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TBR News January 15, 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. 72

Date: Sunday, March 2, 1997

Commenced: 1:45 PM CST

Concluded: 2:05 PM CST

 

GD: That’s either a vacuum cleaner in the background or the Martians are attacking.

RTC: I hate to disappoint you, Gregory. It’s indeed a vacuum cleaner.

GD: Well, we have spoken about flying saucers before so I thought you might have had a run in with them. It’s amazing, the stories people believe.

RTC: Or they want to believe.

GD: Well, crazy old L. Ron Hubbard tells us that his special people, the Thetans, were flown here from outer space in DC3s.

RTC: No, not that. In what? Piston engined aircraft? From….there is no atmosphere up there.

GD: Hubbard started Scientology in the early ‘50s and his writings are full of such silliness.

RTC: A crock of shit, all of it. Still, we were watching him when he was gadding around the Med in an old tub. No one had any idea what the old nut was up to and we knew he had KGB contacts. Not that he was pro-Commie but he was one of those people who believe his own nonsense and the Russians love to get their hands on such like. Stroke him like a cat and get him to work with them. They’re smart and he’s not. We knew his high command was full of foreign agents but we had a hell of a time getting at him. Very well protected. The KGB and the Stasi for sure and we think the Chinks had a hand in the game. The FBI had some snitches planted on him but the whole thing was like play time in a nut house. Still, the old fool made hundreds of millions of dollars of the sucker brigades and it is very hard to argue with that kind of scratch.

GD: Agreed. I am still trying to make up my mind whether Hubbard was a visionary or a self-deluded crook. Your people viewed him as a spy? RTC: No, we did not but we felt he could do a lot of damage if we didn’t keep an eye on him.

GD: Did you?

RTC: Yes, we planted people with him. Strange, Gregory. The Company, the FBI, the KGB, the Stasi and others all used to work together, all playing roles. We mostly knew who the others were but just never mentioned.

GD: Hubbard died under odd circumstances out in California.

RTC: He was removed, Gregory. The old man was going around the bend and those just under him were afraid he would blow it and they would be kicked out, away from huge sums of money and with the money, growing political power.  One injection of the wrong kind and off he went to flying saucer heaven in the sky. They cremated the old man and dumped him into the ocean off the back of a fishing boat.

GD: Sic Gloria transit mundi.

RTC: Oh yes indeed..

GD: A friend of mine’s grandmother was cubically rich but getting really soft and the Scientologists got their hands on her. They wanted her to give all her money to them so my friend, knowing what I really am, came to me for assistance.

RTC: How much did you get out of it? GD: You assume I was successful in driving them off.

RTC: That’s a given.

GD: I had a terrible time, especially with Linda. She was a vicious bitch and had her hooks into the old lady very deeply. I met her several times, passed off by my friend as a nephew. God, she hated me because she could see I didn’t believe a word of her nonsense. I had my problems with that one, believe it. First off, I got the old lady to like and trust me. Believe me, I can do that when I want to. Anyway, I got a power of attorney from her, put all her money into an iron-clad trust with the interest going to her and a percentage to her grandson. I mean she was a very decent person but talking to dead relatives and losing bladder control. I got her into a really excellent nursing home that I inspected very carefully. I used to work for Catholic Charities and I know something about nursing homes. Anyway, I made sure the old girl was safe and then I dealt with Linda. She was livid with rage over my presence so I had to neutralize her. It took a baggie of heroin under the front seat of her car, a silenced pistol in the trunk and two telephone calls and Linda was trying to convert people in her cellblock.

RTC: I thought you might have dispatched her to be with Hubbard.

GD: I thought about it but it wasn’t worth it. The old lady was safe and sound and her grandson was set for life. Of course he was more than generous to me for my work but I got quite a view of the working side of the Scientology game. Very effective what with the e-meter and the gabble. A lot of pitiful dimwits running around, looking for answers from someone else. Linda bit a federal agent so they added assault to her ticket.

RTC: I take it you disapprove of the Scientologists?

GD: No, actually I don’t. I believe that everyone should find Heaven in their own way. But not on my front porch and not pushing money into the pockets of thieving politicians . I have Mormon friends and I have the highest regard for their family life. Fine people with well-raised, first class children. They have very strange beliefs but I pay more attention to what they practice rather than what they preach.

RTC: Lots of LDS people in the Bureau.

GD: High minded and honest. I have no problem with that. The problem with cults like Scientology is that they want everyone to see what they see, or think they see, and they grab you by the lapels and shout in your face…and leave literature behind. I’m a practicing agnostic and a pragmatist, Robert, but from time to time, I have to deal with nasty people like Linda. I knew a fellow that was great company until I learned that he was sexually abusing his children. It took me two weeks of hard work, Robert, but he got caught and sent off. Rob an insurance company or a bank and you get no response from me but mess with little children and you can believe me when I say that I will do everything in my power to stop it. Since I am ruthless and have no conscience whatsoever, I am usually successful. Oh yes, and going after crazy old ladies is another of my annoyances. Linda did three years and although I have not encountered her after her fall from grace, I would imagine she goes a bit more quietly now.

RTC: Given all of that, what would you do if she ran up on you now?

GD: Kill her, Robert, very dead. Take the remains out to a big hog farm and toss them over the fence. Hogs will eat anything, even dead Scientologists.

RTC: They tell me hogs are smart.

GD: They are indeed but they are a wonderful garbage disposal system. And there Linda would be…and there Linda would be…and over there, that’s Linda too! What a fate, Robert. Steaming piles of hog turds in the mud.

RTC: Gregory, you are indeed rather unique. Have you done the hog farm thing?

GD: Only God and the hogs know that one. Ask and it shall not be answered but sniff and you might find.

 

(Concluded at 2:05PM CST)

 

Americans often willing to sacrifice online privacy for utility, study finds

The Pew research shows most citizens are willing to trade some amount of privacy for useful tech services – but not without some suspicion

January 14, 2016

by Danny Yadron

The Guardian

Americans have walked a fine line on privacy in the internet age.

Taking constant pictures with iPhones is considered normal, while wearing Google Glass creeps people out. Facebook’s data analysis is OK; the National Security Agency’s isn’t.

A study released on 14 January by the Pew Research Center explains these seeming contradictions by concluding that Americans often are willing to give up some level of privacy if there is a perceived tangible benefit, at least to a point.

The survey results suggest companies such as Metromile, a San Francisco-based insurance startup that installs a tracking device in consumers’ cars, and Alphabet’s Nest team, which makes a smart thermostat, have work to do to make consumers comfortable with sharing more data.

The report is based on a survey of 461 US adults and nine online focus groups with 80 participants conducted last winter.

It found that 54% of respondents would be OK with their offices adopting security cameras to stop petty theft, even if the employers also plan to keep the cameras for performance assessments. Nearly a quarter found such an arrangement unacceptable and 21% said it depends on circumstance.

On the other hand, only 37% said it would be acceptable for car insurance companies to install a tracking device that gathers data on driving habits in exchange for lower rates.

That scenario isn’t hypothetical: Metromile offers pay-per-mile insurance if consumers install a GPS device that counts miles, and Progressive is experimenting with whether such a tracker could be used to monitor speeders. Around 45% said such an arrangement is unacceptable and 16% said it would depend.

Meanwhile, when Pew told respondents about a hypothetical thermostat that would automatically adjust room temperature as they moved around their homes, 55% said this wouldn’t be acceptable compared with 27% of whom said it would.

 

Oregon occupiers ask public for supplies: get glitter, sex toys

January 14, 2016

by Daniel Wallis

Reuters

Gifts of sex toys, glitter and nail polish are not what the armed protesters who seized a U.S. wildlife refuge in Oregon were expecting when they put out a public call for supplies to help get them through the winter.

The occupiers, who took over buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 in the latest conflict over the U.S. government’s control of land in the West, had been hoping for snacks, fuel and warm clothes when they provided sympathizers with a local mailing address.

Instead, as they angrily showed online, they received sex-related toys and food that would be of little use as they braced for a long standoff with federal law enforcement agents who have kept watch from a distance.

“It was really mind-blowing to me that people would actually spend their money … on all this hateful stuff to send out to us,” one of the occupiers, Jon Ritzheimer, said in a Facebook video this week in which he displayed items including a large sex toy and a bag of penis-shaped candies.

“It’s really ridiculous,” he said, before sweeping the pile of packages off a table and onto the floor. “We’re going to continue to do work and do good for our country. We’re not going to be deterred.”

The occupation has drawn ridicule from critics on social media who have assigned the group nicknames including #YallQaeda and #VanillaISIS in a play on militant labels.

Some online opponents delighted in the potential to send the protesters an array of packages stuffed with glitter, nail polish, pedicure socks, and perfume.

A Chicago-based designer posted an online order he made on Wednesday for a 55-gallon drum of “passion” lubricant costing more than $1,000 and addressed: “ATTN. OREGON MILITIA.”

“I hope nobody shoots me with a gun,” the designer, Max Temkin, tweeted afterward.

The Malheur occupation has also drawn anger from bird-watchers and wildlife photographers who would normally be able to enjoy viewing the species on show at the refuge.

In an open letter last week, one bird-watcher warned the protesters their every move was being watched.

“You will never see us, but we and our cameras will always see you,” wrote the author, who went by the username Norwegian Chef. “We will #takebackmalheur from you terrorists, and will not rest until every one of you thugs and poachers is behind bars where they belong.”

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Peter Cooney)

 

Oregon militia could face more than 10 years in prison, legal experts say

Ammon Bundy and his followers, who have refused to leave the Malheur national wildlife refuge, appear to have violated several laws

january 15. 2016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

Leaders of the armed militia occupying federal lands in eastern Oregon could face hefty fines and more than 10 years behind bars if government officials decide to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, legal experts say.

Ammon Bundy and his crew of rightwing anti-government followers – who have refused to leave the Malheur national wildlife refuge since they took over its headquarters on 2 January – appear to have violated a number of laws that prohibit the unauthorized use and destruction of public property.

With the militiamen’s recent announcement that they plan to soon reveal how they intend to end the occupation in rural Harney County, many in the local town of Burns and across the country are wondering whether the militia will ultimately face consequences for the armed siege of a federal wildlife sanctuary.

There are a panoply of federal statutes that focus on trespassing on federal lands and misuse of federal property,” said David Hayes, a visiting lecturer at Stanford Law School and former deputy secretary of the US Department of the Interior. “I’m confident that they will be prosecuted.”

The militia argues that they are reclaiming public land to protest government regulations and that the occupation is defending the constitutional rights of local ranchers to use federally controlled lands in their back yard. But experts say the occupiers lack any legal arguments that would shield them in court and that if charges were brought, the Bundy bunch could face substantial punishments.

Because the militia are armed and occupying a number of government buildings in a protected wildlife sanctuary, federal prosecutors would have jurisdiction to bring charges under multiple laws.

For starters, one federal statute regarding public property holds that if a person “knowingly converts to his use” property of the federal government, that person could face a fine and a prison sentence of up to 10 years if the value of the property is greater than $1,000.

Another federal law specifically governing wildlife refuges says that willful property destruction at protected sanctuaries could yield a six-month prison sentence. A separate statute says that if someone “willfully and maliciously” destroys property on certain federal lands, then he or she could face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison.

On Monday, Bundy and a group of prominent members of the militia removed part of a government fence dividing private and public lands – in front of news cameras – using a US Fish and Wildlife Service excavator.

Over the past two weeks, the militia have made themselves at home in a number of federal buildings, using the site’s kitchens, beds, offices, museum and other buildings. The Guardian has repeatedly witnessed occupiers driving federal vehicles around the compound. Other reporters have also observed members of the militia accessing government computers and possibly using employee ID badges left on site.

What’s more, another federal statute prohibits the possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities, with only limited exceptions for law enforcement. Violation of that statute could lead to a fine and a one-year prison sentence. If someone intended to use the weapon in the commission of a crime, then the sentence could be five years.

The occupiers, and the numerous outside “patriot” militia groups , have walked around the compound openly carrying a range of firearms.

Debra Donahue, law professor at the University of Wyoming, said that there are also Oregon anti-trespassing laws that local prosecutors could review when considering charges.

Whether prosecutors ultimately decide to charge the occupiers with the most serious offenses remains to be seen. “There’s always prosecutorial discretion,” said Donahue. “It strikes me as more likely that some sort of compromise agreement will be reached.”

Tim Colahan, Harney County district attorney, said in an email that he is working with county, state and federal law enforcement agencies and is discussing the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Harney County judge Steve Grasty, one of the most vocal local opponents of the militia, said the occupiers should be held accountable, but that his biggest priority was finding a way to get them to leave as soon as possible. “They’ve destroyed public property, federal property,” said Grasty, whose local judicial position is an administrative one. “Surely there are crimes there and I think for anyone committing crimes, there ought to be punishment.”

Hayes said it was likely that prosecutors would go after the high-profile leaders of the militia, as opposed to charging all participants who have trespassed and camped out in the federal buildings.

Hayes argued that there have to be serious charges in this case otherwise anti-government activists will continue to form militia and launch these kinds of aggressive protests. The Oregon militia was emboldened to take over federal lands, in part because Cliven Bundy, Ammon’s father, has evaded consequences for a similar standoff with the government in 2014, he said.

If you let again and again activities go forward that are clearly against the law with no legal consequences, you lose all respect for the law,” Hayes said. “That would be a huge problem for the foundation of our democracy.”

 

More aid reaches trapped Syrians; doubts cast on peace talks

January 14, 2016

Reuters

 

NEAR MADAYA, Syria/BEIRUT/GENEVA-A second batch of aid reached a besieged Syrian town and two trapped villages on Thursday and the United Nations accused rival factions of committing war crimes by causing civilians to starve to death.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said aid trucks had entered the town of Madaya near the border with Lebanon, and the villages of Kefraya and al-Foua in Idlib province in the northwest. Syrian state media said six trucks had gone into Madaya.

For months, tens of thousands have been blockaded by government troops in Madaya and surrounded by rebel forces in the two villages.

“According to the ICRC team that entered Madaya, the people were very happy, even crying when they realized that wheat flour is on the way,” Dominik Stillhart, International Committee of the Red Cross director of operations, said in New York.

Aid officials hoped to bring in more supplies, with fuel deliveries set for Sunday, according to Stillhart.

“We hope … this effort will continue,” said Yacoub El Hillo, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, who accompanied the convoy.

A senior U.N. human rights official said the use of starvation as a weapon was a war crime.

“Starving civilians is a war crime under international humanitarian law and of course any such act deserves to be condemned, whether it’s in Madaya or Idlib,” said U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid bin Ra’ad.

“Should there be prosecutions? Of course. At the very least there should be accountability for these crimes.”

“ATROCIOUS ACTS”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Syria’s warring parties, particularly the government, were committing “atrocious acts” and “unconscionable abuses” against civilians.

“Let me be clear: the use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime,” Ban told reporters.

The siege of Madaya, where people have reportedly died of starvation, has become a focal issue for Syrian opposition groups who want all such blockades lifted before they enter negotiations with the government planned for Jan. 25.

A prominent member of the political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters that date was unrealistic, reiterating opposition demands for the lifting of sieges, a ceasefire and the release of detainees before negotiations.

“I personally do not think Jan. 25 is a realistic date for when it will be possible to remove all obstacles facing the negotiations,” George Sabra told Reuters.

A total of 45 trucks carrying food and medical supplies were due to be delivered to Madaya, and 18 to al-Foua and Kefraya on Thursday, aid officials said.

The Syrian Observatory said it had recorded 27 deaths in Madaya from malnutrition and lack of medical supplies, and at least 13 deaths in al-Foua and Kefraya due to lack of medical supplies.

The population of Madaya is estimated at 40,000, while about 20,000 live in al-Foua and Kefraya.

“The scenes we witnessed in Madaya were truly heartbreaking,” said Marianne Gasser, the most senior official with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria.

“The conditions are some of the worst that I have witnessed in my five years in the country. This cannot go on,” she said.

PEACE TALKS

The talks planned for Jan. 25 in Geneva are part of a peace process endorsed by the U.N. Security Council last month in a rare display of international agreement on Syria, where the war has killed 250,000 people.U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said after meeting representatives of the United States, Russia and other powers on Wednesday that Jan. 25 was still the intended date.

Russia said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would meet in Zurich on Wednesday, five days before the talks date.

But even with the backing of the United States and Russia, which support opposite sides in the conflict, the peace process faces formidable obstacles.

 

No boots on the ground? Pentagon plans to help retake ISIS hotbeds Raqqa and Mosul

January 14, 2016

RT

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said the Pentagon plans to defeat Islamic State militants by helping local forces to retake Mosul and Raqqa. The Pentagon chief also said a commando task force is already on the ground in Iraq.

Carter was speaking at Fort Campbell on Wednesday to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which will deploy to Iraq. He said that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) would face “the long arm and the hard fist of justice.”

In Iraq and Syria, Carter added, the coalition will try to cut off key transit routes to Raqqa and Mosul, thus preventing Islamic State from moving militants to and from those locations, according to a Pentagon press release.

The bottom line of the plan is to help the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces retake Mosul in northern Iraq, while assisting “moderate” Syrian forces in ousting IS militants from the Syrian town of Raqqa.

The specialized expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL’s fighters and commanders, killing or capturing them wherever we find them, along with other key targets,” Carter said.

Pentagon chief also said about 200 US special forces troops are already on the ground in Iraq.

He declared the plan would “deliver lasting defeat” over IS, but told the troops the US-led war on the terrorist group is far from over and warned the nation “extraordinary challenges are ahead.”

About 500 troops from the 101st Airborne headquarters group will deploy at the end of February, according to Associated Press. About 1,300 troops of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Iraq in late spring. The brigade will train Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.

The US already has some 3,500 troops in Iraq, mostly working as advisers and trainers for the country’s security forces.“That means everybody has to be in the game,” Carter said, meaning Washington will urge its allies France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK to step up the fight against IS.

Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organization and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field,” he said

Damascus has repeatedly dismissed the US-led operation against IS as ineffective, saying the Western airstrikes target mostly civilian infrastructure to destroy the “capacities of the Syrian people” and complicate post-war reconstruction.

 

US, Iran Step Back From the Brink

January 15, 2016

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

To awaken Thursday to front-page photos of U.S. sailors kneeling on the deck of their patrol boat, hands on their heads in postures of surrender, on Iran’s Farsi Island, brought back old and bad memories.

In January 1968, LBJ’s last year, 82 sailors of the Pueblo were captured by North Korea and held hostage with Captain Lloyd “Pete” Bucher, and abused and tortured for a year before release.

In the final 444 days of the Carter presidency, 52 Americans were held hostage in Tehran, and released only when Ronald Reagan raised his hand to take the oath.

In 2001, under George W. Bush, an EP-3 with 24 crew members was crashed by a Chinese fighter and forced to land on Hainan Island, where they were held for 11 days until we expressed “sorrow.” Compared to these hostage-takings, the Farsi Island incident does not seem serious. Its resolution within hours by Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggests that Iran wants nothing to halt implementation, just days away, of the nuclear deal that will release $100 billion in frozen assets.

Facilitating the sailors’ release was a taped admission by one, identified as the “commander,” who called Iran’s treatment of the sailors “fantastic,” and said the intrusion into Iranian waters “was a mistake. That was our fault. And we apologize for our mistake.”

Still, what the reactions to this incident reveal is that not only is the United States dealing with a divided regime and nation in Iran, the U.S. is itself divided on what course to pursue with Iran.

“This administration’s craven desire to preserve the dangerous Iranian nuclear deal at all costs evidently knows no limits,” said John McCain. He castigated U.S. officials, presumably including Kerry, for “falling all over themselves to offer praise for Iran’s graciousness in detaining our ships and service members.

Marco Rubio, inflamed over the treatment of the sailors, pledged anew to kill the nuclear deal on his first day in office. But by then Iran will have complied with its terms and gotten its cash.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi warned that “the USS Truman aircraft carrier showed unprofessional moves for 40 minutes after the detention of the trespassers.”

Fadavi added that Iran “was highly prepared with our coast-to-sea missiles” and “missile launching speedboats” to strike, had the U.S. warship taken action. Last fall, Iran tested two ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and a missile boat a mile from the Truman test-fired a rocket in the opposite direction.

There may be bluster and bluff in this. But if the RGC had fired at the Truman, that would have brought swift retaliation and a possible air, naval and missile war in the Persian Gulf.

Any prospective U.S. detente with Iran would be dead.

And, truth be told, some Americans, Saudis, Sunni Arabs and Israelis, who regard Iran as an existential threat, would relish seeing U.S. power unleashed against Iran.

So, too, many of the mullahs and Revolutionary Guard Corps might welcome a clash to abort the nuclear deal, restore the purity of their revolution, and rout the allies of President Hassan Rouhani in the February elections.

Indeed, assuming no clash in the next six weeks, the date to watch is Feb. 26, when elections are held for control of Iran’s 290-seat assembly.

A Guardian Council has power to disqualify candidates and it is likely that of the 12,000 who have filed, many will be purged for not supporting the principles of the Islamic Republic as required.

Yet, if President Rouhani, his prestige enhanced by the nuclear deal, to which all five U.N. Security Council members have signed on, and with billions being released to Iran, wins, a brighter day will begin.

And the world will await the reaction of the defeated hard-liners.

That same Feb. 26, elections are to be held for the 88-seat clerical Experts Assembly, which will choose the successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, himself the successor, 25 years ago, to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founding father of the revolution.

Rumors of Khamenei’s deteriorating health – he reportedly has suffered from stage 4 prostate cancer – could mean the Experts Assembly will be naming soon a new Supreme Leader of Iran.

The Feb. 26 elections could thus decide whether there is to be a cold peace between the United States and Iran, or a new war in the Middle East.

In the summer of 1914, the Great War came because, in the great capitals – Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Paris, London – those who saw war as a disaster for civilization were outmaneuvered by more resolute men who saw war as the opportunity to smash hated rivals once and for all.

Anti-war Americans and Iranians won this one; they will have to win them all. The war parties, here and over there, need win only once.

Fearmongering Around Muslim Immigrants Echoes Anti-Asian Hysteria of Past

January 14, 2016

byMurtaza Hussain

The Intercept

On May 6, 1882 U.S. President Chester Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first in a series of discriminatory legal measures aimed at curbing immigration from Asia. Speaking at the time of its passage, California Sen. John F. Miller, a leading proponent of the law, declared that the Chinese were “an inferior sort of men” and that “Chinese civilization in its pure essence appears as a rival to American civilization. It is a product of a people alien in every characteristic to our people, and it has never yet produced and can never evolve any form of government other than an imperial despotism. Free government is incompatible with it, and both cannot exist together.”

There are echoes of Miller’s demagoguery, and of contemporaneous warnings about the supposed “Yellow Peril” posed by East Asians, in the warnings politicians and prominent media figures issue today about allegedly unassimilable immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries.

The type of rhetoric we’re seeing today about Muslims is both very similar and also slightly different from that which was used to describe Asian immigrants in the past,” said University of Minnesota professor Erika Lee. A specialist in immigration studies, Lee is also author of the 2015 book The Making of Asian America, which chronicles in part the anti-Asian sentiment that new arrivals often had to contend with. “Like Muslims, Asian immigrants were characterized as a slowly creeping civilizational threat to the security and integrity of the United States, but today, with Muslims, there is also the additional allegation that they have a violent intent to overthrow the existing order.”

In recent months, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that all Muslims should be barred from entering the U.S., even for temporary travel, while “establishment” candidates such as Jeb Bush have also made discriminatory proposals, such as forcing refugees from Syria to “prove” that they are in fact Christians before granting them asylum. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has publicly described the immigration of Muslims to the United States as an “invasion,” while Ben Carson recently accused Muslims attending the State of the Union address of being part of a “civilizational jihad” intended to change the United States from a “Judeo-Christian foundation to a Muslim foundation.”

There has also been the insistence by some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, that the United States is not just engaged in a conflict with an array of terrorist groups but instead a full-blown “clash of civilizations.” Such statements ironically echo the Manichaean narrative of extremist groups like the Islamic State, while further adding to the environment of fear and hostility toward ordinary Muslims in the United States.

The fearmongering around Muslims entering the U.S. resembles not only the earlier panic over East Asian immigrants but around Jewish refugees, as well, as my colleague Lee Fang has written.

Polls have shown that proposed anti-Muslim legal measures enjoy significant popularity in the United States, not only among Republicans but with many Democrats as well. The December passage of bill HR-158, a modification to the Visa Waiver Program that restricts the travel rights of people whose “national origin” is from Iran, Sudan, Iraq, or Syria, has been characterized by some as the first successful attempt to begin to turn these popular sentiments into law. Further measures that would effectively halt refugee applications from Iraq and Syria are also currently under debate.

For many years, Asian-Americans were similarly targeted by politicians and media figures for opprobrium, eventually giving rise to popular support for harsh legislation targeting their community. Following the passage of the 1882 Exclusion Act, further measures like the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917 contributed to even greater restrictions on travel and immigration to the United States from many Asian countries.

Japanese-Americans and Muslims in particular share another touchstone experience: a major attack on U.S. soil to which their community was ascribed collective blame. Following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II, Japanese-Americans were subjected to an unprecedented degree of hostility and scrutiny, particularly by mainstream media figures. “After Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans not only saw their travel restricted, but they came to be viewed by many Americans as an advance guard for a hostile power,” Lee said. “There were allegations throughout the media that they represented a fifth column in American society, and that ultimately their allegiance would lie with the Japanese Emperor instead of the United States.”

Nationally syndicated newspaper pundits played a key role in the campaign for punitive measures against Japanese-Americans, including internment. In the Washington Post, popular syndicated columnist Westbrook Pegler wrote in favor of mass internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, declaring, “To hell with habeas corpus until the danger is over.” Some were even more frank in their racist attitudes; syndicated columnist Henry Mclemore wrote at the time that “If making one million innocent Japanese uncomfortable would prevent one scheming Japanese from costing the life of one American boy, then let the million innocents suffer.” Despite government intelligence reports into the Japanese-American community that concluded there was “no Japanese problem,” and that indeed many were “pathetically eager” to show their loyalty to the United States, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the authorization for mass internment. Right up to the time the order was signed, the media campaign against the Japanese community continued, with the Washington Post publishing a now-infamous editorial by columnist Walter Lippmann describing Japanese-Americans as “The Fifth Column on the Coast.”

Decades later, a congressional study commissioned to look into the internment order said that the decision had been undertaken not for legitimate security reasons, but rather as a result of ”racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.” Indeed, a key part of this wartime hysteria was the role media demagogues played in engendering an atmosphere of distrust and hate toward Japanese-Americans, despite government determinations that they were broadly innocent of the dual-loyalty charges leveled against them.

Given the depressingly negative sentiment that exists today in much of the popular discourse against Muslims, many see parallels with the shameful period of anti-Asian bigotry in the United States that culminated in racist policies like the exclusion laws and mass detention. This week, a group of 4,600 educators from across the country published an open letter in the New York Times speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry. The letter cited the history of racist policies and anti-immigrant policies in the United States, specifically mentioning Japanese internment, while warning that “we could head down a similarly dark path today.”

There have been similarly xenophobic sentiments in this country in the past, including about Asian and Jewish immigrants, but what is remarkable today is the increasing intensity of it as it focuses upon Muslims as a group,” said Melanie Nezer, vice president of policy and advocacy at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “If the goal of this kind of anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim rhetoric is to achieve security, it certainly doesn’t accomplish that. What it does is inflame fears, and it has the potential to incite violence against people living peacefully in this country.”

 

Civilian defense groups on the rise in Germany

January 14, 2016

DW

In the wake of the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne, small groups of civilian vigilantes have emerged. But some security experts warn that, in some cases, they’re a cover for right-wing extremism.

The initiatives range from neighborhood watch groups to far-right groups that aren’t afraid to use violence. They don’t always call themselves civilian defense corps – perhaps because it sounds too militaristic and would soon rouse the authorities. After all, the police are responsible for maintaining security in Germany; civilians aren’t allowed to start playing sheriff when they feel like it.

But the Cologne attacks seem to have created a new, threatening atmosphere. Some civilian defense groups, such as a Düsseldorf initiative, even reference the attacks directly. Thousands of people have joined the Facebook group “One for all, all for one… Düsseldorf keeping watch.” According to the information on its page, the group says its mission is to watch out for “our women” in places where danger might lurk. The group plans to patrol together on weekends or at special events. “I don’t think that free people should have to be intimidated because they’re scared,” organizer Tofigh Hamid told German broadcaster Sat.1, adding that the group is non-violent and non-racist.

Attracting the right wing

But the same cannot be said for all of these groups. Gordian Meyer-Plath is the president of the state of Saxony’s office for domestic intelligence. He recently gave an interview to the “Leipziger Volkszeitung” in which he spoke of a strong increase in civilian defense corps founded or supported by right-wing populists or far-right extremists. Jena-based sociologist Matthias Quent said there is a danger that people who haven’t previously had contact with the right-wing extremist scene could be drawn into the milieu by getting involved with these groups.

Meyer-Plath said he is concerned with a group known as “Civilian Defense FTL/360” in the Saxon city of Freital, which has been in the headlines previously because of massive anti-refugee demonstrations. The group formed after two Moroccans reportedly harassed and beat up students on the number 360 bus, hence the name. Since then, members have been patrolling buses to “keep the peace.” One of the members of the “Civilian Defense Corps Güstrow” in the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is Nils Matischent, a representative from Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party, and a man with a criminal record. And in the Lower Saxon town of Schwanenwede, a group of “neighborhood watch guards” marched in front of a refugee shelter last fall.

The president of Thuringia’s domestic intelligence office, Stephan Kramer, told German news agency dpa that there’s a reason why civilian defense groups attract right-wing extremists. He said they use either a real or perceived threat “not just to question the state’s ability to deal with the threat, but to deliberately ridicule and undermine the state. These groups also offer right-wing extremists a sense of belonging, and an opportunity to appear in a militaristic manner, as well as to marginalize minorities in order to make themselves more important.”

Not every group illegal

“It is the responsibility of the police to maintain security in public spaces,” said Jörg Radek, deputy chairman of the police union. And a spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry stressed that “the formation of parallel structures must absolutely be prevented.” But civilian defense groups are not illegal per se. There is nothing illegal, for example, about a group of neighbors getting together to keep watch and prevent robberies. They are not allowed to arm themselves or use violence, and they are also not allowed to search suspected thieves or ask them to identify themselves, even if the person is behaving suspiciously. Only if a thief is caught in the act can a civilian detain him or her until the police arrive.

Kramer, the chief intelligence officer for Thuringia, doesn’t see a need to monitor civilian defense groups across the board. He said it depends on their activities. Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer also took a more relaxed view in a recent interview with the “Neue Presse2 newspaper in Hanover:

“Civilian defense groups tend not to do much harm, but neither do they increase security in any way.” One reason for this is that the groups have no way of knowing where a dangerous situation might unfold. The groups also have a tendency to fizzle out after a few weeks, for the simple reason that “people who work don’t have time for such things.”

The recently founded Düsseldorf initiative seems to confirm this assessment. Although more than 10,000 people ready to protect women joined the group on Facebook, only a few dozen turned out for the latest patrol last Saturday.

 

Goldman Sachs reaches $5bn settlement over mortgage-backed securities

The agreement will resolve civil claims related to the Wall Street firm’s securitization, underwriting and sale of the mortgages from 2005 to 2007

January 14, 2016

Reuters

Goldman Sachs has said it will pay $5.06bn to resolve civil claims related to the firm’s securitization, underwriting and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007.

The agreement with regulators will reduce earnings for the fourth quarter by about $1.5bn after tax, Goldman said in a statement.

The Wall Street bank, which is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings next week, said it will pay a $2.385bn civil monetary penalty, make $875m in cash payments and provide $1.8bn in consumer relief

The bank will offer a reduction in unpaid principal for affected homeowners and borrowers, financing for construction and debt support, among other things.

The agreement in principle will resolve actual and potential civil claims by the US Department of Justice, the New York and Illinois attorney generals, the National Credit Union Administration and the federal home loan Banks of Chicago and Seattle, the company said.

Goldman Sachs’ shares were marginally down in extended trading on Thursday.

 

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