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TBR News January 20, 2016

Jan 20 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 20, 2016: “There has been ongoing talk about the power of the PRC in the world ecnonic, and military, fields. In fact, China is on the edge of a major collapse. Her economy is a bubble, she has overpopulation, the glacial sources for her rivers are drying up and a combination of the Gobi desert to the west of Beijing and fumes from coal-burning factories have enshrouded the Chinese capital in dense clouds of unbreathable smog. But China, according to an important intercept, is looking with hunger at their northern neighbor, Siberia. Very under-populated, rich in natural resources and fresh water, Siberia looks very tempting to Beijing. The only problem is that Siberia belongs to Russia and the Chinese just can’t move en masse into it. Their plan, this report discusses, is to somehow involve Russia and the United States into some kind of major conflict and then move in when the Russians can’t spare the troops to stop them. This fascinating material comes from Japan, a country that has been watching Chinese expansionism with some concern.”


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 7

January 19, 2016


The Department of Defense is organizing itself to address the effects of climate change on the U.S. military, some of which are already being felt.

“The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military,” according to a Pentagon directive that was issued last week. See Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, DoD Directive 4715.21, January 14, 2016.

Among other things, the new directive requires the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate on “risks, potential impacts, considerations, vulnerabilities, and effects [on defense intelligence programs] of altered operating environments related to climate change and environmental monitoring.”

“The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk,” DoD said last year in a report to Congress.

“We are already observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America…. Although DoD and the Combatant Commands cannot prepare for every risk and situation, the Department is beginning to include the implications of a changing climate in its frameworks for managing operational and strategic risks prudently.” See National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate, DoD report to Congress, July 2015.

“We are almost done with a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability of our military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities,” wrote then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in a 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. “In places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years.”

“Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning,” Secretary Hagel wrote. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” said Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in a 2012 tweet that has been retweeted more than 24,000 times. (h/t Ed Husain)


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.



Conversation No. 77

Date: Tuesday, March 4, 1997

Commenced: 2:30 PM CST

Concluded:: 3:10 PM CST


GD: It’s a little late in the day., Robert. Am I OK on my timing?

RTC: Not a problem, Gregory. Lunch is over long ago. I did hear from Bill last night about that material on Hillary.

GD: What about it?

RTC: Oh, it’s all true but it will never get into the papers. Those things never do.

GD: Some of it, the stuff about Bob Treuhaft in Oakland, did. In the Chronicle.

RTC: A fluke. What was your source? GD: Military collector who was also in the California State Police office in Sacramento. He copied the file and sent it to me.

RTC: Well, they aren’t up for reelection so there’s no point in beating a dead horse. But not a surprise.

GD: I suppose with her background, when they get out of office, the pair of them, she can become the mayor of Skokie or if we have another Democrat president, the ambassador to Israel.

RTC: Sad to say but they’re everywhere you look these days. Back in the reign of Franklin I, they filled the ranks of State and stood right next to the Oval Office. Of course, they pilfered all our secrets and sent them off to Russia. That was their new homeland, after all, and Stalin loved them. Or so they thought. When Bill and I were working on our KGB book, I discovered that Joe hated them and when they managed to kill him with rat poison, was planning a super pogrom in Moscow. No, the regular Russians loathe and fear them and now that Putin is coming up, they are fleeing to Israel like fleas leaving a dead dog. The problem with this, as we know, is that the ranks of Israeli intelligence are now full of fresh blood what with the refusedniks pouring into the country and believe me, Gregory, any scrap of secret information, every secret code, that we mistakenly give to the Israeli government will end up in Moscow about ten seconds after they get it. Multiply Pollard about a hundred times and you’ll see the real picture. I told Jim dozens of times to keep away from the Hebrews but Jim never listened. He was hip deep with the mob but they weren’t trying to sell the dreaded white man down the river like the Jews do. My God, I wouldn’t let them into my department because I know what they’re like but they’ve gotten in the door elsewhere.  Polland was only the tip of a huge iceberg.

GD: None of that comes as a great surprise. They managed to start the Second World War and I agree that they pumped Stalin full of state secrets and you know my connection with the Pollard business. In any other country, they would have taken the little shit out for a very long walk on a very short pier. Well, maybe some patriotic con will get an early parole by sticking a file into his liver.

RTC: One hopes, one hopes. But in a way, I feel sorry for Russia. That was quite a game after Yeltsin got in, let me tell you. Old Boris the drunk was ours, bought and paid for. The drill was for Boris to privatize the Russian natural resources and let our people…our oil people really…get their hands on everything. How did we do it? We located a bunch of street thugs. Drug dealers, whoremongers, porn merchants and especially extortionists, set them up as businessmen, get them funded, let them buy up all  the oil, steel and aluminum former Soviet corporations and then sell the stock off to our companies. The thing is, all of these thugs and murderers, because that’s what they are, are Jewish street bandits, all of them. And they got their co-religionists in the IMF and the World Bank to help them with capital both from us and from Israel. And they did buy up everything at rigged auctions and they did make deals with the big US oil people. You fancy yourself a newspaperman , Gregory? I’ll give you an inside story but I beg you not to use me as a source….

GD: Never…

RTC: An Israeli owns the Bank of New York and they are using it to launder billions in stolen Jewish Mafia money. I mean money from Russia. Billions. And our people have been helping the Hebes set up Swiss bank accounts. Before that, they used to keep the money under the bed in bags but now they can buy expensive suits, that the tasteless shits wear with tennis shoes, and strut their stuff in international society. I can give you some inside information on this and you could expose some of it. It needs to be done but you’ll never see a word of it in the New York Times or the Post. Why not? Because these organs of truth and light are owned by Jews and Jews never go after their own kind.

GD: I could go to Carto. He would love this.

RTC: Any old port in a story, Gregory. I have names. One of my friends down there gave them to me.

GD: I have good connections with the Swiss. If I could get the names, perhaps I could get the account information.  The Bank of New York?

RTC: Yes. One of the oldest banks in this country. Hamilton founded it. The Jews have it now and more money goes in and out of it than the US Treasury. Kimmel knows about this so do not ever tell him about this conversation or that you are working on this. I can send you my entire file on all of this and you can take it from there. And if you have friends in Switzerland, be sure to look for the black accounts, not the white ones. These greaseballs always have a white account with a few thousand in it and a black one with billions. That way, if an official request is made, say be us, the Swiss can put up a show of resistance and then break down and give us the smaller one. The black accounts.

GD: Sounds good.

RTC: And I can give you the name of at least two Russian intelligence people here who are disguised as newspaper men and you can contact either or both and pass on the information. They would love you, Gregory, and it might lead you to make more friends. You certainly wouldn’t have any in the Jewish camp.

That moron Bronfman, the booze king, has delusions of grandeur, and thinks he is going to push the Swiss around so you can kick him in his flabby ass for me. My God, I hate to deal with these swine, believe me. The biggest pack of thieves, murderers and back stabbers I have ever run into and believe me, I have seen them all. And there’re a lot more bits and pieces I can pull together for you but again, mention none of this to Kimmel and if he ever starts to talk about this, say nothing. Understood?

GD: Is the FBI involved?

RTC: Not that I know but they all suck on the same tit so be careful.

GD: What do you see as the end result of outing them? RTC: Hopefully, enough publicity to slow them down in this country. They own the press and the banks and dig in like maggots in a side of beef so if the public gets wind of the enormity of their thefts, they can watch them. Ah, but in Russia, the Putin people will love you. Putin, as I understand it, wants to stop this drain on Russian oil and kick the Jews out of power. And, of course, like a good KGB officer that he is, kick the US in the nuts. But, I think uprooting the Hebrews and outing them outweighs a boot in the testes.

GD: Collateral damage.

RTC: How astute, Gregory. Let me tell you, my boy, the whole world would be far better off if some rag head set off an atomic bomb in downtown Tel Aviv during Passover. I know that sounds terrible but from my years of experience, that game would well be worth the candle. I tell you, if we don’t put a stop to their burrowing,  treachery and high treason, those filthy Yids will drag us into a nasty war with the Arabs. I mean it. None of them care a fig about this country. Everything for that miserable habitat of warped trolls and nothing for anyone else. No wonder they have been hated and persecuted for thousands of years. The Romans had a wonderful chance to advance civilization by killing them all off but they missed their opportunity.

GD: The tsars should have chased them all into Siberia and we would have been spared Bolshevism.

RTC: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And now they want to kill off all the Arabs in the Near East and move into their homes. And they would expect us to help them. I tell you that if we don’t get our nose out of Israel’s hairy ass, the Arabs will come after us as well. America has no business over there and Israel is not our friend. America is full of white Christians and Jews hate all Christians and do their best to rape, loot and pillage us, all in the name of greater Israel. Well, not in my lifetime but maybe in yours, Gregory, in yours.

GD: If you send me the papers, I will do my best.

RTC: Expose and derail. They have already looted England and Poland and now they’re raping Russia and we’re next on the menu.  And their creepy Mossad agents are crawling all over this country as well. The FBI knows about this so that’s one of the reasons to keep quiet around Kimmel. You tell him anything hot and juicy and Tom will burn the line to the headquarters. Once they have it, the Jews will have their hands on it in seconds and they can either put a few pounds of cocaine in your car or shoot your crippled mother as a warning. Say nothing and publish.

GD: Good advice. I recall an conversation I once had with a Pole. He said they Poles hated the Germans but one good thing was that Hitler cleaned the Jews out of Poland. Did you know that after the war when the Jewish refugees went back to Poland, the locals used to chase them into barns, lock them in and barbecue them? Last major pogrom in Europe was in Poland in ’46. In fact, Stalin…I mean in ’39 when Hitler went into Poland, about three hundred thousand Polish Jews fled eastwards to find security in the friendly bosom of Mother Russia. Stalin did not want any more Jews so he ordered the border guards, the NKVD, to shoot anyone trying to cross the border. They wiped out the lot of them. And now, of course, the Germans get the blame.

RTC: The older ones still love Stalin. Well, isn’t truth relative, Gregory?

GD: Depends on who wins, doesn’t it?

RTC:Well, I’ll dig out some of the papers on this business and send them off to you. Probably after the next weekend. I can’t get to the post office but I can get my son to do it. I hate to drag him into this but I have no choice here.

GD: Well, if it’s too much trouble to…

RTC: No, not a problem. The is not a damned thing I can do about these assholes but perhaps you can.

GD: I might get it in Carto’s paper but I doubt if anyone else will touch it.

RTC: You will shake up the FBI if you publish but does this bother you? GD: Why should it?

RTC: DC is so incestuous, Gregory, so involved. Everyone is so self-important.

GD: My impression has been that they want to be important but never will be anything but pointy headed hacks and wannabees. I am sure there are smart people in DC but I have yet to encounter one.

RTC: I know a few but you have a point. Here, we have spent this entire conversation trashing the Jews. God help both of us if someone is tapping our phones.

GD: You’re retired and I am no one so I don’t worry about myself. I suppose what with the collapse of the Soviet Union, all your people are happy.

RTC: Well, James Joyce said that: In moments of happiness, don’t despair, tragedy lurks around the next corner.

GD: Always. Tragedy would be the Jews tricking or forcing us into a war somewhere to help them out. A lot of dead young men, slaughtered Arabs and Tel Aviv rubbing its hands in glee. Or they can do it on their own and invade some place without soldiers around to shoot back and kill fifty children in a Syrian school. Of course these dead toddlers would be proclaimed in the New York Times as a training camp for Arab militants. Of course, out public wouldn’t really care about this. I wonder what would happen if the Arabs blew up one of
our day care centers? My God, what a howl that would bring out. Of course we both know that they did it to teach us a lesson for our support of a rogue state. Ah, the Skokie crowd cheers us onwards, over the edge. If that happens they will all run to Toronto which a friend tells me is crawling with them. They even have special lamp posts there.

RTC: The better to hang them on, Gregory.

GD: It might come to that yet, Robert. But enough amusing talk. When you were talking about the take-over of Russian gas and oil and so on, were they successful? I mean your people?

RTC: Oh, yes, they achieved their initial goal. But then the Jews got too greedy and too public with their wealth and I think now, Putin will pull them all down, one by one. And I also think there will eventually be serious problems with America’s banking system. It’s totally corrupt, Gregory, and, like the oil barons of Russia, getting too arrogant. If we were to try to restructure America, we would have to start by reforming the banks and then reestablish the press as independent entities. But to accomplish this, we have to take into consideration that the banks, the media and, to a lesser degree, our intelligence agencies, are firmly in the hands of Jewish interests. These people are not operating for the good of the public but for their own little cliques and more seriously, solely for the interests of Israel. Mark you, Gregory, that miserable dwarf country will drag this powerful country into ruin unless someone puts a stop to it. But, I suppose, it’s the old question of who will bell the cat.

GD: Why not let nature, or time, take its course, Robert? None of what you talk about is new, at least not from a historical point of view. Happened before and will happen again. Watch and wait is what I say.

(Concluded at 3:10 CST)


Bulldozers pull down Calais Jungle as authorities relocate migrants to container camp

January 19, 2016


Diggers and bulldozers protected by riot police have begun carving a path towards the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp – home to thousands of refugees – after authorities told the migrants to move into new housing so the original makeshift camp can be destroyed.

French authorities want to create a 100-meter buffer zone between the Calais camp and the bordering motorway to protect thousands of lorries from migrant attacks, as the refugees try to board trucks headed to the UK.

The migrants are invited to move from the tents to go into the containers and the facilities that have been fitted,” Philippe Mignonet, deputy mayor of Calais, told RT. “There have been lots of things created there which are illegal and they must disappear, as simple as that, they must disappear.” Last week the city’s authorities gave Calais Jungle residents until last Thursday to leave the area, but extended the grace period until Monday. Ahead of the clean-up effort, many of those living in the Jungle had already moved into 125 homes formed from converted shipping containers in an area adjacent to the camp.

We think if we move in we will be first in line for asylum in Britain,” Afghan refugee Azatullah Sisiqi told RT.

Yet over 1,500 refugees have refused to move.

Opting to live in a 12-bed container fitted with electricity and heating requires migrant finger prints prior to entry, something that many feel would ruin their chances of crossing the English Channel.

“There [in the containers] they are like in the zoo! Here we are wild and free! They have a prison there, the police force you to stay in France. If the police come we will refuse to move, [we] want to be free and to go to England,” said Sajawal Abbas, a refugee from Pakistan.

Refugee supporters and campaign groups such as No Borders have criticized the introduction of the container village, calling it a “concentration camp.”


Kids could die in the cold’: the race to rehouse Calais refugees

Hundreds of refugees have been evicted as ‘buffer zone’ is cleared in the Jungle – but there are deep suspicions about alternatives offered by authorities

January 19, 2016

by Karen McVeigh, Kim Willsher and Angelique Chrisafis

The Guardian

It began before dawn, as French police sealed off the main road into the Calais refugee camp. Shortly after first light, a group of around 40 police with riot shields and protective headgear arrived near the south west entrance to the shanty town, home to an estimated 5000 migrants, as a bulldozer began to flatten and clear trees behind them.

But despite protest plans by migrants who threatened to stand their ground by migrants who threatened to stand their ground, the start of the clearance operation to evict an estimated 1,500 people from dwellings in a “buffer zone” marked out by the French prefecture passed off peacefully, largely due to warnings given and to the actions of an army of volunteers, who worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to clear the area

On Monday, the riot police faced only journalists and a few volunteers across a span of grassland where empty tents, sleeping bags, old clothes and other detritus of human habitation were gently blowing in the freezing wind. A couple of hours later, the police were gone, leaving a lone bulldozer to flatten the land.

This was the Eritrean area,” said Nico Stevens, of HelpRefugees – one of several organisations involved in the mammoth task of moving purpose-built wooden dwellings from one area of the Jungle to another – pointing to one structure artfully insulated with duvets woven behind wooden walls. A pink Peppa Pig remained on the floor amid a scramble of toys.

There were lots of women here. They were moved up towards the church.”

Through social media, HelpRefugees were able to call on more than 100 volunteers, many from the UK. Over the last week, people have sent pallets, sleeping bags and even vehicles, to be used to move the migrants safely from the buffer zone.

All 1,500 people have been successfully moved to other parts of the camp, including some 280 women and 40 children. Volunteers and refugees moved over 250 wooden shelters, 300 tents and 40-odd caravans. They worked night and day, building new structures too.

The French authorities want the evictees to move into an alternative, purpose-built facility, which they have created using shipping containers and to reduce the number of migrants at the camp. However, some asylum seekers say they are afraid to transfer to the new camp, as they say it resembles a prison and does not have cooking facilities or communal areas – unlike the Jungle, which has shops, cafes, kitchens, churches and a mosque.

A lot of volunteers who came had come previously”, said Stevens. “If we asked for sleeping bags, we would get them and we knew that people would be warm the next night.”

Last week, groups representing refugees at the Jungle said police had given them three days’ notice of their proposals to clear an area in which 1,500 people, including many families, had set up home.

However, the deadline was pushed back until Monday, when, following the warning, it became clear evictions were being conducted by refugees themselves and aid groups, including Care4Calais, another group from the UK.

The irony of helping police to do the job of evicting migrants was not lost on many refugee groups.

We didn’t have an option,” said Émile Poisson, of Acted, the French refugee organisation. “We decided to help, because we couldn’t let women and children who were asking for our help be exposed to violence. If no one had helped they would have been forcibly relocated, exposed to bulldozers and would have been there when the government’s machines came in, risking losing their houses and their belongings,” she said.

However, Poisson, whose organisation runs the water, sanitation and waste collection at the camp, said there was a clear red line they would not cross.

Our positions is the migrants have to be informed of their rights and it’s their decision if they want to move.”

She said that there would be a danger of further compression of the camp.

We’ve been able to help people move where they wanted to move, near others in their community. You will see women and children do not leave the family area. But if people are too close together, it could push women and children into areas with single men where they do not feel safe.”

The new purpose-built camp has its pitfalls too. It requires people to have their handprints taken and refugees fear their information will be used to force them to claim asylum in France and so thwart their goal of trying to reach Britain.

Currently, there are 300 people, mainly families, in the containers, according to La Vie Active, who run the facility. Barbara Juokwewycz, spokeswoman for La Vie Active, said they had been processing 50 people a day since last Monday.

It’s very slow but we have to inform people that although we have some data, it is not data for the police and that they will not have problems with asylum.” she said, adding that the data was for security reasons.

In the camp’s Kabul cafe, where a few people are eating breakfast or keeping warm, one of the community leaders, said they too, had no option but to help clear the buffer zone and relocate people into other areas.

Sikander Noristany, 42, from Afghanistan, who runs the camps’s Kabul cafe and acts as a community leader, said: “We did not change our minds. We cannot stop the government. We didn’t want to move but because of the women and children, we had to. Maybe if we don’t move them, they start destroying homes. There are a lot of women and children in the community. In one day, we cannot find houses for 1,600 people. The kids could die in the cold without a house.”

Noristany had experienced a former dawn raid where “rows and rows of police with riot shields” herded people into the Jungle, destroying the precious few possessions of many, he said.

Three months ago, there were tents near the bridge, they destroyed them,” he said. “We tried to stop the police, to let them get their possessions, documents and photos but they said no. There were women and children crying.”

Like others in the camp, he was suspicious of the shipping containers.

In the containers there is just beds for 12 people like animals, like you are in a prison. No washing facility, no food system. They fingerprint you. They want to finish the Jungle. They are making it smaller and smaller and one day it will be finished.”

Some volunteers and refugees spoke of being hit by teargas inside the camp and spent gas canisters could be seen on the ground in the former Kurdish family zone.

Karim Nosrat, 35, a Kurdish Iraqi who fled with his wife and six-year-old son, Raka, because of Isis violence, said he was had been hit by teargas 10 days ago while in his wooden home.

One night, I had gone outside to the toilet and was coughing and I felt I was nearly dying. My wife opened the door and I felt the burning in my throat and her eyes were stinging. I fell to the floor. I was worried about my young son.”

People are desperate here. I’ve been here only two months, but some much longer. Every night, people run behind the houses of families, to get to the motorway. They don’t care about dying from a lorry.”

Behind him, through the woods, freight lorries moved along the main motorway, towards the channel tunnel and Britain, where the dreams of most here lie.

Steve Barbet, the police spokesman for the local prefect in Calais, said: “We do not use teargas without a good reason and use of teargas has to be authorised and it is only authorised when it is necessary.”

Most of the time it’s because the migrants’ camp is just by the port. The road to the port passes just next to it, so they leave the camp either in small groups of 30-50 or sometimes in large groups of 300-400 up to 600-800, they leave the Jungle and go to the road and the throw projectiles on the road to slow down the trucks so they can get into the lorries. Of course we cannot let this happen, we cannot led them block the road, so the police intervene to push them back.”

He said the police try to target the road, but teargas “is not especially precise” and can disperse throughout the camp, a few metres away. He also said that migrants pick up the gas canisters to throw at police.

It’s not in our interest to use teargas unless it’s absolutely necessary to restore public order, and it is never used in the camp itself.”

Fabienne Buccio, the Calais prefect, said this month that the state’s aim was for “no more migrants sleeping outdoors”.

A spokesman for the prefect’s office said the priority was for migrants to specifically move away from the area of the “Jungle” that is nearest the motorway “for their safety, for the safety of road-users and for the safety of the security forces”. He said the new container shelters were “heated, with real beds and a breakfast served every day”.

The authorities had been working with migrants and local associations to discuss and gradually prepare the move. They had not issued an ultimatum date and, only after the migrants alongside the associations working with them had willingly moved from the area nearest the motorway would the authorities begin to clear that area.


German families to take in underage refugees : minister

Family Minister Manuela Schwesig has introduced a new project to sponsor underage refugees. The government is investing 10 million euros in the initiative to help integrate them into German society.

January 19. 2016


Schwesig’s initiative, called “Menschen stärken Menschen,” roughly translated as “People strengthen people” will support projects and volunteers that pair the underage newscomers with guest families and sponsors.

Nearly 59,000 migrants under the age of 18 arrived in Germany last year, according to the minister.

Speaking in Berlin, the family minister said integrating refugees was an important task and it would be easier for immigrants to adjust to Germany if they were helped by someone they knew. Schwesig said a large number of people were willing to volunteer in such programs.

The ministry’s initiative would help organize roughly 25,000 sponsors, in which local Germans would help immigrants with registration, renting an apartment or learning German. Welfare organizations, foundations, Muslim groups and refugee groups could contribute to the project, Schwesig told journalists.

She said people were spontaneous in helping refugees, but the new project would help convert this into a long-term engagement.

People willing to participate can call 0800/2005070 for more information on the project.

mg/kms (epd, dpa)


The Politics of the Prisoner Swap: The good news: it happened – the bad news: both parties hate it

January 18, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


Even as advocates of peace in the Middle East celebrate the release of the five American prisoners held in Iran’s jails, as well as the release of the Iranians – most of them dual citizens of the US and Iran – either convicted of violating US sanctions or charged with doing so, a dark cloud obscures this sunlit moment. I’m talking about the political response – from both parties – to the prisoner swap, which bodes ill for the future.

Frontrunner Donald Trump simultaneously condemned the prisoner swap while taking credit for it. “So I’ve been hitting them hard,” he said, “and I think I might have had something to do with it.” Yes, it’s all about him: a  typical Trumpian response. And yet on the other hand, this was another “bad deal,” like – in Trump’s view – the nuclear deal:

We give them $150 billion, we give them essentially 22 people – 21, 22 people – but these are people that really did have problems, and we’re getting back four people … That’s the way we negotiate. That’s the way we negotiate. It’s so sad. It’s so sad.”

It’s not at all surprising that this nonsense is coming from a megalomaniacal lunatic like Trump. What’s disturbing, however – although not the least bit surprising – is that a more sophisticated version of this is coming from the frontrunner on the other side of the partisan divide. While paying lip service to the Obama administration’s “achievement” in securing the nuclear deal – and now the release of the five Americans held by Tehran – Hillary Clinton has proposed undoing all that by imposing new sanctions on Iran:

Hours after the U.S. dropped sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear deal, Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton called for new sanctions on the nation for its ballistic missile program….

“’Iran is still violating UN Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile program, which should be met with new sanctions designations and firm resolve,’ she said. ‘These prisoners were held unjustly by a regime that continues to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East. Another American, Bob Levinson, still isn’t home with his family.’

Clinton said, as president, her policy toward Iran would be to ‘distrust and verify’ … ‘The treatment of our Navy sailors earlier this week was offensive, including the release of demeaning and provocative videos,’ she added.”

She wants wider sanctions than those imposed on five Iranian individuals, as well as companies in the United Arab Emirates and China, announced by the US Treasury Department on Sunday – which would effectively torpedo the nuclear deal.

It’s important to note that it isn’t just the Republicans in Congress who are campaigning to nullify the Iran deal: a letter signed by 21 Democratic Senators urges the President to take “unilateral” action against Tehran in response to their recent ballistic missile tests. Their missive was a virtual carbon copy of the one sent by 35 Republican Senators, although the text of the GOP version veered into loony-tunes by asserting that “Iran is developing ICBM capabilities for the sole purpose of enabling delivery of a nuclear weapon to the United States.” Iran is at least a decade away from developing the technology to achieve this – and the nuke deal has defanged whatever potential threat is posed by their missile program.

With Iran’s neighbors, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, arming to the teeth in order to confront what they view as the Iranian threat, Tehran is unlikely to agree to any restrictions on missile development, which they say – not without justification – is necessary for their own defense. Neither the Saudis nor the Israelis face any restrictions on ballistic missile development.

The UN resolution invoked by Mrs. Clinton was originally tacked on to existing resolutions in order to pressure Iran to sign on to the nuke deal: it would be beyond ironic if it led to the undoing of that historic agreement. Yet Clinton’s statement is sending the Iranians a signal that the next President, no matter who it is, is going to do everything in her or his power to destroy the developing détente between Washington and Tehran.

With the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, all of the other Republicans in the race for the White House are calling for the re-imposition of sanctions. Paul’s response, however, was – as usual – fraught with contradictory waffling. While praising the release of the American prisoners – and the sailors caught in Iranian waters – as “a sign that Iran does want to be part of a community of civilized nations,” he went on to say “I have always been hopeful about the Iranian agreement, I just haven’t been supportive of it.”

Translation: The Israel lobby scares me to death.

The rest of the Republican pack is far worse: Cruz echoed Trump in denouncing the very idea of negotiations with Tehran. Marco Rubio, who is running campaign ads demanding that the US stop spying on Israel – without mentioning their aggressive spying on us – tried to outdo his Republican rivals by maintaining that “this tells us everything we need to know about the Iranians – that they take people hostage in order to gain concessions.” That’s quite a stretch, since some of the prisoners had been languishing in Iranian jails for years, well before the nuke deal was a glimmer in the Obama administration’s eye.

In the Bizarro World of the Republican party, the success of diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran is cited as evidence of Tehran’s alleged implacability. What explains this skewed logic is the fact that these candidates are all faithfully echoing the Israeli position that peace with Iran is impossible – and undesirable in any case.

Mrs. Clinton doesn’t go quite that far: she claims it’s desirable, and yet continues to advocate policies that would make it well nigh impossible. Is it a coincidence that the diplomatic process leading to the Iran deal didn’t begin to show results until Hillary left the State Department?

The Iran deal – and the subsequent prisoner swap – is the Obama administration’s greatest diplomatic achievement,  and we here at Antiwar.com – who have not been fans of this President – must give credit where it is due. Obama defied the two most powerful foreign lobbyists in Washington – the Israelis and the Saudis – and won.

Iran has released their hostages – now if only Israel would release the US Congress, we’ll be home free.


Saudi Arabia alarmed, in private, at Iran’s sanctions relief

January 18, 2016

by Angus Mcdowall


Riyadh-Saudi officials have said little in public, but they fear the end of sanctions on Iran could boost what they see as its subversive activities in the Middle East while also enriching a diverse economy that the oil-dependent kingdom views as a major competitor for regional influence.

Saudi-Iranian political rivalry has aggravated tumult across the Middle East for years, but has escalated in recent months as Riyadh’s new rulers have taken a harder line and as the nuclear deal has relieved pressure on Tehran.

Iran’s international rehabilitation also opens the prospect of economic rivalry, with Saudi Arabia facing not only a fellow oil producer in an era of oversupply and low prices, but also a more self-reliant and multi-skilled economy.

Even without public pronouncements, Riyadh’s private consternation could be discerned in the pages of semi-official media and comments by influential clerics.

The main cartoon in al-Watan daily simply showed a pencil broken mid-way through writing the word “peace”, while an opinion piece underneath it asked “Will Iran change after the nuclear deal enters implementation?” Its answer: probably not.

Saudi Arabia, a conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy, sees revolutionary Iran as the paramount threat to the Middle East’s stability, because of its support for Shi’ite militias that Riyadh says have inflamed sectarian violence and undermined Arab governments.

For the Al Saud dynasty, the nuclear deal was a double blow, freeing Iran from sanctions it believed helped check those regional activities and raising the specter of a rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh’s most powerful ally, the United States.

Under King Salman, Saudi Arabia has launched a war in Yemen to stop an ally of Tehran gaining power, mobilized Muslim states to freeze Tehran out of regional and Islamic influence, and has boosted support to rebels fighting Iranian allies in Syria.

Iran’s pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, who has publicly reached out to Riyadh repeatedly since his election in 2013, on Sunday rebuked the Al Saud for their own regional stance and called on them to “take the path that will benefit the region”.

Such comments, which mirror accusations Riyadh makes about Iran, infuriate Saudi officials who regard Rouhani as a smooth-talking cipher for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and see no point engaging with him instead of his harder line superior.

They disdain the campaign by U.S. President Barack Obama to bring Iran in from the cold, believing him pusillanimous in the face of what they see as Iranian aggression and guileless in accommodating Iran’s moderates when Khamenei pulls the strings.


Between the full-page adverts Saudi companies had run in Monday’s newspapers to congratulate King Salman on the Islamic calendar anniversary of his becoming monarch, the opinion columns and cartoons despaired at Iran’s comeback.

The role of Western powers, particularly Riyadh’s oldest ally the United States, in facilitating Tehran’s relief from pariah status and their hopes of cashing in on Iran’s newly opened economy did not go unremarked.

The al-Jazirah daily’s cartoonist showed an incarnation of American capitalism in striped trousers and top hat carrying a bottle marked “sanctions”, from which emerged a genie in the guise of a Shi’ite militia fighter, his turban marked “Iran”.

When Salman visited Washington in September, the main focus of talks was the push by his powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to win investment from American firms, an apparent riposte to Iran’s overtures to Western companies.

Sunday’s news that sanctions would indeed be lifted raised fears of a slide in oil prices below their existing low level of under $30 a barrel as Iran immediately ordered an increase in output, while Saudi stocks fell by 5 percent.

There could be no more pronounced contrast with the mood in Iran, freed from years of increasingly tough sanctions which have eroded its currency and allowed Saudi Arabia to eclipse its economy.

In 2000, Iran’s gross domestic product was larger than Saudi Arabia’s, according to International Monetary Fund data; now, the $650 billion Saudi economy is much bigger than Iran at $400 billion.

That trend may now start reversing, altering how far each country can afford to mount political and military adventures overseas, and the extent to which they can use trade relations to build alliances with foreign powers.

Saudi Arabia’s economy is slowing sharply because of low oil prices, which the entry of new Iranian crude into the market will intensify. Iran is looking forward to a trade and investment boom as sanctions are lifted; it has big non-oil sectors such as agriculture and car manufacturing that the Saudis lack.


The volatile nature of Saudi-Iranian relations, aggravated already this month by a diplomatic row following Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite cleric, is causing alarm among world powers who fear things will get worse.

This week a procession of top officials from around the world will visit Riyadh, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

While they all have other business to discuss, the question of Saudi Arabia’s handling of its rivalry with Iran, and the wider risks it entails, are likely to be addressed, with both Xi and Sharif planning also to visit Tehran.

What they all fear is that if competition between the Middle East’s foremost powers cannot be contained, it will complicate efforts to end wars and political struggles across the region or even break out into new fighting elsewhere.

Such concerns are only compounded by the sectarian lines along which the rivalry has become drawn, and the likelihood that hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran will translate into religious competition that fuels militancy across the world.

A letter signed by 140 Saudi clerics, including prominent names, calling on the government to beware what they termed Iran’s “record of criminality and treachery” and to support regional Sunnis cannot have assuaged international alarm.

Neither can the Tweet by Sheikh Saud al-Shuraim, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, using a derogatory term often employed by Arab Sunnis to describe Iranians and Shi’ites, after the sanctions were lifted.

“There is no surprise in the alliance of the Safavids with the Jews and Christians against the Muslims, history witnessed this. But there is surprise at minds delaying their understanding of this truth until this moment,” he wrote.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Torchia and Sam Wilkin in Dubai; Editing by William Maclean and Giles Elgood)

Tehran to recoup $32bn in unfrozen assets as sanctions lifted

January 19, 2016


Iran will get access to $32 billion of unfrozen assets as part of the lifting of Western sanctions, AFP cited Iranian central bank chief Valiollah Seif as saying.

According to him, $28 billion would go to Iran’s central bank and $4 billion “will be transferred to the state treasury as the government share.”

Iranian assets worth about $107 billion have been frozen overseas since the US and the EU issued economic sanctions against Tehran nearly four decades ago.

Last summer the US released about $3 billion as a sign of good faith during the negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Following the sanctions lift, most Iranian banks have been allowed to reconnect to the SWIFT financial-transactions system. According to a senior Iranian official, re-establishing links to the world’s financial networks will make it easier for foreign companies to take part in privatizations in Iran.

Sanctions against Tehran were officially lifted on Saturday after the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran had fulfilled all of the measures required under its deal with six world powers.

As part of the deal Iran agreed to shrink its atomic program. For 15 years Tehran will carry out enrichment only at the Natanz facility and will only enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. The country will modify the Arak nuclear reactor with the help of the international community. The reactor will be used for peaceful research and isotope production

World facing ‘wave of epic debt defaults,’ says economist who predicted Lehman crash

January 20, 2016


The financial situation in the world has become so unstable that a new wave of defaults and bankruptcies will soon emerge, says William White, the chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

“The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up,” the economist told the Telegraph newspaper before the World Economic Forum in Davos.

White is one of a few bankers who warned about the rising crisis in the Western financial system before the financial crash eight years ago.

“Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief,” said White

It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something,” he added.

According to White, European lenders will have to face large haircuts. In particular, European banks have already recognized $1 trillion in non-performing loans.

He added that the emerging markets are an important part of the problem, even though after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers that resulted in the 2008 global financial crisis, they were part of the solution.

The economist also said that the yuan devaluation could “metastasize” in the future.


Navy SEAL Turns Over Picture of Bin Laden’s Body, Faces Investigation of Business Ties

January 19, 2016

by Matthew COle

The Intercept

A former Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden and wrote a bestselling book about the raid is now the subject of a widening federal criminal investigation into whether he used his position as an elite commando for personal profit while on active duty, according to two people familiar with the case.

Matthew Bissonnette, the former SEAL and author of No Easy Day, a firsthand account of the 2011 bin Laden operation, had already been under investigation by both the Justice Department and the Navy for revealing classified information. The two people familiar with the probe said the current investigation, led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, expanded after Bissonnette agreed to hand over a hard drive containing an unauthorized photo of the al Qaeda leader’s corpse. The government has fought to keep pictures of bin Laden’s body from being made public for what it claims are national security reasons.

The retired SEAL voluntarily provided investigators with a copy of his hard drive as part of an agreement not to prosecute him for unlawfully possessing classified material, according to the two people familiar with the deal.

The two people who spoke about the case, and other former SEALs The Intercept interviewed about Bissonnette, asked that their names not be used because they were describing an ongoing investigation and classified matters.

I can confirm that the criminal investigation of Mr. Bissonnette for alleged wrongful handling or disclosure of classified information was closed through declination by the DOJ in August 2015,” said Robert Luskin, an attorney who represents Bissonnette.

Luskin said that he had negotiated a deal in 2014 with the Pentagon and the Justice Department to hand over to the government some of the millions of dollars in book profits Bissonnette had received.

He would not confirm Bissonnette’s possession of the bin Laden photo or whether any investigation still remains open.

Ed Buice, spokesperson for the NCIS, confirmed the ongoing investigation into Bissonnette, but declined to elaborate. “NCIS does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations,” Buice said.

During their search of his hard drive, investigators subsequently found emails and records dealing with Bissonnette’s work as a consultant while he was on active duty at SEAL Team 6. Those records, which were not part of the non-prosecution agreement, led to the widening probe. Federal investigators then became interested in whether Bissonnette’s business ventures with companies that supply military equipment — including companies whose products were used by SEAL Team 6 — were helped by his role in the elite unit’s procurement process, according to one of the people familiar with the case.

Element Group, a company Bissonnette helped set up in Virginia Beach about five years ago, is among the companies NCIS is said to be investigating. According to a former SEAL Team 6 operator familiar with Element Group’s business arrangements, the firm, which has since been shut down, designed prototypes for, and advised, private companies that make sporting and tactical equipment.

According to several former SEAL Team operators familiar with the company, Element Group also did business with at least one Defense Department contractor that sold equipment to SEAL Team 6. The defense contractor, Atlantic Diving Supply, or ADS, has military supply and equipment contracts with SEAL Team 6, according to several former SEAL Team 6 operators, as well as other parts of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Federal investigators have been looking into the business relationship between Element Group and ADS.

ADS did not respond to a request for comment.

According to one of the people briefed on the case, investigators have uncovered payments of at least several hundred thousand dollars from ADS to Element Group, and are trying to determine what services Bissonnette and Element Group provided to ADS. The relationship with ADS raised ethical concerns among leaders at SEAL Team 6 when they first learned about it in 2011, because ADS was a significant supplier to the unit, according to two former senior SEAL leaders.

Investigators have sought to understand if Bissonnette’s role at SEAL Team 6 as a liaison for the command to suppliers of technology and equipment might have been influenced by his business contracts, according to the two people familiar with the probe. Bissonnette’s position often put him in direct contact with manufacturers and suppliers outside the military in order to assess and evaluate what equipment was needed for classified training exercises and missions.

Biss was part of the procurement process,” said a former SEAL Team 6 operator who has been interviewed by federal investigators about his relationship with Bissonnette. “It was natural for him to deal with companies making our gear.”

Bissonnette enlisted four teammates to join Element Group as consultants, according to several former members of SEAL Team 6. One Seal who joined the company will soon retire from the military as a result of his involvement with Bissonnette and Element Group. That SEAL — who was also on the bin Laden raid — was given a non-judicial punishment by the Navy that ended his military career but allows for an honorable discharge, according to one of the two people familiar with the case.

The goal [of Element Group] was to work with the sporting industry,” said the former SEAL Team 6 operator who has been interviewed by investigators. Element Group, for example, “designed prototypes for sleeping bags and a tent system” that would be sold commercially.

The goal was to become a commercial enterprise,” the former operator said, “not be involved with anything in the military or the command’s procurement process.”

Bissonnette was seen as a rising star within the SEAL Team 6 command. According to several former SEAL Team 6 operators, he was once described by his commanding officer as the model for naval commandos: smart, discriminating, and lethal. Bissonnette has said in public interviews that the same officer now refuses to speak to him.

According to two retired SEAL Team 6 operators, Bissonnette’s name has been added to a rock kept at the Virginia Beach SEAL Team 6 base. The rock is used to mark former members who are no longer welcome at the command, including former SEALS who have violated a series of unwritten codes of conduct among the unit.

The publication of No Easy Day in September 2012, just a few months after Bissonnette was honorably discharged from the Navy, broke the unwritten code of silence among members of the special operations community. SEALs sign nondisclosure agreements about their work, and even beyond the legal ramifications of violating those agreements, former SEAL Team 6 members who speak publicly about their battlefield exploits are often ostracized by their peers.

The book also led to a string of internal Navy investigations, according to several former SEAL Team 6 operators.

The publication of the book, which hit the New York Times bestseller list, took Bissonnette’s unit and the Pentagon by surprise. Bissonnette later acknowledged in interviews that he violated military rules that required him to allow the Defense Department to review his manuscript prior to publication. He has since sued an attorney he consulted, claiming the lawyer advised him the manuscript did not have to be reviewed by the Pentagon. The lawyer, Kevin Podlaski, did not respond to a message requesting comment.

Shortly after the publication of No Easy Day, Bissonnette’s unit began looking into the business dealings he had conducted while he was on active duty, according to several former SEAL Team 6 operators.

During his exit [from the Navy] we found out he had other companies and side deals going on,” said the former SEAL Team 6 operator who has been interviewed for the investigation. “That’s when Element Group shut down.”

The Navy discovered Bissonnette organized a group of fellow SEAL Team 6 operators to consult for the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and participated in the filming of promotional videos for the game in 2012, according to multiple former SEALs. In 2012, in a non-judicial process called a captain’s mast, the command punished seven active duty SEALs for revealing sensitive information and using Defense Department equipment. At least two SEALs were removed from the unit, and another two were forced to retire as a result, according to several former members of SEAL Team 6.

Bissonnette’s former SEAL Team 6 colleague who was interviewed by federal investigators said he hasn’t spoken to him since the publication of No Easy Day.

He’s brought a lot of trouble to people who trusted him,” the colleague said.


Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World

by Bill McKibben


When I was a kid, I was creepily fascinated by the wrongheaded idea, current in my grade school, that your hair and your fingernails kept growing after you died. The lesson seemed to be that it was hard to kill something off — if it wanted to keep going.

Something similar is happening right now with the fossil fuel industry. Even as the global warming crisis makes it clear that coal, natural gas, and oil are yesterday’s energy, the momentum of two centuries of fossil fuel development means new projects keep emerging in a zombie-like fashion.

In fact, the climactic fight at the end of the fossil fuel era is already underway, even if it’s happening almost in secret. That’s because so much of the action isn’t taking place in big, headline-grabbing climate change settings like the recent conference of 195 nations in Paris; it’s taking place in hearing rooms and farmers’ fields across this continent (and other continents, too). Local activists are making desperate stands to stop new fossil fuel projects, while the giant energy companies are making equally desperate attempts to build while they still can. Though such conflicts and protests are mostly too small and local to attract national media attention, the outcome of these thousands of fights will do much to determine whether we emerge from this century with a habitable planet. In fact, far more than any set of paper promises by politicians, they really are the battle for the future.

Here’s how Diane Leopold, president of the giant fracking company Dominion Energy, put it at a conference earlier this year: “It may be the most challenging” period in fossil fuel history, she said, because of “an increase in high-intensity opposition” to infrastructure projects that is becoming steadily “louder, better-funded, and more sophisticated.” Or, in the words of the head of the American Natural Gas Association, referring to the bitter struggle between activists and the Canadian tar sands industry over the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, “Call it the Keystone-ization of every project that’s out there.”

Pipelines, Pipelines, Everywhere

I hesitate to even start listing them all, because I’m going to miss dozens, but here are some of the prospective pipelines people are currently fighting across North America: the Alberta Clipper and the Sandpiper pipelines in the upper Midwest, Enbridge Line 3, the Dakota Access, the Line 9 and Energy East pipelines in Ontario and environs, the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines in British Columbia, the Piñon pipeline in Navajo Country, the Sabal Trail pipeline in Alabama and Georgia, the Appalachian Connector, the Vermont Gas pipeline down the western side of my own state, the Algonquin pipeline, the Constitution pipeline, the Spectra pipeline, and on and on.

And it’s not just pipelines, not by a long shot. I couldn’t begin to start tallying up the number of proposed liquid natural gas terminals, prospective coal export facilities and new oil ports, fracking wells, and mountaintop removal coal sites where people are already waging serious trench warfare. As I write these words, brave activists are on trial for trying to block oil trains in the Pacific Northwest. In the Finger Lakes not a week goes by without mass arrests of local activists attempting to stop the building of a giant underground gas storage cavern. In California, it’s frack wells in Kern County. As I said: endless.

And endlessly resourceful, too. Everywhere the opposition is forced by statute to make its stand not on climate change arguments, but on old grounds. This pipeline will hurt water quality. That coal port will increase local pollution. The dust that flies off those coal trains will cause asthma. All the arguments are perfectly correct and accurate and by themselves enough to justify stopping many of these plans, but a far more important argument always lurks in the background: each of these new infrastructure projects is a way to extend the life of the fossil fuel era a few more disastrous decades.

Here’s the basic math: if you build a pipeline in 2016, the investment will be amortized for 40 years or more. It is designed to last — to carry coal slurry or gas or oil — well into the second half of the twenty-first century. It is, in other words, designed to do the very thing scientists insist we simply can’t keep doing, and do it long past the point when physics swears we must stop.

These projects are the result of several kinds of momentum. Because fossil fuel companies have made huge sums of money for so long, they have the political clout to keep politicians saying yes. Just a week after the Paris accords were signed, for instance, the well-paid American employees of those companies, otherwise known as senators and representatives, overturned a 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports, a gift that an ExxonMobil spokesman had asked for in the most explicit terms only a few weeks earlier. “The sooner this happens, the better for us,” he’d told the New York Times, at the very moment when other journalists were breaking the story of that company’s epic three-decade legacy of deceit, its attempt to suppress public knowledge of a globally warming planet that Exxon officials knew they were helping to create. That scandal didn’t matter. The habit of giving in to Big Oil was just too strong.

Driving a Stake Through a Fossil-Fueled World

The money, however, is only part of it. There’s also a sense in which the whole process is simply on autopilot. For many decades the economic health of the nation and access to fossil fuels were more or less synonymous. So it’s no wonder that the laws, statutes, and regulations favor business-as-usual. The advent of the environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s introduced a few new rules, but they were only designed to keep that business-as-usual from going disastrously, visibly wrong. You could drill and mine and pump, but you were supposed to prevent the really obvious pollution. No Deepwater Horizons.  And so fossil fuel projects still get approved almost automatically, because there’s no legal reason not to do so.

In Australia, for instance, a new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, replaced the climate-change-denying Tony Abbott. His minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, was a particular standout at the recent Paris talks, gassing on at great length about his “deeply personal” commitment to stopping climate change, calling the new pact the “most important environmental agreement ever.” A month earlier, though, he’d approved plans for the largest coal mine on Earth, demanding slight revisions to make sure that the habitat of the southern black-throated finch would not be destroyed. Campaigners had hung much of their argument against the mine on the bird’s possible extinction, since given the way Australia’s laws are written this was one of the few hooks they had. The fact that scientists have stated quite plainly that such coal must remain in the ground if the globe is to meet its temperature targets and prevent catastrophic environmental changes has no standing. It’s the most important argument in the world, but no one in authority can officially hear it.

It’s not just Australia, of course. As 2016 began in my own Vermont — as enlightened a patch of territory as you’re likely to find — the state’s Public Service Board approved a big new gas pipeline. Under long-standing regulations, they said, it would be “in the public interest,” even though science has recently made it clear that the methane leaking from the fracked gas the pipeline will carry is worse than the burning of coal. Their decision came two weeks after the temperature in the city of Burlington hit 68 on Christmas eve, breaking the old record by, oh, 17 degrees. But it didn’t matter.

This zombie-like process is guaranteed to go on for years, even decades, as at every turn the fossil fuel industry fights the new laws and regulations that would be necessary, were agreements like the Paris accord to have any real teeth. The only way to short-circuit this process is to fight like hell, raising the political and economic price of new infrastructure to the point where politicians begin to balk. That’s what happened with Keystone — when enough voices were raised, the powers-that-be finally decided it wasn’t worth it. And it’s happening elsewhere, too.  Other Canadian tar sands pipelines have also been blocked. Coal ports planned for the West Coast haven’t been built. That Australian coal mine may have official approval, but almost every big bank in the world has balked at providing it the billions it would require.

There’s much more of this fight coming — led, as usual, by indigenous groups, by farmers and ranchers, by people living on the front lines of both climate change and extractive industry. Increasingly they’re being joined by climate scientists, faith communities, and students in last-ditch efforts to lock in fossil fuels. This will undoubtedly be a key battleground for the climate justice movement. In May, for instance, a vast coalition across six continents will engage in mass civil disobedience to “keep it in the ground.”

And in a few places you can see more than just the opposition; you can see the next steps unfolding. Last fall, for instance, Portland, Oregon — the scene of a memorable “kayaktivist” blockade to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs bottled up in port — passed a remarkable resolution. No new fossil fuel infrastructure would be built in the city, its council and mayor declared. The law will almost certainly block a huge proposed propane export terminal, but far more important, it opens much wider the door to the future. If you can’t do fossil fuel, after all, you have to do something else — sun, wind, conservation. This has to be our response to the living-dead future that the fossil fuel industry and its allied politicians imagine for our beleaguered world: no new fossil fuel infrastructure. None. The climate math is just too obvious.

This business of driving stakes through the heart of one project after another is exhausting. So many petitions, so many demonstrations, so many meetings. But at least for now, there’s really no other way to kill a zombie.


China economy grows at slowest pace in 25 years, latest GDP figures show

World’s second-largest economy posts figures that add to fears of a slowdown that will affect financial markets across the world

January 19, 2016

by Justin McCurry in Tokyo and agencies

The Guardian

China’s economy grew at its slowest rate in a quarter of a century in 2015, data released on Tuesday showed, increasing pressure on Beijing to address fears of a prolonged slowdown and ease the jitters affecting global markets.

The full-year growth of 6.9% was only just short of government expectations of 7% but by contrast, growth in 2014 stood at 7.3%.

The national bureau of statistics’ bulletin showed GDP growth at 6.8% in the three months to December, easing from 6.9% in the previous quarter – the slowest quarterly rate since 2009, when growth slowed to 6.2%.

The slide from the previous quarter was expected, but will add to concerns about the health of the world’s second-biggest economy as it confronts a range of challenges, including weak exports, high debt levels and slowing investment.

China’s industrial output in December rose 5.9% from a year earlier, compared with forecasts for a 6.0% increase.

The lack of surprises did at least offer some respite to stock and currency markets.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2% on Tuesday after earlier touching its lowest level since October 2011. Australian shares added 0.8%, while Tokyo’s Nikkei dropped 0.3%. In Shanghai, recent volatility gave way to a 0.2% rise, following a 13-month low on Monday.

The US dollar nudged up 0.2% to 117.55 yen after slipping last week to a four-and-a-half-month low of 116.51.

Analysts were cautiously optimistic about the China’s fortunes following the tumult of the past few weeks.

I think that at least the biggest fears about the real economy, fears that came to the surface during the stock market rout … I think those biggest fears were overblown,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong.

We don’t see signs of an abrupt slowdown, or something getting worse than we had expected say six weeks ago.”

Gordon Kwan, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Nomura Holdings, said: “China’s GDP growth is not collapsing, even though the fourth-quarter figures are slightly lower than expectations.”

Kwan said he expected additional government stimulus, but added that the Chinese economy was “in decent shape, despite the recent hype about how it is on the verge of collapse”.

He believed the rest of the world would take positives from Tuesday’s data. “Judging by what’s happening in the markets now, there will be a sigh of relief that quarterly growth was 6.8% and not, say 6%,” he said. “But it’s early days yet – the real test will be the first-quarter GDP figures.”

Policymakers in Beijing have struggled to arrest the slide in China’s fortunes, with some analysts predicting growth of about 6.5% this year even if, as many expect, the authorities unveil fresh spending packages and cut interest rates again.

Other industrialised economies would find little to complain about if they enjoyed growth figures approaching those released on Tuesday, but in the Chinese context the data are cause for concern.

Having experienced double-digit growth for more than a decade – during which it replaced Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy – China is now going through a painful period of readjustment as growth inevitably slows.

Its structural transformation from an economy heavily reliant on industrial exports to a more service-oriented one was still in progress, the statistics bureau said in a statement.

It added that China was going through “a crucial period during which challenges need to be overcome and problems need to be resolved and the task of comprehensively deepening the reform is still heavy”.

China’s uncertain handling of its transition has sent shockwaves around global markets. Shanghai stocks have plunged to 13-month lows despite a massive government rescue package. The central bank, meanwhile, has added to confusion by allowing the yuan to weaken sharply, then intervening to stop the fall.

Intervention has done little to ease investor unrest. Despite six interest rate cuts since November 2014, and reductions in the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, high debt levels in the Chinese economy mean the measures have had limited impact.

Analysts predicted more instability for the global economy for the rest of the year. “Regardless of whether Q4 growth was 6.8% or 6.9%, we do not expect full-year GDP to change the evolving narrative about the weak state of global demand,” analysts at PRC Macro Advisors said.


No regrets over Ukraine split, but Crimeans want more love from Russia

Nearly two years on, many are pleased to be free of Kiev, but relations with Moscow are not as rosy as they would like

January 19, 2016

by Guardian reporter in Simferopol and Shaun Walker in Moscow

The Guardian

Oleg Zubkov was such a big supporter of the Russian seizure of Crimea that he promised to set his lions on any Ukrainian nationalists who attempted to enter the peninsula.

An eccentric businessman who built and runs the two biggest zoos in Crimea, Zubkov even named one of his Siberian tigers Referendum. It was born on 16 March 2014, the day Crimea voted to return to Russia in a hastily organised poll branded illegitimate by the international community.

Less than two years later Referendum has grown into a majestic beast, but Zubkov is in conflict with Crimea’s new Russian government and has second thoughts about Moscow’s takeover.

Under Ukraine things here were bad, but now Russia is here things are even worse,” he said, as he drove a golf buggy around Taigan zoo, about an hour’s drive from Crimea’s capital Simferopol. The zoo is home to 70 lions, 25 tigers and a host of other exotic creatures that live in conditions which appear unusually humane and well kept by regional standards.

Taigan had 500,000 visitors in 2013, but since the new year, Zubkov has closed both it and his other zoo near Yalta. “The red tape, the corruption, the incompetence – it’s impossible to do anything here now,” he said. He has written to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, asking him to intervene with the local Crimean authorities.

The businessman’s story reflects a broader mood in Crimea. Few of those who initially supported the annexation have any desire to reverse the move, but there is a widespread admittance that Russian rule has not been quite the panacea for the country’s ills that had been expected.

Crimea deserves more than it has got over the past two years,” said Leonid Grach, the last communist leader of the territory before the Soviet Union collapsed. “It should have been an example region of what can be done … instead it feels like we are Russia’s unloved stepdaughter.”

Grach said he spoke to the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, by telephone in the early days of Crimea’s annexation and was offered the role of prime minister, but that Moscow eventually settled on the Russian nationalists Sergei Aksyonov and Vladimir Konstantinov.

The money has not gone to solve problems but has lined the pockets of the Crimean nouveaux riches,” he said.

Many express irritation with Aksyonov, who is rumoured to have past links to criminal groups – which he has denied – and who apparently went by the nickname “the goblin” in the 1990s. Formerly a marginal Russian nationalist, Moscow chose him to lead the popular uprising that gave Russia the pretext for seizing the region, and he was rewarded with the position of regional governor.

It’s a government of goblins. In the time they’ve been in power I could have taught one of my chimpanzees to be a better politician,” said Zubkov.

Aksyonov has been through a tough time. The territory has been under severe western sanctions since its annexation, and in recent months a Ukrainian trade blockade has also been enforced. After Ukrainian activists blew up energy pipelines to Crimea in late November, it was plunged into darkness. People ate dinner by candlelight, factories shut down and even traffic lights stopped working for the first few days.

The situation is returning to normal, said Svetlana Borodulina, Crimea’s minister of energy, but the region is still about 20% under capacity and will not be fully self-sufficient until two major power plants come online in 2018. Crimea is still officially in a state of emergency, and many residents are without power for a number of hours each day. Factories have switched from all-day working to shift hours in an effort to ensure they operate outside peak times.

Borodulina said the government response was impressive, with officials sometimes working until 3am to ensure the most important facilities were supplied with generators. Others, however, have criticised the response, and Aksyonov himself railed against his subordinates in a government meeting, furious at those who had taken holidays during the state of emergency. “Achieving a result is an impossible task. I’m starting to understand Grandpa Stalin,” Aksyonov said in televised remarks.

For Zubkov, the blackout ended in tragedy, because three of his tiger cubs died of an infection after he was unable to keep them warm, and local authorities removed the generators his zoos had been given. The local prosecutor then accused Zubkov of allowing the animals to die to gain publicity and threatened a criminal case.

The businessman said the allegations were ridiculous, and accused the government of stealing money earmarked for generators to prevent a situation that many had predicted, given Crimea’s reliance on Ukrainian electricity.

Zubkov knows each of his lions by name, bounding into their cages and frolicking with them as if they were mischievous kittens. Caesar, who weighs 330kg, gets his belly tickled and his mane ruffled. A tigress is given a pat on the back and a playful tug of the tail. Zubkov can apparently find a common language with his felines, but he has a harder time doing so with Crimean officials.

They are so in love with their image as heroes, but they did nothing. They are just bandits who were in the right place at the right time,” he said.

A new survey released earlier this month by a Russian institute claims Aksyonov still has a high approval rating and that Crimeans feel overwhelmingly optimistic about the future, but even the most pro-Russian among them admit things have not quite gone to plan.

There is a credit of trust for three to five years, and this has been reinforced by the energy blockade. But some people are still celebrating the return of Crimea. It’s time to stop celebrating and get to work,” said Evgeny Kopatko, who worked on the survey. “If you don’t work on the problems and difficulties as well as talk about the positive things, this goodwill will quickly evaporate.”

In Sevastopol, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet and has its own administrative structures that report directly to Moscow, there has been a public falling-out in the administration. Alexei Chaly, a local pro-Russian businessman who emerged as the “hero” of the annexation process, has criticised the current government led by the Kremlin-appointed Sergei Menyailo.

Aides to Chaly say he turned down Putin’s request to lead Sevastopol after annexation because he wanted to leave the job to professional politicians, but when he saw what a hash of it they were making, he soon changed his mind and stood for speaker of the local parliament. Since he took up the post in autumn 2014, he has been at loggerheads with Menyailo.

Those close to Chaly say he had worked tirelessly for decades to bring Sevastopol into Russia’s fold, but found himself disappointed by the current authorities and frustrated that his plans for innovative projects and strategic development were being ignored. Chaly is currently in Moscow for talks with Kremlin officials, trying to persuade them to relieve Menyailo of his duties.

He went there to say ‘I’m ready to work if you get rid of this idiot’,” said a pro-Chaly member of Sevastopol’s legislative assembly, who asked not to be identified. “We don’t know what the result will be. Putin doesn’t like to make decisions under pressure, and while they admire his honesty and his genuine nature, they won’t forgive him for publicly criticising the system.”

Many of those who held pro-Ukrainian views in Crimea left after the annexation, and most of those who have stayed prefer to keep quiet, because the space for dissent has shrunk.

Leonid Kuzmin, a pro-Ukraine activist, was put on trial last year for organising a small rally to celebrate the birthday of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. He subsequently lost his job as a history teacher and now works as a dental assistant and has stopped organising public events after repeated threats from Russian security services. When he last travelled to Kiev, Ukrainian border guards stopped him for six hours at the border and accused him of being a separatist, underlining the difficulties faced by those who support Ukraine and decide to stay in Crimea.

For many, the trade blockade and electricity blackout has only reinforced their dislike of Ukraine. Even if they are hugely disappointed by events since Crimea was taken over, they still do not regret the move.

Zubkov was born in Russia but studied in Kiev and is married to a Ukrainian. He said he previously had the warmest feelings towards Ukraine, but that nationalist slogans during the Maidan revolution and the sight of Lenin statues being pulled down across Ukraine led him to throw his weight behind the Russian annexation.

I remember walking through Maidan, and it scared me, frankly. Of course more and more people are disappointed here these days but I still think the historical process of becoming part of Russia was right,” he said. He still hopes Moscow will sort out the mess on the ground. If not, he will have no choice but to sell up and leave his animals behind, he said.

The member of the legislative assembly in Sevastopol said: “There are people here who are sober about the current Russian political system. This regime in the Kremlin is temporary, but what’s important is that we’re in Russia now, and that is forever.”

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