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TBR News April 24, 2018

Apr 24 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 24, 2018:” “On August 12, 1944, Joseph Kennedy Jr. was piloting a special bomber loaded with explosives. It was intended that he aim the plane at a German rocket site near the French coast and parachute out while the flying bomb continued to its target. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft exploded in mid-air, instantly killing Kennedy and his co-pilot. The fuses on the aircraft intended to explode the explosive cargo were designed to be activated by an FM radio beam. By coincidence, at the moment of the explosion, a British FM station, whose stated purpose was to send out false radio signals designed to disrupt incoming German V-1s, suddenly went on the air. The British later apologized for their error, stating that they were “totally unaware” of the Kennedy mission.

Neither the German V-1, or ‘buzz bomb’, or the V-2, used any kind of radio control to direct them to their targets. By the time of the Kennedy mission, British experts had thoroughly inspected sufficient crashed V-1s to realize this fact and were also aware that the V-2 long range rocket was set on its course at launch time. No radio interception on the part of the British or Americans would have had the slightest effect on the trajectory of either weapon and this was well known at the time.

In 1944, Joe Kennedy said to then-Senator Harry Truman at a Democratic strategy meeting in Boston, ‘Harry, what the hell are you doing campaigning for that crippled son-of-a-bitch that killed my son Joe?’”

Table of Contents

  • America’s Unsustainable Empire
  • Russia says no decision yet on delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria
  • Secrecy News
  • The Border Fetish
  • Sean Hannity’s real estate venture linked to fraudulent property dealer
  • The Reach for Arctic control: Transportation Routes and Oil
  • In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves
  • The Cold Hand of Reality: Sorcha Faal and Planet X

 America’s Unsustainable Empire

April 24, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

Before President Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal, he might consider: If he could negotiate an identical deal with Kim Jong Un, it would astonish the world and win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

For Iran has no nuclear bomb or ICBM and has never tested either. It has never enriched uranium to bomb grade. It has shipped 98 percent of its uranium out of the country. It has cameras inside and inspectors crawling all over its nuclear facilities.

And North Korea? It has atom bombs and has tested an H-bomb. It has intermediate range-ballistic missiles that can hit Guam and an ICBM that, fully operational, could hit the West Coast. It has shorter-range missiles that could put nukes on South Korea and Japan.

Hard to believe Kim Jong Un will surrender these weapons, his ticket of admission to the table of great powers.

Yet the White House position is that the Iran nuclear deal should be scrapped, and no deal with Kim Jong Un signed that does not result in the “denuclearization” of the peninsula.

If denuclearization means Kim gives up all his nukes and strategic missiles, ceases testing, and allows inspectors into all his nuclear facilities, we may be waiting a long time.

Trump decides on the Iran deal by May 12. And we will likely know what Kim is prepared to do, and not prepared to do, equally soon.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is in D.C. to persuade Trump not to walk away from the Iran deal and to keep U.S. troops in Syria. Chancellor Angela Merkel will be arriving at week’s end with a similar message.

On the White House front burner then are these options:

Will North Korea agree to surrender its nuclear arsenal, or is it back to confrontation and possible war?

Will we stick with the nuclear deal with Iran, or walk away, issue new demands on Tehran, and prepare for a military clash if rebuffed?

Do we pull U.S. troops out of Syria as Trump promised, or keep U.S. troops there to resist the reconquest of his country by Bashar Assad and his Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Shiite allies?

Beyond, the larger question looms: How long can we keep this up?

How long can this country, with its shrinking share of global GDP, sustain its expanding commitments to confront and fight all over the world?

U.S. planes and ships now bump up against Russians in the Baltic and Black seas. We are sending Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev, while NATO allies implore us to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance.

This would mean a U.S. guarantee to fight an alienated, angered and nuclear-armed Russia in Crimea and the Caucasus.

Sixteen years after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, we are still there, assisting Afghan troops against a Taliban we thought we had defeated.

We are now fighting what is left of ISIS in Syria alongside our Kurd allies, who tug us toward conflict with Turkey.

U.S. forces and advisers are in Niger, Djibouti, Somalia. We are aiding the Saudis in their air war and naval blockade of Yemen.

The last Korean War, which cost 33,000 U.S. lives, began in the June before this writer entered 7th grade. Why is the defense of a powerful South Korea, with an economy 40 times that of the North, still a U.S. responsibility?

We are committed, by 60-year-old treaties, to defend Japan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand. Voices are being heard to have us renew the war guarantee to Taiwan that Jimmy Carter canceled in 1979.

National security elites are pushing for new naval and military ties to Vietnam and India, to challenge Beijing in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

How long can we sustain a worldwide empire of dependencies?

How many wars of this century – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen – turned out to have been worth the blood shed and the treasure lost? And what have all the “color-coded revolutions” we have instigated to advance “democracy” done for America?

In a New York Times essay, “Adapting to American Decline,” Christopher Preble writes: “America’s share of global wealth is shrinking. By some estimates, the United States accounted for roughly 50 percent of global output at the end of World War II. … It has fallen to 15.1 percent today.”

Preble continues: “Admitting that the United States is incapable of effectively adjudicating every territorial dispute or of thwarting every security threat in every part of the world is hardly tantamount to surrender. It is rather a wise admission of the limits of American power.”

It is imperative, wrote Walter Lippmann, that U.S. commitments be brought into balance with U.S. power. This “forgotten principle … must be recovered and returned to the first place in American thought.”

That was 1943, at the height of a war that found us unprepared.

We are hugely overextended today. And conservatives have no higher duty than to seek to bring U.S. war guarantees into conformity with U.S. vital interests and U.S. power.

 

Russia says no decision yet on delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria

April 23, 2018

by Maria Kiselyova and Dan Williams

Reuters

MOSCOW/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia had not yet decided whether it would deliver advanced S-300 missile systems to Syria, but would not make a secret of the matter if it took such a decision, the TASS news agency reported.

Russia’s daily Kommersant newspaper, citing unnamed military sources, reported earlier on Monday that Russia might start supplying the anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria in the near future. The Kremlin declined to comment.

Lavrov said on Friday that Western military strikes on Syria this month had removed any moral obligation Russia had to withhold the missile systems from its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” TASS cited Lavrov as saying on Monday during a visit to Beijing.

“There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken),” added Lavrov.

Kommersant said on Monday that experts believed that Israel would react negatively to any decision to supply the missiles and might bomb the area where they would be deployed.

A Russian diplomat who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Israel had asked Moscow not to supply the Syrian military with the S-300s. An Israeli government spokesman declined comment.

Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the system to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Israel has carried out scores of air strikes against suspected shipments.

Justin Bronk, an analyst from the Royal United Services Institute in London, said previous attempts by the Assad regime to buy the S-300 were never concluded because Israel managed to persuade Russia, through the supply of unmanned drone technology, not to go through with the deals.

He said he thought it was now likely that Russia would supply Syria with the S-300 system, although it was unclear which of the several versions, with significantly differing capabilities, Syria would receive.

Writing by Polina Nikolskaya and Ori Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Roche

 

Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 30

April 24, 2018

A PEACE TREATY WITH NORTH KOREA?, & MORE FROM CRS

In the past 25 years, there have been multiple failed attempts to negotiate a peace treaty or a non-aggression pact with North Korea and to formally end the Korean War.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service surveys these efforts with an eye toward the upcoming Trump-Kim summit and current initiatives aimed at North Korean “denuclearization” and a final peace treaty. See A Peace Treaty with North Korea?, April 19, 2018.

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

What’s the Difference? — Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data, updated April 23, 2018

U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners, updated April 23, 2018

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1961-FY2018, updated April 19, 2018

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts, April 20, 2018

The Mental Health Workforce: A Primer, updated April 20, 2018

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 20, 2018

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, updated (again) April 23, 2018

 

The Border Fetish

The U.S. Frontier as a Zone of Profit and Sacrifice

April 14, 2018

by Todd Miller

TomDispatch

At first, I thought I had inadvertently entered an active war zone. I was on a lonely two-lane road in southern New Mexico heading for El Paso, Texas. Off to the side of the road, hardly concealed behind some desert shrubs, I suddenly noticed what seemed to be a tank. For a second, I thought I might be seeing an apparition. When I stopped to take a picture, a soldier wearing a camouflage helmet emerged from the top of the Stryker, a 19-ton, eight-wheeled combat vehicle that was regularly used in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He looked my way and I offered a pathetic wave. To my relief, he waved back, then settled behind what seemed to be a large surveillance display mounted atop the vehicle. With high-tech binoculars, he began to monitor the mountainous desert that stretched toward Mexico, 20 miles away, as if the enemy might appear at any moment.

That was in 2012 and, though I had already been reporting on the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border for years, I had never seen anything like it. Barack Obama was still president and it would be another six years before Donald Trump announced with much fanfare that he was essentially going to declare war at the border and send in the National Guard. (“We really haven’t done that before,” Trump told the media on April 3rd, “or certainly not very much before.”)

Operation Nimbus II, as the 2012 mission was called, involved 500 soldiers from Fort Bliss and Fort Hood and was a typical Joint Task Force North (JTF-N) operation. Those troops were officially there to provide the U.S. Border Patrol with “intelligence and surveillance.” Since JTF-N was tasked with supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the border, its motto was “protecting the Homeland.” However, it was also deeply involved in training soldiers for overseas military operations in ongoing American wars in the Greater Middle East.

Only weeks before, 40 Alaskan-based Army airborne engineers had parachuted into nearby Fort Huachuca as if they were part of an invasion force landing in Southern Arizona. That border operation (despite the dramatic arrival, all they did was begin constructing a road) “mirrors the type of mission the 40 soldiers might conduct if they were deployed to Afghanistan,” JTF-N “project organizers” told the Nogales International. As JTF-N spokesman Armando Carrasco put it, “This will prepare them for future deployments, especially in the areas of current contingency operations.”

So seeing combat vehicles on the border shouldn’t have surprised me, even then. A “war” against immigrants had been declared long before Trump signed the memo to deploy 2,000-4,000 National Guard troops to the border. Indeed, there has been a continuous military presence there since 1989 and the Pentagon has played a crucial role in the historic expansion of the U.S. border security apparatus ever since.

When, however, Trump began to pound out tweets on Easter Sunday on his way to church, Americans did get a vivid glimpse of a border “battlefield” more than 30 years in the making, whose intensity could be ramped up on the merest whim. The president described the border as “getting more dangerous” because 1,000 Central Americans, including significant numbers of children, in flight from violence in their home countries were in a “caravan” in Mexico slowly heading north on a Holy Week pilgrimage. Many of them were intending to ask for asylum at the border, as they feared for their lives back home.

Fox & Friends labeled that caravan a “small migrant army” and so set the battlefield scenario perfectly for the show’s number one fan. The end result — those state National Guards caravaning south — might have been as ludicrous a response to the situation as a tank in an empty desert pointed at Mexico, but it did catch a certain reality. The border has indeed become a place where the world’s most powerful military faces off against people who represent blowback from various Washington policies and are in flight from persecution, political violence, economic hardship, and increasing ecological distress. (Central America is becoming a climate-change hot spot.) Yet these twenty-first century border “battlefields” remain hidden from the public and largely beyond discussion.

The Fetish of the Border

As I moved away from the Stryker that day, I wondered what that soldier was seeing through his high-tech binoculars. It’s a question that remains no less pertinent six years later as yet more National Guard troops head for the border. Even today, such forces aren’t likely to ever see a caravan of 1,000 refugees, only — possibly — tiny groups of crossers moving through the U.S. borderlands to look for work, reunite with family, or escape potentially grave harm. Such people, however, usually travel under the cover of night.

Even less likely: anyone carrying drugs into the United States. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the majority of illicit narcotics that cross the border into the world’s largest market (valued at approximately $100 billion per year) arrive through legal ports of entry. Least likely of all: a person designated as a “terrorist” by the U.S. government, even though that’s became the priority mission of Joint Task Force North and Customs and Border Protection. A flood of money has, in these years, poured into border budgets for just such a counterterrorism mission, yet no such person, not a single one, has been reported crossing the southern border since 1984. (And even that incident seems dubious.)

Indeed, the most likely thing to glimpse along that divide is evidence of the countless billions of dollars that have been spent there over the last 30 years to build the most gigantic border enforcement apparatus in U.S. history. You would be quite likely, for instance, to see armed U.S. Border Patrol agents in their green-striped vehicles. (After all Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, the Border Patrol’s parent outfit, is now the largest federal law enforcement agency.) You might also catch glimpses of high-tech surveillance apparatuses like aerostats, the tethered surveillance balloons brought back from American battle zones in Afghanistan that now hover over and monitor the borderlands with long-range cameras and radar.

Those binoculars wouldn’t be able to see as far as the small town of Columbus, New Mexico — the very town that Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa so famously raided in 1916 — but if they could, you might also see portions of an actual border wall, built with bipartisan support after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 passed, with votes from Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Chuck Schumer. Those 650 miles of walls and barriers cost an average of $3.9 million per mile to build and additional millions to maintain, money that went into the coffers of the military-industrial complex.

In 2011, for example, CBP granted the former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (a company known for its profiteering in Iraq) a three-year, $24.4 million contract for border wall maintenance. And you can multiply that so many times over since, year after year, bigger and bigger budgets have gone into border and immigration enforcement (and so into the pockets of such corporations) with little or no discussion. In 2018, the combined budgets of CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement amount to $24.3 billion, a more than 15-fold increase since the early 1990s, and a $4.7 billion jump from 2017.

So, in those desert borderlands, that soldier was really looking at a market, a profit zone. He was also viewing (and himself part of) what sociologist Timothy Dunn, author of the pioneering book The Militarization of the U.S-Mexico Border, 1978-1992, calls the “fetishization of the border.” That Stryker — the “Cadillac of combat vehicles” made by General Dynamics — fit the bill perfectly. The slick armored beast, which can travel at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, could track down just about anything, except the real forces that lay behind why people continually arrive at the border.

Low Intensity Doctrine and the Hidden Battlefields

In 2006, George W. Bush’s administration sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border during Operation Jump Start, the largest military deployment there of the modern era. Those troops, however, were meant as no more than a placeholder for a post-9/11 enforcement apparatus still to be organized. Before then, as Timothy Dunn told me in an interview, there had normally been only 300 to 500 soldiers in border operations at any given time, whose justification then was the war against drugs.

That Bush deployment was, as Dunn put it, “the first to have them out there in high-profile, explicitly for immigration enforcement.” Still, what those soldiers could do remained largely limited to reinforcing and supporting the U.S. Border Patrol, as has been the case ever since. As a start, the U.S. military operates under grave restrictions when it comes to either making arrests or performing searches and seizures on U.S. soil. (There are, however, loopholes when it comes to this, which means that National Guard units under state control should be watched carefully during the Trump deployments.) What those troops can do is perform aerial and ground reconnaissance, staff observation posts, and install electronic ground sensors. They can supply engineering support, help construct roads and barriers, and provide intelligence — in all, Dunn reports, 33 activities, including mobile teams to train the Border Patrol in various increasingly militarized tactics.

However, the Border Patrol, already a paramilitary organization, can take care of the arrests, searches, and seizures itself. It is, in fact, the perfect example of how the Pentagon’s low-intensity-conflict doctrine has operated along the border since the 1980s. That doctrine promotes coordination between the military and law enforcement with the goal of controlling potentially disruptive civilian populations. On the border, this mostly means undocumented people. This, in turn, means that the military does ever more police-like work and the Border Patrol is becoming ever more militarized.

When Bush launched Operation Jump Start, Washington was already undertaking the largest hiring surge in Border Patrol history, planning to add 6,000 new agents to the ranks in two years, part of an overall expansion that has never ended. It has, in fact, only gained momentum again in the Trump era. The Border Patrol has increased from a force of 4,000 in the early 1990s to 21,000 today.  The Bush-era recruitment program particularly targeted overseas military bases. The Border Patrol, as one analyst put it, already operated like “a standing army on American soil” and that was how it was sold to future war vets who would soon join up. To this day, veterans are still told that they will be sent to “the front lines” to defend the homeland.

The Border Patrol not only recruits from the military and receives military training, but uses military equipment and technology prodigiously. The monoliths of the military-industrial complex — companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Elbit Systems — have long been tailoring their technologies to homeland security operations. They are now deeply involved in the increasingly lucrative border market. As one vendor told me many years ago, “we are bringing the battlefield to the border.”

Much like the military, the Border Patrol uses radar, high-tech surveillance, complex biometric data bases, and Predator B drones that fly surveillance missions across the Southwest, at the border with Canada, and in the Caribbean. Such forces operate in 100-mile jurisdictions beyond U.S. international boundaries (including the coasts), places where they essentially have extra-constitutional powers. As one CBP officer told me, “We are exempt from the fourth amendment.” Border zones, in other words, have become zones of exception and the DHS is the only department the federal government permits to ethnically profile people in such areas, a highly racialized form of law enforcement.

By deploying heavily armed Border Patrol officers, building walls, and using surveillance technologies in urban areas that traditionally had been crossing spots for the undocumented, such migrants are now forced to traverse dangerous and desolate areas of the southwestern deserts. It’s a strategy that anthropologist Jason De Leon has described as creating “a remote deathscape where American necropolitics are pecked onto the bones of those we deem excludable.”

Instances of overt violence on the border, the sort that might be associated with increased militarization, sometimes make the news, as in multiple incidents in which Border Patrol officers, deputized police, or even military troops have shot and killed people. Most border crossers, however, are now funneled away from the television cameras and reporters to those distant desertscapes where hidden “battles” with the elements remain unseen and so are no longer a political problem. According to Dunn, this is the low-intensity-conflict doctrine at work.

Along the U.S. border with Mexico, 7,000 corpses have been found since the early 1990s and a reasonable estimate of the actual death toll is triple that number. Thousands of families still search for loved ones they fear lost in what journalist Margaret Regan has termed the Southwest “killing fields.” Recently, while I was giving a talk at a New York state college, a young man approached me, having realized that I was from Arizona. He told me that he’d last seen his mother in the desert near Nogales and asked if I had any idea how he might search for her, his eyes brimming with tears.

Globally, since 2014 the International Organization on Migration has recorded 25,000 migrant deaths — a figure, the group writes, that “is a significant indicator of the human toll of unsafe migration, yet fails to capture the true number of people who have died or gone missing during migration.” On such hidden battlefields, the toll from the fetishization of the world’s borderlands remains unknown — and virtually ignored.

Securing the Unsustainable

At a global level, the forecast for the displacement of people is only expected to rise. According to projections, when it comes to climate change alone, by 2050 there could be between 150 million and 750 million people on the move due to sea level rise, droughts, floods, super storms, and other ecological hazards. Former Vice President Al Gore’s former security adviser, Leon Fuerth, wrote that if global warming exceeded the two degree Celsius mark, “border problems” would overwhelm U.S. capabilities “beyond the possibility of control, except by drastic measures and perhaps not even then.”

At the same time, estimates suggest that, by 2030, if present trends continue, the richest one percent of people on this planet may control 64% of global wealth. In other words, what we may have is an unsustainable world managed with an iron fist. In that case, an endless process of border militarization and fortification is likely to be used to control the blowback. If the booming border and surveillance markets are any indication, the future will be as dystopic as a Stryker in the beautiful desert highlands of New Mexico — a world of mass displacements that leave the super-rich hunkered down behind their surveillance fortresses.

Pouring billions of dollars into border zones to solve political, social, economic, and ecological problems is hardly a phenomenon limited to the United States. The border fetish has indeed gone global. Border walls now commonly zigzag between the global north and south and are being built up ever more as a rhetoric — caught perfectly by the Trump administration — focusing on criminals, terrorists, and drugs only ratchets up, while the huge forces that actually fuel displacements and migrations remain obscured.  Borders have become another way of making sure that nothing gets in the way of the sanctity of business as usual in a world that desperately needs something new.

 

Sean Hannity’s real estate venture linked to fraudulent property dealer

Shell company tied to the Fox News host bought homes through Jeff Brock, who was charged in 2016 with fraud and conspiracy for his role in a scheme to rig auctions on foreclosed properties

  • Michael Cohen case shines light on Sean Hannity’s property empire
  • Will Sean Hannity’s ties to Michael Cohen be his undoing?

April 24, 2018

by Jon Swaine in Atlanta and Scott Stedman

The Guardian

Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought houses through a property dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes, according to records reviewed by the Guardian.

In 2012, a shell company linked to the Fox News host bought 11 homes in Georgia that had been purchased by the dealer, Jeff Brock, following foreclosures. Brock transferred the properties to corporate vehicles that sold them on to the Hannity-linked company at a profit.

Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for his role in an operation to rig foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. He was sentenced to six months in prison and had to pay more than $166,000 in fines and restitution.

Some of the houses sold on to the Hannity-linked firm in 2012 had been acquired by Brock from banks later named by prosecutors among his victims. But the justice department declined to identify specific properties sold in the rigged auctions. Hannity has not been accused of any wrongdoing and there is no evidence he was aware that Brock was involved in fraud.

Christopher Reeves, an attorney for Hannity, said the Fox News host was not involved in choosing the houses bought via Brock and “has no knowledge whether these properties were involved in the fraud”.

Reeves said neither Hannity nor the company used to buy the properties “had any knowledge regarding Mr Brock’s wrongdoing” before being informed by the Guardian on Monday.

An attorney for Brock, Don Samuel, said in an email: “Jeff has nothing to say.”

The company linked to Hannity was one of a group identified by the Guardian on Sunday that spent $90m buying more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. Hannity was confirmed as the hidden owner behind some of the companies and has not disputed that he is the owner of all of them.

Hannity defended his real estate investments on Monday, stating in a post to his website that he had chosen to invest his personal wealth in “communities that badly need such investment” and that he had limited involvement in the venture’s day-to-day operation.

“The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support,” Hannity wrote.

Hannity-linked company’s purchases

In February 2012, the Hannity-linked company spent about $540,000 buying 10 single-family houses in Georgia’s Fulton, Cobb, Clayton and DeKalb counties, according to county records. It bought an additional DeKalb county property later that year for about $60,000.

The company was formed in Georgia days before the February purchases by an attorney for Hannity. It was registered to the offices of Henssler Financial, Hannity’s wealth managers. As a limited liability company (LLC), it was not required to report its actual owner to Georgia regulators. Hannity is not mentioned in the company’s publicly available filings.

Brock had bought the 11 Georgia houses in foreclosure auctions in 2011 and 2012, after the previous owners defaulted on mortgages. He transferred the properties to five LLCs. Brock was the registered agent for two of the five LLCs and a colleague at Key Property was the agent for another. Then the Hannity-linked company bought the houses from these five LLCs, paying a total of $600,000.

Where payment information was clear in the records, it indicated that the sales created significant profits. One four-bedroom home in College Park that Brock bought for $14,000 in January 2012 was sold to the Hannity-linked company for $47,000 the following month. Another in Forest Park, for which Brock paid $19,000 in October 2011, was sold on for $55,000.

Brock’s auction-rigging scheme

US prosecutors said that, during the period in which he was buying the properties, Brock and two co-defendants were running a scheme to rig foreclosure auctions, where people bid to buy homes that have been repossessed by mortgage lenders.

The men agreed not to compete on property sales so one could win the auctions with “artificially low bids”, according to charging documents. The winning bidder would then give payoffs to the others to reward them for not having competed.

When asked for details on specific houses bought in the rigged sales, Jeremy Edwards, a spokesman for the justice department, said in an email: “As a matter of policy, DoJ does not disclose that type of information.”

Reeves, Hannity’s attorney, said the Fox News host and the company used to buy the houses “ceased doing business with Mr Brock and Key Properties in 2012”.

Brock was released from the US penitentiary in Atlanta, a medium-security facility, in June 2017, according to federal records. He remains under the supervision of a probation officer until 2019. As part of Brock’s plea agreement, he has agreed to cooperate with US authorities on related investigations and any new inquiries arising from them.

Federal officials said Brock was at the time of his plea one of 20 people who had been charged as part of a major investigation into corruption around property foreclosure sales in the Atlanta region.

“These defendants conspired to corrupt foreclosure auctions that should have benefited lenders and homeowners,” the deputy assistant attorney general, Renata Hesse, who is head of the justice department’s antitrust division, said in a statement at the time.

Special Agent J Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta division said: “By the very nature of this criminal act, the bank, and more importantly, the homeowner in financial distress, are the victims that these federal laws were created to protect.”

 

The Reach for Arctic control: Transportation Routes and Oil

April 24, 2018

by Christian Jürs

The Arctic has captured the attention of all the major world powers, and Russia is no exception. Growing interest in the Arctic has been driven by the recent spike in energy prices, which makes developing energy resources in hard-to-reach areas increasingly lucrative. Onshore mineral resources are being depleted, and the Arctic will soon become the world’s only untapped reserve. Consequently, no contender for the North Pole’s resources is likely to give up without a struggle.

The potential is enormous: the Arctic is said to contain up to 500bn barrels of oil, huge gas reserves and significant deposits of diamonds, nickel, tin and gold. Researchers are hurrying to update estimates of the Arctic’s ice-locked riches. Science magazine recently published a detailed map of the region’s oil and gas deposits, which is the result of a comprehensive five-year study conducted by Donald Gautier of the US Geological Survey. According to the study, the Arctic holds 30pc of the world’s undiscovered gas and about 13% of oil. Most of the oil reserves lie within the state of Alaska, in the United States, while the gas is concentrated in Russian territory.

The study also revealed that most fossil fuel deposits are likely to be found under shallow water (less than 500m deep), which means oil and gas deposits will soon be accessible for drilling and extraction. Over the last 10-15 years, the US, Japan, South Korea and Norway have developed new weather-resistant equipment that can access oil and gas deposits lying 2,000 metres under ice-covered offshore areas. Since building an Arctic pipeline is prohibitively expensive, the only way to ship liquefied gas from the region is by tanker. Russia’s Arctic neighbours are busy building new offshore platforms and icebreaking gas transports, probing the Arctic sea shelf and collecting data that would substantiate their claims on the region’s proven and probable reserves.

Russian experts point out that ongoing exploration of the Arctic reserves will soon reveal new facts that could dramatically change the whole North Pole picture. It is now clear that the Arctic holds extensive reserves of natural gas and gas hydrate (gas-rich ice). Russia, as the world’s biggest gas supplier, regards the Arctic deposits as a strategic priority. According to the Russian government’s strategy, “exploitation of the Arctic’s energy reserves” will start in 2020. Russian gas companies are pinning most of their hopes on the Arctic seabed. Russia’s biggest gas fields – Shtokmanovskoye, Rusanovskoye and Lenigradskoye – are all in the western Arctic. About 70% of all Russia’s offshore oil and 90% of its natural gas are concentrated in the Arctic sea shelf and basin. This region, representing only 1pc of Russia’s total population, accounts for 20% of Russian GDP and about 22% of its exports. The total value of Russia’s proven and potential reserves in the Arctic is estimated at $15 trillion. Obviously, Russia is prepared to protect its interests in the Arctic.

In mid-May, President Dmitry Medvedev approved the Russian National Security Strategy until 2020, which highlighted the Arctic as a new area for potential armed conflict. According to the strategy, Russia will deploy special troops in the disputed area to protect Russia’s interests and security “in any military and political environment.”

Nikolai Makarov, first deputy defence minister and chief of the general staff, recently said: “Russia will have to work hard to protect its interests in the Arctic.” Konstantin Simonov, director of the National Energy Security Fund, puts it even more bluntly. Speaking at the Russia, Nato and Future of European Security Conference, he said Nato countries are aggressively expanding their military presence in the region. He believed a military clash in the Arctic is only 20 years away.

Russia’s Arctic rivals are five ambitious Nato members: the US, Canada, Norway, Iceland and Denmark/Greenland. A recent Nato statement proclaiming the Arctic “its strategic priority” is only increasing tensions. Moreover, each of these countries also has a military interest in the Arctic.

For example, the US National Security Directive is explicit about the country’s broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region, including “missile defence and early warning, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations”. The US is currently upgrading an early warning radar station in Greenland. Nato’s growing presence in the Arctic is compelling evidence of preparation for a military conflict.

The scope of Nato member country activities is quite impressive. Each year, Canada holds military exercises aimed at asserting sovereignty over the northern territories. Recently, the Canadian government unveiled plans to establish a new army training centre for 100 personnel in Resolute Bay, as well as to build a new deep-sea port at the north of Baffin Island. In addition, Canada will build six to eight new patrol vessels for deployment in the Northwest Passage.

Traditionally dovish, Denmark has chosen to follow Canada’s example and has increased its military presence in Arctic northern Greenland by deploying a fast response military unit and establishing a command post.

The US and Norway are also building ice-strengthened vessels for their respective navies. Experts believe Nato icebreakers patrolling the region are there to reinforce members’ claims on North Pole riches rather than study polar bears.

The icy Arctic is turning into a real hot spot, and this has more to do with geopolitics than climate change. Disputes over the Arctic’s discovered and potential deposits are likely to increase. Norway led the way two years ago, submitting a claim for an extensive chunk of Svalbard and the Jan Mayen continental shelf. As the result, the UN commission formally granted Norway some 235,000 sq km of Arctic and Atlantic Ocean seabed, which constitutes as much as three quarters of the region’s total land territory.

What’s behind Norway’s Arctic rush? According to experts, Norway’s North Sea oil production will decline some 50pc by 2030, providing the impetus for rapid action.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Russia joined more than 10 years ago, gives all countries ratifying the treaty (prior to May 13, 1999) 10 years in which to claim any justified extension of their Arctic continental shelf. Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia have already made their bids. The US is eager to follow suit, but is yet to ratify the UN Convention under which this carve-up is taking place.

The Kremlin has formed a new strategic military command to protect its interests in the Arctic. It’s part of a broader push from Moscow to establish military superiority at the top of the world. (Severny Flot- Obedinyonnoye Strategicheskoye Komandovaniye, SF-OSK)

The Russian Air Force re-opened the Temp airfield on the Kotelny Island, in October 2013  which is planned to be the first in a chain of similar bases all along the northern coast of Russia. The military has already begun deployment of aerospace defense units in the Arctic and construction of an early warning missile radar in Russia’s extreme north, according to the commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Alexander Golovko.

The Defense Ministry has also announced plans to reopen airfields and ports on the New Siberian Islands and the Franz Josef Land archipelago, as well as at least seven airstrips on the continental part of the Arctic Circle that were mothballed in 1993.

Russia will form a new strategic military command by the end of 2014 to protect its interests in the Arctic. “The new command will comprise the Northern Fleet, Arctic warfare brigades, air force and air defense units as well as additional administrative structures,”

A December 2013 order from Russian President Vladimir Putin to ramp up Russia’s military presence in the Arctic. Putin said Russia was returning to the Arctic and “intensifying the development of this promising region” and that Russia needs to “have all the levers for the protection of its security and national interests. “The new command will comprise the Northern Fleet, Arctic warfare brigades, air force and air defense units as well as additional administrative structures,” the source in Russia’s General Staff said.

The military structure, dubbed the Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command, (Северная Объединенная флотом Стратегическая Команда,) will be responsible for protecting Russia’s Arctic shipping and fishing, oil and gas fields on the Arctic shelf, and the country’s national borders in the north, the source said. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military in December to boost its presence in the Arctic and complete the development of military infrastructure in the region in 2014.

The military has already begun deployment of aerospace defense units in the Arctic and construction of an early warning missile radar in Russia’s extreme north, according to the commander of the Aerospace Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Alexander Golovko. The Defense Ministry has also announced plans to reopen airfields and ports on the New Siberian Islands and the Franz Josef Land archipelago, as well as at least seven airstrips on the continental part of the Arctic Circle that were mothballed in 1993.Arctic territories are believed to hold vast untapped reserves of oil and gas. They have increasingly been at the center of disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice and make energy reserves more accessible. Russia has made claims to several Arctic shelf areas and plans to defend its bid at the United Nations.

Arctic territories hold vast untapped reserves of oil and gas. They have increasingly been at the center of disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice and make energy reserves more accessible.

Russia has made claims to several Arctic shelf areas and plans to defend its bid at the United Nations.

As Arctic ice has melted, companies from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States — the five countries that have a border with the Arctic — have been rushing to secure rights to drill for oil and natural gas in places that are now accessible.

Under international law, no country currently owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The five surrounding Arctic countries, the Russian Federation, the United States (via Alaska), Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) adjacent to their coasts. The waters beyond the territorial waters of the coastal states are considered the “high seas” (i.e. international waters). The sea bottom beyond the exclusive economic zones and confirmed extended continental shelf claims are considered to be the “heritage of all mankind” and administered by the UN International Seabed Authority.

Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a country has a ten-year period to make claims to an extended continental shelf which, if validated, gives it exclusive rights to resources on or below the seabed of that extended shelf area. Norway (ratified the convention in 1996), Russia (ratified in 1997), Canada (ratified in 2003) and Denmark (ratified in 2004) launched projects to provide a basis for seabed claims on extended continental shelves beyond their exclusive economic zones. The United States has signed, but not yet ratified the UNCLOS.

The status of certain portions of the Arctic sea region is in dispute for various reasons. Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States all regard parts of the Arctic seas as “national waters” (territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles (22 km)) or “internal waters”. There also are disputes regarding what passages constitute “international seaways” and rights to passage along them .

As defined by the UNCLOS, states have ten years from the date of ratification to make claims to an extended continental shelf. On this basis the five states fronting the Arctic Ocean – Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the U.S. – must make any desired claims by 2013, 2014, 2006, and 2007 respectively. Since the U.S. has yet to ratify the UNCLOS, the date for its submission is undetermined at this time.

Claims to extended continental shelves, if deemed valid, give the claimant state exclusive rights to the sea bottom and resources below the bottom. Valid extended continental shelf claims do not and cannot extend a state’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) since the EEZ is determined solely by drawing a 200-nautical-mile (370 km) line using territorial sea baselines as their starting point. This point is made because press reports often confuse the facts and assert that extended continental shelf claims expand a state’s EEZ thereby giving a state exclusive rights to not only sea bottom and below resources but also to those in the water column.

 

In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves

May 17, 2014

by William J. Broad

New York Times

When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.

Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.

Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.

“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”

Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.

In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.

William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.

Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.

“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”

The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.

Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.

The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.

Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.

Russia moved fast.

In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.

“I want to assure you that the Russian government will do everything to support projects of this kind,” Mr. Putin said at the signing, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.

In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.

“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.

Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.

At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.

“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”

Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”

Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.

Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.

As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

“There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”

The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.

Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”

Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.

 

The Cold Hand of Reality: Sorcha Faal and Planet X

Sorcha Faal turns out to be a nom de plume for one David Booth, a retired computer programmer from New Hampshire who stirred up limited controversy in conspiracy circles with the promotion of his book ‘Code Red: The Coming Destruction of the United States 2004.’ Booth claimed the book originated in a  “consecutive ten day dream he alleged he experienced in 2003 in which he saw a large sized planetary body pass close to Earth causing an explosion.  This was then built up into the story about ‘Planet X’ a heretofore unknown planet in our solar system  on a very long, elliptical orbit. In May 2003, it was alleged by the lunatic fringe that the non-existent “Planet X” would pass close enough to the Earth to affect it in some way, causing it to flip over (what many call a “pole shift”) and spur many other huge disasters. The end result was solemnly predicted be the deaths of many billions of people. There are a large number of web pages, chat rooms and books about Planet X and its horrible effects on the Earth. So the question is, does this planet exist, and did it come close enough to Earth in May 2003 and cause great catastrophes? Did an atomic bomb explode over downtown Houston, Texas, on December 25th, 2004 by orders of Paul Wolfowitz? Many internet readers were breathlessly informed of this by a Canadian masquerading as the “German Guy,” a purported senior intelligence official in the German BND. Houston still stands, undamaged, and as far as the mythical ‘Planet X’ is concerned, here is a comment from the official NASA website:

From the NASA website:

There is no known Planet X or 10th planet in our solar system. Scientists have been looking for about a hundred years. It was believed that such a planet was required to explain the orbital characteristics of the outer planets Uranus and Neptune. Many searches have been performed and, to date, no evidence of such a planet has emerged. In addition, better information about the masses of outer planets has also now shown that no other planets are necessary to explain the planetary orbits. (See our article on “Planet X” below)

There also is no Sorcha Faal in St. Petersburg, Russia or Florida. None of the Russian scientific bodies listed in the Faal accounts, specifically the Russian Academy of Science, has any record of such a person and a good deal of interesting information on this whole subject can be found at:http://www.rense.com/general51/plagiar.ht

 

 

 

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