TBR News February 3, 2012

Feb 03 2012

The Voice of the White House

            Washington, D.C., February 3, 2012: “Not that the general public is interested, but very obvious global climate changes are wreaking  havoc throughout the world. Although government-sponsored “scientific institutions: are hotly denying it, the world’s sea levels are slowly but surely rising. Official spokespeople agree but say, untruthfully, that the sea level rises will be .02 centimeters in a hundred years. The world’s glaciers and ice caps are now melting at a rapidly accelerating rate and one of the byproducts of this runoff is that tons of cold, fresh water is pouring down into the North Atlantic and has shove the warming Gulf Stream several hundred miles to the south. This is resulting in vicious and deadly cold weather in parts of northern and eastern Europe. Another problem will be the total disruption of the American east coast infrastructure as sea level cities like Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Savannah and other cities will have regular flooding and disruptions. Since there is nothing anyone can do about it, official sources are very silent. The Florida Keys will soon be under water as will the bottom part of that very low-lying state and what Katrina failed to do to New Orleans, the constant sea level rising will finish.”


Russia and Ukraine move to protect homeless from cold snap

Scores of rough sleepers have frozen to death as icy weather grips eastern Europe

February 3, 2012


Kiev- Russia and Ukraine have both taken precautions to protect homeless people, scores of whom have frozen to death on the streets of Europe during its brutal cold snap.

As the death toll from the week-long tragedy rose to at least 169 on Friday, the Russian emergencies minister, Sergei Shoigu, ordered food and medical-assistance facilities nationwide for the homeless.

Russia has not reported casualty figures from the cold snap, which has gripped a large swath of eastern Europe from Russia to Serbia, but the deputy health minister, Maxim Topilin, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency on Friday as saying that 64 people had died from the cold in January.

In Ukraine, the hardest hit country, health officials have told hospitals to stop discharging the hundreds of homeless patients after they are treated for hypothermia and frostbite. The goal is to prevent them from dying once they are released into temperatures as low as -32C.

Thirty-eight more fatalities were reported from frostbite and hypothermia in Ukraine on Friday, raising the nation’s death toll to 101. Emergency officials have said many of the victims were homeless.

Of the Ukrainians who have died since the cold weather hit on 27 January, 64 were found frozen on the streets, 11 died in hospitals and 26 in their homes.

The week-long snap – eastern Europe’s worst in decades – is causing power outages, frozen water pipes and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries, airports and bus routes.

Rome experienced a rare snowfall on Friday, prompting officials to close the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill to prevent tourists slipping and falling.

Northern Italy also has been gripped by snow and ice that is disrupting train travel, and temperatures in the Italian Alps have fallen as low as -22C.

In Poland, the interior ministry recorded eight more deaths on Friday and said two other people had died of asphyxiation from carbon-monoxide-spewing charcoal heaters.

In Serbia, where six people have died, blizzards gripped Belgrade, complicating efforts to rescue people trapped in their homes. In northern Serbia, hundreds of tonnes of fish in the Ecka lakes were in danger because the water was icing over. Dozens of people have been working nonstop to break the ice and sometimes even falling into the freezing water.

Neighbouring Croatia and Montenegro also were hard hit. In Croatia, some major roads were closed and the Adriatic Sea froze in some areas.

Daytime temperatures have been hovering around -18C in Moscow, raising questions about how many people will brave the cold for the latest in a series of massive opposition rallies planned in the Russian capital on Saturday.


US economy creates 243,000 jobs in January


February 3, 2012

BBC News

The US economy created 243,000 jobs in December, the highest total for nine months, official figures show.

The rise was much more than expected. Analysts had forecast an increase of about 150,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3%, which was the lowest rate in nearly three years, and down from a revised rate of 8.5% in December.

News of the jobs growth boosted share prices, with the Dow Jones index rising almost 1% on opening.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index rose 1.2% while Germany’s Dax rose 1.4%. The Cac 40 in France was 0.6% higher.

Employment boost

However, a report on Wednesday by the US Congressional Budget Office, a federal agency, forecast that unemployment would climb to nearly 9% in the last three months of this year and peak at 9.2% early next year.

Friday’s data from the Labor Department showed job growth had been widespread, with large gains in business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.

Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and hotels, added 44,000 jobs.

Retailers added nearly 11,000 jobs, and professional and business services, which includes higher paying jobs in accounting, architecture and engineering, gained 70,000 – the most in 10 months.

Factories added 50,000 workers, much more than expected and a one-year high.

Retailers added 10,500 workers and construction employment rose by 21,000. Analysts believe the figure was helped by a mild US winter, which boosted employment in those sectors.

The report was also buoyed by revisions to November and December data, which showed 60,000 more jobs created across the two months than previously reported.

Upbeat data

Lindsey Piegza, economist at FTN Financial, said: “It was a better-than-expected report, the strongest report that we’ve seen in quite some time.

“The big question is whether the reason we’re seeing the unemployment rate drop is because more and more people are dropping out of the labour force.

“I know the market wants to rally on this number but remember we need a minimum of 250,000 just to cover demographic change.”

The figures add to a range of data pointing to a gradual US economic recovery.

On Friday, the US Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 56.8 last month from a revised 53.0 in December. It was the highest level since February 2011.

The new orders index climbed to 59.4 from 54.6 while employment in the vast services sector was also strong, rising to the highest level in six years at 57.4 from 49.8.

Last week, it was announced that the US economy expanded at a 2.8% annual pace in the October-December quarter, a full percentage point higher than in the previous quarter.

Earlier this week, a survey from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) indicated that the US manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in seven months in January.

Unemployment and economic recovery has been a dominant issue in the campaign for November’s US presidential elections.

Although the downward trend in joblessness augurs well for Barack Obama’s prospects of a second term, he is still likely to face more voters out of work than any post-war president.

When Ronald Reagan won re-election in a landslide victory in 1984, joblessness in the US stood at 7.5%.

In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover was re-elected in a year when unemployment was at 23.6%.

His successor, Franklin Roosevelt, faced joblessness rates of 16.9% in 1936 and 14.6% when he was re-elected four years later, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

US ‘no-fly’ list of suspected terrorists doubles in 12 months

Classified log of individuals banned from flying into or within America as they are considered a threat stands at 21,000

February 2, 2012

Associated Press

            The size of the US government’s secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the country has more than doubled in the past year.

The no-fly list jumped from about 10,000 known or suspected terrorists one year ago to about 21,000, according to government figures. About 500 are US nationals.

The flood of new names began after the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner when the US government lowered the standard for putting people on the list and scoured its files for anyone who qualified. “We learned a lot about the watchlisting process and made strong improvements, which continue to this day,” said Timothy Healy, director of the Terrorist Screening Centre, which produces the no-fly list.

Among the most significant new standard is that a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the list.

People considered a broader threat to domestic or international security or who attended a terror training camp are also included, said a US counter-terrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity. As agencies complete the reviews of their files, the pace of growth is expected to slow, the counter-terrorism official said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has previously sued the US government on behalf of Americans who believe they are on the no-fly list and have not been able to travel by air for work or to see family.

“The news that the list is growing tells us that more people’s rights are being violated,” said Nusrat Choudhury, of the ACLU. “It’s a secret list, and the government puts people on it without any explanation. Citizens have been stranded abroad.”

People who complain they’re unfairly on the list can submit a letter to the homeland security department, but the only way they’ll know if they’re still on the list is to try to fly again, she said.

While the list is secret, it is subject to continuous review to ensure the right people are on it and that those who shouldn’t be are removed, said Martin Reardon, a former chief of the FBI’s terrorist screening operations centre.

If a person is nominated to be on the no-fly list, but there is insufficient information to justify it, the person is downgraded to a different list, he said. “You can’t just say: ‘Here’s a name. Put him on the list.’ You’ve got to have articulable facts.”

On average, there are 1,000 changes to US watchlists each day, most of which involve adding new information about someone on the list.

The no-fly list previously swelled to 20,000 people in 2004. At the time, people including the late Ted Kennedy, a sitting senator, were being stopped before flying.

The US transportation security administrator, John Pistole, said instances of travellers being mistaken for terrorists were, however, down significantly since the US government and not airlines became responsible for checking the list.

Travellers must provide their full name, birthdate and gender when purchasing an airline ticket so the government can screen them against the terror watchlist


FBI apologizes to Fitchburg woman after mistake


February 1, 2012


             FITCHBURG, Mass.—The FBI is apologizing to a Fitchburg woman after cutting her door open with a chainsaw and pointing their guns at her during a raid last week.

It turns out agents had the wrong apartment, and were actually after the other tenant on the floor of the multi-unit building who is suspected of dealing drugs.

Judy Sanchez says she was terrified last Thursday when she awoke to heavy footsteps in the stairwell and walked to her kitchen in time to see a chainsaw blade cut through her door.

She says she was held face down on the floor at gunpoint for at least 30 minutes. Her 3-year-old daughter, meanwhile, cried in another room

Sanchez says she and her daughter now have trouble sleeping.

The FBI apologized and is paying for the damage.

Vermont inmates hide pig in official police car decal


February 3, 2012

by Zach Howard


. -Inmates working at a Vermont correctional unit’s print shop managed to sneak a prank image of a pig into a state police crest that is emblazoned on police cars, and 30 cruisers sported the design for the last year, officials said on Thursday.

The official crest depicts a spotted cow against a background of snowy mountains, but the inmates’ version featured one of the cow’s spots shaped like a pig in an apparent reference to the pejorative word for police, state police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said.

“It dishonors the memory of those past and present members, especially for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” Dasaro said.

Vermont contracts with correctional facilities employing prisoners to make some print products, including the cruiser decals. Police said someone who works at the print shop changed the emblem from the officially sanctioned design.

A police employee noticed the prank on Wednesday and reported it. Police said the 60 16-inch door decals would be removed as soon as it was practical.

The “source and timing” of the change to the design is under investigation, Dasaro said.

“While some may find humor in the decal modifications, the joke unfortunately comes at the expense of the taxpayers,” Police Major Bill Sheets said in a statement.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

The Assange Case Means That We Are All Suspects Now


February 2, 2012

by John Pilger,


This week’s Supreme Court hearing in the Julian Assange case has profound meaning for the preservation of basic freedoms in Western democracies. This is Assange’s final appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct that were originally dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm and constitute no crime in Britain.

The consequences, if he loses, lie not in Sweden but in the shadows cast by America’s descent into totalitarianism. In Sweden, he is at risk of being “temporarily surrendered” to the U.S. where his life has been threatened and he is accused of “aiding the enemy” with Bradley Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking evidence of U.S. war crimes to WikiLeaks.

The connections between Manning and Assange have been concocted by a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Va., which allowed no defense counsel or witnesses, and by a system of plea-bargaining that ensures a 90% conviction rate. It is reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.

The determination of the Obama administration to crush Assange and the unfettered journalism represented by WikiLeaks is revealed in secret Australian government documents released under freedom of information which describe the U.S. pursuit of WikiLeaks as “an unprecedented investigation.” It is unprecedented because it subverts the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly protects truth-tellers. In 2008 Barack Obama said, “Government whistle-blowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Obama has since prosecuted twice as many whistle-blowers as all previous U.S. presidents.

With American courts demanding to see the worldwide accounts of Twitter, Google, and Yahoo, the threat to Assange, an Australian, extends to any Internet-user anywhere. Washington’s enemy is not “terrorism” but the principle of free speech and voices of conscience within its militarist state and those journalists brave enough to tell their stories.

“How do you prosecute Julian Assange and not The New York Times?” a former administration official told Reuters. The threat is well understood by The New York Times, which in 2010 published a selection of the WikiLeaks cables. The editor at the time, Bill Keller, boasted that he had sent the cables to the State Department for vetting. His obeisance extended to his denial that WikiLeaks was a “partner” — which it was — and to personal attacks on Assange. The message to all journalists was clear: do your job as it should be done and you are traitors; do your job as we say you should and you are journalists.

Much of the media’s depiction of Bradley Manning illuminates this. The world’s preeminent prisoner of conscience, Manning remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to a “moral choice.” But according to The New York Times, he is weird or mad, a “geek.” In an “exclusive investigation,” the Guardian reported him as an “unstable” gay man, who got “out of control” and “wet himself” when he was “picked on.” Psycho-hearsay such as this serves to suppress the truth of the outrage Manning felt at the wanton killing in Iraq, his moral heroism, and the criminal complicity of his military superiors. “I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy,” he reportedly said.

The treatment handed out to Assange is well-documented, though not the duplicitous and cowardly behavior of his own government. Australia remains a colony in all but name. Australian intelligence agencies are, in effect, branches of the main office in Washington. The Australian military has played a regular role as U.S. mercenary. When Prime Minister Gough Whitlam tried to change this in 1975 and secure Australia’s partial independence, he was dismissed by a governor-general using archaic “reserve powers” who was revealed to have intelligence connections.

WikiLeaks has given Australians a rare glimpse of how their country is run. In 2010, leaked U.S. cables disclosed that key government figures in the Labor Party coup that brought Julia Gillard to power were “protected” sources of the U.S. embassy: what the CIA calls “assets.” Kevin Rudd, the prime minister she ousted, had displeased Washington by being disobedient, even suggesting that Australian troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

In the wake of her portentous rise ascent to power, Gillard attacked WikiLeaks as “illegal,” and her attorney general threatened to withdraw Assange’s passport. Yet the Australian Federal Police reported that Assange and WikiLeaks had broken no law. Freedom of information files have since revealed that Australian diplomats have colluded with the U.S. in its pursuit of Assange. This is not unusual. The government of John Howard ignored the rule of law and conspired with the U.S. to keep David Hicks, an Australian citizen, in Guantanamo Bay, where he was tortured. Australia’s principal intelligence organization, ASIO, is allowed to imprison refugees indefinitely without explanation, prosecution, or appeal.

Every Australian citizen in grave difficulty overseas is said to have the right to diplomatic support. The denial of this to Assange, bar the perfunctory, is an unreported scandal. Last September, Assange’s London lawyer, Gareth Peirce, wrote to the Australian government, warning that Assange’s “personal safety and security has become at risk in circumstances that have become highly politically charged.” Only when the Melbourne Age reported that she had received no response did a dissembling official letter turn up. Last November, Peirce and I briefed the Australian consul-general in London, Ken Pascoe. One of Britain’s most experienced human rights lawyers, Peirce told him she feared a unique miscarriage of justice if Assange was extradited and his own government remained silent. The silence remains.


Exclusive: Hacked companies still not telling investors


February 2, 2012

by Joseph Menn


            `SAN FRANCISCOSAN FRANCISCO- At least a half-dozen major U.S. companies whose computers have been infiltrated by cyber criminals or international spies have not admitted to the incidents despite new guidance from securities regulators urging such disclosures.

Top U.S. cybersecurity officials believe corporate hacking is widespread, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a lengthy “guidance” document on October 13 outlining how and when publicly traded companies should report hacking incidents and cybersecurity risk.

But with one full quarter having elapsed since the SEC request, some major companies that are known to have had significant digital security breaches have said nothing about the incidents in their regulatory filings.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp, for example, said last May that it had fended off a “significant and tenacious” cyber attack on its networks. But Lockheed’s most recent 10-Q quarterly filing, like its filing for the period that included the attack, does not even list hacking as a generic risk, let alone state that it has been targeted.

A Reuters review of more than 2,000 filings since the SEC guidance found some companies, including Internet infrastructure company VeriSign Inc and credit card and debit card transaction processor VeriFone Systems Inc, revealed significant new information about hacking incidents.

Yet the vast majority of companies addressing the issue only used new boilerplate language to describe a general risk. Some hacking victims did not even do that.

“It’s completely confusing to me why companies aren’t reporting cyber risks” if only to avoid SEC enforcement or private lawsuits, said Jacob Olcott, former counsel for the Senate Commerce committee. The chair of that committee, John D. Rockefeller, urged the SEC to act last year.

Stewart Baker, a corporate attorney and former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the SEC guidance was detailed enough that companies that know they have been hacked will “have to work pretty hard not to disclose something about the scope and risk of the intrusion.”

Otherwise, “this is an opportunity for enforcement that practically hands the case to the SEC on a platter,” Baker said.

Lockheed spokesman Chris Williams said hacking was covered under the company’s most recent annual securities filing, which has as one of many risk factors “security threats, including threats to our information technology infrastructure, attempts to gain access to our proprietary or classified information, threats to physical security of our facilities and employees, and terrorist acts.”

Williams said the May attack had “no material effect on our business.”

Mantech International Corp, CACI International Inc and other defense and technology firms that have been reported by security researchers as hacking victims were likewise silent in their most recent filings. Neither Mantech nor CACI responded to interview requests.

“It’s common knowledge” that most large defense contractors have been penetrated, said Olcott.

Sikorsky Aircraft, mindful of a strict New Hampshire law warning individuals at risk of identity theft, wrote to that state’s attorney general in August that hackers had gotten into its system and could have accessed Social Security numbers of 55 employees who lived in the state.

Sikorsky said the employee data likely was not the hackers’ target, which suggests that they might have been after designs or other trade secrets. But Sikorsky parent United Technologies Corp did not mention the May intrusion in subsequent SEC filings.

“Like other companies, our businesses are subject to (information technology) security attacks at times. We monitor systems and cooperate closely with the government when appropriate,” said United Technologies spokesman John Moran.


Melissa Hathaway, a former intelligence official who led U.S. President Barack Obama’s initial cybersecurity policy review and helped push the SEC to enact a disclosure policy, said she was “surprised” at the dearth of new confessions.

“The SEC division of corporate finance has an obligation to ask these companies why they didn’t disclose,” she said. “We need to have transparency on the state of the situation, and we need to have a national conversation regarding the near-term impact of economic espionage and the long-term health of the nation.”

The SEC declined to comment. The agency’s guidance officially clarifies previous policy instead of establishing a new rule, a process that takes longer and requires a vote of the commissioners. A person close to the agency said it expects fuller disclosures in annual 10-K filings that will begin appearing in volume this month.

Cybersecurity has been an increasing concern in Washington, and Obama asked during his State of the Union speech for action on legislative proposals. Security experts believe hackers are frequently targeting valuable digital information including strategic plans, blueprints and secret formulas.

But security experts in and out of government have complained for years that most companies don’t disclose even very successful hacking attacks, because they never find out about them or simply don’t want to spook investors, customers or business partners.

The U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive, in a landmark November report that openly accused China of sponsoring military and economic cyber espionage, said that it is hard for companies to estimate the impact of losses that might not be apparent for years.

One Pentagon contractor that did go into some detail recently about the threat was Northrop Grumman Corp, which warned: “Cybersecurity attacks in particular are evolving and include, but are not limited to, malicious software, attempts to gain unauthorized access to data, and other electronic security breaches that could lead to disruptions in mission critical systems, unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information and corruption of data. These events could damage our reputation and lead to financial losses from remedial actions, loss of business or potential liability.”

A few technology companies gave even more specific warnings, including Juniper Networks Inc, which makes gear for routing Internet traffic, and chip-maker Intel Corp. Intel had been one of the few to disclose a successful breach in the past, along with Google Inc, which has complained of attacks originating in China.

In a November filing, Intel repeated that hackers had gotten inside and warned that “the theft or unauthorized use or publication of our trade secrets and other confidential business information as a result of such an incident could adversely affect our competitive position and reduce marketplace acceptance of our products.”

Some companies asserted that they had not been hacked, or at least averred that they had not been subject to a “material” or “catastrophic” intrusion.

Others confessed to breaches for the first time, including VeriSign and VeriFone Systems, which said it had experienced “security breaches or fraudulent activities related to unauthorized access to sensitive customer information.”

The company did not respond to requests for elaboration. Point-of-sale terminals including VeriFone’s models are popular targets for criminal hackers, who can tamper with them in order to record passwords and card numbers.

VeriFone has been reported as a supplier of machines to Michaels Stores Inc, a retail chain of hobbyist stores that had to replace more than 7,000 terminals last year after discovering tampering in 20 states.

Two other companies said they disclosed breaches because of the SEC guidance. Tumi Holdings, the luggage maker that is pursuing an initial public offering, said in a stock prospectus that security systems in some of its retail stores had been compromised in the past.

In an interview, Tumi Chief Financial Officer Michael Mardy said there had been no theft of a database or other massive breach. Instead, he said there had been occasions where store employees had conspired with outsiders on a small scale, for example by giving refunds to people who had not made purchases.

“We felt it was necessary to list as a risk factor because it actually is a risk factor,” Mardy said.

University of Phoenix parent Apollo Group Inc, which in the past had noted attempted breaches, for the first time said some attempts had succeeded.

“We are facing an increasing number of threats to our computer systems of unauthorized access, computer hackers, computer viruses, malicious code, organized cyber attacks and other system disruptions and security breaches, and from time to time we experience such disruptions and breaches,” it wrote in a 10-Q.

Apollo spokesman Rick Castellano declined to say how extensive the breaches had been. “Cybersecurity is an area of growing area of concern for all companies”, Castellano said. “We devote significant resources to manage any potential threat.”

(Reporting By Joseph Menn)


Fear and loathing in the American Gulf

February 3, 2012

by Pepe Escobar

Asia Times

            Persian Gulf? Khaleej-e-Fars? Forget it; time to call it the American Gulf – to the delight of the vultures, jackals and hyenas of war, Israeli and Anglo-American. The House of Saud wouldn’t be too displeased either.
            So much for the Pentagon’s “pivoting” strategy from the Middle East to East Asia – recently announced by United States President Barack Obama. The confrontation against China starts in Southwest Asia – in the American Gulf; and goes way beyond Washington cheerleading the hardcore Sunni sectarian killers of Jundallah in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, Israeli Mossad agents posing as US Central Intelligence Agency operatives, serial assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, computer viruses, and ludicrous accusations of Tehran helping al-Qaeda and vice-versa.

MOP it all up

            Time to review the evidence. In roughly one month, no less than three US aircraft carriers and their strike groups will be sloshing around the American Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea; the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise, plus good ol’ French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. And yet one more Pacific-based US aircraft carrier can be swiftly dispatched.
            Apart from this naval hajj of US aircraft carrier groups, the 40-year-old USS Ponce is being retrofitted into a special ops amphibious hub – to be dispatched to the American Gulf.
            The Pentagon’s CENTCOM is fast upgrading the 14,000-kilogram Orwellian bunker-buster monster known as Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), theoretically capable of taking out Iran’s underground nuclear installations.
            A certain Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Project – one of those myriad revolving doors in Washington mixing politicians and military-complex types – wants to give Israel some 200 additional MOPs and three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers to “increase the credibility of a military strike” against Iran.
            DEBKA-Net is a digital front for Israeli propaganda/disinformation – so it’s essentially untrustworthy. But its latest bombast deserves scrutiny. DEBKA is peddling that the Pentagon is in fast and furious mode in two strategic islands; the paradisiacal Socotra, 380 kilometers southeast of Yemen (where the Pentagon has been building a giant base since 2010); and Camp Justice in Masirah, 70 km south of the Strait of Hormuz, in Oman.
            Socotra thus joins key American Gulf nodes of the US Empire of Bases such as Jebel Ali and al-Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), al-Udeid in Qatar and Arifjan in Kuwait. It’s crucial to keep in mind the extra 15,000 US troops deployed to Kuwait only a few weeks ago. The Pentagon, predictably, is thunderously mum about the build up in both Socotra and Masirah, and Yemeni and Omani officials are not talking.
             DEBKA claims that in two weeks, around 50,000 US troops, flown in from Diego Garcia, 3,000 km away, will be massed in both islands – plus the 50,000 troops already based in the American Gulf. Add to this air, naval and special forces from Britain and France constantly pouring into Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Not enough to launch a ground invasion of Iran – but more than enough for major logistical support in a “no options off the table” (copyright Obama) scenario.

Build up, and pray for war

             DEBKA predictably spins all these developments – not independently confirmed – into Obama’s “resolve to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in the course of 2012”, which is absolute nonsense. This may mirror (hysterical) wishful thinking by the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel, but has nothing to do with the Obama administration’s strategy, which essentially is to impose a “roll over and die” form of “diplomacy” on Iran (sanctions/oil embargo + Pentagon build up in the American Gulf) as a means of extracting an Iranian capitulation in the nuclear dossier.
            Wishful thinking is also the weapon du jour for The New York Times, which now seems to be subcontracting the Iran dossier to Israeli writers, as in getting rid of the US middleman.
            One Ronen Bergman writes that “after speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012”. Gary Sick conclusively debunked this nonsense [1] stressing how “his conclusion is at odds with virtually everything he produces as evidence”.
            The only good thing among all this weaponized orgy is that Tehran and Washington are still talking – sort of – using the proverbial back channels; in Baghdad (via both ambassadors); via Turkey (with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as middleman); and in Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (via diplomats). There’s a five-month window for good sense to prevail until July 1 – when the US/European Union oil embargo on Iran kicks in.
            And then there’s the resurfacing of “Austere Challenge 12” – the massive joint Israel-US war games involving thousands of US soldiers and testing of a number of Israeli and US missile defense systems.
             “Austere Challenge” is now rescheduled for October, less than a month before the US presidential election, when Mitt Romney, the neo-con gang and deranged evangelicals will be bombing Iran non-stop on cable TV. Until then, it’s up to world public opinion, to quote Percy Bysshe Shelley in The Mask of Anarchy, to “rise like lions, after slumber, in unvanquishable number”, and drive fear and loathing away from the American Gulf.

1. See here.

            Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.


FDA confirms fungicide in orange juice

February 2, 2012

by Mary Clare Jalonick  

Associated Press

             WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration says it has confirmed low levels of an illegal fungicide in orange juice samples taken from Florida manufacturers.

The FDA says the fungicide is far below dangerous levels, the juice is safe to drink and the orange juice won’t be recalled from stores or destroyed. The juice tested was mixed with product from Brazil, where the fungicide carbendazim is used.

The government is testing for the chemical in domestic orange juice and in imports because carbendazim is not approved for use on oranges in the United States. It is used in other countries, including Brazil, to combat mold on orange trees.

The test results are the first domestic samples released by the FDA. The government started testing for the chemical after Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, which owns juice brands Minute Maid and Simply Orange, reported finding the chemical in its own juice and in competing juices late last year. Most orange juice products made by Coke and other companies contain a blend of juice from different sources, including Brazil, which is the world’s largest orange producer.

The FDA said that nine of 14 samples taken from large holding tanks of juice in Florida tested positive at up to 36 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency has said studies show no risks of consuming the chemical at up to 80 parts per billion and true levels of danger are probably thousands of times higher.

The agency said the juice in the tanks will packaged in hundreds of thousands of retail size containers, so the tests were a good representative sample of what will end up on store shelves. The FDA said it will do follow-up testing at the facilities but did not release the names of the companies where the samples were taken.

Though the EPA says the juice is safe, the FDA is still detaining any orange juice imports that contain the chemical at more than 10 parts per billion, which is the lowest detectable level. The agency has detained almost a quarter of 86 orange juice shipments at the border since the first of the year, hoping to phase the carbendazim out of the U.S. supply.

“We looked at products already in the country and realized there was no safety risk there, and yet carbendazim is technically illegal, we know Brazil uses it and we want to prevent it from entering the country,” said FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey.

All of the imports detained are from Brazil and Canada. Canada doesn’t grow oranges but purchases orange juice products from other countries, including Brazil, and then exports it to the United States.

Test results released by the FDA showed the highest levels found were in a Jan. 11 shipment of concentrate from Brazil. That shipment contained up to 60 parts per billion of the fungicide, though most samples were much lower

Official: Mexican army sends more troops to west

February 2 2012

by Gustavo Ruiz

AP foreign,

MORELIA, Mexico (AP) — A Mexican military official says thousands of additional troops are being sent to the violence-stricken western state of Michoacan.

The official tells The Associated Press that some 4,000 soldiers have begun arriving in the state capital to prepare for an offensive in a mountainous western section of the state known as Tierra-Caliente. The area has been hit by a surge in violence in recent weeks.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. A military spokesman declined to comment.

Authorities in Michoacan are battling quasi-religious drug cartels called La Familia and the Knights Templar that claim to be following divine will.

Anonymous hacks into phone call between FBI and Scotland Yard

Investigators can be heard discussing joint inquiry into cybercrime in 15-minute call released on the internet

February 3, 2012

by Sandra Laville, crime correspondent


             Hackers from the group Anonymous have broadcast a private conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard exposing details of a major international cybercrime investigation, the FBI has confirmed.

The FBI and Scotland Yard said on Friday that the security of the call – between the FBI, the Yard and, it is understood, someone from the security services in the UK – was breached.

Investigators can be heard discussing their joint inquiry into a cybercrime investigation going through the British courts, and linked to investigations in New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles and in Ireland.

It is understood the breach occurred at the US end of the call. As the news broke, Anonymous began taunting the FBI, asking if it was curious about how the group could keep reading the bureau’s internal communications.

Investigators can be heard on the broadcast talking about named individuals who have been charged in the UK with hacking into the website of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). In one lengthy exchange, the British contingent can be heard discussing a 15-year-old hacker as a “wannabe” and a “pain in the bum”.

The 15-minute call has been broadcast on the internet, but the names of some of the individuals being sought have been bleeped out by the hackers.

Scotland Yard said: “We are aware of the video which relates to an FBI conference call involving a PCeU [member of the e-crime unit] representative. The matter is being investigated by the FBI.

“At this stage no operational risks to the MPS have been identified; however, we continue to carry out a full assessment. We are not prepared to discuss further.”

The conference call was one which appears to be held weekly between officers from the Metropolitan police‘s e-crime unit and the FBI in New York and Los Angeles. The law enforcement agencies are working together on a cybercrime investigation involving teenagers and young people from the UK, Ireland, Germany and the US, it is understood.

Six people are going through the British courts charged in connection with hacking into computers belonging to Soca. They are due to appear at Southwark crown court in March and May.

They include Ryan Cleary, a British teenager who is charged with five offences of hacking websites.

Cleary, 19, who lives in Wickford, Essex, was arrested in June last year. His arrest was linked to a series of cyberattacks by a group called LulzSec.

Cleary was charged over cyberattacks against British-based targets. He is due to appear at Southwark crown court with his co accused, Jake Davis, on May 11. Four other individuals, are due to appear at the same court in March as part of the same investigation.

Cleary has been charged with three specific attacks – on the London based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in November 2010, the British Phonographic Industry in October 2010, and on Soca.

The method he is alleged to have used is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against all three websites. He was also charged with constructing a botnet, a network of infected computers that can be used remotely to direct attacks.

On the intercepted call, the British police officers joke with the FBI counterparts early in the conversation while they wait for others to join. In doing so they are heard making fun of Sheffield – where the Acpo cybercrime conference is being held next week. “It’s a khazi – not exactly a jewel in England’s crown,” says the British detective.

The call, which took place nearly a fortnight ago – it is understood – includes a conversation about the appearance of Cleary and Davis at Southwark crown court last Friday.

The FBI official expresses his gratitude to the British officers for “being flexible” and coordinating with them. “New York appreciates it,” the FBi operative says.

In response, the British detective says: “We have cocked things up in the past.”

The British detective then gives the FBI details of a 15-year-old who was arrested in the UK before Christmas. He calls the 15-year-old a “wannabe” and is connected with two other teenagers who are known as CSL sec “Cant Stop Laughing Security”.

“He is just a pain in the bum,” really the officer says. The call ends with all parties agreeing to talk again the following Monday.

The events leading to the arrest of Cleary involved an investigation by British police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI’s involvement, plus the nature of the targets, raised the prospect of Washington seeking the teenager’s extradition to the US.

The conference call reveals that two other individuals are to be arrested in the future. It makes clear that the investigation is complex and huge, stretching across international boundaries and focusing on teenage hackers in many different cases.

Karen Todner, a lawyer for Cleary, said the recording could be “incredibly sensitive” and warned that such data breaches had the potential to derail the police’s work.

“If they haven’t secured their email it could potentially prejudice the investigation,” she told The Associated Press.

Anonymous is an amorphous collection of internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included the Church of Scientology, the music industry, and financial companies such as Visa and MasterCard.

The maximum penalty for perverting the course of justice is life imprisonment and/or a fine.


Conversations with the Crow

            When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.          

             Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

            Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:



Conversation No. 115

Date: Wednesday , December 10, 1997

Commenced: 3:05 PM CST

Concluded: 3:30 PM CST

RTC: How are you today, Gregory? Getting ready for Christmas?
GD: Just another day, Robert. A bit quieter. I’m sure the business people regret that they have to shut up on Christmas because they might make a few more dollars. Just a commercial venture these days. Did you ever hear ‘Green Christmas’ ? The song?

RTC: I can’t say that I have.

GD: A pointed satire in the manifest and bald-faced greed of the season, Robert. Thanksgiving is nothing but the Massacre of the Turkeys but Christmas is highlighted by the figurative ringing of the cash register bells and the crisp crackle of greenbacks. And many lovely and totally innocent trees are sacrificed for what was always a Roman pagan holiday.

RTC: Indeed?

GD: The Saturnalia. End of the year celebration to take up the extra days. Evergreens in abundance. Presents given and received.

RTC: No star in the sky?
GD: None that I have read about. And no three wise men from some unspecified place bearing gifts. The whole scene was lifted from the Romans and the Ascension of Christ taken directly from the cult of Isis which was very popular in Rome at the time.

RTC: Then you reject the historical accuracy of the New Testament?

GD: Entirely. After the fact, fiction almost entirely and historically totally inaccurate. The Gospels came from a source document written about 45-50 AD and were constantly being cleaned up to reflect the changes of the day. None of them written closer to the events chronicled than about a hundred years. And the Revelations book was written by a lunatic confined on the island of Patmos which was a Roman nut house colony and about 96 AD. John was supposed to be living there with the Virgin Mary so you figure it out.

RTC: Aren’t there historical references to Jesus?

GD: None. The writings of Flavius Josephus, a renegade Jew of the time, had an inserted reference to Jesus but it has long been known as a gross ex post facto insertion by pious Christians in the second century. All fake, Robert, like the so-called Shroud of Turin. That dates to 1300.

RTC: How did the image get on it?
GD: Painted a naked model with egg tempera paint and pushed the cloth down over the body. That simple. Of course, the Vatican knows it’s a fake but they don’t discuss it because it is a big drawer for the pious of soul and incredulous of belief. In Vienna, in the cathedral of St. Stephan, we find the skull of that saint but at St. Polten, the skull of St. Stephan as a fifteen year old boy.

RTC: You’re putting me on.

GD: (Laughter) No, I’m not. And the sacred bones of St. Agnes turned out to be part of the spine of a goat. I wonder how Michelangelo would have depicted that one? With lots of muscle and a small penis. A wonderful artist but gay as a goose. And that brings me to yet another interesting aspect of the whole business. If you really look into the Gospels and try to discern the teachings of Jesus, you will realize that Jesus was an Essene. Now our modern theologians can discuss Jesus in detail and the Essenes in equal detail but never, ever at the same time. That’s would not be correct.

RTC: And why is that, pray tell?
GD: Well, because the Essenes were an all-male organization. They were communistic in their community activities with shared purses and so on and hated women. They bred with them and if the babies were male, all well and good but if female, both mother and child were expelled. They boys they kept.

RTC: There seem to be sinister overtones here, Gregory. Are you saying….?

GD: Yes, I am saying. Like the Spartans and Zulus, the Essenes were homosexuals.

RTC: Now, Jesus H. Christ, Gregory, by implication, by what you are saying and assuming you are accurate, was Jesus a fairy?

GD: It’s ‘gay’ now, but yes, that’s the way it appears. Don’t forget James the Beloved of Christ.

RTC: Are you certain about the facts…never mind your warped conclusions…the facts?

GD: Always. Yes, look it all up. None of it is connected but study the Essene cult. They were eventually shut down but it’s all there for you to find. But there never has been made a connection between Jesus and that group. Yet study the preachings of Jesus, or at least what the Gospels claim are the preachings, and then study the Essene dogmas and you at once see very clear and unmistakable parallels.

RTC: I could look all of this up but you seem to know your history. Of course you can’t say such things because you can never get it public. You do like to get involved in useless quests.

GD: No, but I like facts, not fictions. And I find it very, very entertaining that our evangelical Christians loathe and want to kill off any homosexual they can find. I doubt if any of them would even bother to do the research on the subject because a closed mind is a wonderful thing to behold.  And as another interesting fact, the so-called ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ are Essene writings. Consider that the scholars have been pouring over these for years and yet only a few garbled passages have been released to the public. Why? Because the writings bear out what I just told you and our Jewish chums have agreed to shut up about it. I suppose they get more cluster bombs and nerve gas from Washington with which to civilize the Palestinians in return for said silence. I’m not joking about this, Robert.

RTC: Sadly, probably not. Jim was so determined to serve Tel Aviv’s interests that I’m afraid he has set this country up for future decades of Muslim hatred. Well, I doubt if I’ll see the results of this pandering in my lifetime.

GD: Yes, you’re no doubt right but the wheel always turns, Robert. And the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children.

RTC: More biblical exhortations, Gregory?
GD: The Devil can cite scripture, Robert, and your chums down in the Gerbil Palace consider me to be, at the least, a minor devil. Know the truth, Robert, and the truth shall set you free. More likely get you ten to twenty for having a kilo of smack in your glove compartment. Of course you never put it there but the alternative would be a dead baby suddenly being found in your suitcase at the airport. Societies or their control groups have a way with such things. The prisons are full of dissenters and more than a few have been gassed, electrocuted or hanged. Justice is depicted with a blindfold but I think she would be more appropriate wearing a gas mask to avoid the stench of the rotting bodies of the innocent dead sacrificed in her name.

(Concluded at 3:30 P.M. CST) 


Dramatis personae:

           James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

            James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

            William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

            John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

            James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

            Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

            Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

            Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organization eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

            Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

            Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

            Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

            Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

            Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.           

            Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD

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