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TBR News January 21, 2016

Jan 20 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 21, 2016: “Both Marx and Clausewitz were correct when the former said that all warfare was economic and the latter said that was was an extension of politics.The US has been making limited wars on undefended countries since the end of the first world war and at a very large, and growing, expense. Now, her “American-led Coalition” attacks on dead camels or empty buildings are becoming an  international joke. The Russians are leading any coalition and instead of slaughtering Assads friends, they are creaming IS, infuriating our Turkish ally, have cut off all that nice oil everyone was stealing and, best of all, actually feeding the starving people of Syria. Of course the American media somehow forgets to discuss these matters because they are far too busy avoiding livid Isreali supporters who are screaming over America’s deals with Iran. George Washington spoke against entangling alliances but those are the only kind we have today.”

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. 65

Date: Tuesday, February 11, 1997

Commenced: 9:05 AM CST

Concluded: 9:42 AM CST

 

RTC: Why, Gregory, so soon after our last conversation? We’ll have to be careful or Emily might get jealous. Do you have something new for me to chew on?

GD: No, I’ve been working on the latest Mueller book and I’m about worked out for the rest of the day. Writing is not hard, Robert, but the research is a killer. Still, if you don’t want the rat-faced gits in your old agency or Wolfe’s decaying Hebrews braying at you like a barn full of donkeys in a fire, you have to dot every “i” and cross every “t”. Not that these chinless wonders are capable of finding errors, but eventually someone might and then the jackass chorus begins. No, Corson told me my strong suit was my research and my stronger one was taking the results of it and making it readable without being a pompous, opinionated university pedant. When I worked for Army Intelligence years ago, I was well-known for my research. Of course, the whole office hated me.

RTC: And why so?

GD: Actually, because I worked on my material until I had finished, even if I had to spend the night in the office. I was known to have slept on my desk and subsisted on coffee. But the work got done and, most important, it got done right. And I never tried to shove my own views down anyone’s throat. I liked then, as I like now, to present both sides of an issue, clearly and without passion, letting the reader make up its own mind.

RTC: Very, very rare, talent, Gregory. Bill commented on this once and I would have to agree. Well, who do you work for now? This seems to be in your blood.

GD: Myself. I am a wonderful boss, Robert, really inspired and so kind to myself.

RTC: Do you treat yourself well at Christmas?

GD: Oh yes, Christmas. I haven’t had a Christmas card for years and not a present from anyone. It’s just another day for me and quieter than most.

RTC: I would invite you to have Christmas with us, but my son would be unhappy.

GD: Well, thank you for the thought.

RTC: And how is the Mueller book coming?

GD: Fine, and the blow-flies from your former agency are starting to buzz around again. Let’s see how much I can clip them for this time.

RTC: Well, I suppose if they can’t be more creative, they have to pay the price.

GD: No, they would never come right out and try to communicate with me. Why, the Gods do not deign to descend to earth to speak with mere mortals. And they pay the price, too. After all, they don’t care how much of the taxpayer’s money ends up in my pocket. What about the fool returning to his own folly? Or the dog to his own vomit? At least they don’t descend to the petty and sadistic harassments that we find in the local police.

RTC: I would hope not.

GD: That puts me in mind of a sordid but highly entertaining incident in my earlier life. Most people remember Thanksgivings with the grandparents or their first experience in the cramped backseat of the family car but I recall more entertaining things.

RTC: Are you planning to enlighten me? This has nothing to do with the Company, has it? You’re rather negative today, Gregory.

GD: I’m negative all the time. No, nothing to do with your people. Just an example of how to deal with illegally intrusive agencies. I was living in a rural area once and in a nearby town was a friend of mine. He was a gun collector. He actually collected Swiss Lugers.

RTC: German?

GD: No, Swiss. Beautifully made pieces.

RTC: I can well imagine. Go on.

GD: Anyway, he collected these and people knew about this. I want to stress that they were quite legal. The local sheriff’s people somehow got wind of this and began to harass him. I think they just wanted to frighten him and steal his collection. The police love to do things like that. When I was younger, I knew one cop who liked to take war relics like Japanese swords away from kids because he said they were illegal, which they were not. I fixed his wagon good but this is not the forum for that one. So he had vague and sinister threats like, ‘You could go to prison for years…’ and so on. He told me about this harassment. He had no money and it was a rural area where there are no real lawyers to intervene, so I gave the matter a lot of thought and finally hit on a plan to rid himself of the swine. Not nice but it worked.

RTC: Yes. What did you do? Shoot someone?

GD: Oh God, no. Someone else did.

RTC: This is beginning to sound rather ugly.

GD: It does get that way. First off, I told him to hide the guns, the Lugers, away from his home and I gave him some suggestions. He did, but he hated to lose physical control of them. Now you know, in the rural area in his county was a junkyard that was run by an old nut. He was convinced that the Communists were taking over the local schools and kept getting up at local governmental meetings and bitching about this. And, of course, sent long misspelled letters to the local paper. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew, or found out, a lot about him. He shot the neighborhood dogs and cats and was, in my estimation at least, a perfect foil. My friend now had no weapons, legal or otherwise, in his physical possession. So I got the name of the chief of detectives that was hoping to add some nice pieces to his personal gun collection and I called him at home. They wouldn’t have a trace on his line then. I told him a good deal of really accurate information to establish my bona fides and then said that he also had two German machine pistols, which I went into some detail on and that he had hidden them with the owner of the junkyard, who, I knew, was also a gun collector. This one was not very smart and he bought the whole cake. I waited a few days and then called the junk dealer. I told him I was on the local sheriff’s staff and we knew a gang of armed Communists were going to come out to his place and kill him.

RTC: Oh, sweet Jesus, you didn’t? No, you did. Go on, but I know the ending.

GD: Naturally. One dark night, two cars full of deputies, all heavily armed with guns and shovels, drove down his lane, lights out. The junkyard dogs started barking and the old man was ready. The one I talked to, kicked down his door and the old man let fly with a 12 gauge shotgun, full choke, pointblank range, both barrels, right in the face. Down went the greedy one with no head left. Reload and the one behind got both barrels in the tum-tum. Another one got it in the leg and they later had to cut if off above the knee. Screaming, shouting, guns going off all over the place, screams from the junkyard as the vicious dogs munched on deputies. My God, Robert, the neighbors said it sounded like the Battle of Cold Harbor. Some deputy had a Truflight 37 millimeter flare gun and he got winged and let fly up in the air. That’s the sort of tear gas gun that is really designed to set fire to buildings. A little tear gas for effect and a lot of incendiary material. The Feds used that in LA to nail the SLA. ‘Oh, gosh,’ they say after they burned down a house with fifteen people in it,’ someone must have knocked over a candle in there.’ So one of these shells went up and came down on a neighbor’s house. Set it on fire and by the time the rural fire boys managed to get out there, it had burnt to the ground with a wheel-chair bound granny inside. Of course, they finally killed the old man and all of his dogs and his place burnt down with two of the law roasted along with the old man. You could see the flames for miles. The next day, the remaining law-breakers were out there, picking through the smoking rubble and digging in the junkyard in a frantic search for the guns. Of course, there weren’t any guns. And as a precaution, I had told my friend to absent himself from the area and visit friends. Of course they came after him but he was 500 miles away and had been there before, during and after the carnage. And now the really nice part. The old man’s son was a prominent lawyer in another state and I called him up, telling him I was a horrified local policeman. He had no idea what had happened, so I said they had killed his father and burned his house down because he was making trouble for them. That lawyer went ballistic, as they say, and believed every word I said. And when he descended on the town, along with the FBI, I would like to have been in the civic offices. Of course I wasn’t, because I am not stupid but there were copious newspaper accounts and local gossip. I know there were several closed coffins at various funerals in the weeks to come. And huge lawsuits, Federal charges and so on followed. The local law could give no reason why they raided the place other than to claim some informant had phoned in a tip. Who was this informant? No idea. The lawyer got big money in the end, people were arrested and many new faces were seen in the much-subdued sheriff’s office. And I had my friend contact the son and tell him a story and tell him he was terrified for his life. The lawyer used his testimony and, good for him, paid for my friend’s exit from the area and his comfortable establishment under a new name elsewhere.

RTC: Probably got him under Witness Protection. That’s quite a story, Gregory, but I believe it. Your friend kept his guns?

GD: That was the drill, Robert, he kept his guns. There never were any machine guns, of course. I moved away out of prudence about this time so I can’t tell you any more.

RTC: Take care of your friends, Gregory, don’t you?

GD: Always, Robert. And I take care of the bad people as well. Does this turn you off?

RTC: Not really. I see a typical abuse of power there, Gregory, and I’m really so happy we seem to get on with each other.

GD: Now he could just have moved away, but why should he have to do that? They were wrong and that’s the end of the matter.

RTC: I told Bill once that you should have worked for us.

GD: No, I would not have. I am happy when I work by myself and I would not do well in a bureaucracy. They aren’t overly bright and they love to tell you why you can’t do this or that. The point is, Robert, that you win the real battle, not the paper one.

 

(Concluded at 9:42 AM CST)

 

The Riverine Mysteries

Unanswered questions about how US sailors wound up in Iran’s hands – and how they got out

January 20, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

The events surrounding the interception of ten American sailors in two US riverine boats who somehow wandered into Iranian waters continues to baffle the curious. Not that the American media is to be included among those asking questions: aside from the outraged shrieks of the neoconservative outlets over the alleged “appeasement” of Iran and the so-called “humiliation” of the sailors, no one is asking the most pertinent question of all: how did they get there in the first place?

I raised the most obvious questions here: simultaneously, both Glenn Greenwald and Rachel Maddow made similar observations. Now the mystery grows deeper as the ever-changing Official Story – which is, currently, that a “navigational error” was made – collapses under its own weight. This story line was never all that convincing to begin with – after all, did both boats fall victim to the same “error”? Was this not a routine journey undertaken hundreds of times? Well, there’s always a first time, right? The GPS devices on both boats could have failed at the same time, although the odds are against it.

However, now we learn from the Iranians that the GPS devices on both boats were fully functional:

[A] statement from Iran’s parliament cited Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials as saying that the U.S. sailors should have been aware of their location.

“’The coordinates recorded on the GPS devices taken from the 10 US marines (sic) confirmed their trespassing’ into waters off heavily-guarded Farsi island, the semi-official Fars news agency reported of the parliamentary statement.”

Moreover, the official statement from the US military contradicts the “navigational error” narrative:

[I]nitial operational reports showed that while in transit from Kuwait to Bahrain the RCBs deviated from their planned course on their way to the refueling. The command investigation will determine what caused the change in course and why the RCBs entered into Iranian territorial waters in the vicinity of Farsi Island.”

If the reason for the course deviation was “navigational error,” then why is any investigation necessary? And as it turns out, there was no error: the GPs devices on board were working just fine. To make matters worse for Washington, the Iranians returned everything on the ships with the exception of “two SIM cards that appear to have been removed from two handheld satellite phones,” as the Pentagon statement avers. Those cards will tell the Iranians whom the crew members were communicating with on their sojourn, when those communications took place – and, perhaps, what the Americans’ real mission was all about.

Do we have to wait much longer for the other shoe to drop?

Another factor in all this is the peculiar timing: it just so happened that those sailors wandered into Iranian waters – a few miles from the highly sensitive military base on Farsi Island – on “Implementation Day,” the day Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal was officially confirmed and the lifting of sanctions was scheduled to take place. This incident couldn’t have been a better pretext for the US to cancel the lifting of sanctions if it had been designed to do so.

Which raises the question: was it so designed – and, if so, by whom?

The US military is supposed to be subordinate to the civilians in government, at least so they tell us, but very often in recent history government agencies have been known to go “rogue.” The Iran-Contra scandal was supposed to have been one such instance, although there is ample evidence that the White House knew all about it. The phony “intelligence” that landed on the desk of President George W. Bush and congressional leaders in the run up to the Iraq war shows every sign of having been concocted by parallel intelligence-gathering agencies set up in competition with the official ones. There is evidence that Hillary Clinton’s State Department  and the CIA ran a “rat line” funneling arms to Syrian rebels in defiance of the enunciated policy of the President: this is the real essence of Benghazi-gate, the one aspect of which the Republicans would rather not talk about (with the notable exception of Sen. Rand Paul).

Could it be that an element in the military was so opposed to the Iran nuke deal that they would engineer an incident in order to derail it? (I’m asking for a friend….)

Yet we all lived happily ever after, in spite of this last minute glitch. The sailors were released. And not only that, but reportedly Secretary of State John Kerry told the Iranians that they might as well utilize this speed bump on the road to détente to their mutual advantage, and so another deal was made: US citizens held in Iran were let go while Iranians imprisoned in American jails for violating sanctions were released, and extradition orders were dropped against a number of others.

But wait: not all the Iranians imprisoned in Iran came back to the US. No, I’m not talking about Robert Levinson, a mysterious figure who disappeared in Iran years ago and may or may not have been working for the CIA. As the New York Times reports, while the euphoria over the prisoner swap was reaching a crescendo,

At the same time, a mystery deepened over one of the freed American prisoners, who apparently chose to remain in Iran.

Under the deal announced on Saturday and completed on Sunday, the Iranians released four dual-national Americans of Iranian descent, some held for years, and permitted a fifth American imprisoned in December – whose arrest had not been publicly disclosed before – to leave.”

According to the Times, “It seemed that nobody in Iran knew” Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari “had been arrested, and nobody seemed to know any more about him. When the Swiss diplomats who had arranged for the departure of the other three Americans offered him a seat on their plane, they said, Mr. Khosravi-Roodsari opted to stay.”

Little information has been released about Khosravi-Roodsari by Washington, and none by Tehran. The initial announcement from the semi-official Fars News Agency did not even mention Khosravi-Roodsari.  The Wall Street Journal dutifully conveyed the State Department’s uncharacteristically laconic remarks:

A State Department official said Mr. Khosravi-Roodsari was detained within the past year and the US learned of his detention from Iranian authorities. ‘He is a US citizen who was detained in Iran, and we were able to get him released,’ the official said. ‘We have nothing further to add.’”

The Huffington Post says the Obama administration is refusing to provide any information about this unknown prisoner, citing “privacy laws,” although we are told that he is a “businessman.” They also report that phones connected to someone with the same name have been disconnected, and that he appears to have no online presence. The New Yorker adds another unrevealing piece to the puzzle:

The United States was not even aware that he had been detained until it received a diplomatic note about him from the Iranians during the negotiations. He was detained sometime in the past year, US officials said.”

It seems highly unlikely the US was unaware that one of its citizens was being detained. What does seem almost certain, however, is that the less we know about Khosravi-Roodsari the happier both Washington and Tehran are. Now there’s a mystery wrapped inside a very tantalizing enigma – one you can be sure our “mainstream” media is supremely uninterested in pursuing.

Another surprise was the release of Matthew Trevithick, 29, yet another prisoner no one (except his parents and our government) knew was behind bars in Iran. His resume is quite impressive: an intern at the Wilson Center, a stint in Kurdistan at the American University in Sulaymaniyah, four years at the American University in Kabul, later co-founder of the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization (SREO) with headquarters in Turkey. SREO, which the State Department calls “a valuable partner,” appears to be involved in transporting Syrian refugees into Europe. They also appear to be part of the joint US-Islamist effort to overthrow Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad: a poster distributed by SREO reads “ISIS and Assad are one and the same” – a revelation the Christian and Alawite citizens of Syria would no doubt dispute.

Like US intelligence operations since the beginning of the cold war, aside from its “humanitarian” façade, SREO has its tentacles into American cultural organizations, in this case the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, a gaggle of Washington-based literary do-gooders and thinly disguised spooks with literary pretensions. Trevithick co-authored the autobiography  of the Afghan puppet government’s first Minister of Education, which was graced with an introduction by US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

What was Trevithick doing in Iran? He was there ostensibly to study Dari – President Obama described him as a “student” – but he apparently already knew Dari, and it looks like the Iranians figured he was studying something else.

It’s all so transparent: why on earth Trevithick’s handlers sent him to Iran in the first place is yet another layer of the mystery surrounding the prisoner swap. Between the sailors who couldn’t sail straight and the spooks who couldn’t spy straight, one has to wonder how the Empire has managed to stay afloat as long as it has.

Just as those freed Iranians were working to procure sanctioned products for Tehran, so the American prisoners in Iran were no doubt engaged in intelligence-gathering on behalf of Washington – although Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian’s “crime” appears to have been writing letter to President Obama, seized on by Iranian hard-liners (as eager as our neocons to spike the nuke deal) as evidence that he was collecting information and handing it to “hostile governments.”

The “prisoner swap” was in reality a spy exchange, as anyone with a lick of sense would have to conclude. Yet the US media won’t breathe the word “spy” in connection with anything having to do with our activities overseas: in this, like Mr. Trevithick’s SREO, they can be considered “a valuable partner” by our State Department.

 

More Air Force drones are crashing than ever as mysterious new problems emerge

January 20, 2016

by Craig Whitlock

The Washington Post

A record number of Air Force drones crashed in major accidents last year, documents show, straining the U.S. military’s fleet of robotic aircraft when it is in more demand than ever for counterterrorism missions in an expanding array of war zones.

Driving the increase was a mysterious surge in mishaps involving the Air Force’s newest and most advanced “hunter-killer” drone, the Reaper, which has become the Pentagon’s favored weapon for conducting surveillance and airstrikes against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

The Reaper has been bedeviled by a rash of sudden electrical failures that have caused the 21/2-ton drone to lose power and drop from the sky, according to accident-investigation documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators have traced the problem to a faulty starter-generator, but have been unable to pinpoint why it goes haywire or devise a permanent fix.

All told, 20 large Air Force drones were destroyed or sustained at least $2 million in damage in accidents last year, the worst annual toll ever, according to a Washington Post investigation. The Pentagon has shrouded the extent of the problem and kept details of most of the crashes a secret.

The aircraft losses pose another challenge for the Air Force as it struggles to provide sufficient drone coverage for counterterrorism operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Mali and Cameroon, among other countries.

Despite a surge in requests from field commanders, the Air Force last year had to curtail its drone combat missions by 8 percent because of an acute shortage of pilots for the remote-controlled aircraft. Things have gotten so bad that the Air Force is offering retention bonuses of up to $125,000 to its drone pilots, who have long complained of overwork.

The Air Force also has contracted out more drone missions to private companies to meet what one general called “a virtually insatiable appetite” from military commanders for airborne surveillance.

 

US scientists say 2015 was hottest on record

Last year was the hottest on record, US space agency NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have said. El Nino accounts for only part of the record heat.

January 20, 2016

DW

Data from NASA and NOAA show the average temperature on land and ocean surfaces in 2015 was 1.62 Fahrenheit (0.90 Celsius) above the 20th century average, making last year the hottest since recording began in 1880.

Last year the annual global temperature record was also broken by the largest margin, surpassing 2014’s previous record by 0.29 F (0.13 C).

“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the larger, long-term warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Global temperatures have been on a steady upward trajectory, with records being set already four times since the turn of the century.

“Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer than that year,” said the NOAA report.

US scientists said record breaking heat last year was only partially attributable to El Nino, a periodic weather cycle in the Pacific. The El Nino that started in late 2015 and will continue until spring of this year only added to what was already a global temperature rise.

The ever increasing temperature and weather anomalies come as the international community reached a landmark climate deal in Paris in December to cut human induced greenhouse gases to limit temperature increases to well below 3.6 F (2.0 C).

How safe are Jews in Germany?

Can Jews still feel safe in Germany? The large influx of refugees from Arab countries has many Jewish communities concerned about increasing anti-Semitism.

January 20, 2016

DW

Lena Stein lights a cigarette while she considers the question of whether she still feels safe as a Jew living in Germany. “I cannot answer that with yes or no,” says the student from Frankfurt am Main, as she exhales a cloud of smoke into the icy winter air. “The subject is far too complex.”

Julian-Chaim Soussan says he’ll maintain his habit of looking over his shoulder. “From a Jewish perspective, Germany is one of the safest countries in Europe,” says Soussan. “Politicians are very careful not to let anti-Semitism take hold here.” Nonetheless, he has heard from others that there are doubts about how safe Jews should really feel in Germany.

Concern over Islamic fundamentalists

Soussan is a Rabbi in Frankfurt am Main. With some 7,000 members, his is one of the largest congregations in Germany. With a Kindergarten, school, youth center, sport clubs and a cemetery, Jewish institutions belong to the city as much as any other religious confession. When Soussan describes his city and its 700,000 residents he says, “Frankfurt is multicultural, I think that everyone lives in their own way, but in the end they all live together. We are well supported here – and well protected.” However, he observes his surroundings carefully, “especially when I am with my family and am wearing a yarmulke.” The Rabbi says that these days he is less fearful of rightwing extremists and more of “Islamic fundamentalists.”

The fact that such fear is not unjustified was validated by a recent incident in Marseille, France, in which a teacher from a Jewish school was injured in a knife attack on the street. Media reports said that the three men who attacked the history teacher yelled anti-semitic slogans and had also declared their allegiance to the terrorist group “Islamic State.”

Although he is generally open to immigrants, the Frankfurt Rabbi is nevertheless concerned that young Muslim men could become radicalized here in Germany. “We are in a quandary,” he says, referring to his congregation. On the one hand it is “urgent that we let in those people seeking to avoid war and terror and offer them a home,” emphasizes Soussan. “Throughout our history we Jews were always fleeing and we know what that means.”

Yet he can also understand it when new refugees are received cautiously. “A number of these people were raised to view Israel and Jews as their enemies.” And it won’t be any easier if people, who already have radical ideas, enter the country, adds Soussan. But then, he says, it is society’s task to convince them to join the majority here, a majority that is not radical.

That is how Daniel Neumann, director of the Jewish community in Darmstadt in southern Hesse, sees things as well. “It is our moral responsibility to help people that are fleeing.” Though he does not deny that this could eventually bring problems for Jews in Germany and throughout Europe, saying: “You cannot get radical ideas out of peoples’ heads quickly.” In the end, he is much more fearful that radicals from Arab countries could join forces with existing networks of rightwing extremists. “One has seen it happen in the past,” says Neumann. “Because these groups have something in common: prejudices and their hate for Jews.” Such an amalgamation worries Neumann

Playing it safe without the yarmulke

Lena Stein says she does not think that refugees pose a threat to the Jewish community in Germany. “These people have fled terror and civil war themselves, they want to live in peace and quiet without being oppressed by fundamentalists,” says the 25-year-old. In any case, Lena does not feel threatened on the streets of Frankfurt, qualifying her answer by saying, “but I don’t wear anything that says I am a Jew.” Daniel Neumann also says, “as long as no one can see that we are Jewish we only have a very diffused feeling of concern, but not a feeling of fear.”

Lena also has no worries about her own safety, or that of family and friends, when present in institutions within the Jewish community. “We are all very well protected there, we are really safe.” Nevertheless, when asked about whether Jews should wear their yarmulkes on the street, she says no, adding that it could end up causing a radical to attack the yarmulke wearer – “People don’t need to provoke anyone.”

Julian-Chaim Soussan is of a different opinion. “We are in Germany here, we are allowed to be free,” he says. He wears his yarmulke in public because he feels it should be a part of everyday German life. Like a headscarf? “Yes,” the Rabbi says, “like a headscarf.”

 

Russian bombs take toll in Syria as Islamic State under pressure

January 20, 2016

by Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalid

Reuters

Beirut-Four months of Russian air strikes in Syria are taking their toll on rebel forces, strengthening the hand of a defiant President Bashar al-Assad as the United Nations struggles to get peace talks off the ground.

Insurgents in the west are being hit harder, while in eastern and central parts of the country, Islamic State is also under military pressure and is cutting fighters’ pay as its oil-smuggling operations are hit by plunging prices.

Rebel groups are reporting intensified air strikes and ground assaults in areas of western Syria that are of greatest importance to Assad. The government last week made one of its most significant gains since the start of the Russian intervention, capturing the town of Salma in Latakia province.While recent gains do not appear to mark a tipping point in the conflict, with rebels fighting back and regaining positions in some places, insurgents describe high levels of attrition on the front lines of western Syria.

Officials close to Damascus say sealing the northwestern border with Turkey is the priority. A Syrian military source said rebel supply lines from Turkey, which backs the insurgents, were under pressure from Russian and Syrian air strikes.

The course of battle underlines the uphill struggle facing U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura as he seeks to launch peace talks. Even with U.S. and Russian endorsement, a new peace process seems detached from the realities of a five-year-old war that may not yet be ready for peacemaking.

“Most opposition-held areas turned to defense because of the huge mobilization by Russians troops and the use of a large number of planes with unlimited munitions,” said Jamil al-Saleh, commander of a rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) group.

While playing down the importance of government gains, Saleh said military aid from the rebels’ foreign backers – including Saudi Arabia and Turkey – was not enough to confront offensives that are also backed on the ground by Iran.

“These are among the difficulties facing the FSA on the ground especially since the aerial bombing is affecting some headquarters, equipment, cars and personnel and the aid given is little compared to the ferocious attack,” he told Reuters.

Saudi Arabia’s support for the opposition has yet to be translated into the kind of heavier weapons the rebels are seeking, notably anti-aircraft missiles.

The military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said rebels were suffering from the destruction of their weapons depots, made possible by good intelligence. Their appeals for more support showed they had “lost a lot of field capacities”, the source said.

MOMENTUM

Noah Bonsey, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said levels of attrition remained high on both sides

“But it seems to be the rebel side that is more concerned about the trajectory at this moment, while the regime camp enjoys momentum,” he said.

“The regime itself never showed much openness for compromise even in its most vulnerable moments, so we can expect its current sense of momentum to further reinforce maximalism as Damascus pushes for a decisive military upper hand.”

Damascus and its allies are also doing better in their war with Islamic State, which is also being fought separately by a U.S.-led coalition from the sky and on the ground by Kurdish forces. The government has advanced to within a few kilometers (miles) of the IS-held town of al-Bab in Aleppo province.

Slumping oil prices have added to the pressures facing the jihadists whose flow of foreign recruits has been choked by tighter controls at the Turkish-Syrian frontier, once a major transit route.

Islamic State has also faced setbacks in Iraq, losing control of the city of Ramadi in recent weeks.

Of the 3,000 people killed by Russian air strikes in Syria since they began in September, nearly 900 were members of Islamic State, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the war.

But the group still controls swathes of eastern and central Syria where it is battling to safeguard its “caliphate” rather than reform Syria, which is the aim of the rebels in the west.

The Observatory says IS has recently cut the pay of its Syrian fighters. As in the past, IS has responded to the pressure by opening new fronts.

Its fighters reportedly killed scores of government loyalists in an attack on state-held areas of Deir al-Zor city this week, one of Assad’s few remaining outposts in the east.

The groups fighting Assad in the west include FSA factions, Islamists with a Syrian nationalist agenda, and jihadists including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that have been declared terrorists by the United States.

The main non-jihadist groups are part of a newly formed opposition council backed by Saudi Arabia that is tasked with overseeing the hoped-for negotiations.

The rebels say they will not negotiate until the other side shows good will by halting the bombardment of civilian areas, lifting blockades of population centers, and freeing detainees.

The government meanwhile says it is ready to attend Jan. 25 talks in Geneva, though it wants to know which groups will be deemed terrorists as part of the process, another stumbling block given its view that all rebels fall into that category.

“BACK AND FORTH”

Rebels interviewed by Reuters acknowledged recent government advances, but insist its manpower problems and dependence on foreign militias including Iranians still give the insurgents an important advantage and the capacity to fight back.

The insurgency suffered a major blow on Dec. 25 when Zahran Alloush, one of the most prominent rebel leaders, was killed in an air strike near Damascus.

The spokesman for one of the rebel groups fighting in northwestern Syria, the First Coastal Division, said the government side had captured Salma using overwhelming force.

“Weapons do not concern it, and ammunition does not concern it, or the death of its troops, or anything else. The only thing that concerns it is that they progress using all weapons, all planes,” spokesman Fadi Ahmad told Reuters.

A commander in the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group said the government and its allies were trying to advance toward the Turkish border. “They are trying to isolate the Syrians inside from the Turkish border. They are not as concerned about areas deeper in Syria, Hama and so on,” he told Reuters.

The government and its allies have also turned their focus to the south for the first time since Russia began its air strikes on Sept. 30, launching an attack on the town of Sheikh Maskin near the border with Jordan in late December.

Rebels fighting under the umbrella of the Southern Front alliance – a major component of the newly formed opposition council – say the government attack that got underway in late December has been accompanied by Russian air strikes.

Abu Ghiath al-Shami, the spokesman for one of the Southern Front insurgent groups, said that despite the onslaught the fighting was still “back and forth”. “I promise you in the coming period you will see something different that will surprise everyone in terms of military action,” he said.

A Western diplomat said the government appeared intent on weakening the Southern Front before any negotiations.

“I am surprised by the number of strikes and the number of forces from the regime side, including Hezbollah, and the Russian aerial bombing on behalf of the regime and the fact the town has still not fallen,” the diplomat said.

(Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Giles Elgood)

 

We’ll fight ISIS until its complete annihilation’ – Russian FM Lavrov after Kerry talks

January 20, 2016

RT

Islamic State and the Nusra Front won’t be part of the proposed Syrian ceasefire as the fight against the jihadists will go on until their complete annihilation, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, agreed during talks in Zurich.

The main thing is that we came to an unambiguous conclusion that the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 will remain the main basis for us to move forward,” Lavrov told journalists in Switzerland.

During the negotiations, the two diplomats “discussed practical steps to ensure the conditions for a ceasefire” in Syria in accordance with the UN resolution, the Russian foreign minister added.

The truce “wouldn’t apply to terrorist organizations Islamic State and the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra),” he stressed.

“They can’t be subject to an agreement on a ceasefire as they remain our enemies. And we’ll continue to fight them until their complete annihilation,” Lavrov stressed.

Moscow and Washington insist that the peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition shouldn’t be postponed beyond January, Lavrov said.

We are not even considering the postponement of talks from January to February… We are certain that these talks must start in the next few days,” he said.

The intra-Syrian talks are scheduled to take place in another Swiss city, Geneva, on January 25.

The negotiations will focus on such issues as the tasks of the transition period, preparation of the new constitution and early election, the FM said, adding that Russia, the US and other foreign players will only monitor the talks.

Lavrov was also asked whether Kerry and him had reached an agreement on the participation of the Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islamin groups in the Syrian talks.

“We can say that there is no such agreement,” the Russia’s top diplomat replied.

Russia presented data on the terrorist nature of both groups to the US during the Zurich meeting, maintaining its stance that Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islamin have no place at the negotiating table.

Ahrar ash-Sham “is known to have been repeatedly shelling residential quarters of Damascus and Russia’s embassy. Ahrar ash-Sham is a child of Al-Qaeda,” Lavrov explained.However, the FM expressed confidence that UN Special Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, would be able to form a representative opposition delegation for the intra-Syrian negotiations.

The foreign minister also told Kerry that Moscow “is ready to coordinate with the US-led coalition” regarding Russia’s humanitarian assistance in Syria.

The participants of the talks “reaffirmed the need to deal with the humanitarian problems in Syria,” he said.

Lavrov said that he assured his counterpart that the Russian Air Force is taking into account the UN and Red Cross programs in Syria as they conduct their humanitarian operation.

The Russian military launched a humanitarian operation in Syria last week in order to supply food and essentials to the residents of besieged towns and villages.

 

Fears grow of repeat of 2008 financial crash as investors run for cover

As leaders gathered in Davos, FTSE 100 was gripped by panic selling and entered bear market with Dow Jones also plunging

Januarey 20, 2016

by Phillip Inman

The Guardian

Fears that the global economy could be heading for a repeat of the 2008 financial crash have sent shockwaves through financial markets – prompting a rush to safe havens by investors.

Oil prices fell to a fresh 12-year low on Wednesday and metal prices tumbled in response to warnings that China’s slowdown could derail the global recovery at a time when central banks, which came to the rescue in the credit crunch, have only limited firepower.

As world and business leaders gathered for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the FTSE 100 was gripped by panic selling, especially of mining and oil companies that have been hit hard by the global slowdown in manufacturing and trade. Earlier this week China recorded the slowest rate of economic growth for 25 years.

The index dropped more than 200 points to finish the day down more than 20% from its peak of 7,122, reached in April last year. Such a 20% decline marks the beginning of a bear market.

In New York, shares on the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 450 points, or 2.9% in morning trading, while Brent crude dropped $1 to $27 a barrel – down more than 70% from its summer 2014 level of $115 a barrel.

Stock markets in Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia also dived, as concerns mounted that countries already badly hit by the fall in oil prices could be forced to dip further into reserves to prevent an economic crisis. Global equities have had their worst start to a year on record.

William White, a former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers club, who now chairs the OECD’s review committee warned that central bankers had “used up all their ammunition”.

The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up. 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,” he said on the eve of the event.

The BIS was one of the few organisations to warn during 2006 and 2007 about the unstable levels of bank lending that eventually led to the Lehman Brothers crash.

Concerns that the global recovery could be derailed began last summer when a devaluation of the Chinese currency sparked a meltdown on the Shanghai stock exchange. A series of economic downgrades to the Chinese and US economies since then, coupled with a rise in US interest rates, have fuelled investors’ misgivings about optimistic forecasts for a recovery in economic fortunes.

Adding to the concerns of a sharp downgrade in global growth this year, a survey for the consultants PwC before the Davos meeting revealed that two-thirds of chief executives saw more threats facing their businesses than three years ago. And the head of the Swiss banking giant UBS, Axel Weber, turned the screw by warning that the world was stuck in an era of low growth.

Last week an investment analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland advised clients to “sell everything” except the safest high grade bonds after warning of a “cataclysmic” year and the strong likelihood of a stock market crash. His comments came after the chancellor, George Osborne, warned in a new year speech of a “cocktail of threats” to the UK’s prospects from an increasingly uncertain world economy.

Nariman Behravesh, the chief economist at consultancy IHS blamed the Chinese authorities for triggering the global panic. “The big event that I think has captured everyone’s attention is the developments in China and in particular the fact that growth is slowing,” he said.

The Chinese policymakers have “fumbled”, he said. “They have made some mistakes. And they have added to the uncertainty and the volatility by their behaviour.”

Others blamed the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, for raising interest rates in December to 0.5% when growth was already faltering, increasing borrowing costs to US businesses and encouraging an influx of funds, especially from China.

However, Nouriel Roubini, who was even more vocal than the BIS in warning of the 2008 crash, said the the threat of a crash was overplayed: “It is not going to be like 2008-09. There is not the excessive leverage in the financial system that there was last time.”

But 2016 was going to be a bumpy year until central banks responded with extra stimulus, he warned, saying: “The big thing that should happen is China should stop kicking the can down the road and get on with some serious structural reforms.”

Pierre Moscovici, the European economics commissioner, said that central banks retained some firepower to prevent another crisis. “I don’t feel that the financial crisis is coming back. We don’t feel that we are facing the risk of a breakdown in world growth, but there are downsides that we need to address,” he said.

Maurice Obstfeld, the chief economist at the IMF, said he was concerned that central banks were held back by concerns that an extra stimulus would cause extra inflation in a couple of year. He said: “Central banks should be more relaxed about overshooting their inflation targets and more concerned about deflationary pressures.

We are in an environment where there is growing concern that inflation expectations are not firmly anchored. So there should be much more concern about deflation.”

Among the biggest losers on the FTSE 100 were the international mining groups, whose business has been particularly hit by the slowdown in China as demand for industrial basics like iron ore and copper has fallen rapidly.

The biggest loser yesterday was miner and commodities trading group Glencore, whose shares tumbled nearly 10% to 71p. Less than two years ago they were changing hands at 375p. Anglo American, the iron ore, copper and diamond miner, lost more than 7%, falling to 221p. Less than four years ago they were valued at more than £34.

 

Stolen German Gold 

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

 

In 2013, the German government had asked to visit the vaults of the US Federal Reserve to determine the actual existence, and the amount, of the German gold reserves in American custory and control.

Germany had deposited about half of its gold reserves in the USA. The American authorities refused to permit Germany to examine its own gold, stating “security” and “no room for visitors” as reasons.

When German officials  finally were allowed a very limited audit, the auditors were admitted into the vault´s anté chamber where five gold bars were shown to them as “representative for Germany´s holdings”.

The German auditors then returned a second time, when the officials granted them permission to “officially observe” one of nine huge storage rooms but they were forbidden entry for alleged security problems and sent back to Germany, empty-handed 

It is not surprising that the  German Federal Bank, (Deutsche Bundesbank-DB) does not wish to discuss this situation in public because of the probable public German outrage and demands for restitution on the part of the German people and officials.

The DB stated that the Deutsche Bundesbank  does not want to comment on the situation and referred to the full transparency which it had provided about the German gold reserves in January 2013. “The situation” said the DB spokesperson, “has remained unchanged since then”. The statement however, was only 50 % true. The true 50 % of the statement is that the Deutsche Bundesbank does not want to comment.

German gold reserves no longer exist anywhere in the United States in the form of official Bundesbank  bars and one should note that neither the US Treasure or the Federal Reserve have not conducted any official audit of its foreign gold holdings since 1953.

And Germany is not the only country whose gold assets have been stolen.

If German gold reserves can be proven to have been used as collateral for loand or otherwise disposed of   the US Treasury would have to return official gold bars to the Grerman banking system and the amount is so immense that they could not do so under any circumstances.

It is obvious that Germany, and other depositing countries, will never see any of their gold deposits again. The US Treasury has lent the gold to U.S. financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, and many more went to the PRC and were also used  to lower the world’s gold price.

One of the reasons that Russians are buying up all the gold they can find is to remove any gold from the market so that when various countries begin to demand a return of gold, the American authorities will have a difficult time locating any quantity and will then be forced to buy from the Russians at a very high price indeed. 

It is quite evident that the foreign gold deposited in the United States for safe-keeping has been used by the American government for thieir own needs, is long gone, and, as far as official Washington is concerned, a dead issue and not to be talked about. German gold, and the gold of numerous other countries who deposited their gold in the USA after WW II, has been used to lkeep official America as solvent as possible and pay for her huge military establishment.

 

Locals demand Oregon militia leave refuge: ‘It’s time for you to go home’

Burns residents shouted at leader Ammon Bundy to end occupation at Malheur wildlife refuge that began 2 January during angry and emotional public forum

January 20, 1016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

The armed militiamen occupying a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon have faced the most intense opposition yet at a community meeting where local residents shouted down protest leader Ammon Bundy in person.

Bundy and several other high-profile militia members left the Malheur national wildlife refuge to attend a public forum in the small town of Burns, located 30 miles away from the occupation. At the emotional meeting, residents one by one demanded that Bundy and his armed followers end their siege of the wildlife sanctuary and immediately leave town.

It is time for you to go home,” Harney County judge Steve Grasty, one of the most vocal critics of the militia, said directly to Bundy, who sat in the bleachers of a Burns high school gymnasium on Tuesday night and listened to a steady stream of angry comments.

Go, go, go, go, go,” the crowd shouted back, according to the Oregonian. “Get the hell out of my county,” one woman yelled. Another screamed at Bundy: “Go to jail where you deserve to be!”

Bundy and a group of out-of-state militiamen stormed the wildlife sanctuary on 2 January to protest the US Bureau of Land Management’s regulations of federal lands and the imprisonment of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son Steven.

Within the first week of the occupation, a loud majority of local officials and residents made clear that, even if they agreed with Bundy’s message, they did not support the armed takeover of government buildings.

This was never about the Hammonds,” Grasty told the Guardian over the weekend. “It was a diversionary tactic. These folks have some other goal that they never told us about.”

Bundy and the militiamen have continued to insist that they are fighting for the rights of local ranchers and say they are now recruiting supporters outside of Harney County and Oregon to join their cause.

Federal employees of the Malheur refuge, who have been unable to continue their conservation work and have been largely silent over the past two weeks, also decried the militia in a statement on Facebook published Tuesday night.

It pains each of us that we are missing our obligations to you. … We hope to be back soon,” the statement said. “This is Harney County’s and America’s Refuge. … We are excited to be part of the eventual healing process for our community.”

Harney County sheriff Dave Ward has offered to peacefully escort the militia out of Oregon, but Bundy has refused to accept the invitation or offer a timeline for the end of the occupation.

Ward announced on Tuesday that law enforcement officials have now taken action against three “criminals heading to or from the refuge” – though commentators have criticized local police and the FBI for continuing to take a largely passive approach.

Last Thursday, Oregon state police stopped Dwane Kirkland, a 48-year-old man from Hamilton, Montana, and arrested him on felony charges of firearm possession, Ward announced yesterday. It’s unclear how Kirkland – who police say is a convicted felon and was driving outside of the refuge – is connected to the occupation.

On Friday, police also arrested occupier Kenneth Medenbach, who drove a stolen government vehicle out of the occupation and into Burns. And on Sunday, Darrow Burke, a man from Ukiah, California, crashed his car on an icy road and subsequently told state troopers that he had been at the refuge for the past week, according to the sheriff. He was only issued a citation for driving without a license.

Militia leaders, who typically travel with armed “security” guards, have had no trouble exiting and returning to the refuge.

Ammon, his brother Ryan Bundy and occupier Jon Ritzheimer all showed up to the Harney County meeting and left without facing any threats from law enforcement. They walked past multiple sheriff’s deputies on the way out to their trucks.

 

Obama’s Justice Department Likes Criminally Prosecuting People, But Not Corporations

January 20, 2016

by David Dayen

The Intercept

Fewer than one in eight federal agency criminal referrals of corporations led to actual criminal prosecutions between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to Justice Department data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

While criminal referrals of individuals resulted in prosecutions at an 82.1 percent clip, corporate prosecutions from referrals only happened at a 12.3 percent rate.

This meant that for incoming referrals,” according to the TRAC report, “prosecution of individual defendants was, on average, nearly seven times more likely than it was for corporations.”

The report builds upon a previous TRAC analysis showing a 29 percent drop in corporate criminal prosecutions from 2004 to 2014, suggesting that corporate crime has become a lower priority in the Obama administration. Statistics showing a significant rejection of corporate referrals for white-collar crime — only 7.4 percent of those cases led to prosecutions — further the narrative that corporations have not suffered from aggressive law enforcement over the past several years.

This report studies over 1 million criminal referrals issued over a five-year period by 146 agencies throughout the federal government — from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Bureau of Mines.

These executive branch agencies cannot prosecute criminal cases themselves: They must funnel them to one of 93 U.S. attorney’s offices across the country. Then federal prosecutors at those offices make the decision to charge individuals or corporations.

Some 999,670 of those referrals involved individuals, while only 10,670 referred corporations to the U.S. attorney for possible criminal prosecution. Over 820,000 of the individual criminal referrals were converted into actual prosecutions, compared to just 1,309 of the corporate referrals.

The data varied heavily depending on the individual U.S. attorney’s office.

Some offices, like those in North Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, prosecuted corporate cases from referrals at 40 percent rates or higher.

Others were far less successful. The U.S. attorney’s office for the southern district of New York, for example, seen as one of the “sheriffs of Wall Street,” received 179 criminal referrals from 2010 to 2014, but only brought 11 cases (a 6.1 percent conversion rate, 70th out of the 90 judicial districts studied).

The office with the most referrals, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, had an even lower conversion rate, receiving 707 referrals but bringing only 32 cases (4.5 percent).

Four offices — the middle district of Alabama, the western district of Michigan, the eastern district of New York (the former office of current Attorney General Loretta Lynch), and the northern district of Oklahoma — prosecuted none of the corporate cases handed over in criminal referrals.

Typically, the U.S. attorney is a member of the sitting president’s party, though in some cases holdovers from a previous administration run the office. They are semi-autonomous offices, though input from Main Justice on specific cases cannot be divined from the data.

Corporate crimes most commonly prosecuted after referrals include environmental and immigration offenses, from agencies like the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Of the 5,000 referrals on white-collar crime, only 371 turned into prosecutions. One hundred and eighty-seven civil rights complaints against corporations only led to one prosecution over the five-year period.

Roughly one-third of the corporate criminal referrals came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the Department of Health and Human Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Postal Inspection Service also making significant referrals.

The TRAC report also breaks down referrals by each agency and prosecutions by each U.S. attorney’s office within the separate categories of crimes. The report concludes that improved access to public records like these can help the public “be better informed about the thousands of important decisions made each day by federal prosecutors, federal agencies, and occasionally the attorneys general.”

The Justice Department has been criticized for pursuing deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements with corporations, waiving criminal negligence in exchange for fines and independent monitoring. Last September, a memo from top Justice Department official Sally Yates claimed that “Fighting corporate fraud and other misconduct is a top priority.” But the TRAC data suggests that they have a long way to go.

 

 

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