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TBR News January 14, 2016

Jan 14 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 13, 2016: “I am now in France looking into various matters of interest and will report upon my return.”

 

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These
conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.

http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Crow-Gregory-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00GHMAQ5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450147193&sr=8-1&keywords=conversations+with+the+crow

Conversation No. 42

 

Date: Monday, October 14, 1996

Commenced: 9:45 AM CST

Concluded: 10:21 AM CST

 

GD: Robert.

RTC: Good morning, Gregory.

GD: Have you heard anything more from Critchfield?

RTC: Yes, I have. He’s calmed down some and is now blaming me for blindsiding him.

GD: Well, actually you did. Telling him I was one of his boys.

RTC: I implied, Gregory. Only implied. And Jim is trying to dig up more information for his stupid book and he went for it. It worked out fine, but he cursed at me and said I got him in over his head.

GD: Pompous asshole. One of these days, I’ll get out the story about him and Atwood selling Russian atomic shells to the Pakis. You know Jim was the arms dealer and Critchfield was building a retirement nest egg so they went ahead with this. Jim’s people had been supplying the Afghan rebels with weapons to use against the Russians and the connections are there. Just think, Robert. They sold thirty shells to potential lunatic enemies. Oh, they might be thankful we helped them but in the end, they are religious fanatics and they will prove to be a real crown of thorns to us. Just an opinion, of course.

RTC: Well, Jim would like to find some way to shut you up, short of killing you. He’s not in power anymore so maybe he’ll bribe you.

GD: In my experience, Robert, those people never bribe anyone. They threaten them and yell at them, but never resort to an actual bribe. Unless, of course, they are bribing a Russian military person to get them some atomic shells. Then, they bribe.

RTC: Not to offend you, Gregory, but would you take a bribe?

GD: Depends on how much and what the issue is. Generally, people don’t try to bribe me. Threaten me, of course, or insult me, certainly, but no bribes. I wonder what would happen to Critchfield’s precious image if it ever came out? Atwood is known as a piece of worthless shit and he has no reputation to lose.

RTC: Jim is very incensed about Atwood at this point.

GD: Remember, we have a bet.

RTC: Not a real bet.

GD: I have been reading over some of this ZIPPER business, Robert. Very interesting to say the least.

RTC: Now, Gregory, we are not specific on the phone.

GD: No, no, I’m aware of that. You know, what with all the strange stories about that incident, I might have an uphill fight to get the book accepted.

RTC: Ah yes, the nut fringe. Highly entertaining material.

GD: Yes, but rather misleading.

RTC: Oh that’s why we support them, Gregory. Muddy the waters. Keep the public eye elsewhere. Away from dangerous subjects. The public loves conspiracies so we supply them. A real conspiracy is difficult to conceal, Gregory. Too many people, too many chances for leaks. Joe gets drunk and tells his brother and so on. Sometimes, we’ve had to remove people like that, but not very often. Johnson was in the know but I doubt if he’d tell Lady Bird, let alone a reporter. And officially, don’t forget that Hoover was also on board. His people can shut you down very quickly. They’ll find a machine gun under the front seat of your car and off you go, screaming innocence all the way to the big house.

GD: But what happens if an FBI man says something?

RTC: Well, they aren’t bulletproof. Bill Sullivan found that out.

GD: Oh yes, I saw the name in the ZIPPER papers.

RTC: He was Hoover’s man in that. And other projects as well. Bill and Hoover had a falling out and Hoover sacked him. Not only did he sack him, Hoover began to threaten him. I guess Bill got terminated finally because he had begun to grumble too much and to the wrong people.

GD: What happened? A car accident?

RTC: No, he went out for a walk one morning and some young hunter thought he was a deer and shot him in the head.

GD: Oh my, what a tragedy.

RTC: Bill thought that because J. Edgar was dead, he could mouth off. He was a bitter man, Gregory, and then he was a dead one. With all his baggage, Bill should have stayed in New Hampshire and enjoyed his retirement.

GD: Baggage?

RTC: You don’t know any of this, of course, but Sullivan was up to his neck in business that would have put him away for life if it ever came out. He was top man in the Bureau and Hoover’s hatchet man. Besides being involved up to his neck in the ZIPPER business, Bill also took out King and Bobby Kennedy.

GD: Jesus H. Christ, Robert.

RTC: Well, we get the blame for all kinds of shit and it’s comforting to spread it around. Certainly. Old Hoover hated both King and Bobby. Why? Hoover has been suspected of being a high yellow…

GD: What?

RTC: Part black. True or not, it’d gotten around and he knew about it. Hoover also was probably a queer but again, not proven. He had his areas of great sensitivity, let’s say. No, he hated King because J. Edgar hated blacks. I mean really hated them. Wouldn’t let them in the Bureau and persecuted any black leaders he could. Like Marcus Garvey.

GD: And King.

RTC: Hoover was outraged that King had a white girlfriend and did everything he and his Bureau did to slam him. Finally, as he got older, Hoover got nuttier and decided to have him killed. Sullivan ran that operation. First they tried to tap his phones and plant stories about him and when that didn’t work, they offed him.

GD: What about James Earl Ray?

RTC: Another Oswald. You see, the Bureau has a very small group of miscreants who do jobs on people. Sullivan ran them for Hoover. Ray was a very minor and very low class crook. A smash and grab type. Bust a window in an appliance store and run off with an iron or a toaster. Break into a laundromat, jimmy open the coin boxes on the machines, steal the coins and then cut his bare feet on the broken glass he left breaking the window. Hardly sophisticated enough to shoot King, escape to Canada, get a fake Canadian passport in the name of a Montreal police officer and flee to England. Not likely, Gregory. If Ray knew who put him up to being a front, they would have killed him just like they shot Oswald. Ray didn’t know, although he probably guessed at one point, and off he went for the rest of his life. He can scream innocent until he dies and no one will listen.

GD: And Bobby?

RTC: Bobby was a nasty piece of shit who made enemies whenever he went for a walk. He was his brother’s hit man, in a figurative sense, his pimp. He was the AG, put in there by Joe so Joe could get back his confiscated Farben stock and also go after the mob. Back in Prohibition, I can tell you, Joe was a partner of Capone’s and Joe was stupid enough to rip Al off. Al put out a contract on Joe and Joe had to pay Al to cancel it. And from then on, Joe was out to get anyone in the Mob. Pathological shit, Joe was.

GD: My grandfather told me all about him.

RTC: Well, when Bobby got to be AG, he harassed old Hoover, trying to make him quit. Not a very good idea, but then Bobby thought he was safe. His father was very rich, his brother was President and he thought he couldn’t be touched. For example, Hoover used to take a nap on his office couch every day and Bobby would bang into his office and wake him up. And worse, Bobby would tell his friends, at parties where there were many ears, that Hoover was an old faggot.

GD: Some people seem to have a death wish. This reminds me of the street freak who climbed over the wall at the San Francisco zoo once, climbed right into the outdoor tiger rest area, walked up to a sleeping male tiger and kicked him in the balls. Tiger was very angry, got up in a rage, smacked the intruder, killed him and was eating him, right in front of the horrified zoo visitors. That kind of a thing, right?

RTC: A good analogy. You grasp the situation, Hoover stayed in power because he had files on all the men in power, to include JFK and his father. Not a man to antagonize is it?

GD: I would think not.

RTC: Johnson was terrified of Hoover and kissed his ass on every occasion, but Bobby was running for president and it looked like he might make it. That’s when Hoover talked to Sullivan and we know the rest. Just some background here. This Arab….

GD: Sirhan.

RTC: Yes. Note that Kennedy had come down from his suite in the Ambassador Hotel to give a victory speech. Came into the hall from the front door with all his happy staff. Big crowd. One of his aides, Lowenstein, I believe, told him they should go out through the kitchen exit. And there was what’s-his-name waiting. But he shot at Kennedy without question, with a dinky .22 but never got to within five feet of him. The official autopsy report said Kennedy was shot behind the ear at a distance of two inches. Now that sounded to me like a very inside job. They steered him into an area where an assassin was known to be waiting and made sure he bought the farm. In all the screaming and confusion, just a little bit of work by a trusted aide or bodyguard and Bobby was fatally shot. That was the second one of Hoover’s pet hates. The first one reminded him of the nigger relationship and the other had called him a faggot. Hoover had his moments but if you stepped on his toes, off came your head. But Hoover was afraid of Sullivan so he left him alone.

GD: Then…

RTC: We decided that Sullivan, freed of the spirit of Hoover, who had died some years before, Sullivan began to talk just a little. We didn’t care about the King or the Bobby business but if he talked about ZIPPER, we would be in the soup, so Sullivan had to go.

GD: Someone persuaded him to put on a deer suit?

RTC: No, he was walking in the woods and some kid, armed with a rifle and a telescopic sight, blew him away. Terribly remorseful. Severe punishment for him. Lost his hunting license for a year. Think of that, Gregory. For a whole year. A terrible tragedy and that was the end of that.

GD: Can I use that?

RTC: If you want. It’s partially public record. If you can dig it out on your own…

GD: I’ll try. Thanks for the road map.

RTC: Why, think nothing of it.

GD: But back to the ZIPPER thesis. I was saying about the proliferation of conspiracy books that I would have trouble.

RTC: Of course, Gregory. We paid most of those people to put out nut stuff. Why the Farrell woman, one of the conspiracy theme people, is one of ours. We have others. We have a stable of well-paid writers whose sole orders are to produce pieces that excite the public and keep them away from uncomfortable truths. I imagine if and when you publish, an army of these finks will roar like your angry tiger and we won’t have to pay them a dime. They’ve carved out a territory and if you don’t agree with them, they will shit all over you. I wish you luck, Gregory. And I can guarantee that the press will either keep very, very quiet about you or will make a fool out of you. We still do control the press and if we say to trash an enemy, they will do it. And if the editor won’t, we always talk to the publishers. Or, more effective, one of my business friends threatens to pull advertising from the rag. That’s their Achilles heel, Gregory. No paper can survive on subscription income alone. The ads keep it going. In the old days, a word from me about ad-pulling made even the most righteous editor back down in a heartbeat. We bribe the reporters and terrify their bosses. They talk about the free press who know nothing about the realities.

GD: Nicely put, Robert.

RTC: We should have you come back here one of these days for a sit-down. Bill wants to do this. Are you game?

GD: Will men in black suits meet me at the airport?

RTC: I don’t think so, Gregory.

GD: Maybe one of them will hit me with their purse.

RTC: Now, Gregory, that isn’t kind.

GD: I’m sure Hoover wouldn’t have thought so.

 

(Concluded at 10:21 AM CST)

 

 

The CIA, Drugs and Money Laundering

by Harry von Johnston

The CIA has been running Mafia-like operations ever since its inception in 1948. Besides creating world-wide havoc, revolutions, assassinations and economic destruction, the CIA has been running drugs and guns to various groups all over the world. She exports raw opium from Afghanistan to refineries in Columbia and Kosovo for huge sums of money. And how do they handle their enormous economic hauls?

They have used a number of “front” banks to do this.

As an example, we have the Castle Bank & Trust once located in the Bahamas

This entity was involved in massive tax evasion schemes for persons connected with the CIA. It was founded in the 1960s by one  Paul Helliwell, a former member of the Office of Strategic Services, (forunner of the CIA), and Burton Kanter, a tax lawyer.

This bank had a number of clients, including celebrities, organized crime figures and powerful American business interests. These included ohn Fogerty and other members of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who lost most of their investments when the bank collapsed, Tony Curtis, Hugh Hefner, , the daughter of Chiang Kai-shek, and members of the Pritzker family who are owners of the Hyatt hotel chain. Reputed organized crime members that were customers included Moe Dalitz, Morris Kleinman, and Samuel A. Tucker

In the early 1970s, the U.S. IRS opened an investigation into the bank’s tax evasion schemes, Operation Tradewinds The IRS were able to cllandestinely copy photograph a list of the bank’s clients. . As a result of this information, the IRS planned to initiate a new investigation, called Project Haven, into the financial activities of the people on the depositor list. A prosecution of one of these eventually reached the United States Supreme Court as United States v. Payner.

It should be noted that all of these these probings were later dropped because of pressure from the CIA . The Castle Bank & Trust collapsed in 1977. The CIA then moved their money to the Nugan Hand Bank. 

Nugan Hand Ltd. was founded in Sydney in 1973 by Australian lawyer Francis John “Frank” Nugan and former U.S. Green Beret Michael Jon “Mike” Hand.  The bank was formed with a fraudulent claim of $1m in share capital. With only $80 in the company’s bank account and just $5 in paid-up capital, Frank Nugan wrote his own company a personal check for $980,000 to purchase 490,000 shares of its stock. He then covered his massive overdraft by writing himself a company check for the same amount.”The Nugan Hand Bank  collapsed in 1980 after the suicide of one of  Francis John Nugan, resulting in a major scandal which eventually revealed that  the bank had been involved in illegal activities, including drug smuggling, arranging weapons deals, and providing a front for the CIA.. This  bank employed a number of retired United States military and intelligence officers, including the former CIA director William Colby.

Investors’ losses and the speculation surrounding the bank’s activities led to three major government investigations over the next five years. The bank’s co-founder, American Michael Jon Hand, and two other bank employees were indicted for conspiring to “pervert the course of justice” by destroying or removing bank records. Hand fled abroad in June 1980.

The Nugan Hand Bank had attracted investors with promises of up to 16% interest rates on their deposits and assurances of anonymity, tax-free accounts, specialist investment assistance, along with more surreptitious services such as money laundering. Nugan Hand rapidly expanded, backed by CIA support, to a global network that included branches (registered in the Cayman Islands) in Chiang Mai, Manila, Hawaii, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Cayman Islands and Washington D.C..

The Nugan Hand Bank gained respectability by the recruitment of a number of retired senior U.S. military and intelligence personnel, such as former Rear Admiral Earl Yates as bank president and ex-CIA head William Colby as legal counsel.

When the bank collapsed Hand destroyed many of Nugan Hand’s records and fled Australia under a false identity in June 1980.

A subsequent  Royal Commission found that the Nugan Hand Bank was implicated in money-laundering, illegal tax avoidance schemes, and widespread violations of banking laws. One witness, a former Nugan Hand director, stated that Hand threatened bank executives: “If we didn’t do what we were told, and things weren’t handled properly, our wives would be cut into pieces and put in boxes and sent back to us”.However, the Royal Commission dismissed the allegations of drug-smuggling, arms dealing, and CIA involvement.

No one connected with Nugan Hand has ever been convicted of a crime.

It was later discovered that Hand was living, under the  name Michael Jon Fuller, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Somehow, the FBI was “unable” to locate this fugitive, even though Fuller and Hand’s social security numbers are identical.

 

5 things you need to know about the Oregon standoff

January 14, 2016

RT

More than 10 days since armed men claiming to be fighting for the Constitution occupied a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon, many still have questions. Whether you have followed every update or are just now hearing of the story, here’s what you need to know:

What is going on?

Since January 2, an armed group of ranchers, militia members, and supporters have held the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, land managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The complex includes offices, bunk beds, workshops, and other resources, including federal documents, which the occupying group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, admits to going through. For most of their first 10 days, the group camped in the bunkhouse, debating tactics and giving statements to the press. On January 11, however, they ventured forth and cut an opening in a federal fence to clear access for local ranchers and their cattle.

Who are these people?   

Before coming up with the name Citizens for Constitutional Freedom to allay media inquiries, the activist group was simply an unnamed product of spontaneous support from like-minded people.

While it is unknown exactly how many people are engaged in the occupation/standoff, the people there are generally from Western states and either militia members, ranchers, or otherwise affiliated with them. Here are some of the prominent members of the group:

Ammon and Ryan Bundy – The Bundy brothers are the leaders of the refuge occupation and sons of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who, in 2014, was defended by armed militia members and supporters against the federal government in a standoff over grazing and land rights.

Jon Ritzheimer – a former US Marine from Arizona, Ritzheimer called for an anti-Islam rally in front of a Phoenix mosque that had been attended by two men who attacked a Mohammed cartoon contest in Texas in May. Ritzheimer’s rally drew far fewer than the 3,000 people he had hoped would attend. The New York Daily News reported in November that the FBI had given the heads up to New York law enforcement to keep an eye on him after Ritzheimer made harsh comments about President Obama and Muslims.

Ryan Payne – an electrician from Montana, Payne previously served as an Army infantryman in a military intelligence battalion. He was deployed to Iraq two times and left the military in 2006 after earning several medals and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Payne was also involved in the 2014 Bundy standoff.

Blaine Cooper – once identified as a Marine on the website This Aint Hell, a week later Cooper clarified he had never spent time in the service. Records show Cooper had enlisted under a Marines program allowing one year before basic training, but he never went. Before Cooper came to be a lookout for the occupation, he voluntarily patrolled the US-Mexican border in Arizona.

Brandon Curtiss – While not involved in the occupation, Curtiss was involved with the initial January 2 protest in Burns, Oregon. Curtiss returned this week with armed members of his Pacific Patriots Network, a syndicate of groups from nearby states. Telling reporters they were there to “de-escalate” the situation, they will provide security to those staying inside and outside the federal facility until Saturday morning, when Curtiss plans to negotiate a “peaceful resolution” to the standoff.

What do they want?   

The group’s demands are dual in nature. One is the release of father and son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond from prison. The second is that the Malheur National Forest be handed over to locals in the area.

Regarding the second demand, the issue of “returning” the land to anyone is of special controversy to the Paiute tribe of indigenous Americans.

The protesters have no right to this land. It belongs to the native people who live here,” Charlotte Rodrique, chair of the Paiute tribe in Burns, told reporters last week in front of the tribe’s cultural center. The Burns Paiute accused the Bundy-led group of “desecrating one of our sacred sites,” according to the Associated Press.

Why do they care so much?

While the second demand pertains to a more general belief that the federal government has unconstitutionally appropriated land for itself, the first demand is one of specific and immediate consequence. 

The occupation followed a protest held 30 miles away in Burns, where tough sentences were imposed on Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46.

Dwight was sentenced to three months and Steven to 11 months for starting two fires on their property, one in 2001 and the next in 2006. Judge Michael Hogan refused to give them the mandatory minimum sentence of five years under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, saying it would “shock his conscience.”

Federal prosecutors appealed, however, and this month the Hammonds were forced to return to prison to finish their five years of incarceration. They had been convicted of arson, though in the case of the first fire, the judge said “mother nature’s probably taken care of any injury,” and in the second case, the feds claimed only one acre of public land had been touched. The Hammonds claimed they were clearing juniper and sagebrush to prevent the spread of forest fires from government land.

The confrontational history between the Hammonds and the federal government goes back decades, actually, as Ammon Bundy has blogged. Bundy had seen in them the successors to his father Cliven as a cause célèbre for his militia allies to support. The situation also presented another opportunity to raise the issue of federal power over the lives of those who make a living off the land in the West.

What do the locals think?   

The Bundys and their fellow occupiers argue they are acting on behalf of the community in Harney County, but local support for the out-of-towners is usually reluctant and never from law enforcement.

Sheriff Dave Ward has called on the militia to go home. Judge Steve Grasty has called them “armed thugs” and threatened to fine them $75,000 a day for the costs of closing schools and beefing up police presence. Cliff Bentz, a Republican state representative whose district includes Harney County, has also taken a stand against the occupation.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown released a statement on January 7 decrying the activities of Bundy’s militia and ordering the group to “decamp immediately and be held accountable.” She called the occupation a part of “tactics we Oregonians don’t agree with.”

Some locals may not agree with the tactics, but they’re not exactly complaining, either.

Harney County, to a degree, owes [them] a ‘thank you’ for taking a stand that needed to be made,” rancher Cory Shelman said at the town meeting on January 11.

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Anna King traveled the surrounding area and found that most hotels were seeing triple or double their normal occupancy rates for this time of year. Other businesses were benefiting from all the hoopla as well, King reported on a January 13.

Sometimes we might only have one person in the house in the winter months – so this is a Godsend. It’s like having summer all winter long,” Vickie Allen, manager at an America’s Best Value Inn, said.

I haven’t had a day off since New Year’s Day, and normally I have four days off,” Liz Houer, a hotel maid, said. “It’s good for me right now, because usually I’m on unemployment about this time.”

I wish it were different circumstances, but we do love it,” Tammy DeLange, manager of Bella Java & Bistro, said. “It’s helping the businesses as far as restaurants and stuff.”

 

The Oregon militia revolt recipe: timber, despair and a crippling political isolation

Even if ranchers still come into conflict with government agencies, their problems don’t explain those of Harney County – there’s still plenty of ranchable land, and the costs of grazing on public land are low

January 14, 2016

by Jason WIlson in Burns, Oregon

The Guardian

Holding court in the Central Pastime, Burns’s lively hometown tavern, the city’s former mayor Len Vohs made just one request of the Guardian.

Please be kind to us. Things have been difficult here for a while.”

Vohs is genial and gentle, but his request is firm and sincere. He’s clearly not sure how much more the district can take.

It’s not just the Bundy Bunch’s occupation of the ranch he is referring to – the standoff is just a symptom of the underlying difficulties that have led some locals to give them and other militias a hearing. Like much of eastern Oregon, Burns and Harney County have long been in economic and demographic decline, and the future only promises more hardships. Staying may mean going down with a sinking ship, and Vohs is one of a long list of local politicians who’ve tried in vain to reverse the long-term trends affecting the region.

But local resources are limited. The outside world often forgets that the inland west is even there, leading some to turn to savior figures – such as the Bundys – who offer simplistic and bizarre solutions to entrenched problems.

Harney County’s lavish natural beauty only makes the cruelties visited on the town more difficult to bear; it’s the kind of western landscape makes your heart swell

At this time of year, the high desert plateau that occupies the northern part of the county’s 10,000 square miles is filled to the horizon with snow-clotted sagebrush. A few scattered, flat-topped buttes are the only relief in the vast expanse of Harney Basin, which bottoms out in a pair of lakes, Malheur and Harney. The former gives a name and a rationale for the national wildlife refuge now being occupied by the Bundy militia, whose leader, Ammon Bundy, has repeatedly called the reserve a “tool of tyranny”.

The wetlands that fringe the lake are a haven for migrating waterfowl and many other bird species. It was protected by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, after plume hunters nearly drove some species to extinction. Apart from sustaining birds, the refuge seasonally brings bird-watchers to stay in Burns and surrounding areas.

Their seasonal presence is one of a diminishing number of enterprises that bring money in. The bulk of the county’s private land – and some of the public land – is given over to another, still-lucrative pursuit: dry land ranching.

Ranchers’ relationship with the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies has been the focus of the current protests, along with the fate of two local ranchers, the Hammonds, who have returned to jail to serve out the remainder of a mandatory minimum sentence for setting fire to refuge land.

Even if ranchers still come into conflict with government agencies, their problems don’t explain those of Harney County. There’s still plenty of ranchable land, and the costs of grazing on public land are low. Ranching incomes are subject to the same ebbs and flows in commodity prices that they always have been, and as always, those who can’t take advantages of economies of scale struggle more.

University of Oregon economist Tim Duy explains that the real difficulties “are less about ranching issues, and more about timber issues”. The collapse of the timber industry is what has “really pummelled” eastern Oregon.

Until the 1980s, the major driver of Harney’s prosperity was timber products, sourced from plentiful forests, including those on public land. There were jobs in the forest and jobs in the sawmill, all well-paid despite the fact that they didn’t need high levels of education or training.

In 1978, 768 people, or 31% of the county’s workers, were in the timber industry. At that time wages in Oregon’s timber industry were worth 40% than the state’s average wage. People had high incomes, low prices and high standards of living in jobs that “you didn’t need a college degree for, or even a high school diploma for”. Harney’s heyday was an artefact of a strong, confident, and relatively wealthy working class.

Then, from the 1980s, body blows began raining down on the timber trade. First, the Reagan recession, which kicked off the decline. An increasing environmental consciousness meant that public land was managed in the interests not just of primary industries, but of native species like trees and the animals who live in them. Much federal land was closed off to logging.

While the protection of the Spotted Owl and old growth timber has had some effect on the regional economy, many locals and those who are agitating in the community overstate it.

Blaming the economic pain of the region on environmentalism leads to easy scapegoating of the government agencies that try to balance environmental values with economic uses. Most of the especially lucrative old-growth timber was gone before anyone thought of protecting what was left. Duh says it was “a one-time shot”. Second-growth forest was “easier to deal with with less labour”. More importantly, timber mills became “more productive” – they mechanised many of their processes, and required fewer workers. Other factors such as competition with Canadian timber played a role.

Even in a best-case scenario, where timber jobs still existed, Harney’s position relative to Portland and other places in the Willamette Valley would be reduced, because the economy has changed.

The transition to high-skilled white-collar jobs drew income and population to cities. As private sector jobs have declined, government employment has increased. Despite the opposition to the federal government, 44% of jobs are in government. Without them the county would have even fewer inhabitants than it’s current 7,500.

Duy doesn’t see any easy solutions. “I don’t know that anyone has found a magic bullet that can resolve these economic challenges. And it’s easier to move people to jobs than jobs to people.”

In these circumstances – where people have little political or economic power, not much sway in state or national government, limited ability or desire to move, and not a lot of hope – frustrations can boil over. In a prosperous community, the kitchen table lawyers and weekend warriors in the militia movement would not get a hearing.

Jessica Campbell of the Rural Organizing Project – which supports progressive organizing in rural Oregon in direct opposition to right wing groups – notes that “we are definitely seeing some patterns emerge around the armed occupation of public land.”

In Oregon there has been an increase in “militia and paramilitary organising”. Veteran author and watcher of the far right, Chip Berlet, says that “we have been watching Oregon for months.”

Campbell puts the growth in these movements down to desperation. “A number of counties have lost funding. We had federal timber payments in a lot of counties that ran out.” This meant no money for services, so that many counties did not even have 24 hour 911 emergency dispatch. In a number of cases she’s been involved with, abused women would seek restraining orders, “and judges would say ‘OK, I’ll give you a restraining order, but there aren’t enough police. Do you have a gun?’”

Paramilitary and militia growth is directly related to the breakdown in public safety in parts of rural Oregon. Militia such as the Bundys, the Idaho III%, and the Oath Keepers use the well-worn rightwing tactic of offering to police disorder where the liberal state has failed. “These groups are great strategists, they jump right in saying ‘you need a militia’”, Campbell says. And they also appeal directly to the very real economic distress that affects communities in the “timber belt”, where resource-based prosperity has disappeared.

These people are half-right”, Berlet says of those seduced by far right actors. “They are accurately perceiving that they are being squashed by the political economy and government of the US. We have an increasingly authoritarian government and an increasing disparity of wealth. That is a recipe for revolt.” Neither major party “has had any sense of responsibility for the collapse of rural economies in the US”, he says, adding that the American dream of modestly increasing prosperity “has been stomped on.” It makes sense for them to be angry.

That anger will hardly be reduced by the circus that has attended the Bundys’ occupation, or the tendency to focus on their stunts, rather than the real pain this community has felt over decades.

What are the kindnesses we can offer communities like Burns? As the siege drags on in the Malheur national wildlife refuge, the question has become far more urgent.

 

Limited edition of ‘Mein Kampf’ drives up prices online

The first print run for the new critical edition of “Mein Kampf” was surprisingly modest: 4,000 copies. With all the debate surrounding the work, no wonder interest in the book is much higher.

January 14, 2016

DW

The Institute for Contemporary History in Munich (IfZ) was cautious in its expectations by starting out with 4,000 copies: Already on January 8, the day the scholarly edition of Hitler’s manifesto was released, 15,000 pre-orders had been placed. A second impression of the 2,000-page long work is therefore underway.

However, there was good reason for the caution: A huge first run could have led to sales that would have inadvertantly pushed the anti-Semitic work onto the bestseller lists, an embarrassment not worth risking.

Although many booksellers are taking pre-orders, some people are ready to pay a

high price to get their hands on the controversial book right away. It could be found on Amazon on Wednesday (13.01.2015) for 375 euros ($408).

An Amazon spokesperson said that this was done without the company’s consent, as third-party resellers were not allowed to violate the existing fixed book price agreements. Amazon plans to donate all of its “Mein Kampf” profits to a charity supporting victims of the Holocaust.

The critical edition is also being auctioned on Ebay. One copy was sold for 276 euros on Wednesday, through an auction which started at one euro.

A spokesperson for IfZ said that such prices were exaggerated, and that the book would be available shortly – those who can wait a little will then pay the normal price of 59 euros.

 

The Biggest Threat: It’s not ISIS

January 13, 2016

by Justin Raimondo,

Antiwar

The headlines are filled with the latest alleged threat posed by ISIS – a band of savages thousands of miles away that, at most, has the capacity to inspire the crazies in our midst to acts of relatively smalltime violence.

Relative, that is, to the real threat of violence, which emanates from our own “defense” policies as formulated in Washington, D.C. – the very real and growing threat of nuclear war.

That ominous possibility, which hung over us during the cold war era – and spiked during the truly scary Cuban missile crisis, when the fate of the world hung on a very thin thread – never really went away. For as long as the US and the other members of the nuclear “club” possess these weapons, the chance that they might someday be used still exists. And those chances have increased lately due to the new cold war with Russia, started and ramped up by the War Party over Ukraine and the Russian decision to take out the Syrian terrorists. Ongoing arms talks have been stalled due to the radical breakdown of Russo-American relations, and joint efforts to trace and secure “loose nukes” – weapons and materials that may have been “lost” in the post-Soviet chaos – have ground to a halt.

As NATO sends troops and heavy weaponry to Eastern Europe and conducts massive military exercises within spitting distance of the Kremlin, plans to “modernize” and upgrade the US nuclear arsenal in Europe and Turkey are proceeding apace. The B61 nuclear bomb is being outfitted with flexible fins, which will enable it to hit targets with more precision: also, the upgrade means that the impact – the nuclear yield – can be adjusted. These weapons are due to be shipped to bases in Europe and Turkey in 2024 – making the use of nukes more “thinkable,” as this New York Times piece puts it.

In response, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced yesterday that “Russia will create three new military divisions on its Western flank in 2016 and bring five new strategic nuclear missile regiments into service.”

The miniaturization of nukes is a trend that encourages what was previously considered monstrous: “preemptive” nuclear strikes by the US. Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has raised the horrific scenario of military officials seeing smaller scale nukes in a new light, asking “Does it make them more usable?”

Surely the answer is yes.

It isn’t just us peaceniks who are raising questions about the Obama administration’s “modernization” plan. The growing list of opponents includes:

Andrew C. Weber, former assistant secretary of defense.

Philip E. Coyle III, former chief of nuclear weapons testing at the Pentagon.

Steve Fetter, former assistant director at-large of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

William J. Perry, former defense secretary during the Clinton administration.

President Obama campaigned on a platform of reducing – and eventually ending – US dependence on nuclear arms as the linchpin of US defense policy. Yet what we have gotten is merely a quantitative reduction, with an accompanying qualitative ramping up of our nuclear strike force in terms of its sheer deadliness – and the likelihood of it being used.

The cost of the “modernization” program – which is even now racing through Congress with almost no opposition – is measured in the trillions of dollars. And the fact is that we don’t need this nuclear “triad” – a throwback to the dawn of the nuclear age, when intra-bureaucratic infighting between the three branches of the military resulted in nukes for all. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a relic of the cold war era: a commission headed by Gen. Cartwright recommended scrapping them entirely. Bill Perry concurs. “We’re on the brink of a new arms race,” says Perry.

In short, the world is rapidly becoming a much more dangerous place. And it’s not because of ISIS, or the “terrorist threat” – it’s due to our policy of global intervention, which requires a “forward stance” that includes rattling the nuclear saber.

With over 7,000 nuclear weapons in our arsenal, many of them stationed in a ring around Russia extending from Turkey to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Germany, it is clear that America’s nukes are not defensive in nature. They are one more way we threaten those who defy Washington’s will. Under George W. Bush, US nuclear doctrine clearly stated that first use is not out of the question: under Team Bush, nukes could’ve been launched to make sure we won what seems like a losing war – say, in Afghanistan, for example. President Obama has supposedly revised this policy, but the movement toward nuclear “modernization” renders his promise less credible. And who is to say what a future President might do – say, President Trump or President Cruz? The latter has stated he wants to see if sand can glow in the dark – do we want a “modernized” nuclear force as long as he and his ilk have a chance at the White House?

Why do we have over 7,000 nukes in our arsenal – enough to destroy the world several times over? Why are the contracts for “modernization” speeding through the procedural hoops faster than anyone can keep track of them?

The answer is that Washington is the epicenter of an aggressive empire that seeks to impose its will on every continent, and those 7,000-plus nukes are arrows in its quiver. They are meant to terrorize recalcitrant countries whose leaders don’t ask “How high?” when Washington says “Jump!” They cement our status as the self-appointed enforcer of “world order.” And they fatten the wallets of the armaments industry, which uses its considerable resources to lobby for yet more weaponry in spite of our fragile financial condition.

Obama’s pledge to reduce and eventually abolish nuclear weapons was worse than a fraud – it was a lie. We are seeing that now as he presides over the development of a whole new generation of nuclear arms. The new arms race is proceeding apace under a bipartisan consensus: together the two wings of the War Party are leading us to the day when nuclear weapons will actually be used, either deliberately or due to a tragic miscalculation.

Will Americans wake up before it’s too late?

 

Istanbul Attack: Isis May be Concluding Turkey Is No Longer a Place Where It Need Tread Carefully

January 13, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

Turkey is becoming a more dangerous place, but then so is the Middle East and North Africa and anywhere Isis can send its suicide squads. The Turkish authorities say that the bomber who killed at least 10 people, mostly German tourists, near the obelisk of Theodosius, not far from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, was a 28-year-old Saudi making it likely though not certain that Isis ordered the attack.

If Isis was behind the bombing it is important to know if this is a one-off or the start of a new campaign. In July its suicide bombers killed 30 Turks going to help rebuild the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani and in October they killed a further 100 peace demonstrators outside Ankara railway station.

By doing so, Isis succeeded in setting the political agenda by provoking a resumption of hostilities between Turks and Kurds and setting the scene for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan success in the parliamentary election on 1 November.

Isis targets civilian targets with such frequency that it is possible to read too much into a single explosion. It was presumably aimed at Turkey’s $21 billion income from tourism with an implied threat of more to come.

Turkey has been unenthusiastically sending planes to bomb Isis targets in Syria, under pressure from the US, and has arrested members of Isis cells inside Turkey. The government may not have done very much, but this is very different from the years when Isis volunteers were able to cross unimpeded the Turkish-Syrian border to reach the Islamic State.

Much of this border has been closed on the Syrian side by the advances of the Syrian Kurdish forces that now control half the 550-mile-long frontier. The Turkish government has insisted that it will not allow Kurdish forces to advance west of the Euphrates, to close off the last 60-mile long stretch of territory which is Isis’s last access and exit point with Turkey.

The US has been forcefully demanding that Turkey seal this border by stationing 30,000 soldiers on the Turkish side of the frontier, west of Jarabulus. This pressure has been growing since the Paris massacre on 13 November, in the light of evidence that the master-mind of the plot had been able to reach France from the territory controlled by Isis, by crossing easily into Turkey. A possible motive for yesterday’s bombing could be a warning that Isis will retaliate for any measures taken against it by the Turkish state. It certainly has the means to do so, because 1,000 or more of its fighters are Turks and it has pockets of committed support inside Turkey.

The violence emanating from the civil wars in Syria and Iraq has already affected Turkey. Low level guerrilla warfare between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish army is spreading across Kurdish areas of south east Turkey. President Erdogan reinforced his power at home when his party won the parliamentary election

Turkey’s influence in Syria is under threat, however, both from the Syrian Kurds – backed by US air strikes and from Russia’s extreme hostility to Turkey after Turkish jets shot down a one of its aircraft in November, in what looks like a carefully-prepared ambush. Russian military engagement in Syria makes it more difficult for Turkey to threaten to act against the Kurds there.

Isis may be concluding that Turkey is no longer a place where it need tread carefully in order to preserve official tolerance of its activities. With no sign of the war in Syria ending, the latest Istanbul bomb could be the precursor of far worse carnage.

 

Sulawesi find: 118,000-year-old stone tools point to ‘archaic group of humans’

Discovery of 311 implements on Indonesian island suggest modern humans settling there 60,000 years ago would have met an ‘isolated human lineage’

January 14, 2016

Reuters

The diminutive prehistoric human species dubbed the “Hobbit” that inhabited the Indonesian island of Flores long before the arrival of Homo sapiens apparently had company on other islands.

Stone tools that are at least 118,000 years old have been discovered on the island of Sulawesi, indicating a human presence, scientists said on Wednesday. No fossils of these individuals were found in conjunction with the tools at the site called Talepu, leaving the toolmakers’ identity a mystery.

We now have direct evidence that when modern humans arrived on Sulawesi, supposedly between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago and aided by watercraft, they must have encountered an archaic group of humans that was already present on the island long before,” said archaeologist Gerrit van den Bergh from the University of Wollongong in Australia.

Like on Flores, where Homo floresiensis evolved under isolated conditions over a period of almost 1m years, Sulawesi could also have harboured an isolated human lineage. And the search for fossil remains of the Talepu toolmaker is now open,” van den Bergh said.

The researchers described 311 stone tools, most made of a very hard limestone. Archaeologist Adam Brumm of Australia’s Griffith University said they were produced by humans striking one stone with another, fashioning smaller pieces with knife-like sharpness.

They mostly comprise simple sharp-edged flakes of stone that no doubt would have been useful for basic tasks like cutting up meat, shaping wooden implements, and so on,” Brumm said.

Found nearby were fossils of an extinct elephant relative and extinct giant pig with warthog-like tusks.

The 2004 announcement of the discovery in a Flores cave of fossils of Homo floresiensis – a species about 1.1m (3ft 6in) tall that made tools and hunted little elephants – jolted the scientific community.

Scientists have been eager to unravel the region’s history of human habitation. Sulawesi may have served as a stepping stone for the first people to reach Australia roughly 50,000 years ago.

Van den Bergh said: “Major islands such as Flores, Sulawesi, Luzon, and perhaps others as well, could have served as natural experiments in human evolution, and could throw new light on human evolution in general.”

The species who made the tools may have reached Sulawesi by drifting over the ocean on tsunami debris, he said.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Human intervention still key in Google’s self-driving cars

While tests with self-driving cars have come a long way, Google has acknowledged that human intervention is sometimes needed to prevent accidents. Vehicles without steering wheels and pedals seem a remote idea.

January 13, 2016

DW

Google’s futuristic autonomous cars have required stand-by drivers to take over the controls in 11 instances to avoid crashes, the US company has said. Nevertheless, it spoke of encouraging results given that the firm’s test fleet was logging tens of thousands of miles each month.

Google’s conceded that self-driving technology had yet to reach the goal of not needing someone behind the wheel.

The company said there were another 272 cases in which failures of the cars’ software or onboard sensors forced the stand-by driver to grab the wheel.

Detected problems included issues with the autonomous cars seeing traffic lights, yielding to pedestrians or committing traffic violations. In a number of cases, human intervention was required because other drivers were reckless.

Not quite there

In the current phase of testing, Google cars usually stay below 35 mph (56 kmh), although they are also tested on highways.

“We’re seeing a lot of improvement,” said Chris Urmson, head of Google’s self-driving car project. “But it’s not quite ready yet and that’s exactly why we test our vehicles with a steering wheel and pedals.”

Autonomous driving expert Bryant Walker Smith from the University of South Carolina said the rate of potential collisions was “not terribly high, but certainly not trivial.”

There’ll be new challenges ahead when the company starts testing the cars in more demanding environments, also allowing them to move at a much faster pace and in adverse weather conditions.

hg/cjc (AP, dpa)

 

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