TBR News August 27, 2020

Aug 27 2020

The Voice of the White House


Comments for August 27, 2020:  There exists in Washington, a newly-formed group called the ‘Unified Whistleblower’s League’ and which claims to be in possession of a number of important documents taken from official files. It has been reported that among these files are a list of hundreds of names and addresses of CIA assets in Germany including members of the German intelligence, banking, legal and government communities. There is also reported to be a thick file of the names and personal details of over 75,000 (!) FBI informants, mostly American but also foreigners.

Also there is an interesting Department of State report on the fact that President Franklin Roosevelt and his top advisor, Harry Hopkins, were paid assets of Josef Stalin. And more recently, a CIA report on the European (Italy) origins of the Covid19 pandemic and the political forces behind it. This is a most interesting piece of literature for certain. We are told that all of this material, plus more, will be posted and sold as e-books in the very near future. We will keep everyone advised when the publication date arrives. It should be noted that we are not involved with, neither are we selling these products!


The Table of Contents


  • Judge rules U.S. government’s lethal injections break law, halts execution
  • US unemployment claims climb past one million for second week in a row
  • Politics is weird right now, but Trump’s convention is another level of strange
  • Trump says he saved 51 million jobs in pandemic. Economists, U.S. officials say otherwise
  • Tucker Carlson Parrots Far-Right Defense of Pro-Trump Vigilante Who Killed Protesters
  • Modern spy satellites in an age of space wars
  • We are watching you!
  • The US Cannot Afford to Risk Another Endless War by Exerting Max Pressure on Iran
  • The Encyclopedia of American Loons


Judge rules U.S. government’s lethal injections break law, halts execution

August 27, 2020

by Jonathan Allen and Peter Szekely


(Reuters) – A U.S. District Court judge in Washington ruled on Thursday that the Justice Department’s new lethal injection protocol violated drug safety laws and ordered a planned execution for Friday to be halted.

Since resuming federal executions after a 17-year hiatus in July, the Department of Justice has been injecting condemned inmates with lethal doses of pentobarbital, a highly regulated barbiturate. The department executed three murderers in July and a fourth on Thursday and had planned to execute Keith Nelson on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the department was breaking the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) by administering the pentobarbital without a medical practitioner’s prescription, agreeing with death row inmates who sued the government.

“Where the government argues that a lethal injection drug is legally and constitutionally permissible because it will ensure a ‘humane’ death, it cannot then disclaim a responsibility to comply with federal statutes enacted to ensure that the drugs operate humanely,” Chutkan wrote in a 13-page opinion.

Because pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell pentobarbital for use in executions, the Justice Department has said it is instead paying a pharmacist in secret to mix up small batches of the drug.

Chutkan ruled that this also violated the FDCA, which forbids pharmacists from making copies of drugs already available on the market after having received safety approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Justice Department lawyers immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn Chutkan’s ruling.

That court has previously ruled that execution drugs are at least partly governed by drug safety laws. In 2013, it upheld an order, which continues to bind the FDA, that stopped imports of sodium thiopental that were headed to state execution chambers.

Prior to July, there had been only three federal executions since 1963, all between 2001 and 2003, all using sodium thiopental. As supplies of that drug vanished, Texas, Missouri and other states that use capital punishment switched to using pentobarbital, and the Justice Department announced last year it would follow suit.

Chutkan ruled that Nelson’s execution by lethal injection could proceed if the Justice Department avoided copying FDA-approved drugs and had a physician-issued prescription in the condemned prisoner’s name. The American Medical Association and other clinicians’ groups have said enabling an execution is against medical ethics.

The Justice Department has said it is necessary to promise secrecy to its pentobarbital suppliers. Soon after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the department spent two years building a small network of companies to make and test the drug, a Reuters investigation found.

Nelson, convicted of raping and murdering 10-year-old Pamela Butler in Kansas in 1999, is one of 16 inmates on federal death row who sued the Justice Department over its lethal injection protocol.

Chutkan issued orders blocking the inmates’ executions while the litigation continued, which were swiftly overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, and three of the plaintiffs have since been executed by the defendants.

Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Toby Chopra and Bernadette Baum


US unemployment claims climb past one million for second week in a row

New applications for unemployment have remained stubbornly high for months even as the number of coronavirus cases are declining

August 27, 2020

by Dominic Rushe

The Guardian

One million people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the US as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take a historic toll on the job market.

It was the second week in a row that claims passed the million mark after briefly dipping below that figure in early August.

New applications for unemployment have remained stubbornly high for months even as the number of coronavirus cases are declining. At about 1m claims a week they are five times as high as the average 200,000 weekly claims before the pandemic.

In the week ending 22 August just over 1m claims were filed, 98,000 fewer than the previous week.

While the US has gained jobs over the last three months, millions more still remain out of work and the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic is spreading. Initially the job losses fell most heavily on the service, leisure and hospitality industries as restaurants, bars and hotels closed down.

The impact of the recession is now spreading. This week American Airlines announced it would cut 19,000 jobs by 1 October and Delta said it furlough more than 1,900 pilots unless it can reach a cost-cutting deal with unions. United Airlines announced earlier this summer that it could cut 36,000 positions later this year.

“Though we are seeing a meaningful decline in new Covid-19 cases, the trends in economic indicators have not changed significantly. There continue to be signs that the recovery is slowing at best and at worst is reversing somewhat,” BofA Global Research said in an investors note. “We likely need to see daily Covid-19 cases decline much more significantly in order for gains in economic activity to accelerate meaningfully.”



Politics is weird right now, but Trump’s convention is another level of strange

Stripped of a baying crowd and with disconcerting backdrops, the gathering of the Republicans had a frighteningly odd air

August 27,2020

by Rosa Lyster

The Guardian

Two weeks ago, Mike Pence did something weird. Every day brings with it an opportunity to be freaked out by something new, so you have probably forgotten all about this by now, but what happened was the US vice president took to the podium at a Farmers and Ranchers for Trump rally in Iowa and started talking about meat in a loud, expressionless voice. “I’ve got some red meat for you,” he intoned. “WE’RE NOT GOING TO LET JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS CUT AMERICA’S MEAT,” he shouted, opening his mouth wide in that startling way of his, where the whole top of the face stays utterly immobile, eyes dead, and the lower jaw unhinges itself.

It was a noticeably strange scene, and I’m sure people would have been taken aback even if safety concerns due to the pandemic hadn’t meant Pence was addressing a vastly reduced crowd. Pence’s cadences and rhythms, his habit of looking around in belligerent appeal while rocking himself backwards and forwards using the lectern as a support – these methods are suited to large, appreciative audiences whose cheers go at least some way to masking the outlandishness of what is being said. The way it usually goes with these things is Mike Pence or whoever says something unintentionally hilarious about cutting America’s meat, and the roars of the crowd make it clear that he is telling his audience what they want to hear.

These speeches are meant to have a long afterlife, full of soundbites intended to be endlessly replayed on news shows. You’re meant to watch these clips and add “red meat” to the list of things that are apparently a huge deal in the upcoming American election. Look at all those people clapping and screaming away, you’re meant to think. None of them seem even slightly alarmed by this. But without the sorely needed buffer of an audience, however, a very different picture presents itself.

All this wild talk of America’s meat was instead met by nothing more than a few concerned boos and some scattered applause. Every Donald Trump campaign event is tinged with a frighteningly odd air, but it’s even weirder now. No colourful balloons descending from the ceiling, no cues in the form of cheering, no idea how any of this is being received by anyone else. Just a very strange, very powerful person, standing in front of a bank of flags, telling lies.

This issue goes a lot deeper than Pence and the farmers and ranchers, of course. Around the world and across the political spectrum, politicians are trying and failing to sound persuasive as they deliver speeches and give press conferences in front of small groups of people with at least 2 metres between them. It is always very hollow and unconvincing, so that you are forced to spend long hours contemplating the meaning of the phrase “political theatre”. They look so lost up there, rocking backwards and forwards on their lonely lecterns, trying their best to bring down the empty house.

Speeches streamed from living rooms or empty classrooms are not much better, as last week’s Democratic national convention made clear. Even someone as charismatic as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could not quite pull it off, looking more and more worried as she delivered a brief speech full of soundbites, still pausing at all the bits where a crowd would usually cheer. This is not to deride her efforts, or to suggest that someone else might have risen to the occasion, because there is not a politician alive capable of delivering a truly memorable speech over Zoom. The medium simply does not permit the possibility.

Watching the clips from the DNC, though, it was clear that the whole thing was undergirded by the attempt not to appear too strange. This attempt was not necessarily successful, but you could see they were trying hard. The general idea seemed to be that there was no point pretending that a conference held mainly over Zoom was an ideal situation, so best to at least tacitly acknowledge this fact. Best not to give any speeches in any large empty halls, screaming at no one, etc.

But no such brief made its way to the people in charge of the Republican convention this week. Again, there is a gauzy film of unreality hanging over every thing these people say or do, and that would have been the case had they been delivering their lines in a packed convention centre. They were not doing that, though. Instead what they did was stand in cavernous halls that looked computer-generated despite allegedly being real, and simply freestyled. Or bellowed out stuff about the best being yet to come while the camera cut to a shot that emphasised the emptiness of the room. Or talked about Trump’s victory in 2016 being “one of the great evenings” to the accompaniment of individual stressed-out cheers and moans of approval. Or stood outside what looked like an extremely shoddy 3D rendering of a log cabin, but was in fact a real building. Or were Donald Trump’s shiny adult children standing near Greek Revival columns, sweating under the lights as they told lies about their dad. Pausing expectantly, again and again, for applause that was not coming.

It turns out that the balloons and the crowds acted as an even more effective buffer than I would have guessed, in terms of lending even the thinnest veneer of credibility to these events. Without them, it is much easier to size up the situation for what it is and always has been: just unwarrantedly powerful person after unwarrantedly powerful person, standing in front of a bank of flags and lying.


Trump says he saved 51 million jobs in pandemic. Economists, U.S. officials say otherwise

August 27, 2020

by Lawrence Delevingne, Chris Prentice, Michelle Price and Jeff Mason


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Standing before half a dozen American flags during a press conference at his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, President Donald Trump heralded what has become a central plank of his argument for re-election in November: his administration’s handling of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the historic relief package that I signed into law, we saved over 50 million American jobs,” he said in the Aug. 15 remarks. Referring to his Democratic opponents, he said, “They don’t like these kind of numbers because they think it’ll hurt them in the election.”

The estimate that the $660 billion taxpayer-funded Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) saved some 51 million jobs has been trumpeted by the Republican Party, its Congressional leadership and the president’s reelection campaign. On Monday, Trump touted it again at a rally west of Charlotte, North Carolina, site of the Republican National Convention.

However, the PPP likely did not save 51 million jobs, or anywhere close to it, according to Reuters interviews with economists and an analysis of the program’s data. Half a dozen economists put the number of jobs saved by the initiative at only a fraction of 51 million – ranging between one million and 14 million.

“I don’t think there is an economist who would say that the program has saved 50 million jobs,” said Richard Prisinzano, who was a financial economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury for 13 years before leaving in 2017. His rough estimate, Prisinzano said, is between five and seven million jobs saved, based on his own adjustments to other researchers’ work at MIT and elsewhere.

Officials in Trump’s own administration give varying explanations for the 51 million figure. In interviews with Reuters, officials from the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration(SBA), which oversee the PPP program, said the 51 million refers to the total number of workers reported by businesses approved for a loan – not the number of jobs that were saved.

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow gave some support to that assessment in an interview with Reuters, saying he surmised the jobs figure was the sum of all jobs at businesses that received PPP loans.

“We saved a lot of jobs, there’s no question about that,” he said.

The PPP was part of some $3 trillion of bailout measures passed in the spring. At the time, there was little debate that funding was needed for small businesses as the economic blows from COVID-19 hit the United States.

Since then, congressional Democrats have challenged the data on the program, released by the administration in July. “We’ve seen some inaccuracies with the data in terms of how they calculate how many jobs were protected and saved,” said New Jersey Democratic representative Andy Kim in August, who sits on the Small Business Committee.

An economist with the conservative Heritage Foundation also questioned the figures. “This data does not tell us how many of those jobs may have existed without the PPP loans. Additionally, everyone involved has an incentive to use inflated estimates,” said Adam Michel, senior policy analyst for fiscal policy at the foundation.

Michel, who has not analyzed the data himself, cited the same research that former Treasury official Prisinzano did – a paper co-authored by economists at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, MIT and ADP Research Institute. That study concluded that about 2.3 million jobs had been saved through early June.

White House economic adviser Kudlow said the Treasury and SBA had access to the list of companies and bank loans, and they made the calculations.

“You had to put on the form how many employees you have when you’re applying for the loan,” he said. “My guess is they added them up.”


The uncertainty surrounding the 51 million figure was fueled by a discrepancy between the information the SBA asked lenders to gather from borrowers and the information it asked those same lenders to enter into its loan processing portal.

The SBA asked lenders only to gather each borrower’s number of employees, but when lenders subsequently processed the loan in the SBA portal, the agency also asked for the “number of jobs retained.” Lenders often put the number of employees into the portal’s “jobs retained” box, according to numerous people familiar with the process. Skewing the numbers in the other direction, some lenders left “jobs retained” blank or put in zero, the people said.

Both the SBA and Treasury made officials available to speak with Reuters about the PPP on condition that they not be named.

The senior Treasury official said the 51 million figure was not just a sum of the job totals at recipient companies; it was supported by economic modeling as well. However, he added, “we can’t with any kind of certainty say that all 51 million of those would have otherwise lost their job.”

Because the figure isn’t a count of jobs saved, the official added, “we’ve been careful to always use the word ‘jobs reported’ or ‘jobs supported’ by the program.”

The SBA official confirmed that, when borrowers filled out their applications, they supplied “just the number of employees. It wasn’t jobs retained.”

On Aug. 21, a week after Reuters interviewed the administration officials, the SBA appended a note to its monthly loan tallies, saying that to enhance accuracy the SBA would for now label data as jobs reported, not jobs retained.

Also on Aug. 21, the Small Business Administration reissued the full PPP dataset, fixing some of the problems that appeared when it was first made public in July. But the data still had holes. About 84,850 loans for amounts at $150,000 or above, had a zero in the jobs reported column, or the column was left blank. That problem applied to about 13% of loans at that amount.

The administration will have to wait until businesses apply for loan forgiveness to get a solid estimate of how many jobs were saved, economists and officials said.


Nailing down the numbers with the Trump campaign also remains difficult. Pressed for details on the 51 million figure Tuesday, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in an email that “the PPP protected American companies which collectively employ 51 million Americans.”

That’s different from what the campaign claimed the day before on Twitter (here) , when it posted a note saying, “President Trump’s Paycheck Protection Program saved 51 MILLION jobs.”

Lawrence Delevingne reported from Boston; Chris Prentice, Michelle Price and Jeff Mason from Washington, D.C. Contributing were Koh Gui Qing from New York and Pete Schroeder from Washington, D.C. Editing by Tom Lasseter Julie Marquis


Tucker Carlson Parrots Far-Right Defense of Pro-Trump Vigilante Who Killed Protesters

The Fox News host said Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two men during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, “had to maintain order.”

August 27, 2020

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Tucker Carlson set off a firestorm of criticism on Wednesday by describing a 17-year-old Trump supporter who opened fire on protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday, killing two, as a well-meaning kid who decided he “had to maintain order” in the Democrat-run state because “no one else would.” But the Fox News host was just surfacing an idea that had already spread widely on the far-right.

“The chaos that began with the first George Floyd protests on Memorial Day has reached its inevitable and bloody conclusion,” Carlson told viewers tuning in for his buildup to the Republican National Convention. “Last night, three people were shot on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two of them have died. Police say they’ve charged a 17-year-old with murder,” Carlson reported, without revealing that the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, was not the anti-fascist radical his viewers might have been led to expect, but a conservative vigilante who had attended a Trump rally in January and written “BLUE LIVES MATTER” and “Trump 2020″ on his TikTok bio.

In Carlson’s telling, the moral of the story was not that Rittenhouse — who was photographed and caught on video from multiple angles shooting three men — had provoked trouble by responding to a militia group’s Facebook call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend” the city from “evil thugs,” but that he was something closer to a victim, prodded to fill a vacuum by the misrule of the city’s Democratic mayor, John Antaramian, and the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it,” Carlson told Fox viewers unaware that the city had not, in fact, collapsed into chaos just because they were being shown isolated scenes of violence on a loop.

“People in charge, from the governor of Wisconsin on down, refused to enforce the law. They stood back and they watched Kenosha burn,” Carlson claimed, oblivious to the fact that video recorded by witnesses to Tuesday’s events showed Rittenhouse and other heavily armed young vigilantes had spent most of the night standing close to armored police vehicles outside a business they appointed themselves to guard.

At one point in a livestream broadcast that night, a police officer could be heard offering water to the militiamen, including Rittenhouse, and telling them: “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”

Later that night, after Rittenhouse wandered a short distance away and got into a confrontation with a man he shot in the head, video recorded by a pro-Trump YouTuber, Drew Hernandez, seemed to show Rittenhouse running back down the street in the direction of the police vehicles. As he retreated from the scene, the video appeared to catch Rittenhouse telling someone on his phone: “I just killed somebody.”

Video shot by another pro-Trump YouTuber, Brendan Gutenschwager, appeared to show Rittenhouse pursued by several protesters who suspected him of carrying out the first shooting. After he tripped and fell, just a block away from the police, two of those men attempted to disarm him, one by kicking him and another by hitting him with a skateboard.

Rittenhouse fired at both of them, apparently killing the skateboarder, Anthony Huber, with a shot to the chest as they struggled for the rifle, and then shooting a third protester, Gaige Grosskreutz, causing a gaping wound in his arm. Grosskreutz, a member of a social justice group who was wearing a hat with the word “paramedic” emblazoned on it, also appeared to be armed with a handgun.

In a remarkable scene at the end of Gutenschwager’s video, Rittenhouse can be seen walking with his hands up, apparently trying to surrender to the police officers he had been chatting with earlier in the evening, as a bystander shouts that he shot the protesters, but the officers drive right past him in the direction of the men he shot.

While all of this footage was available to Carlson before he went on air, later in his monologue he professes to have no idea what exactly had happened or whether — because the men who had attempted to disarm the vigilante after he had shot someone in the head could be seen kicking and hitting Rittenhouse — a jury might ultimately decide that he had acted in self-defense.

In this, Carlson was closely following a consensus explanation that had formed during the 24 hours after the shooting by pro-Trump YouTubers, bloggers, and commentators, who decided, after studying slow-motion imagery and still photographs, that the young man who had traveled to Kenosha from his home in neighboring Illinois to defend the city from residents enraged by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black father who was critically wounded by multiple gunshots fired into his back by a police officer, was merely acting in self-defense.

Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, suggested on Twitter that the slow-motion video convinced him that the killings were “100% justified self defense.” Hours before Carlson went to air, Gosar also blamed the violence on Kenosha’s local government. “Armed citizens defending themselves will fill the vacuum,” he wrote.

One of Rittenhouse’s defenders was Elijah Schaffer, a freelance producer for Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV and a pro-Trump political activist who released a misleading account of a fight involving Black Lives Matter protesters in Dallas in May. Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, Schaffer described the Turkish journalist Tayfun Coskun’s photograph of the protesters attempting to disarm the gunman as Rittenhouse “being attacked by #BLM rioters.”

“One of the attackers,” in Schaffer’s words, was “about to assault him with a skateboard.”

That “assault” by the skateboarder Anthony Huber ended with his failed effort to wrest the gun away from Rittenhouse and being fatally shot in the chest.

Schaffer also thought a 20-second interview he did with Rittenhouse before the shootings provided important “context” as to what took place later, since the vigilante did not say anything racist or political in that third of a minute.

Another conservative journalist who interviewed Rittenhouse earlier in the evening was Richie McGinniss, who directs video for the Daily Caller, the website founded by Carlson that was once used to smear Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

McGinniss appeared on Carlson’s show on Wednesday to discuss what happened in Kenosha and his own effort to save the life of the first man shot and killed by Rittenhouse, who was later identified as Joseph Rosenbaum.

What made Carlson’s interview with McGinniss odd, however, was that the Daily Caller videographer repeatedly referred to Rittenhouse as “the alleged shooter,” even though he was standing just six or seven feet away from Rosenbaum when he was shot and seemed to have been filming the confrontation at the time.

It is unclear if McGinniss has video of Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, but he told Carlson that he witnessed the crime at close range. Even so, Carlson failed to ask him directly if he could say for certain that Rittenhouse did shoot Rosenbaum in the head and cause his death. Instead, McGinniss offered what sounded like testimony to the gunman’s good character. “The 17-year-old who I interviewed earlier in the night, he actually mentioned that he was there to maintain peace, in the absence of police,” McGinniss said.

“It’s just hard to believe this is America,” Carlson said. “We can’t put up with this.”


Modern spy satellites in an age of space wars

Space is a battleground for dominance among major powers. About a fifth of all satellites belongs to the military and are used for spying. The US launches two more this year.

August 25, 2020

by Zulfikar Abbany


For a spy satellite, America’s NROL-44  is a massive, open secret — both in size and fact. We know that the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) plans to launch this new classified satellite, and we know its name. We also know that it’s part of a class of US spy satellites called Orion (also known as Mentor or Advanced Orion) that began operation in 1995. But its legacy stretches all the way back to America’s original CORONA spy satellites in the 1960s and 70s.

At the time of writing, NROL-44 was scheduled to launch on August 27 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 2:16 a.m. EDT (0616 UTC).

It’s one of a set of NRO missions this year, which includes NROL-151, a national security satellite launched in January, and NROL 101, which is yet to come.

NROL-44 is a huge signals intelligence, or SIGINT, satellite, says David Baker, a former NASA scientist who worked on Apollo and Shuttle missions, has written numerous books, including US Spy Satellites and is editor of SpaceFlight magazine.

“SIGINT satellites are the core of national government, military security satellites. They are massive things for which no private company has any purpose,” says Baker.

NROL-44 is “huge”

The US has launched seven Orion satellites so far. NROL-44 is one of the biggest.

“It weighs more than five tons. It has a huge parabolic antenna which unfolds to a diameter of more than 100 meters in space, and it will go into an equatorial plane of Earth at a distance of about 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles),” says Baker.

At that height, an area known as a geosynchronous orbit, NROL-44 will mingle with commercial telecommunications satellites, such as those used for TV broadcasts. Other surveillance satellites orbit at about 500 km from Earth, which is in the region of the International Space Station. Whereas in the very early days, spy satellites flew around the 120-130 km mark, which is barely in space at all.

Spy satellites “hoover up” of hundreds of thousands of cell phone calls or scour the dark web for terrorist activity.

“The move from wired communication to digital and wireless is a godsend to governments because you can’t cut into wires from a satellite, but you can literally pick up cell phone towers which are radiating this stuff into the atmosphere. It takes a massive antenna, but you’re able to sit over one spot and listen to all the communications traffic,” says Baker.

There are others listed as “military / civil” or “military / government,” which means, if you count them all together, there are between 339 and 485 military satellites in total. But not all of them need necessarily be spy satellites.

Russia is known to have 71 military satellites, and China 63.

Other countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, India, the UK, Turkey, Mexico, Columbia, Spain, Denmark, and Japan have less than 10 each. France and Germany have the most, with 9 and 7, respectively. That’s not including joint operations, where the satellites are run by more than one country.

Globally, there are between 2,500 and 2,800 active satellites, including those used for non-military purposes, such as Earth observation, or massive satellite internet constellations, like SpaceX’s Starlink. Military satellites account for about a fifth of all satellites.

A short history of satellite data transfer

In the early days of space surveillance, satellites used wet film.

The film had to be returned to Earth in a capsule, caught by a parachute system — an aircraft carrying a “catching bucket” — and taken to a laboratory to be developed.

It could take days, weeks, sometimes even months before people on the ground would get to see the pictures, says Pat Norris, a former NASA engineer who worked on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and author of Spies in the Sky.

Those early spy satellites tended to die after three or four weeks. And they were limited by the amount of film they could carry. Soon enough, they got dragged back down by the friction of Earth’s atmosphere, “but they had used up their film, so it didn’t matter,” says Norris.

It did mean, however, that the Americans and Soviets launched new spy satellites every two weeks. Now, satellites last for years, decades even.

By the late 1970s and early 80s, spy satellites had moved into digital photography. But the satellites were often still limited, or constrained, by the number of images they could store, and the number or frequency of opportunities that had for “downlinking” images back to Earth.

“The images are pretty big,” says Norris. “They’re about a gigabyte per ‘scene,’ and they take them 24 hours a day, so it does fill up. The Americans have got relay satellites in space, so they can get the imagery down as soon as it’s taken. To a lesser extent, Russia and China are constrained… So are the Europeans and Israelis, because without suitable relay satellites, they have to download the imagery as they come over a ‘friendly’ station.”

          A blurring of boundaries 

Since the early days, and the end of the Cold War, technology has advanced to such a degree that we are being watched — for good or for bad — almost constantly by military, commercial and non-governmental bodies. That includes satellites monitoring urban and rural development, agriculture, climate change, road traffic, or people smuggling.

Many of the companies doing the work are commercial or civilian. The NRO has started working with a commercial company called Rocket Lab, which launches from a site in New Zealand.

“Technically, the boundary has become very blurred and the best of the civilian satellites are taking pictures that would only have been available to military people less than 20 years ago,” says Norris.

And governments do profit from the many commercial, hi-resolution satellites out there.

“These companies are spilling out vast amounts of images and all you have to do is pick that stuff up. You’ve no need to hack in,” says Baker. “Governments buy up information via third-parties and often it’s companies selling products in good faith to other companies, whose sole purpose is to pass that data onto governments.”

But governments do still like to decide where their satellites look without having to ask anyone, or anyone else knowing, and a military satellite allows for that. It’s also less likely that your data will be compromised, whereas a commercial satellite might be more vulnerable.

Why space debris is “good for space defense”

The number of active satellites keeps growing. But there’s so much going in the world on that there still aren’t enough to cover everything, everywhere, says Baker.

So, we keep on launching satellites. As a result, some people worry about congestion in space, or satellites bumping into each other, and the threat of a collision causing space debris that could damage other satellites or knock out communications networks.

But that may have benefits, too — little bits of spy satellite can hide in all that mess and connect wirelessly to create a “virtual satellite,” says Baker. “There are sleeper satellites which look like debris. You launch all the parts separately and disperse them into various orbits. So, you would have sensors on one bit, an amplifier on another bit, a processor on another, and they’ll be orbiting relatively immersed in space debris.”

“Space debris is very good for the space defense industry,” says Baker, “because the more there is, the more you can hide in it.”

An arms race leading to conflict in space?

So, governments still like secrets, even open secrets.

The US, for instance, has made no secret of the NROL-44 launch. It’s made no secret of the fact that it intends to militarily defend its interests in space, especially in cislunar space, which is Earth, the moon and everything in between, using a newly formed Space Force. The question is how?

“Any country that’s able to launch satellites is also able to destroy them by launching an object that will slam into [a target]. And countries have demonstrated that — America, China and Russia have been rumored to be doing it,” says Norris. But he says that the very fact that there are so many satellites now — commercial and military — may prevent a government from starting a war like that, because there are simply too many satellites to knock out.

“But if countries put weapons in space, that could start an escalation,” warns Norris. “It would violate the Outer Space Treaty and once you’ve done that, who knows what could happen.”

We may already be seeing signs of an escalation. India was outraged when a Chinese satellite allegedly surveilled Ladakh, a disputed area between India, Pakistan and China. But then India also flew one over Tibet, another disputed area. India has openly shot one of its own satellites out of the sky — just to prove it can. And France says it’s investing in space lasers.

“Lasers and particle beam weapons — those were the dream ticket of President Reagan in the 1980s — you don’t need all that hi-tech, gee whizz stuff,” says Baker. “Kinetic kill devices or inspector devices, for coming up against other satellites and diagnosing them, all that is in force, and any objections and indignation is merely a cover for pretending that you’re not involved in that kind of activity when they all are.”

For Baker, it all comes down to the US Space Force.

“We are very much on the verge of potential combat in space, I believe. This was foretold by President Trump’s introduction of the US Space Force,” he says. “America has stated specifically that it will not allow any other nation to have a dominant influence in cislunar space, and that the Space Force will protect and preserve the Artemis Accords for getting back to the moon by 2024 against all hostile action. So as Europe gets signed up to the Artemis Accords, it’s a concern that going from Earth to the moon will now be a partnership with the US Space Force.”



We are watching you!


Millions of Americans, and other nationalities, are spied on daily and vast amounts of personal data acquired and stored.

The cover story is that this is designed to “locate and neutralize” Muslim terrorists, both inside and outside of the United States, but in fact, according to a U.S. Army document, the actual purposes of the mass surveillance is to build significant data bases on any person likely to present a domestic threat to established authority.

This fear has its roots in massive popular rejection of the Vietnam war with its attendant mass meetings, defiance of the government and the development of ad hoc student groups firmly, and often very vocally, opposed to the war.

There was a great deal of civic unrest on college campuses throughout the 1960s as students became increasingly involved in a number of social and political movements ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, and, of course, the Anti-War Movement. Over 30,000 people left the country and went to Canada, Sweden, and Mexico to avoid the draft.

The bureaucracy then found itself under siege and has stated subsequently that this must not happen again and that any kind of meaningful civil disobedience is to get negative mention in the media and members of such groups subject to arrest and detention.

The Obama administration punished any government whistle-blower with such severity as to discourage others from revealing negative official information.

FEMA has a network of so-called “detention camps” throughout the United States, most only sites, to be used in the event of noteworthy civil disturbance.

The current programs of mass surveillance are known and approved at the highest levels in the government, to include the President, Government, faux government, and government-subsidized private organizations.

The high technology consists of such subjects as surveillance cameras in public places, drones, satellites, interceptions of telephone, computer and mail communications.

There are as of this instance, no less than five million names on the official government Terrorist Identites Datamart Environment list and nearly sixty thousand names on the TSA no-fly list.

Nearly five thousand died domestically in the 9/11 attacks and only thirty-seven subsequently but the death toll outside the United States, due to Muslim radical actions has exceeded over ten thousand with a death toll of ninety eight thousand in the Syrian civil war and an estimated one million in the sectarian wars in Iraq following the American invasion and occupation

This vast program of politically-motivated illegal domestic surveillance, ordered by Bush, is only part of an ambitious program brought forward in the first year of the Bush administration by Karl Rove. Rove is the architect of the ‘GOP Rules’ program, the basic premise of which was to secure a permanent control, by the Republican Party, of both branches of Congress, the White House and the leadership of all the agencies of control such as the CIA, later the DHS, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and, most important, the U.S. Army.

Rove, an accomplished student of history, had carefully studied the circumstances that permitted Adolf Hitler to rise to power in 1933. His was not a solid electoral victory but he was only a participant in a coalition government. What brought him to the beginning of absolute power was the Reichstag fire. It was long preached that this incendiary act was the result of Goering’s activities to facilitate an atmosphere of public panic but Fritz Tobias has effectively demolished this shibboleth and in fact, the fire was set by a lunatic young Dutch communist without any assistance from either the Nazis or the Communists.

Nevertheless, in its wake, the fire did create such an atmosphere of national fear that Hitler was able to tighten his control over the legislators and push through the Enabling Act that gave him the power to establish the control he badly needed. And a year later, the old Prussian Secret State Police, the Gestapo, was put into the hands of Heinrich Mueller who eventually set up a national card index with information on every German citizen.

Given the weak origins of Bush’s presidency, Rove contemplated his own Reichstag Fire and when the Israeli Mossad reported to the top Bush administration officials that they had penetrated a group of Saudi terrorists working in Hollywood, Florida and that this group was planning an aerial attack on important American business and government targets, Rove had found his Reichstag Fire.

Bush was informed by the Israeli government at every stage of the pending attack but advised the Israelis that he did not want to interfere with it “until the last possible moment so as to be able to arrest the entire group.”

As the plot progressed and Washington learned that the major targets would be the World Trade Centers in New York, and the Pentagon and the Capitol building in Washington, someone high up in the administration, currently unknown, wanted the Israelis to convince the Saudis to attack the side of the Pentagon that was currently unoccupied due to reconstruction. There was no point, the plotters decided, to kill the useful Secretary of Defense who was a member of their team.

The attack on the Capitol would, they reasoned, fall when Congress was in session ( In 2001, the first session of the 107th Congress was from January 3, 2001  through December 20, 2001 and the House and Senate planned to begin their 10 day Thanksgiving recess, between November 17 and November 27 of that year) and this meant that if a large commercial aircraft, loaded with aviation fuel, slammed at high speed  into either wing of the immense building while Congress was in session, it could reasonably be expected that a significant number of Federal legislators would be killed or incapacitated.

This, coupled with the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC, would give the Bush people the very acceptable excuse for the President to step up, (after he returned from a safe and distant vacation,) and assume ‘special powers” to “protect this nation from new attacks” until Congress could be “satisfactorily reformed” via somewhat distant “special elections” to fill the vacancies created by the Saudi attackers.

Then, it would be quite acceptable, and even demanded, that the Army would establish “law and order” in the country and that other agencies would step forward to “guard this nation against” possible “ongoing terrorist attacks.” ‘Speak not of the morrow for thou knowest not what it might bring forth’ is a Biblical admonition that apparently Bush, Rove and Cheney never considered.

The aircraft designated to slam into the Capitol building and immolate both sides of the aisle, crashed as the very fortunate result of its passenger’s actions and that part of the plan had to be shelved. But not so the formulation of the machinery designed solely to clamp down on any possible dissident voices in the country and ensure a very long term Republican political control.

The Saudi terrorist attacks went forward as planned, minus the one on the members of Congress and Bush indeed rose to the occasion and promised to protect the American public. A Department of Homeland Security was set up under the incompetent Governor Ridge but as for the rest of the plan for Republic permanence, it began to disintegrate bit by bit, due entirely to the gross incompetence of its leaders. The Bush-Rove-Cheney plan consisted, in the main, of the following:

  1. Federal control of all domestic media, the internet, all computerized records, through overview of all domestic fax, mail and telephone conversations,

2 .A national ID card, universal SS cards being mandatory,

  1. Seizure and forced deportation of all illegal aliens, including millions of Mexicans and Central Americans, intensive observation and penetration of Asian groups, especially Indonesian and Chinese,
  2. A reinstitution of a universal draft (mandatory service at 18 years for all male American youths…based on the German Arbeitsdienst.
  3. Closer coordination of administration views and domestic policies with various approved and régime supportive religious groups,
  4. An enlargement of the planned “no travel” lists drawn up in the Justice Department that would prevents “subversive” elemetst from flying, (this list to include “peaceniks” and most categories of Muslims)
  5. The automatic death penalty for any proven acts of sedition,
  6. The forbidding of abortion, any use of medical marijuana,
  7. Any public approval of homosexual or lesbian behavior to include magazines, websites, political action groups and soon to be forbidden and punishable.

As the popularity of drones for domestic surveillance grows in the United States, so do privacy concerns for citizens just going about their daily business. Designer Adam Harvey has come up with a line of anti-drone clothing that is much more stylish than an aluminum foil hat.

The anti-drone clothes include a hoodie, a scarf, and a burqa. They are made with a metalized fabric designed to thwart thermal imaging. They work by reflecting heat and masking the person underneath from the thermal eye of a drone. The designs may hide you from certain drone activities, but they would definitely make you noticeable to people out on the street.

The scarf and burqa are both inspired by traditional Muslim clothing designs. Harvey explains the choice, saying, “Conceptually, these garments align themselves with the rationale behind the traditional hijab and burqa: to act as ‘the veil which separates man or the world from God,’ replacing God with drone.”

The anti-drone garments are part of a larger line of clothing called Stealth Wear. These are called  “New Designs for Countersurveillance.” The manufacturer states: “Collectively, Stealth Wear is a vision for fashion that addresses the rise of surveillance, the power of those who surveil, and the growing need to exert control over what we are slowly losing, our privacy.”

If drones get to be more commonplace in our communities, it’s not too much of a stretch to see this sort of fashion becoming more mainstream, much like RFID-blocking wallets and passport holders.


The US Cannot Afford to Risk Another Endless War by Exerting Max Pressure on Iran

August 25, 2020

by Daniel L. Davis


In a series of entirely predictable moves, after the UN Security Council (UNSC) rejected Washington’s proposed resolution to extend a conventional arms ban on Iran, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would soon unilaterally extend the sanctions anyway. These unnecessary actions decrease America’s diplomatic leverage, increase the risk of war in the Middle East, and continue to degrade our influence even among our staunchest allies.

The so-called strategy of maximum pressure against Tehran has been–and continues to be–an abject diplomatic failure for our country. It should be abandoned without delay and replaced with a new policy based on a sober analysis of the realities in the region.

The subject of the UNSC’s rejection relates to a provision in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, which imposed a five-year ban on conventional weapons sales to Iran. That prohibition automatically expires on October 18th, 2020.

Unsurprisingly, Russia and China voted against the United States’ request to extend the ban. What was very much noteworthy, however, was the silence of our allies Germany, France, and the U.K.; only the Dominican Republic voted with us.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the Security Council, saying its “failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable.” One of the key problems for American diplomacy, however, is that few outside of Washington really believe Iran poses a serious threat to global peace and security. For our European allies, preserving the Iran nuclear deal is a far higher priority than increasing the risk of a military confrontation.

The reality is that Iran, at best, is a middling power with an aging military checked by other regional powers and does not have the capacity to pose a significant military threat to America. The entire defense budget of Iran (about $12.7 billion) is about the same as one American aircraft carrier. Further, Iran is more than balanced out by its neighbors: Israel, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all spend more on defense than Iran.

“Maximum pressure,” as currently practiced by the United States against Iran, is a self-defeating mentality that has decisively proven to be an abject failure. Its architects claimed it would bring Tehran to heel, that the pressure would force the ruling mullahs into permanently giving up their nuclear program, and that Washington would end up with a better agreement than the Iran deal that the U.S. pulled out of two years ago. The reality has been almost the polar opposite.

For all the flaws the 2015 agreement contained — and there were many — it nevertheless imposed significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear programs, made them subject to intrusive international inspections, and by most independent measures effectively froze their program.

In 2018, however, the Trump Administration unilaterally withdrew from the deal and imposed a number of suffocating economic sanctions. Since that time, Tehran has become more belligerent, has dramatically increased the amount of nuclear materials it stockpiles, and has openly increased the development of its nuclear program.

On at least two occasions in the past 12 months, the U.S. and Iran have been a hair’s breadth away from stumbling into a war. The longer we blithely continue ignoring our allies and pressing on with maximum pressure, the risk of unnecessary war will continue to rise.

The strategy with the greatest chance of successfully preserving American security — and the least chance of stumbling into an unnecessary war — would be to withdraw our combat troops from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan while strengthening our global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity (coupled with an ability to strike all direct threats to America before they metastasize).

The reality is that none of the American combat troops on the ground in those three countries helps bolster American security. Yet their proximity to Iran (and other nefarious state and nonstate actors in the region) places them in nonstop danger of being attacked. In retaliation to the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last January, Iran launched a barrage of missiles at a base in Iraq where American troops were stationed. Miraculously, no Americans were killed in the strike. Other U.S. troops, however, in all three locations continue to die, owing to hostile action. It is time to get our service members out and end the daily risk to their lives.

Continuing to employ maximum pressure is a losing proposition for the United States. It exerts pointless pressure on the Iranian regime, alienates our closest allies, and keeps our combat troops in perpetual danger. Risking another endless war is not in our interests.



The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Jock Doubleday

A standard ploy among denialists is to offer pseudo-challenges to scientists to prove that the scientific fact they deny is true or that their pseudoscientific delusions are false – where the protocol for testing or standards of proof are set by them, of course, to ensure that they will (with some exceptions) never be satisfied. Kent Hovind’s $250,000 challenge is probably the most famous, but Ray Comfort’s $10,000 prize to anyone who can present a “genuine living transitional form” has received its share of scorn as well (Comfort defines a transitional form as “a lizard that produced a bird, or a dog that produced kittens, or a sheep that produced a chicken, or even as Archaeopteryx–a dinosaur that produced a bird,” which is not what a transitional form is, making the challenge an impossible one). Deepak Chopra’s “explain consciousness” challenge is arguably even dumber.

Jock Doubleday, also known as the director or Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc. and the author of such intriguing works as ‘The Burning Time (Stories of the Modern-day Persecution of Midwives)’ and ‘Lolita Shrugged (THE MYTH OF AGE-SPECIFIC MATURITY )’ has, in the same vein, gained himself some ridicule for his offer of “$75,000.00 to the first medical doctor or pharmaceutical company CEO who publicly drinks a mixture of standard vaccine additives ingredients in the same amount as a six-year-old child is recommended to receive under the year-2005 guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (In the event that thimerosal has recently been removed from a particular vaccine, the thimerosal-containing version of that vaccine will be used.)” The mixture will be body weight calibrated. By 2006 Doubleday claimed that “14 doctors, or persons claiming to be doctors, have contacted me about publicly drinking the vaccine additives mixture. None have followed through.” And to ensure that no one actually follows through with the challenge, Doubleday has created a pretty substantial list of criteria to be satisfied: Any participant must go through a psychiatric evaluation, a history of any mental health based counseling, an email exam of 10 questions regarding vaccine theory and history, compulsory purchase and reading of at last five altmed anti-vaccine books, a 20 question written exam, a certificate of good health, and so on and so forth. In short: You’re not going to pass; just forget it. In fact, several doctors have approached Doubleday, but they have all been rejected by him because of various details with regard to their application or because Doubleday just rejected them – it is, after all, up to him to determine whether the challenger is eligible). Of course, the test itself has been passed with flying colors: In 1996 a German guy ingested a dose of at least 1500 times the maximum dose of thimerosal a 6-year old with a complete vaccine history would theoretically have received in one go (weight adjusted!). It seems to have been unpleasant, but the guy recovered completely and did not develop autism.

Doubleday is, of course, a hardcore anti-vaxx loon. Not only are vaccines dangerous, “vaccines have never been shown by science to prevent any disease (you’d need a long-term controlled study for that).” Yeah, it’s kind of precisely like claiming that no one has shown that falling to the ground from 9000 feet is harmful. And no, Doubleday doesn’t understand science, or how evidence is measured, at all. Not that it would matter; all the science in the world wouldn’t change Doubleday’s mind, since it is all a conspiracy. Writes Doubleday: “There is a dark force working to undermine all ecosystems on Earth. This force is a trans-century cult that calls itself the Illuminati – because its members believe that one day they will be ‘illuminated’ and become gods on Earth. Illuminati members have infiltrated all world politics and control all financial systems. They have engineered the present financial crisis and they are responsible for the events of 9/11 and for the majority of false-flag events in recent history. Through war and other means, they are responsible for the hyper-poisoning of the planet.” Why they would be deliberately trying to undermine “all ecosystems” is a bit unclear, but Morgoth and Ungoliant, Skynet, the Harkonnens and the aliens in the classic documentary “They Live” have all been up to stuff like that before.

Diagnosis: Mike Adams, Sherri Tenpenny and Ken Adachi all rolled into one, only dumber (well … less influential, at least). A joke, really.

 Phylameana Lila Desy

Woo tends to come dressed up in pseudoscience and technobabble and it is, honestly, perfectly easy to see how e.g. naturopathy can fool even ordinarily reasonable people with no particular expertise in health-related stuff. But if you fall for reiki, then your critical thinking skills are certainly not state-of-the-art. You are not a reasonable person, and very likely taken in with by a certain kind of racist pseudo-orientalism so popular with certain middleclass groups.

We have, of course, covered reiki before. We have even covered pet reiki before; but the idea is so abysmally ridiculous that we’ll mention it again. Phylameana Lila Desy has written about pet reiki in her article “What if My Dog Prefers Petting Over Reiki?”, where she takes up the perennial question of the perceived conflict between the fact that reiki usually involves waving your hands over the victim patient without touching whereas your dog may not fully understand why you’re doing that and prefer that you did something else, like petting. Her answer is (pretty much) that you can do whatever you want since the grand, connecting universal spirits can do whatever it wants anyways.

Desy is “certified in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki and the Science of Intuition [oooh, science] from the Holos Institutes of Health. She is an energy medicine practitioner, clairvoyant, intuitive counselor, flower essence consultant, and owner of Spiral Visions [think about that name for a second]. Her lifework includes writing, web-publishing, and healing work. Author of The Everything Guide to Reiki, (January 2012). Phylameana’s writing resume includes contributed content published in a variety of healing texts including: The Meditation Sourcebook, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, and Sacred Stones. Her Chakracises were referenced in an article published in Body and Soul Magazine”. Yes, but she has also written about e.g. ear candling (no, really) – in “Ear Candling: Why Would You Want to Candle Your Ears?” (you wouldn’t of course, but Desy strains herself to argue by appeal to gibberish to a different conclusion) – and Medicine Wheels; the latter is an “introspection tool” you can use to contact your totem – add in some crystals as well to make sure you get some extra energy, and if you put on some feathers you can almost call yourself a “true native American”. In fact, the top feature on Desy’s website concerns the Law of Attraction, no less, and she covers, with little sense of coherence, evidence or attention to detail virtually any kind of New Age woo between that one and crop circles (she refers to Ellie Crystal!), including crystal gems (“Whether or not you realize it, within each gemstone and crystal is housed healing properties. Ever wonder why you are attracted to a particular stone and not another? Nature finds a way to get the stones that carry the healing and spiritual properties that are most needed to us” and they do so (roughly) by vibrating at the frequencies of your life force).

But let’s return to reiki. Desy decidedly has her own spin on reiki. On About.com’s Holistic Healing page Desy’s article “Projecting Reiki Energies into Past and Future” argues asserts that “Reiki energies can be transmitted into the future as well as into the past.” How, you may wonder, do you send it into the past? “Sending Reiki backwards in time is also beneficial. Simply use your intent to send to a specific past event that was troublesome. Or, focus the energies on healing your inner child at the exact moment she was injured years previously. An easy way to do this is to hold an old photo between your palms while conducting absentia Reiki. Choose a photo that was taken of you as a child around the period of time you are wanting to heal. (Tip: Place the photo inside an envelope to protect your photo from sweaty palms).” I … well, at least I appreciate the tip; I do think I would have thought of that part myself, but I really have no idea how people who take Desy seriously may be thinking. “Targeting Reiki energies to be sent to the original hurt is also helpful in protecting John Connor healing any reactive influences that resulted from that time. For example, whenever offering healing to a hurtful event in the past you are also clearing away carried-over traumas felt present day.” Some reiki practitioners, such as James Deacon, are wary of time-travelling reiki to the past, however, since it may have unintended consequences.

It is a bit sobering to know that they are currently offering reiki at academic medical centers like the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Arizona Cancer Center, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Diagnosis: Yes, it is hard not to point and laugh at the sheer gibberish and fluffy nonsense of it all, but the truth is that people like Desy (if not Desy herself) have gained an uncanny level of traction and influence. Which is really, truly scary.
































































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