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TBR News August 29, 2019

Aug 29 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. August 29, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for August 29 “Britian’s duplicate Trump PM is, like his American counterpart, creating public havoc in England but in the end, the British will force him out of office as Prime Minister. And if his departure doesn’t frighten Trump his doctor will be shocked. All that Prozac for nothing!”

 

 

The Table of Contents

  • Crimea Offers To Help Ship Iranian Oil
  • WHO: ‘Dramatic resurgence’ in measles case in Europe
  • How Will Hezbollah Respond to Israel’s Drone Attack?
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The Family: The Octopus of God
  • Doorbell-camera firm Ring teams with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach
  • Controversial Nord Stream 2 To Complete New Section In October
  • UK reacts angrily to Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament
  • Britain’s Labour plans to use parliament to thwart no-deal Brexit

 

Crimea Offers To Help Ship Iranian Oil

August 28, 2019

by Tsvetana Paraskova

Oilprice.com

Crimea, the territory that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, is ready to assist Iran in transporting crude oil via Crimean ports, Georgy Muradov, the Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea, told Russian news agency TASS.

Iran’s traditional oil route toward the Mediterranean passes through the Suez Canal, but this route is now closed for the Islamic Republic because of the U.S. sanctions on its oil and shipping industries, Muradov said.

“Iran can use our shipping capabilities, river-sea canals in such situation and carry oil over the Volga-Don canal, via Crimea, to the Black Sea,” the Crimean official told the news agency.

Muradov said that helping Iran with oil shipments could be one area of cooperation between Crimea and Iran.

“Mutual interest in cooperation between Iran and Crimea is growing, especially considering the anti-Iranian policy of the US, sanctions introduced against this country and related consequences,” he told TASS.

“We also give signals of readiness to fruitfully cooperate with Iran and consider different options. For example, Iran can take advantage of our port capacities for oil carriage,” Muradov added.

The offer from Crimea is a rare voice of someone openly saying they would help Iran ship oil amid the strict U.S. sanctions, about which the United States continues to pledge that it would pursue with sanctions anyone who deals with oil from Iran.

Days after the U.S. warned, again, that anyone dealing with the Iranian oil tanker released by Gibraltar would face sanctions, Iran said this past Monday that it had sold the crude oil cargo aboard the now notorious tanker.

Adrian Darya 1, under its former name Grace 1, was detained by the British overseas territory Gibraltar in early July on suspicion of violating the European Union sanctions on Syria. Earlier this month, Gibraltar released the Iranian tanker after Tehran gave assurances its oil cargo wouldn’t go to Syria.

Grace 1, under its new name Adrian Darya 1, left Gibraltar a week ago after the government of Gibraltar said it is unable to seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance that the U.S. has required to keep the tanker detained.

 

WHO: ‘Dramatic resurgence’ in measles case in Europe

The UN health body said countries need to launch vaccination campaigns and dispel misinformation about vaccines. Some people falsely believe vaccines are unsafe when, in reality, they have saved millions of lives.

August 29, 2019

DW

There has been a “dramatic resurgence” in measles cases in Europe, the World Health Organization said Thursday, urging countries to increase vaccination efforts and counter misinformation about the safety of vaccines.

The WHO said there were nearly 90,000 cases of the highly contagious disease in 48 European countries in the first six months of 2019, almost double the number of cases reported for all of 2018.

Just four countries — Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Russia — accounted for 78% of cases in the first half of 2019, with 60% in Ukraine alone.

Based on 2018 data, four countries — Albania, Britain, the Czech Republic and Greece — lost their “measles-free” status, defined as going 12 months without any cases. Measles is considered endemic in 12 countries, including France and Germany.

“Reestablishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die,” warned Gunter Pfaff, the head of the WHO’s European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne infection that causes fever, coughing and rashes. It can lead to other complications and even result in death.

The WHO attributes the rise in measles cases to lack of access to quality healthcare and misinformation about the safety of vaccines.

Experts say the disease is often spread among school-age children whose parents refuse to give their children the combined MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.

The anti-vaccination movement falsely believes the MMR vaccine increases the risk of autism in children.

Some 60% of infections in Europe in the first half of 2019 were people under the age of 19.

“We do see misinformation as an increasing threat,” said Kate O’Brien, director of the WHO’s Immunization Department. “We are calling on social media providers, communities, leaders, people who speak out, to be sure you are communicating accurate, valid, scientifically credible information.”

Globally, the number of cases this year tripled to 364,808 compared to the first seven months last year, although the WHO cautioned that nine in 10 cases are believed to go unrecorded.

The WHO said in reality there were about 6.7 million suspected cases worldwide.

In 2017, measles caused an estimated 109,000 deaths.

According to the WHO, more than 20 million deaths have been prevented around the worldwide between 2000 and 2016 due to measles vaccination.

 

How Will Hezbollah Respond to Israel’s Drone Attack?

August 28, 2019

by Hanin Ghaddar

The Washington Institute

With the IDF seemingly expanding its missile hunt to Lebanon and Iraq, the actions of Iran’s proxies, their host governments, and U.S. officials will do much to determine if wider escalation is in the cards.

Over the past week, the Israel Defense Forces have launched attacks against Iranian and affiliated targets in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In the latter strike, conducted August 25, two IDF drones crashed between residential buildings in the Mouawad neighborhood of south Beirut. According to Hezbollah, these “suicide drones” were armed with 5.5 kilos of C4 explosive; media reports indicate they deliberately targeted crates believed to contain machinery for mixing high-grade propellant used in precision-guided missiles. The previous day, IDF jets reportedly targeted an Iranian position in Damascus, thereby preventing an imminent drone attack on Israel being planned by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.

Although the Beirut attack did not cause any casualties, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did not ignore the incident as he usually does with Israeli strikes on the group’s assets in Syria. Instead, he vowed to down any Israeli drones over Lebanese skies.

Nasrallah also explicitly threatened vengeance for the Damascus strike, which killed two Hezbollah fighters. Accusing Israel of violating “the rules of engagement,” he warned of a harsh, immediate response to the incident, presumably from Lebanon. Yet Hezbollah officials appeared to back down somewhat on August 27, telling Reuters that the group is preparing a “calculated strike” against Israel, “arranged in a way [that] wouldn’t lead to a war that neither Hezbollah nor Israel wants.”

For its part, Israel seems to be expanding its Syria strategy to Lebanon and Iraq, targeting Iran’s precision missile assets in each country directly and forcefully. During his September 2018 UN speech, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu outed some of these facilities in Lebanon while leaving room for diplomacy to deal with this threat to Israel’s security. As the Mouawad evidence shows, however, Hezbollah is still trying to upgrade its domestic missile arsenal with Iran’s help, so Israel feels compelled to pursue military options. More IDF attacks can be expected, and Hezbollah’s retaliatory options—“calculated” or not—are limited. In fact, such retaliation might open the door to more Israeli strikes, drawing Lebanon further into the Iran-Israel confrontation. The question is, will Hezbollah take that course anyway, and if so, in what form?

THREE SCENARIOS

Thus far, Nasrallah has warned that Hezbollah will do the following: shoot down any Israeli drones it spots flying over Lebanon; launch retaliatory measures from Lebanon for the personnel killed in the latest Syria strike; and respond to the Beirut drone attack. Although each of these threats is rather general, acting (or not acting) on them would produce one of three scenarios, all of them problematic for the group’s leadership:

High-risk Hezbollah attacks on sensitive Israeli targets. If the group retaliates against high-value military, economic, or symbolic targets inside Israel, it would register a powerful, hurtful blow against its enemy while pleasing its support base back home. Yet both effects would be short-lived, since Israel would almost certainly respond with larger and more devastating attacks, perhaps leading to a full-fledged war that Hezbollah may not be able to deescalate at the last moment.

Since most parties with a stake in the matter would seek to avoid such a conflict, its probability is low. Yet it could still come to pass if either side miscalculates events sufficiently. Moreover, Israel has wanted to deal with Hezbollah’s remaining precision missile facilities in Lebanon for some time, and escalation (temporary or not) could provide an opportunity to do so. This might lead to full-fledged war as well—in this case between Israel and Iran, and maybe other countries if Tehran pushes its other foreign Shia militia proxies to join.

The potential consequences of any “all-out war” scenario are dire. Hezbollah would suffer heavy personnel and equipment losses that it currently lacks the funds to replace. It would barely be able to compensate its constituency for their personal losses and reconstruction demands. The Shia community in south Lebanon, the Beqa Valley, and south Beirut would not be able to flee the next conflict as they did the 2006 war (since Syria is now off limits, and sectarian tensions would make it difficult to shelter in other parts of Lebanon). They would probably blame Hezbollah for causing the destruction by attacking sensitive Israeli targets. In short, Lebanon would be devastated, and reconstruction funding would not be as abundant as it was in 2006 given today’s greater international pressure on Hezbollah and general donor weariness.

No Hezbollah attacks at all. The group may decide not to retaliate at all, instead adopting the approach so often used by the Syrian regime next door: that is, warning it will choose “the appropriate time and place” for retaliation, then letting that rhetorical threat drag on until everyone forgets. The problem with this scenario is that Hezbollah’s support base will not forget. Nasrallah’s domestic credibility stems mainly from his famous “fulfilled promise” (al-waad al-sadeq), an attribute he claimed after supposedly achieving the “divine victory” he promised early in the 2006 war. In other words, he has to fulfill his promises at some point, otherwise he will lose credibility.

Nasrallah already faces significant discontent at home for largely ignoring Israeli attacks on Hezbollah assets in Syria (Iran attempted to retaliate for such strikes in April-May 2018 and January 2019, but Hezbollah was not involved in those operations). If he does not respond forcefully to attacks in Lebanon, the distrust and criticism brewing among his constituency will boil over.

Failure to act would also erode whatever deterrence Hezbollah has left in terms of limiting Israeli military operations. A few hours after Nasrallah railed against the Damascus strike, Israeli warplanes reportedly attacked a Beqa Valley base belonging to the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Although the facility was not Hezbollah’s, it was inside Lebanese territory and very close to a location where Nasrallah’s speech had been broadcast live to a large local audience. Not responding now would simply be too embarrassing.

Limited Hezbollah response. This is the most likely scenario, in part because the group’s rhetoric so far suggests such a course, and also because it has launched limited strikes against Israel in the past. In 2015, Hezbollah personnel fired an antitank missile that killed an IDF officer and a soldier close to the border. The attack came in response to the assassination of seven Hezbollah members (including senior official Jihad Mughniyah) and an Iranian general on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

To respond proportionately to the Beirut drone attack, Hezbollah might send small explosive-laden drones into Israel, or use overseas terrorist networks to target Israeli interests. This outcome might satisfy Nasrallah’s base and allow him to save face, without the risk entailed by entering a wider confrontation. Yet if Israeli operations inside Lebanon and Iraq have now become the new normal, then a limited Hezbollah response will only postpone future confrontation, at least as long as the group continues its precision missile project in Lebanon (Hezbollah’s two other main threats to Israel—its cross-border tunneling project and its military presence near the Golan Heights—have largely been contained for the moment).

AVOIDING WAR ENTAILS A CLEAR U.S. RESPONSE

Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran understand the complexities of any retaliation in Syria or Iraq. In the former, Russia coordinates with Israel when the IDF needs to attack Iranian targets; in the latter, Baghdad still has significant military relations with the United States. In contrast, Lebanon is largely free of such great-power considerations, and it remains Hezbollah and Iran’s strongest base, allowing them to carry out attacks from there without significant outside interference if they so desire. And if Lebanon turns into a battlefield, the fighting could easily expand to Iraq and the rest of the region.

Therefore, containing Hezbollah’s responses in Lebanon requires a nimble U.S. approach that combines smart public and private messaging with clear demands to officials in Beirut. This includes the Lebanese Armed Forces, who already fired on Israeli drones earlier today and may try to disrupt further IDF operations against Hezbollah weapons caches. Active U.S. mediation is a must given Washington’s relationships with Israel and Lebanon, and its longstanding assistance to the LAF. Since 2006, the U.S. government has provided more than $2 billion in military assistance, and it should use this aid as leverage for warning the LAF not to fire on Israeli forces and communicating the consequences of Hezbollah’s missile activities to Beirut. In particular, LAF officials should be reminded that they are supposed to be implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibits militias like Hezbollah from possessing military capabilities in Lebanon. The stage is already set for serious discussion of these issues in the Security Council, which will soon vote on whether to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Meanwhile, the Trump administration needs to address the delicate situation in Baghdad, where U.S. officials are constrained not only by the volatile nature of local politics, but also by the widespread Iraqi conviction that Israel’s recent strikes there were authorized or facilitated by Washington—a claim that has touched a raw nerve of Iraqi nationalism. As such, the administration should tell Prime Minister Adil Abdulmahdi and President Barham Salih that the presence of Iranian-linked precision missile assets on their territory will inevitably spur Israel to launch more attacks. This in turn could increase the chances of the very scenario that Iraq’s civilian and militia leaders have said they want to avoid: dragging their country into an Iranian conflict with another power.

Finally, even if recent French efforts to jumpstart U.S.-Iranian talks do not bear fruit, Washington should recognize the heightened urgency of convincing Iran to contain its regional proxies. In messaging Tehran on this matter, U.S. officials should prioritize the precision missile facilities in Lebanon and Iraq, since that is the issue most likely to spark a wider conflict.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

August 29, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation No. 55

Date: Monday, December 30, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:21 AM CST

 

RTC: Hello, Gregory. Have a nice Christmas?

GD: Wonderful. I got a sled, some bunny slippers, a silencer for my shotgun, a pornographic Bible, three pair of socks that were too small and a dead turtle. Yourself?

RTC: Somehow, I don’t believe you. Christmas was fine here. I take it you did not have an extensive Christmas.

GD: The rabbit died and we were in deep mourning. But then we ate it and felt much better.

RTC: I could send a sympathy card.

GD: Just flush it down the loo. It might meet up with what’s left of the rabbit. Robert, to be serious, you said that Corson did not like Mark Lane. He represented Carto in a lawsuit and I was wondering what was the reason for the bad feeling?

RTC: My God, Gregory, this is like an old auntie’s sewing circle. Everyone here hates everyone else, tells lies, sticks out their tongues at each other and acts like small children. There was a lawsuit of the Keystone Cops type. Victor Marchetti, who used to be one of ours but got booted out, wrote an article for the Spotlight paper saying that Hunt had been in Dallas on the day Kennedy was shot. He was. Hunt sued the paper and got a judgment. The paper fought back and got Mark Lane to defend them.

GD: The Oswald lawyer?

RTC: The same. So they went back and forth. Marchetti is a fat slob who thinks he is very important when we who really know him consider him to be a chattering nut. Hunt is grossly incompetent but the reason why Corson hates Lane and everyone else, is that Marchetti claimed he got this information about Hunt in Dallas on November 22nd from Corson. Corson got dragged over the coals by Lane and clearly was proved to be a liar. However, there was a third person there when Corson told his little story to Marchetti and that’s what nailed him. Poor Bill. He always has to put his oar in, needed or not.

GD: Well, he told Kimmel that he knew some secret British soldier who told Corson about the Roosevelt/Churchill conversation. Corson claimed he backed it up. Kimmel went for this like a duck after a June bug, but I can’t believe it. Who was this mysterious witness? Corson said his lips were sealed.

RTC: Too bad that isn’t true.

GD: Back and forth. I know Corson has lectured me on a subject that I knew far better that he did but I just kept quiet and acted impressed. Didn’t he get court-martialed?

RTC: My God, Gregory, don’t ever go into that one. Look, these people like Bill and Trento, Marchetti and the rest of them, are like squirrels in the park running around begging nuts from the public. This is the Beltway, Gregory. It’s a hot house. Someone sees the President from about two hundred feet away, driving past in his armored limousine and then tells his friends that he had a chance to talk to the President that afternoon and the President told him….and that’s how it goes. Trento thinks he is a brilliant writer, Bill thinks he’s a mover and shaker, Marchetti sees himself as a secret agent and Hunt has just enough sense to put on his pants before going outside to get the paper. These are the hangers-on, Gregory, the wannabes as the current generation calls them.

GD: Ah, Robert, but you were actually there, you knew from doing it. The sun versus the moon. The moon reflects the glory of another. Does that role make you happy?

RTC: It makes me sad sometimes. And they run around acting like old women. Chatter, chatter, boast, back-stab, strut and eventually die. We all die, Gregory, but some take a long time to do it. I’m pleasant with them because perhaps they can help me but I am giving up with most of them. I thought Costello would be a good outlet but I gave up on him long before he died last year. Trento thinks he’s a great intelligence writer but he reminds me of a wino rooting around in old dumpsters for chicken bones. Bill hints at great secrets that only he knows and Hunt is a bumbling idiot and we should have done him instead of his wife. Marchetti is a little bit of all of them. If you listen to them, Gregory, they will convince you that big black cars drive up in front of their homes, every evening, and give them briefcases full of very secret papers. You know the types.

GD: I do, Robert, I really do. I love it when one of your pinheads starts telling me about German intelligence. Oh yes, and what about Nosenko?

RTC: A Russian double agent that Angleton mismanaged.

GD: Was Angleton Italian?

RTC: No, half Mexican. He spoke wop from his father, having lived there and sold cash registers but he was a Mexican. He was well-connected with the mob, though.

GD: Mueller told me about Boris Pash…

RTC: That asshole. A gym teacher with more dreams of glory.

GD: Heini said that Pash tried to kill the Italian Communist leader.

RTC: Togliatti. Yes, but he missed. They always miss, Gregory.

GD: I have an Irish friend who never does. He prefers a knife but bombs will do very well.

RTC: I think you mentioned him. Mountbatten?

GD: The same. Now that’s a professional. And he doesn’t talk like the rest of them.

RTC: Real professionals never do.

GD: So if we both agree on what constitutes a professional agent, how do you analyze Corson, Kimmel, Marchetti, Trento and the others? Are they agents? Kimmel works for the FBI, Marchetti used to work for your people and the others?

RTC: What we have there is the wannabe club, Gregory. All of them think they are important people and, because they have, or have had, connections with the intelligence community, they begin to feel, somehow, that they are possessors of the secrets that others do not have. This elevates them from boredom and real obscurity and makes them believe that they are privy to those who really do walk in the corridors of power. I am the one, pardon the vanity, with the secrets and I am the one who walked once in the corridors of power so they gather around me, snapping up any little bit of information I choose to drop. There are many things I would like people I know, such as my family, to know about. I would like not to leave a legacy of mystery and negativity behind me. I know Corson and the others would like to have a private club type of inner knowledge, to sit around the fire solemnly talking about great secrets they have known. Never happen. When I go, they go. It’s that basic. I had thought once to cultivate Costello and let him speak for me but I gave up on him after his visit with you. The man was brittle, opinionated and as blind as a bat. Kimmel is an establishment man with no creative juices, Corson runs around barking like one of those obnoxious little Mexican dogs that were once raised for food, Marchetti reminds me of a drunken little rat running around in a barn, trying to get out. And when he does get out, he runs around outside trying to get back in. Trento and his wife are delusional and self important and love to mix it up with losers and never-could-have-beens.

GD: Basking, like the moon, in reflected glory.

RTC: Absolutely. And these are at the top of the rank amateur clubs. Down below them, we find the “experts” and the “researchers” who represent the bottom of the pyramid. They are the ones who scribble, jabber and strut. They look upwards to the top for the voices of the masters. They all feed on each other, Gregory. Their little worlds are all they have and if someone like you, especially someone like you, comes along, they loathe, fear and despise you. You see, you are the real thing and they are just wearing Halloween costumes and they know it. After Costello returned from his visit with you and spent hours telling me how terrible and unpleasant you were, I put this down to simple jealousy and thought that perhaps I might look into you myself. And that’s why we’re talking right this very moment.

GD: Thank you for your approval, Robert. I agree with you, but they are wearing the gold-braided clown suits and go to clubs and meetings and, like old peacocks, preen endlessly. What you tell me I already know, Robert, but short of grabbing them by their throats and banging their heads against the wall, there isn’t much I can do…

RTC: Except to out-produce them, Gregory. And they know you can do it and they hate you for it. A week does not go by without my getting some kind of a phone call about what a terrible, evil person you are and warning me never to talk with you. Notice how impressed I have been with these dire warnings. But please make my life a little easier in my old age by not quoting me to any of these cheap hustlers. If they really get it into their heads that I am being informative to you, they will call me every other day, warn Greg and Emily to protect me from you and then do everything in their shabby little power to trash you. Do not, and I repeat, do not trust any of them, ever. I think we understand this all, don’t we?

GD: Oh, yes. I never trusted these sort anyway. They remind me of old aunties or, even worse, academics. Both of them gossip, chatter, denigrate everyone not present and can’t sleep well at night unless they feel they have damaged someone else that day. They see themselves as giants and, in fact, they are small, chattering mice. But, and I am sure you know all about this, we have to put up with them in order to get along with the really important matters. Don’t worry about making myself vulnerable to these types. It ends up that they make themselves vulnerable to me in the end. What is the saying? Out of nothing, nothing is made.

 

(Concluded at 9:21 AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Francis Myles

 

Now, what the heck is this? Ostensibly, one Francis Myles explains how you achieve “genetic salvation” (if you’re interested, you can go to the video here. “Delusional incoherence” doesn’t even begin to describe the otherworldly gibberish contained therein). The interview in that link was conducted by Sid Roth of the It’s Supernatural! Network, but the WND got in on it too, and it’s to them we have to turn for an explanation: ‘“genetic salvation” is available in Christ to break the chains of failure, disease and calamity – the generational curses – that have plagued whole families throughout centuries.” Well, tough luck with the explanatoryelement, but apparently Myles can cure you (or something) of hereditary sin (?) (or supernatural hexes on your family you inherit genetically) by magically healing your genes (“Myles has been shown by God how to supernaturally change your DNA,” apparently), thereby allowing you to achieve prosperity. This is not how it works. This is not how anything works.

So who, then, is Francis Myles? Well apparently, Dr. Myles (source of doctorate unclear) “is an Apostle to the nations, Senior Pastor of Breakthrough City Kingdom Embassy, Businessman, and Spiritual Life coach to Movers and Shakers in the Marketplace.” Originally from Zambia, he was ostensibly called to the US by the Holy Spirit to found the Kingdom Marketplace Coalition and The Order of Melchizedek Leadership University. (The Melchizedek part might be related to this one, which is not unlikely given the Messianic Judaism connection – Sid Roth is a Messianic Jew – or possibly this one, or possibly something else entirely dredged from Myles’s own deranged imagination.) Myles is also the author of The Return of the Lost Key: Tithing under the Order of Melchizedek. Judging from the video, it is probably a blast.

Diagnosis: Well, we’re baffled. Apparently you can sign up for courses for around $150, which is a small price to pay for transcendental insights, but bad hallucinogens are cheaper and probably yield more coherent results (it would probably be bizarrely interesting, in a trainwreck sort of fashion, to know how they reason, those who actually sign up for Myles’s classes. He is probably harmless, though.

 

 

Steven Myers

 

Deranged, home-made theories defended with motivated reasoning by “independent scholars” are a dime a dozen, and the Giza pyramid is a common target. Edward J. Kunkel, for instance, argued – in his book The Pharaoh’s Pump – that the great pyramid in the desert at Giza was a water pump. The idea is silly for an impressive range of reasons, but silliness hasn’t stopped independent scholars before and probably won’t in the foreseeable future.

Now, Kunkel is long dead, but his ideas are still ardently promoted by one Steven Myers, who runs a website and a foundation devoted to the idea, The Pharaoh’s Pump Foundation, which, Myers claims, is going to build a pump using ancient Egyptian technology. It’s been going for a while, but we haven’t seen much by way of goal accomplishments. Now, whywould Myers want to build a pyramid pump, you may wonder? Apparently because the “ancient pumping technology is nonpolluting and does not require fossil fuels or electricity to operate.”And now you may wonder precisely how they did operate. Well, according to Myers, the pyramid pump was fueled by fire. It must be a novel type of non-polluting fire, then, presumably fed by the renewable, lush and fertile forests of the Giza area. There seem to be some gaps still in the Kunkel-Myers hypothesis.

Perhaps he has given up on it. Apparently the project was motivated in part by the doomsday rants of Richard Noone, and the pumps ostensibly needed to be built with some urgency to pump away the water from melting polar ice caps following the cataclysmic events of May 5, 2000, when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were aligned with Earth, a date that came and passed with no notable weather events (or pumps).

Of course, Myers is not without his critics. Christopher Dunn, for instance, has argued that the Giza pyramid is a power plant working “by responding harmonically with the seismic energy contained within the Earth.” As Lakatos pointed out, competing research programs are important to good scientific progress.

Diagnosis: At least he’s harmless. Which is more than can be said of many of the loons covered here recently.

 

The Family: The Octopus of God

August 29, 2019

by Christian Jürs

In an age when dissatisfaction with systems of governance is becoming a daily norm, the public has become more and more interested in conspiracy theories that purport to expose various misdeeds of governance and its various organs and purported accomplices.

We have seen an enormous body of revisionist literature arise, dealing with the assassination of President Kennedy, and as that topic slid down and away from public interest, another issue rose to prominence speculation and fictive writing. This was the September 11, 2001 attack by Saudi terrorists on various targets in the United State.

Invented stories about “robot aircraft,”  “’Nano thermite’ controlled explosions,” and other theories, many verging on the lunatic, sprang up and proliferated. While most of these entertainments were the product of inventive minds and eagerly accepted by a public that felt betrayed by their government and the upper levels of the national economic structure, a number of stories were very obviously clever insertions of deliberate disinformation from the very same power elite.

One of the recurring themes of the conspiracy claques is that of the existence of a secret society, or organization, that is somehow able to exert powerful but behind-the-scenes control over all aspects of governance. One of the favorites has been the Illuminati. This was originally a German association, formed in 1776 by one Adam Weishaupt, a Freemason and law professor at the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria.

The original Illuminati, then called the Order of Perfectibilists, and later became a secret society dedicated to the overthrow of both established governments and religions, specifically the Catholics. Eventually, Weishaubt made enough noise that the Bavarian Elector, Karl Theodor, outlawed them and forced Weishaupt to move to Gotha where he finished his life by writing books and abstaining from anti-establishment activities.

Weishaupt’s disbanded organization has become the inspiration for several generations of conspiracy inventors and because Weishaupt spoke of a single world government, ruled by men of honor and intellect (obviously impossible in any age), the conspiracy people have talked about a New World Order which might be satisfying and even desired but would be impossible of execution. To this mythic entity is ascribed all manner of manipulations and plottings

In addition to the Illuminati, fiction theorists have also targeted the Rothschild banking house and the Bilderburger banker’s association as being the controlling forces behind all the governments of the world. In the United States, one can add the Council on Foreign Relations, the fraternal Skull and Bones society, the Federal Reserve and a legion of quite harmless associations to the conspiracy mix.

In the background, however, only dimly seen and then only by established intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies, exists a very genuine, and very dangerous, secret organization that wields far more actual power than any of the imaginary creations of the Internet..

This is a power group, posing as a religious organization, and who, with its various associated sub-groups, pose a critical threat to the American democratic system., It is a Washington-based organization known as both ‘The Fellowship’, and ‘The Family’. This group, and its allies, the Dominionists and the Neo-Templars, basically control the American Congress, the Department of State, and have “very important” connections at the top levels of the Central Intelligence Agency.and the American military. The Family’s goal, according to one secret internal document, is to create a “hidden structure” of “national and international world leaders bound together relationally by a mutual love for God and the family.” The first hallmark of this theocratic clandestine organisation is their unquestioning reliance on the Bible in all matters, to the complete exclusion of any other authority, secular or otherwise  The second is their insistence on a faith in Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior, again, to the exclusion of any other entity.

The Fellowship’s known participants include ranking United States government officials, both elected and appointed, corporate executives, heads of religious and humanitarian aid organizations,  ambassadors and high ranking politicians from across the world. Many United States Senators and Congressmen have publicly acknowledged working with the Fellowship or are documented as having done so and work together to pass or influence legislation.

This organization fetishizes power by comparing Jesus to “Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Bin Laden” as examples of leaders who change the world through the strength of the covenants they had forged with their “brothers.”The agenda of the Fellowship becomes much clearer when it is realized that Fellowship leader Douglas Coe preaches a personal commitment to Jesus Christ very and specifically comparable to the blind devotion that Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot demanded from their followers. In one videotaped lecture series in 1989, Coe said:

“Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had…But they bound themselves together in an agreement…Two years before they moved into Poland, these three men had…systematically a plan drawn out…to annihilate the entire Polish population and destroy by numbers every single house…every single building in Warsaw and then to start on the rest of Poland.” Coe added that it worked; they killed six and a half million “Polish people.”

Though he calls Nazis “these enemies of ours,” he compares their commitment to Jesus’ demands: “Jesus said, ‘You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.’ Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.”

Coe also compared Jesus’s teachings to the Red Guard during the Chinese Cultural Revolution

 

Doorbell-camera firm Ring teams with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach

August 28, 2019

by Drew Harwell,

The Washington Post

The doorbell-camera company Ring has quietly forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them potential access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s “new neighborhood watch.”

The partnerships let police automatically request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email, thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place

The number of police deals, which has not previously been reported, is likely to fuel broader questions about privacy, surveillance and the expanding reach of tech giants and local police. The rapid growth of the program, which began in spring 2018, surprised some civil liberties advocates, who thought that fewer than 300 agencies had signed on

Ring is owned by Amazon, which bought the firm last year for more than $800 million, financial filings show. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

Ring officials and law-enforcement partners portray the vast camera network as an irrepressible shield for neighborhoods, saying it can assist police investigators and protect homes from criminals, intruders and thieves.

“The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer,” said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s crime-focused companion app. “We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”

But legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm about the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with police, saying the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants and subject innocent people, including those who Ring users have flagged as “suspicious,” to greater surveillance and potential risk.

“If the police demanded every citizen put a camera at their door and give officers access to it, we might all recoil,” said Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor and author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing.”

The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer,” said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s crime-focused companion app. “We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”

But legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm about the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with police, saying the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants and subject innocent people, including those who Ring users have flagged as “suspicious,” to greater surveillance and potential risk.

“If the police demanded every citizen put a camera at their door and give officers access to it, we might all recoil,” said Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor and author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing.”

By tapping into “a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security,” he added, Ring has found “a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.”

Launched in 2013 as a line of internet-connected “smart doorbells,” Ring has grown into one of the nation’s biggest household names in home security. The company, based in Santa Monica, California, sells a line of alarm systems, floodlight cameras and motion-detecting doorbell cameras starting at $99, as well as monthly “Ring Protect” subscriptions that allow homeowners to save the videos or have their systems professionally monitored around the clock.

Ring users are alerted when the doorbell chimes or the camera senses motion, and they can view their camera’s live feed from afar using a mobile app. Users also have the option of sharing footage to Ring’s public social network, Neighbors, which allows people to report local crimes, discuss suspicious events and share videos from their Ring cameras, cellphones and other devices.

The Neighbors feed operates like an endless stream of local suspicion, combining official police reports compiled by Neighbors’ “News Team” with what Ring calls “hyperlocal” posts from nearby homeowners reporting stolen packages, mysterious noises, questionable visitors and missing cats. About a third of Neighbors posts are for “suspicious activity” or “unknown visitors,” the company said. (About a quarter of posts are crime-related; a fifth are for lost pets.)

Users, which the company calls “neighbors,” are anonymous on the app, but the public video does not obscure faces or voices from anyone caught on camera. Participating police officers can chat directly with users on the Neighbors feed and get alerts when a homeowner posts a message from inside their watched jurisdiction. The Neighbors app also alerts users when a new police force partners up, saying, “Your Ring Neighborhood just got a whole lot stronger.”

To seek out Ring video that has not been publicly shared, officers can use a special “Neighbors Portal” map interface to designate a time range and local area, up to half a square mile wide, and get Ring to send an automated email to all users within that range, alongside a case number and message from police.

The user can click to share their Ring videos, review them before sharing, decline or, at the bottom of the email, unsubscribe from future footage-sharing requests. “If you would like to take direct action to make your neighborhood safer, this is a great opportunity,” an email supplied by Ring states.

Ring says police officers don’t have access to live video feeds and aren’t told which homes use Ring cameras or how homeowners respond unless the users consent. Officers could previously access a “heat map” showing the general density of where Ring devices were in use, but the company said it has removed that feature from the video request because it was deemed “no longer useful.”

Ring said it would not provide user video footage in response to a subpoena, but would comply if company officials were presented with a search warrant or thought they had a legal obligation to produce the content.

“Ring does not disclose customer information in response to government demands unless we’re required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding order,” the company said in a statement.

Ring users consent to the company giving recorded video to “law enforcement authorities, government officials and/or third parties” if the company thinks it’s necessary to comply with “legal process or reasonable government request,” its terms of service state. The company says it can also store footage deleted by the user to comply with legal obligations.

The high-resolution cameras can provide detailed images of not just a front doorstep but also neighboring homes across the street and down the block. Ring users have further expanded their home monitoring by installing the motion-detecting cameras along driveways, decks and rooftops.

Some officers said they now look for Ring doorbells, notable for their glowing circular buttons, when investigating crimes or canvassing neighborhoods, in case they need to pursue legal maneuvers later to obtain the video.

Ring users have shared videos of package thieves, burglars and carjackers in hopes of naming and shaming the perpetrators, but they’ve also done so for people – possibly salespeople, petitioners or strangers in need of help – who knock on the door and leave without incident. (Other recorded visitors include lizards, deer, mantises, snakes and snooping raccoons.)

Ring users’ ability to report people as suspicious has been criticized for its potential to contribute to racial profiling and heightened community distrust. Last Halloween in southern Maryland, a Ring user living near a middle school posted a video of two boys ringing their doorbell with the title: “Early trick or treat, or are they up to no good?”

The video, which has been viewed in the Neighbors app more than 5,700 times, inspired a rash of comments: Some questioned the children’s motives, while others said they looked like harmless kids. “Those cuties? You’re joking, right?” one commenter said.

After The Post shared this video with Ring, the company removed it, saying it no longer fits the service’s community guidelines because “there is no objective reason stated that would put their behavior in question.”

Since formally launching its Neighbors police partnerships with officers in Greenfield, Wisconsin in March 2018, Ring has extended the program to 401 police departments and sheriff’s offices across the country, from northwest Washington state to Key West, Florida, company data show.

Shortly after this story was published, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff released a blog post saying that count had already expanded, to 405 agencies.

The partnerships cover vast expanses of major states – with 31 agencies in California, 57 in Texas and 67 in Florida – and blanket entire regions beneath Ring’s camera network, including roughly a dozen agencies each in the metropolitan areas surrounding Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Kansas City, Missouri.

Sgt. William Pickering, an officer with the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia, which is working with Ring, compared the system’s expansion to the onset of DNA evidence in criminal cases – a momentous capability, unlocked by new technology, that helps police gain the upper hand.

“We have so many photojournalists out there, and they’re right there when things happen, and they’re able to take photos and videos all the time. As a law-enforcement agency, that is of great value to us,” Pickering said.

“When a neighbor posts a suspicious individual who walked across their front lawn, that allows them at that very moment to share that in real-time with anyone who’s been watching. Now we have everybody in the community being alerted to a suspicious person.”

(A Ring spokeswoman later said this example would be removed from Neighbors because it does not pass the service’s community guidelines, which require “an attempted criminal activity or unusual behavior that is cause for concern.”)

Ring has pushed aggressively to secure new police allies. Some police officials said they first met with Ring at a law-enforcement conference, after which the company flew representatives to police headquarters to walk officers through the technology and help them prepare for real-world deployment.

The company has urged police officials to use social media to encourage homeowners to use Neighbors, and Pickering said the Norfolk department had posted a special code to its Facebook page to encourage residents to sign on.

Ring has offered discounts to cities and community groups that spend public or taxpayer-supported funding on the cameras. The firm has also given free cameras to police departments that they can then distribute to local homeowners. The company said it began phasing out the giveaway program for new partners earlier this year.

Pickering said his agency is currently working with its city attorney to classify the roughly 40 cameras Ring gave them as a legal donation. But some officers said they were uncomfortable with the gift, because it could be construed as the police extending an official seal of approval to a private company.

“We don’t want to push a particular product,” said Radd Rotello, an officer with the Frisco Police Department in Texas, which has partnered with Ring. “We as the police department are not doing that. That’s not our place.”

Ring has for months sought to keep key details of its police-partnership program confidential, but public records from agencies across the country have revealed glimpses of the company’s close work with local police. In a June email to a New Jersey police officer first reported by Motherboard, a Ring representative suggested ways officers could improve their “opt-in rate” for video requests, including greater interaction with users on the Neighbors app.

“The more users you have the more useful information you can collect,” the representative wrote. Ring says it offers training and education materials to its police partners so they can accurately represent the service’s work.

Ring officials have stepped up their sharing of video from monitored doorsteps to help portray the devices as theft deterrents and friendly home companions. In one recent example, a father in Massachusetts can be seen using his Ring Video Doorbell’s speakers to talk with his daughter’s date while he was at work, saying, “I still get to see your face, but you don’t get to see mine.”

The company is also pushing to market itself as a potent defense for community peace of mind, saying its cameras offer “proactive home and neighborhood security in a way no other company has before.” The company is hiring video producers and on-camera hosts to develop videos marketing the brand, with a job listing stating that applicants should deliver ideas with an “approachable yet authoritative tone.”

Rotello, who runs his department’s neighborhood-watch program, said Ring’s local growth has had an interesting side effect: People now believe “crime is rampant in Frisco,” now that they see it all mapped and detailed in a mobile app. He has had to inform people, he said, that “the crime has always been there; you’re just now starting to figure it out.”

He added, however, that the technology has become a potent awareness tool for crime prevention, and he said he appreciated how the technology had inspired in residents a newfound vigilance.

“Would you rather live in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ type of world?” he said. “Or would you rather know what’s going on?”

That hyper-awareness of murky and sometimes-distant criminal threats has been widely criticized by privacy advocates, who argue that Ring has sought to turn police officers into surveillance-system salespeople and capitalize on neighborhood fears.

“It’s a business model based in paranoia,” said Evan Greer, deputy director for the digital advocacy group Fight for the Future. “They’re doing what Uber did for taxis, but for surveillance cameras, by making them more user-friendly. . . . It’s a privately run surveillance dragnet built outside the democratic process, but they’re marketing it as just another product, just another app.”

Ring’s expansion has also led some to question its future plans. The company last year applied for a facial-recognition patent that could alert when a person designated as “suspicious” was caught on camera. The cameras do not currently use facial-recognition software, and a spokeswoman said the application was designed only to explore future possibilities.

Amazon, Ring’s parent company, has developed facial-recognition software, called Rekognition, that is currently used by police across the country. The technology is improving all the time: Earlier this month, Amazon’s Web Services arm announced it had upgraded the face-scanning system’s accuracy at estimating a person’s emotion and was even perceptive enough to track “a new emotion: ‘Fear.'”

For now, the Ring systems’ police expansion is earning early community support. Mike Diaz, a member of the city council for Chula Vista, Calif., where police have partnered with Ring, said the cameras could be an important safeguard for some local neighborhoods where residents are tired of dealing with crime. He’s not bothered, he added, by the concerns he’s heard about how the company is partnering with police in hopes of selling more cameras.

“That’s America, right?” Diaz said. “Who doesn’t want to put bad guys away?”

 

Controversial Nord Stream 2 To Complete New Section In October

August 6, 2019

by Irina Slav

Oilprice

Russia-led Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline that has unnerved half of Europe and the United States, is moving ahead, with the Swedish section of the pipe scheduled to be ready by October, Nord Stream 2 AG, the consortium behind the project said.

So far, the Gazprom-led consortium has laid 1,700 km of pipes, across Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Germany. The finished pipeline will have a capacity of 55 billion cu m annually and will cost US$10.65 billion (9.5 billion euro).

Several European countries, including the Baltic states and Poland, as well as the European Union (EU), have expressed concern about Russia using gas sales and its gas monopoly in Gazprom as a political tool. Ukraine has been particularly vocal in its opposition, claiming the project will allow Russia to reroute the flow of its gas through Ukraine, depriving it of transit fees that are vital for the troubled country’s budget.

In response to these concerns, this February, the EU amended its gas directive, extending the rules of the EU’s internal gas market to natural gas pipelines to and from third countries. The main elements of the gas market rules in the EU include ownership unbundling, giving access to third parties, non-discriminatory tariffs, and transparency requirements. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be owned and operated by Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, which would be in violation of the directive extended to pipelines to and from the EU.

Nord Stream 2 AG challenged the new rules in court, arguing that they were discriminatory and asked the court to annul them.

Meanwhile, last week, the U.S. Senate endorsed a bill to impose sanctions on the companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project. The bill, ‘Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019’, sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, was approved by the committee with a vote of 20-2. The vote came two months after President Trump threatened not a company but a whole country—Germany—with sanctions over the natural gas project.

 

UK reacts angrily to Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament

The British people took to the streets of London to vent their anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament. Lawmakers have also reacted with indignation, comparing the move to a coup d’etat.

August 29, 2019

by John Silk, Alistair Walsh

DW

The flurry of resignations anticipated following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament did not happen on Wednesday, but the fallout did spill onto the streets of London, with a mass protest organized at short notice outside the Houses of Parliament.

In addition, a petition against Johnson’s plan had already exceeded one million signatures at the time of writing, as the public outrage rumbled on.

Scottish Conservative Party leader, Ruth Davidson, was one of just two senior Tory to quit their roles as a result of the proroguing of Parliament, despite other senior Tories, such as Amber Rudd, previously indicating their disapproval of the controversial notion.

Rudd lamented the expected loss of Davidson in a tweet but did not comment on her own position. “Ruth Davidson is a wonderful talent and person, and we owe her a tremendous debt for turning our fortunes around in Scotland. Our Party is a better one with her in it and I hope she will continue to contribute to public life.”

Chief Whip resigns

George Young, the chief whip in the House of Lords, also resigned, saying he was very unhappy at the timing and length of the prorogation and its motivation.

“I have been unpersuaded by the reasons given for that decision, which I believe risks undermining the fundamental role of Parliament at a critical time in our history, and reinforces the view that the Government may not have the confidence of the House for its Brexit policy,” he said.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn described the proroguing as a “constitutional outrage” while Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said Johnson’s move was “dangerous and unacceptable.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to condemn the PM’s decision too. “It’s not democracy, it’s dictatorship. And if MPs don’t find a way of coming together to stop Boris Johnson in his tracks then today will go down in history as the day any semblance of UK democracy died.”

Parliament is set to be closed down from mid-September and re-opened on October 14, just over two weeks ahead of Britain’s scheduled exit from the EU.

Johnson denied he was trying to silence lawmakers. “There will be ample time in parliament for MPs to debate Brexit.”

The Labour party announced it would seek an emergency debate on Brexit next week, hoping to introduce legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit.

Reactions spill over

Thousands of people rushed hurriedly to Parliament Square, at just a few hours notice, largely prompted under the social media hashtag #StopTheCoup as protesters and politicians alike compared Johnson’s actions to those of a tin-pot dictator.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott joined demonstrators who were chanting “No one voted for Boris,” in reference to the fact that just 92,153 elected him, from a UK population of 66 million. She tweeted pictures of herself along with placards lamenting the loss of democracy. She said: “Big turnout outside Parliament for the protest against  @BorisJohnson shutting down Parliament #StopTheCoup.”

Fellow Labour MP Clive Lewis tweeted that he would enter parliament and not leave. “If Boris shuts down Parliament to carry out his No-Deal Brexit, I and other MPs will defend democracy. The police will have to remove us from the chamber. We will call on people to take to the streets.”

Even the queen was unable to stop the closure of parliament, with House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg saying there was no precedent for her intervention.

He called on the EU to renegotiate the deal, saying the UK would prefer to leave without a deal than suffer through “vassalage.”

Meanwhile, a petition entitled ‘Do not prorogue Parliament’ had reached 1.3 million signatures by midday Thursday. The petition’s webpage added: “Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.”

It is not the first of its kind. A petition earlier this year asking the British government to reverse its course on Brexit received more than 4.5 million signatures in just three days. The request appeared to fall on deaf ears, with Wednesday’s development only giving further weight to that notion.

 

Britain’s Labour plans to use parliament to thwart no-deal Brexit

August 29, 2019

by William James, Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – The opposition Labour Party said on Thursday it would trigger an emergency debate in parliament next week to try to stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal.

More than three years after the country voted in a referendum to leave the bloc, the United Kingdom is heading toward its gravest constitutional crisis in decades and a showdown with the EU over Brexit, which is due to take place in just over two months time.

Johnson, who became prime minister last month, enraged opponents of a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday by using a parliamentary mechanism to order the suspension of parliament for almost a month.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, John Bercow, called this a constitutional outrage as it limited the time the parliament has to debate and shape the course of British history.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that as soon as parliament returns from its summer break on Tuesday, his party would initiate a process to legislate against a no-deal Brexit that he said would be damaging for the jobs and the economy.

“What we are going to do is try to politically stop him (Johnson) on Tuesday with a parliamentary process in order to legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit and also to try and prevent him shutting down parliament in this utterly crucial period,” Corbyn told reporters.

“This country is in danger of crashing out on the 31st of October with no deal,” he said. “We have got to stop that and that is exactly what we will be doing next Tuesday.”

Five other opposition parties, including the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, later issued a joint statement with Labour calling on Johnson to let legislators vote on whether parliament should be suspended.

Johnson’s move to suspend parliament for longer than usual was cheered by U.S. President Donald Trump but provoked strong criticism from some British lawmakers, including some of Johnson’s own ruling Conservative Party, and media.

BREXIT CRISIS

After years of tortuous negotiations and a series of political crises since the United Kingdom voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, Brexit remains up in the air. Options range from an acrimonious divorce on Oct. 31 and an election to an amicable exit or even another referendum.

European Union ministers urged Britain to choose an orderly Brexit, with some openly expressing concern that Johnson’s move to suspend parliament increased the risk of a chaotic split.

Economists have widely predicted that a no-deal Brexit would deliver a damaging blow to Britain’s economy.

Three-month sterling implied volatility soared, indicating traders are bracing for more big price swings between now and the expected Oct. 31 Brexit date. JPMorgan raised the probability of a no-deal Brexit to 35% from 25%.

Johnson’s Brexit negotiator, David Frost, was in Brussels for talks with the executive European Commission on Wednesday, but Dutch Foreign Minister Stephan Blok said the sides had not managed to bridge divisions.

The original Brexit date of March 29 was delayed as Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, tried in vain to rally lawmakers behind the terms of Britain’s withdrawal. Parliament three times rejected a deal she negotiated with the bloc.

Johnson has said he is looking for a reworked divorce agreement with the EU but has promised the country will leave on Oct. 31, with or without a withdrawal deal.

His order to suspend parliament used the date of the Queen’s Speech – to be held on Oct. 14 and preceded by a suspension of the House of Commons – to ensure parliament will not sit between mid-September and mid-October.

CANDY-FLOSS OF OUTRAGE’

In effect, the squeezed timetable forces opponents of a no-deal Brexit in parliament to show their hand and act in as few as four days sitting next month. Parliament returns from its summer holiday on Sept. 3.

An election is likely, lawmakers said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Brexit supporter who is in charge of managing government business in parliament, said opponents were confecting “the candy-floss of outrage” and dared them to do their worst.

There is a small majority against a no-deal Brexit in the 650-seat House of Commons, although it is unclear if opponents of Johnson within the Conservative Party would collapse his government in a vote of no confidence.

“It does look like next week is essentially the only opportunity that parliament will have to maintain some control over this process and ensure that it has a say before we leave without a deal,” Conservative lawmaker David Gauke said.

Editing by Janet Lawrence and Frances Kerry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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