” well express the immorality and inhumanism of late 20th century capitalism; the way that the oligarchy made its fortunes – by playing tricks with money looted from the state, and leeching on Russia’s wealth of natural resources – is not an especially Russian phenomenon but one typical of capitalism at its present stage.

Of the issues obscured by the money laundering scandal, the most important is this: the specific criminal activity of money laundering is just one part of capital flight, which is a central aspect of the reintegration of the Russian economy into world capitalism. Capital flight, i.e. the flight of capital into assets denominated in foreign currencies and usually held abroad, is variously estimated at between $150 billion and $200 billion for the period since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. This is much more money than came into Russia in loans, for example, as John Odling-Smee, the senior IMF official in charge of Russia and eastern Europe, admitted recently.

The aim of this paper is to draw attention to some of the important tendencies in the relationship of world capitalism, and particularly the international financial institutions, to Russia. We will touch on the following points:  The role of the “shock therapy” enthusiasts, and the international financial institutions, in the formation of Russia’s particular version of parasitic capitalism.  The support given to Yeltsin by the international financial institutions and the role of the Treasury bond market.  Capital flight and the tendencies towards dependency in the Russian economy.  The importance of the Russian market as a repository for some of the vast quantities of excess money capital generated in recent “booms”.

A key part was played by the Harvard Project, under which the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), a center of Harvard University headed by the monetarist economist Jeffrey Sachs, was empowered to distribute hundreds of millions’ of dollars worth of US government aid. This aid was channeled to the Russian Privatization Center (RPC) and other bodies controlled by Chubais’ “St Petersburg clan” (including Chubais, former deputy prime minister and now chairman of United Energy Systems; Gaidar; Kogalovsky; Maksim Boycko, former head of the RPC; Dmitry Vasiliev, chairman of the Federal Commission for the Securities Market, Russia’s market regulatory body; Alfred Kokh, a former RPC official, and others). In the years 1992-97 the HIID received $57.7 million in direct US government aid, all but $40.4 million of which it did not have to bid for in the usual manner. The HIID also helped to administer the entire $300 million “technical assistance” programmed of the US Agency for International Development. Working with HIID, the Chubais clan leveraged US support and served as the gatekeeper for hundreds of millions of dollars in G-7 taxpayer aid, subsidized loans and rescheduled debt. The Clan came to control, directly and indirectly, millions of dollars in aid through a variety of organizations that were set up to bring about privatization and other economic reforms. Through these organizations, two clan members alone became the gatekeepers for about one-third of a billion dollars in aid money and millions of dollars in loans from international financial institutions.’

One result of this process was possible personal gain by members of the clan and those near to them. Apart from the well-known “book payments” scandal which led to Boycko’s sacking and Chubais being publicly denounced by Yeltsin, Wedel points to a five-year unsecured interest-free loan of $2.9 million from US funds to Chubais’ Foundation for the Protection of Private Property, to the unorthodox activities of the Institute for a Law Based Economy, and to the favoritism shown by Vasiliev’s Securities Commission to Pallada Asset Management, an investment company owned set up by Elizabeth Hebert, and the possible resulting advantages. Hebert is the girlfriend of Jonathan Hay, director of the Harvard Project. Hay was sacked from Harvard following allegations that he had been involved in insider trading (which is not illegal in Russia); Andrei Shleifer, another Harvard economist, was dismissed from the project but remains at Harvard. US federal investigators are carrying out an inquiry into both Hay and Shleifer. All this would be so much of a storm in a tea-cup if it were not for the high moral tone adopted by the “reformers” against the corruption – both real and exaggerated – of “red directors” and everyone else who got in the way of their activities. Their arguments for high-speed privatization were justified not only by Sachs’ economic orthodoxies but by appeals to the moral duty to resist “corrupt communist cliques” etc. The scale and persistence of the accusations of corruption surrounding the Harvard Project – some of which were acknowledged by USAid, which cut its funding as a result – are a reminder that personal greed is a motive for the ideologists of capitalism just as much as for some “red directors”.

As for the results of Russian privatization, the “reformers” and those within international institutions who

Those who work in the international financial institutions are perfectly well aware of the extent to which Russia’s most valuable assets were sold off at a small fraction of their market value. For Gazprom, Russia’s biggest and richest company, IMF documents refer to a 1996 calculation that “60% of gas sector assets (all in Gazprom) valued at $119 billion, were privatized with total budgetary receipts of less than $20 million” (i.e. for one-sixtieth of one per cent of its value). For the oil industry, the IMF and World Bank staff estimate that 17 major Russian companies with an estimated market value of $17 billion were privatized with budgetary receipts of less than $1.4 billion.

As for the Loans for Shares scheme of November 1995 – under which majority shareholdings in some of the most valuable Russian companies were given to the oligarchs in return for loans, in fixed, unfair auctions – two World Bank employees presented a devastating expose of the corruption involved and the losses to the state to a conference in March 1996. The most startling story they told was of how Menatep, headed by Khodorkovsky and the erstwhile Russian representative to the IMF Kogalovsky, took control of Yukos oil company in the face of fierce allegations that the bid meant Menatep increased its exposure to ten times its capital, and that as both agent for the sale and bidder it was being afforded unfair protection by the Ministry of Finance. The two economists concluded: “The latest phase of privatization was a lose-lose proposition for all of the stakeholders in Russia. The government has sacrificed revenue and quality […] Any of the large Russian companies […] properly prepared for privatization would have yielded the government more revenue than all of the present transactions combined.” Shortly after the two economists delivered their dire warnings that, on a “non level playing field” the Russian government had “simply […] transferred its controlling stakes in various companies to banks”, the IMF stepped up its lending programmed to Russia: in 1996 it added $3.2 billion to the $5 billion agreed in 1995.

The reason that IMF lending to Russia reached such a peak in early 1996 is well known: the IMF, together with the US and German governments, were desperately afraid that Yeltsin would not be re-elected. At the beginning of the year he had seemed to be unelectable. Wages and pensions arrears and the general fall in most people’s standard of living had made him very unpopular and the “reformers” were considering other possible presidential candidates, e.g. Viktor Chernomyrdin.

As is also well known, the seven most powerful financial oligarchs were brought together at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 1996 by Boris Berezovsky, in order to sink their differences and unite behind Yeltsin. The oligarchs publicly expressed their position in the “Appeal of the 13” and subsequent documents.

Possibly as a direct result of this meeting, and certainly immediately following it, the Central Bank began to place funds, including much of the money Russia had been loaned by the IMF, in the accounts of its offshore subsidiaries Fimaco and Evrobank. This money was then recycled back in to the Russian financial markets to buy short-term treasury bonds (gosudarstvennyie kratkosrochnye obligatsiy or GKOs). This pump-priming with money from Fimaco and Evrobank helped to inflate the GKO market; western banks and investors then got in on the act, taking a bet on the outcome of the election. The Central Bank fixed the ruble exchange rate, interest rates rose and the yields on the GKOs increased to insane levels – nearly 200% by the time of the election. The result was that the state was able to use the proceeds from the sale of the GKOs to pay off pensions and wages arrears shortly before the election; it also let private employers know that they should pay off wages arrears rather than pay their taxes. This, together with completely fictitious promises that (for example) army conscription would be abolished, enabled Yeltsin to be re-elected. The votes were bought with IMF money that had been recycled through the GKO market to give it added value.

The Russian state mortgaged its future financial solvency to pay for Yeltsin’s popularity. As debt analyst David Riley put it: “the government came out of the election with a budget deficit and very, very expensive debt. All this was part of the build up to the Russian financial crash in August 1998.” The reporting of these maneuvers in the western press has often obscured the political aspect of the GKO scam. Much has been written about the possible diversion of Central Bank funds deposited with Fimaco and Evrobank to criminals or oligarchs; nothing of substance has yet been proven about that. What is not in doubt, however – but has received less attention – is that the funds were used to boost the GKO market and the Russian state finances, a process that directly benefited Yeltsin.

The IMF has claimed both that “no misuse of funds has been proven”, and that there was wrongdoing by the Central Bank but that the IMF had been kept ignorant of that.These assertions have been strongly challenged. The Russian Duma deputy and member of the budget committee, Nikolai Gonchar, says it is “hard to believe” IMF officials had no knowledge of an audit of the Central Bank for 1994, which complained about offshore investments; in response, the IMF admitted its officials knew about offshore investments and did not deny having seen the report. Gonchar also points out that the IMF paid close attention to the opening-up of the GKO market to non-residents, in which the Central Bank’s recycling action played an important role.

Whether or not the IMF actually knew about the GKO scam in detail may never be known; the real point is that it did not want to know. Many of the Fund’s critics say that basic understanding of economics should have been enough to set alarm bells ringing as the market ballooned in the months prior to the election – but that, at the least, the IMF turned a blind eye, because of the western establishment’s policy of backing Yeltsin at all costs. The IMF knew very well that the GKO market could become a pyramid scheme; one of its own working papers, written in 1994 by Ernesto Hernandez-Cata, deputy director of the European II department, draws attention to the “risk in going too far and too fast” with Russian treasury bond issuance. As Pavoleta Shtereva, market strategist at MFK Renaissance in Moscow, said, it was “obvious” that the GKO market was unsustainable; “all those guys at the IMF with economics PhDs knew that you could not have such high interest rates when you are running a fixed exchange rate policy. They could have, and should have, said ‘tighten fiscal policy’. But they didn’t, because of the election.”

The IMF, then, turned a blind eye to the GKO scam even if it did not know the details. This took place in a wider context: support for, indeed insistence upon, the opening-up of the Russian GKO market was in line with the general policy adopted by the IMF and the US Treasury from the mid-1980s of liberalizing government debt markets. Warnings such as that by Ernesto Hernandez-Cata mentioned above were ignored not only because of the political imperative of supporting Yeltsin, but because of the macro-economic imperative of liberalizing government debt markets. After the Russian treasury bond market finally collapsed in August 1998, bringing the ruble and most of the Russian banking system down with it – a collapse for which the 1996 ballooning of the market helped pave the way – critics of the IMF within the United Nations wrote that “mismanagement of a major fiscal imbalance and of the market for government debt was the proximate cause of the present Russian financial crisis”.

The Russian oligarchs, Stiglitz argues, may well have settled on a two-fold strategy: “on the one hand, to use their financial power to gain sufficient political influence [to reduce the likelihood of their ill-gotten gains being taken back by the state, and] to use the other hand to take at least a significant part of their wealth out of the country to a safe haven. Indeed [NB] the ‘reform’ advisors facilitated this process by encouraging – in some cases even insisting – on the opening of capital accounts.”

Although capital flight is by its nature hard to quantify, most estimates agree that after an initial surge of $50-$80 billion exiting Russia in 1992-93, capital flight has run at about $20 billion a year. One of the principal Russian investment companies estimated that capital flight was running at $200 per year per economically active Russian, or nearly four times the average annual pay of $58 (a state statistics office figure that excludes second and unofficial incomes).

The idea that capital flight is an entirely criminal activity is a misunderstanding. The predominant form of capital flight is the export of natural resources and the holding of profits from their sale offshore; the beneficiaries are not only the oil and metals companies that own the resources but also financial institutions that leech on them and western traders that do business with them.

Not only did western institutions encourage capital flight by opening the way for capital accounts to be set up, as Stiglitz argued. They also helped Russia’s raw materials exporters, and thereby their oligarch owners, to parry attempts by the Russian state to compel the exporters to repatriate their hard currency earnings. An example is provided by the US Ex-im bank, the export credit guarantee agency, which guaranteed $500 million worth of loans to Russian oil exporters borrowing from western banks to buy from US companies, on condition that the oil companies’ hard currency earnings were exempt from regulations that they be compulsorily repatriated and a fixed proportion of them changed to rubles.

From this it would appear that the west’s overriding motives in assisting Russia were largely benevolent, the priority being the improvement of the Russian economy for the benefit of her citizens. Optimistic observers viewed the situation as one of possible mutual benefit for the west, Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. Sceptics were quick to point out that the west’s policies were determined by its own geopolitical and economic interests.

As long as the west can claim that the former Soviet Union owes billions, this debt can be recorded as an asset on western balance sheets. Hudson put to Russian parliamentary deputies the argument that, taking into account capital flight and the flawed basis of the western institutions’ loans, Russia should renounce repayment of the debts and regard itself as a creditor nation.

The colonization of Russia by the West not only acts as a means of restructuring western liabilities/obligations but also serves to further emphasize the West’s victory in the Cold War. Crucial to the success of this attempted colonization is the creation of the right institutions within Russia, and these institutions in turn being staffed by appropriate personnel. This process was evident even prior to the collapse of the USSR. The western institutions were busy in the late 1980s, meeting and assessing potential recruits to their cause in the event of Russia’s move toward capitalism. The HIID, in its capacity of talent spotter of likely candidates, was working in conjunction with many western institutions. The ideal qualities of the required personnel, as in other cases of colonization, was for them to be in positions of power and influence in order to do the bidding of the IMF/World Bank in order to secure the funding offered.

The IMF’s first defense of its actions in Russia is to insist that they were the only alternative to a collapse of the Russian economy and consequent political and social chaos. IMF director general Camdessus wrote that the strategy had been “preferable to Russia’s bankruptcy and economic isolation, with all that such a development could bring”. The defense of “shock therapy” in 1991-93 and of the decision to use loans and other means to support Yeltsin at all costs is still more cynical.

 Facebook’s damage limitation drive hits trouble in Germany

April 20, 2018

by Hans-Edzard Busemann and Douglas Busvine

Reuters

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Facebook’s attempt to limit fallout from a massive data breach hit trouble in Germany on Friday as a privacy watchdog opened a case against the social network and politicians accused its bosses of evasion.

The social network has been at the center of controversy over suspected Russian manipulation of the 2016 U.S. presidential election via its platform, and the leak of personal data of 87 million users to a political consultancy that advised Donald Trump’s team.

A German data privacy regulator said it was opening a non-compliance procedure against Facebook in relation to the data leak to the consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, that was exposed a month ago.

The city-state of Hamburg’s Data Protection Commissioner, Johannes Caspar, notified Facebook in writing that he had opened a probe into suspected data abuse. The case could lead to a fine of up to 300,000 euros ($370,000).

“First we will seek a statement from Facebook and then hearings will begin,” said Caspar’s spokesman, Martin Schemm.

Such a fine, if imposed, would only be a pinprick for Facebook, which recorded revenues of more than $40 billion last year.

But the case marks a warning shot ahead of the introduction of tougher privacy rules across the European Union on May 25 that foresee penalties of up to four percent of worldwide revenues for serious violations

CHARM DEFENSIVE

Facing a hostile audience, a Facebook executive earlier met German lawmakers and repeated apologies by CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the Cambridge Analytica leak.

“What happened with Cambridge Analytica represents a huge violation of trust, and we are deeply sorry,” Joel Kaplan, vice president for global public policy, said according to the text of his prepared remarks.

Kaplan said Facebook would roll out a new ‘view ads’ feature, designed to make political advertising more transparent, in time for a regional election being held in the German state of Bavaria in October.

Social media experts say Germany’s parliamentary election last September was less affected by the spread of ‘fake news’ than the U.S. vote, where Trump pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory.

Yet the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was able to capitalize on a wave of discontent with an active campaign on social media, winning seats in parliament for the first time as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats polled poorly.

The Bavarian party closely allied to Merkel’s conservatives is seeking re-election in October. Its leading figure in the federal government, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, is taking a hard line on immigration in a bid to squeeze the AfD vote.

Lawmakers came away dissatisfied from the closed-door hearing, saying Facebook executives had failed to give clarity on how widespread the illicit harvesting of data using Facebook apps had been.

“We just experienced another slice of Facebook’s salami tactics,” said Thomas Jarzombek, the Christian Democrats’ digital policy spokesman.

Tabea Roessner of the opposition Greens said the hearing had shown Facebook was still in ‘business as usual’ mode. “That disrespects those affected,” she told the Handelsblatt daily.

Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, William Maclean

 

Comey memos detailing conversations of Trump meetings published

April 20, 2018

BBC News

Memos by ex-FBI director James Comey detailing his conversations with Donald Trump have been published.

The memos cover the president’s concerns about a lurid intelligence dossier and also go into his relationship with his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

The notes quote the president as saying Mr Flynn had “serious judgment issues”.

Mr Trump tweeted that the memos showed there was no “collusion and no obstruction”.

Mr Trump sacked Mr Comey last year while he was leading an FBI investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Since then the men have been locked into a bitter and public war of words.

Mr Comey has painted Mr Trump as “morally unfit” to be US president, and suggested he may have obstructed justice by trying to pressure him into dropping any investigation into Mr Flynn.

Mr Flynn was forced to resign over charges that he had lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

So what is in the memos?

Mr Comey’s partially redacted memos were handed to Congress on Thursday.

Details published in Mr Comey’s 15 pages of notes are consistent with allegations in his new book, ‘A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.’

In his memos, Mr Comey writes that he was asked by Mr Trump to drop an inquiry into links between Mr Flynn and Russia.

“I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump is reported to have said after a White House meeting. Mr Trump strongly denies Mr Comey’s account.

Other conversations documented in the memos include Mr Trump’s concerns over salacious allegations in an intelligence dossier.

At a meeting in Trump Tower in New York just days before Mr Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, Mr Comey spoke alone with the then president-elect about details of an alleged encounter involving prostitutes in Russia.

Mr Comey writes that he took the allegations seriously, adding that “portions of the material were corroborated by other intelligence”.

The allegations claim that Russia has damaging information about Mr Trump’s business interests, and that he had been filmed with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.

According to the notes, the president told Mr Comey that he “hadn’t stayed overnight” at the Ritz-Carlton but that his concern was “if his wife had any doubt about it”.

How significant are the memos?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The Comey memos have been made public at last. The amount of time they took to reach reporters after being handed over to Congress could be measured in minutes, if not seconds. Now both sides on the great Trump-Comey divide are claiming the documents vindicate their views of the matter.

The memos offer some additional details of the then-FBI director’s interactions with the president, but they largely corroborate Mr Comey’s account of the key events that have been public for almost a year. The request for loyalty over a private dinner. The Oval Office pull-aside to ask if the director could back off the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

That Mr Comey wrote these memos shortly after the events in question either provides damning substantiation of his claims of possible presidential obstruction of justice and improper pressure or proves the then-director was out to get Mr Trump from the start.

With this latest move and the Comey book media blitz, the public pretty much has the full breadth of the former director’s side of the story – and, quite clearly, what he currently thinks of the president’s behaviour.

What we don’t know is whether this will take a lasting political toll on Mr Trump or if there’s evidence – discovered by Robert Mueller in the investigation that started after Mr Comey’s dismissal – that will lead to further criminal charges against Mr Trump’s team.

What does Trump think of Comey?

Mr Trump has referred to Mr Comey as “slippery” and a “slimeball” and the “worst FBI director in history”.

He continues to attack him over his “many lies” – Mr Trump has even suggested he be jailed over his testimony to Congress.

“Why did he lie to Congress (jail),” Mr Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “How come he gave up classified information (jail).”

He has also criticised Mr Comey’s new memoir, saying the “badly reviewed book” raises “big questions”.

 

Trump May Have a $300 Million Conflict of Interest With Deutsche Bank

  • Concern about conflict of interest given bank’s federal probes
  • Deutsche Bank faces huge potential fines from U.S. government

December‎ ‎22‎, ‎2016‎

by Keri Geiger, Greg Farrell, and Sarah Mulholland

Bloomberg

For years, Donald Trump has used a powerful tool when dealing with bankers: his personal guarantee.

Now that guarantee — employed to extract better terms on hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to the Trump Organization — is at the center of a delicate loan-restructuring discussion at Deutsche Bank AG, which is under investigation on several fronts by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The bank is trying to restructure some of Trump’s roughly $300 million debt as part of an attempt to reduce any conflict of interest between the loan and his presidency, according to a person familiar with the matter. Normally, the removal of a personal pledge might lead to more-stringent terms. But there is little normal about this interaction. Trump’s attorney general will inherit an investigation of Deutsche Bank related to stock trades for rich clients in Russia — where Trump says he plans to improve relations — and may have to deal with a possible multibillion-dollar penalty to the bank related to mortgage-bond investigations.

Whatever terms a restructured loan might include, they will reflect the complex new relationship spawned between Germany’s largest bank and its highest-profile client. Ethicists say this concerns them.

Looks Terrible’

“When you have political appointees making decisions about banks that the president owes a lot of money to, it looks terrible,” said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who was the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “The U.S. government is dealing with regulatory and criminal issues with the big banks all the time, and if he owes them a lot of money, there might be an incentive to favor less regulation and less enforcement for the banks.”

Deutsche Bank declined to comment. Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, said the loans are modest in the context of Trump’s multibillion-dollar empire, and the effort to shift away from a personal guarantee isn’t significant because the loans were structured to become standard debt eventually, following completion of the projects.

The scramble to restructure is the latest chapter in Trump’s fraught relationship with Deutsche Bank, one of the few financial institutions on Wall Street that still does deals with a man long known as a publicity-seeking and unconventional real-estate developer who didn’t hesitate to sue his lender eight years ago.

Deutsche Bank also lends to Trump’s extended family, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Weeks before the election, the bank refinanced most of the $370 million of debt against retail spaces Kushner’s company owns in midtown Manhattan.

Angry Bankers

Trump’s dealings with Wall Street stretch back decades to his attempt to build an Atlantic City casino empire. That badly timed push forced him to renegotiate with creditors when he couldn’t pay back billions of dollars in loans. His major backers in that era included Citbank, Chase Manhattan Bank and Bankers Trust — a bank that was acquired by Deutsche Bank in 1999 — and the debacle left a trail of angry lenders.

Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Trump actually predates its Bankers Trust purchase. In 1998, a small group of its real-estate bankers led by Mike Offit underwrote a $125-million loan for renovations on Trump’s building at 40 Wall Street. Trump showed up at Offit’s office, his reputation badly bruised. Deutsche Bank’s fledgling property business — in operation for only a year at the time — was the only group willing to take on Trump, Offit said in an interview.

“I had one way to succeed — that was to make this thing big and profitable,” said Offit, who is now retired and has written a novel about Wall Street. “If I was super conservative and wasn’t willing to do some unusual stuff, how was I going to compete?”

Best Client

The bank’s real-estate business became one of the most active lenders in Manhattan. Trump was his best client, Offit said, always professional and well-versed in the details of his projects. In the 1990s, Offit and a team led by loan officer Eric Schwartz financed the construction of Trump World Tower on the eastern edge of Manhattan and backed his failed bid to redevelop the site of the New York Coliseum.

When Offit left Deutsche Bank in 1999, Schwartz became a linchpin for the relationship with Trump, including his attempt to buy out a partner at the General Motors Building in 2001, according to people involved in the deals. Schwartz, who left Deutsche in 2009, declined to comment.

In 2005, the bank approved a $640 million construction loan so Trump could build his name-sake tower in Chicago. The tower, with dozens of multimillion-dollar condos, broke ground at the height of the real-estate boom. As the project neared completion, the financial crisis hit, sending the global real-estate market crashing. And when part of the loan came due, rather than pay it, Trump sued a lending consortium led by Deutsche Bank for $3 billion.

Force Majeure

His suit argued that the financial crisis was equivalent to an earthquake, triggering a “force majeure” clause, which allows for a payback extension in extraordinary circumstances. Deutsche Bank countersued, claiming Trump owed a $40 million payment, which was a personal guarantee on the debt. The two later settled and, surprisingly, continued doing business together.

Today, the president-elect owes about $300 million to the bank, nearly half of his outstanding debt, according to a July analysis by Bloomberg. That figure includes a $170-million loan Trump took out to finish his hotel in Washington. He also has two mortgages against his Trump National Doral Miami resort and a loan against his tower in Chicago. All four debts come due in 2023 and 2024. Garten said the Chicago loan no longer has Trump’s personal guarantee because the project has been completed.

The most recent batch of loans originated out of Deutsche Bank’s private-wealth management unit, where Trump deals primarily with Rosemary Vrablic, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Vrablic joined the group in 2006 after stints at other companies, including Bank of America. Her other clients include Herbert Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. Simon didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Largely Unknown

Vrablic, who is largely unknown on Wall Street outside of private-banking circles, was thrust in the spotlight earlier this year after Trump uttered her name in public.

The loans, before restructuring, appear to be a good deal for both sides. Trump locked in a low interest rate, around 2 percent over the benchmark, and has relative freedom to do what he wants with the money. In return, Trump personally guaranteed the loans.

As the bank scrambles to restructure the loans, it has options. It could remove the personal guarantee, which could require increasing the interest rate or laying out restrictions on how the money is used. Trump also could put assets such as stocks and bonds into an escrow account, which would effectively act as the guarantee.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank has been negotiating a multibillion-dollar settlement with the Department of Justice for mishandling the sale of mortgage bonds to other banks. If not settled by then, the department will be overseen by a political appointee of Trump’s after January 20th.

 

Soros foundations to quit Hungary amid political hostility

  • George Soros’ Open Society Foundations will close their office in Budapest and move their eastern European operations to Berlin, Hungarian media cited Austria’s Die Presse newspaper as saying on Thursday.
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has blamed Soros, a Hungarian-born U.S. financier, for a host of ills and pushed through legislation cracking down on non-governmental organizations called the “Stop Soros” laws which drew international criticism.

April 19, 2018

CNBC/Reuters

George Soros’ Open Society Foundations will close their office in Budapest and move their eastern European operations to Berlin, Hungarian media cited Austria’s Die Presse newspaper as saying on Thursday.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has blamed Soros, a Hungarian-born U.S. financier, for a host of ills and pushed through legislation cracking down on non-governmental organizations called the “Stop Soros” laws which drew international criticism.

The Hungarian news website 444.hu said the Open Society Foundations office would shut down by Aug. 31 and move first to Vienna then on to Berlin.

Reuters was not been able to immediately reach the Open Society Foundations either in Budapest or New York.

 

Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 29

April 20, 2018

HOMELAND DEFENSE: AN UPDATE

The Joint Chiefs of Staff last week issued updated doctrine on homeland defense, including new guidance on cyberspace operations, unmanned aerial systems, defense support of civil authorities, and even a bit of national security classification policy.

See Joint Publication 3-27, Homeland Defense, April 10, 2018.

Homeland defense (HD) is related to homeland security, but it is a military mission that emphasizes protection of the country from external threats and aggression.

“The purpose of HD is to protect against incursions or attacks on sovereign US territory, the domestic population, and critical infrastructure and key resources as directed,” according to JP 3-27.

Homeland defense may also function domestically, subject to relevant law and policy. “Threats planned, prompted, promoted, caused, or executed by external actors may develop or take place inside the homeland. The reference to external threats does not limit where or how attacks may be planned and executed.”

Effective homeland defense, whether abroad or at home, requires sharing of information with civilian authorities, international partners, and others.

In an odd editorial remark, the new DoD doctrine says that DoD itself keeps too much information behind a classified firewall to the detriment of information sharing.

“DOD’s over-reliance on the classified information system for both classified and unclassified information is a frequent impediment…,” the Joint Chiefs said.

“DOD information should be appropriately secured, shared, and made available throughout the information life cycle to appropriate mission partners to the maximum extent allowed by US laws and DOD policy. Critical to transparency of information sharing is the proper classification of intelligence and information,” the document said, implying that such proper classification cannot be taken for granted.

USE OF ARMED FORCES TO SECURE THE BORDER

The legal framework governing the deployment and use of armed forces to guard the US border with Mexico is surveyed in a new publication from the Congressional Research Service.

See The President’s Authority to Use the National Guard or the Armed Forces to Secure the Border, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 19, 2018.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, updated April 18, 2018

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief, updated April 19, 2018

France and U.S.-French Relations: In Brief, April 19, 2018

Energy and Water Development Appropriations: Nuclear Weapons Activities, updated April 18, 2018

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 18, 2018

 

Early mass surveillance

The Center of International Studies is paid for and controlled entirely by the CIA,was set up at MIT in 1951 and other such entities followed at major, and some minor, universities and colleges across the country. Most universities terminated their working arrangements with the CIA but not before an entire generation of willing academics sold their services to the CIA. An inspection of an existing list of academics who worked for the CIA reads like a Who’s Who of the academic world.

By 1971, both the CIA and FBI were heavily engaged in domestic surveillance programs in the United States. These programs grew to be so pervasive and oppressive that in 1971, FBI director Hoover, alarmed at the degree and extent of illegal surveillance, balked at extending the cooperation of his agency any further and was instrumental in causing these enormous internal spy operations to collapse, at least insofar as CIA participation was concerned. Without Hoover’s FBI to assist them, the CIA programs began to wither and die and even James Angleton’s program to open, read and copy first class mail, a serious felony, was exposed and Angleton fired in 1976.

The domestic surveillance programs now in place are conducted by more than one agency and, in theory at least, are all-inclusive.

Every citizen of the United States is supposed to possess a Social Security card and the number on this card is the key used to unlock all the areas where sensitive personal information on all citizens is stored. The computer has simplified not only record keeping but also surveillance activities. Everything pertaining to a citizen is kept in computer files and the government, and some private agencies who work with the government, have unlimited and unrestricted access to these computer files.

Birth and death records, highly personal and often potentially embarrassing medical files, bank accounts, criminal files, credit card records that indicate travel and purchases, tax records, ownership of cars, planes, boats and real estate, credit bureau reports, Social Security and other official agency material and dozens of other records that are the sum and total of the population of the United States are all quickly available to interested officialdom through the offices of the computer systems.

It is no longer possible to fly commercially domestically without producing photo identification and all of this data is made available to various agencies via the computer

Even the television set in the living room (or often more interestingly, the bedroom) can be used as a surveillance device. It is a well-known fact that the functions of the AM and FM units found in all television set can be reversed and the set can be used as a transmitter, even when it is turned off.

None of this is done in a secret location in Washington but is accomplished at the subject’s local cable head. It should be noted that this wonderfully Orwellian program only works if the victim is connected to a television cable system, one of the best reasons for using a satellite disk. Contrary to rumor, the set can only be used for audio transmission, not visual, so bedroom activities can only be heard, not seen.

Not even the fax machine is secure because the technology exists, and is used, to have copies of faxed documents sent directly into a federal office at the same time they are being printed out at the recipient’s home or office.

While it is quite true that the American public are constantly subject to observations like ants in a glass ant farm, they should comfort themselves with the knowledge that this is for their own welfare and certainly not a manifestation of a burgeoning police state.

 

The Timmerrman letters

October 10th, 2011

by Joel Timmerman

We mustn’t forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish

Here’s a particularly forlorn historical date: Over 90 years ago, between the 19th and 20th of December 1917, in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war, Lenin signed a decree calling for the establishment of The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, also known as Cheka.

Within a short period of time, Cheka became the largest and cruelest state security organization. Its organizational structure was changed every few years, as were its names: From Cheka to GPU, later to NKVD, and later to KGB.

We cannot know with certainty the number of deaths Cheka was responsible for in its various manifestations, but the number is surely at least 20 million, including victims of the forced collectivization, the hunger, large purges, expulsions, banishments, executions, and mass death at Gulags.

Whole population strata were eliminated: Independent farmers, ethnic minorities, members of the bourgeoisie, senior officers, intellectuals, artists, labor movement activists, “opposition members” who were defined completely randomly, and countless members of the Communist party itself.

In his highly praised book “The War of the World,” historian Niall Ferguson writes that no revolution in the history of mankind devoured its children with the same unrestrained appetite as did the Soviet revolution. In his book on the Stalinist purges, Tel Aviv University ‘s Dr. Igal Halfin writes that Stalinist violence was unique in that it was directed internally.

Lenin, Stalin, and their successors could not have carried out their deeds without wide-scale cooperation of disciplined “terror officials,” cruel interrogators, snitches, executioners, guards, judges, perverts, and many bleeding hearts who were members of the progressive Western Left and were deceived by the Soviet regime of horror and even provided it with a kosher certificate.

All these things are well-known to some extent or another, even though the former Soviet Union ‘s archives have not yet been fully opened to the public. But who knows about this? Within Russia itself, very few people have been brought to justice for their crimes in the NKVD’s and KGB’s service. The Russian public discourse today completely ignores the question of “How could it have happened to us?” As opposed to Eastern European nations, the Russians did not settle the score with their Stalinist past.

And us, the Jews? An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name “Genrikh Yagoda,” the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU’s deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin’s collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system. After Stalin no longer viewed him favorably, Yagoda was demoted and executed, and was replaced as chief hangman in 1936 by Yezhov, the “bloodthirsty dwarf.”

Yezhov was not Jewish but was blessed with an active Jewish wife. In his Book “Stalin: Court of the Red Star”, Jewish historian Sebag Montefiore writes that during the darkest period of terror, when the Communist killing machine worked in full force, Stalin was surrounded by beautiful, young Jewish women.

Stalin’s close associates and loyalists included member of the Central Committee and Politburo Lazar Kaganovich. Montefiore characterizes him as the “first Stalinist” and adds that those starving to death in Ukraine , an unparalleled tragedy in the history of human kind aside from the Nazi horrors and Mao’s terror in China , did not move Kaganovich.

Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity. We’ll mention just one more: Leonid Reichman, head of the NKVD’s special department and the organization’s chief interrogator, who was a particularly cruel sadist.

In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin. They too, of course, were gradually eliminated in the next purges. In a fascinating lecture at a Tel Aviv University convention this week, Dr. Halfin described the waves of soviet terror as a “carnival of mass murder,” “fantasy of purges”, and “essianism of evil.” Turns out that Jews too, when they become captivated by messianic ideology, can become great murderers, among the greatest known by modern history.

The Jews active in official communist terror apparatuses (In the Soviet Union and abroad) and who at times led them, did not do this, obviously, as Jews, but rather, as Stalinists, communists, and “Soviet people.” Therefore, we find it easy to ignore their origin and “play dumb”: What do we have to do with them? But let’s not forget them. My own view is different. I find it unacceptable that a person will be considered a member of the Jewish people when he does great things, but not considered part of our people when he does amazingly despicable things.

Even if we deny it, we cannot escape the Jewishness of “our hangmen,” who served the Red Terror with loyalty and dedication from its establishment. After all, others will always remind us of their origin.

The Rabbi Joel Timmerman can be reached care of his Holocaust Survivor’s Association at 350 5th Ave , New York , NY 10018

 

The Second Coming

by Thomas Shutt, DD

Christian Journals Feb/March 2018

In the great push by the American President and his eager Administration to launch a brutal military attack on Iraq, the reasons speculated for this almost hysterical hawkish behavior are varied and uncertain.

Some attribute this unilateral example of naked military aggression to a desire for revenge on behalf of the first Bush president while others considered the vast oil fields of Iraq are a believable goal for the President’s controlling Brain Trust.

Others firmly believe that blind support for the state of Israel is the primary motive for the pending invasion and certain massive loss of life.

It is reasoned that because Israel is afraid of Iran’s potential to attack them with rockets, American support is vital to protect Israeli lives and property.

It does not matter, of course, how many Americans might die in this process or what kind of domestic terror might be unleashed against the continental United States as long as Israel is made safe.

All of these postulations contain a great deal of logic and, no doubt, truth, but the real reason for the Trump savagery is based upon one word and one word only.

That word is not ‘oil’ or ‘Israel’ but Parousia. Parousia refers to the Second Coming of Christ as understood by the Christian Pentecostal sect.

This second coming assumes a first coming (here, the facts are not in evidence ) but the fixation on bringing about the latter appearance is intense and determined.

It is the belief of Pentecostals that when certain conditions are met, Jesus Christ will return to earth, take his elect (the Pentecostals) physically to Paradise in an event known as Rapture. Those not belonging to the Pentecostal elect will have to remain behind for Satan to deal with.

When Parousia happens, there will be a great battle fought at Armageddon between the forces of Jesus and the Devil and his antichrist and Jesus, quite naturally, will be triumphant.

All of this, the Pentecostals assure their membership, can be found in the book of Revelation.

Unfortunately for this interesting thesis, the struggle between good and evil at Armageddon is not found in the book of Revelations. Revelations 16:16 only mentions the name of the long-forgotten town but there is nothing about an epic struggle mentioned anywhere else other than twisted interpretations in Pentecostal cult literature.

In establishing their strange dogma, Pentecostals have had no problem whatsoever eagerly inventing Biblical passages, thoroughly misinterpreting original ones and in general producing a body of belief that is rivaled in fictional utterances and strange beliefs only by L. Ron Hubbard’s manic Scientologists.

The basis for the Pentecostal dogma is the Book of Revelations which reads like a chapter in a textbook on mental disorders.

This strange book was allegedly written by St. John the Devine, a disciple of Jesus when, in fact is believed by most reputable Biblical scholars to have been written by a certain John of Patmos who lived many years after the period ascribed to Christ’s ministry.

John of Patmos was a hermit/monk on the Greek island of Patmos and contemporary historical reference briefly dismisses him as a lunatic. No one has been able to understand a word of what he wrote, and his confused and mystic writings easily lends themselves to all manner of interpretations by various dimwitted and obsessed religious fanatics.

When Martin Luther prepared the Protestant Bible, he discarded Revelations, and other books then found in the Bible, as being ‘unworthy and filled with nonsense.’

The Second Coming has as one of its primary requirements that a Jewish nation must be reestablished in Palestine (which it was in 1948) and, even more important, that the great Jewish temple of Solomon must be rebuilt before Christ can return to earth and elevate his elect.

The first temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians and the more elegant second, by the Romans when they crushed the Jewish revolt in the first century.

Unfortunately for the Pentecostals, the former site of this temple is now occupied by the much-revered Muslim Dome of the Rock mosque.

The Jewish temple cannot be rebuilt, therefore, as long as the Muslim mosque occupies its space and therefore, it would be necessary to destroy this very holy building and replace it with a new edifice of another religion.

However, if this lunatic act were consummated, there would be an immediate and  terrible rising in the Muslim world and a savage religious war would burst forth on an already-ravaged Middle East.

The Pentecostals are, by their very nature, uncaring and fierce fanatics and such a war would, to them, be a fulfillment of the spurious prophecy of the manic Revelation’s non-existent Battle of Armageddon.

Already we can hear comments from prominent Pentecostals that the Muslims are the forces of the anti-Christ and must therefore be engaged by the forces of Jesus in a final hecatomb of blood and destruction. This pending bloodbath means nothing to Pentecostals because, according to their beliefs, they will be safe in Paradise and those left behind are of no consequence

These God-intoxicated fanatics have managed to capture the White House and place their people in high official positions within the Bush Administration.

In the face of all reason and logic, they are pushing a suicidal, hidden agenda that will have terrible consequences for everyone concerned.

In light of this, perhaps it is now far easier to understand what really stands behind the Administration’s apparent fierce determination to invade a shattered and disorganized Iraq while studiously ignoring a very real danger from North Korea’s declared intentions of building nuclear weapons.

After all, North Korea is not mentioned in Pentecostal dogma and there would be no Parousia because of a terrible nuclear war launched by that country.

In spite of the large amount of learned dissertations on the underlying motives for the Bush Administration’s war hysteria, one should note that the simplest answer to a complex problem is always the correct one.

Trump and his Israeli friends have committed the supreme error of making their personal religious beliefs a matter of state policy, horrifying as it may seem, and instead of elevating their numbers to a mythic paradise, they will most certainly create a wilderness of death and destruction for no sane justifying reason.

Jesus is quoted as saying that he did not come to “bring Peace but a Sword,” and this seems to be the real motivation of his more deranged followers.

 

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