TBR News August 27, 2016

Aug 27 2016

The Voice of the White House    

Washington, D.C.  August 27, 2016 :”The Chinese, who along with the Russians, have penetrated American secret communications networks, are pushing the United States in the South China Sea, trying to provoke some kind of an incident to which they can respond militarily. They did this in Korea in 1951 and invaded that country, attacking American troops there. That they took terrible losses in no way deterred them and they simply stepped back, remembering their defeat and waiting for the next time. But China is driven by forces other than a desire to humiliate the United States. She has ecological and sociological problems that are threatening to do terrible damage to their infrastructure. The Himalayan glacers, the source of most of China’s fresh water, are very rapidly shrinking and when they are gone, the economic PRC structure will be dealt a massive blow. And in the north, the Gobi desert is slowly but surely moving towards Beijing, something that can easily be seen by the often total clouds of reddish smog that stifles the Chinese capital. Now, China is looking to the north, to virtually unoccupied Russian Siberia with its timber, fresh water, vacant land and natural resources which China lacks. Her plan is to embroil Russia and the United States in a remote conflict and then when both parties are engaged in serious warfare, to move into Siberia and say, with smiles, ‘This my garden now!'”


Putin calling strategic shots in Syria

While the world reels at the sight of a five-year old pulled from a bombed building in Aleppo, Fiona Clark looks at why Russia won’t give up on backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

August 27, 2016


Five-year-old Omran’s dust-covered and stunned face captures all that is wrong with the war in Syria – the senseless destruction of innocent lives – but unfortunately it’s not enough to stop the various factions fighting there from tearing the country apart. One player in particular, Russia, will not give up its support for Syria’s current regime easily.

There have been a number of theories that have been put forward explaining the reasons why Putin is fighting a war in a foreign country and they include:

– Supporting an ally,

– A battle for supremacy in the Middle East and Russia’s desire not to let the US call the shots,

– Putin’s desire to be seen as strong at home and abroad,

– Diverting attention away from his activities in Ukraine and Crimea,

– Fighting and possibly basking in the glory of defeating “Islamic State,” (IS) and

– A dislike of popular uprisings and the belief that Syria could become fast become another Libya or Tunisia.

There may be elements of truth in all of these, but there is one overriding interests that seems to have been forgotten recently and that’s gas.

So while the bombs rain down on Aleppo let’s take a brief look back at what lead to Russia’s intervention. Back in 2000, Qatar unveiled an ambitious plan to build a 1,500-kilometer long multi-billion dollar gas pipeline from its shores, across Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

The US liked the idea as a way of getting cheaper gas to Europe and weakening the EU’s reliance on Russian gas. But in 2009 Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, said no to the project, turning his attention a year later to signing a deal with Iran to build a pipeline that would transport its gas across Iraq, Syria and under the Mediterranean Sea to Europe instead.

Some say he was pressured by Putin to turn down the deal as 80 percent of Russia’s gas went to Europe and competition from that supply route would see his market share and corresponding revenue drop. The gas supplied from Iran’s pipeline would also see competition increase, but Russia’s cooperation in building the pipeline would have delivered other benefits that would offset the loss of market share.

Pipeline war

In any case the decision was a slap in the face to Saudi and the Gulf states, and to the US and UK who have supported Saudi Arabia since the 1940’s, despite its horrific human rights violations and allegedly continuous backdoor funding of extremist groups like al Nursa, al-Qaeda and IS.

Saudi denies it funds IS as it claims they’re enemies – after all God can’t bless two caliphates simultaneously. But outside of Saudi, in places like Yemen and Syria, IS serves a Saudi aim by fighting against members of the Shia sect of Islam. In 2014 a former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, recounted a conversation he’d had just prior to 9/11 with a Saudi prince and then ambassador to Washington who prophesized the destruction of Shai followers. Prince Bandar bin Sultan told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia.’ More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

High stakes

For Russia the stakes are high. At a time when oil prices are low and its economy is struggling as a result it has little choice but to push as hard as it can for a pro-Russian outcome. Failure would see a US/Saudi puppet installed, its gas sales and pipeline interests threatened, and its influence in the region radically diminished. A victory, however, would be a godsend – weakening US influence in the region and improving Russia’s ability to control oil and gas supplies and ultimately prices.

So, it’s not going to give that easily. It will continue to bomb anything and everything that is a threat to its interests to keep its preferred leader in power and the US/UK and Saudi’s will continue to fund and train the very people Russia is bombing.

Estimates of the number who have died in Syria since the fighting started in 2012 vary from 155,000 to more than 400,000 while almost 11.5 million people have been displaced – 6.6 million internally and 4.8 million to neighboring countries and beyond, putting pressure on an increasingly fragile European Union.

For Russia there no other option than keeping Assad (or his appointed successor) in power. Compromise will be very hard to achieve without considerable compensation and assurances that its interests are not going to be curtailed.

Until that time comes small children will continue to be pulled from the rubble of bombed buildings and treated by the 35 doctors that remain in Aleppo – and all because of a pipeline.


Democratic Pundits Downplay Serious Ethical Issues Raised by the Clinton Foundation

August 26, 2016

by Lee Fang

The Intercept

The Associated Press story this week revealing that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton frequently met with donors to the Clinton Foundation, set off a firestorm in the media. Many Democrats and sympathetic pundits are criticizing the article — and have made the sweeping claim that, contrary to many deeply reported investigations, there is no evidence that well-heeled backers of the foundation received favorable treatment from the State Department.

While there are some legitimate criticisms of the AP story — its focus, for instance, on a Nobel Peace Prize winner meeting with Clinton distracts from the thesis of the piece — it is nonetheless a substantive investigation based on calendars that the State Department has fought to withhold from the public. The AP took the agency to court to obtain a partial release of the meeting logs. Other commentators took issue with a tweet promoting the AP piece, which they said might confuse readers because the AP story reflected private sector meetings, not overall meetings.

But in challenging the overall credibility of the AP story, Clinton surrogates and allies are going well beyond a reasoned critique in an effort to downplay the serious ethical issues raised by Clinton Foundation activities.

One frequent line of attack heard this week is that stories concerning the Clinton Foundation, at best, only reveal that some foundation donors received help at the State Department with visa problems:

  • Vox writer Matthew Yglesias argued that “however many times they take a run” at the Clinton Foundation, journalists “don’t come up with anything more scandalous than the revelation that maybe billionaire philanthropists have an easier time getting the State Department to look into their visa problems than an ordinary person would.” The Vox piece was circulated widely by the Clinton campaign.
  • ThinkProgress editor Adam Peck wrote that “aside from an occasional assist with acquiring a visa, or meeting with executives from a cosmetics company to talk about ways to curb gender-based violence in South Africa,” there were no “shady dealings” conducted by the Clinton Foundation. He added, “If Hillary Clinton was abusing the power of her office by running an international multi-million dollar pay-for-play scheme, she did a lousy job of it.”
  • DailyKos writer Mark Sumner, in a piece shared by Blue Nation Review, a website owned by Clinton campaign operative David Brock, claimed that “extensive reviews haven’t found any evidence — any evidence — that [the Clinton Foundation] affected a single action at the State Department.”

The assertions above obscure the problems unearthed through years of investigative reporting on the foundation. Journalist David Sirota, who has reported extensively on the Clinton Foundation, rounded up a sample of the stories that provide a window into Clinton Foundation issues:

  • The Washington Post found that two months after Secretary Clinton encouraged the Russian government to approve a $3.7 billion deal with Boeing, the aerospace company announced a $900,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation.
  • The Wall Street Journal found that Clinton made an “unusual intervention” to announce a legal settlement with UBS, after which the Swiss bank increased its donations to, and involvement with, the Clinton Foundation.
  • The New York Times reported that a Russian company assumed control of major uranium reserves in a deal that required State Department approval, as the chairman of the company involved in the transaction donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The Intercept has also reported on the Clinton Foundation and the conduct of the State Department under Clinton. Leaked government documents obtained by The Intercept revealed that the Moroccan government lobbied Clinton aggressively to influence her and other officials on the Moroccan military occupation of Western Sahara, which holds some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, a lucrative export for the kingdom.

As part of its strategy for influence, the Moroccan government and companies controlled by the kingdom donated to the Bill Clinton presidential library, the Clinton Foundation, and hired individuals associated with the Clinton political network. Despite a statement by the Obama administration that suggested it would reverse the previous Bush administration support for the Moroccan government and would back a U.N.-negotiated settlement for the conflict in Western Sahara, Clinton announced there would be “no change” in policy — and has gone on to praise the Moroccan government’s human rights record.

As recently as Monday, we learned that after being denied an official meeting with the State Department, Peabody Energy, the worlds largest coal company, used a consultant who donated heavily to the Clinton Foundation to back channel and attempt to set up a meeting with Clinton via her aide Huma Abedin. The consultant, Joyce Aboussie, wrote that “It should go without saying that the Peabody folks” reached out to her because of her “relationship with the Clinton’s [sic].”

Peabody and Aboussie have declined to comment, and it is unclear if the meeting took place.

There may be many other potential influence-peddling stories, but the State Department has not released all of the emails from Clinton’s private server and other meeting log documents, while redacting identifying information that could shed light on other stories. For example, Mother Jones and The Intercept have reported that Clinton used the State Department to promote fracking development across the globe, and in particular her agency acted to benefit particular companies such as a Chevron project in Bulgaria and ExxonMobil’s efforts in Poland. Both ExxonMobil and Chevron are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The release of more meeting log documents and emails would certainly reveal a better picture of potential influence.

In further criticizing the AP, Yglesias wrote on Thursday that the Clinton Foundation faces a double standard and that similar charitable groups set up by Republicans were not criticized closely by the press. In fact, Democrats and media figures roundly criticized the public interest foundations set up by Republicans and funded by lobbyists and special interest groups, including nonprofit organizations affiliated with Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush.

Earlier this year, in similar fashion to the questions raised about the Clinton Foundation, Democrats in Arizona raised influence peddling concerns regarding the reported $1 million donation from the Saudi Arabian government to the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a nonprofit group closely affiliated with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. As chairman of the Armed Services Committee, McCain oversees a range of issues concerning Saudi Arabia, including arms sales. But none of the pundits rushing to the defense of the Clinton Foundation defended McCain.

In fact, the more Clinton’s allies have worked to defend big money donations to the Clinton Foundation, the more closely they resemble the right-wing principles they once denounced.

In one telling argument in defense of the Clinton Foundation, Media Matters, another group run by David Brock, argued this week that there was “no evidence of ethics breaches” because there was no explicit quid pro quo cited by the AP. The Media Matters piece mocked press figures for focusing on the “optics” of corruption surrounding the foundation.

Such a standard is quite a reversal for the group. In a piece published by Media Matters only two years ago, the organization criticized conservatives for focusing only on quid pro quo corruption — the legal standard used to decide the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court decisions — calling such a narrow focus a “new perspective of campaign finance” that dismisses “concerns about institutional corruption in politics.” The piece notes that ethics laws concerning the role of money in politics follow a standard, set forth since the Watergate scandal, in which even the appearance, or in other words, the “optics” of corruption, is cause for concern.

The reason why politics feels so tribal in 2016

The freedom to live where you like, a good education and the internet: could these things be widening the gap between opposing political beliefs?

August 24, 2016

by Zaria Gorvett

BBC News

Imagine you’re in a bar, discussing the upcoming election with your friends. You admit you’re undecided. In fact, you can see both sides of the argument. They stare back at you as though you’ve just said you’d like to murder baby pandas.

Politics has never seemed more tribal. In America, it’s Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton. In Europe, it’s the Europhiles vs the Eurosceptics. In Turkey, it’s the Islamists vs the secularists.

In the US, Australia and Europe, the gap between liberals and conservatives, the left and the right is widening. Look at social media, and it can feel like antipathy towards the other side is becoming increasingly intense.

In the US, for example, “very unfavourable” views of the other party more than doubled between 1992 and 2014, according to polls by the Pew Research Center. Fast-forward to 2016 and most – as opposed to just many – Republicans and Democrats view the opposition in deeply negative terms. Of nearly 5,000 people surveyed, over half believe the opposition is “closed-minded”, while around four in 10 are convinced supporters of the rival party are more “lazy”, “immoral” and “dishonest” than other Americans.

So, what might be driving this tribalism? Psychological research reveals subconscious forces, which – in the face of facts, experience or better judgement – prevent people seeing alternative points of view and push them into ever-more-partisan camps. And some scientists believe that many aspects of 21st Century living could be creating the perfect conditions for falling victim. In fact, from where people live to what they read, modern life has an alarming power to entrench people’s political affiliations and views – without them even realising it.

One potential explanation is the so-called group polarisation effect. Discussing views with friends might seem like the perfect way to expose the flaws in thinking and hear similar but alternative points of view. It’s not. “If you put a group of like-minded people in a room, their attitudes generally become even more extreme,” says Jessica Keating, a psychologist from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

To test the idea, Keating and colleagues brought some undergraduate students into the lab to talk politics. In the first experiment, groups of like-minded individuals debated whether Barack Obama or George W Bush was the better president. In the second, whether they supported Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

After the discussion, they were asked how they felt about that candidate now and what their original attitude had been before the experiment. As Keating expected, their attitudes were universally more extreme. Alarmingly, the shift happened in the space of just 15 minutes. And they had no idea it was happening.

“In the first study they had no idea their attitudes had polarised at all – in the second they vastly underestimated how extreme their views had become,” says Keating.

No one knows for sure what causes the effect, but it may simply be down to new information: spending time with like-minded people is likely to expose us to new arguments which further convinces us of our own views. Or perhaps it’s the result of trying to gain acceptance by the group.

The trouble is, it’s easier than ever for a person to cruise through life without meeting anyone who disagrees with them. It’s this intellectual vacuum which piqued the interest of Matt Motyl, a psychologist from Illinois University, Chicago. A few years ago, he began attending political events and religious services to strike up conversation with people he wouldn’t usually meet.

I’d come back to my predominantly liberal social circle and try to explain that the other side isn’t ignorant or malevolent,” he says. He faced harsh rebukes for his open-mindedness, including accusations of treachery. Motyl decided to find out what was going on.

It’s well known that political allegiances can often be visualised by simply drawing a line between the north and south on a map. “Even today, if you can only know one thing about a voter to predict their vote, zip code is among the best predictors,” says Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist from New York University. So Motyl wondered if it might have something to do with geography.

It’s a chicken and egg scenario – do people end up agreeing with their neighbours because they move, or because they’re influenced by where they’re living in the first place?

To find out, Motyl sifted through data from over a million US residents who had taken the implicit association test, an online survey which attempts to uncover those thoughts which are outside your conscious awareness, such as racial prejudice.

He was only interested in three things: where respondents currently lived, where they had lived the longest and their political ideology. Next he compared how the latter differed from the dominant views in these areas.

As it turns out, ideological misfits are significantly more likely to move – roughly eight out of 10, compared to five out of 10 conformists. Further, among those who leave, their new postcode is much more likely to be a stronghold for their own views.

With so many people moving to be around their ideological compatriots, today the group polarisation effect is being played out on a massive scale. Even if someone has never moved house, one universal aspect of modern life is making it easier than ever to fall victim: the internet.

Online searches are increasingly personalised, meaning people are less likely to be exposed to new information which challenges their worldview. If two people type “Donald Trump” into the same search engine on the same day, they may well return two entirely different sets of results. On social media, this “filter bubble” plays out via the personalised news feed. “It’s increasingly difficult for people to interact with politically dissimilar others. The other side may think you are immoral and downright weird,” says Motyl.

Even when we’re thinking consciously, many people choose media which reflects their views. With better access to these sources than ever before, on phones, laptops, televisions, there’s an endless stream of compelling partisan soundbites, facts and headlines competing for attention.

In fact whether it supports a political view or not, the more information you’re exposed to – the more likely you’ll emerge feeling assured you’re right.

“What we all ought to agree on is that people looking at the same objective evidence – their views should come together. What shouldn’t happen is for people to become more confident in opposing views in the face of the same evidence – but that’s what happens,” says Ross. This may also explain why people who are better educated tend to hold more extreme views.

But it gets worse. When an alternative perspective does slip through, it must run the gauntlet of numerous other in-built biases. “Many people suffer from what we call the objectivity delusion. They think any reasonable person ought to see things as they do and anyone who doesn’t is unreasonable – biased by their emotions or information they’ve been exposed to,” says Ross.

We’re seeing things the way they really are, of course, while other people – well, they’re seeing things through the prism of their ideology, ethnicity or social class.

Perhaps the most dangerous of all is known as the illusion of asymmetric insight. First discovered in 2001, this is the belief that you understand the views of others better than they understand yours. Not only will members of a group usually think they understand other groups (such as those with alternative political ideology) better than the other way around, but that their knowledge of their own views is superior. There’s no need to listen to what others have to say – you probably understand their reasoning already.

Finally, there’s false consensus, which leads people to think that – knowing what they know – any reasonable person would agree with them. “That’s why we often see people really shocked after, let’s say, the Democratic Convention,” says Ross. Hillary supporters will have heard what she has to say and decided it was obviously true and any reasonable person will also agree with her – though this would also be true for Republicans.

These mental blind spots are not without risk. In elections, with little overlap between the views of one tribe and another, the losing side may feel angry and ignored. This is even more likely since polarisation is also known to reduce voter turnout in the first place.

When combined with modern life, these in-built errors may be leading to a dangerously tribal public, prone to political distrust and enmity.

The intriguing caveat to all this is that, when surveyed, people often agree on more issues and policies than all the political mudslinging between groups might suggest. “Sure there’s polarisation in terms of how harsh the rhetoric is, but in terms of their views on specific issues, Trump supporters and Clinton supporters agree on lots of things,” says Lee Ross, a social psychologist at Stanford University.

However, whatever you do – don’t use this article to try to change someone’s mind. Given evidence against our beliefs, the “backfire effect” tends to make us believe our original views even more strongly. It looks like you’re unlikely to win that debate with your friends any time soon.

How Turkey’s offensive into Syria is opening up a hornet’s nest

August 27, 2016

by Sudarsan Raghavan and Erin Cunningham

The Washington Post

KARKAMIS, Turkey – Turkey’s incursion into Syria is deepening tensions between two major U.S.-backed groups, potentially setting up a conflict that could undermine Washington’s efforts to eradicate the Islamic State’s presence in Syria.

The current focal point of those animosities is the strategic Syrian town of Manbij, nestled on the western side of the Euphrates River. The Kurds wrested it from the Islamic State earlier this month. Turkey and the Syrian rebels it supports fear the takeover is a prelude to the Kurds expanding their reach further in Syria. On Thursday,under U.S. pressure, the Kurdish forces, known by their acronym YPG, declared that they had pulled out of the predominantly Arab town.

The announcement came hours after Turkish tanks and special forces units, backed by American and Turkish fighter jets, crossed the border and helped Syrian rebels to seize the city of Jarabulus from the Islamic State.

But in interviews Friday, Syrian Arab and ethnic Turkmen rebels backed by the United States and Turkey said the Kurds were still in control of Manbij, and they vowed to liberate it. The Turkish military has bombed targets around the town, located 25 miles south of Jarabulus, apparently convinced the Kurds have not followed through on their promise to leave or that they seek to return.

“Our concern has been the fact that the YPG has a proven track record of forcibly displacing non-Kurds,” a senior Turkish official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as per protocol.

Tenuous coalition

The animosities threaten to pit two groups of American-aided forces – the CIA and Pentagon-backed Syrian Arab and Turkmen rebels and the Pentagon-backed Kurdish forces – against each other, potentially taking their attention away from fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It also illustrates the challenges the United States faces in coordinating this array of armed groups, beset by ethnic and territorial rivalries as well as different agendas, on an increasingly complex, multi-sided battlefield.

To be sure, Syrian rebels and Kurdish forces have regularly fought each other elsewhere in Syria. But they have both been battling the Islamic State, albeit on separate fronts. Now their conflict could expand into new areas, as Turkey’s incursion transforms Syria’s military landscape.

Already, fresh clashes have reportedly taken place in recent days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a well-known activist group, said Kurdish forces and Syrian rebels engaged in skirmishes Wednesday night around several villages between Jarabulus and Manbij. A U.S.-backed Syrian rebel faction, Faylak al-Sham, tweeted a statement saying it had “liberated” the village of Al-Amarina, five miles south of Jarabulus, from the “terrorist” Kurdish forces.

“We are still waiting to see if they are going to retreat back to east of the Euphrates,” said Ahmed Othman, the commander of an ethnic Turkmen force within the U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army, referring to the Kurds. “If not, we will have to push them back by force.”

The Kurds say they handed over their positions to a local military council in Manbij made up largely of Arabs. But the body is perceived by the Syrian rebels to be controlled by the Kurdish forces. On Friday, the Kurdish spokesman for the council said it would confront any Turkish-backed rebels entering their town.

“We will defend ourselves,” said Shervan Derwish, who has also served as the spokesman for Kurdish forces who fought off Islamic State combatants in a famous battle in the Syrian town of Kobane last year. “Those guys are here to serve Turkey’s agenda, not the Syrian revolution’s goals.”

Nizar Mehdi, a journalist and activist from Manbij, said relatives and friends in the town told him that Kurdish forces were still in the area and operating from bases.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the record, said that while Kurdish commanders and most of their fighters had withdrawn to east of the Euphrates, a smaller number of Kurdish forces remain within Manbij. They are combing the city, he said, for explosives left by the Islamic State and seeking to ensure that militants don’t return.

“They fought very long and hard to take the city, and we want to make sure there’s a ‘hold force’ in place to make sure that ISIL doesn’t reinfiltrate,” the official said.

The official acknowledged that there had been tension between Kurdish and Arab fighters in the area but downplayed its significance. “This is a pretty standard feature of coalition warfare,” he said. He said the United States was working to defuse friction in part by “reminding everyone of who the real problem is here, which is ISIL.”

U.S. involvement

Earlier this year the Pentagon added around 250 special operations forces to bolster a smaller force already in northeastern Syria. U.S. officials said the force’s principal mission was to oversee the recruitment and training of more Arabs for the anti-ISIS fight, apparently to help make the Kurds not appear as an invading force. But U.S. special forces have also been accompanying Kurdish fighters on some of the front lines, including during the battle for Manbij.

The Pentagon’s backing of these forces — collectively called the Syrian Democratic Forces and dominated by the YPG, which in Kurdish stands for People’s Protection Units — has irritated Turkey. Tensions have increased as Kurdish forces expanded their areas of control in Syria in recent months, moving closer to zones controlled by rebels backed by the U.S. and Ankara.

Many observers say one of Turkey’s main objectives in the offensive, code-named “Euphrates Shield”, is to stop the Kurds from gaining territory in Syria. The Turkish government has long confronted a restive Kurdish minority within its borders, and it sees any efforts by Kurds in nearby countries to increase their reach as a security threat. The Syrian Kurdish rebels have ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which fought a bloody war against the Turkish military for decades.

In the past, Turkey has considered creating a buffer zone that would allow the Syrian opposition to better fight President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as well as the Islamic State. Such a zone would also lead to the creation of a safe area that could allow over 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return home. Whether or not this is a goal of the current offensive remains unknown.

What’s clear, though, is that Ankara seeks to drive a wedge that would block Kurdish aspirations to unify two Kurdish-controlled enclaves along Turkey’s border in northern Syria, which Turkey fears could also embolden the PKK inside its soil.

‘Other terrorist elements’

On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirm told reporters in Istanbul that Turkey “will continue operations [in Syria] until we fully guarantee security of life and property of our citizens and the security of our border.”

“We will continue until the Islamic State and other terrorist elements are taken out,” he said.

Other top officials have openly noted that Turkey’s objectives include curbing Kurdish territorial expansion in Syria.

Turkey’s defense minister, Fikri Isik, said the operation has two main goals, including securing the border and preventing Kurdish forces from reaching the area west of the Euphrates. “Our strategic priority is preventing [the Kurds] from joining their east and west cantons in Syria,” Isik said in an interview with Turkey’s NTV network on Thursday.

Syrian rebels are continuing to secure Jarabulus, as more Turkish tanks have rumbled over the border to assist them. Teams have been scouring neighborhoods for land mines and improvised explosive devices left behind by the Islamic State.

Others have been digging trenches, fortifying the city for any future attacks.

“We want to prevent any enemy advances, and by enemies we mean ISIS and the YPG,” said Abu Ibrahim, another Free Syrian Army commander, referring to the Kurds. “Everyone knows what ISIS is, but the YPG is trying to divide Syria and that is also not acceptable.”

Missy Ryan in Washington, Zakaria Zakaria in Gazientep and Liz Sly in Beirut contributed to this report.

How Veterans Are Losing the War at Home

Making America Pain-Free for Plutocrats and Big Pharma, But Not Vets

by Ann Jones

Tom Dispatch

A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, “Thank you for your service,” replied: “I didn’t serve, I was used.” That got me thinking about the many ways today’s veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home.

Near the end of his invaluable book cataloguing the long, slow disaster of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, historian Andrew Bacevich writes:

“Some individuals and institutions actually benefit from an armed conflict that drags on and on. Those benefits are immediate and tangible. They come in the form of profits, jobs, and campaign contributions.  For the military-industrial complex and its beneficiaries, perpetual war is not necessarily bad news.”

Bacevich is certainly right about war profiteers, but I believe we haven’t yet fully wrapped our minds around what that truly means. This is what we have yet to take in: today, the U.S. is the most unequal country in the developed world, and the wealth of the plutocrats on top is now so great that, when they invest it in politics, it’s likely that no elected government can stop them or the lucrative wars and “free markets” they exploit.

Among the prime movers in our corporatized politics are undoubtedly the two billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their cozy network of secret donors.  It’s hard to grasp how rich they really are: they rank fifth (David) and sixth (Charles) on Business Insider’s list of the 50 richest people in the world, but if you pool their wealth they become by far the single richest “individual” on the planet. And they have pals. For decades now they’ve hosted top-secret gatherings of their richest collaborators that sometimes also feature dignitaries like Clarence Thomas or the late Antonin Scalia, two of the Supreme Court Justices who gave them the Citizens United decision, suffocating American democracy in plutocratic dollars.  That select donor group had reportedly planned to spend at least $889 million on this year’s elections and related political projects, but recent reports note a scaling back and redirection of resources.

While the contest between Trump and Clinton fills the media, the big money is evidently going to be aimed at selected states and municipalities to aid right-wing governors, Senate candidates, congressional representatives, and in some cities, ominously enough, school board candidates. The Koch brothers need not openly support the embarrassing Trump, for they’ve already proved that, by controlling Congress, they can significantly control the president, as they have already done in the Obama era.

Yet for all their influence, the Koch name means nothing, pollsters report, to more than half of the U.S. population. In fact, the brothers Koch largely stayed under the radar until recent years when their roles as polluters, campaigners against the environment, and funders of a new politics came into view. Thanks to Robert Greenwald’s film Koch Brothers Exposed and Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, we now know a lot more about them, but not enough.

They’ve always been ready to profit off America’s wars. Despite their extreme neo-libertarian goal of demonizing and demolishing government, they reportedly didn’t hesitate to pocket about $170 million as contractors for George W. Bush’s wars.  They sold fuel (oil is their principal business) to the Defense Department, and after they bought Georgia Pacific, maker of paper products, they supplied that military essential: toilet paper.

But that was small potatoes compared to what happened when soldiers came home from the wars and fell victim to the profiteering of corporate America. Dig in to the scams exploiting veterans, and once again you’ll run into the Koch brothers.

Pain Relief: With Thanks from Big Pharma

It’s no secret that the VA wasn’t ready for the endless, explosive post-9/11 wars.  Its hospitals were already full of old vets from earlier wars when suddenly there arrived young men and women with wounds, both physical and mental, the doctors had never seen before.  The VA enlarged its hospitals, recruited new staff, and tried to catch up, but it’s been running behind ever since.

It’s no wonder veterans’ organizations keep after it (as well they should), demanding more funding and better service. But they have to be careful what they focus on. If they leave it at that and overlook what’s really going on — often in plain sight, however disguised in patriotic verbiage — they can wind up being marched down a road they didn’t choose that leads to a place they don’t want to be.

Even before the post-9/11 vets came home, a phalanx of drug-making corporations led by Purdue Pharma had already gone to work on the VA.  These Big Pharma corporations (many of which buy equipment from Koch Membrane Systems) had developed new pain medications — opioid narcotics like OxyContin (Purdue), Vicodin, Percocet, Opana (Endo Pharmaceuticals), Duragesic, and Nucynta (Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) — and they spotted a prospective marketplace.  Early in 2001, Purdue developed a plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting the VA.  By the end of that year, this country was at war, and Big Pharma was looking at a gold mine.

They recruited doctors, set them up in private “Pain Foundations,” and paid them handsomely to give lectures and interviews, write studies and textbooks, teach classes in medical schools, and testify before Congress on the importance of providing our veterans with powerful painkillers.  In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration considered restricting the use of opioids, fearing they might be addictive. They were talked out of it by experts like Dr. Rollin Gallagher of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and board member of the American Pain Foundation, both largely funded by the drug companies. He spoke against restricting OxyContin.

By 2008, congressional legislation had been written — the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Act — directing the VA to develop a plan to evaluate all patients for pain. When the VA objected to Congress dictating its medical procedures, Big Pharma launched a “Freedom from Pain” media blitz, enlisting veterans’ organizations to campaign for the bill and get it passed.

Those painkillers were also dispatched to the war zones where our troops were physically breaking down under the weight of the equipment they carried. By 2010, a third of the Army’s soldiers were on prescription medications — and nearly half of them, 76,500, were on prescription opioids — which proved to be highly addictive, despite the assurance of experts like Rollin Gallagher. In 2007, for instance, “The American Veterans and Service Members Survival Guide,” distributed by the American Pain Foundation and edited by Gallagher, offered this assurance: “[W]hen used for medical purposes and under the guidance of a skilled health-care provider, the risk of addiction from opioid pain medication is very low.”

By that time, here at home, soldiers and vets were dying at astonishing rates from accidental or deliberate overdoses. Civilian doctors as well had been persuaded to overprescribe these drugs, so that by 2011 the CDC announced a national epidemic, affecting more than 12 million Americans.  In May 2012, the Senate Finance Committee finally initiated an investigation into the perhaps “improper relation” between Big Pharma and the pain foundations. That investigation is still “ongoing,” which means that no information about it can yet be revealed to the public.

Meanwhile, opioid addicts, both veterans and civilians, were discovering that heroin was a cheaper and no less effective way to go.  Because heroin is often cut with Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid, however, drug deaths rose dramatically.

This epidemic of death is in the news almost every day now as hard-hit cities and states sue the drug makers, but rarely is it traced to its launching pad: the Big Pharma conspiracy to make big bucks off our country’s wounded soldiers.

It took the VA far too long to extricate itself from medical policies marketed by Big Pharma and, in effect, prescribed by Congress. It had made the mistake of turning to the Pharma-funded pain foundations in 2004 to select its Deputy National Program Director of Pain Management: the ubiquitous Dr. Gallagher. But when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency finally laid down new restrictive rules on opioids in 2014, the VA had to comply. That’s been hard on the thousands of opioid-dependent vets it had unwittingly hooked, and it’s becoming harder as Republicans in Congress move to privatize the VA and send vets out with vouchers to find their own health care.

Cute Cards Courtesy of the Koch Brothers

To force the VA to use its drugs, Big Pharma set up dummy foundations and turned to existing veterans’ organizations for support. These days, however, the Big Money people have found a more efficient way to make their weight felt.  Now, when they need the political clout of a veterans’ organization, they help finance one of their own.

Consider Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). The group’s stated mission: “to preserve the freedom and prosperity we and our families fought and sacrificed to defend.”  What patriotic American wouldn’t want to get behind that?

The problem that concerns the group right now is the “divide” between civilians and soldiers, which exists, its leaders claim, because responsibility for veterans has been “pushed to the highest levels of government.” That has left veterans isolated from their own communities, which should be taking care of them.

Concerned Veterans for America proposes (though not quite in so many words) to close that gap by sacking the VA and giving vets the “freedom” to find their own health care. The 102-page proposal of CVA’s Task Force on “Fixing Veterans’ Health Care” would let VA hospitals treat veterans with “service-connected health needs” — let them, that is, sweat the hard stuff — while transforming most VA Health Care facilities into an “independent, non-profit corporation” to be “preserved,” if possible, in competition “with private providers.”

All other vets would have the “option to seek private health coverage,” using funds the VA might have spent on their care, had they chosen it. (How that would be calculated remains one of many mysteries.) The venerable VA operates America’s largest health care system, with 168 VA Medical Centers and 1,053 outpatient clinics, providing care to more than 8.9 million vets each year. Yet under this plan that lame, undernourished but extraordinary and, in a great many ways, remarkably successful version of single-payer lifelong socialized medicine for vets would be a goner, perhaps surviving only in bifurcated form: as an intensive care unit and an insurance office dispensing funds to free and choosy vets.

Such plans should have marked Concerned Veterans for America as a Koch brothers’ creation even before its front man gave the game away and lost his job. Like those pain foundation doctors who became self-anointed opioid experts, veteran Pete Hegseth had made himself an expert on veterans’ affairs, running Concerned Veterans for America and doubling as a talking head on Fox News.  The secretive veterans’ organization now carries on without him, still working to capture — or perhaps buy — the hearts and minds of Congress.

And here’s the scary part: they may succeed.  Remember that every U.S. administration, from the Continental Congress on, has regarded the care of veterans as a sacred trust of government. The notion of privatizing veterans’ care — by giving each veteran a voucher, like some underprivileged schoolboy — was first suggested only eight years ago by Arizona Senator John McCain, America’s most famous veteran-cum-politician. Most veterans’ organizations opposed the idea, citing McCain’s long record of voting against funding the VA.  Four years ago, Mitt Romney touted the same idea and got the same response.

That’s about the time that the Koch brothers, and their donor network, changed their strategy. They had invested an estimated $400 million in the 2012 elections and lost the presidency (though not Congress).  So they turned their attention to the states and localities.  Somewhere along the way, they quietly promoted Concerned Veterans for America and who knows what other similar organizations and think tanks to peddle their cutthroat capitalist ideology and enshrine it in the law of the land.

Then, in 2014, President Obama signed into law the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. That bill singled out certain veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or had to wait 30 days for an appointment and gave them a “choice card,” entitling them to see a private doctor of their own choosing.  Though John McCain had originally designed the bill, it was by then a bipartisan effort, officially introduced by the Democratic senator who chaired the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Bernie Sanders.

Sanders said that, while it was not the bill he would have written, he thought it was a step toward cutting wait times. With his sponsorship, the bill passed by a 93-3 vote. And so an idea unthinkable only two years earlier — the partial privatization of veteran’s health care — became law.

How could that have happened?  At the VA, there was certainly need for improvement.  Its health care system had been consistently underfunded and wait times for appointments were notoriously long.  Then, early in 2014, personnel at the Phoenix VA in McCain’s home state of Arizona were caught falsifying records to hide the wait-time problem.  When that scandal hit the news, Concerned Veterans for America was quick to exploit the situation and lead a mass protest.  Three weeks later, as heads rolled at the VA, Senator McCain called a town hall meeting to announce his new bill, with its “hallmark Choice Card.” His website notes that it “received praise… from veterans’ advocacy organizations such as Concerned Veterans for America.”

That bill also called for a “commission on care” to explore the possibilities of “transforming” veterans’ health care.  Most vets still haven’t heard of this commission and its charge to change their lives, but many of those who did learn of it were worried by the terminology.  After all, many vets already had a choice through Medicare or private insurance, and most chose the vet-centered treatment of the VA. They complained only that it took too long to get an appointment. They wanted more VA care, not less — and they wanted it faster.

In any case, those choice cards already handed out have reportedly only slowed down the process of getting treatment, while the freedom to search for a private doctor has turned out to be anything but popular.  Nevertheless, the commission on care — 15 people chosen by President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate — worked for 10 months to produce a laundry list of “fixes” for the VA and one controversial recommendation. They called for the VA “across the United States” to establish “high-performing, integrated community health care networks, to be known as the VHA Care System.”

In other words, instead of funding added staff and speeded-up service, the commission recommended the creation of an entirely new, more expensive, and untried system. Then there was the fine print: as in the plan of Concerned Veterans of America, there would be tightened qualifications, out-of-pocket costs, and exclusions.  In other words, the commission was proposing a fragmented, complicated, and iffy system, funded in part on the backs of veterans, and “transformative” in ways ominously different from anything vets had been promised in the past.

Commissioner Michael Blecker, executive director of the San Francisco-based veterans’ service organization Swords to Plowshares, refused to sign off on the report.  Although he approved of the VA fixes, he saw in that recommendation for “community networks” the privatizer’s big boot in the door.  Yet while Blecker thought the recommendation would serve the private sector and not the vet, another non-signer took the opposite view. Darin Selnick, senior veterans’ affairs advisor for Concerned Veterans for America and executive director of CVA’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, complained that the commission had focused too much on “fixing the existing VA” rather than “boldly transforming” veterans’ health care into a menu of “multiple private-sector choice options.”  The lines were clearly drawn.

Then, last April, Senator McCain made an end run around the commission, a dash that could only thrill the leaders of Concerned Veterans for America and their backers. Noting that his choice card legislation was due to expire, McCain, together with seven other Republican senators (including Ted Cruz), introduced new legislation: the Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016.  It’s a bill designed to “enhance choice and flexibility in veterans’ health care” by making the problematic choice card “permanently and universally” available to all disabled and other unspecified veterans.  You can see where the notion came from and where it’s going. By May 2016, when Fox News featured a joint statement by Senator McCain and Pete Hegseth, late of Concerned Veterans for America, trumpeting the VA Choice Card Program as “the most significant VA reform in decades,” you could also see where this might end.

As real veterans’ organizations wise up to what’s going on, they will undoubtedly stand against the false “freedom” of a Koch brothers-style “transformation” of the VA system. The rest of us should stand with them. The plutocrats who corrupted veterans’ health care and now want to shut it down, and the plutocrats who profit from this country’s endless wars are one and the same. And they have bigger plans for us all.

911 through Russian Intelligence Eyes

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Excerpt and translation of Russian document AZ 1287-801 U concerning some aspects of the 911 attack.

“About three weeks prior to the actual attack, the special code words were developed by Atta. In that case, the Pentagon was called  ‘The Faculty of  Fine Arts’, the Capitol was termed ‘The Facility of Law;’ and the Trade Building tower was termed, as ‘The Faculty of Town Planning.’  This, of course was part of the cover story that Atta and his people were students, following an educational career in America and used these for international telephone calls to their superiors in Saudi Arabia.

As soon as the date was fixed for the attack, and this information was passed by the Mossad agents in Florida working inside the Atta group to American intelligence, the alerted White House warned very senior American officials like the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense and his staff, not to fly on commercial aircraft because of “rumors of possible hijackings” . No one outside of a very small circle was told the truth. And because of the possibility that the White House might still be a target of opportunity, the President went in early October, well before the projected attack date, to Texas and then later went to Florida where he and his staff remained in safety until after the attack was over.

July 26, 2001: Attorney General Ashcroft stops flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment but “neither the FBI nor the Justice Department … would identify [to CBS] what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.”. [Source: CBS, 7/26/01]  He later walks out of his office rather than answer questions about this. [Source: Associated Press, 5/16/02]

August 4-30, 2001: President Bush spends most of August 2001 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, nearly setting a record for the longest presidential vacation. While it is billed a “working vacation,” ABC reports Bush is doing “nothing much” aside from his regular daily intelligence briefings. [ABC 8/3/01; Washington Post 8/7/01; Salon 8/29/01] One such unusually long briefing at the start of his trip is a warning that bin Laden is planning to attack in the US, but Bush spends the rest of that day fishing (see August 6, 2001). By the end of his trip, Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route. [Washington Post 8/7/01] At the time, a poll shows that 55 percent of Americans say Bush is taking too much time off. [USA Today, 8/7/01] Vice President Cheney also spends the entire month in a remote location in Wyoming. [Jackson Hole News and Guide 8/15/01]

September 6-7, 2001: 4,744 put options (a speculation that the stock will go down) are purchased on United Air Lines stock as opposed to only 396 call options (speculation that the stock will go up). This is a dramatic and abnormal increase in sales of put options. Many of the UAL puts are purchased through Deutschebank/AB Brown, a firm managed until 1998 by the current Executive Director of the CIA, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard. [New York Times; Wall Street Journal]

September 10, 2001: 4,516 put options are purchased on American Airlines as compared to 748 call options. [New York Times; Wall Street Journal.]

September 6-11, 2001: No other airlines show any similar trading patterns to those experienced by UAL and American. The put option purchases on both airlines were 600% above normal. This at a time when Reuters (September 10) issues a business report stating “airline stocks may be poised to take off.”

September 6-10, 2001: Highly abnormal levels of put options are purchased in Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, AXA Re (insurance) which owns 25% of American Airlines, and Munich Re. All of these companies are directly impacted by the September 11 attacks.

On September 10, 2001, the NSA intercepted two messages in Arabic. One message read:

“Tomorrow is zero hour” and the second “The match begins tomorrow.” [Source: New York Times, August 10, 2002] On June 19, 2002, CNN reported the contents of these two National Security Agency intercepts. Other news outlets, including The Washington Post, also reported on the intercepts.  [Source: New York Times, August 10, 2002]

September 10, 2001: Bush flew to Florida from Texas to visit with his brother Governor Jeb Bush. Attorney General Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the bureau’s counter-terrorism programs. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs, but none of them relate to counter-terrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities—none of them relating to counter-terrorism. This is more than a little strange, since Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to terrorist threats (see July 26, 2001) and he told a Senate committee in May that counter-terrorism was his “highest priority.” [New York Times, 6/1/02, Guardian, 5/21/02]

Final Observations

The final attack varied very little from the last planning stage. One of the hijacked planes, the one intended to hit the Capitol building, was crashed by action of its passengers but the other three struck their targets as anticipated. The flames, smoke and general confusion were indeed a public spectacle, seen by all of America and the buildings, beams severed when the heat reached a certain point, did collapse in great clouds. A third building was tended to from the inside, not struck by an aircraft, and because great tanks of fuel were ignited, burned until it collapsed some time later.

The carnage was not to believe and everyone involved in this felt is was a most profitable operation. As we know, and was intended, the President was acclaimed as a great leader and he was then able to marshal national support into his attack on Iraq. The failure of the commandeered aircraft to strike Congress precluded the enactment by the President of an enabling act but there was sufficient damage for him to establish more civil observations and ultimate control. e military campaign, as foreseen, has proven to be quick and decisive, Hussein and his henchmen were swept away and now the American military and civilian forces are in complete control of Iraq and its extensive untapped oil fields.. Iran has been put on notice and we expect a large, permanent American military base in the area to act as a deterrent to any future manifestation of Arab nationalism. All of our technicians, as opposed to our intelligence people, were immediately evacuated and aside from several who were temporarily detained by American authorities, eventually all were released and returned safe home.

Now, the Americans have moved from a defensive to an offensive posture and, with American support and a large military presence, the ever-present fears of attacks against Israel have been neutralized, hopefully for a very long time.

China gears up for missile warfare with US

August 24, 2016

by Bill Gertz


China’s military is developing offensive and now defensive missiles in preparation for a future missile-dominated conflict with the United States.

Beijing’s arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles has been growing steadily for decades as new systems were fielded in an array of ranges – short, medium and intercontinental. Several long-range cruise missiles, capable of carrying nuclear or conventional payloads also are deployed.

And one of China’s most secret missile programs is a revolutionary hypersonic strike vehicle that skims the upper atmosphere and can maneuver in a bid to defeat U.S. strategic defenses.

China for years has denounced U.S. missile defenses as destabilizing. But for the first time last month, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed the military is developing a new long-range anti-missile system.

Ministry spokesman Sr. Col. Yang Yujun, in what appeared to be part of a carefully choreographed disclosure, was asked at a briefing about Chinese state media publicizing a six-year-old flight test and intercept of a Chinese version of the U.S. ground-based, mid-course anti-missile defense system.

“To develop suitable capabilities of missile defense is necessary for China to maintain national security and improve defense capabilities,” Yang said July 28. “It is not targeting any other country or target nor is it jeopardizing the international strategic equilibrium.”

The comment contrasts sharply with official Chinese views of the pending deployment of the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.

Yang repeated the Chinese propaganda theme that Beijing is “deeply dissatisfied” and opposes the deployment of the defensive missile system, despite U.S. and South Korean assurances that THAAD system has no capabilities against nearby Chinese offensive missiles.

“We will pay close attention to relevant actions of the U.S. and the [South Korea] and will take necessary measures to maintain national strategic security as well as regional strategic equilibrium,” the ministry spokesman added.

Yang provided no details on what measures are being planned in response.

THAAD is one of the most effective ground-based U.S. missile defenses capable of knocking out a variety of medium- and short-range missiles. Its radar is said to be wide-ranging and capable of detecting missile launches hundreds of miles away.

When THAAD – also deployed on Guam — is combined with sea-based Aegis ship-based missile defenses that can be linked together through what the Pentagon calls cooperative engagement, the combination provides U.S. and allied nations in Asia with formidable defenses capable of protecting large areas against missile attack.

Chinese state-run media zeroed in on Yang’s comments on missile defense this week highlighting what it called China’s “spear and shield” of offensive and defensive missiles.

A report in China Military Online, affiliated with the official PLA Daily newspaper, said the recent disclosure of the video showing China’s first strategic missile defense test to intercept a target missile coincided with the propaganda campaign against THAAD deployment in South Korea.

“The problem is not whether the war will break out, but when,” the report stated. “Our task is to develop the ‘trump card’ weapon for China before the war.”

That has been kept secret in official accounts of Chinese missile defense efforts in the linkage between China’s missile defenses and its offensive anti-satellite missiles. Analysts say the two programs are closely intertwined.

In fact, China has used anti-missile tests as cover for offensive anti-satellite development. Frank Rose, the U.S. State Department’s assistant secretary for arms control, said a 2014 missile launch that Beijing claimed was an anti-missile test was in fact an ASAT shot.

“Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT [anti-satellite] test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” Rose said in a February 2015 speech.

On hypersonic missiles, the U.S. Strategic Command chief warned last week that Chinese and other states’ high-speed maneuvering missiles pose a major threat.

“Hyper-glide vehicle research and development are also challenging our planning calculus,” Stratcom commander Adm. Cecil Haney said during remarks at a missile conference in Alabama.

“The ability to find, fix and track and hold … these types of capabilities are becoming increasingly more difficult. Hyper-glide vehicle technology can complicate our sensing and our defensive approaches.”

For U.S. missile defenses, Haney said: “We have to think about it and look at it in different ways so that, again, we are maximizing sensing to be able to understand what exactly is it going at so we can then look at how do we take it out.”

The Pentagon is looking at ways to counter maneuvering hypersonic missiles, possibly with an extended range version of THAAD and with lasers that can knock out the missiles before they reach their cruising speed of more than 5 times the speed of sound.

China has conducted seven tests of its DF-ZF hypersonic strike vehicle that U.S. intelligence estimates will be used primarily to deliver nuclear weapons through missile defenses. A conventionally armed variant is also possible.

The growing development of missiles, anti-missiles and space weapons are indications that any future conflict is going to be extremely damaging to a world that has become increasingly dependent on its high technology.

‘Unprofessional’: Porn now featured on FBI-seized Megaupload site

August 27, 2016


FBI-owned Megaupload.org, the domain that feds seized from Kim Dotcom, is now serving something hotter than the movies it used to offer. It is now full of ads for porn and other 18+ entertainment.

Since a criminal investigation was launched against New Zealander Kim Dotcom, who is still wanted in the US, the FBI took control of some of the company’s assets as well as Megaupload’s former domain names, including Megastuff.co, Megaclicks.org, Megaworld.mobi, Megaupload.com, Megaupload.org, and Megavideo.com.

Until recently, they were all featuring the same thing – a banner that informed the visiting audience that the domains were seized as part of a criminal investigation.

However, this week TorrentFreak found out that that was no longer the case. Megaupload.org is currently hosting a site dedicated to soft porn advertisements, offering links to adult entertainment that includes “adult cam chat,”“sex dating” and “casual sex.”

TorrentFreak suggests it could be because the FBI forgot to renew an expired domain it used for their nameservers, Cirfu.net, and that someone else just “hijacked” it and linked it to Megaupload.com.

Last year, the FBI fell in the same trap, when web addresses it seized led people onto a malicious feed of ads, some of which contained malware.

The US authorities reportedly removed the nameservers altogether to fix the problem, but they failed to do that for all seized domains.

However, just recently, Cirfu.net expired again and, like a year ago, was picked up by a new outsider, who hooked it to Rook Media to “generate some cash from the FBI-controlled domains,” according to TorrentFreak.

It also appears that Megaupload.org still uses the old Cirfu.net nameservers, meaning that whoever is now using Cirfu.net has control over several of the seized domain names.

Other Megaupload-linked sites have also featured hosting ads, Ars Technica reported. Thus, Megaworld.mobi offers text ads related to the Philippines, while Megaclick.org hosts ads related to horses and ponies.

“Their handling of the Megaupload domain is a reflection of the entire case: Unprofessional,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak.

An FBI-led investigation rendered charges of internet piracy and money laundering against Dotcom and three of his colleagues, who were all arrested on January 20, 2012.

So far, Dotcom has been able to successfully fight off extradition to the US as well as an attempt by US attorneys to revoke his bail, under which he has been at liberty since 2012.

Megaupload was founded in 2005. The site’s popularity quickly surged, leading to over 150 million registered users and 50 million daily visitors at its peak. Megaupload was even featured as one of the world’s top 13 most frequently visited websites.


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