TBR News April 27, 2018

Apr 27 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 27, 2018:”The #PeeToo Movement

This movement, started by the Greater New York Lesbian Dwarf Association, wants to create a permissive situation wherein Lesbian Dwarfs will be permitted to urinate in the washbasins of any public lavatory.

It would be necessary for every owner of a public lavatory to construct steps to allow this to happen.

Miriam Kalbfuss, the director of the GNYLD movement, says that once the American public realizes that Lesbian Dwarfs are part of the human race the day has come when they have to use the bushes in public parks to relieve themselves is over and done with.

The heartbreaking scenes when Lesbian Dwarfs have to pile up a stack of library books to allow them comfortable access to toilets must end, Miriam Kalbfuss says.

Although President Trump initially supported the #PeeToo people, he has changed his mind three times but Miriam Kalbfuss hopes that when some of her members go to the White House and demonstrate the newly-designed portable steps to the President, his wife and the media, she is certain he will again lend his support to #PeeToo.


Table of Contents

  • Bonhomie on Korean peninsula puts pressure on bellicose Trump
  • North and South Korea: how different are they?
  • Carmageddon for Cars: “Cars” Are Scheduled to Die
  • Exclusive: U.S. considers tightening grip on China ties to Corporate America
  • International police ‘severely disrupt’ IS media mouthpieces
  • Trump distances himself from his personal lawyer as probe moves forward
  • Revealed: The four articles that got Wikipedia banned in Turkey
  • From head of the Gestapo to CIA specialist
  • From fake news to fake experts: MSM discover oft-cited ‘student loan reporter’ was made up


Bonhomie on Korean peninsula puts pressure on bellicose Trump

Moon and Kim’s evident mutual goodwill contrasts sharply with Trump’s aggressive stance

April 27, 2018

by Simon Tisdall

The Guardian

The joint declaration by Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, the fruit of Friday’s unexpectedly warm, fraternal summit, represents a big political and diplomatic triumph for both Korean leaders. It will gratify China’s government too, and relieve people around the world worried about nuclear war. But it could be a big problem for Donald Trump.

The measures announced at the end of a day of talks will be enthusiastically welcomed by Koreans on both sides of the border. They included denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a possible peace treaty, military confidence-building measures, regular bilateral summits and increased people-to-people contacts.

For Koreans and their Japanese neighbours, who spent much of 2017 fearing nuclear Armageddon, Kim’s pledge on paper to permanently halt North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles, desist from further provocations and halt hostile propaganda – and in effect move towards normalised relations – is a great boon.

But the vagueness of Kim’s reported commitment to denuclearise will do nothing to assuage American suspicions that, as in the past, North Korea is playing a double game – promising to engage in a long-term, essentially meaningless disarmament process while exploiting its newfound status as a nuclear weapons state to extract concessions.

Nothing happened at the summit to suggest Kim is prepared to reduce, let alone dismantle, his nuclear arsenal in the foreseeable future. And that is a big worry for the Americans. The US wants unconditional, irreversible, verifiable North Korean disarmament, which is still a long way off.

An immediate difficulty for Trump as he plans his own summit with Kim in the next few weeks is that his South Korean allies have, in effect, pulled the carpet from under him.

Moon and Kim’s evident mutual goodwill, the raft of new measures intended to build detente and co-prosperity, and their dangling of the tantalising prospect of eventual Korean unification contrast sharply with Trump’s aggressive and occasionally bellicose stance.

If Trump tries to play hardball with Kim, he risks looking like a warmonger and a bully whose policies are inimical to Korean interests, north and south. Intentionally or otherwise, Moon, a lifelong advocate of detente with personal connections to North Korea, has spiked Trump’s guns.

This sudden outbreak of bonhomie may now place Trump under growing pressure from US allies to tone down his rhetoric, pull back his military forces in the region and make concessions of his own. Many have tried and failed to make Trump act nice. Kim may have found a way.

What Moon called Kim’s courage in making a break with the past may stem in part from the influence and support of the North Korean leader’s smart-as-tacks sister, Kim Yo-jong. She played a key role in breaking the ice at the Winter Olympics this year and has become one of North Korea’s very few international celebrities. She was at Kim’s side again on Friday.

The summit outcome will please Beijing, which Kim visited in preparation for the summit. China’s cooperation in enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea, especially its cuts in fuel oil exports and coal imports, have had a big impact. But China does not want any excuse for further US encroachment in its backyard.

When Kim met Xi Jinping, China’s president, he was reportedly strongly advised to de-escalate military tensions and concentrate instead on restoring North Korea’s ailing economy. The Panmunjom agreements appears to reflect what is being termed Kim’s “new strategic line”.

As much as anything, the summit was a personal triumph for Kim. Derided by Trump as “little rocket man” and almost universally condemned as the cruel dictator of the world’s most backward country, heappeared on Friday as a half-reasonable, even likeable sort of chap.

Treading South Korean soil for the first time, Kim may have reflected on having dreamed of this moment all his life. Confidently offering his hand to Moon, he stepped out of the dark shadow cast by his dad, Kim Jong-il, and his grandad, his country’s grim founding eminence, Kim Il-sung.

Chummy Kim ended a 65-year-old jinx. He broke the spell and changed the mood. He has conjured new hopes of peace.


North and South Korea: how different are they?

As Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in held their landmark meeting, the world’s attention turns to the Korean Peninsula — a region with deep historical and cultural similarities but stark ideological differences.

April 26, 2018

by Caroline Schmitt


A little history — how the split happened

In the last days of World War II, when it became clear Japan would surrender to the Allied powers, the question of what would happen to Korea became louder than ever. After decades of occupying the Korean Peninsula, Japan had retreated.

The United States and Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea at the 38th parallel in August 1945, with the US taking the southern part and the Soviet Union the north.

The plan was to hand back control to the Koreans and withdraw, and in 1948 several attempts were made at getting the nations to vote for reunification.

But the distrust engendered by a few years of opposing ideologies had grown too deep. What started as an almost “accidental division” gave rise to one of the most hostile and heavily militarized borders in the world, and split one people in two.

Human rights and personal liberty

North Korea is now a Stalinist state and is accused of holding hundreds of thousands of people — including children — in political prison camps and other detention facilities across the country. It also receives the lowest ratings when it comes to press freedom and government accountability.

Years of isolation have seriously damaged North Korea’s economy, and the country’s populace has long suffered from poverty and famine. The United Nations reports that over a third of the population is malnourished and many people lack access to proper healthcare.Life in South Korea, on the other hand, is fueled by an unashamedly loud and proud style of capitalism. The country is also officially a constitutional democracy.

However, it does have its own political prisoners. South Korea’s controversial National Security Law makes it an offense to express sympathies with North Korea. But South Korea ranks as far less corrupt than its northern neighbor.

And it’s a key ally for Western powers — particularly the United States, which still stations around 30,000 American soldiers on South Korean soil and holds regular military drills with the South’s troops.

The size divide

Despite a similar geographical size, South Korea’s population (over 51 million) is almost twice as large as North Korea’s (more than 25 million). Due to their poor diet, North Koreans tend to be smaller than South Koreans. This is most visible among school children.

Daniel Schwekendiek from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul estimated the height difference to be “approximately 4 centimeters among pre-school boys and 3 centimeters among pre-school girls.”

The difference in life expectancy is similarly notable: while South Koreans on average live to the ripe old age of 82, North Koreans die ten years younger at 70.

K-pop, rice cakes and banned mini skirts

North and South Koreans enjoy many of the same types of food, as recipes were passed on from generation to generation long before the divide. For instance, Dduk (ricecake) and Yeot (a type of confectionary) are eaten by all students before exams and are said to bring them luck.

Cultural celebrations are similarly deeply ingrained in Korean society on both sides of the border. Some of the most important dates are New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Daeboreum — the day of the year’s first full-moon. New Year’s Day is traditionally celebrated with a bowl of Ddukguk (rice cake soup).

Parents are also served food by their children and addressed by polite titles, regardless of where they live in Korea.

But cultural differences now clearly outweigh the similarities.

South Korea is said to have turned into the “Hollywood of the East,” by “churning out entertainment that is coveted by millions of fans stretching from Japan to Indonesia.” There are about 400 independent studios producing content for the entertainment market, helping South Korea to export its special brand of pop music (“K-pop”), television dramas and video games to countries across Asia.

As for North Korea’s hit records…well, you just need to take a look at the charts.

Things look similarly polarized on the fashion front. North Koreans refrain from experimenting because the government strictly bans skinny jeans, mini skirts and even particular hairstyles, while their southern neighbors are free to don whatever outfit takes their fancy.

From daring mini skirts to something borrowed, something blue: weddings also look decisively different. Couples in South Korea may splurge on a beautiful dress for the bride, a glitzy ceremony and a spectacular honeymoon, while those tying the knot in North Korea tend to take a simpler approach all round, usually celebrating in a restaurant or at home.

Religion and Wi-Fi tourism

Due to its communist worldview, the North is officially atheist. However, new movements like Cheondoism are gaining in popularity. In the South, Protestantism and Catholicism have won many new followers in past decades, their ranks swelled by Christians from North Korea who have fled persecution.

As for the modern-day “religion” of the internet, its influence is unbounded and users’ access unhindered in South Korea.

In the North, only members of public and educational services are allowed to surf the World Wide Web — and then only under strict controls. One phenomenon occurring as a result is Wi-Fi tourism: North Koreans buying properties close to foreign embassies in a bid to access their Wi-Fi. Housing prices in Pyongyang have shot up as a result.

North Korea does have its own intranet, called Kwangmyong. It’s not connected to the rest of the world and was primarily built to browse fan pages of the leading Kim dynasty, North Korea’s ruling family.

Nuclear tests, international pressure and thawing tensions

North Korea’s current leader initiated the so-called “byungjin policy” in 2013, which simultaneously pursues a powerful nuclear deterrent and economic growth.

He has carried out an unusually large number of weapons tests in an attempt to develop an effective nuclear arsenal that is capable of striking targets on the US mainland. Four of the North’s six nuclear bomb tests happened during his rule.

The tests spiked tensions between Pyongyang and the international community, particularly the United States, with President Trump warning that he would respond the North’s nuclear threat with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Following a war of words between Trump and Kim, things changed dramatically this year, with the North Korean leader sending his sister Kim Yo Jong and athletes to the Winter Olympics in the South and agreeing to hold talks with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

Moon later also brokered a meeting between Kim and Trump set for May or early June.

In the lead-up to the historic summits, Kim Jong Un even announced that his country will suspend nuclear and missile tests indefinitely and shut down a nuclear test site, prompting Trump to tweet: “This is very good news for North Korea and the world – big progress! Look forward to our summit.”



Carmageddon for Cars: “Cars” Are Scheduled to Die

April 26, 2018

by Wolf Richter


The end of an era in the US Auto industry — until $7 gas arrives.

“Cars,” as the auto industry defines them, are going to die. Not necessarily the vehicles, though they’re disappearing too, but the category of “cars” because sales have plunged beyond hope, especially for vehicles by the Big Three US automakers, GM, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler.

It came to a head today: Ford announced $25.5 billion in planned cost cuts by 2022 – some red meat it threw to its restive stockholders, whether or not these “cuts” will ever materialize. But the cuts included a big category that is a sign of the times: all current Ford car models, except the Mustang, will be killed off.

This includes, in order of size, the Fiesta, the Focus, the Fusion, and the once dead, then revived, and soon dead again Taurus.

After which Ford dealers will only have “trucks” on the lot and a few Mustangs.

On the sales side industry-wide, “car” sales have been a nightmare: During the first three months of the year, “truck” sales jumped 10%, and “car” sales plunged 11%. In 2017, truck sales rose 4.3%, and car sales plunged 11%. And so on. This divergence of dropping car sales and rising truck sales started in 2015, and since then, “car” sales have gotten relentlessly crushed

Part of the problem is that the industry’s division between “cars” and “trucks” is peculiar. “Trucks” include pickups, vans, SUVs, and compact SUVs (crossovers). But some SUVs and all crossovers are based on a unibody car chassis (instead of body-on-frame, which is the case with trucks). They’re stubbier versions of station wagons. For consumers, the switch from cars to crossovers is natural.

And part of the problem is that consumers have fallen out of love with cars. Gas is cheap (though getting more expensive), SUVs and crossovers are cool and immensely popular. And in parts of the country, pickups have for decades been the most popular US-branded vehicle type, and that love affair has only increased in recent years.

Including SUVs and crossovers, “trucks” accounted for 66.4% of total sales in March, the highest ever for a March. “Truck” sales have been above 60% of total sales for 21 months in a row.

So today, Ford CEO Jim Hackett told investors the inevitable: there would be “a profound refocus.” Ford “will not invest in next generations of traditional Ford sedans for North America,” he said. And then the axe fell. The doomed car models will continue to sputter along in the near future, but without new investment, and then they will be phased out.

Only the Mustang will survive, and a “compact crossover” called Focus Active, will be added next year. It will be very extremely car-like (but for crying out loud, don’t call it “car”; that would kill it).

In terms of its Lincoln models, Ford was very economical with its announcement today and didn’t say a thing. But it already stopped making the Lincoln MKS (a fancy Taurus). The Lincoln Continental and MKZ sedans are unlikely to continue on their own since they share so many components with their Ford counterparts and are produced in only small volumes.

Ford is not a trailblazer.

Last July, GM entered into negotiations with the UAW about cutting six car models after the 2020 model year: the Chevrolet Volt (a hybrid, and not the Bolt, a true EV), the Buick LaCrosse, the Cadillac CT6, the Cadillac XTS, the Chevrolet Impala, and the Chevrolet Sonic. At the time, GM had already killed the Cadillac ELR, a dressed-up luxury 2-door version of the Volt.

Fiat Chrysler has already stopped production of the Dodge Dart, the Chrysler 200, and the Dodge Viper. None of its remaining car models are made in the US.

Other automakers have also cancelled cars over the past two years. Most notably, Toyota killed its entire Scion brand. Some models migrated to the Toyota brand and others, such as the Scion tC, just died.

As automakers abandon cars, sales will plunge further. No one wants to buy the end of the line. And these plunging sales will be further reason to cut car models. A circularity will set in, sort of a death spiral.

But some foreign brands will try to keep their car tradition alive, and they will develop new models and try to woo the finicky American consumer with real cars, and when gasoline costs $7 a gallon, suddenly they’ll have a bestseller on their hands, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth in Detroit will be heard all the way to Washington. Or motivated by this type of gas gouge, consumers will discover EVs as cost-effective alternatives.

Going forward, I will no longer distinguish between “car” sales and “truck” sales. It doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s the end of an era, in terms of distinctions. It’s a hard thing to do, linguistically. I cut my teeth in the “car business,” as it was called confusingly, though we, in truck country, sold way more trucks than cars even back then before anyone had even come up with the terms SUV and crossover.

GM already cut the third shift last year at its plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which builds the Chevy Cruze compact car. Now it cut the second shift. Read…  More Carmageddon at GM, Cuts Shift in Ohio, 1,500 Layoffs, as Cruze Sales Plunge. Production in Mexico Started in 2015


Exclusive: U.S. considers tightening grip on China ties to Corporate America

April 27, 2018

by Koh Gui Qing


NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government may start scrutinizing informal partnerships between American and Chinese companies in the field of artificial intelligence, threatening practices that have long been considered garden variety development work for technology companies, sources familiar with the discussions said.

So far, U.S. government reviews for national security and other concerns have been limited to investment deals and corporate takeovers. This possible new expansion of the mandate – which would serve as a stop-gap measure until Congress imposes tighter restrictions on Chinese investments – is being pushed by members of Congress, and those in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration who worry about theft of intellectual property and technology transfer to China, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Artificial intelligence, in which machines imitate intelligent human behavior, is a particular area of interest because of the technology’s potential for military usage, they said. Other areas of interest for such new oversight include semiconductors and autonomous vehicles, they added.

These considerations are in early stages, so it remains unclear if they will move forward, and which informal corporate relationships this new initiative would scrutinize.

Any broad effort to sever relationships between Chinese and American tech companies – even temporarily – could have dramatic effects across the industry. Major American technology companies, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Qualcomm Inc, Nvidia Corp and IBM, have activities in China ranging from research labs to training initiatives, often in collaboration with Chinese companies and institutions who are major customers.

Top talent in areas including artificial intelligence and chip design also flows freely among companies and universities in both countries.

The nature of informal business relationships varies widely.

For example, when U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp – the leader in AI hardware – unveiled a new graphics processing unit that powers data centers, video games and cryptocurrency mining last year, it gave away samples to 30 artificial intelligence scientists, including three who work with China’s government, according to Nvidia.

For a company like Nvidia, which gets a fifth of its business from China, the giveaway was business as usual. It has several arrangements to train local scientists and develop technologies there that rely on its chips. Offering early access helps Nvidia tailor products so it can sell more.

The U.S. government could nix this sort of cooperation through an executive order from Trump by invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Such a move would unleash sweeping powers to stop or review informal corporate partnerships between a U.S. and Chinese company, any Chinese investment in a U.S. technology company or the Chinese purchases of real estate near sensitive U.S. military sites, the sources said.

“I don’t see any alternative to having a stronger (regulatory) regime because the end result is, without it, the Chinese companies are going to get stronger,” said one of the sources, who is advising U.S. lawmakers on efforts to revise and toughen U.S. foreign investment rules. “They are going to challenge our companies in 10 or 15 years.”

James Lewis, a former Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Departments of State who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if the emergency act was invoked, U.S. government officials including those in the Treasury Department could use it “to catch anything they want” that currently fall outside the scope of the regulatory regime.A White House official said that they do not comment on speculation about internal administration policy discussions, but added “we are concerned about Made in China 2025, particularly relevant in this case is its targeting of industries like AI.”

Made in China 2025 is an industrial plan outlining China’s ambition to become a market leader in 10 key sectors including semiconductors, robotics, drugs and devices and smart green cars.

Last month, the White House outlined new import tariffs that were largely directed at China for what Trump described as “intellectual property theft.” That prompted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to retaliate with sanctions against the United States.

Those moves followed proposed legislation that would toughen foreign investment rules overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), by giving the committee – made up of representatives from various U.S. government agencies – purview over joint ventures that involve “critical technology”.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers who put forth the proposal in November said changes are aimed at China.

Whereas an overhauled CFIUS would likely review deals relevant to national security and involve foreign ownership, informal partnerships are likely to be regulated by revised export controls when they come into effect, sources said.

To be sure, sources said the Trump administration could change its mind about invoking the emergency act. They added that some within the Treasury Department are also lukewarm about invoking the emergency act as they preferred to focus on passing the revised rules for CFIUS.


Chinese and U.S. companies are widely believed among analysts to be locked in a two-way race to become the world’s leader in AI. While U.S. tech giants such as Alphabet Inc’s Google are in the lead, Chinese firms like Internet services provider Baidu Inc have made significant strides, according to advisory firm Eurasia Group.

As for U.S. chipmakers, few are as synonymous with the technology as Nvidia, one of the world’s top makers of the highly complex chips that power AI machines.

There is no evidence that Nvidia’s activities represent a threat to national security by, for instance, offering access to trade secrets such as how to make a graphics processing unit. Nvidia also said it does not have joint ventures in China.

In a statement, Nvidia said its collaborations in China – including training Chinese scientists and giving Chinese companies such as telecom provider Huawei Technologies Co Ltd early access to some of its latest technology – are only intended to get feedback on the chips it sells there.

“We are extremely protective of our proprietary technology and know-how,” Nvidia said. “We don’t give any company, anywhere in the world, the core differentiating technology.”

Qualcomm did not respond to requests for a comment, while Advanced Micro Devices and IBM declined to comment.

Nvidia is far from being the only U.S. tech giant, much less the only chipmaker, that lends expertise to China. But it is clearly in the sights of the Chinese. When the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology solicited pitches for research projects last year, one of the listed objectives was to create a chip 20 times faster than Nvidia’s

“Five years ago, this might not be a concern,” said Lewis, “But it’s a concern now because of the political and technological context.”

Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lauren LaCapra and Edward Tobin


International police ‘severely disrupt’ IS media mouthpieces

Police from the EU, Canada and the US have carried out a takedown of the main mouthpieces of the jihadi group “Islamic State.” The Amaq news agency was a major target of the operation.

April 27, 2018

by Timothy Jones (with AFP)


International law enforcement agencies have targeted various media outlets and infrastructure operated by the extremist group “Islamic State” (IS) to make it more difficult for it to spread propaganda and gain recruits, the European police agency Europol said on Friday.

The two-day operation involving authorities from several EU countries, Canada and the US was launched on Wednesday as the last stage of a campaign first started in 2015 to hinder the group in its dissemination of terrorist material.

“With this ground-breaking operation, we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalize young people in Europe,” said Rob Wainwright, the head of Interpol.

The coordinated action particularly targeted the Amaq news agency, which has been used by the jihadis since 2016 to claim attacks and spread propaganda, but also tackled other outlets associated with IS.

Digital evidence collected

“With this takedown action, targeting major IS-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nashir news, IS’s capability to broadcast and publicize terrorist material has been compromised,” Europol said in a statement.

The statement said the “simultaneous multinational takedown” was coordinated via Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, with the assistance of Eurojust — the EU agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters — and the Belgian federal prosecutor.

It said digital evidence seized in the operation could help identify the administrators of the outlets and radicalized individuals in a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere.

The action, which involved authorities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Romania, the United Kingdom and the US, was the third internationally coordinated operation to take down Amaq’s web assets and infrastructure.

Julian King, who holds the Security Union portfolio in the European Commission, said it showed “that by working together we can stamp out the poisonous propaganda Daesh has used to fuel many of the recent terror attacks in Europe,” using an alternative Arabic name for the jihadi group.


Trump distances himself from his personal lawyer as probe moves forward

April 26, 2018

by Brendan Pierson and Doina Chiacu


NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump distanced himself from his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Thursday, hours before a judge ruled that documents seized from Cohen by the FBI should be reviewed by an independent court-appointed official.

The appointment of former judge Barbara Jones as a “special master,” to review the documents and decide which ones prosecutors should be allowed to see, was essentially a compromise that both prosecutors and Cohen’s lawyers had said they would be open to, even though that option was not their first choice.

The FBI raided Cohen’s office and home on April 9, infuriating Trump. Prosecutors said they had been investigating the lawyer for months, largely over his business dealings rather than his legal work.

Once they receive the documents from Jones, prosecutors could use them in their case.

It is not clear if those documents pertain to Trump’s business dealings. But earlier on Thursday in an interview with Fox News, Trump said Cohen had handled only “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his overall legal work.

He said the investigation “doesn’t have to do with me” and “they’re looking at something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”

Trump, who has said little publicly about an adult-film star who says she was paid to stay silent about a one-night stand she had with Trump in 2006, also confirmed for the first time that Cohen had represented him in “this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

Trump and Cohen have sought to limit which of the seized documents prosecutors could see, citing attorney-client privilege.

The prosecutors initially said the documents should be reviewed by lawyers within their own office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team. Cohen argued that his lawyers should get a first look.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood instead decided at an hour-long hearing on Thursday to opt to ask a special master to see the documents first.

The prosecutors have begun to turn all of the seized materials over to Jones, who will review them to determine what is protected by attorney-client privilege. Lawyers for Cohen and Trump will be able to review in tandem, so they can object to Jones’ decisions if they disagree, the judge said.

The parties are due back in court to check in on the progress on May 24. Without setting a specific deadline, Wood indicated she may intervene if it were going too slowly.

Jones has served in a similar role in a number of other matters. In 2016, she was appointed the independent review officer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to hear corruption charges at the labor union, and has overseen corporate compliance cases.

Prosecutors have said they do not believe the papers are likely to contain many privileged documents related to Trump. In a court filing on Thursday morning, they cited Trump’s comment that Cohen handled only a small part of his legal work.

Cohen has admitted paying $130,000 to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, before the 2016 election to secure her silence about having sex with Trump, which he denies. Cohen said the payment was legal, and Daniels has sued to end her nondisclosure agreement.

Prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations linked to the payment to Daniels, and perhaps other matters related to Trump’s presidential campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.

The investigation stemmed in part from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, something that Trump has repeatedly denied.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson, Jonathan Stempel and Karen Freifeld in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool


Revealed: The four articles that got Wikipedia banned in Turkey

The Erdogan government claimed it was ‘national security’ concerns that saw it block access to Wikipedia, but Haaretz finds there were three subjects Ankara deemed problematic – for political and sometimes personal reasons

April 26, 2018

by Omer Benjakob


Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia exactly a year ago, citing a “coordinated smear campaign” against Turkey by the free online encyclopedia. However, Haaretz can reveal there were four specific articles that got it banned, including one relating to the president’s son-in-law.

Turkish officials alleged that the smear campaign consisted of “articles and comments showing Turkey aligned with various terrorist groups” – specifically, Wikipedia articles in English that included claims Ankara had supported the Islamic State group.

The Wikipedia ban was implemented under a much-criticized internet law legislated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in the name of “national security.” However, the Wikipedia documents suggest it is not only national security concerns that irked the regime.

Officials in Ankara reached out to Wikimedia (the nonprofit that oversees Wikipedia) to request that content be changed on at least four different articles before the ban, on at least three different occasions.

These demands, which were turned down as a matter of policy, quickly morphed into an ultimatum by Turkey to the U.S.-based NGO and covered a range of topics. They reveal a fundamental misunderstanding by Turkish leaders of how Wikipedia works, but also highlight the issues the regime is ready to act upon. These include the country’s role in Syria; the reputation of Erdogan family members; and even Turkish national history.

Here are the articles that got Wikipedia banned in Turkey:

ISIS and Turkey’s ‘righteous’ war

When the ban was announced on April 29, 2017, a Turkish authority tweeted that it was due to content on Wikipedia alleging “Turkey’s support for terrorist organizations.”

“Instead of coordinating against terrorism, [Wikipedia] has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena,” a statement by the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

“Ankara warned it to remove the offending content but the nonprofit encyclopedia refused,” the statement added, with reports by the official news agency Anadolu adding that “the access ban would be lifted if Wikipedia meets Turkey’s demands.”

These demands pertained to two specific Wikipedia articles: “State-sponsored terrorism” and “Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War.”

Both articles have subsections that address Turkey, and both contain claims that Turkey has supported ISIS. These articles were the ones invoked to justify the ban, according to a review of legal documents in Turkey by the Turkish-language Voice of America (a U.S. government-funded broadcaster).

Alp Toker, the founder of Turkey Blocks – a digital rights group that first reported the Wikipedia ban – said he was not surprised it was Syria-related articles that sparked the government’s reaction. “Crackdowns on the internet and the war in Syria have had a history of interplay in Turkey, and the demands on Wikipedia are only a more recent manifestation,” he said.

As an example, Toker cited “a brief but widespread [internet] outage” that “coincided with the early phase of [Turkey’s anti-ISIS] Operation Euphrates Shield” in Syria two years ago.

“Turkey’s leadership is at pains to present itself as the righteous combatant in Syria, and more recently in Iraq,” Toker wrote Haaretz via email.

Now it’s personal

The second instance when Turkey requested that Wikipedia change content concerned the massive leak of emails belonging to Berat Albayrak, a Turkish businessman-turned-energy minister who also happens to be Erdogan’s son-in-law. The so-called RedHack leak – published by WikiLeaks at the height of Erdogan’s post-coup purges in December 2016 – contained over 57,000 emails belonging to Albayrak. They detailed what Foreign Policy described as everything “from indirect involvement with ISIS’ oil trade to free press crackdowns.”

According to the WikiLeaks documents, a firm Albayrak was involved with – and profited from – was tied to alleged oil trade with ISIS through the abuse of a government exemption from doing business in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish government did not want this fact recorded online – not on Wikipedia, and not anywhere else for that matter.

According to Toker, ahead of the email leak Erdogan’s government had attempted one of its harshest internet crackdowns yet – blocking the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive, thus preventing their documents from reaching Turkey. However, the move backfired, drawing widespread condemnation and causing the government to rescind the ban.

Toker called this a classic example of the “Streisand effect” – an attempt to hide a piece of information that has the unintended effect of publicizing the information even more widely.

“For many working and investing in Turkey with little interest in politics, the leaks will forever be remembered as the ones that triggered massive disruptions to Turkey’s core internet infrastructure,” Toker explained. “The loss of cloud services [like Google Docs] had a knock-on impact on countless business services,” he added.

However, an email purportedly from Turkey’s media regulator to Wikimedia reveals that although Ankara lifted its internet restrictions, it did not curtail its efforts to kill the story. According to the email, leaked to the left-leaning Turkish paper SoL, Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (known as the BTK) demanded that Wikipedia delete any references or hyperlinks to the WikiLeaks claim regarding Albayrak’s potential ties to the ISIS oil affair. The claim can still be seen in Albayrak’s English Wikipedia entry.

Benevolent dictator’

The third incident where Turkey requested content be changed has less to do with Erdogan and more with a perceived slight to Turkish national pride. The article was the Turkish Wikipedia entry on “Benevolent dictator.”

Among the examples listed in the article are Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh – and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founding father.

According to Wikimedia’s transparency report, “In April [2016], we received an email from the Information and Communication Technologies Authority of the Turkish government, claiming that the Turkish Wikipedia article on Musfik diktatorluk (benevolent dictatorship) violated Turkish law.”

According to the report, like nearly all other such requests, it was rejected with Wikimedia offering “to pass the message on to Turkish Wikipedia volunteers.”

Ironically, “benevolent dictator” is the title humorously bestowed by the Wikipedia community upon founder Jimmy Wales to describe his role in the famously decentralized online project. An avowed libertarian, Wales has repeatedly refused to intervene in Wikipedia’s content, taking a laissez-faire approach to solving its problems.

“This is perhaps one of the great ironies of the Wikipedia block: Because Turkish citizens are no longer able to edit the world’s most popular source of trusted information, editorial control has been de facto ceded to external actors, who tend to hold an even less favorable view of Turkey’s actions,” said Turkey Blocks’ Toker.

“The wealth of knowledge outside the dispute is collateral damage that positions Turkey as the only country blocking its citizens from the whole of Wikipedia,” he concluded.

Fighting on two fronts

In the meantime, Wikimedia is fighting in the courts and Wikipedia is fighting for hearts and minds with a #WeMissTurkey campaign, aimed at highlighting all the Turkish-related content that Turks are missing.

At the time of the ban, Wikimedia responded by saying that “A number of claims attributed to Turkish authorities in the press have suggested that Wikipedians have been part of a ‘smear campaign,’ or created content ‘supporting terrorism.’ We are deeply concerned by any suggestion that freely sharing the encyclopedia articles created by the worldwide volunteer editor community could be misconstrued as supporting a violent or hateful agenda. We believe there has been a misunderstanding. Wikipedia’s purpose is to share encyclopedic information with the world. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we unequivocally condemn and reject terrorism.

“The Wikimedia Foundation calls on the Turkish government to restore full access to Wikipedia for the Turkish people, and empower them to once again share in the world’s largest free knowledge resource,” it wrote.

In a response to Haaretz, Wikimedia said: “The Wikimedia Foundation has made restoring access to Wikipedia in Turkey a high priority over the past year. Every day the block continues, more than 80 million people cannot access free knowledge, and the world misses the opportunity to learn from the people of Turkey on Wikipedia.

“Immediately following the block, we asked Turkish courts to review the order. After our appeal was rejected at two levels of Ankara courts, we appealed to the Constitutional Court of Turkey in early May 2017, but have seen no action from the Court to date.

“We continue to explore other opportunities to lift the block of Wikipedia in Turkey and remain committed to restoring access to Wikipedia in full. While we are open to conversations with Turkish authorities, we would never stray from our values, opposition to censorship, and our goal of restoring access to Wikipedia in its entirety.”

Turkish officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

From head of the Gestapo to CIA specialist

April 27, 2018

by Christian Jürs

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

On May 22, 1945, a German Wehrmacht General, Reinhard Gehlen, the former head of the German Army High Command’s Foreign Armies East, surrendered along with his key staff members to the United States military at Fischhausen in southern Germany.

Gehlen’s unit was responsible for gathering and analyzing military intelligence on the Soviet Union,. His staff accomplished this by interrogating prisoners in army POW camps—captured Soviet military personnel and, in their headquarters—Soviet defectors. They also studied battlefield intelligence from captured Soviet documents, maps and code books. Further material was obtained by signals intelligence which listened to Soviet non-coded, low-level combat unit radio traffic. These methods of gathering combat intelligence are standard procedures still used by all armies.

During the war, Gehlen did not have intelligence agents in the Soviet Union. The General was not accustomed to gathering and analyzing Soviet political data. Unlike Müller, whose radio playback section had direct contact with very high-level Soviet intelligence agents inside Russia, Gehlen dealt strictly with combat intelligence.

Reinhard Gehlen was born in 1902 in Erfurt, Germany, the son of a publisher in Breslau. In 1920, he joined the Reichswehr, rising slowly through the ranks as an artillery officer. In 1933 he was sent to the General Staff college, and in 1935, Gehlen became a captain, the lowest rank in the General Staff.

Except for a brief period in 1938 when he was posted to the 18th Artillery Regiment as a battery commander, Gehlen spent his entire career in the German Army as a General Staff officer. On April 1, 1942, Lt. Colonel Gehlen of the General Staff was appointed head of Foreign Armies East in the High Command of the Army (OKH), a position he held until April 9, 1945 when he was fired by Hitler.

Like Müller, Gehlen had microfilmed all his files before the end of the war and he offered them, plus himself and his staff, to US Army intelligence. The offer was accepted. On August 26, 1945, Gehlen and four of his closest assistants were flown to Washington for substantive talks with US authorities. Gehlen was the subject of an inter-agency struggle when Allen Dulles of the OSS, once their station chief in Switzerland during the war, and General William Donovan, commander of the agency, attempted to secure Gehlen and his files for themselves. Dulles eventually won and his assistant Frank Wisner was appointed to oversee the former head of Foreign Armies East.

The Gehlen team was based at Fort Hunt, near Washington. Gehlen began his new career by preparing a series of reports which were well received. In July of 1946, Gehlen returned to Germany, and set up shop at Pullach, a former housing project for elite Nazi officials such as Martin Bormann. Gehlen was instructed to build an intelligence agency capable of conducting the highest level surveillance of the Soviets. His microfilmed files were sold to US intelligence for $5 million. Considering that these files only contained material on Soviet military units that had long been disbanded or were no longer combat ready, Gehlen was very well paid for very cold coffee.

Since Gehlen had no experience with internal Soviet intelligence or with their foreign intelligence, he was hard-pressed to use his former army staff officers to supply the US with relevant material. In 1946, Gehlen hired Willi Krichbaum, formerly the deputy chief of the Gestapo, as his senior agent recruiter. While Gehlen had no experience with Soviet spies, the Gestapo certainly did, and Krichbaum immediately sought out to hire many of his old associates.

At the same time, Krichbaum contacted his former chief, Heinrich Müller, who was now a resident in Switzerland, and a respected and wealthy citizen. Müller was, by no means, inactive in his enforced retirement and was in contact with Krichbaum almost from the beginning of his exile. Lengthy handwritten reports from Krichbaum to Müller spanning nearly three years exist and, while Müller’s correspondence to Krichbaum is not in his files, the Krichbaum correspondence indicates without a doubt, that “Gestapo” Müller was supplying his former deputy with reams of information on prospective employees for the new Gehlen organization, as well as a flood of concise directives on the structure necessary to implement the needs of the US intelligence.

In 1946, Gehlen began the construction of his new agency, while the Soviet military machine in the East Zone of Germany was in the process of down sizing. The Second World War had proven to be a terrible economic disaster to Stalin. His troops were in the process of dismantling German factories which were still intact, ripping up the railroad system, and sending their spoils back to Russia.

The American armed forces were also being sharply reduced, since the war in the Pacific had ended in 1945. Military units were disbanded and their soldiers returned to civilian life as quickly as possible. On the economic front, businesses that had enjoyed lucrative government military contracts found themselves with empty assembly lines and tens of thousands of laid off workers.

It has been said that there never was a good war nor a bad peace. While the latter was certainly beneficial to the Soviets and permitted them to rebuild their economy, it certainly was not beneficial for either the rapidly-shrinking military or business communities in the United States.

This situation permitted the development of the Gehlen organization and secured its position as a vital American political resource. The US had virtually no military intelligence knowledge of the Soviet Union. But the Germans, who had fought against them for four years, had. Gehlen and his military staff only had knowledge of wartime Soviet military units which were either reduced to cadre or entirely disbanded. However, this was of no interest to the senior officials of US intelligence. Gehlen was to become a brilliant intelligence specialist with an incredible grasp of Soviet abilities and intentions. This preeminence was almost entirely fictional. It was designed to elevate Gehlen in the eyes of American politicians including President Truman and members of Congress, and to lend well-orchestrated weight to the former General’s interpretation of his employer’s needs.

In 1948, Stalin sent troops into Czechoslovakia after a minority but efficient communist coup which overthrew the Western-oriented government. This act, in February of 1948, combined with the blockade of West Berlin, then occupied by the British, French and Americans in June of the same year, gave a group of senior American military leaders a heaven-sent opportunity to identify a new and dangerous military enemy—an enemy which could and would attack Western Europe and the United States in the immediate future.

To facilitate the acceptance of this theory, Gehlen was requested to produce intelligence material that would bolster it in as authoritative a manner as possible. This Gehlen did and to set the parameters of this report, Gehlen, General Stephen Chamberlain, Chief of Intelligence of the US Army General Staff, and General Lucius D. Clay, US commander in occupied Germany met in Berlin in February of 1948, immediately after the Czech occupation but before the blockade.

After this meeting, Gehlen drew up a lengthy and detailed intelligence report which categorically stated that 175 fully-equipped Soviet divisions, many armored, were poised to attack. General Clay forwarded this alarming example of creative writing to Washington and followed up with frantic messages indicating his fear that the Soviets were about to launch an all-out land war on the United States.

Although the sequence of events might indicate that Clay was involved in an attempt to mislead US leaders, in actuality, he was misled by Chamberlain and Gehlen. They managed to thoroughly frighten General Clay and used him as a conduit to Washington. He was not the last to fall victim to the machinations of the war party.

The Gehlen papers were deliberately leaked to Congress and the President. This resulted in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. This was not a historical first by any means. Elements in England at the beginning of the 20th century, alarmed at the growing economic threat of a united Germany, commenced a long public campaign designed to frighten the British public and their leaders into adopting a bellicose re-armament program based on a fictional German military threat.

Gehlen and his organization were considered vital to US interests. As long as the General was able to feed the re-armament frenzy in Washington with supportive, inflammatory secret reports, then his success was assured.

The only drawback to this deadly farce was that the General did not have knowledge of current Soviet situations in the military or political fields. He could only bluff his way for a short time. To enhance his military staffs, Gehlen developed the use of former SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo people, brought to him by Krichbaum, his chief recruiter.

At the same time, a joint British-American project called “Operation Applepie” was launched with the sole purpose of locating and employing as many of the former Gestapo and SD types now being employed by Gehlen. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. During the course of this hunt, the prize was considered to be former SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, then in Switzerland. Contact with the former Gestapo Chief was through Krichbaum, acting on Müller’s specific instructions.

In the resulting bidding war, the Americans easily defeated the British, and the British public was spared the possible discovery of Müller appearing, under a new name, on their New Year’s Honors List instead of being made a Brigadier General of Reserve in the United States Army under a new name.

In 1948, control of the Gehlen organization was assumed by the new CIA and put under the direction of Colonel James Critchfield, formerly an armored unit commander and now a CIA section chief.

At this point, Gehlen had a number of powerful sponsors in the US military and intelligence communities. These included General Walter Bedell Smith, former Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower and later head of the CIA; General William Donovan, former head of the OSS; Allen Welch Dulles, former Swiss station chief of the OSS and later head of the CIA; Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, first head of the CIA; General Edwin Sibert of US Army military intelligence and Generals Chamberlain and Clay.

American military intelligence officers were well aware that the Soviet Army threat was hollow and that the Soviets’ act of dismantling the eastern German railroad system was strong proof that an attack was not in the offing, but they were strongly discouraged by their superiors from expressing their views.

In 1954, General Arthur Trudeau, chief of US military intelligence, received a copy of a lengthy report prepared by retired Lt. Colonel Hermann Baun of Gehlen’s staff. Baun, who had originally been assigned to the German High Command (OKW) as an Abwehr specialist on Russia, eventually ended up working for Gehlen’s Foreign Armies East which was under the control of the Army High Command (OKH). Baun was an extremely competent, professional General Staff officer who, by 1953, had taken a dim view, indeed, of the creatures foisted on him by Gehlen. Baun detested Gehlen who had forced him out of his post-war intelligence position with the West. Baun’s annoyance was revealed in a lengthy complaint of Gehlen’s Nazi staff members which set forth, in detail, their names and backgrounds.

General Trudeau was so annoyed with this report that in October of 1954, he took West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer aside as Adenauer was making an official visit to Washington, Trudeau passed much of this information to the horrified Adenauer, who had spent time in a concentration camp during the war. Adenauer, in turn, raised this issue with American authorities and the matter was leaked to the press. Allen Dulles, a strong Gehlen backer and now head of the CIA, used his own connections and those of his brother, John, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, to effectively silence Trudeau by transferring him to the remote Far East.

Trudeau’s warning to Adenauer did not have a lasting effect and on April 1, 1956, former General Reinhard Gehlen was appointed as head of the new West German Federal Intelligence Service, the Bundesnachrichtendiesnt or BND. In this case, as in so many other similar ones, virtue is certainly not its own reward.



From fake news to fake experts: MSM discover oft-cited ‘student loan reporter’ was made up

April 26, 2018


CNBC, Fox News and the Washington Post all cited a self-described journalist to support their stories on student loans, but failed to check if the “expert” was actually a real person, bringing trust in media sources into question.

Drew Cloud, described as the founder of the Student Loan Report and a journalist who “wanted to funnel his creative energy into an independent, authoritative news outlet,”  has been quoted in stories that appeared on CNBC, Fox News, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and in other media.

Recently, Cloud “authored” an article describing a survey that asked whether students “used financial aid money to fund a cryptocurrency investment.” American financial author and wealth manager David Bach was apparently responding to the report when he urged millennials to stop investing money borrowed for education expenses into cryptocurrencies in a recent interview.

However, there were journalists that were suspicious of the claim that 21 percent of students used loans to buy cryptocurrencies. The Chronicle of Higher Education tried reaching out to Cloud to find out more.

What they found out next certainly didn’t add more credit to the Student Loan Report, but also brought into question all the media outlets citing the “expert” directly. On Tuesday, the Chronicle published a damning report that finally revealed Cloud was “a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company” all along. It also pointed out that the fictional character “had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published.”

The Chronicle’s determination to reach Cloud eventually forced the Student Loan Report to issue a clarification statement. Nate Matherson, the CEO of LendEDU, the company that runs the student loan debt web page, confirmed that the “character of ‘Drew Cloud'” was used as a “shared pen name” of the website team.

However, not only the name but a background was also created so the opinion and articles “felt personified.” The person even had a real photo of “a friend of ours from college” and used it with his permission.

“There were also other pen names used to publish content on the site,” Matherson admitted. While he offered an apology for the deception, he still failed to disclose who authored the posts under Cloud’s name. On the website, his byline was replaced with ‘SLR Editor.’

Meanwhile, the array of mainstream media websites that never attempted to verify the fake identity of the “journalist,” had to go into damage control mode, leaving long editorial notes. Some, like the Washington Post, wiped out references of the Student Loan Report altogether, while the others offered long-winded corrections that finally included much-needed insight into the source they were citing. Fox Business has not altered the references to Drew Cloud at the moment.

The flop has already been used by some of the unaffected outlets to attack the credibility of media narratives altogether. “It appears Drew Cloud’s stories on student debt were as truthful as the Russian dossier and Russian collusion story itself,” conservative outlet American Thinker wrote.

With the highly-cited Mr. Cloud turning out to be a ruse, one can only wonder how many of the anonymous media sources with “close knowledge of the matter” are actually real.




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