TBR News February 17, 2016

Feb 17 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 17, 2016: “With total predictability, the drooling bloggers have discovered the horrifying news that Supreme Court Justice Scalia was reported to have been discovered, dead, in his bed with, horror of horrors, a pillow on his face. That the official reports said this was on the forehead, the bloggers, putting on their black robes, rushed into print speculating that Scalia had been suffocated for some unknown reason. Next, the nuttier of the babblers will notify both of their readers that a black car was seen by a local wino, speeding towards a nearby freeway and this will morph into whatever weird conspiracy theory the bloggers spastic mother concocts from her hospital bed. Soon other bloggers, not to be outdone, will discuss black helicopters seen taking off from the parking lot of a nearby Bob’s Big Boy with a cargo of hooded Illuminiate, or Mossad agents, scrambling on board clutching unusued pillows. Oh the horror of it all! And next week, when a freight train is derailed outside of Bad Seepage, Ohio, the bloggers will discover that more hooded men, this time from the Skul and Bones Society, were seen in the neighborhood by the usual reliable witnesses, supported by the usual uunamed ‘scientists’”

Conversations 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. 53

Date: Thursday, December 5, 1996

Commenced: 2:10 PM CST

Concluded: 2:25 PM CST


GD: Good afternoon, Robert. Still coping with the cold? RTC: The temperature or my nose?

GD: Oh, both.

RTC: I stay inside and take medicine. At my age, the cold goes away and so does the person. No, pretty much under control. How are you doing? GD: The diabetes is under control but my son is not. If he ever told me the truth, I would fall flat on the floor. He has the unfortunate habit of knocking his girl friends up and then ditching them. Not only do I disapprove of such behavior but I am the one who has weeping and pregnant people on my front porch while he hides in the bathroom. I have other things I would rather do, I can assure you.

RTC: Well, no, such is not good. What happens with the pregnant ones?

GD: I have to pay for the abortions and I am quite opposed to abortion. It would be a mess otherwise. Of course, he will never pay me back. I will have to take him to the vet one of these days and have him neutered. Save me a lot of grief and money.

RTC: There are always problems, aren’t there? GD: Increasingly, Robert, increasingly. Listen, you and I spoke once about the origin of AIDS….

RTC: That wasn’t us; it was the Navy if you will recall.

GD: I think we have talked about this more than once. And killing of the chink’s rice crops. Well, from a pragmatic point of view, I can see the benefit of doing that. China is coming up very fast and soon enough, she will produce goods better and cheaper than we do. That’s what was behind the First World War. The Brits had a lock on manufactured goods until the Germans caught up with them. Instead of competing, they started a war and everyone went down. I suppose starving the Chinese would be better than nuking them. Less radioactive material in the air. Still, if the Chinese get too big, too fast, they will collapse internally unless, and I stress this, unless they get rid of the ancient Communist bosses and go over to a Western style republic complete with corruption at the highest levels. With their natural business acumen, industrious nature and a rigid dictatorship over everything, something will give in sooner or later. I suppose your people will be giving them a push. Maybe internal strife, maybe something else.

RTC: Well, I am out of it now and it’s their worry. Did you ever talk to Herr Mueller about things like this? GD: Sometimes but when I was living in Bern, I discussed these things with a very senior KGB person.

RTC: Anyone I know? GD: First Directorate and all. Probably. Is it snowing there? RTC: Not now. I don’t suppose….

GD: No, I would rather not. It’s funny about our counter-intelligence. They won’t talk with me even though I know more than they do about their subjects.

RTC: Oh, of course not. Tell the FBI that the CIA wants to talk with you in private and see how fast they occupy your living room.

GD: One against the other, eh? Do it all the time in business. Oh and yes, I almost forgot. A Russian publisher’s representative was chatting with me the other day and mentioned, in passing, that your agency is now full of Jews and that a number of these are keeping their diplomatic pouches crammed with our secrets. You knew that?

RTC: I believe it. Can you give me names?

GD: A pleasure. I will have a list with names and home addresses sent to you from a friend in Maryland. I know nothing about it. Would you shoot them?

RTC: Heart attacks are much easier and less ostentatious. We can’t have that, Gregory. But something from the Russians to us via you is suspect. Not that you are a problem but how do we know they won’t pick out especially effective agents and ruin them? GD: We don’t, so watch them and see. If they visit the Israeli embassy there, why then you have some confirmation. How would I do it? Take the suspect aside and give them some very reasonable but entirely false information with some zingers included. Then, if this shows up, you have confirmation. And then the car accident or the heart attack.

RTC: Gregory, the additives are not original with you but I applaud your grasp.

GD: Why not just ship all of them down to a new CIA station on McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic and forget to fly in winter supplies. Like food and heating oil. Come spring, a tragic discovery when the snow-covered camp is dug out by rescuers who were alarmed by the lack of reports on the bowel movements of penguins.

RTC: You have a perverse sense of humor Gregory but there is something to say about that.

GD: Or send them on special missions into Arab territory and tip off the Arabs. Let them draw and quarter them without any assistance from you. A nice condolence letter, machine-signed from the director, and some plastic flowers would do nicely.

RTC: Yes and a nice star on the wall.

GD: If I were doing it, there would more stars than the Milky Way.

RTC: We have had to remove a number of bad apples from our barrels, Gregory. Not Jews generally although a few got too uppity.

GD: Do you have any black agents in the field? RTC: Now that you mention it, we do not. But by God, we do have black waiters in the executive dining rooms. Does that sound better to you? GD: It’s a start. I note that the Jews like to sponsor blacks so if things go wrong, they will have walking sandbags to absorb the bullets that are meant for them. You should read ‘The True Believer’ by Hoffer. Very good book. Short, sharp and very much to the point.  Speaking of landfill candidates, how are the Switzers across the street doing?

RTC: Still there. Maybe you can come up with another idea.

GD: Well a huge car bomb set off just as their Ambassador is starting on a drive to some function might make a point.

RTC: You forget, Gregory, that I live right across the street. Think of my windows.

GD: True. Well, give me some time and I can come up with a solution.

RTC: A Final Solution?

GD: Ah, there we go with the Jews again. My God, what was that sound?

RFC: I was sneezing and knocked over a lamp.

GD: I thought someone blew up the Swiss Embassy.

RTC: There you go, trying to cheer an old man up. There’s broken lamp all over the floor and maybe we can talk again later.

(Concluded at 2:25 PM CST)


US Marshals make arrests over non-payment of student loans

February 16, 2016


Being behind on student loan payments in Texas could cost you more than your credit score. The US Marshals Service in Houston is arresting people who aren’t paying their federal student debt.

Paul Aker said that seven deputy US Marshals showed up at his Houston home in combat gear.

I was wondering, why are you here. I am home, I haven’t done anything,” he told Fox 26, adding that he didn’t receive any notice about a $1,500 student loan he received in 1987.

He claims he was taken to federal court, where he signed a payment plan for the debt.

“It was totally mind-boggling,” Aker said.

This is far from an isolated incident, a source told the station. It isn’t the first time Marshals have served someone for being behind on loans, and they are planning to serve between 1,200 and 1,500 other people who have student debt.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) told Fox 26 that it’s worrisome that private debt collectors are able to use US Marshals as muscle to retrieve payments for loans.

“There’s bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt that is so old,” Green said.Unlike other forms of debt, student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy by law. They also have higher interest rates, due to being riskier to the lender because of a lack of collateral. Governments and collection agencies are also allowed to use tactics that are prohibited for other types of loans, such as seizing tax refunds, taking parts of disability payments or even garnishing wages – all without a court order.

Student loans have become a hot-button issue in the Democratic presidential primaries. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have railed against what they call excessive student debt, vowing to lower student loan interest rates. However, Sanders goes a step further by supporting tuition-free public universities that are fully paid for with a tax on Wall Street.

Almost 71 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduate with a student loan, and those graduating in 2015 have an average debt from school of over $35,000, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Apple CEO opposes court order to help FBI unlock iPhone

February 17, 2016


Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Tim Cook said his company opposed a demand from a U.S. judge to help the FBI break into an iPhone recovered from one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Cook said that the demand threatened the security of Apple’s customers and had “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” (apple.co/1Lt7ReW)

Judge Sheri Pym of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles said on Tuesday that Apple must provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to unlock data on an iPhone 5C that had been owned by Syed Rizwan Farook.

In a letter to Apple’s customers, Cook said the FBI had asked the company to build “a backdoor to the iPhone.”

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals,” he said.

“We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.”

(Corrects dateline to Feb 17 from Feb 16)

(Reporting by Shivam Srivastava in Bengaluru; Editing by Robin Paxton)

‘Operation Sophia’: WikiLeaks releases classified data on EU military op against refugee flows

February 17, 2016


WikiLeaks has released a classified report detailing the EU’s military operations against refugee flows in Europe. It also outlines a plan to develop a “reliable” government in Libya which will, in turn, allow EU operations to expand in the area.

The leaked report, dated January 29, 2016, is written by the operation’s commander, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino of the Italian Navy, for the European Union Military Committee and the Political and Security Committee of the EU.

The document gives refugee flow statistics and details of performed and planned operation phases of the joint EU forces operating in the Mediterranean.

The report also places pressure on the responsible EU bodies to help speed up the process of forming a “reliable” government in Libya, which is expected to invite EU forces to operate within its territorial waters, and later give permission to extend EU military operations onshore.

“Through the capability and capacity building of the Libyan Navy and Coastguard we will be able to give the Libyan authorities something in exchange for their cooperation in tackling the irregular migration issue. This collaboration could represent one of the elements of the EU comprehensive approach to help secure their invitation to operate inside their territory during Phase 2 activities,” the document states.

Admiral Credendino writes that the task force is ready to proceed to phase 2B despite political and legal challenges:

“…We are ready to move to phase 2B (Territorial Waters) where we can make a more significant impact on the smuggler and traffickers business model.”

“However, in order to move into the following phases we need to have a government of national accord with which to engage.”

“A suitable legal finish is absolutely fundamental to the transition to phase 2B (Territorial Waters) as without this, we cannot be effective.”

“Central to this and to the whole transition to phase 2B, is an agreement with the Libyan authorities. Ultimately they have the casting vote on the legal finish which will in turn drive the transition to phase 2B and the appetite for Member States to provide assets. As a European Union, we must therefore apply diplomatic pressure appropriately to deliver the correct outcome,” the document states.

The leak comes less than five months after it was reported that Operation Sophia would consist of 22 member states and 1,300 personnel which would board and seize suspect vessels in the Mediterranean.

However, the document notes that when the operation progresses into phases 2B and 3, “the smugglers will again most likely adapt quickly to the changing situation. The primary concern for smugglers will likely remain to avoid being apprehended so they can continue their illegal activities.”

The operation’s objective is primarily to disrupt smuggling routes by human traffickers, rather than to stop migration flows, according to the European Union Institute for Security Studies, which wrote in a document that the operation began on July 27, 2015.

The Institute noted, however, that there is a “real uncertainty on whether the operation will ever be able – for either legal or political reasons – to get to the core of its mandate, i.e. neutralising the smuggling networks through deterrence or open coercion, both off the Libyan coast and onshore.”

It went on to note that regardless of the operation’s support for EU member states, only “a very few” are likely to “have the skills and experience for such missions, let alone the will.”

It also stressed that the operation cannot be a “solution” to the refugee crisis, and that “no one in Brussels is contending that it could.”

The document’s release comes as Europe continues to face the worst refugee crisis since World War II, with the numbers of new arrivals expected to grow this year.

Beijing places missile launchers on disputed South China Sea island

Tensions in region could rise after satellite images appear to show two batteries of missile launchers and radar system on Woody Island

February 17, 2016

by Daniel Hurst, Oliver Holmes and Justin McCurry

The Guardian

China has deployed surface-to-air missile launchers on an island in the South China Sea, satellite images appear to show, dramatically upping the stakes in a territorial dispute involving the US and its regional allies.

Tensions in the South China Sea, a vital shipping route, could rise after two batteries of eight missile launchers and a radar system were deployed to Woody Island in the past week, according to images taken by the private company ImageSat International.

The images were first published by Fox News. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, did not deny that missile launchers had been installed but said the reports were an attempt by certain western media to create news stories.

As for the limited and necessary self-defence facilities China has built on islands and reefs stationed by Chinese personnel, that is consistent with the self-defence and self-preservation China is entitled to under international law,” he said.

A foreign ministry spokesman also sidestepped confirming the deployment, but did say: “Whether or not to deploy defence facilities on islands is totally within China’s sovereignty. It has nothing to do with militarisation.”

The development, later confirmed by the Taiwanese defence ministry, reverberated through an Asean (Association of South-East Asian Nations) leaders’ meeting in California, hosted by Barack Obama. Several Asean countries have overlapping claims to islands and surrounding waters in the South China Sea, including Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines. China claims most of the area, which is thought to have significant oil and gas reserves and is a route for roughly £3.17tn in trade.

At Tuesday’s meeting Obama said freedom of navigation must be upheld and lawful commerce should not be impeded. “The US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said. “We will support the right of other countries to do the same.”

The Vietnamese premier, Nguyen Tan Dung, on Monday called for the US to play a larger role in demilitarisation of the South China Sea and have a “stronger voice”.

Beijing’s reported ability to shoot down planes with anti-aircraft missiles is likely to alarm Asean members, who might add further pressure on the US to attempt to halt China’s military expansion.

Woody Island is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, which calls it Phú Lâm Island. The island has been under Chinese control since 1974, according to the US national security thinktank, the Center for a New American Security.

Taiwanese general David Lo told Reuters that Taiwan would closely watch subsequent developments. “Interested parties should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region and refrain from taking any unilateral measures that would increase tensions,” he said.

An image dated 14 February showed the presence of the equipment, whereas the same area looked to be empty in an image dated 3 February. Fox News cited a US official as saying the images appeared to show the HQ-9 air defence system, which had a range of about 125 miles and could therefore threaten any nearby planes.

The Vietnamese foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment..

Asked about the missile move, a US state department spokesman said: “While I cannot comment on matters related to intelligence, we do watch these matters very closely. The United Sates continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarisation of features in the South China Sea.”

A US navy destroyer sailed close to the disputed Paracel Island chain, which includes Woody Island, in a “freedom of navigation” exercise late last month. China branded that action as “highly dangerous and irresponsible” and accused the US of being the biggest cause of militarisation in the South China Sea.

Wang was asked about the deployment reports at a joint press conference that he was holding alongside his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, who was in Beijing for annual strategic talks. Wang said he was only told of the reports several minutes beforehand. He said: “I also hope the media everywhere … will turn your attention more to the lighthouse we have built on some of the islands … which are in operation now and have been very useful in assuring the safety of passing ships.”

Bishop had said before the trip that she intended to question China about its activities in the South China Sea. “We had a candid exchange of views on these issues. China and Australia share a common interest in the maintenance of peace and security in our region,” Bishop said on Wednesday after the meeting.

Japan, which is embroiled in its own territorial dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, said it was deeply concerned by the missile launcher reports.

The ongoing situation in the South China Sea, where unilateral actions, including large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts and their use for military purposes, change the status quo and raise tensions in the region, is an issue of common concern to the international community,” a spokesman for Japan’s foreign ministry told the Guardian.

Japan has serious concerns over such actions and would like to reiterate that such unilateral actions to create a fait accompli cannot be accepted.”

Tokyo recently announced plans to deploy thousands of troops and build missile batteries on tiny islands in the East China Sea, with officials confirming for the first time that the defences were designed to check Chinese military influence in the region.

The spokesman said Japan and Australia were in a “special relationship” and had been conducting close consultations on a wide range of issues affecting the region.

China has reclaimed islands artificially for decades, building runways and military installations on once-isolated coral reefs. In May, Chinese and Vietnamese ships collided as Beijing tried to set up an oil rig. Vietnam released footage of a Chinese ship ramming and sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat.

Additional reporting by Calvin Godfrey in Ho Chi Minh City

Report: Russia to start delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran

Russia will reportedly send the first S-300 air defense system to Iran this week. The deal was made in 2007, but put on ice for years due to an arms embargo on Iran.

February 17, 2016


Russian authorities are preparing for a ceremony to mark the delivery of the first S-300 missile battery to Iran from the southern Russian city of Astrakhan on Thursday, according a RIA report citing an unnamed source.

Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan, who is currently visiting Russia, will likely attend the event.

Tehran first ordered the advanced air-defense systems nearly a decade ago, after signing a $800 (718 million euro) deal with Moscow. However, the Kremlin soon froze the transaction due to international arms embargo on Iran.

The two countries revived the weapons contract last year, after Iran agreed to reign in its nuclear program.

Russia will also sign a contract to supply Iran with a batch of Su-30SM fighter jets sometime this year, RIA said in a separate report, quoting a senior official at Russia’s arms export agency.

Iran building up its military

Talking to the Russian “Rossiya-24” television on Tuesday, Defense Minister Dehghan said that the Islamic Republic planned to boost its military prowess.

“We intend to raise the level of defense capability, in quality as well as quantity, to ensure protection from foreign attacks,” he said.

The Interfax news agency also announced on Tuesday that Iran was interested in buying Russian-made helicopters, submarines, ships and additional missile systems.

Russia would deliver all of the S-300 systems to Iran before the end of the year, according to Interfax’s source in the defense industry.

Moscow’s long-standing plans to supply Tehran with the surface-to-air missiles have sparked strong condemnation from the US and its allies in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Israel are particularly opposed to the sale, saying it could destabilize the region.

The Kremlin has rejected the criticism, claiming the S-300 was for defense.

Nickel and Dimed in 2016

You Can’t Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage

by Peter Van Buren


When presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talks about income inequality, and when other candidates speak about the minimum wage and food stamps, what are they really talking about?

Whether they know it or not, it’s something like this.

My Working Life Then

A few years ago, I wrote about my experience enmeshed in the minimum-wage economy, chronicling the collapse of good people who could not earn enough money, often working 60-plus hours a week at multiple jobs, to feed their families. I saw that, in this country, people trying to make ends meet in such a fashion still had to resort to food benefit programs and charity. I saw an employee fired for stealing lunches from the break room refrigerator to feed himself. I watched as a co-worker secretly brought her two kids into the store and left them to wander alone for hours because she couldn’t afford childcare. (As it happens, 29% of low-wage employees are single parents.)

At that point, having worked at the State Department for 24 years, I had been booted out for being a whistleblower. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me next and so took a series of minimum wage jobs. Finding myself plunged into the low-wage economy was a sobering, even frightening, experience that made me realize just how ignorant I had been about the lives of the people who rang me up at stores or served me food in restaurants. Though millions of adults work for minimum wage, until I did it myself I knew nothing about what that involved, which meant I knew next to nothing about twenty-first-century America.

I was lucky. I didn’t become one of those millions of people trapped as the “working poor.” I made it out. But with all the election talk about the economy, I decided it was time to go back and take another look at where I had been, and where too many others still are.

My Working Life Now

I found things were pretty much the same in 2016 as they were in 2012, which meant — because there was no real improvement — that things were actually worse.

This time around, I worked for a month and a half at a national retail chain in New York City. While mine was hardly a scientific experiment, I’d be willing to bet an hour of my minimum-wage salary ($9 before taxes) that what follows is pretty typical of the New Economy.

Just getting hired wasn’t easy for this 56-year-old guy. To become a sales clerk, peddling items that were generally well under $50 a pop, I needed two previous employment references and I had to pass a credit check. Unlike some low-wage jobs, a mandatory drug test wasn’t part of the process, but there was a criminal background check and I was told drug offenses would disqualify me. I was given an exam twice, by two different managers, designed to see how I’d respond to various customer situations. In other words, anyone without some education, good English, a decent work history, and a clean record wouldn’t even qualify for minimum-wage money at this chain.

And believe me, I earned that money. Any shift under six hours involved only a 15-minute break (which cost the company just $2.25). Trust me, at my age, after hours standing, I needed that break and I wasn’t even the oldest or least fit employee. After six hours, you did get a 45-minute break, but were only paid for 15 minutes of it.

The hardest part of the job remained dealing with… well, some of you. Customers felt entitled to raise their voices, use profanity, and commit Trumpian acts of rudeness toward my fellow employees and me. Most of our “valued guests” would never act that way in other public situations or with their own coworkers, no less friends. But inside that store, shoppers seemed to interpret “the customer is always right” to mean that they could do any damn thing they wished. It often felt as if we were penned animals who could be poked with a stick for sport, and without penalty. No matter what was said or done, store management tolerated no response from us other than a smile and a “Yes, sir” (or ma’am).

The store showed no more mercy in its treatment of workers than did the customers. My schedule, for instance, changed constantly. There was simply no way to plan things more than a week in advance. (Forget accepting a party invitation. I’m talking about childcare and medical appointments.) If you were on the closing shift, you stayed until the manager agreed that the store was clean enough for you to go home. You never quite knew when work was going to be over and no cell phone calls were allowed to alert babysitters of any delay.

And keep in mind that I was lucky. I was holding down only one job in one store. Most of my fellow workers were trying to juggle two or three jobs, each with constantly changing schedules, in order to stitch together something like a half-decent paycheck.

In New York City, that store was required to give us sick leave only after we’d worked there for a full year — and that was generous compared to practices in many other locales. Until then, you either went to work sick or stayed home unpaid. Unlike New York, most states do not require such a store to offer any sick leave, ever, to employees who work less than 40 hours a week. Think about that the next time your waitress coughs.

Minimum Wages and Minimum Hours

Much is said these days about raising the minimum wage (and it should be raised), and indeed, on January 1, 2016, 13 states did raise theirs. But what sounds like good news is unlikely to have much effect on the working poor.

In New York, for instance, the minimum went from $8.75 an hour to the $9.00 I was making. New York is relatively generous. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and 21 states require only that federal standard. Presumably to prove some grim point or other, Georgia and Wyoming officially mandate an even lower minimum wage and then unofficially require the payment of $7.25 to avoid Department of Labor penalties. Some Southern states set no basement figure, presumably for similar reasons.

Don’t forget: any minimum wage figure mentioned is before taxes. Brackets vary, but let’s knock an even 10% off that hourly wage just as a reasonable guess about what is taken out of a minimum-wage worker’s salary. And there are expenses to consider, too. My round-trip bus fare every day, for instance, was $5.50. That meant I worked most of my first hour for bus fare and taxes. Keep in mind that some workers have to pay for childcare as well, which means that it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which someone could actually come close to losing money by going to work for short shifts at minimum wage.

In addition to the fundamental problem of simply not paying people enough, there’s the additional problem of not giving them enough hours to work. The two unfortunately go together, which means that raising the minimum rate is only part of any solution to improving life in the low-wage world.

At the store where I worked for minimum wage a few years ago, for instance, hours were capped at 39 a week. The company did that as a way to avoid providing the benefits that would kick in once one became a “full time” employee. Things have changed since 2012 — and not for the better.

Four years later, the hours of most minimum-wage workers are capped at 29. That’s the threshold after which most companies with 50 or more employees are required to pay into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) fund on behalf of their workers. Of course, some minimum wage workers get fewer than 29 hours for reasons specific to the businesses they work for.

It’s Math Time

While a lot of numbers follow, remember that they all add up to a picture of how people around us are living every day.

In New York, under the old minimum wage system, $8.75 multiplied by 39 hours equaled $341.25 a week before taxes. Under the new minimum wage, $9.00 times 29 hours equals $261 a week. At a cap of 29 hours, the minimum wage would have to be raised to $11.77 just to get many workers back to the same level of take-home pay that I got in 2012, given the drop in hours due to the Affordable Care Act. Health insurance is important, but so is food.

In other words, a rise in the minimum wage is only half the battle; employees need enough hours of work to make a living.

About food: if a minimum wage worker in New York manages to work two jobs (to reach 40 hours a week) without missing any days due to illness, his or her yearly salary would be $18,720. In other words, it would fall well below the Federal Poverty Line of $21,775. That’s food stamp territory. To get above the poverty line with a 40-hour week, the minimum wage would need to go above $10. At 29 hours a week, it would need to make it to $15 an hour. Right now, the highest minimum wage at a state level is in the District of Columbia at $11.50. As of now, no state is slated to go higher than that before 2018. (Some cities do set their own higher minimum wages.)

So add it up: The idea of raising the minimum wage (“the fight for $15”) is great, but even with that $15 in such hours-restrictive circumstances, you can’t make a loaf of bread out of a small handful of crumbs. In short, no matter how you do the math, it’s nearly impossible to feed yourself, never mind a family, on the minimum wage. It’s like being trapped on an M.C. Escher staircase.

The federal minimum wage hit its high point in 1968 at $8.54 in today’s dollars and while this country has been a paradise in the ensuing decades for what we now call the “One Percent,” it’s been downhill for low-wage workers ever since. In fact, since it was last raised in 2009 at the federal level to $7.25 per hour, the minimum has lost about 8.1% of its purchasing power to inflation. In other words, minimum-wage workers actually make less now than they did in 1968, when most of them were probably kids earning pocket money and not adults feeding their own children.

In adjusted dollars, the minimum wage peaked when the Beatles were still together and the Vietnam War raged.

Who Pays?

Many of the arguments against raising the minimum wage focus on the possibility that doing so would put small businesses in the red. This is disingenuous indeed, since 20 mega-companies dominate the minimum-wage world. Walmart alone employs 1.4 million minimum-wage workers; Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) is in second place; and McDonald’s takes third. Overall, 60% of minimum-wage workers are employed by businesses not officially considered “small” by government standards, and of course carve-outs for really small businesses are possible, as was done with Obamacare.

Keep in mind that not raising wages costs you money.

Those minimum wage workers who can’t make enough and need to go on food assistance? Well, Walmart isn’t paying for those food stamps (now called SNAP), you are. The annual bill that states and the federal government foot for working families making poverty-level wages is $153 billion. A single Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year in public assistance money, and Walmart employees account for 18% of all food stamps issued. In other words, those everyday low prices at the chain are, in part, subsidized by your tax money.

If the minimum wage goes up, will spending on food benefits programs go down? Almost certainly. But won’t stores raise prices to compensate for the extra money they will be shelling out for wages? Possibly. But don’t worry — raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would mean a Big Mac would cost all of 17 cents more.

Time Theft

My retail job ended a little earlier than I had planned, because I committed time theft.

You probably don’t even know what time theft is. It may sound like something from a sci-fi novel, but minimum-wage employers take time theft seriously. The basic idea is simple enough: if they’re paying you, you’d better be working. While the concept is not invalid per se, the way it’s used by the mega-companies reveals much about how the lowest wage workers are seen by their employers in 2016.

The problem at my chain store was that its in-store cafe was a lot closer to my work area than the time clock where I had to punch out whenever I was going on a scheduled break. One day, when break time on my shift came around, I only had 15 minutes. So I decided to walk over to that cafe, order a cup of coffee, and then head for the place where I could punch out and sit down (on a different floor at the other end of the store).

We’re talking an extra minute or two, no more, but in such operations every minute is tabulated and accounted for. As it happened, a manager saw me and stepped in to tell the cafe clerk to cancel my order. Then, in front of whoever happened to be around, she accused me of committing time theft — that is, of ordering on the clock. We’re talking about the time it takes to say, “Grande, milk, no sugar, please.” But no matter, and getting chastised on company time was considered part of the job, so the five minutes we stood there counted as paid work.

At $9 an hour, my per-minute pay rate was 15 cents, which meant that I had time-stolen perhaps 30 cents. I was, that is, being nickel and dimed to death.

Economics Is About People

It seems wrong in a society as wealthy as ours that a person working full-time can’t get above the poverty line. It seems no less wrong that someone who is willing to work for the lowest wage legally payable must also give up so much of his or her self-respect and dignity as a kind of tariff. Holding a job should not be a test of how to manage life as one of the working poor.

I didn’t actually get fired for my time theft. Instead, I quit on the spot. Whatever the price is for my sense of self-worth, it isn’t 30 cents. Unlike most of this country’s working poor, I could afford to make such a decision. My life didn’t depend on it. When the manager told a handful of my coworkers watching the scene to get back to work, they did. They couldn’t afford not to.

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation

February 16 2016

by Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman

The Intercept

The U.K. government today announced that it is now illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.” Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israeli settlements will face “severe penalties” under the criminal law.

This may sound like an extreme infringement of free speech and political activism — and, of course, it is — but it is far from unusual in the West. The opposite is now true. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding.

The Israeli website +972 reported last year about a pending bill that “would ban entry to foreigners who promote the [BDS] movement that aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights.” In 2011, a law passed in Israel that “effectively ban[ned] any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural, or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.”

But the current censorship goal is to make such activism a crime not only in Israel, but in Western countries generally. And it is succeeding.

This trend TO outlaw activism against the decadeslong Israeli occupation — particularly though not only through boycotts against Israel — has permeated multiple Western nations and countless institutions within them. In October, we reported on the criminal convictions in France of 12 activists “for the ‘crime’ of advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the decadeslong military occupation of Palestine,” convictions upheld by France’s highest court. They were literally arrested and prosecuted for “wearing shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Long live Palestine, boycott Israel’” and because “they also handed out fliers that said that ‘buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza.’”

As we noted, Pascal Markowicz, chief lawyer of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, published this celebratory decree (emphasis in original): “BDS is ILLEGAL in France.” Statements advocating a boycott or sanctions, he added, “are completely illegal. If [BDS activists] say their freedom of expression has been violated, now France’s highest legal instance ruled otherwise.” In Canada last year, officials threatened criminal prosecution against anyone supporting boycotts against Israel.

In the U.S., unbeknownst to many, there are similar legislative proscriptions on such activism, and a pending bill would strengthen the outlawing of BDS. As the Washington Post reported last June, “A wave of anti-BDS legislation is sweeping the U.S.” Numerous bills in Congress encourage or require state action to combat BDS.

Eyal Press warned in a must-read New York Times op-ed last month that under a Customs Bill passed by both houses of Congress and headed to the White House, “American officials will be obligated to treat the settlements as part of Israel in future trade negotiations,” a provision specifically designed “to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, a grass-roots campaign.” But as Press notes, under existing law — which is almost never discussed — “Washington already forbids American companies to cooperate with state-led boycotts of Israel.”

The real purpose of this new law, as Press explains it, is to force American companies to treat settlements in the West Bank — which virtually the entire world views as illegal — as a valid part of Israel, by outlawing any behavior that would be deemed cooperative with a boycott of companies occupying the West Bank. U.S. companies would be forced to pretend that products produced in the occupied territories are actually produced in “Israel.” The White House announced that it will sign the bill despite its opposition to the AIPAC-backed pro-settlement provision.

Rahul Saksena of Palestine Legal said that “the BDS provision in the federal customs bill, and the dozens of anti-BDS bills being introduced in Congress and state legislatures across the U.S., are examples of the lengths that Israel’s fiercest advocates and the lawmakers who bend over backward to accommodate them will go to shut down any conversation critical of Israeli policies and supportive of Palestinian freedom.” Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs for J Street (which opposes BDS), told The Intercept: “The references in the Customs Act to ‘Israeli-controlled territories’ are just one instance of a larger effort to sneak Green Line-blurring language into legislation at both the state and national level.”

Under the existing laws, American companies have been fined for actions deemed supportive of boycotts aimed at Israel. For decades, U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries, for instance, have been required by law to refuse to comply with the Arab League boycott of Israel. Penalties for violators include up to 10 years of imprisonment.

In 2010, G M Daewoo Auto & Technology Company, a Korean firm owned by General Motors, was fined $88,500 by the Office of Antiboycott Compliance for 59 anti-boycott violations, including the “crime” of declaring on a customs form: “We hereby state that the carrying vessel … is allowed to enter the Libya ports [sic].” At the time, Libyan law did not allow Israeli goods or ships that had previously stopped in Israel to enter Libyan ports, and the company’s seemingly banal declaration that it was complying with Libyan law was deemed by the U.S. government to constitute support for a boycott of Israel, and it was thus fined.

The suppression of anti-occupation activism is particularly acute on American college campuses. Among other things, that is deeply ironic. In the U.S. over the past year, there has been a widespread media debate over censorship on college campuses. Notably, the pundits who have most vocally condemned this censorship and held themselves out as free speech crusaders — such as New York’s Jonathan Chait — have completely ignored what is far and away the most widespread form of campus censorship: namely, punishment of those who engage in activism against Israeli actions.

This campus censorship on behalf of Israel was comprehensively documented in a report last year by Palestine Legal titled “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech.” The nationwide censorship effort has seen pro-Palestinian professors fired, anti-occupation student activists suspended and threatened with expulsion, pro-Palestinian groups de-funded, and even discipline for students for the “crime” of flying a Palestinian flag. The report documents how pro-Israel campus groups and alumni “have intensified their efforts to stifle criticism of Israeli government policies.” The report explains: “Rather than engage such criticism on its merits, these groups leverage their significant resources and lobbying power to pressure universities, government actors, and other institutions to censor or punish advocacy in support of Palestinian rights.”

Notably, the students and administrators justifying the campus censorship of anti-Israel views invoke the very same “PC” rhetoric of “safe spaces” and “hate speech” denounced by ostensibly free-speech pundits. The University of Illinois student who led the campaign to fire Steven Salaita for his pro-Gaza tweets, himself a former AIPAC intern, told the New York Times: “Hate speech is never acceptable for those applying for a tenured position; incitement to violence is never acceptable. … There must be a relationship between free speech and civility.” Another “pro-Israel” student demanding Salaita’s firing said, “It’s about feeling safe on campus.”

This was a classic and extreme case of oppressive censorship on campus — the University of Illinois ended up paying Salaita close to $1 million to settle the resulting lawsuit — yet very few of the pundits who turned “college censorship” into a nationwide cause uttered a peep about this case or the countless other instances of suppression of anti-Israel criticism.

It is now routine for students advocating BDS or otherwise working against Israeli occupation to be disciplined or endure other forms of sanctions. As the Palestine Legal report documents:

These heavy-handed tactics often have their desired effect, driving institutions to enact a variety of punitive measures against human rights activists, such as administrative sanctions, censorship, intrusive investigations, viewpoint-based restriction of advocacy, and even criminal prosecutions. Such efforts intimidate activists for Palestinian human rights, chill criticism of Israeli government practices, and impede a fair-minded dialogue on the pressing question of Palestinian rights.

This report, the first of its kind, documents the suppression of Palestine advocacy in the United States. In 2014, Palestine Legal — a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization supporting Palestine activism — responded to 152 incidents of censorship, punishment, or other burdening of advocacy for Palestinian rights and received 68 additional requests for legal assistance in anticipation of such actions. In the first six months of 2015 alone, Palestine Legal responded to 140 incidents and 33 requests for assistance in anticipation of potential suppression. These numbers understate the phenomenon, as many advocates who are unaware of their rights or afraid of attracting further scrutiny stay silent and do not report incidents of suppression. The overwhelming majority of these incidents — 89 percent in 2014 and 80 percent in the first half of 2015 — targeted students and scholars, a reaction to the increasingly central role universities play in the movement for Palestinian rights.

As we reported in September, the University of California — the largest academic system in the country — has been debating proposals to literally outlaw BDS activism by formally equating it with “anti-semitism”: as though opposition to Israeli government oppression (opposition shared by many Jews) is somehow the equivalent of, or is inherently driven by, animosity toward Jews. If anything, what is actually “anti-Semitic” is to conflate the Israeli government with Jews generally (an ugly anti-semitic trope with a long history). Yet that is the Orwellian tactic being used to justify the criminalization of anti-occupation activism, as it converts that activism into “anti-semitism” or “hate speech” and then bans it on that basis.This attempt to formalize suppression of anti-occupation advocacy on college campuses is long-standing and widespread. The New York state legislature actually passed “a bill that would suspend funding to educational institutions which fund groups that boycott Israel.” Such legislation is becoming commonplace, as the group United With Israel boasted just last month:

Florida became the fifth state in the U.S. to introduce a resolution to confront the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement when it passed a law on December 21, similar to the first anti-BDS legislation introduced in Tennessee last April.

By doing so, Florida has joined Tennessee, New York, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Another 35 states are reportedly considering similar legislation.

The commendably consistent pro-campus-speech group FIRE, while expressing some criticisms of the BDS movement, has repeatedly documented and denounced attempts to outlaw BDS advocacy on campus:

FIRE’s position on the Israel-focused BDS movement is driven by our concern for academic freedom — for students and professors, and for its continuing importance as a meaningful concept in and of itself. Students and professors must be perfectly free to support boycott, divestment, and/or sanctions against Israel or any other country they wish, and they must not face punishment for this support. As you might expect, FIRE has opposed attempts to punish organizations for supporting BDS, and we have certainly defended professors’ rights to be highly critical of Israel — or, frankly, any other country, person, or idea.YET THIS CENSORSHIP effort to ban BDS and other forms of Israel criticism continues to grow, in multiple countries around the world. It’s not hard to understand why. The Israeli government and its most powerful supporters have invested vast sums of money and considerable political capital into the campaign to institutionalize this censorship.

Last year, GOP billionaire Sheldon Adelson and Democratic billionaire Haim Saban donated tens of millions of dollars to a new fund to combat BDS on college campuses. Also last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “decided to implement a 2014 resolution to establish a special task force to fight the anti-Israeli sanctions”; that task force has funding of “some 100 million Israeli shekels (roughly $25.5 million).” BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray reported in 2014 that anti-BDS legislation has become a major goal of AIPAC. As part of the controversy at the University of California, Richard Blum, the mega-rich investment banker and husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, threatened the university that his wife would take adverse action against the university if it did not adopt the harsh anti-BDS measures he was demanding.

None of this is to say, obviously, that suppression of anti-occupation activism is the only strain of free speech threats in the West. The prosecution of Western Muslims for core free speech expression under “terrorism” laws, the distortion of “hate speech” legislation as a means of punishing unpopular ideas, threats and violence against those who publish cartoons deemed “blasphemous,” and pressure on social media companies to ban ideas disliked by governments are all serious menaces to this core liberty.

But in terms of systematic, state-sponsored, formalized punishments for speech and activism, nothing compares to the growing multi-nation effort to criminalize activism against Israeli occupation. Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian a member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, told The Intercept: “Israel is increasingly unable to defend its regime of apartheid and settler colonialism over the Palestinian people and its regular massacres of Palestinians in Gaza so is resorting to asking supportive governments in the U.S. and Europe to undermine free speech as a way of shielding it from criticism and measures aimed at holding it to account.”

It is, needless to say, perfectly legitimate to argue against BDS and to engage in activism to defeat it. But only advocates of tyranny could support the literal outlawing of the same type of activism that ended apartheid in South Africa merely on the grounds that this time it is aimed at Israeli occupation (some of Israel’s own leaders have compared its occupation to apartheid). And whatever else is true, commentators and activists who prance around as defenders of campus free speech and free expression generally — yet who completely ignore this most pernicious trend of free speech erosion — are likely many things, but an authentic believer in free speech is not among them.

Young Saudis See Cushy Jobs Vanish Along With Nation’s Oil Wealth

February 16, 2016

by Ben Hubbard

The New York Times

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In pressed white robes and clutching crisp résumés, young Saudi men packed a massive hall at a university in the capital city this month to wait in long lines to pitch themselves to employers.

It was one of three job fairs in Riyadh in two weeks, and the high attendance was fueled in part by fear among the younger generation of what a future of cheap oil will mean in a country where oil is everything.

For decades, the royal family has used the kingdom’s immense oil wealth to lavish benefits on its people, including free education and medical care, generous energy subsidies and well-paid (and often undemanding) government jobs. No one paid taxes, and if political rights were not part of the equation, that was fine with most people.

But the drop in oil prices to below $30 a barrel from more than $100 a barrel in June 2014 means that the old math no longer works. Low oil prices have knocked a chunk out of the government budget and now pose a threat to the unwritten social contract that has long underpinned life in the kingdom, the Arab world’s largest economy and a key American ally.

The shift is already echoing through the economy, with government projects delayed, spending limits imposed on ministries and high-level discussions about measures long considered impossible, like imposing taxes and selling shares of Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil giant that is estimated to be the world’s most valuable company.

The proposal announced on Tuesday by the oil ministers of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar and Venezuela to freeze output levels is one attempt to stabilize world oil prices, but it remained uncertain how effective it would be if other countries, like Iran and Iraq, declined to follow suit.

For younger Saudis — 70 percent of the population is under 30 — the oil shock has meant a lowering of expectations as they face the likelihood that they will have to work harder than their parents, enjoy less job security and receive fewer perks.

For the older generation, it was easier,” said Abdulrahman Alkhelaifi, 20, during a break from his job at McDonald’s. “They’d get out of university and get a government job. Now you need an advanced degree.”

Of his generation, he said, “The weight is on our necks.”

It is hard to overstate the importance of oil in the development of modern Saudi Arabia. In decades, it rocketed a poor, mostly rural country to affluence, with most of its 21 million citizens now living in cities festooned with skyscrapers and streets filled with S.U.V.s. Oil wealth also allowed the ruling Al Saud family to maintain its grip on power, wield clout abroad through checkbook diplomacy and invest billions of dollars in promoting an austere interpretation of Islam around the world.

The oil boom over the past decade helped all of this, and was good for Saudis at home. Household incomes rose, and the number of men and women pursuing higher education multiplied. But the fat years left the economy poorly structured, economists say: 90 percent of government revenues are from oil; 70 percent of working Saudis are employed by the government; and even the private sector remains heavily dependent on government spending.

Nor did advances in education create a large professional class or inculcate a culture of hard work. Most of the country’s engineers and health care workers are foreign, and many government employees vacate their offices midafternoon, or earlier.

But with oil revenues crashing and the numbers of young people reaching the work force growing by the day, those jobs have become harder to get as the government cuts costs and pushes Saudis toward the private sector, where job security and salaries are lower on average.

There is an issue with the sustainability of the economic model in Saudi Arabia, and the oil price can be seen as a wake-up call,” said Fahad Alturki, chief economist at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia still has room to maneuver, he said, thanks to large cash reserves, low public debt and lots of new infrastructure that can aid economic growth.

But the generational differences are clear.

One woman who recently earned a Ph.D. in a medicine-elated field in the United States said that her father had been tracked into the military, where he got training abroad, free housing, medical care and schooling for his children. When her mother finished her degree in Arabic, she immediately got a job near her house — and a cash bonus from the state, just for graduating.

Their daughter has struggled to find work, despite being better educated and fluent in English. Her husband, also educated in the United States, is also unemployed, and they live with her family.

My parents had great opportunities,” she said, requesting anonymity so as not to hinder her job search. “They provided well and we had a comfortable life, so I always thought it would be the same for us.”

These economic stresses come at a time of chaos in the Middle East and of generational change in the royal family.

Spearheading economic policy is Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose father, King Salman, passed over older and more experienced princes to put the 30-year-old in charge of many of the country’s most important affairs, stirring private anger among some other royals.

Prince Mohammed, who is also the defense minister and second in line to the throne, has launched a costly war in Yemen and talks about radical changes to the economy, like raising fuel prices, imposing taxes on undeveloped land and some consumer goods, and privatizing state-run companies.

But details on implementation are scarce, causing uncertainty over many issues like what it will cost to fill a gas tank or power a factory in five years. That has made it hard for businesses to plan for the future, which further undermines the sputtering economy.

At the same time, Saudis are not accustomed to the government taking bold, fast action. Change tends to be introduced incrementally. That cultural trait is now complicating the need to move fast to meet the economic and demographic challenges.

A Saudi executive in the construction industry said that change was needed, but that moving too fast could hurt businesses.

It has to be done and I am with it, but you can’t change decades’ worth of problems in a few years,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his business interests. “No way.”

Economists say that at least 250,000 young Saudis enter the job market every year, and that making them effective members of the work force is a major challenge.

The glut of graduates was clear at the job fair, where most applicants had come from large public universities that often fail to give students the language and technical skills employers want. Most of those interviewed had never had a job before and said their fathers worked for the government. While some thought private companies offered better experience, many wanted the perks of a government job.

It’s a good experience, but there is no rest and no job security,” said Ali al-Ariyani, 24, who worked at a private hospital and wanted a change. “The days are long and you can’t even go out to smoke.”

At a separate location for women, many applicants complained that their degrees had not given them the skills, like fluency with computers, that employers want. One group of women had earned degrees in microbiology only to learn that they lacked the required licenses for hospital jobs.

Our main issue is that our university did not prepare us for the job market,” said Khuloud al-Khateeb, 23, adding that many hospitals preferred to hire foreigners for lower salaries.

In recent years, the government has pushed for greater Saudi employment, penalizing companies with few Saudi employees. Many employers hate the program, saying it forces them to swell their payrolls with people who contribute little.

Even companies that have hired lots of Saudis have often had to rely on significant social engineering to get them working.

Saudis made up one-third of the crew at a Riyadh McDonald’s on a recent morning, manning the drive-up window and cash register and making fries.

Is this spicy?” one yelled to a colleague. “One large fries, please!”

While they do the same work as foreigners, they earn much more. Salaries for foreign crew start at $320 a month, while Saudis get $1,460, part of which is subsidized by the government.

The company also gives Saudis more flexibility and has created fast-track programs to move them into management.

Four Saudi workers gathered in a break room said theyliked their jobs but worried that they would not be as successful as their fathers, all of whom worked for the government. They knew the government had less money to employ citizens, which meant their generation would have to work harder.

The government is good, but our generation is spoiled,” said Ahmed Mohammed, 21. “Everyone wants a government job.”His colleagues agreed. “Everyone wants to sit at home and get paid,” Mr. Alkhelaifi said.

Sheikha al-Dosary contributed reporting.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 15

February 17, 2016


Under a requirement recently enacted by Congress, intelligence agency employees who hold clearances for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) must report any employment with a foreign government entity for up to two years after leaving their US government job.

An internal US Air Force memorandum implementing the new requirement for Air Force intelligence personnel was released under the Freedom of Information Act yesterday.

See Reporting Certain Post-Government Employment by Holders of Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) Accesses, Air Force Guidance Memorandum 2015-14-04-O, 5 November 2015.

SCI is classified information that is derived from intelligence sources or methods.

The reporting requirement concerning foreign government employment was adopted by Congress in the FY 2015 intelligence authorization act (section 305) and was enacted into law as 50 U.S.C. 3073a. It is unclear from the public record whether any specific incident or circumstance prompted the new reporting requirement.


A new summary of U.S. intelligence expenditures over time has been prepared by the Congressional Research Service. See Intelligence Spending: In Brief, February 16, 2016.Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from public distribution include the following.

What Does Justice Scalia’s Death Mean for Congress and the Nation?, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 16, 2016

Appointment of African American U.S. Circuit and District Court Judges: Historical Overview and Current Data, CRS Insight, February 12, 2016

FY2017 Defense Budget Request: In Brief, February 12, 2016

FY2016 Changes to DOD’s 1033 Program, CRS Insight, February 16, 2016 (The 1033 Program governs the transfer of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies)

National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA): Background and Issues for Congress, February 5, 2016

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated February 12, 2016

Lead in Flint, Michigan’s Drinking Water: Federal Regulatory Role, CRS Insight, February 16, 2016

U.S.-EU Data Privacy: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield, updated February 12, 2016

Disposal of Unneeded Federal Buildings: Legislative Proposals in the 114th Congress, February 12, 2016

Federal Support for Graduate Medical Education: An Overview, February 12, 2016

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2016, updated February 11, 2016

Federal Grant Financial Reporting Requirements and Databases: Frequently Asked Questions, February 11, 2016

Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations, updated February 11, 2016

The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects, updated February 15, 2016

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