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TBR News February 23, 2017

Feb 23 2017

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. February 23, 2017: “We will be out of the office until February 24. ed”

Table of Contents

  • Mosul offensive: Iraqi forces recapture airport in bid to retake city
  • Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star
  • Israeli malware can hack isolated computers by forcing their LED indicators to blink
  • Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms
  • Mexico will not accept Trump’s immigration plans, says foreign minister
  • ‘You will be returned very quickly’: DHS secretary warns Guatemalans against illegal US entry
  • The trickle of refugees fleeing the U.S. to Canada could become a deluge in the spring
  • Israel and Its Role in 911
  • The U.S. NATO Alliance Has Been a One-Way Street for Too Long

 Mosul offensive: Iraqi forces recapture airport in bid to retake city

September 23, 2017

BBC News

Iraqi security forces have recaptured Mosul airport, a key part of the government’s offensive to drive the so-called Islamic State (IS) from the western half of the city.

The operation took four hours. IS continued to fire mortars at the airport from further inside the city after losing the ground to the army.

The jihadists have also entered a nearby military base amid further clashes, a military spokesman said.

Eastern Mosul was retaken last month.

The airport’s runway has been destroyed by IS, but BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, who is embedded with Iraqi federal police units, says it still has value.

It’s a large piece of land, and controlling it will help secure southern routes to west Mosul, our correspondent says.The assault began with overnight air strikes by the US-led coalition before armoured columns advanced to the airport’s perimeter.

An Iraqi lieutenant was killed by one of the roadside bombs planted in the area by IS, the BBC has learned.

Iraqi forces also came under fire from IS militants who had holed up inside airport buildings, reports said.

Foreign troops from the US-led coalition were with the attacking troops, officials told AP, without specifying their nationality.

The airport and the al-Ghazlani base are on Mosul’s southern outskirts on the western side of the Tigris river.

Thousands of Iraqi troops, backed by artillery and air power, are involved in the assault to retake Mosul.

Leaflets warning residents of an imminent offensive were earlier dropped over western Mosul, where military officials say narrow winding streets could make retaking the area particularly difficult.

Although slightly smaller than the east, western Mosul is more densely populated and includes districts seen as pro-IS.

The UN has voiced concern about the welfare of civilians trapped in the city, amid reports that they could number up to 650,000.

More than 160,000 people have already fled their homes in and around the city.

The UN said in late January that almost half of all the casualties in Mosul were civilians.

All bridges linking the east and west of the city, across the Tigris river, have been destroyed by air strikes.

IS jihadists overran Mosul as they spread across much of northern and western Iraq in 2014.

Seven new Earth-like planets discovered around nearby star

Astronomers have discovered seven new planets which may host liquid water. Their find shows that Earth-like planets are even more common in the universe than previously thought.

February 22, 2017

by Brigitte Osterath


It is not the first time astronomers have found Earth-like planets outside our solar system.

But, it is the first time they have found so many of them at one time around one single star.

Michaël Gillon from Liege University in Belgium, and his colleagues, discovered seven new planets – their size all comparable to that of Earth.

“All of them could have liquid water and maybe life on their surface,” said Gillon, co-author of the study published in the “Nature” magazine on Wednesday .

The newly discovered planets orbit the star TRAPPIST-1, a dwarf star only one tenth the size of our sun, and about as big as Jupiter. TRAPPIST-1 lies 39 light years away from Earth.

All seven planets – simply called: 1b, 1c, up to 1h – are quite close to TRAPPIST-1, much closer than Earth is to the sun.

This is because TRAPPIST-1 is much smaller and cooler than the sun. The habitable zone, where it is neither too cold nor too hot and thus allows for the existence of liquid water, moves closer to the star compared to our solar system.

Do we have neighbors out there?

TRAPPIST-1 is not very bright, so sunbathing on its planets could be a rather unsatisfying experience.

“We think the amount of light that you would receive in your eye would be something like 200 times less than you would from the sun. It is like at the end of sunset,” co-author Amaury Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, said.

But the star is still brighter than our moon and it will still feel quite warm on these planets, Triaud added. “You still receive as much energy from the star – and you will feel that with your skin.”

Most of the star’s light is in the infrared spectrum which we cannot see. Triaud speculated that the sky might be painted in a “salmony” color.

Nobody knows what the surface and climate of these planets might be like, if there is liquid water, or even life.

“We don’t know how life emerges. If life emerges in an ocean and there is an ocean there, then there won’t be a problem. But if life is born elsewhere, then maybe the conditions are different.”

Then the chances of life might depend on the amount of detrimental radiation that those planets receive from the star.

‘We will know more soon’

The next step will be to investigate the atmosphere on those planets. The results might give a hint as to possible life out there.

The researchers will use the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch next year, to detect atmospheric components from the new planets.

If they find traces of methane, oxygen and ozone simultaneously on one planet, then “that is a strong indication for life,” Dillon said.

Studies will start as soon as possible.

“We can expect that within a few years we will know a lot more about these planets,” Cambridge astronomer Triaud said, “and [we] hope within a decade [we will know] if there is life there.”

Successful search for extrasolar planets

The first planet outside our solar system was discovered in 1992.

With better technology and telescopes, the search for exoplanets has become easier.

Researchers can detect new planets when those planets pass in front of their host star and block a small amount of the stellar light.

Thousands of planets have been discovered beyond our solar system during the past decade using this method.

“We know now that most stars have planets and that even Earth-like planets in the habitable zones are quite common,” Barbara Ercolano, an astrophysicist at the University of Munich, said last November.

Ercolano estimated then that there were about one billion Earth-like planets in the universe which could have liquid water.

Researchers may now have to rethink that number.

“Gillon and [the other] collaborators’ findings indicate that these planets are even more common than previously thought,” astronomy professor Ignas Snellen from the Leiden Observatory wrote in “Nature.”

It is the first time researchers have taken a closer look at a dwarf star like TRAPPIST-1. Other researchers have focused on bigger, sun-like stars when looking for new planets.

Earth might not be so special after all

Do new planets mean a new home for humans? Michael Gillon and his co-researchers announced last May that they had found three planets in the habitable zone around TRAPPIST-1.

Less than a year later, they found enough data to show there are seven Earth-like planets.

It might be time to get used to the thought that there are many more out there, writes Snellen.

“Of course, the authors could have been lucky, but finding seven […] Earth-sized planets in such a small sample suggests that the [our] solar system […] might be nothing out of the ordinary.”

And, even if there is no life, there is one fact which might be comforting for earthlings.

“In a few billion years, when the sun has run out of fuel and the solar system has ceased to exist, TRAPPIST-1 will still be only an infant star. It burns hydrogen so slowly that it will live for another 10 trillion years.”

Earth’s seven sisters and its potential inhabitants will still be there when we are long gone.

Israeli malware can hack isolated computers by forcing their LED indicators to blink

February 23, 2017


Israeli researchers have found a way to attack isolated computers by taking control of their LED indicators, which are forced to blink up to 6,000 times a second to send a signal containing data to a camera mounted on a drone near the targeted computer.

The technique specifically targets so-called “air-gapped” computers, which are cut off from the Internet and company networks, making them the most challenging targets for hackers. Consequently, they typically carry the most sensitive information.

The LED control method, which makes it possible to steal data from isolated computers while raising minimum suspicion, was devised by researchers of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University.

“The LED is always blinking as it’s doing searching and indexing, so no one suspects, even in the night. It’s very covert, actually,” researcher Mordechai Guri said, as cited by the Wired.

In a demonstration video, a drone is shown navigating into the line of sight of a computer. Once the drone locates the target, malware starts transmitting data via a hard drive LED indicator, which blinks the signal to the built-in camera on the drone.

According to the researchers, the data can be transferred at rate as fast as 4,000 bits per second with a specialized Siemens photodiode sensor on the drone. The blinking can be recorded by a camera and deciphered later.

The LED can be forced to blink at a rate of up to 6,000 times per second, which is indiscernible for humans, but potentially readable for light sensors.

“It’s possible for the attacker to do such fast blinking that a human never sees it,” Guri noted.

Of course, the technique relies on the computer being infected prior to the transmission, which can be accomplished using a USB stick or SD card.

While this type of attack is novel and hard to detect, it has one obvious drawback: the computer’s LEDs can simply be covered.

Trump revokes Obama guidelines on transgender bathrooms

February 23, 2017

by Daniel Trotta


President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday revoked landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama.

Reversing the Obama guidelines stands to inflame passions in the latest conflict in America between believers in traditional values and social progressives, and is likely to prompt more of the street protests that followed Trump’s Nov. 8 election.

Obama had instructed public schools last May to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. Transgender people hailed the step as victory for their civil rights.

Trump, a Republican who took office last month, rescinded those guidelines, even though they had been put on hold by a federal judge, arguing that states and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without federal interference.

The Justice and Education departments will continue to study the legal issues involved, according to the new, superseding guidance that will be sent to public schools.

About 200 people gathered in front of the White House to protest against Trump’s action, waving rainbow flags and chanting: “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”

The rainbow flag is the symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people.

“We all know that Donald Trump is a bully, but his attack on transgender children today is a new low,” said Rachel Tiven, chief executive of Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT people.

Conservatives such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spearheaded the lawsuit challenging the Obama guidance, hailed the Trump administration action.

“Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama’s attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change,” said Paxton, a Republican.

Transgender legal advocates have criticized the “states’ rights” argument, saying federal law and civil rights are matters for the federal government to enforce, not the states.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration was pressed to act now because of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case, G.G. versus Gloucester County School Board.

That case pits a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, against officials who want to deny him use of the boys’ room at his high school.

Although the Justice Department is not a party in the case, it typically would want to make its views heard. The Trump administration action on Wednesday also withdrew an Education Department letter in support of Grimm’s case.

“I’ve faced my share of adversaries in rural Virginia. I never imagined that my government would be one of them. We will not be beaten down by this administration,” Grimm, 17, told the protest outside the White House.


The federal law in question, known as Title IX, bans sex discrimination in education. But it remains unsettled whether Title IX protections extend to a person’s gender identity.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Obama guidelines “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to ensure Title IX and his state’s civil rights protections are enforced.

“President Trump’s decision to rescind anti-discrimination protections for transgender students is yet another cruel move by an administration committed to divisive policies that roll back the clock on civil rights,” he said in a statement.

The courts are likely to have the final say over whether Title IX covers transgender students. The Supreme Court could pass on that question in the Virginia case and allow lower courts to weigh in, or go ahead and decide what the law means.

Obama’s Education Department issued the guidance in response to queries from school districts across the country about how to accommodate transgender students in gender-segregated bathrooms.

It also covered a host of other issues, such as the importance of addressing transgender students by their preferred names and pronouns and schools’ responsibility to prevent harassment and bullying of transgender children.

Thirteen states led by Texas sued to stop the Obama guidelines, and a U.S. district judge in Texas temporarily halted their full implementation.

The White House previously boasted of Trump’s support for LGBT rights, noting in a Jan. 31 statement that he was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention the community in his nomination acceptance speech.

“Revoking the guidance shows that the president’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT project, said in a statement.

(Reporting and writing by Daniel Trotta in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley, Jeff Mason, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Mana Rabiee and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

Comment: From the general tone of this Reuters article, it could be possible that there is personal involvement with this issue. Evil, vicious Trump! And what about special lavatories for crippled Lesbian dwarves? Where will all of this Nazi-style persecution of Precious Ones end? If Trump issued an edict that every legal American citizen could have a thousand dollars, trust me, the trained media would hop around, waving their arms and screeching about how truly evil Trump is. If the media wish to see really evil and stupid people, they do not need to look at the Oval Office. A mirror would suffice. Ed

Mexico will not accept Trump’s immigration plans, says foreign minister

As US envoys visit Mexico City for talks, Luis Videgaray says his government will use the UN to defend migrants from deportation

February 22, 2017

by Julian Borger and David AgrMexicoen

The Guardian

Washington-Mexico City-Mexico has indicated it will not accept the Trump administration’s new immigration proposals, saying it will go to the United Nations to defend the rights of immigrants in the US.

Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign minister, was responding to Donald Trump’s plans to enforce immigration rules more vigorously against undocumented migrants, which could lead to mass deportations to Mexico, not just of Mexicans but also citizens of other Latin American countries.

“We are not going to accept it because we don’t have to accept it,” Videgaray said, according to the Reforma newspaper. “I want to make clear, in the most emphatic way, that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept measures that one government wants to unilaterally impose on another.”

The sweeping measures were announced in Washington on the eve of a visit to Mexico by the US secretaries of state and homeland security that had been aimed at salvaging bilateral relations, currently at their lowest point in at least three decades.

Rex Tillerson and John Kelly are seeking to soothe Mexican fears in the wake of Trump’s new executive orders, the construction of a border wall that he insists Mexico be made to pay for, and his threat to unpick the 1994 Nafta free trade agreement that underpins the Mexican economy.

On Thursday, the two men, a former oil executive and a retired general, will meet the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who abruptly cancelled a trip to Washington at the end of January after Trump sent out a tweet suggesting it was better not to come “if Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall”.

Since then, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and closest foreign policy adviser, has reportedly worked behind the scenes to limit the damage, helping broker a placatory phone conversation between the presidents on 27 January, and attending a meeting on 8 February in Washington between Tillerson and his Mexican counterpart, Videgaray.

Kushner and Videgaray, who is Peña Nieto’s closest political adviser, were introduced by mutual friends in the business world, and their personal relationship has helped prevent an escalating war of words between the two capitals, diplomats said.

Videgaray has placed high stakes on the visit. “This is a moment of definition: the decisions we make in the coming months will determine how Mexico and the United States coexist for the next decades,” he was quoted as saying at the G20 meeting in Bonn last week by the Los Angeles Times.

But Mexican observers worry that the relationship with Kushner, who is 36 years old and has no previous foreign policy experience, is a thin reed on which to try to rebuild a profoundly damaged bilateral relationship.

“I don’t know if there is a strategy and if there is a strategy, the strategy is a person,” said Carlos Heredia, professor at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City.

“This is indeed a low point in US-Mexico relations, representing an abrupt break from the last 30-plus years of cooperation,” said Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a book on US-Mexican relations. “While the visit will go some way to smoothing bilateral discussions, there is a hard-earned trust that has been broken, and that can’t be repaired with just a high-level visit.”

O’Neil added: “The Trump administration’s hostile beginning has also shifted Mexico’s domestic politics. Rising nationalism there will make compromises with the United States all the harder as Mexico looks toward its own 2018 presidential race.”

Senior US administration officials said Tillerson and Kelly, who were due to have dinner with the Mexican foreign and defence ministers on Wednesday evening, would emphasise areas of longstanding cooperation between the two countries, over counter-narcotics, securing Mexico’s southern border, and counter-terrorism, which were all cultivated under previous US administrations. One diplomat called the strategy “don’t mention the wall”.

Asked about the disagreement, a senior US administration official said the two presidents had acknowledged “clear differences on the payment issue” but had also agreed to “work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion”.

“The wall is just one part of a broader relationship that we have,” the official said.

“On security, we expect to address ways in which we can improve our cooperation in combating heroin production and trafficking, including eradication, targeting criminal organizations, extradition, and arms and bulk cash trafficking.”

US officials say they also want to deepen existing cooperation with Mexico on beefing up security on Mexico’s southern border and promote joint development programmes in Central American countries to reduce violence and strengthen governments, with aim of reducing northward migration.

Tens of thousands of migrants – mostly from Central America, but increasingly from further afield – transit Mexico annually in attempts to reach the US border. Mexico has turned enforcer, imposing the Southern Border Plan in 2014 to detain and deport migrants transiting Mexican territory, even as it doggedly defends its own nationals at risk of deportation in the United States.

In recent interviews, the economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, has raised the possibility of Mexico suspending cooperation on migrant enforcement. He told the news channel Milenio: “There would be no incentive to continue collaborating on important issues for North American security such as migration issues” if Nafta were abandoned.

Brandon Capece, a research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, said the state of bilateral relations was at its lowest point since the 1980s, when the two countries were locked in ideological differences over foreign policy and before the signing of Nafta in 1994 made them economic partners, with more than $1.5bn in trade crossing the border each day.

“Even renegotiating Nafta is something that can be mutually beneficial for all three nations involved, but only if Trump can move beyond his misperceived notion that the United States is somehow the victim in this relationship,” Capece said. “That being said, given the failure of the Trump administration to articulate a clear foreign policy and their reluctance to rely on experts within the Washington foreign policy establishment, it is unlikely that this trip in and of itself will calm nerves in either Washington or Mexico City.”

Comment: There are millions of “undocumented” ( read “illegal”) aliens in the United States, many hard-working and respectable but many more drug dealers, rapists, burglars, and most significant, all on citizen-paid-for welfare. That’s like speaking well of a whore because she sends money to her mother. ed

You will be returned very quickly’: DHS secretary warns Guatemalans against illegal US entry

February 23, 2016


Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly visited Guatemala to explain that while the Trump administration is not planning mass deportations, any Guatemalans considering entering the US illegally should not bother.

With a spotlight on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and President Trump’s efforts to remove illegal immigrants, Secretary Kelly spoke to a plane full of Guatemalans deported back from the US to explain the policies going forward.

On Wednesday, he spoke at a Guatemalan Air Force base and explained to the 347 people: “If you’re a Guatemalan who is considering paying a great deal of money to a coyote (smuggler) to bring you to the United States, you’ll be wasting your money.”

He added: “You will be returned very quickly.”

Many Guatemalans have fled their country due to gang violence that has led to murder and extortion. On Friday, a village mourned the murder of two indigenous boys whose families could not afford to pay their ransom. Guatemalan authorities estimated that in 2014, $61 million were paid in extortion fees.

The comments a day after a memo from Kelly suggested that undocumented immigrants would be deported to Mexico, regardless of their nation of origin. The memo was meant to be a guide to the US’s new immigration policies, but as a result, many Mexican officials were displeased.

Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told reporters: “I want to say clearly and emphatically that the government of Mexico and the Mexican people do not have to accept provisions that one government unilaterally wants to impose on the other.”

The trickle of refugees fleeing the U.S. to Canada could become a deluge in the spring

February 23, 2017

by Alan Freeman

Washington Post

OTTAWA — As desperate asylum seekers continue to flee the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown by crossing into Canada, concern is growing here over whether the country will be able to cope if the number of migrants keeps growing.

Stories of migrants hauling children and suitcases across frozen fields and snow-covered ditches into Canada have become headline news. The asylum seekers, who are fleeing President Trump’s travel and refugee bans as well as stepped-up arrests of undocumented immigrants, have received warm welcomes. But opposition politicians are criticizing the government of Justin Trudeau for being too harsh or too lax in its approach.

In a recent survey from the Angus Reid Institute, a Vancouver-based opinion research firm, most Canadians were supportive of the government’s decision to maintain its target of accepting 40,000 refugees in 2017. But 25 percent wanted to see Ottawa enact a travel ban similar to the Trump order.

In answer to a separate question, 40 percent said they think Canada is accepting too many refugees. The number of refugee claims has spiked since the election of Trump. On the Quebec border with the United States alone, there were 452 claims in January compared with 137 in the same month a year ago.

“There is a significant number of Canadians who have been taking a harder line on the issue of refugee resettlement,” said Shachi Kurl, the executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. “This is much more than a fringe.”

And with so many migrants willing to traipse through the ice and snow to reach Canada, there are concerns that numbers could soar with the advent of spring. “Will we be facing down our own mini-Greece or mini-Italy moment? What are we going to see when the snow melts?” Kurl asks.

Jenny Kwan, a member of Parliament for the left-leaning New Democratic Party, wants Ottawa to withdraw from its Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. That pact states that an individual arriving at an official Canadian border point from the United States isn’t allowed to make a refugee claim, an effort to avoid “asylum shopping.” But if an asylum seeker crosses into Canada irregularly — as the current wave of migrants is — and then calls the police, he or she can make a claim legally.

“We need to stand up for human rights,” she told The Washington Post. “We are seeing people who are crossing to Canada through the back door. They are literally risking life and limb. I don’t think the U.S. can be considered a safe country for refugees at this moment.”

But the Conservative Party says the Trudeau government isn’t doing enough to protect “the integrity of our border,” said Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. She wants the government to make it clear that crossing the border outside official crossings is “illegal and unsafe” and to take further action if the situation deteriorates.

“I have this feeling that we’re going to see big numbers coming across once the weather gets better,” said Greg Janzen, the reeve — the equivalent of a mayor — of Emerson, Manitoba, a small town on the border with North Dakota that has seen growing numbers of asylum seekers.

The arrivals were once simply a weekend phenomenon, but refugees are now turning up on a daily basis. “We had six this morning,” Janzen said Wednesday. “I think they walked up to the hotel. They kept them in the lobby until the RCMP came.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police bring the refugees to the local border post, where they are processed and then driven to Winnipeg, the nearest large city. There have been no incidents involving the refugees aside from two Ghanaians who suffered serious frostbite before Christmas, but Janzen remains worried. He’d like to see a change in the law that would allow claims to be made at the border point — even if numbers increase as a result.

“That way they’re not coming through town,” he said. “It’s safer for them and it’s safer for townspeople. It’s safer for everyone.”

Israel and Its Role in 911

A study of Israel’s connections and their great stock market game

February 23, 2017

by Germar Rudolf

A retrospective study of the 9/11attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. reveals nothing but our continued ignorance of the circumstances surrounding that event, which seems ever more shrouded in mystery. This in spite of the plethora of official reports, issued by the Senate, various congressional committees, and an official U.S. government commission devoted to the subject, which held public hearings, and published its report. The recommendations in that document are even now being signed into law. Yet our understanding of why and how it happened, obscured by myth and the tricks of memory, seems less than when smoke was still pouring out of the twin towers. This seems distinctly odd, but what is odder still is the development of two parallel theories of what really happened on 9/11 that both point to our two best ostensible friends in the Middle East as complicit in, if not the source, of the terror.

Senator Bob Graham has openly discussed the machinations behind the 9/11 attack and has said:

“Yes, going back to your question about what was the greatest surprise. I agree with what Senator Shelby said, the degree to which the agencies were not coordinating was certainly a surprise: but also I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States.”

Graham goes on to make clear that he means more than one foreign government was involved in the events leading up to 9/11. They had some degree of foreknowledge if not outright complicity and they aren’t through with us yet. Graham continues:

“I am stunned that we have not done a better job of pursuing that to determine if other terrorists received similar supports, and even more important, if the infrastructure of a foreign government assisting terrorists still exists for the current generation of terrorists who are planning the next plots. To me that is an extremely significant issue and most of that information is classified. I think overly classified.”

Graham’s lament brings to mind the remark of a government spokesman to Carl Cameron, of Fox News, who reported the following in December 2001:

“There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.'”

Let us now address the concept that the hijackers had been penetrated by the Israeli Mossad were being watched by this  extensive Israeli intelligence network which operated, and still operates, inside the United States and with the knowledge and full cooperation of American intelligence organs who are acting under the orders of the highest level of the current American administration.

Salon magazine reported on a mysterious outbreak of suspicious incidents, in the months prior to 9/11, involving young Israelis who claimed to be “art students,” and who made it a habit to approach government facilities as if they were conducting professional intelligence analysis.. A 60 page interagency report, parented by the BATF, was clandestinely released which documented the activities of these large groups, who obviously had more to do with the art of intelligence-gathering than with selling cheap art prints.  In a number of documented instances, the young Israelis approached government employees at home, and clearly had access to personal information that could only have come from official U.S. personnel records.

A Salon piece, by Christopher Ketcham, theorized that the purpose of the “art students” operation might have been to divert attention away from something, to blow a lot of smoke and blind intelligence agencies to activities that were going on right under their noses.

Le Monde followed up with reporting on the geographical synchronicity of the hijackers’ odyssey though America and the location of the various colonies of Israeli “art students,” as if the former were being shadowed by the latter:

“More than a third of these ‘students,’ who, according to the report, moved in at least 42 American cities, stated they resided in Florida. Five at least were intercepted in Hollywood, and two in Fort Lauderdale. Hollywood is a town of 25,000 inhabitants to the north of Miami, close to Fort Lauderdale. At least 10 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 were residing in Florida.

“Four of the five members of the group that diverted American Airlines flight number 11: Mohammed Atta, Abdulaziz Al-Omari, Walid and Wahd Al-Shehri, as well as one of the five terrorists of United flight 175, Marwan Al-Shehhi , resided all at various times in… Hollywood, Florida. As for Ahmed Fayez, Ahmed and Hamza Al-Ghamdi and Mohand Al-Shehri, who took over United flight 75, like Said Al-Ghamdi, Ahmed Al-Haznawi and Ahmed Al-Nami, of United flight 93 which crashed September 11 in Pennsylvania, and Nawaq Al-Hamzi, of AA flight 77 (crashed into the Pentagon), they all at one time resided at Delray Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale.

“This convergence is, inter alia, the origin of the American conviction that one of the tasks of the Israeli “students” would have been to track the Al-Qaida terrorists on U.S. territory, without informing the federal authorities of the existence of the plot.”

The Israeli Mossad agents closely watched, and extensively cooperated with Mohammed Atta and his fellow terrorists, in anticipation of the 9/11 attacks that could give the Bush administration the casus belli it frantically sought as well as to further cement the joint purposes of both Israel and the United States, American physical domination of the Middle East which would relieve Israel from the always-pending threat of military or terrorist attacks. Israel would gain added security and America would gain a military base to support future threatening actions in support of American domination of Arab oil and, even  more important, control over territories through which vital oil pipelines passed. These goals were openly espoused by the militant so-called Neocons who were comprised of many Israeli citizens with prior intelligence experience and, most important, the very cooperative and sympathetic ears of George Bush and his gray eminence, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Finally, the respected German weekly Die Zeit published a lengthy articleentitled “Next Door to Mohammed Atta,” which cited French intelligence and focused on the close proximity of the “art students” and the hijackers in the south Florida town of Hollywood, and environs:

“Not until after the attacks of September 11 did the consequences of the spy ring become clear. Apparently the agents were not interested in military or industrial facilities, but were shadowing a number of suspects, who were later involved in the terrorist attacks against the US. According to a report of the French intelligence agency that Die Zeit examined, ‘according to the FBI, Arab terrorists and suspected terror cells lived in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in Miami and Hollywood, Florida from December 2000 to April 2001 in direct proximity to the Israeli spy cells.’

“According to the report, the Mossad agents were interested in the leader of the terrorists, Mohammed Atta and his key accomplice, Marwan al-Shehi. Both lived in Hamburg before they settled in Hollywood, Florida in order to plan the attacks. A Mossad team was also operating in the same town. The leader, Hanan Serfati, had rented several dwellings. Everything indicates that the terrorists were constantly observed by the Israelis. The chief Israeli agent was staying right near the post office where the terrorists had a mailbox. TheMossad also had its sights on Atta’s accomplice Khalid al-Midhar, with whom the CIA was also familiar, but allowed to run free.'”

Another factor was the uncovering, by the FBI, of an Israeli spy ring operating in the Pentagon (the AIPAC-Franklin case.)

And what have been the ongoing results of all of this? The United States is now mired in Iraq, beyond recovery in a ceaseless guerilla war, supported and supplied by other countries, that threatens to expand and involve the entire area in a series of devastating civil wars, and has had the exact opposite of its intended result, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups worldwide. The Bush-created propaganda project to “democratize” the Middle East has only succeeded in pulverizing it. We have passed the four thousand mark in the official number of American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, but very credible leaked information puts the figure of dead at over 15 thousand. But it also is known that the Iraqis have suffered ten times that in Baghdad alone.

Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister, claimed he had President Bush “right in his pocket” and. the Likud dream of a Greater Israel made important advances: new settlements of Isrelis in stolen Palestinian lands, and this was coupled with a new American acquiescence in the face of Israeli aggression, which emboldened and empowered the increasingly militant Israelis. The rabid Isreali extremists have won: so much so that the currently vegetative Sharon would subsequently be  considered a “moderate.”

The revelation that the FBI had been investigating the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for over two years, conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Israeli penetration of U.S. Government agencies and the commission of possible illegal acts, including espionage, has shed new light on Israel’s secret and massive infiltration of  America,.The sheer scope of this investigation, in terms of manpower and other resources, suggests an Israeli covert operatio:: extensive, multi-leveled, and aggressive.

The mystery of 9/11 is a long way from being solved, and today, on this somber anniversary, we seem far from dispersing the murk and myth that obfuscates its true origins. We know that al-Qaeda and ultimately bin Laden conceived the plot, but how did they carry it off without at least some official U.S. governmental assistance, however passive and indirect?

The answer, it seems safe to say, is that they didn’t: The Israelis had a through and ongoing foreknowledge, based on the genuine, but fragmented and officially ignored evidence, and somehow, under orders from Sharon, neglected to let us in on the secret until it was far too late.

It should be noted that the large and growing adherents of the Israeli complicity theory can point to the news that the White House officially ordered the Justice Department to quash the investigation into Israel’s spy nest in the Pentagon. As the Financial Times reports:

“An FBI investigation into suspected security breaches involving Pentagon officials and Israel is unlikely to result in prosecution of senior figures following pressure from the White House, according to people familiar with the case.. Analysts said that although the neoconservative proponents of regimechange

in Iraq and Iran had fallen out of favour with the White House, the presidential election in November still afforded them protection.

“Sources familiar with the investigation said the White House and John Ashcroft, the US attorney-general, had intervened to apply the brakes. ‘The White House is leaning on the FBI. Some people in the FBI are very upset, they think Ashcroft is playing politics with this,'” a former intelligence official said.

“Paul McNulty, the Virginia district attorney in charge of the probe, had been told to slow down, the sources said. Asked for comment, Mr McNulty’s office would only say that the investigation was continuing.”

In the act of covering up, the government admits more than it cares to, fueling what official Washington dismiss as “conspiracy theories.” But the story of 9/11 is about a conspiracy if it is about anything at all. Six years later, one of the few certainties we have about it is that we have yet to unlock its mysteries.

What has also been officially and very strictly ignored by both American intelligence agencies, and the obedient American media, is the story about Israeli speculators, using inside knowledge of the pending attacks, to reap millions of dollars from international stock market manipulations.

Between August 26 and September 11, 2001, a group of speculators, identified by the American Securities and Exchange Commission as Israeli citizens, sold “short” a list of 38 stocks that could reasonably be expected to fall in value as a result of the pending attacks. These speculators operated out of the Toronto, Canada and Frankfurt, Germany, stock exchanges and their profits were specifically stated to be “in the many millions of dollars.”

Investigators from numerous government agencies are part of a clandestine but official effort to resolve the market manipulations There has been a great deal of talk about insider trading of American stocks by certain Israeli groups both in Canada and Germany between August 26 and the Sept.11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Government investigators remain tight-lipped about a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe of possible profiteering by terrorists with advance knowledge of the attack.

On Sept. 6, 2001, the Thursday before the tragedy, 2,075 put options were made on United Airlines and on Sept. 10, the day before the attacks, 2,282 put options were recorded for American Airlines. Given the prices at the time, this could have yielded speculators between $2 million and $4 million in profit.

The matter still is under investigation and none of the government investigating bodies -including the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and DOJ -are speaking to reporters about insider trading. Even so, suspicion of insider trading to profit from the Sept. 11 attacks is not limited to U.S. regulators. Investigations were initiated in a number of places including Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Spain. As in the United States, all are treating these inquiries as if they were state secrets.

Lynne Howard, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), stated that information about who made the trades was available immediately. “We would have been aware of any unusual activity right away. It would have been triggered by any unusual volume. There is an automated system called ‘blue sheeting,’ or the CBOE Market Surveillance System, that everyone in the business knows about. It provides information on the trades – the name and even the Social Security number on an account – and these surveillance systems are set up specifically to look into insider trading. The system would look at the volume, and then a real person would take over and review it, going back in time and looking at other unusual activity.”

Howard continued, “The system is so smart that even if there is a news event that triggers a market event it can go back in time, and even the parameters can be changed depending on what is being looked at. It’s a very clever system and it is instantaneous. Even with the system, though, we have very experienced and savvy staff in our market-regulations area who are always looking for things that might be unusual. They’re trained to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Even if it’s offshore, it might take a little longer, but all offshore accounts have to go through U.S. member firms – members of the CBOE – and it is easily and quickly identifiable who made the trades. The member firm who made the trades has to have identifiable information about the client under the ‘Know Your Customer’ regulations (and we share all information with the Securities and Exchange Commission.)”

Given all of this, at a minimum the CBOE and government regulators who are conducting the secret investigations have known for some time who made the options puts on a total of 38 stocks that might reasonably be anticipated to have a sharp drop in value because of an attack similar to the 9/11 episode. The silence from the investigating camps could mean several things: Either terrorists are responsible for the puts on the listed stocks or others besides terrorists had foreknowledge of the attack and used this knowledge to reap a nice financial harvest from the tragedy.

Adam Hamilton of Zeal LLC, a North Dakota-based private consulting company that publishes research on markets worldwide, stated that “I heard that $22 million in profits was made on these put options…”

Federal investigators have consistan6ly maintained absolute official silence about these stock trades, and it is clear that a much wider net has been cast, apparently looking for bigger international fish involved in dubious financial activity relating to the 9/11 attacks on the world stock markets.

Just a month after the attacks the SEC sent out a list of 38 stocks to various securities firms around the world looking for information. The list includes stocks of American, United, Continental, Northwest, Southwest and US Airways airlines, as well as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, the American International Group, AIG, Cigna, CAN Financial, John Hancock, MetLife, General Motors, Raytheon, W.R. Grace, Lone Star Technologies, American Express, the Bank of New York, Bank One, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns..

Not only was Israel fully appraised of the pending attack, which her own Mossad agents had intimate knowledge of, she also reaped at least $16 million in illegal insider trading on the world’s stock markets. Not only is all of this treacherous activity well-known in official Washington, the fanatically pro-Israel American president has strictly forbidden any investigations into any aspect of this and has threatened severe punishments against any member of an official U.S. agency for revealing or even discussing any aspect of it.

With friends like Israel, America does not need enemies.

The U.S. NATO Alliance Has Been a One-Way Street for Too Long

February 21, 2017

by Doug Bandow

National Interest

Defense Secretary James Mattis made a splash on his visit to Europe. He ratcheted up Washington’s traditional request for the Europeans to spend more on their defense. And his demand resonated across the continent, because his boss, President Donald Trump, has spent years denouncing Washington’s feckless allies for leeching off America.

But some Europeans, when asked to do what normal countries do—take care of their own security—said no. In essence, declared European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe was busy financing Third World development, so America should continue to face down nuclear-armed Russia on the continent’s behalf. Such a deal!

President Trump should respond unequivocally. The United States won’t tell Europeans how much to spend on the military, but henceforth they will be responsible for the consequences of their decision. Washington should develop a plan to gradually but completely shift responsibility for Europe’s security back onto the Europeans, not simply collect a little extra cash for continuing to do their dirty work.

NATO has faced an existential crisis since the end of the Cold War. Created to contain and deter the Soviet Union, the American-led European alliance lost its raison d’être when the Soviet Union disappeared and the Warsaw Pact dissolved. In search of new roles, some alliance officials desperately suggested that the military alliance organize student exchanges and fight the drug war.

Instead, NATO supplanted the European Union in taking on the duty of welcoming the eastern European states into the Western world. The alliance acted like a social club that every respectable nation should want to join. Geopolitical nonentities, such as the Baltic states, Albania, Slovenia and Croatia, were added. Montenegro, the modern equivalent of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick from the novel The Mouse that Roared, is waiting for final U.S. approval. As a result, the traditional anti-Moscow military alliance expanded up to Russia’s borders.

Moreover, NATO decided to take on “out-of-area” conflicts, making war in regions of no particular security importance to existing alliance members. Thus came the campaign to dismember Serbia, a small Balkan country that did not attack or even threaten any NATO state; joining the United States in a fruitless, fifteen-plus-year nation-building exercise in Afghanistan; and stoking regional chaos by fostering regime change in Libya.

More recently the alliance considered admitting Georgia and Ukraine, both involved in violent disputes with Russia. Indeed, the Bush administration debated and thankfully rejected a proposal for direct military intervention in the Russo-Georgian War, begun by Tbilisi’s shelling of Russian troops stationed in the separatist territory of South Ossetia. Moreover, after helping to provoke an international crisis by backing a street revolution against Ukraine’s elected Moscow-friendly Yanukovich government, U.S. and European leaders considered proposals to offer direct military backing to Kiev. Again, cooler heads prevailed, though economic sanctions were imposed on Moscow.

In this new, broader approach, Washington abandoned even the pretense of NATO protecting the United States. Promiscuous expansion added countries with minimal capabilities irrelevant to America’s defense. The inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine would not advance U.S. security, but instead act as security black holes, creating a risk of conflict with a nuclear-armed power that has far more at stake in their status.

The only good news is that, despite the rather frenzied fears of the Baltic countries, Moscow has demonstrated no interest in war. Rather, Russia appears to have regressed to a pre-1914 mind-set, insisting on respect for its interests, especially its border security. Which explains its particular sensitivities over Georgia and Ukraine.

But the bigger question is why America continues to subsidize twenty-six European nations (Canada also is a member). At NATO’s creation in 1949, Europe was only beginning to recover from the ravages of the worst war in human history. Germany, the most populous and industrialized country in Europe, was divided and not yet rehabilitated. The aggressive Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin had turned central and eastern European nations into satellites, establishing the famed “Iron Curtain” dividing the continent. Washington provided a military shield behind which Europe could revive and regroup.

Yet nearly seven decades later, the United States continues to subsidize the defense of a continent with a larger GDP and population than America. Despite having greater economic wealth, the Europeans spend less than half what the United States does on the military. Indeed, NATO acknowledges that Washington covers 72 percent of the alliance’s combined military costs. Moreover, admitted an official organization publication, there is “an over-reliance by the Alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refueling; ballistic missile defense; and airborne electronic warfare.”

After years of reducing expenditures, Europe and Canada finally made a marginal increase in 2015. Last year, outlays rose an estimated 3.8 percent. Such a turnaround is welcome, but at that rate—worth $10 billion in 2016—Europe will not close the gap with America in any reasonable time frame, even if the Trump administration doesn’t accelerate U.S. outlays.

Moreover, if Russia really poses an existential threat to the continent, a 3.8 percent hike is ludicrously inadequate. Yet no one believes that European governments will engage in a sustained military buildup. Britain is embroiled in the potentially expensive process of leaving the European Union. Economic crisis is again building in Greece, threatening another continental convulsion. Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post noted that elections in “France and Germany feature insurgent anti-establishment nationalists who, like Trump, question the need for international alliances.” Even more mainstream Europeans worry more about sustaining their welfare states and managing excessive debts than about Moscow.

Moreover, no European country bears an economic burden of the military similar to that of the United States. Last year only four European nations even hit 2 percent of GDP: Greece (primarily to confront historic enemy Turkey), the United Kingdom (by fudging the statistics), Estonia (a small nation on Russia’s border) and Poland (which only recently hit that level). While 2 percent is wholly arbitrary, it at least is a convenient benchmark. For a country facing serious, potentially dire security threats, 2 percent is a pretty cheap price to pay for defense.

Latvia and Lithuania, in a state of near hysteria over what they see as potential Russian aggression, hit only 1.45 percent and 1.49 percent, respectively. France, which along with the UK possesses Europe’s most capable armed forces, appropriated a disappointing 1.78 percent, and Germany, with the continent’s largest GDP, ran a pitiful 1.19 percent. Four European nations, along with Canada, didn’t even hit 1 percent. One of those was Spain, with the continent’s fifth-largest economy. Sir Adam Thomson warned that making 2 percent by 2024 would mean that “for the 13 Allies like Germany who spend 1.2% of GDP or less, defence budget increases every year from now to 2024 of more than 6% on top of GDP growth would be necessary.”

No wonder President Trump called NATO “obsolete” during the campaign. He talked about not acting on the Article 5 obligation to defend the Baltics unless they “have fulfilled their obligations to us.” That’s a bad way of doing things—treaty obligations should not be casually tossed aside—but his comment reflected well-founded frustration about the Europeans’ willingness to cheap ride on American taxpayers.

Since then, however, it appears that he has been kidnapped and replaced by a Europhiletwin from an alternate universe. The president apparently has developed a strange new respect for the alliance. Said Trump, or his clone: “We strongly support NATO. We only ask that all of the NATO members make their full and proper financial contributions to the NATO alliance, which many of them have not been doing.”

Secretary Mattis actually was blunter, telling the Europeans, “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do.” He even added a threat: “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”

Some European leaders were conciliatory. German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said simply, “The U.S. is right.” She added, “We Germans want to accept his challenge, and we want to accept it as Europeans.” Dutch defense minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also backed Mattis’ request for higher continental outlays.

Alliance secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg embraced Mattis’s message, if not his tone: “This is not the U.S. telling Europe to increase defense spending. This is 28 allies, heads of state and government, sitting around the same table in 2014 and looking into each other’s eyes and agreeing that we shall increase defense spending. So this is about implementing something, which 28 heads of state and government have agreed that we will do together.”

Of course, that commitment wouldn’t exist absent U.S. complaints. Moreover, some of last year’s increases were tiny, while other governments reduced real outlays: Belgium, Canada, Greece, Poland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. But at least most members started moving in the right direction.

Nevertheless, some Europeans defend their minimal commitment to their own defense. One, obviously reflecting public attitudes, is that the continent faces few, if any, serious security threats. “Old Europe,” at least, is unlikely to find Russian tanks traversing local roads under any circumstances, and no other similarly dangerous scenarios are evident. So why spend more? That’s a perfectly reasonable argument, but it leaves no reason for American military forces to stick around.

Some European defense officials contend that while they are poor on inputs, they do better on outputs: as a share of forces, the United States provides less than its 46 percent of total NATO GDP. That ignores relative capabilities of the militaries: American units are more able and deployable.

Moreover, Europe provides none of the funding for the defense of anything else, including America and Asia. Of course, Europeans may bridle at what they see as Washington’s demand to back U.S. primacy and its uniquely global ambitions, but why should America do what the Europeans could do for themselves? No one else will protect the United States and Asia continues to grow in economic and strategic importance. If there is a case for an added American effort, it is to do what no one else will do, not to substitute for European capabilities.

However, most forthright was the European Commission’s Juncker, who acknowledged to the Munich Security Conference that increased allied spending “has been the American message for many many years.” However, he added: “I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this.” After all, the Europeans do so much more elsewhere: “If you look at what Europe is doing in defense, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different.” Security involves more than just “raising defense spending.”

Yes, and the Europeans spend more on their own social welfare and many other domestic purposes as well. None of this supplants the continent’s responsibility for its own defense. The record of development aid is dubious, and often is used as an indirect subsidy for local exporters. It has very little to do with protecting the continent. Humanitarian assistance is a generous response to tragedy, but is no substitute to fielding capable armed forces. Providing international “aid” does not warrant Europe expecting America to sacrifice its own people and wealth, and risk war with a nuclear power, over continental rather than U.S. interests.

Still, there is no reason for the Europeans to spend more than they wish on the military, so long as they bear the consequences of doing so without complaint. If they don’t believe they need to respond—and few Europeans really appear to believe that the revived Red Army is about to make a dash across Europe to the Atlantic—then Washington shouldn’t complain. But they shouldn’t expect America to provide added military insurance.

Which is where President Trump has gone wrong. The problem is not that the Europeans spend too little. The problem is that the United States shouldn’t be defending the continent irrespective of how much they spend. Thus, Washington’s objective should be to be to return to Europe responsibility for its own defense, irrespective of how much European countries devote to armed forces. The fact that European military outlays are increasing merely makes the case that they are capable of safeguarding their own security.

Secretary Mattis got Europe’s attention. Now President Trump should take the next step and begin discussions on turning NATO into a European-led and -funded defense organization. It is time to relieve Americans of their seemingly endless obligation to subsidize their prosperous and populous cousins across the Atlantic.




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