TBR News December 21, 2015

Dec 21 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washiington, D.C. December 21, 2015: “The news has a habit of spiking, almost on a regular basis.

We have frantic outpourings of world and local events one week and almost complete silence the next. On weeks where there is basicially nothing to report, we see filler stories about cats in trees or a new pizza restrauant in New York.

And intermixed with legitimate news, we always find propaganda fed into the internet via the blogs.

The instability in the Mid East will eventually be solved but instead of the US and the CIA dictating events, the initiative has moved to Vladimir Putin and Russia.

The Mid East is experiencing a religious war but under their sands lie an immense, and badly-needed reserve of oil.

Let him take who’s able and let him keep who can.”

Turkish troops move out of northern Iraq after Obama appeal for calm

Recep Tayyip Erdogan agrees to pull troops out of Iraq to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad, which had accused Turkey of an ‘illegal incursion’

December 19, 2015

Agence France-Presse

Turkey has said said it would “continue” to pull its troops out of northern Iraq after US president Barack Obama urged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do so in order to de-escalate tensions with Baghdad over the deployment.

The foreign ministry said in a statement: “Taking into account the sensitivities on the Iraqi side … Turkey will continue the process it has already begun to withdraw its troops stationed in Mosul province.”

The Iraqi government earlier this week demanded the “complete withdrawal” of Turkish troops from its territory after Turkey deployed soldiers and tanks to a military camp near the city of Mosul.

Baghdad labelled the deployment an illegal “incursion” but Turkey said it was to protect Turkish trainers working with Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State jihadist group.

In a phone call on Friday, Obama asked Erdogan to take steps “to de-escalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces”.

He also urged Turkey “to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq”.

A senior Turkish official said last week that between 150 and 300 soldiers and 20 tanks were deployed to protect Turkish military trainers at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul.

Turkey began partially withdrawing troops from the area on Monday.

In its statement late Saturday, the foreign ministry said there had been a “lack of communication” with Baghdad on the matter and that Ankara “would continue to coordinate with the Iraqi government over its military contribution to the country in the fight against Daesh [Isis].”


Conversaions with the Crow


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, 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 his Washington 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

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 29

Date: Tuesday July 30, 1996

Commenced: 8:30 AM CST

Concluded: 8:55 AM CST


GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And the same to you, Gregory.

GD: Robert, I know you were not in the CIA’s technical branch but I often wonder when I am on the phone, am I being listened to? RTC: You don’t have to be from the technical people to know the answer to that one. It’s not so much that you are being snooped on but that you can be observed by almost anyone at any time. We listened in on people and opened mail. That’s the reason why Jim was sacked but that was only an excuse. He was getting crazy. But as far as the telephone is concerned, yes, you could be listened to at any time. It’s not a bug on your phone so much as full and complete cooperation by the telephone people with various agencies. We did it, the FBI and the NSA do it and probably others as well. Your mail can be opened, addresses copied and so on. For instance, if you have a private Swiss bank account, we have the postal people copy down and forward to us the cover of any letter sent by a Swiss bank to an American addressee. We don’t have to open the letter to know it’s a monthly bank statement. And then we know where your account is. And the NSA listened in on each and every phone call overseas. You see, they tap into the communications satellites. Of course there are huge numbers of calls every day so their computers are set to pick out certain words. Like Abu Nidal for instance. Once a key word comes up, the conversation is taped and listened to later. 

GD: And the television sets can be used as a monitoring device but only if they’re connected to the cable TV system.

RTC: I’ve heard that but then I rarely watch the garbage on television.

GD: You can circumvent that simply by disconnecting your set from the cable system. Just take out the plug. Put it back later. Or, what I would do, would be to hold a really sizzling but totally fake disinformation conversation right in front of the set. You know…’the Russians really pay well for that information…’ and also ‘ yes the entire building has been mined. One push of a button and we can make the front pages of every newspaper in the world.’ Can you imagine the uproar on the other end? Of course you never are specific and just enough to drive them into a frenzy. I’ve done this a number of times but only twice did I ever find out what a huge stink I caused. Loved it then and I love it now.  Oh yes, Bill told me the other day that he saved Bobby Inman 1 from exposure once. When I asked him from what, he shut down. Can you comment on this?

RTC: Probably the homosexual issue. They are very sensitive to that one.

GD: Why? And is Inman a faggot?

RTC: Now, now, I’ll let Bill discuss this with you. My information would only be second hand. And it has been long felt that if an agent were a fairy, he could be gotten at by the Russians and blackmailed or set up and turned.

GD: Well, that makes sense but there are so many people like that in DC that it would be difficult not to find a few in various agencies. I think it must be the military bases with their legions of muscled hustlers that draws these people. And the, of course, one gets into an agency and of course has to have company.

RTC: Yes. The Jews are the same way. You let one in and pretty soon, the office looks like a synagogue. And it’s always us against them. The same way with the fairies. That’s the main reason why I object to having them on board.

GD: But the problem with Inman….

RTC: Back in 1980 there was a fairy scare over at NSA. Real McCarthy purges, finger pointing, anonymous letters and so on. A number of the top brass there were scared shitless lest they, too, got exposed. Bill knows some of this and he has known Inman for a long time. There was an ugly incident when he was in law school. I was told that Bill was able to shut the matter down. That is one of the reasons Bill has such good rapport in certain circles.

GD: He’s blackmailing them?

RTC: In a sense. During the Carter days, Bill could pretty well get what he wanted from certain highly placed intelligence people. I think I should leave it at that, Gregory. Talk to Bill about this if you like but I doubt he’ll tell you anything and, yes, you are right. Washington is indeed full of those people. A lot in Congress, the military, especially the Air Force and various agencies. The FBI is rather picky but we and NSA have quite a few queers on board. The NSG has more than its share. And if you go into some of the faggot bars here, you might see a number of the prominent dancing around in mesh stockings and wearing really bad wigs.

GD: Oh, I’ve seen these in San Francisco. The wigs look like dead cats. They don’t look any more like women than my dog but who argues with self-delusion? Five kids and a wife at home and into the lavatories with the holes in the partitions after work. During the week, his name is George but on Saturdays, his name is Phyllis.

RTC: (Laughter) Yes, we are overrun here.

GD: Well, at least you can’t dump that one on Clinton although God knows that the weird Christian freaks might try. My God, they hate him and as far as I am concerned, these bone headed twits are far worse than the queens. They believe in the strangest things and are really obnoxious swine. They believe the world is only six thousand years old, that Noah’s ark came to ground at 5,000 feet on a mountain side and God only knows what other myths. I mean, Robert, if another religious cult arose that worshipped the Easter Bunny, it wouldn’t any more unbelievable than the Evangelicals. By the way, did you know that Crisco’s main production plant in New Jersey burned down last night? Yes. Millions now living will never fry.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah, Gregory, I can see why so many hate you so much.

GD: Well, one day, it will come out that Heini Mueller, head of the Gestapo and number two man on the wanted Nazi escapee list was living right near you and visiting the White House.

RTC: We may have to wait a while before that gets to be public knowledge. My God, the Hebes would scream so loud we would have to stuff hundred dollar bills into their mouths like a mama bird shoving worms into her babies. They are such arrogant and demanding people.

GD: Yes, God’s chosen people, Robert. I wonder what God chose them for? Probably to wait in line for the showers somewhere in Poland.

RTC: If that’s true, Gregory, God should have finished the job.


(Concluded at 8:55 AM CST)


Putin says Russia ready to increase military role in Syria

Vladimir Putin’s warning that Moscow will use ‘more military means’ in Syria conflict comes just hours after UN roadmap to peace was agreed

December 19, 201

by Emma Graham-Harrison

The Guardian

Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia is ready to to scale up its military intervention in Syria, less than a day after Moscow signed off on an ambitious UN plan to end the war.

The peace roadmap lays out a two-year path to elections for a new government, starting with a January ceasefire, and marks the first time America and Russia have reached broad consensus on Syria’s future after years of conflict that has cost more than 250,000 lives and made millions more into refugees.

But the pact was so broad that it sidestepped one of the biggest questions at the heart of Syria’s troubles, the future of President Bashar al-Assad, and several other key issues. It was also drawn up without consulting Assad or the opposition groups fighting him on the ground.

The question of whether, when and how the Syrian leader might step down will hang over any attempts to broker long-term peace. The US says he must go, while Russia has doubled down on support for him, sending bombers, weapons and cash to support his troops.

He’s in control of two-thirds of the populated areas of Syria, he has not been defeated on the battlefield, he has the support of all the minorities, as well as the secular Sunnis,” Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria told the BBC after the deal was agreed.

Its absurd to think that the Russians have come so far with this process only to throw Assad under the bus; it’s not going to happen.”

Less than 24 hours after committing to peace in Syria, Putin himself said top commanders were ready to join the bomber pilots, support forces and other Russian troops already backing up Assad on the ground.

We see how efficiently our pilots and intelligence agents coordinate their efforts with various kinds of forces – the army, navy and aviation, how they use the most modern weapons,” Reuters quoted him saying in a speech carried by local agencies.

I want to stress that these are by far not all of our capabilities,” he said. “We have more military means. And we will use them, if need be.”

The deal exposes a widening gap between concerns of world powers and Syrians themselves. Diplomats and generals from Moscow to Washington are increasingly focused on containing and ultimately destroying Isis. Syrians are generally more preoccupied with Assad’s fate, whether they support their leader or bitterly oppose him.

Opposition groups will not agree to a political transition that includes Assad, a senior Syrian defector representing a spectrum of opposition groups warned. Security council resolutions and a road map agreed in Geneva provide for his removal, Riad Hijab told reporters on Friday.

We are going into negotiations on this principle, we are not entering talks [based on] anything else. There will be no concession,” said Hijab, who served as prime minister under Assad in 2012 before defecting.

Critics point out that his bombing raids have killed many thousands more Syrian civilians than Isis, sometimes by using chemical weapons and often with cruelly indiscriminate barrel bombs. Many of the opposition fighters also spent time in his regime’s jails, where torture is widespread.

They also raise his apparent financial complicity with Isis, with oil purchases documented by US officials who recently condemned several firms for their role in the trade.

Another senior Syrian exile who represents the main western-backed opposition group warned that the deadline for a January ceasefire was too ambitious, the Associated Press reported.

Najib Ghadbian also said any agreement must include “the removal of all foreign troops from Syria”, including Russians who have been running an airstrike campaign that has allowed Assad to make key advances.

Assad’s supporters argue that he is the only secular bulwark against an opposition increasingly dominated by Islamists. They warn that removing him now could bring even more chaos and violence, as the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi did in nearby Libya, a concern shared by Washington.

Russia and the US have drawn somewhat closer after Moscow conceded that Assad might one day cede power, possibly to a close but less tainted ally, or if he is voted out in an election, while Washington stepped back from demands for his immediate removal.

Kerry said “everyone” had by now realised that demanding Assad’s departure up front in the process was “in fact, prolonging the war”, adding however that differences remain and the Syrian leader could not unite his country.

Iran has also promised to line up behind Moscow, in the push for a political deal to end the civil war, after Putin met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

What was agreed was Iran and Russia will pursue one policy which will benefit Tehran, Moscow and Damascus,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The two countries are in “full harmony over Syria and Assad’s fate”, a second official said.

The US insistence that Assad must eventually go is backed by its European allies, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who have long insisted that Assad must go, although there are disputes about when.

Ministers from 17 nations who were in New York to build momentum for a ceasefire said they would meet again next month. Among the difficult topics on the table are which groups should be allowed into the opposition tent and which should banned as terrorists; Jordan will lead development of the list.

Most parties to the conflict, from Assad to hardline opposition groups, are reliant to varying degrees on weapons, military support and cash from outside the country. Threats to withhold these should give the west and regional powers some leverage.

Even if the ceasefire is embraced by many armed groups, it will not end the fighting in Syria however, as there are no expectations that Isis at least would join.


Analysis: Europe’s year from hell may presage worse to come

December 20, 2015

by Paul Taylor


BRUSSELS -By any measure, it has been a year from hell for the European Union. And if Britons vote to leave the bloc, next year could be worse.

Not since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and communism crumbled across eastern Europe, has the continent’s geopolitical kaleidescope been shaken up so vigorously.

But unlike that year of joyous turmoil, which paved the way for a leap forward in European integration, the crises of 2015 have threatened to tear the Union apart and left it battered, bruised, despondent and littered with new barriers.

The collapse of the Iron Curtain led within two years to the agreement to create a single European currency and, over the following 15 years, to the eastward enlargement of the EU and NATO up to the borders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

That appeared to confirm founding father Jean Monnet’s prediction that a united Europe would be built out of crises.

In contrast, this year’s political and economic shocks over an influx of migrants, Greek debt, Islamist violence and Russian military action have led to the return of border controls in many places, the rise of populist anti-EU political forces and recrimination among EU governments.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who describes his EU executive as the “last chance Commission”, warned that the EU’s open-border Schengen area of passport-free travel was in danger and the euro itself would be unlikely to survive if internal borders were shut.

Juncker resorted to gallows humour after the last of 12 EU summits this year, most devoted to last-gasp crisis management: “The crises that are with us will remain and others will come.”

His gloomy tone was a reality check on the “we can do it” spirit that German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Europe’s pre-eminent leader – has sought to apply to the absorption of hundreds of thousands of mostly Syrian refugees.

Merkel has received little support from her EU partners in sharing the migrant burden. Most have insisted the priority is sealing Europe’s external borders rather than welcoming more than a token number of refugees in their own countries.

This is partly due to latent resentment of German dominance of the EU and payback for its reluctance to share more financial risks in the euro zone.

Some partners also accuse Berlin of hypocrisy over its energy ties with Russia, while friends such as France, the Netherlands and Denmark are simply petrified by the rise of right-wing anti-immigration populists at home.

One of the sharpest rebuffs to sharing more of the refugee burden came from close ally Paris. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said of Merkel’s open door policy towards Syrian refugees: “It was not France that said ‘Come!’.”

Merkel’s critics rounded on her at an end-of-year EU summit. Italy’s Matteo Renzi, backed by Portugal and Greece, attacked her refusal to accept a euro zone bank deposit guarantee scheme.

The Baltic states, Bulgaria and Italy denounced her support for a direct gas pipeline from Russia to Germany at a time when the EU is sanctioning Moscow over its military action in Ukraine and has forced the cancellation of a pipeline to southern Europe.

“It was pretty much everyone against Merkel in the room,” a diplomat who heard the exchanges said.

One problem likely to worsen in 2016 is that Europe’s main leaders are politically weak and so preoccupied by domestic challenges that they are unable to take the necessary collective action.

The conservative Merkel’s survival in the chancellery hinges on her ability to bring down the number of refugees flooding into Germany next year and show she has migration under control.

Without “Mutti” (Mummy), as she is affectionately known back home, the EU would be in even more dire straits.

French President Francois Hollande’s year has been bracketed by militant attacks on the streets of Paris in January and November that caused Europe-wide shock over the Islamist threat from within and over failures in European police and intelligence cooperation.

France’s influence in Europe is diminished by its economic weakness as Hollande struggles for re-election in 2017 against rising far-right populist Marine Le Pen and conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron cares only about finding a face-saving deal on changes in Britain’s EU membership terms in February to win a knife-edge referendum which he has hinted he hopes to hold sometime next year.

Cameron has effectively mortgaged Britain’s future to an attempt to deprive immigrants from eastern EU countries of the same in-work benefits that low-paid British workers get, which many EU partners say would be illegal.

Given British public alarm over immigration, an anti-elite mood and age-old suspicion of Europe fanned by sceptical media, the referendum is an accident waiting to happen.

If Europe’s second-biggest economy and one of its two main military powers became the first member state ever to vote to leave the EU, it would be a shattering blow to the bloc’s confidence and international standing.

Die-hard European federalists like to believe a “Brexit” would unshackle the remaining members to move ahead in a much closer union built on the euro zone.

But that is to ignore the myriad east versus west, north versus south, free-market versus protectionist, socialist versus conservative and sovereignist versus integrationist divisions among the other 27 member states.

More likely, a Brexit vote would prompt demands for referendums elsewhere, from Poland to Denmark, amid acrimonious negotiations between London and Brussels over the terms of Britain’s departure and future relationship with the bloc.

Denmark has just shown the political risk when governments anywhere in Europe ask voters whether they want even a tiny bit closer EU cooperation. The answer was “Nej tak” – no thanks.

If Cameron wins and Britain stays in on improved terms, some fear political contagion, with other national leaders tempted to emulate his tactic of taking Brussels hostage for domestic ends.

“Unfortunately, we need a victory for Cameron,” one senior EU official said. “But it is full of risk for Europe as a whole.”

(Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Susan Fenton)


Exclusive: Iran to match stance with Russia in push for Syria deal

December 18, 2015

by Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau


Iran has decided to unify its stance with Russia’s in the push for a political deal to end Syria’s civil war, Iranian officials said, in a sign it could ease its opposition to the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the agreement.

While maintaining its firm backing for Assad in public, Russia has recently made clear to Western nations that it has no objection to him stepping down as part of the peace process, diplomats said.

Iran’s decision to step up its coordination with Russia was made after a meeting last month between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, according to a senior Iranian official with knowledge of the discussions.

Like Russia, Iran has insisted publicly that Assad should only step down if he is voted out in an eventual election.

“What was agreed was Iran and Russia will pursue one policy which will benefit Tehran, Moscow and Damascus,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Iran seriously believes that the Syrian nation should decide about their fate. But first calm should be restored.”

“It is possible that the Syrian people decide Assad should leave, and then he must leave,” the official added. “If he cannot serve his country and his people, then a capable successor should run the country.”

A second Iranian official told Reuters that Iran and Russia are in “full harmony over Syria and Assad’s fate”.

“The meeting between Putin and the Supreme Leader Khamenei was very successful and now Iran and Russia share the same view on Assad,” the official said.


The question of Assad’s departure is the biggest sticking point among major powers as they hammer out plans for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years.

U.S. and European officials say that Assad has lost credibility due to persistent repression and rights abuses and cannot run in any elections along the lines major powers agreed in two ministerial meetings in Vienna. But Western powers, Turkey, Saudi Arabia reluctantly agreed to allow him to remain in place during a transition period.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday there remain “sharp differences” on the fate of Assad.

He was speaking in New York, where 17 nations including Russia, the United States, and regional rivals Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia met on Friday to discuss a road map for peace in Syria.

The plan includes a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian opposition and government on a unity government and backing the continued fight against Islamic State militants is the focus of a meeting

After his meeting with Putin, Khamenei publicly criticized the United States, saying its policies in the Middle East were a threat to Moscow and Tehran alike and calling for closer bilateral ties with Russia.

Russia and Iran are intervening militarily on behalf of Assad against anti-government forces in the five-year civil war that has claimed more than a quarter million lives.

Both former Cold War enemies may have an interest in solidifying a new relationship based on a shared mistrust of the West and a desire to counter U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.

During the first two rounds of ministerial talks on Syria in Vienna, Iran reluctantly signed on to the road map, which is based on the so-called Geneva Communique from June 2012.

The Geneva Communique called for political transition in Syria and Tehran never formally embraced it because of the implication that it could mean the end of Assad.

“Iran was not happy with those communiques but it allowed them to go ahead,” a senior Western diplomat said this week. He was referring to the two communiques agreed in Vienna on Oct. 31 and Nov. 14.

Iran had repeatedly described the question of Assad as a “red line”.

Western diplomats say that Iran will have to move further towards Russia’s position and fully abandon Assad if there is to be a viable diplomatic solution that ends the war in Syria.

The United States and European and Gulf Arab nations insist that Assad must step aside by the end of any transition period and that he should not stand in future elections.

One Western official said it would be crucial for Russia and Iran to agree precisely on how to abandon Assad. Even if the Iranians are beginning to acknowledge the possibility of Assad’s departure, that goal that remains elusive.

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings)



French defense chief to ask Russia to step up anti-ISIS ops

December 21, 2015


Ahead of his visit to Moscow on Monday, the French defense minister told journalists Paris would ask Russia to increase its action against Islamic State, and would offer intelligence sharing and plans for a joint vision on combating terrorist groups in Syria.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian heads for Moscow this Monday in pursuit of enhanced collaboration between France and Russia to combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) on Syrian soil. His main goal is to ask Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to increase strikes against IS, according to AFP.

We will discuss what we consider to be terrorist groups, and how Russia might increase its action against Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS], which is our sole enemy,” Le Drian was quoted as saying by AFP.

Despite other Western countries being slow to join efforts with Russia in suppressing IS militants, Paris is showing signs of a far more pragmatic approach towards combating international terrorism.

Le Drian also told journalists he would offer the Russian military an intelligence-sharing framework to exchange information on Russian as well as French speakers in IS, which could be useful for both sides.

The minister stressed France is ready to act responsibly, as “intelligence sharing requires giving on both sides.”

French and Russian defense chiefs will also discuss measures to prevent dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace between the two countries’ warplanes during combat sorties.

The French defense minister’s trip comes after President Francois Hollande visited Moscow in November in the wake of the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people. Hollande’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin resulted in a joint declaration to intensify strikes against IS and coordinate the military effort in and around Syria.

Following the political statement by the French president, Le Drian is now coming to Moscow with a roadmap outlining exact strategies for tackling the threat posed by IS.

France has recently deployed its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, off Syria’s coast, complete with 26 bomber jets on board. Russian guided missile destroyer the Moskva is ready to provide temporary cover, with President Putin ordering the Russian military to work “as allies” with the French.

On Sunday, President Putin called on European states to act independently and join forces with Russia in combating international terrorism, saying in a documentary on the emerging world order that Europeans’ best interests “lie in joining efforts with Russia.” Moscow is ready to cooperate even in the midst of sanctions, Putin stressed.

The French military is carrying out anti-IS strikes as part of the US-led coalition that has not proved effective so far. The coalition’s legitimacy is highly questionable, as Damascus has at no time invited the West to conduct an air campaign on Syrian territory.


Russia wants to maintain ties with Turkish people, Turkish leadership ‘not eternal’: Putin

December 19, 2015


Moscow- Russia has no intention of damaging relations with the people of Turkey, President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying on Saturday, while making clear that Moscow’s ties with Ankara will not improve under the current Turkish leadership.

“I want to repeat it now: we consider the Turkish people a friendly nation, and we do not want to disrupt relations namely with the Turkish people,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying in a new documentary to be released on Sunday.

As for the current Turkish leadership, “nothing is eternal”, Putin said.

The president also said that Russia remained open and ready to develop economic and political cooperation with Europe, as well as to jointly fight terror, despite the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Susan Fenton)


Senator pressures Navy to take action against admiral in charge of SEALs

December 19, 2015

by Craig Whitlock

Washington Post

A U.S. senator said Friday that he would block the nomination of the Navy’s second-ranking civilian leader until the service reconsiders its decision not to punish a prominent admiral accused of retaliating against several whistleblowers.

The move by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) escalates the pressure on Navy leaders to take action against Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the commander in charge of the service’s SEAL teams and other elite units.

The Washington Post reported in October that the Navy was poised to promote Losey even though Pentagon investigators had determined that he illegally retaliated against staff members who he mistakenly suspected were whistleblowers.

Losey, a prominent figure in the military’s secretive Special Operations forces, once commanded SEAL Team 6, the clandestine unit known for killing terrorist targets such as Osama bin Laden. He now leads the Naval Special Warfare Command and previously served as a top military aide to the White House.

In a statement submitted to the Congressional Record, Wyden said he had placed a hold on the nomination of Janine Davidson, a former Pentagon official and Air Force pilot, to become the next Navy undersecretary.

Wyden said he didn’t have any concerns with Davidson herself but rather “with a larger matter concerning the Navy and its policies and practices with regard to retaliation against whistleblowers.” The lawmaker said he wanted “assurances” from the Navy that it would revisit the Losey case.

Late Friday, the Navy issued a statement defending its decision not to take action against Losey for his handling of the whistleblowers, but said that his pending promotion was under fresh review.

Wyden is among several lawmakers who have expressed concern over the Navy’s decision not to discipline Losey. He said he and seven other senators, whom he did not name, had asked the Pentagon in October for copies of the whistleblower investigative reports involving Losey. The reports were released this week.

The military’s whistleblower protection laws are relatively weak, and it is rare for violators to be punished. The Pentagon’s inspector general investigates more than 1,000 whistleblower cases a year but upholds fewer than 1 in 25 complaints.

Losey was investigated five times by the Defense Department’s inspector general after subordinates complained that he had wrongly fired, demoted or punished them during a fruitless hunt for a person who had anonymously reported him for a minor travel-policy violation.

After conducting separate, years-long investigations that involved more than 100 witnesses and 300,000 pages of email, the inspector general upheld complaints from three of the five staff members. In each of those cases, it recommended that the Navy take action against Losey for violating whistleblower protection laws, according to copies of the investigative reports obtained by The Post.

The Navy, however, dismissed those findings in October and decided not to discipline Losey, accepting his explanation that he had taken action against the staff members because they were poor performers, not suspected whistleblowers.

In the statement released late Friday, Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy’s chief spokeswoman, said Navy leaders “thoroughly reviewed” the inspector general’s investigations but concluded in October that Losey’s actions were “not reprisals.”

That decision had appeared to clear the way for Losey to pin on a higher rank as a two-star admiral. He had been originally selected for promotion in 2011 and was confirmed by the Senate, though his advancement was placed on hold until the whistleblower investigations could be resolved.

Although the Navy officially absolved Losey of misconduct, Cutler said that the service was taking a fresh look at whether he still merited promotion.

“The process and the standard for determining an officer’s qualifications for promotion and for determining whether misconduct occurred are different,” she said. “The Navy uses the highest level of thoroughness and scrutiny in making promotion recommendations, and all relevant and appropriate information is reviewed.”


New genetic theory might pave way to understanding human intelligence

Scientists from Imperial College believe that intelligence may be influenced by two networks of genes, possibly controlled by a master regulatory system

December 21, 2015

by Tim Radford

The Guardian

British scientists believe they have made a huge step forward in the understanding of the mechanisms of human intelligence. That genetic inheritance must play some part has never been disputed. Despite occasional claims later dismissed, no-one has yet produced a single gene that controls intelligence.

But Michael Johnson of Imperial College London, a consultant neurologist and colleagues report in Nature Neuroscience that they may have discovered a very different answer: two networks of genes, perhaps controlled by some master regulatory system, lie behind the human gift for lateral thinking, mental arithmetic, pub quizzes, strategic planning, cryptic crosswords and the ability to laugh at limericks.

As usual, such research raises potentially politically-loaded questions about the nature of intelligence. “Intelligence is a composite measure of different cognitive abilities and how they are distributed in a population. It doesn’t measure any one thing. But it is measurable,” Dr Johnson said.

About 40% of the variation in intelligence is explained by inheritance. The other factors are not yet certain. But the scientists raise the distant possibility that armed with the new information they may be able to devise ways to modify human intelligence.

The idea of ultimately using drugs to affect cognitive performance is not in any way new. We all drink coffee to improve our cognitive performance,” Dr Johnson said. “It’s about understanding the pathways that are related to cognitive ability both in health and disease, especially disease so one day we could help people with learning disabilities fulfil their potential. That is very important.”

The two networks, known just as M1 and M3, one with roughly 1000 genes, the other with more than a 100, also play a role in neurodevelopmental illnesses such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. The functions do not seem to overlap, and the role of each network has yet to be settled.

We know that genetics plays a major role in intelligence but until now haven’t known which genes are relevant. This research highlights some of the genes involved in human intelligence and how they interact with each other,” Dr Johnson said. “What’s exciting about this is that the genes we have found are likely to share a common regulation, which means that potentially we can manipulate a whole set of genes whose activity is linked to human intelligence.”

The discovery is testament to the power of patience, patients and the assembly of huge sets of data. The Imperial College scientists started with evidence from 100 mouse brains, 122 samples of human brain, and 102 whole human brains preserved postmortem. Such indicators of a genetic connection between neurodevelopmental problems or memory and understanding were then checked against records of 6,732 people in the “Generation Scotland” family health study, which tracks the life history of thousands of volunteers, and repeated in 1,003 healthy people who had volunteered to take part in a study called the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936.

It assessed a range of cognitive abilities – among them memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning – and then it combined the results with genetic information donated by healthy people who had taken IQ tests, and from people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Included in the research were studies of people who had undergone neurosurgery for epilepsy.

Then the scientists then harnessed massive computing power to see what the data could tell them. They found that the genes that influenced the intelligence and ability of healthy people were the same ones that impaired cognitive ability and caused epilepsy when mutated. If researchers understand what may go wrong in the interplay of inheritance that delivers human reasoning or memory, they might – the possibility for the moment is only theoretical – be able to devise new ways to deliver help.

Traits such as intelligence are governed by large groups of persons working together – like a football team made up of players in different position,” he said. “We found that some of these genes overlap with those that cause severe childhood onset epilepsy or intellectual disability,”

The researchers may have identified a pool of players in a team: they still have to identify how the players co-operate, which are the key players and precisely what game is being played.

“Eventually we hope that this sort of analysis will provide new insights into better treatments for neurodevelopmental disease such as epilepsy, and ameliorate or treat the cognitive impairments associated with these devastating diseases.”

1 Admiral Bobby Ray Inman (April 4, 1931 in Rhonesboro, Texas) is a retired United Statesadmiral who held several influential positions in the U.S. Intelligence community. He served as Director of Naval Intelligence from September 1974 to July 1976, then moved to the Defense Intelligence Agency where he served as Vice Director until 1977. He next became the Director of the National Security Agency. Inman held this post until 1981. His last major position was as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post he held from February 12, 1981 to June 10, 1982.

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