Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News December 28, 2019

Dec 28 2019

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. December 28, 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.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for December 28:”What is not generally known, but soon will be, is the connection between Donald Trump and the late Willis Carto. The latter was a strong neo-Nazi and no friend of Jews or Evangelical Christians and Trump was in close contact with Carto, sending him money and exchanging emails. Copies of these emails have fallen into what Trump would consider the wrong hands and are slated for publication. There is also a collection of photographs of Trump, Carto, Piper and Christopher Bolleyn that ought to keep the political pot boiling. After all, Trump’s great uncle was an SS colonel, attached to the Race and Settlement office of the SS.”

The Table of Contents
• After Trump pardon, Joe Arpaio gives interview to publication that denies the Holocaust
• Trump fights to keep evangelicals on his side ahead of 2020
• The Rise of the Far Right Is a Global Security Threat
• Is ‘Little Rocket Man’ Winning?
• A Big And Bizarre Drone Mystery Is Unfolding In Rural Colorado
• Colorado-Based Identified Anti-Government Group
• Drones as Domestic Spying Tools
• Ring sued by man who claims camera was hacked and used to harass his kids
• Russia says new intercontinental hypersonic weapon is operational
• U.S. Concedes Defeat on Nord Stream 2 Project, Officials Say
• The Season of Evil

After Trump pardon, Joe Arpaio gives interview to publication that denies the Holocaust
by Eric Hananoki
Media Matters
Joe Arpaio, the racist Arizona sheriff who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump, gave another interview to an anti-Semitic publication that has repeatedly pushed claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax.”
Trump pardoned Arpaio on August 25 after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for deliberately violating a court order regarding his racial profiling of the Latino community. As the Phoenix New Times has documented, Arpaio — who was voted out of office last November — had “fostered horrendous jail conditions, reckless police operations, and carried out personal vendettas against political rivals and members of the press. … Foremost, he and his deputies have violated the Constitutional rights of brown-skinned U.S. citizens and have committed outright cruelty against the undocumented.”
American Free Press published a September 15 piece by “roving editor” Mark Anderson stating that it “recently” interviewed Arpaio to combat “the false narrative that Arpaio had engaged in ‘racial profiling’ when his deputies apprehended illegal alien suspects.” The piece shared details from their conversation, including regarding Arpaio’s campaign that falsely claims former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described American Free Press as “an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented news­pa­per” that attracts “the most vit­ri­olic anti-Semites.” The New York Times wrote that the late Willis Carto, who helped found the publication, “used lobbying and publishing to denigrate Jews and other minorities and galvanize the movement to deny the Holocaust.”
American Free Press has repeatedly promoted Holocaust denial and other blatant anti-Semitism (the site scrubbed some of its Holocaust content following Media Matters criticism earlier this year). Headlines on the site have included:
“Audio Interview: Jewish Fingerprints All Over 9-11”
“Audio Interview: Holocaust Hoax Exposed”
“Meet the Man [Elie Wiesel] Who Invented the ‘Holocaust’”
“Why Can We Question Anything but the ‘Holocaust’?”
“Third Consecutive Zionist Jew to Head U.S.’s Economic Warfare Division”
The site’s bookstore sells The Holocaust Never Happened & The CIA Killed JFK, a book that claims to “destroy the hoax of the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi Germany”; and another book claiming “that the official narrative of the Holocaust cannot be sustained.”
Arpaio has given interviews to the publication in prior years. The disgraced sheriff granted an interview to the late writer Victor Thorn in 2014, as the Phoenix New Times noted. Thorn — who died in 2016 — penned the books The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century’s Greatest Fabrication and MADE IN ISRAEL: 9-11 And The Jewish Plot Against America, which were both promoted by American Free Press.
Arpaio also spoke to Anderson in December 2016 and vowed that he is “not going to go away.” Anderson concluded his article by writing that “we can only hope Arpaio’s career is not over. America needs more men like him.”
The former Arizona sheriff — like Team Trump — has also had no problem associating with other toxic media, including 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Mark Anderson is also a 9/11 truther. He has written that “the federal government’s conspiracy theory [about 9/11] is the height of absurdity” and “this newspaper, among other alternative media, has been aggressively challenging the government’s 9-11 conspiracy theory over the years, with the much-in-demand September 5, 2011 special 9-11 edition of AFP being the latest effort in that initiative. Dozens of copies were distributed at the debate. The government’s story is weakening, but it’s difficult to overcome the conventional story.”

Trump fights to keep evangelicals on his side ahead of 2020
Recent, high-profile defections have left the president and his campaign spooked about losing a key component of his base
December 28, 2019
by Joan E Greve in Washington DC
The Guardian
The US president going to church on Christmas Eve should not have attracted much attention. But it was the specific church Donald Trump chose to attend on Tuesday that raised eyebrows.
Instead of attending his usual service at the liberal church in Palm Beach, Florida, where he married his third wife, Trump instead went to a conservative Baptist-affiliated church in West Palm Beach.
The change of religious venue is the latest sign Trump is making efforts to lock down his evangelical support heading into next year’s presidential election. White evangelicals overwhelmingly backed Trump in 2016, and he will need to win their support again to secure a second term. But there have been some recent, high-profile defections in the evangelical community that appear to have left the president and his campaign team spooked about losing a key component of his base.
Trump’s troubles began earlier this month, when the evangelical magazine Christianity Today, which was founded by the late Billy Graham, published an editorial calling for the president’s removal from office.
Mark Galli, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, said Trump’s efforts to convince Ukraine to investigate one of his political rivals, the former vice-president Joe Biden, were “a violation of the constitution” and “profoundly immoral.”
Trump tried to downplay the editorial by criticizing Christianity Today as a “far left magazine” that would rather have a “Radical Left nonbeliever” in the White House. But the editorial clearly left an impression, as the magazine saw a spike in subscriptions and an editor for another Christian news organization resigned after the outlet issued its own editorial in support of the president.
Trump now appears to be moving to prevent any more defections, with a new effort aimed at evangelical supporters.
One day after Christianity Today published its editorial, Trump’s re-election campaign announced the president would travel to Miami on 3 January to launch “Evangelicals for Trump,” an event that Trump’s advisers claimed was set in motion before the magazine released Galli’s piece.
Despite the president’s robust response to the stinging editorial, there are few signs that Trump’s evangelical supporters are abandoning him en masse. More than eight in 10 white evangelicals backed Trump in 2016, and a late October poll found that 99% of Republican white evangelicals oppose the president’s impeachment.
Other evangelical leaders also jumped to the president’s defense after the Christianity Today editorial. Franklin Graham, a staunch Trump ally whose father founded the magazine, called the editorial “a totally partisan attack on the president of the United States.” Nearly 200 evangelical leaders signed a letter to the magazine’s president affirming their support for Trump.
Those evangelical leaders have a vested interest in seeing Trump win re-election. In the nearly three years since he took office, the president has remade the federal judiciary, stacking the bench with young conservatives who will likely spend decades issuing rulings on everything from abortion to LGBTQ+ rights. According to the Washington Post, Trump nominees now make up a quarter of US circuit court judges, in addition to the president’s two supreme court picks.
Trump has also made aggressive moves to enforce abortion restrictions long sought by the religious right. Earlier this year, the Trump administration moved to restrict fetal tissue research and issued a regulation banning family planning clinics that receive federal funding from referring women for abortions.
In comparison, Democratic presidential candidates have promised to reverse Trump’s abortion restrictions and nominate judges who support Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court case that recognized women’s right to access abortion.
In this sense, evangelical leaders may consider their support for the president, a thrice-married businessman who previously described himself as “very pro-choice”, to be purely transactional.
But on that point, the Christianity Today editorial offers a word of warning. “To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: remember who you are and whom you serve,” Galli wrote. “Consider how your justification of Mr Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior.”

The Rise of the Far Right Is a Global Security Threat
by Jonah Shepp
New York Magazine
When Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz was elected in 2017 on an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, nationalist platform, many observers (including yours truly) feared that the new government would empower right-wing extremists; those fears were confirmed a few months later when the far-right Freedom Party joined Kurz’s coalition. The party took control of several key ministries, while its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, became Kurz’s vice-chancellor.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a disturbing story on what the Freedom Party has been up to since then. Shortly after the party came to power, the Interior Ministry asked the anti-extremism unit of the domestic intelligence service to hand over the names of informants who had infiltrated the far-right community; the leader of that unit refused, and a few weeks later, “armed police burst into her office and carted away years’ worth of domestic files as well as intelligence from allied nations.”
This bears repeating: A government ministry demanded that a domestic intelligence agency expose the identities of its informants in violent extremist groups to officials sympathetic to those groups and, when rebuffed, proceeded to seize files from the agency by force in an illegal police raid.
It may be hard to fathom this kind of thing happening in a European democracy in 2018, but there is no reason whatsoever to find this surprising. The Freedom Party has well-documented links to extremist groups including the far-right youth movement Generation Identity. An Austrian nonprofit found that extremists have been employed by four of the ministries the party now controls, including the foreign, defense, and interior ministries. A party official recently published a poem “likening migrants to rats,” the Times reports.
The far-right infiltration of the Austrian government has gotten so bad that other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, and Germany, are becoming wary of sharing intelligence with Austria for fear that it will end up in the wrong hands: namely, Russian hands, as the Freedom Party is simpatico with Russian president Vladimir Putin and has a cooperation agreement with his United Russia party. Kurz, predictably, has defended his decision to bring the party into his government and downplayed his partners’ ties to Russia, as well as the political motivations of the raid on the domestic intelligence service.
The Freedom Party has been in government before, from 2000 to 2005, at which time the European Union sanctioned Austria over its inclusion. Since that time, it has undergone the same kind of sanitizing as other European far-right parties to improve its mainstream palatability, disavowing or at least soft-pedaling its Nazi origins and casting itself as an ordinary conservative-libertarian party that just wants to Make Austria Great Again. At the same time, it has benefited from the growing public opposition to immigration from Muslim countries and has doubled down on its nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, couched in the language of the white-supremacist conspiracy theory of “replacement.”
Unfortunately, Austria is hardly the only place where right-wing extremism has moved from the fringes to the mainstream, and the Freedom Party’s ideological kin in other European countries are following similar strategies, seeking control of key security and intelligence institutions as soon as they obtain any measure of power. Interior, defense, and foreign ministries are the ideal branches of government for these parties to enact their core agendas; they also happen to be the ministries an extremist minority would want to capture if they wanted to turn law enforcement, the intelligence apparatus, and the military into vehicles for their ideology and undermine the rule of law.
In Italy, for example, deputy prime minister and minister of interior Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League party, has been using his position to authoritarian ends. Salvini has filed a defamation suit against author Roberto Saviano, one of his harshest critics, and threatened to take away Saviano’s police protection (due to Mafia death threats) in an act of retaliation disguised as cost cutting. He has also bulldozed refugee camps, abolished protections for migrants, and pushed for transparently racist policies like a curfew on “little ethnic shops.”
What’s new and terrifying about the events in Austria, however, is that the right-wing party is using its powers in government to protect violent organizations it counts as its allies. In most European countries, the far right has yet to garner enough power to act quite so brazenly. Germany’s chief of domestic intelligence Hans-Georg Maassen was removed from his position last year after expressing sympathy with far-right demonstrators and calling into question his agency’s ability to monitor and crack down on neo-Nazis. Other nationalist governments in Europe have quietly embraced or marched alongside extremist groups, but most have avoided actively boosting them.
Where can we find another example of a government actively undermining the detection and suppression of far-right extremist movements? Right here in the U.S., as a matter of fact.
White-supremacist violence has been rising steadily over the past three years, and extremism watchers like the Anti-Defamation League make no bones about the fact that this is directly linked to the election of President Donald Trump. Not only has Trump downplayed the threat of white-supremacist terrorism and failed to convincingly distance himself from the neo-Nazi fringes of his base, his administration has taken concrete steps to shift government resources away from addressing the threat these extremist groups pose.
The Trump administration has gutted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Community Partnerships and the interagency task force on countering violent extremism. Meanwhile, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka’s wife Katharine, who plays a shady advisory role at DHS, has worked to refocus its counter-extremism efforts exclusively on Muslims (Gorka, like her husband, regularly promotes anti-Muslim conspiracy theories). DHS recently disbanded a team of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism, while the FBI’s new classification system for domestic terrorism lumps white-supremacist violence into a more nebulous category of “racially-motivated violent extremism.” This despite the fact that homegrown, white-supremacist terrorism is responsible for the vast majority of extremist murders in the U.S.
Just like in Austria, it seems the Trump administration is refusing to treat white supremacists as a top security threat because the administration, like the Republican Party in general, has become increasingly dependent on their support. White supremacism has been seeping into the GOP base through the conservative movement, the tea party, and the Evangelical community for many years now; with Trump at the helm, the ruling party’s link to far-right extremists has become quite apparent. Twitter can’t crack down on white-supremacist propaganda, it claims, because doing so would require it to censor and ban Republican politicians.
Radical white-supremacist terrorists have already carried out and will inevitably continue to attempt mass murders of Jews, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, and other “undesirables,” both here and in other countries. The administration is turning a blind eye to this scourge, to say nothing of Trump’s bashing of security and intelligence agencies and his embrace of “deep state” conspiracy theories, which have politicized the work of those agencies and made it harder for them to combat threats from extremists whose views align with the president’s. This malign neglect will surely contribute to more avoidable deaths in the years to come.
So don’t look at what’s happening in Austria and say it couldn’t happen here; it already is.

Is ‘Little Rocket Man’ Winning?
December 28, 2019
by Patrick J. Buchanan
As of Dec. 26, Kim Jong Un’s “Christmas gift” to President Donald Trump had not arrived. Most foreign policy analysts predict it will be a missile test more impressive than any Pyongyang has yet carried off.
What is Kim’s game? What does Kim want?
He cannot want war with the United States, as this could result in the annihilation of the Kim family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since World War II. Kim is all about self-preservation.
What he appears to want in his confrontation with Trump is a victory without war. In the near-term, Kim seeks three things: recognition of his regime as the legitimate government of North Korea and its acceptance in all the forums of the world, trade and an end to all U.S. and U.N. sanctions, and a nuclear arsenal sufficient to deter a US attack, including missiles that can strike US bases in South Korea, Japan, Guam, and the Western Pacific. And he seeks the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead on the US mainland.
Nor is this last goal unreasonable from Kim’s vantage point.
For he knows what became of the two other nations of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” that failed to develop nuclear weapons.
Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was invaded, and he was hanged and his sons hunted down and killed.
The Ayatollah’s Iran negotiated a 2015 nuclear deal with America and opened up its nuclear facilities to intrusive inspections to show that Tehran did not have a nuclear weapons program.
Trump came to power, trashed the deal, reimposed sanctions and is choking Iran to death.
Moammar Gadhafi surrendered his WMD in 2004 and opened up his production facilities.And in 2011, the US attacked Libya and Gadhafi was lynched by a mob.
Contrast the fate of these regimes and rulers with the Kim family’s success. His father, Kim Jong Il, tested nuclear weapons and missiles in defiance of US warnings, and now the son is invited to summits with the US president in Singapore and Hanoi.
If Kim did not have nuclear weapons, would American presidents be courting him? Would US secretaries of state be visiting Pyongyang? If Kim did not have nuclear weapons who would pay the least attention to the Hermit Kingdom?
Undeniably, with his promised “Christmas gift,” possibly a missile capable of hitting the US, Kim is pushing the envelope. He is taunting the Americans.We have told him what he must do. And he is telling us where we can go.
But by so doing, Kim has put the ball squarely in Trump’s court.
The question Trump faces: Is he prepared to accept North Korea joining Russia and China as a third adversarial power with the ability to launch a nuclear strike on the continental United States?
And if US sanctions are insufficient to force Kim to “denuclearize,” as seems apparent, is Trump prepared to force him to do so? Is Trump prepared to use “fire and fury” to remove Kim’s nukes?
With 28,500 US troops and thousands of US citizens in South Korea, many within artillery range of the DMZ, is Trump prepared to risk a clash that could ignite a second Korean War in the election year 2020?
Is the president prepared for whatever that might bring?
How does this confrontation play out?
A guess: The US has lived with North Korea’s nuclear weapons for a decade,and Trump is not going to risk a second Korean conflict with a military attack on Kim’s nuclear and missile arsenals. Kim Jong Un and his father have created a new reality in Korea, and we are going to have to live with it.
Where does East Asia go from here?
South Korea has twice the population of the North and an economy 40 times as large. Japan has a population five times that of North Korea and an economy 100 times as large.
If the US treaty guarantees, dating to the 1950s, to fight for these two nations come into question as a result of America’s reluctance to face down Pyongyang more forcibly on its nuclear arsenal, these nations are almost certain to start considering all options for their future security.
Among these are building their own nuclear arsenals and closer ties to the one nation that has shown it can discipline North Korea – China.
Much is on the line here.
Kim’s challenge is ultimately about the credibility of the United States, which has treaty commitments and issued war guarantees to scores of nations in NATO Europe, the Mideast and East Asia, but whose people have zero interest in any new war, especially a second Korean War.
If the world sees that America is reluctant to face down, or fight a North Korea that is threatening us, will they retain the old confidence that the United States will risk war for them?
What Kim is undermining is not just US security but US credibility.

A Big And Bizarre Drone Mystery Is Unfolding In Rural Colorado
Large groups of drones are flying grid pattern routes over the region at night and nobody knows who they belong to or what they’re doing.
December 26, 2019
by Tyler Rogoway
The War Zone
The sparse expanses of Northeast Colorado have become ground zero for a bizarre mystery surrounding sightings of nighttime coordinated flights of groups of drones. From roughly 7 pm to 10 pm every night last week, an estimated 17 drones with six-foot spans have flown “grid patterns” over Phillips County and near its border with neighboring Yuma County, according to Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliott. The drones operate at a few hundred feet in the air and were brightly lit with strobing colored and white lights, leaving local residents and those driving through the area baffled\
The Denver Post was first to report on the string of strange sightings. Local law enforcement, the FAA, DEA, U.S. Army, and the Air Force have said they have no idea what these aircraft are or who they belong to.
The Denver Post writes:
The sheriff’s office can’t explain where the drones are coming from or who is flying them. The estimated size and number of drones makes it unlikely that they’re being flown by hobbyists, Undersheriff William Myers said..
On Friday, Myers said he watched eight of the large drones flying along the Yuma County border near the intersection of U.S. 385 and County Road 54. At the same time, a single drone hovered about 25 miles away over the town of Paoli — it didn’t move all night, just hovered over the town — and eight more drones flew over Haxtun, about 10 miles down the road from Paoli, Myers said.
“Overhead they were probably doing 30, 40 mph,” he said. “They weren’t racing or flying around with speed.”
One resident who spotted a drone last week gave chase, Elliott said, driving behind it at about 50 mph, but lost the drone when he ran out of gas in Washington County.
The machines fly too high to be heard from the ground but can be seen by their strobing white lights along with red, blue and green lights, Myers said.

“The way Colorado law is written, none of the statutes fit for harassment or trespassing,” Myers said. “Colorado hasn’t gotten on board with identifying the airspace around your property as the actual premises, so we don’t have anything we could charge.”
The FAA does have rules for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and requires such aircraft to be flown during daylight hours, within sight of the pilot, no higher than 400 feet above the ground, and not over people, among other rules. However, pilots can apply for and receive waivers from the FAA that exempts the pilots from many of those rules.
It’s also not clear whether the drones over Phillips and Yuma counties would be governed by those regulations. A drone the size of the ones spotted over the counties likely would weigh more than 55 pounds, Moss said. That means the drone operator would be flying commercially and would likely need to be a “manned aviator” — an actual pilot, Moss said.

Elliott said Monday that the sheriff’s office has received nine calls about the drones since last week. He said residents no longer need to call to report a simple sighting of the drones.
“We just want to know if one lands, if we can get our hands on it, or if they see someone operating them, that’s what we’re looking for now,” he said. “We know they exist.”
I think people will wonder why there is no video that we know of these sightings. Most amateur video shot of lights in the sky at night has very little value, but regardless, you have to remember that this is happening in very sparsely populated areas after dark. If it was occurring near an urban area, I think the lack of video would be a bit troubling, but in this case, I don’t find it to be, especially considering the level of law enforcement knowledge of these events.
People seeing lights in the sky that they don’t understand the origin of happens often, but this case seems far more consistent over a short timespan than something that could be easily blown off. Once again, the fact that law enforcement is well aware of it and discussing it as fact is also telling. This all begs the question, what is going on in this remote section of Colorado?
Based strictly on the descriptions conveyed, it sounds like someone or some group is testing a broad-area surveillance capability with lower-end autonomous drones. This could include something as simple as having a group fly a series of planned routes and return with the information gathered via autopilot. By doing so, a group of small, relatively inexpensive drones can cover a large area quickly instead of single, far more expensive assets that could take more time and offer less redundancy. Such a capability could be used for search and rescue, mapping, and general intelligence gathering. This also doesn’t require man-in-the-loop control that would necessitate line-of-sight connectivity. Still, it is really flat terrain with endless farmland in the area where the sightings occurred, which means line-of-sight connectivity could be maximized, especially with the help of a large aerial or small tower, but the grid pattern nature of these flights that the Sheriff describes point to a coordinated and automated flight plan for the drones.
The airspace where this is occurring is peculiarly desolate, as well, making it ideally suited for such a task, but the flights are not legally occurring, which makes the whole affair quite suspicious. The fact that the activity is happening after sundown is even more intriguing and adds to the notion that whoever is doing this knows it is outside the bounds of FAA regulations.
In addition, it would be very challenging to trace these aircraft back to their place of origin or point of flight termination. The drones could fly the majority of their missions with lights on and turn them off during launch and recovery. With very little ambient light, they would be all but undetectable to the naked eye. Also, remember that drones this size can takeoff from very small areas, so it’s not like a runway is needed or anything like that. As such, they can originate from nearly anywhere.

Colorado-Based Identified Anti-Government Group
• III% Security Force
• III% United Patriots
• American Freedom Network
• American Patriots III%
• Freedom First Society
Colorado Springs
• John Birch Society
Colorado Springs
• National Assembly
• Superior Court for the Continental United States of America
• Team Law
Grand Junction
• The Three Percenters-III%ers
• We Are Change

Drones as Domestic Spying Tools
December 28, 2019
by Christian Jürs
As many as 30,000 investigative government-controlled drones travel the skies above U.S. soil, according to a report for Congress by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Congress has called on the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national air system .
Already, the FAA has approved domestic drone use by 81 agencies, including schools, police departments and the Department of Homeland Security.
Among the applicants approved: the Arlington Police Department in Texas; California State University in Fresno; Canyon County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho; the city of Herington, Kan.; the Georgia Tech Research Institute; Kansas State University; the Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida; the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; the Seattle Police Department; and the Universities of Alaska at Fairbanks, California-Davis and Florida.
Although these drones range in size, most are able to hover tens of thousands of feet in the sky, collecting images of people on the ground below.
Based on current trends – technology development, law enforcement interest, political and industry pressure, and the lack of legal safeguards – it is clear that drones pose a looming threat to Americans’ privacy.
Law enforcement agencies all over the United States are starting to use unmanned drones to spy on us, and the Department of Homeland Security is aggressively seeking to expand the use of such drones by local authorities….
The Department of Homeland Security has launched a program to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of small, unmanned drones by police and other public safety agencies, an effort that an agency official admitted faces “a very big hurdle having to do with privacy.”
The $4 million Air-based Technologies Program, which will test and evaluate small, unmanned aircraft systems, is designed to be a “middleman” between drone manufacturers and first-responder agencies.
The EPA is already using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa. Will we eventually get to a point where we all just consider it to be “normal” to have surveillance drones flying above our heads constantly?
The FBI uses aerial surveillance drones over US soil, and has agreed that further political debate and legislation to govern their domestic use may be necessary.
The bureau’s director admitted it used drones to aid its investigations.
However, the potential for growing drone use either in the US, or involving US citizens abroad, is an increasingly charged issue in Congress, and the FBI acknowleged there may need to be legal restrictions placed on their use to protect privacy.
It is known that drones are used by border control officials and have been used by some local law enforcement authorities and Department of Homeland Security in criminal cases.

Ring sued by man who claims camera was hacked and used to harass his kids
Lawsuit, which lists seven similar hacking incidents, argues that the camera systems are ‘fatally flawed’
December 27, 2019
by Kari Paul
The Guardian
A man in Alabama is suing the Amazon-owned home security company Ring, claiming his internet-connected camera was hacked and used to harass his children.
Ring user John Baker Orange purchased a Ring camera in July 2019 and in recent weeks allegedly experienced a chilling cybersecurity breach involving his children aged seven, nine, and 10, according to the lawsuit.
“Recently, Mr Orange’s children were playing basketball when a voice came on through the camera’s two-way speaker system”, the lawsuit said. “An unknown person engaged with Mr Orange’s children commenting on their basketball play and encouraging them to get closer to the camera”.
Baker Orange’s lawsuit comes after several media reports that hackers used two-way talk functions on the devices to wake people up and watch unsuspecting children through the internet-connected cameras.
The lawsuit named seven such incidents, including a Texas incident in which a hacker allegedly threatened a couple and demanded a ransom of $350,000 in bitcoin and another where a hacker allegedly tried to engage with an eight-year-old girl in Mississippi, claiming he was Santa Claus. The parents in that case released a video of the incident.
The lawsuit claims Ring should have implemented two-factor authentication, requiring users to verify their identities using a second form of identification like a phone number. It also notes that Ring did not require users to establish complicated passwords when setting up the devices.
“Unfortunately, Ring did not fulfill its core promise of providing privacy and security for its customers as its camera systems are fatally flawed,” the lawsuit says.
In December, Buzzfeed reported the log-in credentials for 3,672 Ring camera owners were compromised. Ring told the Guardian: “Ring does not comment on legal matters.”
The surveillance startup has been under increased scrutiny in recent months, after reports from the Guardian, Motherboard, and others revealed the extent to which the company has partnered with local police forces. Ring has partnered with more than 400 police forces across the country, according to a Vice investigation, allowing police to request access to user videos in an attempt to help prevent crime. Police forces have used Ring footage to arrest people for everything from stealing packages from porches to kidnappings.
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts criticized Ring in November as being “an open door for privacy and civil liberty violations”.

Russia says new intercontinental hypersonic weapon is operational
Moscow says the Avangard missile can hit speeds of up to 27 times the speed of sound. President Vladimir Putin said during the testing period that its abilities would render existing missile defense systems useless.
December 27, 2019
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that a new hypersonic weapon with an intercontinental range became operational on Friday.
Shoigu reported to Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was ready for deployment after years of tests, according to a statement issued by the Defense Ministry.
Russian officials say that the missile hit speeds of Mach 27, or around 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles) per hour during the tests. Mach 1 is a unit of measurement equivalent to the speed of sound (1,234.8 kph).
Although a considerable advance in terms of reported peak speeds, hypersonic (defined as speeds in excess of Mach 5) missiles are nothing new. Existing Russian and American ICBMs already have cruising speeds well in excess of 20,000 kph.
Putin revealed the plan to build the Avangard, as well as other prospective weapons, in his state of the union address in March 2018. He said the weapon’s ability to make sharp maneuvers on its way to its target would render all existing defense systems useless.
This week, the Russian president said that Russia was no longer playing a game of catch-up with the West on weapons development.
“This is a unique situation in our modern history: they are playing catch-up with us,” he said, during talks with senior military officials. Putin touted the development of the Avangard as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.
Russian media said that the Avangard would first be mounted onto Soviet-built RS-18B intercontinental ballistic missiles, and would later be fitted to the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, once the Sarmat is operational.
The Defense Ministry said last month that it had demonstrated the Avangard to US inspectors, as required by the New START nuclear arms treaty.
The US is also mulling new defense strategies to counter hypersonic weapons developed by Russia and China. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that developing new long-range fire capabilities of its own is a priority for the Pentagon.

U.S. Concedes Defeat on Nord Stream 2 Project, Officials Say
• Pipeline connecting Russia, Germany seen as security threat
• U.S. sending new ambassador Sullivan to Moscow next month
December 18, 2019
by Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams, and Lars Paulsson
The U.S. has little leverage to prevent the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany from being completed, two administration officials said, acknowledging the failure of a years-long effort to head off what officials believe is a threat to European security.
The massive $11-billion project is just weeks away from completion and has led President Donald Trump to call Germany “a captive to Russia.” He has criticized the European Union for not doing more to diversify imports away from the nation that supplies more than a third of its gas.
Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s take on the project, said sanctions that passed Congress on Tuesday as part of a defense bill are too late to have any effect. The U.S. instead will try to impose costs on other Russian energy projects, one of the officials added.
The admission is a rare concession on what had been a top foreign-policy priority for the Trump administration and highlights how European allies such as Germany have been impervious to American pressure to abandon the pipeline. It also shows how the U.S. has struggled to deter Russia from flexing its muscles on issues ranging from energy to Ukraine to election interference
“It has been a commercial project, but with a huge geopolitical dimension attached to that,” Peter Beyer, who is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trans-Atlantic policy coordinator, told Bloomberg Television in an interview in Berlin on Wednesday. “I’m expecting that the sanctions, if Donald Trump is going to sign that bill, will not have a big effect on that project.”
The administration is hoping to sharpen its focus on Russia when Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who was confirmed as ambassador to the country last week, heads to Moscow next month. The post has been vacant since early October, when former envoy Jon Huntsman stepped down, and ties between the two countries have only continued to sour.
On a visit to Poland in February, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the Nord Stream 2 project “funnels money to Russians in ways that undermine European national security.”
Trump has indicated that he’ll sign the legislation passed Tuesday. The penalties on companies building the project, led by Russian energy company Gazprom PJSC, would be effective immediately, according to a Senate Republican aide.
Some 350 companies are involved in building the undersea link, most notably the Swiss company Allseas Group SA, whose ships are laying the last section of pipe in Danish waters.
The sanctions targets vessels that lay the pipeline as well as executives from companies linked to those ships. They could be denied visas and have transactions related to their U.S.-based property or interests blocked.
The sanctions bill includes a 30-day “wind-down period” that allows targeted companies to halt their operations after the law comes into effect. Yet that could give Gazprom just enough time to finish work.
The last section of pipe can be completed by about Jan. 11, well before the end of the period, according to Anna Borisova, an analyst at BloombergNEF in London. Nord Stream 2 will be in a position to be commissioned between April and June 2020, after additional connection work and testing, she said.
“The project seems safe,” Borisova said. “We don’t see major risks.”
Trying to stymie that strategy, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson sent a letter to AllSeas CEO Edward Heerema Wednesday warning the company that it would face “crushing and potentially fatal” sanctions if it continued work on the pipeline. The senators said that the 30-day “wind-down” period was not intended to give AllSeas time to finish the project.
“If you were to attempt to finish the pipeline in the next 30 days, you would devastate your shareholders’ value and destroy the future financial viability of your company,” they wrote.
The new pipeline is set to ship as much as 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas annually directly to Germany, doubling capacities of the existing Nord Stream link. The U.S. and Eastern European nations see it as a threat to the Ukrainian transit route that has been in place for decades, bringing revenues to the smaller Former Soviet Union nation. The new link theoretically gives Russia the ability to bypass Ukraine as a transit corridor.
Gas traders in Europe are watching carefully for the date when work will finish and gas flows will start through Nord Stream 2. Its importance has increased along with tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which are negotiating a renewal for the 10-year gas transit contract that expires this month. Officials from the two countries plan and the European Commission plan to discuss the matter in Berlin on Thursday.
The completion of Nord Stream 2 could would bring fresh supplies of gas to Europe’s already glutted market. That would make it more difficult for the U.S. to gain a bigger foothold in shipping cargoes of liquefied natural gas by tanker into Europe.
U.S. sales of the fuel made up 26% of imports in November. Flexible terms for contracts from U.S. producers mean that they will sell to where prices are highest, meaning more cargoes may head to Asia in the coming months.
Beyer recognized the need for Europe to buy the fuel from a wider range of sellers.
“From a European standpoint, not only German, we need to diversify our energy interests,” he said. “We are also interested in receiving LNG from the United States of America.”
With assistance by Patrick Donahue, Daniel Flatley, Anna Shiryaevskaya, and Olga Tanas

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 41

Chuck was practicing on the piano when they came into the main hall.
Before he could say anything, Gwen pointed to Claude who was looking at the carvings on the main staircase.
“This is Mr. Duplessis, Chuck. I did a really stupid thing and locked my keys in the van and he got the door open.”
“Break the window?”
“No” said Claude, producing his lock pick set, “with these.”
Chuck looked at the set, reached in his pocket and pulled out his own.
They were the same.
“Are you a locksmith, by any chance?”
“No,” Claude grinned, “are you?”
“No, just a handyman who likes to keep his tools handy, if you follow me.”
“So am I.”
They shook hands.
Gwen could see that there was not going to be trouble.
“I brought him home, Chuck, because his car is not working and they have no place down in town for him to stay. He’s sleeping in the car and I thought that since he was so helpful, he might stay here for a few days.”
Chuck shrugged.
“If it’s OK with you, it’s OK with me. We can put him in the guest room. I guess we’ll have to put the sheets back on the bed.”
Chuck escorted his new guest down to the death room, carrying a stack of linen and blankets. Claude looked around the room and then out through the window. Snow was piled up almost to the bottom edge and it looked as if they were underground.
“Here, let me give you a hand,” he said as Chuck started making the bed.
When they finished, Claude took off his jacket and draped it over the back of a chair.
“I appreciate your letting me stay here, buddy. It’s a pain in the ass sleeping in your car, believe me.”
“No problem. Thanks for the help. You’re not a locksmith?”
“Are you a cop, dad?”
“No, far from it.”
“I’m a freelance dude who likes to help out nice young ladies who lock their keys in their cars. This is a fine place. Is it yours?”
“The carving is great. Listen, anything I can help you with around here? I owe you something for letting me stay here.”
“If I think of anything, you’ll be the first to know.”
They walked back to the living room, passing the kitchen.
“Are you hungry?” Chuck asked.
“Not now. I had a roadkill burger about an hour ago and it’s still with me. Who cooks here? The lady?”
“No I cook.”
“Hey, that’s a genuine coincidence! I eat! Wonders will never cease as Sister Maria Scholastia used to say when she was beating my ass with a steel ruler.”
Chuck had a dim view of most people but he decided that he liked this one and unless he had a gun hidden in his luggage, he was probably acceptable as a short-term guest. While Gwen had found Claude strongly attractive in a sexual sense, Chuck found him so in a social one. What Lars would think was problematical.
Lars came down just before dinner and was astonished to see a stranger entertaining his friends.
“This,” Chuck said, “is Eric and Lars. He’s my son.”
Claude stared at Eric and began to laugh.
“I’m sure of that.”
Lars was suspicious of the newcomer and was not particularly sociable. He observed Gwen’s interest and thought he would probably not like this fellow with the expensive sweater and white teeth.
Dinner consisted of thick pork chops, yams from the Thanksgiving purchases, applesauce and an excellent sauce made with the remnants of a bottle of very expensive burgundy.
Claude ate with relish, looking up from his plate from time to time to nod his appreciation.
“This is very good, I must say. Beats the lousy hamburgers down at the local grease pit. You been cooking long?”
“A few years. Have some more wine.”
“I will.”
And the talk turned to a print of Winslow Homer hanging on the dining room wall.
Claude pointed at it.
“The original is in the museum in Boston. Seen it many times. Do you like Homer?”
Chuck looked at the seascape.
“I do. The framing is good on that one.”
“Oh yes, a good frame makes all the difference. Just like a good sauce does something for the meat. A real Homer would look very nice right there, wouldn’t it?”
“A real Homer,” Chuck said, “would cost about as much as this house did.”
“I know. There was one in Christies last year that went for six hundred thousand and it wasn’t very good.”
“I saw that in the paper. And I think it went for seven and I wouldn’t want it. So many people buy art because they think they ought to. Some godawful piece of shit that looks like a chimp painted it sells for big money because of the name. A Japanese buyer got a Van Gough for sixty million that is probably fake and lousy on top of it.”
“It is fake and all of Van Gough’s colors fade. Greens turn yellow and the piece looks like crap.”
There was a long discussion about art that went on throughout the rest of the dinner and into the dessert. Gwen was fascinated, just watching Claude, and Eric was completely bored. His idea of art would have cost him a jail sentence and a course in therapy.
The subject turned to Claude.
“French, are you?” Chuck asked over a glass of port.
“Yes. My father is French and my mother Swedish. She died a few years ago but my father is living in France.”
“My mother is French and my father was Norwegian,” Lars said, twirling his wine glass around between his fingers.
“Your dad dead?”
“Yes. He had a heart attack.”
Gwen remembered Mrs. Cobbs’ description of the crushing of her husband by a cow and had another memory of Lars throwing his father into a manure pit.
“Sorry about that. My mother died in a fire in her apartment house. It really depressed me. My mother was a really wonderful woman.”


This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

No responses yet

Leave a Reply