TBR News August 21, 2017

Aug 21 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 21, 2017:”The incessant attacks on Trump by the left wing are causing great disruption, not only in Washington but across the planet. By trying to discredit Trump and force him out of office, the neo-coms (neo communists) are effectively paralyzing governance while their professional agitators are roaming the country, now engaged in stirring up both the black community and the white. If they are not careful with their disruptive machinations, an aroused public will turn on them with very fatal effect. The neo-coms ought to realize that in the United States, the right wing is much better armed.”
Table of Contents

  • The Revolution Betrayed
  • Don’t Believe the Alarmist Propaganda About North Korea
  • It would be incredibly difficult for California to pull off a ‘Calexit’ and secede from the US
  • Climate change sets the world on fire
  • Trump May Not Finish His Term But the Assassination Complex Will Live On
  • Gold and Blood
  • Judge shot at Ohio courthouse returned fire at attackers
  • Barcelona attack: Spain terror cell had 120 gas canisters
  • Spanish police track down, shoot dead Barcelona attacker
  • Number of Isis attacks rose in 2016 despite loss of fighters, report finds

 The Revolution Betrayed

Now it’s Trump vs. Bannon

August 21, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


The exit of Steve Bannon, the President’s political strategist, from the White House and his return to Breitbart.com marks the defeat, if not quite the end, of the “isolationist” America First faction within the Trump administration. It is a victory for what I call the Junta – the coterie of generals who now surround President Trump, and appear to have captured the conduct of American foreign policy. It is a victory, in particular, for Gen. H. R. McMaster, who took over the National Security Agency after Michael Flynn’s ouster, and who is the architect of the “new” Afghanistan strategy – the one that is merely a reiteration of the old strategy.

Bannon has been a particular target of the liberal media, which is responsible for labeling him as an advocate of the so-called “alt-right.” Yet there is exactly zero evidence of this allegiance in his public pronouncements, and his most recent interview – with the liberal journal, The America Prospect – has him characterizing them as a sad “collection of clowns.” Not that this will deter Bannon’s critics, who uniformly fail to mention what really set him apart from your run-of-the-mill Republican operative, and that is his foreign policy views.

The day before his ouster, the New York Times reported on Bannon’s “dovish” views:

“From Afghanistan and North Korea to Syria and Venezuela, Mr. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has argued against making military threats or deploying American troops into foreign conflicts.

“His views, delivered in a characteristically bomb-throwing style, have antagonized people across the administration, leaving Mr. Bannon isolated and in danger of losing his job. But they are thoroughly in keeping with his nationalist credo, and they have occasionally resonated with the person who matters most: President Trump.”

Bannon’s views on the Korea “crisis” are reported on with a particularly dramatic display of eyebrow-raising: why, he even proposed withdrawing US troops from the Korean peninsula in exchange for North Korea’s denuclearization! (A proposal advanced in this space on more than one occasion.)

It’s delightful to hear that Bannon describes General McMaster is the leader of the “globalist empire project” – a project, one might add, that many of us hoped might be dismantled during a Trump presidency.

Yet it was not to be: instead, the McMaster faction’s success in displacing Bannon, marks the virtual end of the “isolationists” as a coherent force in the White House. While it’s true that both Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are both skeptics of foreign adventurism, the former is primarily a speechwriter and the latter is a) on the outs with Trump and b) peripheral when it comes to foreign affairs.

Politico reports that the hawks in both parties are jubilant at Bannon’s departure: an Atlantic Council apparatchik tells us “Our European allies are happy,” and neocon grand dame Danielle Pletka hails the victory of the “internationalists” over the “isolationists.” The reason for the celebratory air, says Politico, is that the purge of Bannon “will remove an internal brake on U.S. military action abroad” – and this is an indicator of what we might expect in the not-so-distant future. Not only Afghanistan, but also Syria, Iran, and even Ukraine – all these are potential battlefields where US troops or our proxies will fight on behalf of the “globalist empire project.”

What we are seeing with Bannon’s return to the world of publishing is the separation of Trump from his base, the definitive if not quite final splitting away of Trumpism from Trump. In this sense, Bannon may be more effective on the outside looking in, as a lobby for the original Trumpism – the version that called out the Bush administration for lying us into the Iraq war and that abjured regime change.

As I’ve said from the beginning, the political significance of Trump’s rise was the defeat of neoconservative foreign policy orthodoxy and the advent of what the political class disdains as “isolationism.” Now it looks as though the neocons have reversed that victory inside the corridors of power: yet the hearts and minds of the 36 million voters who cast their ballots for Trump are still up for grabs. Meanwhile the cadre of a new conservatism, one that rejects internationalism and perpetual war, are coalescing around the banner of Bannonism.

While Bannon is going out vowing to defend the President against his critics, the direction that the administration is taking almost ensures that Trump’s former chief ideologue will join the ranks of those critics. In the end, the greatest enemy of Trumpism may not be the gaggle of losers, whiners, and special interests that make up the so-called “Resistance,” but rather Trump himself.

 Don’t Believe the Alarmist Propaganda About North Korea

August 16, 2017

by Alexander Cockburn


Never underestimate the ability of the national security establishment to believe its own alarmist propaganda—remember those establishment members believed in the fable of Saddam Hussein’s weapons. Among the specters currently haunting our defense policymakers is the idea that Kim Jong Un has instituted a “dead hand” for his nuclear arsenal. This means that if the portly North Korean leader is suddenly obliterated in a drone strike or by some other means of assassination, his nuclear arsenal will automatically and immediately launch, speeding unstoppably toward pre-assigned targets. “That’s what keeps people awake at night,” one well-connected former Pentagon official informed me.

Amazingly, this assessment carries weight despite the fact that the entire North Korean long-range missile arsenal, what there is of it, is powered by a liquid-fuelled rocket engine, the RD-250, developed in Russia in 1965 and first built in the Ukraine. Come the downfall of the Soviet Union and the decay of its once-mighty military-industrial base, some of these motors were surreptitiously acquired by the North Koreans, mostly in the early 1990s.

Given that the fall of the USSR meant the end of cheap Russian oil imports, devastating the North Korean economy and leading to the devastating famines of the 1990s (no fertilizer), North Korea most definitely could not afford to buy more than a limited number of these ancient motors. Given that there is no sign of Kim Jong Un’s engineers coming up with a homegrown rocket engine, the country cannot have enough motors to supply a missile production line. It likely only has enough for the tests that generate so much excitement on this side of the Pacific.

The history of threat inflation has many high points. Among the unlikely scenarios that have powered media alarms and boosted defense budgets over the years, we should count such standouts as the notion that Saddam possessed an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear and otherwise—and the Soviet “first strike” threat, when all U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles would be disabled simultaneously by infallibly accurate Soviet missiles, leaving no option but surrender,

Coincidentally or not, North Korea made it to the front rank of strategic threats in time to share it with Saddam’s Iraq. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003, (just as U.S. forces were assembling for their fatal foray into Iraq), then-CIA Director George Tenet stated “we are on high alert” due to the “proliferation of nuclear and chemical and biological weapons, in particular in Iraq and North Korea.” He warned that North Korea would soon be able to strike the U.S. mainland.

Iraq may have subsequently disappeared as any kind of threat, but North Korea is still going strong, recently hitting overdrive with the July 28 launch of the Hwasong-14 missile that ignited paroxysms of hysteria from the White House to The Washington Post and beyond. (As the Post put it, “an evolving North Korean military threat … appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted.”) However, news of what happened to the missile as it plunged toward the Sea of Japan did not make it even close to the headlines. Footage from a Japanese NHK World TV weather camera clearly shows the final stage of the missile breaking up.

Any kind of re-entry vehicle has a heat shield, without which it burns and breaks up as it plows through the atmosphere. The Hwasong’s fate means either that the Koreans don’t know how to make a working heat shield, or that they haven’t bothered. A former Pentagon weapons designer recently reminded me that the dazzling aerobatics performed by the latest fighter planes at the biennial Paris Air Show are only possible because the planes have been stripped of weapons and ammunition, while carrying the minimum amount of fuel. Thus, their displays are irrelevant as far as combat is concerned.

The North Koreans appear to have adopted the same approach, by perhaps dispensing with a heat shield and also by skipping the task of building a warhead big enough to contain their bulky nuclear weapon. (The Post dutifully cited a Defense Intelligence Agency report that Kim’s scientists had successfully miniaturized their bomb, an extraordinarily unlikely development.) Instead, the second stage of the missile has been slimmed, lightened and shaped to achieve the maximum possible altitude, heading straight up before heading almost straight down again, landing a mere 560 miles or so from its launch point.

There was no need to endow it with the capability to reach the U.S. mainland, or even Alaska, because an army of threat-inflators in government offices and newsrooms across Washington stood ready and willing to do just that. Eagerly, they seized on the presumption that a missile that could fly so high (almost 2,500 miles) must necessarily be capable of flying all the way across the Pacific. Perhaps the missile could do just that—but only if it were a militarily useless “Paris Air Show” version. It also would likely break apart on re-entry.

More sober commentators, in the form of MIT’s Ted Postol and two German academics, examined published evidence and reported in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the recent Korean test missiles had carried unrealistically light payloads. If they had to carry weight equivalent to that of the Koreans’ bulky nukes, they would never have flown so high, nor could they conceivably reach the U.S. mainland.

The North Koreans are often credited with steadily improving their missiles’ accuracy. But since they do not tell us what they are aiming at in their tests, it is hard to see how we could know whether they hit the target or not.

Postol and his fellow experts write respectfully of the quality of the Soviet rocket engine designs and say that the Koreans’ “skill and ingenuity in using Soviet rocket motor components … is not good news in the long run.” But without an inventory of rocket motors large enough to start a production line, and without a missile capable of reaching the U.S. with an actual weapon on board, Kim Jong Un likely will be confined to running “Paris Air Show”-type tests a few times a year. Maybe that’s all he needs.


It would be incredibly difficult for California to pull off a ‘Calexit’ and secede from the US

February 4, 2017

by Melia Robinson

Business Insider

The last time a state seceded from the US, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out.

Still, history hasn’t stopped a small group of Californians from pursuing a breakaway from the union in the wake of President Donald Trump’s rise to office.

Since the election, the “Calexit” movement has grown from a hashtag trending on social media to a legitimate campaign for California’s independence. Secession backers are now collecting voter signatures to get a measure on the 2019 state ballot which, if passed, would help clear a path for legal secession.

One in three Californians surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos in a recent poll want the state to leave the US. Still, the event of a Brexit-like secession remains unlikely.

Many opponents have taken to Twitter to remind Calexit backers that Texas already tried to secede in the past — and failed miserably.

Texas has attempted a “Texit” time and time again. Residents of the Lone Star State passed resolutions calling for a vote on secession recent as March 2016.

One big obstacle: The US Constitution lays out procedures for how a new state may enter the union, but there are no protocols for a nation to exit.

“There’s no legal path to secession,” Cynthia Nicoletti, an associate professor of law at University of Virginia School of Law and author of the upcoming book, “The Treason Trial of Jefferson Davis: Secession in the Aftermath of the Civil War,” told Business Insider last year.

Shortly after Barack Obama was re-elected to the presidency in 2012, disgruntled Texans filed a petition to the White House asking that the administration “peacefully grant” the state the right to withdraw from the union. It racked up over 125,000 signatures. The director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Jon Carson, dashed their dreams in his response.

Carson wrote that our founding fathers established in the US Constitution “the right to change our national government … But they did not provide a right to walk away from it.”

That leaves two paths, according to Nicoletti. “You’re going to need a constitutional amendment or you’re going to need a revolution,” she said.

In 1861, Texas rallied with 10 other southern states to leave the union and form the Confederate States of America. It didn’t turn out as they hoped, needless to say. About 700,000 people died in the Civil War, and by 1870, all 11 states rejoined the US.

According to a significant case argued before the US Supreme Court in 1869, they never had the right to exit in the first place.

Nicoletti, a legal historian who said she was surprised to find her subject of expertise relevant once again, explains that while the issue of a state’s legal right to secede may have played out on the battlefield when the North defeated the South, Texas v. White made it crystal clear that individual states could not just leave — even if agreed upon by a majority of Texans.

Still, “saying that something is illegal is not the same as saying it’s impossible,” Nicoletti said.

A state can pass a constitutional amendment that legalizes secession with a vote from three-fourths of the other 49 states. However, Fusion pointed out that amending the Constitution “is a feat difficult enough that it has happened only 17 times in 227 years.”

The Yes California Independence Campaign, the political action committee leading the Calexit charge, is currently gathering signatures to put a measure on the ballot in 2019 that would allow Californians to voice their support for a departure from the US. If at least half of registered voters show up at the polls for that vote, and at least 55% vote in favor of secession, the results would serve as the state’s declaration of independence, the LA Times reports.

If it passes, which is highly implausible, the group may do a few things.

A member of the California federal delegation could go to Washington, DC, and propose an amendment to the US Constitution that would permit the state to bounce the union.

Alternatively, California could call for a convention of the states and the amendment granting California its independence could be voted upon by the delegates to the convention.

Either option ends with a call for congressional approval. Nicoletti said the chances Calexit succeeds are slim to none, and the potential consequences are grim.

“The last time [a state seceded], the consequence was the Union Army,” Nicolleti said. “Do I think that there will be troops in the center of San Francisco? I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know that I take this idea of secession all that seriously.”


Climate change sets the world on fire

Southern Europe and British Columbia have been devastated by wildfires this summer. And they’re not the only ones – it seems like much of the world is ablaze right now, and this could be the new normal.

August 21, 2017

by Ruby Russell


There have been many wildfires aound the world this summer. Canada has seen the worst season for fires since records began, with 894,941 hectares burned, the British Columbia Wildfire Service has confirmed. Large areas of the Western United States have also been affected.

Meanwhile in Portugal, 2,000 people were recently cut off by flames and smoke encircling the town of Macao. And earlier this summer, 64 people were killed by a blaze in the country.

Like Canada, southern Europe has seen a record heatwave this year, creating hot, dry conditions that saw Italy, France, Croatia, Spain and Greece all swept by wildfires. As a result, Europe has reportedly seen three times the average number of wildfires this summer.

But it’s not just Canada and southern Europe that have been affected. In Siberia, wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes, and around 700 hectares of Armenian forest have also been destroyed by fire. Earlier this year, Chile saw wildfires that were unparalleled in the country’s history, according to the President.

Even Greenland, not known for its hot dry conditions, suffered an unprecedented blaze this summer.

The big picture

“A lot of these things are happening locally, but people don’t always connect them to climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US. “But there is a real climate change component to this and the risk is going up because of climate change.”

With global temperatures rising, scientists say wildfires are likely to become increasingly frequent and widespread. “What’s really happening is that there is extra heat available,” Trenberth told DW. “That heat has to go somewhere and some of it goes into raising temperatures. But the first thing that happens is that it goes into drying – it dries out plants and increases the risk of wildfires.”

The map above, compiling NASA satellite data on fires from the beginning of 2017 until mid-August makes it looks as if the whole world is on fire.

So is 2017 a record year of wildfires?

Tough competition

It certainly looks like it’s been a big year for fires in southern Europe and North America. But Martin Wooster, professor of earth observation science at King’s College London, says other parts of the world have seen worse in recent years.

“For example, this year, fires across Southeast Asia are extremely unlikely to be anything like as severe as they were in 2015,” he told DW.

Two years ago, drought caused by El Nino created lethal conditions for Indonesian forests and peatlands that were already degraded by draining and logging. The smoldering peat – ancient, decayed vegetable matter condensed into a carbon-heavy fuel – kept fires burning for months on end.

“This led to huge fires, far bigger than any seen in Europe, and some of the worst air pollution ever experienced,” Wooster said.

Longer fire seasons – longer recovery

But there does appear to be a distinct trend for fire seasons to be longer and more harsh. “In the western United States, the general perception is that there is no wildfire season any more, but that it’s continuous all year round,” Trenberth told DW.

In many parts of the world, wildfires are part of a natural cycle. Savannahs, for example, are maintained by fire. Some trees not only survive fires, but need them to release their seeds. Human intervention can disrupt these cycles, the scientific discipline of fire ecology has found. Putting out small fires can allow flammable debris to accumulate until a colossal fire starts that cannot be controlled.

But global warming is resulting in hotter, drier conditions that mean such infernos are becoming more common, even with careful forest management. And the changed climatic conditions can mean forests take far longer to recover. Meanwhile, fires are also starting in habitats in areas like the tropics that have no natural fire ecology.

Human fingerprints

Climate change isn’t the only manmade factor. Fires can also be started by careless humans dropping cigarettes or letting campfires get out of control.

And in regions like the Amazon, where the annual fire season increased by 19 percent between 1979 and 2013, fire is deliberately used to clear forest to make way for agriculture. “Farmers light fires to clear an area and what happens in drought conditions is that these fires become wild because the vegetation is so dry, it gets out of control,” Trenberth said.

And all this can have a feedback effect – more fires mean more carbon released into the atmosphere, which in turn drives climate change.


Trump May Not Finish His Term But the Assassination Complex Will Live On

August 21 2017

by Jeremy Scahill

The Intercept

Donald Trump’s speech on Afghanistan will briefly turn the media spotlight onto America’s longest war. Much of the media analysis will undoubtedly be about how the speech impacts Trump politically. Given the events of the past week, it seems unlikely that Democratic pundits will repeat their inane praise of the State of the Union address, in which Trump apparently became presidential for the first time. But this speech should serve as a moment to seriously examine the trajectory of the U.S. war machine from 9/11 to the present.

Amid the deluge of scandal, incompetence, and bigotry emanating from the Trump White House, the relative calm of the Obama era seems like a far-off galaxy. The reality that Trump may not even finish a full term as president, either due to removal or resignation, means that the palace intrigue must be reported on thoroughly by the press. But a dangerous consequence of the overwhelming, obsessive focus on the daily Trump affairs is a virtual dearth of coverage on the permanent, unelected institutions of U.S. power, namely the military and the CIA.

Spend just a moment studying moves of the Pentagon and Langley during the Trump era, and you will find that very little has changed in their post-9/11 course. Covert operations continue unabated throughout the Arab world and, increasingly, in Somalia. The U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan and is becoming entrenched more deeply in Syria. If anything, the military and CIA are less restrained and are in greater control of decisions — that arguably create policy rather than implement it — than they were under Obama. And civilians are being killed at a greater rate under Trump, particularly in Iraq and Syria. There are reports that Trump has delegated more unilateral authority to the commanders than his predecessor and has relaxed rules ostensibly put in place to minimize civilian deaths. He has surrounded himself with generals who have spent their lives studying and preparing for war and know how to marshal the resources needed for overt and covert campaigns. This — combined with Trump’s questionable sanity, his pathological addiction to television and Twitter, and his compulsive need to respond to random pundits and congressmen at all hours — removes a crucial component of civilian oversight of the world’s most lethal force.

Years from now, when honest historians and scholars examine the Trump moment, it is certain that among the greatest beneficiaries of his presidency will be the military and CIA. But it would be a mistake to attribute this exclusively to Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump, Hillary Clinton — and yes, even Bernie Sanders — all made clear that they supported and would continue the “targeted killing” program.

George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney used 9/11 to take the leash off the most unsavory forces in the military and CIA. They empowered the elite Joint Special Operations Command to wage a global, covert war replete with operations kept secret even from U.S. ambassadors and the State Department. The CIA set up black sites and conducted heinous acts of torture with the White House’s blessing.

While Barack Obama did roll back some of the most blatant activities enthusiastically endorsed by Bush and Cheney, he was also a careful manager of empire and in key ways, served as a launderer for operations of some of the most aggressive forces in the U.S. arsenal. He used his credibility among liberals — and the derision hurled at him by conservatives who characterized him as an Islamic-radical-friendly socialist — to legitimize assassination and covert offensive military actions as lawful, moral, and necessary. The patently false allegations from the right that Obama was somehow a dove only served to undermine the severity of military and paramilitary actions he authorized and expanded. In reality, Obama teed up the special operations forces and spooks for Trump to (inadvertently) guide to a new golden age.

Although much attention has been paid to the technology of remote killing, the focus on drones has been in many ways a distraction, a surrogate for what should be a broad examination of the state’s power over life and death. Whether extrajudicial killings are carried out by drones or manned aircraft or special forces operators on the ground, the result is the same. Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination.

In the waning months of the Obama presidency, the administration slowly and inadequately revealed some details on the secret drone-based U.S. assassination program. It asserted that a small number of civilians had been killed, and that drone strikes were lawful and generally accurate. Yet by the time Trump took the oath as the 45th American president, the public still remained largely in the dark about the secret process used to decide whose name gets placed on the kill list and the standards used to determine if those people will receive the death penalty without even the pretense of a trial. There was no public accounting by the Obama administration for the countless special operations ground raids conducted across the globe. Those raids and the drone strikes continue, but Trump and his advisers have only been asked about it when U.S. personnel are killed.

The Obama administration boasted its efforts to create a “durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism actions,” yet it shrouded that framework in secrecy, precluding a full democratic debate over the government’s policy of remotely killing unarmed and unknown people. There is zero chance any such debate will happen under Trump, so the best information available to the public on how the assassination program functions is from the end of Obama’s time in office.

When Obama publicly stated that a small number of civilians had been killed in drone strikes, he said he felt “profound regret,” specifically about Western hostages accidentally killed in a strike on Al Qaeda. In the end, Obama told the public as many as 116 civilians may have been killed in drone strikes conducted during his time in office. But his statistics were highly misleading. As secret U.S. military documents obtained by The Intercept confirmed, the Obama administration as a matter of policy classified unknown persons killed in airstrikes as “enemies killed in action,” even if they were not the intended targets. During a five-month period in Afghanistan, for example, nearly 90 percent of those killed in one high-value campaign were not intended targets. Between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people, only 35 of whom were intended targets. All were labeled EKIA, enemies killed in action.

After many years of warfare, the U.S. military has developed extensive intelligence networks on the ground in Afghanistan. Outside of declared war zones, in Yemen and Somalia, the Executive’s killing program relies on far weaker intelligence sources, especially signals intelligence, which the military’s own documents acknowledged is inferior and unreliable. As a result, the accuracy of its targeting judgments in those regions is likely to be even worse. According to one classified slide, as of June 2012, Obama had authorized the assassination of 16 individuals in Yemen. Yet that year, U.S. strikes killed more than 200 people in that country. The White House has never explained who the overwhelming majority of the dead were and why they were killed.

In 1976, following Church Committee recommendations regarding allegations of assassination plots carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning “political assassination.” Jimmy Carter subsequently issued a new order strengthening the prohibition by dropping the word “political” and extending it to include persons “employed by or acting on behalf of the United States.” In 1981, Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, which remains in effect today. The language seems clear enough: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

Congress, despite commissioning a report on the subject from the Congressional Research Service, has avoided legislating the issue or even defining the word “assassination.” Whether one calls the murder a targeted killing or a signature strike, an extrajudicial killing carried out by agents of the U.S. government of a person who poses no imminent and immediate threat to citizens of the United States, in a country with which the United States is not at war, is an assassination.

The Obama administration, by institutionalizing a policy of drone-based killings of individuals judged to pose a threat to national security — without indictment or trial, through secret processes — bequeathed to our political culture, and thus to Donald Trump, a policy of assassination, in direct violation of Executive Order 12333 and, moreover, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To date, at least seven U.S. citizens are known to have been killed under this policy, including a 16-year-old boy. Only one American, the radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was said to have been the “intended target” of a strike.

Trump may not finish his term as president, but the CIA and the Pentagon will. The unprecedented powers these forces have attained through Democratic and Republican administrations, and continue to accumulate under Trump, should be a permanent focus of media coverage, no matter what horrid bigotry Trump tweets or idiotic quip he makes. History has shown that the unelected national security apparatus does not give back its powers easily.

Many liberals ignored these issues during the Obama presidency, and now they are consumed with the Trump disaster’s 24-hour spectacle of bread and circuses. By all means, let’s have aggressive reporting on the Trump administration, but not at the total expense of monitoring the growing authority of the United States’s most lethal forces.


Gold and Blood

August 21, 2017

by Christian Jürs

Although the Swiss professed neutrality, they had no problem allowing enormous amounts of tainted money into their country while at the same time, the government in Bern officially sealed their borders to terrified Jewish refugees attempting to flee the Germans who invaded France in 1940. Unlike Stalin who ordered his border guards to shoot down any fleeing Polish Jews attempting to enter Soviet territory in 1939, the Swiss merely had their border guards turn the Jews away. In either case, the effect was the same.

The involvement of the Swiss government and their banking system with Third Reich monies is reasonably well known. What is not widely known is the role played by other neutral banks and financial institutions in hiding and converting German assets, before, during and after World War II.

In a US State Department report of 19471 it was estimated that after World War II the Germans still controlled about 750 German subsidiaries in Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden and their assets in these countries amounted to $27 million in Portugal, $90 million in Spain, $250 million in Switzerland and $105 million in Sweden.

The Swedes became significant players in this field after World War I when many German companies, who manufactured and sold items of a military nature which were forbidden by the Versailles Dictate, sought the cover of neutral nations such as Holland, Switzerland and Sweden to continue with the building of submarines, aircraft and military hardware.

The most significant Swedish banking house which was involved in the concealment of German assets was the Enskilda Bank, which was controlled by the Wallenberg family. This family started in the banking business in 1856 when André Oscar Wallenberg founded Sweden’s first privately owned bank, the Enskilda Bank, and the Wallenberg family eventually grew into the most powerful and influential family in Sweden. During World War I, the family acted as representatives for various German firms and after the German defeat became even more active in assisting German industry conceal the true ownership of various overseas holdings which also included extremely valuable industrial patents.

During the course of World War II, the neutral Swedes sold iron ore to the Germans, constructed naval vessels in their shipyards and sold the Germans an enormous number of vital ball bearings used primarily by the military. Although the Swedish companies producing these bearings were partially owned by German interests, the Swedes purported that they were the sole owners of the factories involved and produced reams of spurious documents to aid their claims.

The allies were furious with Sweden but were unable to halt the flow of strategic war material to their enemies. Threats were made and US military officials seriously suggested bombing the guilty Swedish plants. Fortunately, their suggestions were ignored but an angry Roosevelt administration hurled threats of blacklisting and seizure of Swedish holdings in the United States.

John Foster Dulles, brother of Allen Dulles, the OSS chief in Switzerland and later Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, headed the legal team in the United States which was able to mitigate any substantive punishments. The Swedes agreed to extend large credits to Stalin, then a Roosevelt ally, and the threats gradually began to vanish. Several years after the war when Stalin’s Soviet Union was viewed by the US as an enemy, pressure was again made on the Swedes to stop selling vital war material to Stalin.

As the Swedes had ignored repeated Allied orders to stop selling to the Germans, they also ignored US orders to stop the Soviet-Swedish trade.

After the war, the US believed that the Third Reich had shipped over $21 million in gold, most of which had been looted, to Sweden. The Swiss, according to the same report, received over $378 million during the same period.

The lower figure is not accurate and German secret records indicate that over $200 million were sent to Sweden. Some of this, 13 tons of gold, was returned to various European countries when it could be identified as having come from Belgium and the Netherlands, but the rest has officially remained unaccounted for.

Ascertaining the origin of bar gold is not difficult. Different state banks refine their gold holdings and add small but controlled amounts of various metals such as silver and platinum to the molten gold prior to its being poured into ingots and stamped with official markings. Gold which has been re-refined and has had the identifying additives removed or altered does not lend itself to easy identification.

The Wallenberg family owned enormous and profitable holdings in Sweden and continue to do so. Raoul Wallenberg, nephew of the head of the house, vanished in Hungary towards the end of the war. Many interesting and creative stories about his fate have been circulating since that time but as all of them originate from former Soviet sources, they cannot be taken with much seriousness. It is true that the post-Glasnost Russian government turned Wallenberg’s passport and notebook over to his family but their accompanying story was vague and certainly not verifiable.

The former KGB was a veritable factory of disinformation and forgery. They have offered for sale the following “rare and historically valuable” files: Adolf Hitler (650 files with 70 thousand documents), Josef Goebbels (1140 files), Hjalmar Schacht (65 files), Otto Strasser (9 files), World War I German intelligence chief Walter Nicolai (90 files), IG Farben (6270 files), August Thyssen (12 files), and the Vienna branch of the Rothschild banking family (419 files).

Payment in US dollars is preferred and the ex-Soviets give their famous “blue smoke” guarantee of authenticity. When they see the blue smoke of some eager journalist’s car driving towards the Moscow airport, the guarantee automatically expires.

And then there is Vichy French gold which ended up in Spain. This was not transported in by Swiss diplomatic trucks like other huge shipments of gold, but was flown to Spain in 1944 in a German Ju-52 transport plane piloted by one of Müller’s Gestapo agents.

After the Allied invasion in June 1944, German authorities in Berlin determined that bullion holdings of the French government which were still under their control should be flown to Berlin where they could be re-refined and shipped to Swiss, Swedish or Portuguese banks for safe keeping. The gold was taken from Paris bank vaults under heavy guard and loaded onto a waiting tri-motored transport. Also on the airfield were two Messerschmitt BF 109 fighters, designated as escort aircraft to protect the gold-bearing transport until it landed in Berlin.

The pilot of the transport was a Luftwaffe officer, and also a member of the Gestapo. His destination was not Berlin, but Spain. To prevent any word of his defection reaching the authorities before he had crossed into neutral Spanish airspace and landed safely, the officer engaged in friendly conversation with the escort pilots. He asked to climb into the cockpits of their aircraft which were new models. He then stuck a screwdriver into the aircraft radios, disabling them completely.

The flight started at 1400 hours and after gaining altitude, headed east. A convenient and very extensive overcast permitted the transport pilot to turn in an unobserved half-circle while the unsuspecting escorts flew above him in the opaque cloud cover. When the Messerschmitt pilots emerged from the clouds near Luxemberg and discovered that they had been abandoned, they quite naturally attempted to radio this news to higher authority. Unable to do so, they circled for some time until their gas was low and finally landed in Germany. It was initially assumed that the transport had crashed or somehow been shot down by allied fighters. But the discovery that both radios had been crudely disabled raised the suspicion that the transport pilot had somehow made off with his cargo.

The primary interest of the American and British authorities in the immediate postwar years was to locate loot hidden by German institutions and individuals. Their actual purpose, of course, was not to restore it to its rightful owners but to become its rightful owners on a first come, first served basis. The Swiss and Swedish holdings were tempting targets but difficult to acquire since the countries involved had an equal interest in remaining the rightful owners. An unseemly squabble between British and US intelligence over who was entitled to find, exhume and possess the buried holding of SS General Globocnik was frustrated by the lack of a proper map. When this was eventually located, neither of the two contenders were still looking and had other fish to fry.

In later years, yellow gold has been replaced by the white gold of the international drug cartels, and the astronomical sums generated by its sale has corrupted the highest government officials in every country where it is traded.

It has been said that the corruption of the best is the worst, but at this point in history, that qualification has no validity whatsoever.


Judge shot at Ohio courthouse returned fire at attackers

August 21, 2017


A judge was ambushed and shot outside Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio. One of the attackers was killed when the judge and court police returned fire, according to city officials.

The shooting occurred a little after 8 am on Monday, according to Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. The attacker and the judge fired about five shots each.

Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot as he was walking towards the courthouse from the parking lot. The 65-year-old Judge hears general and domestic relations cases as one of two judges serving in Jefferson County Commons Pleas Court.

Surveillance video shows the judge fired about five shots at the gunman, before the assailant was shot to death by a probation officer, according Sheriff Abdalla.

Bruzzese is said to be in stable condition. He was taken for treatment by medical helicopter.

The second suspect was been taken into custody after the shooting.

“There’s people who were workers in the courthouse who witnessed this,” Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said, according to WTOV.

“A lot of people traumatized in light as to what occurred. Think that everybody needs a little time to settle down a little bit, get their thoughts together regarding this very tragic situation. Our prayers go out to Judge Bruzzese and his family.”

The 65-year-old judge underwent surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital. He is expected to survive, according to Governor John Kasich.

The courthouse was shut down for the day, according to WTOV.

Sheriff Abdalla told reporters that investigators are familiar with the suspect, and were checking to see if he had any connection with the judge.

The attack had to be intentional, Judge Joseph Corabi told AP, noting that the location of the reserved parking spots outside the courthouse was known to the general public.

 Barcelona attack: Spain terror cell had 120 gas canisters

August 20, 2017

BBC News

A 12-strong terror cell that carried out two deadly attacks in Spain had collected 120 gas canisters and was planning to use them in vehicle attacks, Spanish police say.

Canisters were found at a house, said to be used by the cell, that blew up in the town of Alcanar on Wednesday night.

Police are still hunting for the driver of the van that hit dozens of people on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, killing 13.

On Sunday, a Mass was held in Barcelona to mourn the victims.

In addition to the 13 killed on Thursday afternoon on Las Ramblas, a woman died in a second vehicle attack early on Friday in the town of Cambrils. Five suspected jihadists were shot dead by police in the second attack.

The Catalan authorities have also confirmed that a British-Australian seven-year-old, Julian Cadman, was among those killed in Barcelona.

He had been declared missing since becoming separated from his injured mother in the attack, and his family had made appeals for news of his whereabouts.

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero has given an update on the investigation.

He said the cell was still believed to consist of 12 men and had been planning attacks for more than six months. One person remained at large, four were under arrest and there were two sets of human remains to be identified, he added.

The person at large was the driver of the van, Mr Trapero said, adding that police knew his identity but would not reveal it.

But police have confirmed they are hunting Moroccan-born Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22, who Spanish media say was the driver.

The two sets of remains to be identified may refer to victims of the house explosion at Alcanar.

Spanish media have speculated the two may be Youssef Aallaa, the brother of one of the suspected jihadists killed at Cambrils, and Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam from the town of Ripoll, north of Barcelona, where a number of the suspects lived.

The imam apparently left the mosque in June for an extended trip to Morocco, but a flatmate told the BBC he had been seen in Ripoll as recently as last Tuesday.

“We’re starting to see clearly that [the Alcanar house] was the place where they were preparing explosives for one or more attacks in the city of Barcelona,” Mr Trapero said.

He added: “We are not in a position to say what caused the radicalisation of these people.”

Mr Trapero said police could not rule out that the suspect still at large had crossed the French border, although he had “no specific information on this”.

The father of two of those shot dead by police in Cambrils, Mohamed and Omar Hychami, told the BBC he was devastated. Hecham Igasi also accused the imam of radicalising his sons.

It is now known that three vehicles were rented under the credit card of Younes Abouyaaqoub.

One was used in the Las Ramblas attack, another was found after the attack in the town of Vic and a third in Ripoll.

Mr Trapero said the cell had planned to fill all three with explosive material to carry out attacks.

Barcelona FC, in their first match since the attacks, beat Real Betis 2-0 at the Camp Nou ground on Sunday night.

Players observed a minute’s silence before kick-off and wore black armbands.

Earlier, King Felipe and Queen Letizia attended Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia cathedral to mourn those killed in the attacks

Some reports in Spanish media say the jihadist cell had intended to target the iconic, Gaudi-designed church with explosives.

Cardinal Juan José Omella, the Archbishop of Barcelona, called for peace and unity, saying: “We will overcome fear.”

He read a message from Pope Francis, which said the pontiff “condemns once again the violence, which is a very grave offence against the creator, and he prays to God for help so we can continue working for peace and harmony in the world”.

As the debate about possible Catalan independence continues, Cardinal Omella added: “The union makes us strong, the division corrodes us and destroys us.”

Who are the suspects?

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it had carried out the Las Ramblas attack, though it is not clear whether any of the attackers were directly connected to the group or simply inspired by it.

Killed: Five suspected jihadists shot dead by police in Cambrils – Moussa Oukabir, 17; Said Aallaa, 18; Mohamed Hychami, 24; Omar Hychami; Houssaine Abouyaaqoub.

  • Arrested: Three in the town of Ripoll – Driss Oukabir, 28, the brother of Moussa, who turned himself in saying his documents had been stolen to rent vehicles; Sahal el-Karib, 34; Mohammed Aallaa, 27. Mohamed Houli Chemlal was arrested in Alcanar following the house explosion there on Wednesday.
  • Hunted: Younes Abouyaaqoub, now suspected to be the driver in the Las Ramblas attack. Youssef Aallaa, the brother of Said. Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam of Ripoll. However, the latter pair may have died in the house explosion in Alcanar.

These names of the dead have so far been released:

  • American Jared Tucker, 43
  • Belgian Elke Vanbockrijck, 44
  • Spanish-Argentine Silvina Alejandra Pereyra, 40
  • Argentine Carmen Lopardo, 80
  • Spaniard Pepita Codina, 75
  • Canadian Ian Moore Wilson
  • Spaniard Francisco López Rodríguez, 57. His three-year-old great nephew also died
  • Italian Bruno Gulotta, 35
  • Italian Luca Russo, 25
  • British-Australian boy Julian Cadman, 7
  • Spaniard Ana María Suárez died in the Cambrils attack

Two unnamed Portuguese nationals are also confirmed dead.

Timeline of events

Alcanar, Wednesday evening: An explosion rips through a house in the small town 200km south of Barcelona. One person is confirmed dead, though up to three may have died. Police chief Josep Lluis Trapero said it appeared the residents at the house had been “preparing an explosive device”. A Catalan government official says a cell may have intended to use gas canisters in the Las Ramblas attack.

  • Barcelona, Thursday 16:50 (14:50 GMT): A white Fiat van drives down Las Ramblas in central Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring scores. The driver flees on foot.
  • Vic, Thursday 18:30: Police find a second van, thought to be a getaway vehicle, in the town, 80km north of Barcelona.
  • Sant Just Desvern, Thursday 19:30: A car is driven towards officers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona. They open fire. A man is later found dead in the passenger seat of the car with stab wounds. The dead man is not linked to the Las Ramblas attack, officials say, but investigations are ongoing. One theory is that the car was stolen and the man was killed by the carjacker, who is still at large.
  • Cambrils, Friday 01:00: A second vehicle attack takes place in the resort south of Barcelona, killing a woman. Police kill five terrorist suspects said to be linked to the Las Ramblas attack. They include Moussa Oukabir, 17, initially thought to be the Las Ramblas attacker. Police later say another man, Younes Abouyaaqoub, is being hunted.


Spanish police track down, shoot dead Barcelona attacker

August 21, 2017


SUBIRATS, Spain (Reuters) – Spanish police on Monday shot dead an Islamist militant who killed 13 people with a van in Barcelona last week, ending a five-day manhunt for the perpetrator of Spain’s deadliest attack in over a decade.

Police said they tracked 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub to a rural area near Barcelona and shot him after he held up what looked like an explosives belt and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest). A bomb squad then used a robot to approach his body.

Abouyaaqoub had been on the run since Thursday evening, after he drove at high speed into throngs of strollers along Barcelona’s most famous avenue, Las Ramblas. After fleeing the scene, he hijacked a car and fatally stabbed its driver.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which police believe was planned by a dozen accomplices, including a brother and two first cousins of the Moroccan-born Abouyaaqoub.

“Shortly before 5 p.m., the police shot down Younes Abouyaaqoub, the driver of the van in the attack that killed 14 people in Barcelona,” Carles Puigdemont, head of the Catalonia regional government, told a news conference.

Abouyaaqoub, wearing what turned out to be a fake bomb belt, was spotted by a woman in the early afternoon in the small town of Subirats and then fled through vineyards. But police tracked him down and shot him on a road near a sewage treatment plant.

The scene unfolded 40 km (25 miles) from the spot, close to the FC Barcelona soccer stadium on the outskirts of the city, where police said Abouyaaqoub seized the hijacked car.

Police said Abouyaaqoub had first fled Las Ramblas on foot amid the chaos of the attack, then commandeered the car, stabbing the driver, 34-year-old Pau Perez, to death before smashing his way through a police checkpoint and ditching the car.

Abouyaaqoub had been the only one of 12 accomplices still at large. His mother, Hannou Ghanimi, had appealed for him to surrender, saying she would rather see him in jail than dead.

Four people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks: three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla. They were being take to the high court in Madrid, which has jurisdiction over terrorism matters.

Abouyaaqoub lived in Ripoll, a town in the Pyrenees mountains north of Barcelona close to the French border.

Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a separate deadly assault, hours after the van attack, in the coastal resort town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

In Cambrils, a car rammed into passersby and its occupants got out and tried to stab people. The five assailants were shot dead by police, while a Spanish woman died in the attack.

In the roughly seven hours of violence that followed the van’s entry into the central promenade of Las Ramblas on Thursday afternoon, attackers killed 15 people: 13 on Las Ramblas, the Cambrils victim and the man in the hijacked car.

Of the 120 injured on Las Ramblas, nine remain in a critical condition in hospital.

It was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people. The attack was claimed by al Qaeda.

Another two suspected plotters in Barcelona, including an imam thought by police to have helped radicalize his young conspirators, were killed on Wednesday night, hours before the Las Ramblas assault began, in what is believed to have been an accidental explosion.

About 120 butane gas cylinders were found at the scene of the explosion, a house in the town of Alcanar, south of Barcelona. Police believe the pair were preparing a much larger attack with explosives, but the blast prompted their accomplices to adopt a new, less elaborate plan.

Spanish police said the international investigation was still open and have sought information on a visit the imam, Abdelbaki Es Satty, made to Belgium last year, said Thierry Werts, spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.

Hans Bonte, mayor of the Belgian town of Vilvoorde, near Brussels, told VRT television at the weekend the imam had been there looking for work. Belgium has suffered several Islamist attacks and Vilvoorde has been a center of Islamic radicalism.

The van driver, Abouyaaqoub, began showing more religiously conservative behavior over the past year, said relatives in his native Morocco. He refused to shake hands with women during a visit to his birthplace in March, they said.

Abouyaaqoub’s brother El Houssaine and first cousins Mohamed and Omar Hychami were among those killed by police in Cambrils. They were all originally from the small Moroccan town of Mrirt.


Number of Isis attacks rose in 2016 despite loss of fighters, report finds

Counterterrorism officials say terrorist group has adapted to battlefield setbacks by calling on individuals to carry out ‘lone wolf’ attacks across the world

August 21, 2017

The Guardian-Reuters

Although Islamic State is losing fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria, it remained the world’s deadliest militant organization last year and the number of its attacks rose, according to a report from the University of Maryland.

Islamic State operatives carried out more than 1,400 attacks last year and killed more than 7,000 people, representing a roughly 20% increase over 2015, according to the university’s Global Terrorism Database. The increase occurred even as overall militant attacks worldwide and resulting deaths fell about 10% in 2016.

Islamic State claimed credit for the van attack on Thursday in Barcelona that killed 13 people, as well as a knife attack in Russia on Saturday that may have wounded as many as eight people.

It is unclear if the claims are accurate.

But senior US counterterrorism officials said the latest attacks fit a pattern as the organization adapts to significant battlefield setbacks in Syria and Iraq (where its control of territory peaked in August 2014) by intensifying calls for attacks by individuals or small groups using whatever means possible.

In addition to violence tied to Islamic State’s core group in Iraq and Syria, other groups affiliated with it carried out more than 950 attacks last year that killed nearly 3,000 people, said the university report, which was released last week.

In 2016, four additional groups pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Affiliates in Bangladesh, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan-Pakistan and the Philippines killed significantly more people and executed a higher number of attacks than in the previous year, the report said.

Most of the affiliates were already engaged in conflicts before allying with Islamic State, said a senior state department official. Islamic State “was able to manipulate and hijack” them, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The group has also issued more calls for its followers to carry out “lone wolf” attacks, such as those that took place in recent years in Orlando, Florida; San Bernardino, California; London and Manchester, England; and Nice, France.

“During this same time period, we [also] saw an increase in the number of individual assailants,” said Erin Miller, author of the University of Maryland study.

Since September 2014, when the international coalition that is fighting Islamic State was formed, the militant group has encouraged followers to strike coalition nations with any weapon available.

“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies,” spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani told the group’s followers in 2014. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.” He was killed by a US airstrike last September.

“These calls increased as the US-led coalition continued targeting the group, with Isis media releases and social media accounts of its fighters regularly calling for attacks in warring countries,” said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant groups online.

Since its first issue last September, Islamic State’s monthly Rumiyah magazine has provided detailed attack guides, including directions on how to perform stabbing and vehicular attacks and ways to strike economic and religious targets.








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