TBR News February 24, 2017

Feb 24 2017

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. February 24, 2017: “’Parousia’ refers to the Second Coming of Christ as understood by the Christian Pentecostal sect.

This second coming assumes a first coming (here, the facts are not in evidence) but the fixation on bringing about the latter appearance is intense and determined.

It is the belief of Pentecostals that when certain conditions are met, Jesus Christ will return to earth, take his elect (the Pentecostals) physically to Paradise in an event known as Rapture. Those not belonging to the Pentecostal elect will have to remain behind for Satan to deal with.

When Parousia happens,it is believed, there will be a great battle fought at Armageddon between the forces of Jesus and the Devil and his antichrist and Jesus, quite naturally, will be triumphant.

All of this, the Pentecostals assure their membership, can be found in the book of Revelation.

Unfortunately for this interesting thesis, the struggle between good and evil at Armageddon is not found in the book of Revelations. Revelations 16:16 only mentions the name of the long-forgotten town but there is nothing about an epic struggle mentioned anywhere else other than twisted interpretations in cult literature.

This strange book was allegedly written by St. John the Devine, a disciple of Jesus when, in fact is believed by most reputable Biblical scholars to have been written by a certain John of Patmos who lived many years after the period ascribed to Christ’s ministry.

John of Patmos was a hermit/monk on the Greek island of Patmos and contemporary historical reference briefly dismisses him as a lunatic. No one has been able to understand a word of what he wrote, and his confused and mystic writings easily lends themselves to all manner of interpretations by various dimwitted and obsessed religious fanatics.

When Martin Luther prepared the Protestant Bible, he discarded Revelations, and other books then found in the Bible, as being ‘unworthy and filled with nonsense.’

The Second Coming has as one of its primary requirements that a Jewish nation must be reestablished in Palestine (which it was in 1948) and, even more important, that the great Jewish temple of Solomon must be rebuilt before Christ can return to earth and elevate his elect.

The first temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians and the more elegant second, by the Romans when they crushed the Jewish revolt in the first century.

Unfortunately for the Pentecostals, the former site of this temple is now occupied by the much-revered Muslim Dome of the Rock mosque.

The Jewish temple cannot be rebuilt, therefore, as long as the Muslim mosque occupies its space and therefore, it would be necessary to destroy this very holy building and replace it with a new edifice of another religion.

However, if this lunatic act were consummated, there would be an immediate and  terrible rising in the Muslim world and a savage religious war would burst forth on an already-ravaged Middle East.

The Pentecostals are, by their very nature, uncaring and fierce fanatics and such a war would, to them, be a fulfillment of the spurious prophecy of the manic Revelation’s non-existent Battle of Armageddon.

Already we can hear comments from prominent Pentecostals that the Muslims are the forces of the anti-Christ and must therefore be engaged by the forces of Jesus in a final hecatomb of blood and destruction. This pending bloodbath means nothing to Pentecostals because, according to their beliefs, they will be safe in Paradise and those left behind are of no consequence

These God-intoxicated fanatics have managed to capture the White House and place their people in high official positions within the Bush Administration.

In the face of all reason and logic, they are pushing a suicidal, hidden agenda that will have terrible consequences for everyone concerned.

In light of this, perhaps it is now far easier to understand what really stands behind the apparent fierce determination to invade a shattered and disorganized Iraq while studiously ignoring a very real danger from North Korea’s declared intentions of building nuclear weapons.

After all, North Korea is not mentioned in Pentecostal dogma and there would be no Parousia because of a terrible nuclear war launched by that country.

Jesus is quoted as saying that he did not come to ‘bring Peace but a Sword,’ and this seems to be the real motivation of his more deranged followers.”

Table of Contents

  • The Russia-connected allegations have created an atmosphere of hysteria amounting to McCarthyism.
  • Trump promises border wall ‘soon, way ahead of schedule’
  • ‘American Exceptionalism’ and Our Warped Foreign Policy ‘Idealists’
  • Report: Germany’s spy agency monitored journalists across the globe
  • Documents Indicate Germany Spied on Foreign Journalists
  • Scottish government believes it can call, win new independence vote: sources
  • Police Recommend Criminal Charges Against Netanyahu’s Former Chief of Staff Ari Harow
  • Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible
  • German entrepreneurs see pickup in Russia business
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled from 2010-15 – US govt
  • Iraqi jets strike Islamic State in Syria for first time as troops advance in Mosul
  • Bitcoin hits record high above $1,200 on talk of ETF approval
  • 500 inches and counting: Snow has clobbered California ski resorts this winter

The Russia-connected allegations have created an atmosphere of hysteria amounting to McCarthyism.

February 22, 2017

by Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation

The bipartisan, nearly full-political-spectrum tsunami of factually unverified allegations that President Trump has been sedi-
tiously “compromised” by the Kremlin, with scarcely any nonpartisan pushback from influential political or media sources, is deeply alarming. Begun by the Clinton campaign in mid-2016, and exemplified now by New York Times columnists (who write of a “Trump-Putin regime” in Washington), strident MSNBC hosts, and unbalanced CNN commentators, the practice is growing into a latter-day McCarthyite hysteria. Such politically malignant practices should be deplored wherever they appear, whether on the part of conservatives, liberals, or progressives.

The allegations are driven by political forces with various agendas: the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to maintain its grip on the party by insisting that she didn’t lose the election but that it was stolen by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Trump; by enemies of Trump’s proposed détente with Russia, who want to discredit both him and Putin; and by Republicans and Democrats stunned that Trump essentially ran and won without either party, thereby threatening the established two-party system. Whatever the motivation, the ensuing slurs against Trump, which are already producing calls for his impeachment, pose grave threats to US and international security and to American democracy itself.

So far, no facts have been presented to back up the allegations. (Without facts, all of us are doomed to malpractice or worse.) An impartial investigation might search for such facts, if any exist, which should then be evaluated objectively—but neither may be possible in the current political atmosphere, only a witch hunt.

For now, six allegations pass as evidence that Trump has been compromised, or worse, by the Kremlin:

  1. The president has “lavished praise” on Putin. All Trump has said in this regard is that Putin is “a strong leader” and “very smart” and that it would be good “to cooperate with Russia.” These are empirically true statements. They pale in comparison with the warm words of previous US presidents for Russia’s leaders, including those of Franklin Roosevelt about Joseph Stalin, those of Richard Nixon about Leonid Brezhnev, and particularly those of Bill Clinton about Boris Yeltsin, whom Clinton compared favorably to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Only against the backdrop of the unrelenting US political-media establishment’s demonization of Putin could Trump’s “praise” be considered lavish. Instead, unlike virtually every other mainstream American political figure and media outlet, Trump simply refuses to vilify Putin—declining to characterize him as a “killer” of personal enemies, for which there is also no evidence.
  2. Trump and his associates have had, it is charged, business dealings in Russia and with Russian “oligarchs.” Perhaps, but so have many major American corporations, including Boeing, Pfizer, Ford, General Electric, Morgan Stanley, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Their Russian partners are often “oligarchs.” Moreover, unlike many international hotel corporations, Trump tried but failed to build his signature enterprise in Russia. The “Russian assets” about which his son spoke seem to have been from selling condos and co-ops in the United States to cash-bearing Russians in search of a luxury brand—hardly delegitimizing. It is said that Trump’s tax returns, if revealed, would expose nefarious Russian influence. Perhaps, but considering the financial documents of ownership he has made public, that seems unlikely. Regardless, this remains an allegation, not a fact.
  3. Trump’s “associate” and, briefly, campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is alleged to have been “pro-Russian” when he advised Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, later deposed unconstitutionally during the Maidan “revolution” in February 2014. This makes no sense. A professional political expert, Manafort was presumably well paid, like other American electoral experts hired abroad. But he seems to have urged Yanukovych to tilt toward the ill-fated European Union partnership agreement and away from Russia—as Yanukovych did—in order to win the votes of Ukrainians outside his constituency in southeastern regions. (Yanukovych, whom Putin loathed for this and other reasons, had fallen out of favor with the Kremlin until late 2013.)
  4. A “dossier” purporting to show how the Kremlin could blackmail Trump was leaked to CNN and published by BuzzFeed. Compiled by a former British intelligence official in the opposition-research business, its 30-odd pages are a compilation of the innocent, the unverified, and the kind of trash for sale in Moscow and elsewhere. More recently, CNN exclaimed that its own intelligence leakers had “confirmed” some elements of the dossier, but thus far none that actually compromise Trump.
  5. The crux of the allegations against Trump was, and remains, that Putin ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the dissemination of stolen e-mails through WikiLeaks in order to undermine the Clinton campaign and put Trump in the White House. A summary of these “facts” was presented in a declassified report released by the “intelligence community” and widely discussed in January. Though it quickly became axiomatic proof for Trump’s political and media enemies, almost nothing in the report is persuasive. About half are “assessments” based on surmised motivations, not factual evidence of an actual Kremlin operation on Trump’s behalf. The other half is standard whining about the Kremlin-funded television network RT, which is at worst an above-average “propaganda” outlet. Moreover, a number of American cyber-experts insist that Russian state hackers would have left no fingerprints, as US intelligence officials claim they had. Indeed, the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity believes that the DNC documents were not hacked but rather leaked by an insider. If so, this had nothing to do with Russia. (The CIA and the FBI were “highly confident” about the report’s findings, but the National Security Agency, which alone has the capacity to fully monitor e-mails, was only “moderately confident.”) Still more, at his final presidential press conference, Barack Obama referred to the DNC scandal as a leak and said he didn’t know WikiLeaks’ exact role in the scandal—this despite the allegations by his own intelligence agencies. Nor is it clear that Putin so favored the erratic Trump that he would have taken such a risk. Judging from debates in Kremlin-connected Russian newspapers, there was serious doubt as to which US candidate might be best—or least bad—for Russia.
  6. Finally, there is the firing of Gen. Michael Flynn as Trump’s national-security adviser for having communicated with the Russian ambassador about the sanctions imposed by Obama just before he left the White House and Trump was inaugurated. So far as is actually known, Flynn did nothing unprecedented or incriminating. Communications, including meetings, between representatives of US presidents-elect and foreign capitals, particularly Moscow, have been “common practice” over the years, according to Jack Matlock, ambassador to Russia for Presidents Reagan and Bush; Matlock had previously arranged meetings in Moscow for President-elect Carter’s transition team. Moreover, Obama’s own Russia adviser, Michael McFaul, told The Washington Post recently that he visited Moscow in 2008, even before that year’s election, for talks with Russian officials. The Post implied that this was “appropriate contact.” So, it seems, was Flynn’s, though perhaps inept. Indeed, if Flynn’s purpose was to persuade the Kremlin not to overreact to Obama’s last-minute sanctions, which were accompanied by a highly provocative threat to launch a cyber-attack on Moscow, his urging was wise and in America’s national interest. 
In fact, it is not Putin who is threatening American democracy, but rather these Kremlin-baiting allegations against President Trump. It is not Putin who is endangering US and international security, but rather the high-level political and intelligence enemies of détente. Similarly, it is not Putin who is degrading the US media with “fake news.” Nor is it Putin who is subverting the American political process, but rather the US intelligence leakers who are at war against their own president.

President Eisenhower eventually stopped Joseph McCarthy. Who will stop the new McCarthyism before it spreads further into the “soul of democracy,” so revered by liberals and progressives? Facts might do so. But in lieu of facts, there are only professional ethics, decency, and patriotism.

Trump promises border wall ‘soon, way ahead of schedule’

February 24, 2017

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has vowed to start building a wall on the Mexican border “soon, way ahead of schedule”, in a speech at a conservative event.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Congress (CPAC), he vowed to always put American citizens first and build a “great, great border wall”.

He also promised to focus on “getting bad people out of this country”.

Mr Trump was greeted by chants of “USA, USA, USA!” as he addressed the annual forum in Maryland.

“We’re building the wall,” he said. “In fact it’s going to start very soon. Way ahead of schedule. It’s way, way, way ahead of schedule.”

His comments come a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly met their Mexican counterparts in Mexico City.

Neither made any mention of the wall in Thursday’s news conference after their closed-door meetings.

The wall could cost up to $21.5bn (£17.2bn), according to Reuters, citing a Department of Homeland Security internal report – much higher than Mr Trump’s estimated price tag of $12bn (£9.6bn).

Brave new world – Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

On Thursday senior White House strategist Steve Bannon told the crowd at CPAC that Donald Trump wasn’t moderating his views or backing down from his controversial campaign promises. On Friday the president took the stage and proved his top adviser right.

In a wide-ranging speech to a crowd of right-wing activists and students, Mr Trump continued his efforts to reshape the Republican Party in his own image. He condemned trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Nafta, which previously had widespread conservative support, to cheers. He promised once again to build the Mexican border wall – ahead of schedule, no less – and crack down on illegal immigration, just a few years after many in his party supported comprehensive immigration reform.

In a conference hall that contained more than a few career political operatives and professional Washington lobbyists, he condemned a “broken” political system full of “blood-sucking consultants” who peddle government influence. Two years ago Mr Trump’s presence at CPAC was treated as an afterthought and a reality television joke. A year ago he decided to skip the event entirely. On Friday morning he arrived in a presidential motorcade. It’s a brave new world for conservatives and their movement.

Mr Trump, who has insisted Mexico would later pay for the wall, needs Congressional approval for funding before moving forward with construction.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has said he would not finance Mr Trump’s wall.

On Friday, President Trump also said he was working on a plan to “totally obliterate” the so-called Islamic State.

“Foreign terrorists will not be able to strike America if they can’t get in to America,” he said.

Mr Trump continued that he “took a lot of heat on Sweden”, referring to his erroneous claim that an attack had recently happened there.

He told the crowd: “I love Sweden… but the people over there understand I’m right.”

The president then referred to terrorist attacks in France before telling an anecdote about a friend who used to love travelling to Paris every year, but has stopped because “Paris is no longer Paris”.

One of the loudest rounds of applause came when he emphasised his “America First” outlook.

“Global co-operation, dealing with other countries, getting along with other countries is good,” he said. “It’s very important.

“But there’s no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency or a global flag.

“This is the United States of America that I’m representing. I’m not representing the globe; I’m representing your country.”

He devoted the first 13 minutes of his speech to criticising the media and its use of unnamed sources, without saying which stories he was unhappy with.

Relations between the White House and the media hit a new low for his presidency a few hours later.

Reporters from the BBC, The New York Times, CNN and other outlets were excluded from a briefing by the White House press secretary Sean Spicer. No reason was given, but Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the so-called gaggle in protest.

Mr Trump is the first president to address the group during his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981, according to American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp.

‘American Exceptionalism’ and Our Warped Foreign Policy ‘Idealists’

February 21, 2017

by Daniel Larson

the American Conservative

Michael Gerson complains about the “abandonment” of “American exceptionalism”:

During the Barack Obama years, the United States retreated from internationalism in practice. At first, this may have been a reaction against George W. Bush’s foreign policy. But Obama’s tendency became a habit, and the habit hardened into a conviction. He put consistent emphasis on the risks of action and the limits of American power.

One of the more tedious arguments from hawks over the last eight years is that the U.S. “retreated” under Obama. This was always false, and there was no real “retreat” from the world. Nonetheless, the lie became a habit and it has since hardened into conventional D.C. wisdom. Obama didn’t “retreat” from internationalism, but the purpose in promoting this falsehood was to identify internationalism with extremely meddlesome interventionism and to treat everything else as the rejection of internationalism. This nonsense made for a somewhat useful talking point so long as hawks didn’t get too specific about what they meant, but when forced to describe what Obama’s “retreat” was they had to acknowledge that they meant that he didn’t start or escalate enough wars to their satisfaction. According to them, Obama’s big failing is that he didn’t involve the U.S. enough in the killing of Syrians. To put it mildly, that is an odd understanding of what internationalism means.

The abuse of the concept of “American exceptionalism” has been similar. Once again, hawks insisted that Obama didn’t believe in it, misrepresented his words to shore up their garbage argument, and then repeated the lie for years until it became automatic.  In the process, they ended up defining “American exceptionalism” so narrowly that no one except advocates for a very aggressive foreign policy could qualify as supporters. Gerson’s complaint that Obama emphasized risks and costs of direct military action in Syria reflects this. If a president doesn’t use American power to inflict death and destruction somewhere overseas, or if he even pays closer attention to what it will cost the U.S. to do so, Gerson thinks that amounts to an “abandonment” of what makes America unique. That’s profoundly warped, but unfortunately it is what passes for “idealism” in foreign policy commentary these days.

Report: Germany’s spy agency monitored journalists across the globe

The German Intelligence Agency (BND) has spied on journalists from the BBC and ‘The New York Times,’ reported ‘Der Spiegel.’ Press rights watchdogs have criticized the latest revelations of foul play at the BND.

February 24, 2017

by Lewis Sanders IV


Since 1999, Germany’s intelligence agency (BND) has spied on journalists of various news outlets and their sources, according to a report by German news magazine “Der Spiegel” set to be published on Saturday.

Media organizations targeted by the spy agency included the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), British news agency Reuters and American daily “The New York Times.”

According to the report, the BND monitored at least 50 telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of journalists and editorial offices across the globe.

Under legislation passed in October, the BND is permitted to direct espionage operations on foreign nationals as well as EU institutions if they aim to gather “information of significance for (Germany’s) foreign policy and security.”

However, critics slammed the legislation, which provided further government oversight over the agency’s intelligence activities, for not providing specific safeguards for journalists.

‘Violation of press freedom’

The office of Reporters Without Borders in Germany (ROG) criticized the spy agency’s actions in a statement published Friday.

“For a long time, we feared that the BND monitored journalists as part of its mass filtering of communication data, at least as ‘by-catch.’ The targeted monitoring revealed by ‘Der Spiegel’s investigation is a massive violation of press freedom,” said ROG Director Christian Mihr.

“Already, the adoption of the BND law was a constitutional break with a message. It does not alter the current practice of monitoring journalists,” he added.

Meanwhile, the BBC told DW that it does not condone such practices, urging “all governments to respect the operation of a free press.”

“We are disappointed to hear these claims. The BBC’s mission is to bring accurate news and information to people around the world and our journalists should be able to operate freely and safely, with full protection of their sources,” the British broadcaster said.

Right to privacy

The BND has courted controversy in recent years after revelations emerged that it monitored European targets at the behest of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Since then, Germany’s parliament has launched an investigation of the agency to determine if it had violated the constitution, which prevents the BND from spying on German nationals.

Under article 10, Germany’s constitution protects German citizens’ right to “privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunications.”

Documents Indicate Germany Spied on Foreign Journalists

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, apparently spied on large numbers of foreign journalists overseas over the course of several years, including employees of the BBC, Reuters and the New York Times. Critics see a massive violation of press freedoms.

February 24, 2017

by Maik Baumgärtner, Martin Knobbe and Jörg Schindler


Arnaud Zajtman, 44, is not exactly the kind of person you would mistake for a terrorist, weapons trader or drug dealer. The Belgian journalist has been reporting from Africa for almost 20 years, with a keen interest in Congo. For 10 years, he was stationed in Kinshasa as a correspondent, first for the BBC and then for the television broadcaster France 24. His stories focused on the forgotten children of Congo, on the battles fought by the rebels and on the country’s first free elections since 1965.

In that election year, in September 2006, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, took an interest in the journalist’s work. Agents included Zajtman’s two Congolese telephone numbers in the agency’s surveillance list as so-called “selectors.”

Zajtman knew nothing about it. German officials never informed him that his phone had been tapped, the journalist says. He was horrified when he was contacted by SPIEGEL regarding the alleged surveillance by the Germans. “It isn’t a good feeling to know that somebody was listening in when you’re dealing with highly sensitive sources.”

The Belgian journalist isn’t the only reporter who was spied on. According to documents seen by SPIEGEL, the BND conducted surveillance on at least 50 additional telephone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses belonging to journalists or newsrooms around the world in the years following 1999.

Included among them were more than a dozen connections belonging to the BBC, often to the offices of the international World Service. The documents indicate that the German intelligence agency didn’t just tap into the phones of BBC correspondents in Afghanistan, but also targeted telephone and fax numbers at BBC headquarters in London.

State Meddling

A phone number belonging to the New York Times in Afghanistan was also on the BND list, as were several mobile and satellite numbers belonging to the news agency Reuters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The German spies also conducted surveillance on the independent Zimbabwean newspaper Daily News before dictator Robert Mugabe banned it for seven years in 2003. Other numbers on the list belonged to news agencies from Kuwait, Lebanon and India in addition to journalist associations in Nepal and Indonesia.

Journalists in Germany enjoy far-reaching protection against state meddling. They enjoy similar legal protection to lawyers, doctors and priests: occupations that require secrecy. Journalists have the right to refuse to testify in court in order to protect their sources. German law forbids the country’s domestic intelligence agency from conducting surveillance on persons who have that right.

The German chapter of Reporters without Borders says that the BND’s systematic surveillance of journalists is an “egregious attack on press freedoms” and “a new dimension of constitutional violation.” Christian Mihr, head of the German chapter of Reporters without Borders, says that press freedom “is not a right granted by the graciousness of the German government, it is an inviolable human right that also applies to foreign journalists.”

The allegations come as the German parliamentary investigative committee focusing on U.S. spying in Germany is completing its inquiry. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who appeared before the committee last Thursday, was the last witness called and now the committee members are working on their closing report. But even as the committee also addressed extensive BND spying, the surveillance of journalists was only a fringe issue.

Constitutional Challenge

Committee members, for example, referred in their questions to the scandal surrounding SPIEGEL reporter Susanne Koelbl, whose emails were read by the BND for a several-month period in 2006. Agency employees said at the time that their target had been the Afghan minister for industry and trade, with whom Koelbl was in contact. The journalist’s emails, they insisted, had been inadvertently intercepted and the agency issued her an apology.

But the surveillance of journalists documented in the papers SPIEGEL has seen was almost certainly not inadvertent. The search terms used clearly targeted the journalists or the newsrooms whose contact information is on the BND list. The German intelligence agency declined to comment on the allegations. “Regarding operative aspects of its activities, the BND comments exclusively to the German government or the committee responsible in the German parliament,” the BND press office stated.

Reporters without Borders is concerned that the BND will continue conducting surveillance on foreign journalists. And the new law governing the BND, which went into effect in January, won’t change that. “What is missing from the new law is an exception for journalists of the kind that exists (in the law governing domestic intelligence),” says Mihr. And he is prepared to fight for it. Together with other journalist associations and under the leadership of the Society for Civil Rights, Reporters without Borders is preparing a constitutional challenge to the new BND law.

Scottish government believes it can call, win new independence vote: sources

February 23, 2017

by John Geddie and Elisabeth O’Leary


LONDON/EDINBURGH-The Scottish government is increasingly confident it can win a new independence referendum and is considering calling one next year as Britain exits the European Union, sources close to the Edinburgh administration say.

Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay inside the EU in last June’s referendum, but Britain as a whole voted to leave, taking Scotland with it. British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the two-year Brexit process next month.

“I believe the Scottish government is thinking very, very seriously about going for an independence referendum next year,” Charles Grant, an adviser to the Scottish government’s Standing Council on Europe, said on Thursday.

“They feel they have enough emotion and momentum to overcome the economic downsides … the harder the Brexit, the more likely they are to break away.”

Scots rejected independence by a 10-point margin in a 2014 referendum, with many voters expressing concern about how Scotland’s economy would fare after leaving the UK.

The British government says there is no need for a second independence referendum.

But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the circumstances this time are completely different, as Scots who voted to stay in the UK were voting to be part of an EU country, something that was no longer the case.

“We have made it very clear that an independence referendum is very much an option on the table if it becomes clear that it is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s vital national interests,” the Scottish government said in an emailed comment for this article.

Sturgeon published a draft bill for a second independence referendum last October. The divorce of Scotland and England, severing a 300-year-old trading, cultural and political union, would come on top of Britain’s traumatic separation from the EU.

Scottish ministers say a proposal made in December for a separate Scottish deal within Brexit has not been seriously considered. The UK government denies that is the case.

One Scottish lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “If you don’t call (an independence vote) now, it’s off the cards for a generation,” because economic damage from Brexit would make voters nervous of more change.

Ross Greer, a Scottish Greens lawmaker whose party supports Sturgeon’s independence goal, told Reuters he had “substantive discussions with various key people” which lead him to conclude a referendum would be called for autumn 2018.

The “Remain” side would be weaker this time as it could no longer tell voters to choose a certain status quo, he said, as Brexit means years of uncertainty about Britain’s trading relationships.

“The challenge is to agree an appropriate time for the vote itself and that involves Westminster as well,” he said. A new referendum would have to be approved by the UK parliament in London.

On Wednesday, UK Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell told the Scottish parliament the country would have to leave the EU whether or not it became independent, angering nationalists.

(Additional reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Andrew Roche and Robin Pomeroy)

Police Recommend Criminal Charges Against Netanyahu’s Former Chief of Staff Ari Harow

Evidence supports suspicion that the sale of U.S.-born Harow’s firm, before returning to the Prime Minister’s Office, was fictitious.

February 23, 2017

by Yaniv Kubovich


Police recommended on Thursday to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, money laundering and other graft counts.

The U.S.-born Harow served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff between 2014 and 2015. Police have been investigating Harow on suspicion that his sale of his consulting company was fictitious.

Police said it has found evidentiary basis for bribery, breach of trust, aggravated fraudulent receipt, conspiring to commit a crime and money laundering, while he served as the prime minister’s chief of staff.

A police statement said that under a conflict of interest agreement before assuming his post at the Prime Minister’s Office, Harow was obligated to sell his company he owned and not to have any ties to it. The findings of the investigation indicate that the sale of his firm was fictitious and that he effectively maintained control of the firm and continued to profit from it and to advance its interests.

Harow managed Netanyahu’s office when he was opposition leader in 2007. From 2008-2010 Harrow was director of the Prime Minister’s Bureau under Netanyahu. After leaving the position in March 2010, Harow opened 3H Global, a privately owned consulting and business development firm. In 2013, with his appointment as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Harow signed a conflict of interest agreement committing to refrain from any involvement in running it.

Harow later presented an agreement for the sale of 3H Global to the legal adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office. It stated that the company was being purchased by VJD Holdings LLC, with an address in Manhattan. Haaretz found that the address provided for VJD Holdings houses a doctor’s office.

The amount that Harow received in the sale also prompted questions. Although the 3H Global was in existence for only about four years and had not established substantial business, it was sold for $3 million, to be paid to Harow in 12 equal installments between April 2014 and January 2017.

As required by law, a trustee was appointed on Harow’s behalf who was to report to the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the execution of the sale. Although the reports showed that some of the funds did get paid to Harow, they were not paid in accordance with the contract. That raised suspicions that the sale was fictitious, that Harow was continuing to manage it while also serving as Netanyahu’s chief of staff and that he might have taken advantage of his senior position in the Prime Minister’s Office to further the business.

Harow was questioned by police for the first time in December, 2015. While searching Harow’s belongings, investigators chanced on a recording of Netanyahu talking with Arnon (Noni) Mozes, publisher of the daily Yedioth Ahronoth. That tape is now the center of a criminal investigation against Netanyahu, in which the prime minister has already been questioned as a suspect.

Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible

February 23 2017

by Ryan Devereaux

The Intercept

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released a pair of memos laying out how the agency intends to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders on domestic immigration enforcement. In addition to calling for a massive increase in the number of immigration agents and the deputizing of local and state law enforcement across the country — described in the documents as a “force multiplier”— the memos dramatically expand the range of people who can be deported without seeing a judge.

“I see now what the plan is,” Greg Siskind, a Tennessee-based immigration attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association board of governors, told The Intercept. “Their plan is basically to have everybody thrown out of the country without ever going to court.” Additional immigration attorneys and legal experts who spoke to The Intercept shared Siskind’s concerns, describing various elements of the DHS directives and the executive orders they reflect as “horrifying,” “stunning,” and “inhumane.”

“This is the broadest, most widespread change I have seen in doing this work for more than two decades,” Lee Gelernt, a veteran immigration attorney and deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, told The Intercept. “After 9/11 we saw some extreme policies, but they were largely confined to particular areas around the relationship between immigration and national security. Here what we’re seeing are those types of policies but also much broader policies just dealing with immigration generally.”

“I expected bad based on Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” added David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney and past president of AILA. “Then when I read the executive order, I expected really bad … but I’m absolutely shocked at the mean-spiritedness of this.”

The lawyers weren’t alone in raising concerns. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement that the memos show the Trump administration is “more concerned with attempting to fulfill misguided campaign promises than doing what is best for the safety and security of the country” and “dead set on creating a massive deportation force and labeling anyone undocumented for expedited removal just to boost deportation numbers.” In an interview with the Washington Post, John Sandweg, a former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and former acting general counsel of DHS, added, “A lot of this is designed to put up numbers — but in doing so, you diminish the impact on public safety.”

The Intercept reported on the significance of Trump’s orders earlier this month, revealing how DHS was already beginning to quietly implement the directives. Tuesday’s memos made that implementation all the more official.

The guidance tracks closely with the executive orders Trump signed in January, confirming, for example, that ICE is now prioritizing the deportation of virtually all immigrants in the country without authorization, including individuals with no criminal records and others whose only offenses involve low-level, nonviolent immigration violations or the falsification of documents to obtain work. According to experts, this range of individuals includes essentially all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with the exception of the roughly 740,000 individuals protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The memos also institutionalize a hardening of the nation’s asylum system and call for the criminal prosecution of immigrant parents who attempt to have their children transported to the U.S. without authorization.

A number of the measures called for in the memos will not happen immediately — it will take time, money, and congressional approval to appropriate the billions of dollars needed to build a network of immigrant detention centers along the southern border with Mexico, for example, and to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more ICE agents. There are certain to be legal challenges to the implementation of the directives as well. Practical hurdles aside, however, the policy shifts Trump ordered — and that DHS has now signed off on — reflect major changes in the world of domestic immigration enforcement.

Crucially, the guidance expands the use of a deportation procedure called expedited removal — the means by which the government can swiftly deport an individual who is not authorized to be in the country without a hearing or a judge’s approval. Under the Obama administration, the process had been mostly limited to undocumented immigrants detained within 100 miles of the border who could not prove they had been in the country continuously for 14 days or more. The Trump administration has scrapped that policy, opting instead to use the full force of the law to expand expedited removal nationwide and require immigrants to prove up to two years of continuous physical presence in the country in order to avoid deportation proceedings.

The use of expedited removal has steadily expanded over the last two decades, accounting for more than 40 percent of all Obama-era deportations in 2013. Under the law, a mid-level immigration bureaucrat is empowered to act as prosecutor and judge in an individual’s immigration case. Due process that would apply in other cases, like the right to an attorney or a hearing before a judge, disappears in favor of a mechanism intended to facilitate rapid deportation.

Claiming asylum is one of the only ways to legally defend against expedited removal. Individuals in expedited removal claiming asylum are entitled to a so-called credible fear interview before an asylum official. If they pass the low threshold necessary to demonstrate a credible fear of being returned to their country, they are then entitled to make their case before a judge. If the judge approves their case, asylum can be granted — if not, the removal proceedings go on. The vast majority of people who undergo credible fear screenings pass — 88 percent in 2015 — and move on to be seen by a judge. This has contributed to a historic backlog of immigration cases, which is exacerbated by a shortage of immigration judges nationwide.

The expansion of expedited removal has immigration lawyers, and some U.S. immigration officials, deeply concerned. Chief among those concerns is a fear that DHS will make passing credible fear screenings more difficult, thus allowing more people to be deported without seeing a judge. According to one senior U.S. immigration official, speaking to The Intercept on condition of anonymity, those changes are already in the works. As DHS rolled out its memos earlier this week, leadership at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services distributed new guidelines making a number of changes to the credible screening process. The guidelines detailed in the internal communications, reviewed by The Intercept and set to go into effect next week, would place added requirements on asylum officials to confirm that the fear described by asylum seekers is credible, including through a new checklist of questions and submission of a written analysis in cases where a positive determination is made.

“Immigration advocates should prepare for a storm of negative screenings,” the official said.

In order to save money and reduce the strain on detention facilities in the U.S., DHS and the Trump administration have also called for individuals who cross the border but are deemed unlikely to do so again to be deported back “to the territory from which they came,” where they will be given the opportunity to adjudicate their cases “via video teleconference.” In practice, this could mean deporting people to Mexico even if they are citizens of other countries.

In comments to reporters this week, DHS officials said the plan would include individuals in removal proceedings who are claiming asylum — seemingly a reference to individuals in expedited removal proceedings — and confirmed that Mexico is the country the Trump administration has in mind for unloading potentially tens of thousands of deportees. While the Mexican government has responded furiously to the proposal, the USCIS internal communications reviewed by The Intercept do provide guidance on returning asylum seekers to countries that are not their own.

Exactly how all of this will play out clearly remains to be seen. According to the U.S. immigration official, if expedited removal is expanded without an increase in judges, the backlog of individuals who do manage to pass their credible fear screenings will grow significantly. Because the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance against so-called “catch and release” practices, this expanded population would be held in detention. Those extended stays in detention waiting to see a judge could then result in individuals who should have been granted asylum giving up and accepting deportation. “Being detained is hard for these people,” the official said. “They aren’t criminals.”

The Intercept reached out to USCIS for comment on the screening changes but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

In an interview with The Intercept, Margo Schlanger, formerly the head of civil rights and civil liberties at DHS and now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the enforcement regime reflected in this week’s DHS memos would provide boundless opportunities for abuse. Schlanger pointed out that language in the memos does call for a joint DHS and Department of Justice effort to oversee a “surge” of judges in detention centers along the border, indicating one potential effort to address the enormous backlog of open cases in the nation’s immigration court system. The expansion of expedited removal is another, she said.

“The basic constraint on enforcement in immigration was previously the processing speed of the immigration courts and the detention capacity,” Schlanger explained. “The idea is to increase the capacity of the immigration courts, plus to bypass the courts for as much of the population as possible by using the full scope of authority possible under the expedited removal statute.”

In other words, she said, “You make it so a lot of people don’t have to go to immigration judges and then you massively increase the immigration judges.”

“If what happens is what seems to be contemplated by this memo, an expansion of who’s covered by expedited removal, we’re going to get deportations of people who actually have a right to stay here,” Schlanger said. “There’s no question about it. … If we get the system that seems to be in here, where the idea is you deport them and then you have like a phone link to some building in Mexico — the idea that you’re going to get accurate adjudication doing that is laughable.”

Location aside, Schlanger said the DHS memos indicate a preference for having more immigrants in detention as a means to achieve faster deportations. Outside of detention, immigration cases can take years to adjudicate. That’s typically not the case when the person in question is in custody — though there have been significant and egregious exceptions in that area as well, particularly among women and children seeking asylum from Central America, who were held in family detention centers under the Obama administration.

“It’s quicker because … you don’t have to go get them, you don’t have to go find them,” Schlanger said. “It’s also quicker because it’s much, much harder for them to find and get lawyers when they’re there.” She added, “This looks like an effort to switch everyone from the non-detained docket to the detained docket.”

If that is indeed the road DHS is going down, Schlanger said, another critical issue presents itself. “If there’s a massive increase in detention beds, how are the beds going to be run in a way that’s humane and safe and constitutional?” she asked. “There’s a whole infrastructure that is needed to make that all work, and if you just increase enforcement capacity — the people who are picking them up, the people who are getting them into detention, and so on — and you don’t increase oversight capacity, then people are going to die in detention.”

Outside the walls of the detention centers, the deportation forces envisioned by the Trump administration raise a whole host of other concerns, Schlanger said. For one, rapidly increasing the size of federal law enforcement agencies often results in problems. “Hiring surges sometimes sacrifice hiring quality,” Schlanger said. “The last time CBP did a huge amount of hiring all at once they hired people who were not able to live up to the requirements of law and policy in terms of use of force. So I’m worried that what they’re going to do is hire people who will then abuse noncitizens in various ways.”

“We will not lower standards and we will not lower training” to fulfill the administration’s requests, DHS Secretary John Kelly has said. “We’re going to get 10,000 and 5,000 on board within the next couple of years.”

Expanding the program known as 287(g), which enlists state and local law enforcement to act as de facto immigration officials, adds yet another layer of civil rights concerns, Schlanger argued. “It provides a fairly minimal amount of training for those police officers and then they’re supposed to operate in this quite legally complex environment and know what the immigration answer to things is,” she said. “Try training a local cop on the trickiness of derivative citizenship.”

“We have no reason to expect that they will do a good job of that, and so we should expect to see a lot more mistakes,” Schlanger said, explaining that the potential for unchecked abuse is significant. “The oversight mechanisms that are supposed to keep ICE and CBP from engaging in profiling, those oversight mechanisms are very weak when you apply them to nonfederal actors.”

“When local folks are using federal authorities to do the arrest, you really have to worry that what they’re doing is going around picking up brown people,” Schlanger added.

The senior U.S. immigration official said many of the concerns expressed by the legal and advocacy community over the changing face of domestic enforcement are valid, but added that despite those concerns the administration’s efforts could very well deliver exactly what the president’s supporters have been waiting for: “hard numbers that the administration will point to as success.”

“I fear that it’s going to be a really effective, comprehensive strategy that will look good on the outside — deportations will go up, ‘danger aliens’ will be in detention, asylum claims will go down, illegal border crossings will go down,” the official said. “My fear is that the likely success in terms of the numbers will drown out the ethical considerations.”

German entrepreneurs see pickup in Russia business

Following two years of recession, the Russian economy is slowly gaining momentum again. German businesses operating in the country are confident a rebound in bilateral trade activities is just around the corner.

February 24, 2017


German companies operating in Russia expect their business activities in the country to expand considerably in the course of 2017, a fresh poll by the Committee on Eastern European Relations and the German-Russian Chamber of Trade and Commerce (AHK) has shown.

Two-thirds of the German firms polled predicted mounting revenues, exports and investments in Russia, with the poll taking into account the views of companies with a total of 122,000 employees and combined annual revenue of 29 billion euros ($30.7 billion) in Russia.

AHK chief Matthias Schepp told reporters that after years of recession, Russia was finally “leaving behind a valley of tears.”

Back to normal? Not yet!

Some 40 percent of respondents said they were intending to boost their workforce in Russia in the course of the year, while one-third of those polled said they would increase their investments there after just 2 billion euros in investment by them in 2016.

Not least due to Western economic sanctions imposed over Russia’s alleged role in the Ukraine conflict and retaliatory measures by Moscow, German exports to the country have dropped by almost 50 percent since 2013.

But according to trade experts, German shipments to Russia are set to increase by at least 5 percent this year.

The Committee on Eastern European Relations reiterated Friday it was in favor of gradually lifting economic sanctions against Russia in line with any progress made in implementing the Minsk Agreement aimed at resolving the Ukraine conflict peacefully.

Heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled from 2010-15 – US govt

February 14, 2017


Heroin-related deaths in the US skyrocketed in the span of five years, amounting to a quarter of all overdose deaths by 2015, according to new federal data, presenting another grim snapshot of America’s opioid epidemic.

Newly-released data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on nationwide overdose-related deaths indicate that such fatalities are increasing at a rapid pace, jumping from 38,329 in 2010 to 47,055 in 2014, then to 52,404 by 2015, a 27 percent increase in five years.

Heroin deaths quadrupled in that time period, going from 3,036 in 2010, an 8 percent share of all overdose-related deaths, to 12,989 in 2015, a 24.3 percent share of all overdose-involved fatalities, the NCHS found.

In 2015, those aged 45-54 made up the highest percentage of overdose deaths for all age groups (30 deaths per 100,000), followed by those aged 35-44 (28.3), 25-34 (26.9), 55-64 (21.8), 15-24 (9.7) and 65 and up (5.8).

Overdose death rates increased for all age groups in the last 15 years, with deaths of those aged 55-64 making up the greatest percentage increase (4.2 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.8 in 2015).

Rich Hamburg, executive vice president of Trust for America’s Health, connected the high rates of heroin use and subsequent overdoses to the drug’s low cost compared with prescription opioids.

“You are 40 times more likely to use heroin if you started with opioid painkillers,” Hamburg said, according to Reuters. “Heroin is part of America’s larger drug abuse problem.”

The age-adjusted rate of overdose-related deaths among non-Hispanic white persons increased by a rate of almost 3.5 from 1999 to 2015 (21.1 deaths per 100,000), the NCHS reported.

The overdose death rate for non-Hispanic black persons in 2015 was 12.2 deaths per 100,000, an increase from 7.5 in 1999, while the rate for Hispanic persons went up from 5.4 to 7.7 over that time period.

The states with the highest age-adjusted intrastate rates of overdose deaths in 2015 were West Virginia (41.5 deaths per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3), Kentucky (29.9), Ohio (29.9) and Rhode Island (28.2), while 16 other states also had death rates higher than the national rate of overdose deaths (16.3).

While the number of heroin-related deaths quadrupled from 2010 to 2015, the percentage share of all overdose deaths that were related to heroin tripled, from 8 percent to 25 percent. The percentage share of deaths related to synthetic opioids not including methadone, such as fentanyl, increased from 8 percent to 18 percent; the share of cocaine-involved deaths increased from 11 percent to 13 percent; and the share of deaths related to psychostimulants such as methamphetamine went up from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Meanwhile, the percentage share of prescription drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone deaths went down from 29 percent to 24 percent, and methadone-involved deaths decreased from 12 percent to 6 percent.

The NCHS report relied on mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System and did not examine underlying cause of deaths.

In December, the NCHS reported that drug overdoses overall doubled from 2010 to 2014.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the five leading causes of death in the US – cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, heart disease, stroke and unintentional injuries, including overdoses – more acutely impact rural areas of the US as opposed to urban communities.

Life expectancy for Americans dropped in 2015 for the first time in more than two decades, with mortality rates on the rise for the 10 leading causes of nationwide deaths.

Iraqi jets strike Islamic State in Syria for first time as troops advance in Mosul

February 24, 2017

by Mustafa Salim, Loveday Morris and Louisa Loveluck

The Washington Post

IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi jets struck Islamic State targets inside neighboring Syria for the first time Friday, Iraq’s prime minister said while vowing to chase down militants “everywhere” as Iraqi troops opened new fronts in their battle for the city of Mosul.

The airstrikes in Bukamal, in Syria, were coordinated with Damascus and carried out through a joint intelligence-sharing and command center in Baghdad involving Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia, according to Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a spokesman for Iraq’s Defense Ministry. He said he had no information on whether the strikes also were coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition, which is conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq and providing close air support to Iraqi forces fighting the group.

The strikes came as Iraqi forces are reaching the final stages of their operation to oust the group from the northern city of Mosul, its largest remaining stronghold in Iraq.

Backed by U.S.-led coalition jets, Iraqi ground forces made their first incursion into western Mosul on Friday after securing the airport on the city’s southwestern edge. Commanders said progress had been quicker than expected.

The eastern side of Mosul was recaptured earlier in the grueling offensive, which was launched in October.

But even as it loses ground, the Islamic State has continued to bomb civilian targets elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, where blasts near the northern town of al-Bab killed at least 50 people Friday.

“We are determined to follow the terrorism that is trying to kill our sons and our citizens everywhere,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Iraqi officials said they had information that recent attacks in Baghdad had been organized from inside Syria.

The cars used in those attacks, including one that targeted a market in Baghdad’s southwestern Bayaa neighborhood this month that killed at least 45 people, had been rigged with explosives in Bukamal and in Husaybah, on the Iraqi side of the border, Iraqi officials said. Husaybah was also the target of airstrikes Friday.

Iraq decided to carry out the strikes rather than rely on the U.S.-led coalition because it was acting on the basis of Iraqi intelligence and “it’s up to us to take revenge,” said Lt. Gen. Anwar Hana, commander of Iraq’s air force. The strikes were successful, he said.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command released video of the missiles hitting buildings.

The Islamic State has lost over half of the territory it once controlled in Iraq, but headway against the group has been slower in Syria.

However, Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebels recaptured al-Bab on Thursday, pushing the Islamic State from its final foothold along Syria’s northern border with Turkey.

The offensive, which began in early December, has reduced much of al-Bab to a ghost town, its prewar population of about 100,000 having dwindled to the low thousands.

Suspected Islamic State car bombs killed at least 50 people in the village of Sousyan, about six miles northwest of al-Bab, on Friday, witnesses and the opposition activist-run Aleppo Media Center said.

The attacks hinted at the scope of the challenges facing the Turkey-backed forces as they seek to restore security to areas they have been retaken from the Islamic State.

In Iraq, commanders said that they were making rapid progress against the militants in western Mosul, after an offensive for the second half of the city was launched a week ago.

Before the offensive began, military officials said they were unsure what levels of fighters and resources the militants had kept in reserve to defend the western side of the city, which is more densely populated than the eastern side.

“We are advancing faster than expected,” said Lt. Gen. Sami al-Aradhi, from Iraq’s counterterrorism forces. He said that “tens” of Islamic State militants surrendered Friday and that Iraqi forces have retaken the Ghizlani military camp on the city’s outskirts and stormed the Mamon neighborhood.

The Islamic State used car bombs, snipers and weaponized drones to slow the advance.

Morris and Loveluck reported from Beirut. Zakaria Zakaria in Istanbul, Suzan Haidamous in Beirut and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.

 Bitcoin hits record high above $1,200 on talk of ETF approval

February 24, 2017

by Jemima Kelly


LONDON-Digital currency bitcoin jumped to a record high above $1,200 on Friday, as investors speculated the first bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) to be issued in the United States is set to receive regulatory approval.

Traditional financial players have largely shunned the web-based “crytpocurrency”, viewing it as too volatile, complicated and risky, and doubting its inherent value.

But bitcoin, invented in 2008, performed better than any other currency in every year since 2010 apart from 2014, when it was the worst-performing currency, and has added almost a quarter to its value so far this year.

It soared to as high as $1,200 per bitcoin in early Asian trading on Europe’s Bitstamp exchange BTC=BTSP, before easing to about $1,190. reut.rs/2lR1Mqk

That put the total value of all bitcoins in circulation — or the digital currency’s “market cap”, as it is known — at close to $20 billion, around the same size as Iceland’s economy.

Some analysts say regulatory approval of a bitcoin ETF would make the currency relatively attractive to the often more cautious institutional investor market. [nL8N1G85HI]

But despite potentially high returns, low correlations with other currencies and assets, falling volatility and increasing liquidity, there is scant evidence so far that most major players are considering investing in the digital currency.

“Bitcoin is just not liquid enough for us to even think about,” said Paul Lambert, fund manager and head of currency investment at Insight, in London.

“We manage billions and billions of dollars – we’d need to be able to go into that market and trade in hundreds of millions of dollars at a time, and my sense is it’s not like that.”

Three ETFs that track the value of bitcoin have been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for approval.

The SEC will decide by March 11 whether to approve one filed almost four years ago by investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. If approved, it would be the first bitcoin ETF issued and regulated by a U.S. entity.

500 inches and counting: Snow has clobbered California ski resorts this winter

February 23, 2017

by Jason Samenow

The Washington Post

The snow amounts in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range this winter are difficult to wrap your head around. In many cases topping 500 inches, they are some of the highest totals in memory.

At the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows resort, seven feet fell in just the past week. The snow is so high that it buried chairlifts and ski patrol shacks.

The resort has received 565 inches (47 feet) this season, including a 45-year record of 282 inches in January. On Thursday, it announced that its ski area would remain open through July 4. Since 1962, it will mark just the fourth instance of Independence Day skiing (the other years were 1998, 1999, and 2011), according to a resort spokesperson.

Other ski areas in the Sierra Nevada also have seen mind-boggling amounts of snow (totals via SnowBrains.com):

  • 636 inches at the Mount Rose ski area in Nevada.
  • 584 inches at Boreal Mountain.
  • 556 inches at Kirkwood, including 80 inches this week.
  • 544 inches at Heavenly, including 81 inches this week.
  • 534 inches at Northstar, including 84 inches this week (61 inches in 48 hours).
  • 510 inches at Mammoth.

The prolific snowfall has resulted from phenomena known as atmospheric rivers, which are essentially rivers in the sky that carry vast amounts of moisture. Like a fire hose, they have bombarded central and northern California, repeatedly.

“We usually see three or four atmospheric rivers in a season,” Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Reno, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’ve already had 10. We’ve had so much snow to the point where it’s getting hard to measure.”

California’s Natural Resources Agency said Wednesday that the water contained in the state’s snowpack is 188 percent of normal.

The mountain snow and low-elevation rain have ended the multiyear drought over large parts of the state. Only 17 percent of California remains in drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data.

More snow and rain are on the way Sunday and Monday as the next Pacific storm system rolls ashore.



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