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

TBR News January 10, 2020

Jan 09 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. January 10, 2020:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose
Commentary for January 10: “With certain exceptions, all men residing in the United States will be required to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday. The obligation of a man to register is imposed by the Military Selective Service Act, which establishes and governs the operations of the Selective Service System.
In addition to the Military Selective Service Act, the “Health Care Personnel Delivery System” was authorized by Congress in 1987 to deal with large-scale casualties that outstripped the active-duty military’s ability to handle them. If implemented, the bill would require a mass registration of male and female health care workers between the ages of 20 and 45. At this time; however, the Selective Service has no statutory authority to draft medical personnel.
That authorization would be provided by legislation to be introduced and passed in Congress at the time of a national defense mobilization. That “M-Day” legislative package has not been made available for public comment or congressional debate.”

The Table of Contents
• House votes to curb Trump’s powers to take military action against Iran
• UK parliament approves Brexit withdrawal deal
• Official Russian Drug Money Laundering
• Trump and the Russians: Facts, not Fictions
• Stalin’s mysterious death
• The Tiger
• The Season of Evil 

House votes to curb Trump’s powers to take military action against Iran
Resolution in wake of Suleimani killing is non-binding, but reignites debate over who has power to declare war
January 9, 2020
The Guardian
The US House of Representatives has approved a resolution asserting that Donald Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran, reigniting a debate over who has the power to declare war.
The war powers resolution is not binding on the president and would not require his signature. But the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, nonetheless insisted it “has real teeth” because “it is a statement of the Congress of the United States”.
The measure will “protect American lives and values” by limiting Trump’s military actions, Pelosi said. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence.”
The Democratic-controlled House passed the measure on Thursday by a vote of 224-194 with just three Republicans voting in support. Eight Democrats opposed the measure.
The House resolution came about after Trump chose to take unilateral action last week to assassinate the senior Iranian general Qassem Suleimani without consulting or even notifying Congress.
To stop the president from taking further action against Iran without consulting them, House Democrats have invoked the War Powers Act of 1973, which draws out the parameters of presidential and congressional war powers. With the passage of an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 to fight terrorism, and another AUMF in 2002 for the war in Iraq, Congress’ war powers have diminished since 9/11. Now many lawmakers – especially Democrats – are discussing how to rebalance such powers.
In the Senate, a similar war powers proposal by the Democrat Tim Kaine faces much slimmer odds of passing, though Republican Senator Todd Young, an ex-marine who represents Indiana, and two other Republicans indicated yesterday they would back the plan.
Pelosi, in announcing the House vote, called the killing of Suleimani “provocative and disproportionate”.
Republicans denounced the measure, with the Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise calling it little more than “a press release designed to attack President Trump”, while the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, called it a “meaningless vote”.
The House vote came a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified.
The vice-president, Mike Pence, said Thursday that Suleimani “was traveling the region making plans to bring an attack against American personnel and American forces”. He said it was not possible to share full details of the intelligence with lawmakers.
“When it comes to intelligence we have to protect sources and methods, there’s only a certain amount we can share with every member of Congress,” Pence said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “But those of us who have seen all the evidence know that there was a compelling case of imminent threat against American personnel.”
Members of Congress have a constitutional responsibility to uphold in authorizing use of military force, Slotkin said, adding, “We are owed concrete, specific details on strategy.”
Trump did not consult with congressional leaders ahead of the attack that killed the Iranian general and afterward sent Congress a notification explaining the rationale, but kept it classified.
Congress has allowed its war powers role to erode since the passage of Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 to fight terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, and passage of another AUMF for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
Fallout from those votes deeply divided Congress and the nation, with many lawmakers, particularly Democrats, now saying they were mistakes. Yet Congress has been

UK parliament approves Brexit withdrawal deal
The UK parliament has passed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal bill, authorizing Britain’s exit from the EU. The vote ends years of wrangling over the initial terms of Britain’s withdrawal.
January 9, 2020
by Richard Connor
DW
Member of the House of Commons ratified the government’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Thursday evening by 330 votes to 231.
The bill, which will pass to the House of Lords next week for further scrutiny, paves the way for Britain to leave the European Union on January 31.
Lawmakers last year voted down repeated efforts by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May to secure backing for their Brexit agreements. However, the comfortable 80-seat majority won by Johnson in December’s general election meant it was never in doubt that the bill would be passed this time.
The legislation addresses initial issues over the separation — such as EU citizens’ rights and Britain’s financial settlement. It also sets out an 11-month transition period to agree a wider partnership with the remaining 27 nations. The deal must also be ratified by the European Parliament.
Ahead of the vote, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the vote would allow Britain to move on from a long period of uncertainty.
“This bill will secure our departure from the European Union with a deal that gives certainty to businesses, protects the rights of our citizens and ensures that we regain control of our money, our borders, our laws and our trade policy,” Barclay said.
The official leave date only marks the beginning of Britain’s effort to reset relations with its closest trading partner — which will remain the world’s largest single market despite losing one of its top three economic powerhouses. Johnson has thus far insisted that the transition period designed to enable the next stage of talks — during which the UK must pay into the bloc’s budget and remains bound by most of its rules — will not be extended.
Tight time period for trade talks
Ahead of initial talks with Johnson on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it would be”basically impossible” to agree everything within that time frame.
The legislation addresses initial issues over the separation — such as EU citizens’ rights and Britain’s financial settlement. It also sets out an 11-month transition period to agree a wider partnership with the remaining 27 nations. The deal must also be ratified by the European Parliament.

Official Russian Drug Money Laundering

It is no secret in various official circles here in Washington, that the failed Deutsche Bank was firmly in the hands of the CIA and was used by them to finance various projects, to include assisting their Russian drug running friends to launder money. Like Trump, Deutsche Bank has been scrutinized for its dealings in Russia. The bank paid more than $600 million to regulators in 2017 and agreed to a consent order that cited “serious compliance deficiencies” that “spanned Deutsche Bank’s global empire.” The case focused on “mirror trades,” which Deutsche Bank facilitated between 2011 and 2015. The trades were sham transactions whose sole purpose appeared to be to illicitly convert rubles into pounds and dollars — some $10 billion worth.
The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here.”
It wasn’t just Donald Trump who maintained a warm relationship with Deutsche. The German bank looked after his entire family. Jared Kushner, Ivanka, and Kushner’s mother Seryl Stadtmauer were all Deutsche clients.
The large German financial conglomerate Deutsche Bank, later to become one of Donald Trump’s favored institutions, became entangled with Russia after the bank bought boutique investment bank UFG in order to gain entry into Moscow’s financial markets. UFG’s chairman, Charles Ryan, was an American banker; his partner was Boris Fyodorov, formerly Russia’s Finance Minister in the Yeltsin administration. Deutsche’s future co-CEO, Anshu Jain, was the one who wants Deutsche to become more involved with Russia. Other investment banks soon found Deutsche’s business practices suspicious. Christopher Barter, at the time the CEO of Goldman Sachs Moscow, said later: “They were doing some very curious things. Nobody could make sense of their business. We found the nature and concentration of their business with VTB (Vneshtorgbank) quite galling. Nobody else could touch VTB.”
VTB was known to be deeply connected to Russian intelligence, the FSB.
Trump is also well-known to have been up to his wattled neck in this project, a project to which elements of the German government not infiltrated by the CIA were informed and have reacted by firing known CIA-paid bank employees and firing carload lots of them, 74,000 in total. Eventually this will come out, hopefully before the next election.
Mr. Trump has a history of making racially-charged statements and taking actions perceived as racially motivated.
In 1975, Mr. Trump settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1973 alleging housing discrimination against black renters. In 1989, he was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence.
He continued to maintain this position as late as 2016.
Mr.Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.
One of Mr.Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency.
Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.
Members of Mr.Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election In a December 29, 2016 conversation, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the recently imposed sanctions against Russia; Mr.Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions.
Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.
In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.
In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel
In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.
By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.
Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.
Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”
In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.
Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.
Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.
Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”
In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors
During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.
In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.
Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns
A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.
The most revealing section concerned kompromat.
The document specifically requested any compromising information about Donald Trump, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself. Plus any other information that would compromise the subject (Trump) to his country’s authorities and the general public. Naturally the information could be used to cause him serious problems in his country if exposed.
Finally, the report mentioned that his attitude towards women was also of interest. The point of interest would be if he was the habit of having affairs with women.
Mr. Trumps’ first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986. His original position was Soviet ambassador to the U.N. Dubinin’s mission as ambassador was to make contact with America’s business elite.
There was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Mr. Trump was invited to meet the Ambassador. Ambassador Dubinin spoke fluent English and during the course of the luncheon Trump spoke at length with the Ambassador who proposed that Trump build a large luxury hotel, directly across from the Kremlin, in association with the Soviet government.
Mr.Trump at once became interested in the project and expressed his willingness to cooperate on such a project.
By January 1987, Mr.Trump had become a “prominent person” status and therefore Ambassador Dubinin deemed Mr.Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—was of assistance in this project.
Mr. Trump first visited the Soviet Union on July 4, 1987.
Mr. Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with his wife Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. Ambassador Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow was a standard operation exercise by the KGB.
The Trump trip was orchestrated by the Intourist Agency which was under the control of the KGB. Its duty was to investigate and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union.

Trump and the Russians: Facts, not Fictions

• President Trump was jobbed into his office with the full cooperation of Russian intelligence.
• They own Wikileaks entirely and released the damning, and authentic, “Podesta papers” concurrent with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This did damage to her campaign and was a major contributory factor to her narrow defeat and Trump’s election.
• Trump is not an honest man by any stretch of imagination.
• Trump has constantly engaged in bribing and manipulations and does this through second parties such as Cohen his former lawyer or Manafort, his campaign manager during the election.
• Trump and his entourage have made a number of trips to Russia (I have a listing of all of these along with Russian personages he was in contact with), seeking financing and permission to build luxury hotels in that country
• Trump’s actions, as President, are deliberate efforts to alienate both the putative allies of the US such as Germany, France, Canada and, to a lesser degree, Mexico.
• Trump has deliberately launched pointless, and destructive, attacks against Mexican and Muslim immigrants, as well as Canadian and German imports. All this has done is to create a highly negative image of his persona primarily and secondarily, the global image of the United States.
• Trump’s tariffs, and threats of tariffs, have engendered counter-tariffs that will, when implemented, create serious economic problems for American businessmen and, eventually, the public.
• Trump’s foolish support of the Israeli far right has done, and is doing, serious damage to the US image in the Middle East. It should be noted that Russian influence in the Shiite areas of the Middle East, is growing. Also note that Iran, and parts of Iraq, both Shiite, have extensive oil reserves and that Saudi Arabia, a Sunni state, once America’s primary source of badly-need oil, is running dry.
• Ergo, the Middle East areas where Russia is having growing influence have oil and if Russia sets itself up as major oil merchandizing source, this will give them tremendous economic leverage vis a vis the United States which is the world’s largest consumer of oil and its by products.
• By alienating America’s allies and disrupting that country’s social structure, Trump benefits only Russia and its interests.
• The concept of Trump taking bribes from the Russians (or the PRC) is completely understandable if one applies the concept of Occam’s Razor to the tumult and disruption he is deliberately causing both domestically and in foreign areas.
• If he is caught at this, and I understand the FBI was deeply interested in his Russian connections long before he ran for President, either we will have to deal with another Dallas or Trump will suffer a fatal heart attack.Vice-President Pence, a Christian fanatic, would then have to be told to mind his manners or suffer similar terminal problems.
• Trump is aware of the FBI investigation, aware of what they can find, and probably have already uncovered, so he fired the head of the FBI and even now, according to a very reliable source, is determined to replace the FBI with the cooperative CIA (their former head, Pompeo, is now Secretary of State) as the sole foreign and domestic intelligence agency. He, and his handlers, want to nip any FBI revelations in the bud so that Trump can continue on his course of castrating the United States as a global power.
• It is quite evident that Trump is unbalanced to a dangerous degree and that even his senior staff view him as both dangerous and totally unpredictable. The problem that arises from the strong and growing opposition to Trump is the polarization of the voter base in the United States and if it becomes a wide-spread belief that the president of the US is an agent of a foreign power, it would be the worst scandal in American history

Stalin’s mysterious death
by Miguel A. Faria
For weeks, Joseph Stalin had been plagued with dizzy spells and high blood pressure. [ Figure 1 ] His personal physician, Professor V. N. Vinogradov had advised that Stalin step down as head of the government for health reasons. That was not what Stalin wanted to hear from the good doctor. Soon the professor would pay for this temerity and indiscretion with his arrest and alleged involvement in the infamous Doctor’s Plot (dyelo vrachey).
According to Dmitri Volkogonov in Stalin — Triumph and Tragedy (1991), the night before Stalin became ill, he inquired from Beria about the status of the case against the doctors and specifically about the interrogation of Professor Vinogradov. Minister of State Security Lavrenti Beria replied, “Apart from his other unfavorable qualities, the professor has a long tongue. He has told one of the doctors in his clinic that Comrade Stalin has already had several dangerous hypertonic episodes.”[ 8 ]
Stalin responded, “Right, what do you propose to do now? Have the doctors confessed? Tell [Semyon D.] Ignatiev [Minister of the MGB security organ] that if he doesn’t get full confessions out of them, we’ll reduce his height by a head.” Beria reassured Stalin, “They’ll confess. With the help of Timashuk and other patriots, we’ll complete the investigation and come to you for permission to arrange a public trial.” Then, “Arrange it,” Stalin ordered. And from there, they went on to discuss other matters until about 4:00 a.m. on the morning of March 1, 1953.
Stalin was irritable and in a bad humor. He castigated his guests. Volkogonov based his account on the testimony of A. I. Rybin, who he personally interviewed. Rybin had been in the NKVD and later had become one of Stalin’s bodyguards. But Rybin, though, had not been there during Stalin’s final days. He had only been told what had happened by the guardsmen. And at the time Volkogonov had written his book those guardsmen could not be found or had refused to talk.[ 8 ]
Nevertheless, we do know that the guests had become a captive audience that evening and could not leave the Blizhnyaya, his nearer dacha in Kuntsevo, without Stalin’s permission. They simply had to wait until Stalin dismissed them. But Stalin was not finished. He was still complaining that the leadership, which included many of his guests that night, were basking on past glories — but “they were mistaken.” The implied threat to his inner circle was ominous. When Stalin finally got up and left, his shaken guests seized their opportunity and left the dacha. Georgy Malenkov and Lavrenti Beria, two of Stalin’s henchmen whom he allowed to commingle socially, left together in the same Volga. The others left separately.
Stalin did not leave his chamber that morning and by noon his staff became worried. To make matters even more difficult, no one was authorized to enter his private chambers unless they were summoned. All through the afternoon the domestic staff and his personal guards worried and waited for Stalin to come out. They were finally reassured when an outside sentry reported that a light from his dining room had come on about 6:30 p.m. Volkogonov writes: “Everyone sighed with relief and waited for the bell to ring. Stalin had not eaten, or looked at the mail or papers. It was most irregular.” As late evening came, the domestic staff and guards began to worry anew. They debated what to do until sheer panic forced them to act. It was now 11:00 p.m., the evening of March 1, 1953.[ 8 ]
While Volkogonov interviewed Rybin years later, Russian journalist Edvard Radzinsky obtained documents that have even more bearing on Stalin’s final days from the secret Russian Archives. In his 1997 book, Stalin, Radzinsky relates that on March 5, 1977, the 24th anniversary of Stalin’s death, Rybin organized a little party that included the guardsmen who were “at the nearer dacha around the time when Stalin died.”[ 5 ] The guardsmen remembrances were written down, and Rybin recorded the substance of the testimony in which all of them agreed:
“On the night of February 28-March 1, members of the Politburo watched a film at the Kremlin. After this they were driven to the nearer dacha. Those who joined Stalin there were Beria, Khrushchev, Malenkov, and Bulganin, all of whom remained there until 4:00 a.m. [ Figure 2 ; The Inner Circle several months after the event.] The duty officers on guard that day were M. Starostin and his assistant Tukov. Orlov, the commandant of the dacha, was off duty and his assistant, Peter Lozgachev, was deputized for him. Matryona Butusova, who looked after the Boss’s linen, was also in the dacha. After the guests had left, Stalin went to bed. He never left his rooms again.”[ 5 ]
Radzinsky found that Rybin had also recorded separate testimonies from the guardsmen. Starostin’s statement, which was the briefest, read: “At 19:00 the silence in Stalin’s suite began to alarm us. We (Starostin and Tukov) were both afraid to go in without being called.” Because they were afraid to go in, it was the newly deputized Lozgachev who went in, and “it was he who found Stalin lying on the floor near the table.” Moreover, according to Starostin, Stalin gave an order he had never given before and that statement was subsequently corroborated by Lozgachev. Stalin told his servants and guardsmen in the words of Tukov, “I’m going to bed. I shouldn’t be wanting you. You can go to bed too.”
But there was more to the story, and many years later after painstaking persistence, Radzinsky tracked down Peter Vasilievich Lozgachev, and the old guardsman, “still robust in spite of his age,” finally agreed to an interview about Stalin’s final days. According to Lozgachev “only light wine was drunk, no cognac, no particularly strong drink to make him ill.” Lozgachev’s account differs from Tukov’s in that according to Lozgachev, it was not Stalin who gave that unusual order but another guardsman, attachment Khrustalev, who had left the dacha at 10:00 a.m. on March 1. Only then was Khrustalev relieved by the aforementioned guards, Starostin, Tukov, and Lozgachev.
Before leaving them that morning, Khrustalev told them: “Well, guys, here is an order we’ve never been given before. The Boss said, ‘Go to bed, all of you, I don’t need anything. I am going to bed myself. I shouldn’t need you today.’” To Radzinsky, there was more here than meets the eye, and he clarifies the situation, “To be precise, [Lozgachev] heard it not from the Boss but from the attachment Khrustalev, who passed down the order, and left the dacha the next morning.”[ 5 ]
Radzinsky included the following narrative as recounted by Lozgachev:
“The next day was Sunday. At ten, as usual, we were gathered in the kitchen, just about to plan things for the day. At ten there was no movement that was the phrase we used when he was sleeping. And then it struck eleven — and still no movement. At twelve — still none. That was already strange: usually he got up between 11 and 12, but sometimes he was awake as early as 10. Soon it was one — still no movement. His telephones may have rung, but when he was asleep they were normally switched through to other rooms. ‘Starostin and I were sitting together and Starostin said: ‘There’s something wrong. What shall we do?’
“And indeed, what were we to do — go in to him? But he had always told us categorically: if there was ‘no movement’, we were not to go in. Or else we’d be severely punished. So there we were, sitting in our lodge (connected with his rooms by a 25-meter corridor), it was already six in the evening, and we had no clue what to do. Suddenly the guard outside rang us: ‘I can see the light in the small dining room.’ Well, we thought, thank God, everything was OK. We were all at our posts, on full alert, ready to go, and then, again… nothing. At eight — nothing. We did not know what to do. At nine — no movement. At ten — none. I said to Starostin: ‘Go on, you go, you are the chief guard, it’s your responsibility.’ He said: ‘I am afraid.’ I said: ‘Fine, you’re afraid, but I’m not about to play the hero.’[ 6 ]
“At that moment some mail was delivered — a package from the Central Committee. And it was usually our duty to hand over the mail. Mine, to be more exact. ‘All right, then,’ I said. ‘Wish me luck, boys’. We normally went in making some noise — sometimes even banged the door on purpose — to let him know we were coming. He did not like it if you came in quietly. You had to walk in with confidence, sure of yourself, but not stand too much at attention. Or else he would tell you off: ‘What’s all this good soldier Schweik stuff?’
“Well, I opened the door, walked loudly down the corridor. The room where we put documents was right next to the small dining room. I went into that room and looked through the open door into the small dining room and saw the Boss lying on the floor, his right hand out-stretched…like this [here Lozgachev stretched out his half-bent arm]. I froze. My arms and legs refused to obey me. He had not yet lost consciousness, but he couldn’t speak. He had good hearing, he’d obviously heard my footsteps and seemed to be trying to summon me to help him. I hurried to him and asked: ‘Comrade Stalin, what’s wrong?’ He‘d wet himself and he wanted to pull something up with his left hand. I said to him: ‘Should I call a doctor?’ He made some incoherent noise — like ‘Dz…Dz…’[ 6 ]
“On the floor there was a pocket-watch and a copy of Pravda. And the watch showed, when I looked at it, half past six. So this had happened to him at half past six. On the table, I remember, there was a bottle of Narzan mineral water. He must have been going to get it when the light went on. While I was talking to him, which must have been for two or three minutes, suddenly he snored quietly… I heard this quiet snoring, as if he was sleeping.
“I picked up the receiver of the house phone. I was trembling and sweat beading on my forehead, and phoned Starostin: ‘Come to the house, quick.’ Starostin came in, and stood dumbstruck. The Boss had lost consciousness. I said: ‘Let’s lay him on the sofa, he’s not comfortable on the floor.’ Tukov and Motia Butusova came in behind Starostin. Together, we put him on the sofa. I said to Starostin: ‘Go and phone everybody, and I mean everybody.’ He went off to phone, but I did not leave the Master. He lay motionless, except for snoring. Starostin phoned Ignatiev at the KGB, but he panicked and told Starostin to try Beria and Malenkov. While he was phoning, we got an idea — to move him to the big sofa in the large dining room. There was more air there. Together, we lifted him and laid him down on the sofa, then covered him with a blanket — he was shivering from the cold. Butusova unrolled his sleeves.
“At that point Starostin got through to Malenkov. About half an hour had gone by when Malenkov phoned us back and said: ‘I can’t find Beria.’ Another half hour passed, Beria phoned: ‘Don’t tell anybody about Comrade Stalin’s illness’. At 3 o‘clock in the morning, I heard a car approaching.”[ 5 ]
At this point, Radzinsky notes that it had now been four hours since the first phone call and many more hours since Stalin had been struck down by the sudden illness, and he had been lying there without medical assistance all that time. Malenkov and Beria finally arrived without Khrushchev.
Lozgachev continued his recollection:
“Malenkov’s shoes creaked. And I remember how he took them off and stuck them under his arm. He came in: ‘What’s up with the Boss?’ He was lying there, snoring gently… Beria swore at me, and said, ‘What are you panicking for? The Boss is sound asleep. Let’s go, Malenkov!’ I explained everything to him, how he’d been lying on the floor and how he could only make inarticulate noises. Beria said to me: ‘Don’t panic, and don’t bother us. And don’t disturb Comrade Stalin.’ And they left.
“And again, I was left alone. I thought I should call Starostin again and have him alert everybody again. I said: ‘If you don’t, he’ll die, and our heads will roll. Phone them and tell them to come.’ Sometime after seven in the morning Khrushchev turned up. [That was the first time that he made an appearance, noted Radzinsky]. Khrushchev, said ‘How’s the Boss?’ I said, ‘He’s very poor, there’s something wrong’, and I told him the whole story. Khrushchev said, ‘The doctors are on their way.’ Well, I thought, Thank God’! The doctors arrived between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M.”[ 5 ]
Thirteen hours had now passed without Stalin receiving any medical assistance. Radzinsky hypothesized that Lavrenti Beria feared that Stalin intended to proceed not only with the conspiracy against the Jewish doctors, but also against some of the members of his inner circle, particularly Beria himself. He needed to act and so he did. Radzinsky posited that after Nikolai Vlasik, Stalin’s loyal, longtime bodyguard, had been arrested and implicated in the contrived Doctors’ Plot as well as the developing purge of the MGB, Beria, in an act of personal survival, recruited Khrustalev, a bodyguard strategically placed in Stalin’s current personal attachment. Reportedly, according to Molotov, Beria later claimed that the inner circle should thank him, with the words, “I did him in,” Beria boasted to Molotov, “I saved all of you!”[ 3 ]
Lozgachev continues:
“The doctors were all scared stiff…They stared at him and shook. They had to examine him, but their hands were too shaky. To make it worse, the dentist took out his dentures, and dropped them by accident. He was so frightened. Professor Lukomsky said, ‘We must get his shirt off and take his pressure.’ I tore his shirt off and they started taking his blood pressure. Then everybody examined him and asked us who was there when he collapsed. We thought, that was it, the end. They’ll just put us in the car and it’s goodbye. But no, thank God, the doctors came to the conclusion that he’d had a hemorrhage. Then there were lots of people, and, actually, from that moment we did not have anything to do with it. I stood in the door. People — the newly arrived — crowded around behind me. I remembered [MGB] Minister Ignatiev was too scared to come in. I said, ‘Come on in, there is no need to be shy.’ That day, the second of March, they brought Svetlana.”[ 5 ]
Between March 2 and 5, when Stalin died, members of his inner circle were dividing the spoils of power. Beria had already gone through the Kremlin vault and removed incriminating documents. All the henchmen had returned to the dacha and assembled there to pay their respects, Beria, Malenkov, Khrushchev, as well as the disgraced quartet, Molotov, Mikoyan, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, and other members of the Presidium. They were regaining their confidence as the greatest mass murderer in history lay dying.
Radzinsky quoted the physician Professor Myasnikov: “Stalin sometimes groaned. At one point, only for a brief moment, his conscious gaze seemed to go round the faces by the bed. Then Voroshilov said: ‘Comrade Stalin, we, all your true friends and colleagues, are here. How are you feeling, dear friend?’ But his eyes were devoid of all expression already. We spent all day March 5 injecting things, and writing press releases. Politburo members walked up to the dying man. The lower ranks just looked through the door. I remember that Khrushchev was also by the door. In any case, the decorum in the hierarchy was well observed — Malenkov and Beria came first. Then Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Bulganin, and Mikoyan. Molotov was not well, but came over two or three times, for a short time.”
Molotov himself recollected, “They told me to come out to the dacha… Stalin’s eyes were closed, and, when he opened them and tried to speak, Beria would come running and kiss his hand. After the funeral Beria laughed: ‘The light of science, ha-ha-ha!’”[ 5 ]
According to Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, “Father’s death was slow and difficult…. His face became dark and different… his features were becoming unrecognizable…. The death agony was terrible. It choked him slowly as we watched… At the last moment he suddenly opened his eyes. It was a horrible look — either mad, or angry and full of fear of death…. Suddenly he raised his left hand and sort of either pointed up somewhere, or shook his finger at us all… The next moment his soul, after one last effort, broke away from his body.” [ Figure 3 ]
Svetlana also wrote, “Beria was the first to run out into the corridor, and in the silence of the hall, where everybody was standing around quietly, came his loud voice ringing with open triumph: ‘Khrustalev, the car!’” To Radzinsky, this is another piece in the puzzle: “In this account by Svetlana, the memorable thing is the triumphant voice of Beria addressing Khrustalev! From all the assignees he was choosing Khrustalev!”[ 1 ]
Finally Radzinsky asked Lozgachev the whereabouts of the guard attachment:
“‘They got rid of everybody. They’d summon you and send you away from Moscow, ‘leave the city immediately and take the family with you’. Starostin, Orlov, and Tukov decided to go and see Beria. To ask him not to send them away. So they went into his office, and he said: ‘If you don’t want to be out there, you will be down there.’ And he pointed down to the ground. So away they went.”
Radzinsky asked him, “And what became of Khrustalev?” Lozgachev responded, “Khrustalev fell ill and died soon after… Orlov and Starostin were given jobs in Vladimir, and I stayed at ‘the facility’ — the facility was empty, with me as superintendent. It was handed over to the Ministry of Health…. That was the end of the nearer dacha.”[ 5 ]
CLINICAL COURSE OF STALIN’S ILLNESS
When the doctors arrived to treat Stalin on the morning of March 2, the Boss was soaked in urine and lay unconscious on the sofa. Both his right arm and leg were paralyzed with a right Babinski reflex (i.e., right-sided hemiplegia consistent with a left cerebral stroke). He had a blood pressure of 190/110 with a pulse of 78. The doctors ordered absolute quiet, and eight leeches were applied behind his ears for slow bloodletting. Cold compresses and hypertonic enemas of magnesium sulfate were administered. Despite the doctors treatment, Cheyne-Stokes respiration appeared at 2:10 p.m. and Stalin’s blood pressure climbed to 210/120. Over the next 2 days, Stalin’s condition continued to deteriorate and he remained unresponsive.
On March 3, a flicker of hope appeared when the doctors observed that Stalin “reacted with open eyes to the speech of his comrades who surrounded him.” But this was only momentary. Stalin soon lost consciousness and never regained it.
On March 4, Stalin began to hiccup uncontrollably and vomit blood. On March 5, the sweating became profuse and the pulse undetectable. Stalin did not respond to oxygen or injections of camphor and adrenaline. Stalin’s death was recorded at 9:50 p.m. on March 5, 1953.[ 7 ]
Final Diagnosis: “Arising on March 5 in connection with the basic illness — hypertension and the disruption of circulation in the brain — a stomach hemorrhage facilitated the recurrent collapse, which ended in death.” [ Figure 4 ]
But in the final draft of the report submitted to the Central Committee, Brent and Naumov note: “All mention of the stomach hemorrhage was deleted or vastly subordinated to other information throughout in the final report.”[ 3 ]
It was reported that Stalin only drank diluted Georgian wine the night before his illness of March 1. Brent and Naumov suspect in one scenario that Beria with the complicity of Khrushchev (whose memoirs, Khrushchev Remembers, relating to the events of Stalin’s final days have been found to be unreliable),[ 5 6 8 ] slipped warfarin, a transparent crystalline substance into the wine. Warfarin is a tasteless chemical that in 1950 had just become patented and available in Russia as a blood thinner for patients with cardiovascular disease, and later, widely used as rat poison. A hypertensive hemorrhage of itself would have caused a stroke as Stalin sustained, but it would not necessarily be associated with gastrointestinal or renal hemorrhaging. Warfarin, on the other hand, could have produced both a hemorrhagic stroke and a bleeding disorder affecting multiple organs. The autopsy findings would be critical and, fortunately, just recently they have become available.
AUTOPSY OF THE BODY OF J. V. STALIN
“Post-mortem examination disclosed a large hemorrhage in the sphere of the subcortical nodes of the left hemisphere of the brain. This hemorrhage destroyed important areas of the brain and caused irreversible disorders of respiration and blood circulation. Besides the brain hemorrhage there were established substantial enlargement of the left ventricle of the heart, numerous hemorrhages in the cardiac muscle and in the lining of the stomach and intestine, and arteriosclerotic changes in the blood vessels, expressed especially strongly in the arteries of the brain. These processes were the result of high blood pressure.
“The findings of the autopsy entirely confirm the diagnosis made by the professors and doctors who treated J. V. Stalin.”
“The data of the post-mortem examination established the irreversible nature of J. V. Stalin’s illness from the moment of the cerebral hemorrhage. Accordingly, the energetic treatment which was undertaken could not have led to a favorable result or averted the fatal end.”
“U.S.S.R. Minister of Public Health A. F. Tretyakov; Head of the Kremlin Medical Office I. I. Kuperin; Academician N. N. Anichkov, President of the Academy of Medicine; Prof. M. A. Skvortsov, Member of the Academy of Medicine; Prof. S. R.”[ 2 ]
Obviously, the above signatories in the Ministry of Health included in the report as much as was possible to put in writing from a political standpoint, without getting their own heads into the repressive Soviet noose! They also correctly protected the physicians who treated Stalin. Needless to say the Doctors’ Plot episode was very fresh in their minds.[ 4 ]
While prudently citing hypertension as the culprit, the good doctors left behind enough traces of pathological evidence in their brief report to let posterity know they fulfilled their professional duties, as best they could, without compromising their careers or their lives with the new masters at the Kremlin.
High blood pressure, per se, commonly results in hypertensive cerebral hemorrhage and stroke but does not usually produce concomitant hematemesis (vomiting blood), as we see here in the clinical case of Stalin, and a further bleeding diathesis affecting the heart muscle, scantily as it is supported by the positive autopsy findings.
As I have written elsewhere, we now possess clinical and forensic evidence supporting the long-held suspicion that Stalin was indeed poisoned by members of his own inner circle, most likely Lavrenti Beria, and perhaps even Khrushchev, all of whom feared for their lives.[ 4 ] But Stalin, the brutal Soviet dictator, was (and still is in some quarters of Democratic Russia) worshipped as a demigod — and his assassination would have been unacceptable to the Russian populace. So it was kept a secret until now.
Miguel A. Faria:Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery (ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.), Mercer University School of Medicine; President, www.haciendapub.com, Macon, Georgia, USA

References
1. Alliluyeva S, Chavchavadze P.editors. Only One Year. NY: Harper and Row; 1969. p.
2. . Autopsy of the Body of J.V. STALIN. Complete text. Pravda. 1953. p. 2-
3. Brent J, Naumov VP.editors. Stalin’s Last Crime–The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953. NY: Harper Collins; 2003. p. 312-22
4. Last cited on 2011 Sep 10. Available from: http://www.haciendapublishing.com/blog/jewish-doctors%E2%80%99-plot-%E2%.. .
5. Radzinsky E, Willets HT.editors NY: Anchor Books; 1997. p. 566-82
6. Radzinsky E.editors. The Last Mystery of Stalin. Sputnik, Moscow: 1997. p.
7. . The History of the Illness of J. V. Stalin. Secret Report submitted to the Central Committee. 1953. p.
8. Volkogonov D, Shukman H.editors. Stalin–Triumph and Tragedy. NY: Grove Weidenfeld; 1991. p. 567-7
Miguel A. Faria: Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery (ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.), Mercer University School of Medicine; President, www.haciendapub.com, Macon, Georgia, USA

The Tiger
January 9, 2020
by Christian Jürs
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
-William Blake. 1757–1827
Lying at his ease on the gray concrete of his outdoor exercise area in the zoo, the great Bengal tiger is a strong and vivid sight to the beholder. In yellow, with white beneath and black stripes, he catches both the eye and the imagination. But the tiger’s natural habitat is not a concrete exercise and rest area but dense jungle and in this setting, we cannot see the tiger until he is upon us and by that time, assuming him to be a man-eater, it is far too late to do anything but scream…briefly.
The British philosopher, William of Occam, stated in his writings that entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity. In sum, if a complex problem is reduced to its basics, the problem becomes clear to the viewer and we have then to contemplate a common denominator
If we wish to see the tiger in all his vibrant visual glory, it will be necessary to strip away all the foliage that has concealed him; to make him visual, clearly and without any camouflage whatsoever. Toward that end, let us examine the tiger that comprises a number of related subjects. We will deal with the attack by Saudi terrorists on domestic American symbolic targets on September 11, 2001. We will examine this attack, not post mortem but from its inception up to the point of execution. Much has been written about this after the attack and most of these writings are the result of deliberate disinformation and will not be addressed at this point in time.
Now, let us consider the problem of viewing the tiger.
Towards the end of the second Clinton term, the highest leadership of the Republican party started work on a plan to take, and keep, political power in the United States The Republicans had been out of power for some time and were eager to not only get back into power (with one of the usual electorate mood swings and the subsequent guaranteed assistance by the Florida Republicans and some of the Supreme Court) but, as Karl Rove insisted, keep it for a long time.
Rove worked for George H.W. Bush before the elder sent him to run his useless, drunken sot of a son and Rove, very much a history buff, reasoned that as George was colorless and stubborn, he would have to have some help or it would be a one term reign.
The answer?
Looking at the career of President Franklin Roosevelt, the answer was plain: A wartime president with immense, all-encompassing powers was the perfect solution to the problem of total Republican control of the United Sates and its ruling bodies. . As a wartime president, the figurehead of the party could get a frightened Congress to pass any restrictive legislation wanted if the American public became sufficiently angry and, at the same time, terrified of external enemies the way they were just after the Japanese sudden attack on Pearl Harbor, an attack Roosevelt and his claque deliberately fomented and encouraged.
With domestic control installed and implemented, the President and his party would be guaranteed of long, and very lasting power so the plan, instigated by the devious and vicious Karl Rove, based on a novel by a CIA writer, was discussed with former President George H.W. Bush, father of George. As Rove outlined his scenario, a domestic attack, spectacular enough to resonate with the American public, could, if properly executed, provide the springboard to an iron Republican dictatorship, a stepping stone to global power and a virtual guarantee of a Republican permanent control over every aspect, social and business of the United States. The senior Bush was a man who was on excellent terms with the Saudi-based and very powerful bin Ladin family. They socialized together and many family members were honored guests of the Bush family (and others) in this country.
One son, Osama, bin Ladin, had worked with the CIA, and was paid by them, as liaison with the Afghanistan Taliban during their very successful guerrilla warfare against the Soviet Union and although seriously ill (with kidney problems) he was an excellent connection to use in the furtherance of their scheme Also,. the Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, was known from CIA observations, to be highly anti-US and was certainly perfectly placed to assist in the recruitment of possible terrorists. And so the older Bush spoke with one of the bin Ladins who, in turn, spoke with the Interior Minister and, hey presto, a road crew of Saudi fanatics was put together, supplied with fake papers and off they went on their mission.
First they went to Germany where the German BND watched them and reported to their superiors who, in turn, passed on information to our people and next the Saudi terrorists came to this country. In order to keep an eye on the volatile Arabs, we enlisted the eager support of the Israeli Mossad who were allowed to function in this country with the, often-disregarded, idea they would pass any information of importance to the FBI.
Once the whole Saudi wrecking crew were ensconced in Hollywood, Florida, plotting, the highly capable Israeli Foreign Intelligence, the Mossad, was alerted and moved into the same town to infiltrate and, eventually control, the Saudi terrorists. The Mossad, the Israeli government and through them, the American plotters, knew to the minute what was current and future and all of this material was immediately passed up the ladder of command to both Tel Aviv and the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
As an example of Mossad control, when one projected hijacked plane was destined for the Pentagon, the American plotters had the Mossad convince the Saudis to target a side of the huge building that was closed for repairs…the real targets were on the opposite side of the complex. As the plot took shape, in addition to the attack on the Pentagon, two further commandeered aircraft were destined to slam into the iconic WTC buildings (that had been attacked earlier by means of a bomb-laden van in the parking garage below the World Trade Center ) and the fourth was intended for the most important mission of all : this was intended to crash into the Capitol while Congress was in session.
This latter was the key to the Rove/George H.W Bush. plan. Congress was in session at that time and if the plane crashed into either wing, it would cripple the government until replacements could be elected to fill the empty seats left by the attack. That plane, we can be thankful, was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania by the unexpected revolt of the doomed passengers and Congress was not touched.
With the mainstay neutralized, the Bush people nevertheless subsequently pushed ahead with their constant threats of pending terror, followed by more and more oppressive legislation and the erection of more organs of domestic repression. Eventually, because of a number of relatively minor problems, the worst being gross ineptness on the part of the Rovians, the plot slowly collapsed like a ground-based barrage balloon with a tear in the fabric

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

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

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 53

The ‘Lady Luck’ was tied up at a pier. There was nominal security at the gated entrance to the pier but nothing to hinder someone getting onto the boat from the water. The marina was not heavily guarded and pleasure boats came and went at all hours of the day and night. No one foresaw any problem getting onto the boat and preparing it for Collins’ arrival and the only question was whether or not he could be lured onto it. Claude reasoned that Collins might not want to talk in front of his live-in girl friend or that LeBec might demand privacy. The lake, after all, offered the best refuge from observers and possible enemies with electronic eavesdropping equipment. There was, then, a good chance that the project might well succeed.
If it didn’t there were always other ideas and one of them was bound to work. Claude said that he could easily get into Collins’ apartment building and put an explosive device against his front door, a device that would detonate when someone opened it. He had both explosives and fuses in a safe place and that might also be effective. Because of the dramatic concept of an exploding yacht, however, no one was particularly interested in a pedestrian bomb.
Rich and vicious Uncle Charles was relegated to the back burner because of the difficulty in getting at him. That he would eventually have to be dealt with was acknowledged but Collins took pride of place in the game of high-stakes death.
It was shortly after two in the morning of the anniversary of the birth of the Redeemer that everyone decided it was time to go to bed. There would be an excellent ham for lunch and it took time to fix it properly. Chuck reflected as he climbed the steps that it took four hours to make a proper dinner and a half hour to eat it.
About six in the morning, Claude came out of the guest wing and went into the kitchen. He was hungry and rummaged around in the refrigerator looking for something to eat. He heard a door open and snapped off the kitchen light. If nothing else, Claude was a cautious person.
It was Chuck and he was carrying a large stack of expensively wrapped packages.
Santa in person Claude thought as he made his way back to his room, a container of potato salad in his hand.
When he finished the food, he opened one of his large bags and pulled out a medium sized wooden box and a large folder of very expensive acid free white paper designed to protect valuable prints. It took him a few minutes to carefully wrap the box and before he went to bed, Claude wrote out a note on expensive paper and stuck it onto the edge of the box with a small piece of tape.
When he was certain that Chuck had finished his run, Claude walked barefoot into the main hall and added the box to the large pile of presents arrayed around the base of the large tree.
There was no real morning because another immense storm had moved in during the night, this time from the west, and the sky was black. Gwen’s room on the west side of the house was having its windows pummeled by the thick, driven snow and she awoke to the noise.
It was nearly impossible for her to open a window to fasten the shutters and she had to wake Chuck up to help her. When he opened the double-paned casement, the wind shoved him back and snow blasted into the room. It took all of five very wet and cold minutes to get the shutters locked in place and both of them took the next ten minutes mopping up the melting snow from the floor and rugs.
Lars heard the loud, vulgar language and came in to help. Fortunately, his room was on the east side and the snow merely swirled over the roof and swept down the outer walls without leaving so much as a snowflake on the glass.
Claude was still sleeping when Chuck went down to the kitchen to start the dinner. When Gwen followed him a few minutes later, she saw the pile of presents under the tree and emitted a loud cry. It brought Lars down from his room and woke Claude up in the guest wing. In a few minutes, all of them were in the hall in various stages of dress and they stood in a semi-circle, awed by the mound of presents. There were far more there than Claude remembered from earlier and he saw his plain package half-hidden behind a large box covered with red and white striped paper and a dozen red silk bows.
Chuck, feigning disinterest, came in from the kitchen wearing an apron over his pajama bottoms.
“What is all the fuss in here?”
“That.” Gwen said, pointing, “is what the fuss is all about. My God, are those presents for us?”
“Yes,” Chuck said, munching on a fresh roll, “I think Santa came in the night.”
“Well, that’s better than him coming in my bed,” said Claude as he moved towards the presents.

They began with measured dignity but soon this developed into a sort of frenzy as carefully wrapped packages were disemboweled and fancy paper and bows scattered about the floor.
Lars discovered a package full of CDs by popular groups, titles he had always wanted but could never afford. Claude found a gift box full of expensive cashmere cardigan sweaters in pale blues, grays and light browns while Gwen opened a large box that contained something that initially looked like a dead bear in a plastic bag. It turned out to be a Russian sable coat which, had Chuck bought it in a fur salon, would have cost nearly fifty thousand dollars. He had accidentally found it in the Duluth Salvation Army thrift shop while looking for second hand books. The sable had just arrived through the good offices of a freshly bereaved family who had no idea what Aunt Doris’s fur was worth. One of her nieces was bitterly opposed to killing small animals for ornamental fur so the Salvation Army got the piece. Fortunately for Chuck, the adenoidal young clerk had no idea what it was worth and sold it to him for ten dollars.
Gwen put it on and the gleaming russet greatly complimented her auburn hair and light brown eyes. She never took it off until she had finished her treasure hunt under the tree.
Claude also got a very expensive Patek Phillipe that was left over from the Winrod affair and, having some knowledge of its value, he was so shocked that he sat down on the floor.
Lars got a portable CD player, a small color television set, a beautiful leather jacket and an electric shaver.
Gwen added a gold necklace, a ring made from Baltic amber, a collection of historical books and a box of classic CDs to her growing pile and Claude found an ostrich hide wallet, a box of monogrammed handkerchiefs and three very expensive, large books on Renaissance art.
One small package remained and it contained a cased presentation issue Walther PPK .380 pistol in a morocco manufacturer’s case. Chuck had found this in a gun shop that was on the verge of bankruptcy due to recently enacted anti-firearm legislation and it took very little persuasion and a number of hundred dollar bills to convince the owner to sell it off the books.
“My God, Chuck, I love it!” Gwen said, running her finger over the ivory grips.
“I thought you would like it. Much better than the Magnum I loaned you. The barrel is fixed to the frame and it is one of the most accurate and reliable of small handguns. Try not to shoot yourself in the ass with it.”
“No, but I might shoot you in the ass, Cyril.”
There was one package that Chuck could not identify and discovered that it was for him. Claude knew what was in it and he felt that it went some way to make up for the watch.
“I don’t recognize this one,” Chuck said as he picked it up. “Heavy bugger, isn’t it?”
He found the neatly lettered note with his name on it.
‘To Cyril from His Many Friends’
There was a custom-made wooden box with hinges and a hasp.
Inside was a thick layer of cotton and when he pulled it back, it was his turn to sit down abruptly on a coffee table.
“My God, where did this jewel come from? Claude?”
Claude smiled.
“From all of us. Just a little idea how much we value your friendship.”
Chuck said nothing as he inspected a magnificent terra cotta Della Robbia virgin and child clad in white enamel with a dark blue background.
He looked at Claude and his eyes were damp.
“Levinthal?”
“No, Cyril Rush. I never heard of Levinthal. And a Merry Christmas to you, booby. And that’s from all of us too.”
None of them, Chuck included, had ever had such a glorious Christmas and when Gwen began to blow her nose on one of Claude’s handkerchiefs, it started a mass reaction and a casual observer would have thought that a dear relative had passed beyond the stars, leaving all their money to the local humane society.
Eventually, Chuck returned to the kitchen, propping the still-crated Della Robbia up on the counter while the others cleaned up the heaps of paper and boxes, shoving the detritus into the fireplace and listening to the roar of burning paper rival the booming of the new storm.
Lars simply stared at his booty, not entirely certain what to say or do.
Finally, he managed to say something to Claude.
“Do I owe you anything for the statue, Claude?”
“No, you don’t owe me a thing. If we ever get my gym equipment up here and we work out with the gloves, please do not break my nose and shove the bone up into my head. Is that a deal?”
Lars, who had almost no sense of humor, solemnly nodded.
“I promise, Claude. I think Chuck really liked that old piece. Where did you get it?”
“I robbed a church, Lars. And don’t worry about it. They owe me plenty.”
It was the best piece in the former Levinthal collection which Claude had kept because he admired it.
(Continued)
This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

No responses yet

Leave a Reply