TBR News June 10, 2016

Jun 10 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 10, 2016: “The boobs that infest our government, at the highest levels, are playing very stupid and dangerous games with the Russians. We send troops to countries bordering on Russia, put sanctions on her, and now are sending naval units into the Black Sea. Eventually, some dimbulb will fire at a Russian plane or ship and the Russians will fire back. The leadership in the United States is as empty of brains as a ladle. The devastating First World War started by miscalculation, the Second by Roosevelt’s plotting and let us hope the next war is not started by stupidity.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Sunday, 13 August 1950

Wallace has now left his Progressive Party because he publicly supports the intervention in Korea. There wasn’t much left of his party anyway and there has been a great deal of pressure put on him lately. Truman called him a communist and the war in Korea, (a war and not a “police action”) has done terrible damage to the friends of the peace-loving Soviet Union. I believe that if such a war did not begin by the actions of the communists, it would have been necessary for us to instigate one.

Wars have a wonderful unifying effect on a dissident population. I recall, even though I was young at the time, the effect the declaration of war by Germany in 1914 had on the left wing in the Reichstag. Much unity…for a time. It will be that way here for a brief period and then the left wing, seeing its friends being shot at, will clamor for peace. Truman can’t give it to them because he has declared himself to be the head of the war party and cannot back down.

He is now being faced with a military, not a civilian, problem. That problem now is: where to stop in the event this country manages to shove the enemy back to their own borders? A “police action” should logically stop when the invaders have been expelled but the military will see this as a chance for greater glory and they will wish to pursue their new enemy into his own country.

Monday, 21 August 1950

I have heard from Sophie, through the cut outs, that she is not happy with her current situation. She wants more money, which I can certainly supply, and wants me to visit her! Mad woman! They are watching the house as I well know and a recent contact has told me that the Russians are also watching. Interestingly enough, my contact, Viktor, is an NKVD man who is here in Washington disguised as a Canadian businessman connected to their trade mission! How interesting to talk to another professional again and one from the enemy camp. A very clever man, this one. I met him at the club last week where he was a guest. I could see that he wanted to talk to me so I made myself available and we had a nice chat in the library.

I spotted him as a Russian immediately. He speaks perfect English…too perfect…but his questions tended to give him away. If you listen to someone very carefully, you can find out exactly what they want from you. In this case, he was probing me. He has seen me with Behn and others, knows I am Swiss, or has been told this, and is curious. Viktor also speaks German and knows the difference between German and Swiss dialects. I, on the other hand, speak Russian and we can both spot the differences in our fronts. Entertaining. Finally, yesterday, we had another chat and this time we decided to stop wasting time and get right down to business.

He knows who I am and I know who he is and there we sat, smoking good cigars and talking shop with each other. V. knows Philby who I suspect has tipped him off but at this level, who cares? The public has no idea of the fact that people like V. and myself are purely professional and are not interested in emotional ideology.

Neither one of us has the slightest intention of exposing the other. That would be unprofessional and rude so we sit and chat about various matters. His family is in Moscow, no doubt as hostages for his good behavior, and mine is in Pasing because I can’t go back and frankly, don’t want to.shares my contempt for the British who he says are unprincipled whores, kissing and sucking up to both the Russians and ourselves.

After the cigars, a very good game of chess. He is hard to beat; Russians are superb chess players, but I beat him. We will have to play again and when we were leaving the club, V. made some sly comment about the difference between the home in Pasing and my place in Georgetown.

I told him he should come by sometime for a drink and a game of chess but considering that a good part of the first floor is furnished with stolen works of art from his country, I doubt if my house would be a good idea and besides, the place is now empty. At least he doesn’t know that much and because I haven’t told Philby that I have moved, Victor is dealing with stale coffee.

The Soviets would beat the Americans with my presence here if it would benefit them but no doubt they think to turn me around to work for them. This, of course, would never happen but maybe I can turn Viktor to work for me! Stranger things have happened and he is the best chess player I have found since I came here. Those at the CIA who think they are so clever play like young children and are so easy to beat that the games are not entertainment whatsoever.

I mentioned this to Bunny and she thought it was most entertaining and that we ought to cultivate him.

I told her that as we were getting married next week, I disapproved of bringing strange men into the house, even if it is in the line of business. I told her that we had agreed to keep the business away from the house but women are peculiar after all.

Speaking of the wedding, the invitations have been sent out to her relatives and my staff and those few among my co-workers who would be infuriated not to have been invited. One takes the good along with the bad!

The house is now almost completely redecorated and furnished and I must agree with Bunny that the place looks very grand indeed. One can get used to luxury very quickly and I was thinking of the cold-water apartment I once occupied in Berlin. Comparisons are often odious but in this case, quite pleasant.

Bunny is not Catholic but I have insisted on being married in the Church and on this issue, we are in agreement. One of my friends from Georgetown will perform the services although my new friend, Cardinal Spellman, would have been more impressive.

The hothouses will supply the flowers; Hayes is supplying the music and my kitchens will supply the food and wines.

Saturday, 2 September 1950

Now I am a happily (I sincerely hope…not like the last time) married man!

Now what Bunny and I do is legal. Maybe that will rob it of some of the forbidden fun but a pleasant home is much to be desired.

Such a great deal of fuss which could be accomplished in a simple Washington court room but Bunny and her aunt had their hearts set on an elaborate ceremony and I must say, they certainly had it.

All of her friends, of course (simply showing off her catch of the day) and my staff, aunts, cousins and so on. The place smelled like a funeral and the women were weeping. The men were shaking my hand because, after all, Bunny is very attractive as well as very rich, and so on.

The service was held in the main drawing room and afterwards, we all adjourned to a huge buffet (I prefer these to a sit-down dinner) in the gallery. A string orchestra was playing Mozart. Champagne, very good vintages I regret to say, was vanishing at an alarming rate but there were no drunken rampages such as I have witnessed at the parties of a number of my CIA friends. My guests know how to hold their liquor.

An amusing incident with my new bosom friend, Viktor. He behaved like a proper Canadian businessman until he saw some of my Russian treasures and then became somewhat agitated. I took him by the arm and showed him other treasures that had come from France.

His comment? Typically Russian. “But these pieces are only stolen from rich Jews. The other pieces are stolen from our state museums!”

Like most Russians, Viktor does not like Jews and said to me later, “At least we did have some things in common with the Nazis. We both hate Jews.”

Which was typical and amusing because I do not hate Jews. I don’t have any on my staff nor do I work with any at the CIA (who doesn’t have many at all and no one in the inner circles) but I have better things to do than to persecute Jews. We can let the Republicans and the Army people do that.

And there were two Generals, one Colonel, one Admiral (retired) and a number of lesser ranks in attendance.

Bunny and I made the circle of the guests; stopping here and there to talk to people she or I knew. Very much like a royal court. A levee indeed! King Heinrich and his royal consort receiving the nobility. And tables full of very expensive gifts, mostly ornate silver pieces, only a few of which are plate.

Our rings are very simple affairs but the engagement ring I gave her has a one-carat square cut emerald mounted in platinum. Old (again, another Imperial Russian piece) but very elegant. There is a matching emerald and diamond choker (or dog collar as Bunny calls it), which I wanted her to wear, but we both decided that it was too ornate for the occasion. It will take days to clean up the mess here and I will stay and supervise.

Bunny is getting more items from her aunt’s place and she tells me that my place is being cleaned up and will be put onto the market soon. I outgrew it soon enough, but this place is a small kingdom and ought to absorb quite a bit of art.

It certainly is much cooler here than in the District and we are going to rebuild the old chapel on the roadside. My father used to do that for a living and I have acquired a bit of knowledge in that area. It obviously was for a Protestant family and I will convert it to a Catholic chapel, but I doubt if I will have a chaplain on my staff. Now if I could get Bunny to convert, that might be different. I do have a number of very valuable relics such as altarpieces, plates and so on, which would do much better in a church than in my house.


Russia: We will respond to entry of U.S. naval vessel into Black Sea

June 10, 2016


The Russian Foreign ministry said Moscow would respond to a U.S. naval ship’s entry into the Black Sea with unspecified measures, saying it and other deployments were designed to ratchet up tensions ahead of a NATO summit, the RIA news agency reported.

Russian state media reported that the USS Porter, a U.S. naval destroyer, entered the Black Sea a few days ago on a routine deployment, a move it said raised hackles in Moscow because it had recently been fitted with a new missile system.

U.S. Navy officials told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. military would also have two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean this month ahead of a July NATO summit in Warsaw as Washington sought to balance Russian military activities.”Of course, this does not meet with our approval and will undoubtedly lead to response measures,” RIA cited Andrei Kelin, a senior Foreign Ministry official, as saying about the USS Porter’s movements.

He also said the deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean was a show of force which in his view deepened a chill in ties between Moscow and Washington caused by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

“As regards the overall situation of course there is a definite increase and stoking of tensions in our relations,” he was quoted as saying.

“It is all being done on the eve of the Warsaw NATO summit. It is a show of force.”

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Alexander Winning)


Spread of violence in Turkey shows no sign of abating

Kurdish militants said they were behind an Istanbul bombing as the violence in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south-east spreads. Turks in the country’s west are now seeing the deadly conflict play out on their doorstep.

June 10, 2016


A radical offshoot of the banned Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for a bombing in the center of Istanbul on Friday, marking the latest entry in a string of attacks across the country that shows no sign of abating.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), who split with the PKK in 2006, and explicitly pursue civilian targets, detonated a car bomb next to a bus carrying Turkish police officers in Istanbul’s Veznecilar district on Tuesday. The attack was followed by another car bombing targeted a police station in Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, the following day.

For almost a year now the predominantly Kurdish provinces of Turkey’s south-east have been home to a large scale Turkish military operation nominally targeting the PKK that has left entire cities in ruins and hundreds killed.

The campaign has been compared to the Turkish army’s operations in the Kurdish regions in the 1980s and 1990s that left more than 44,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. This week’s attack in Istanbul is yet more evidence that this time the violence is spreading west.

Kurdish militants linked to the PKK, who see themselves as resisting an incursion by the Turkish military, have suffered heavy losses in pitched urban battles with Turkish soldiers in the south-east and are increasingly turning to hit-and-run style guerrilla tactics and car bombings. Major Turkish army operations are continuing across the region, and are still ongoing in the city centers of Sirnak and Yuksekova in the country’s deep south-east.

The Turkish army has declared 24-hour military curfews in the centers of Kurdish towns and cities that independent rights groups such as the Human Rights Association (IHD) and Mazlumder claim have resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Speaking at a meeting of the relatives of soldiers killed in the operations on Tuesday, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military operations were succeeding. “The PKK has experienced its biggest ever blow over the last year … the trenches they dug have become their graves and the bombs they planted to divide the nation have exploded in their own hands.”

President Erdogan claimed 7,600 “terrorists” had been killed or captured in the operations since July 20, 2015, however, death tolls in the conflict are hotly disputed.

An independent casualty count maintained by the International Crisis Group puts the total number of confirmed PKK fatalities at 519 (However, the organization notes that the true figure should be higher due to the difficulty of verifying reports). Crisis Group has also documented 517 police, military personnel and village guard fatalities and at least 271 civilian deaths, along with an additional 191 individuals between 16 and 35 years of age who have been killed at times of clashes or in curfew zones but cannot be positively identified either as civilians or militants.

String of attacks

Hostilities spiked after PKK militants shot down a Turkish army helicopter with an anti-aircraft system on May 13. The organization’s guerrillas followed up the attack on May 16 with a raid on an army outpost in Oremar, Hakkari province that the group claimed left more than 30 soldiers dead. The Turkish army reported only two deaths.

On June 4, PKK guerrillas targeted Turkish soldiers in the Semdinli region of Hakkari province in the far south-east, claiming subsequently to have killed 26 soldiers. Then, on June 5, PKK guerrillas attacked a bus carrying Turkish gendarmes on the main road between Trabzon and Gumushane in the country’s north, claiming to have killed six officers.

The same day, in Tunceli province, PKK guerrillas attacked an army outpost killing one soldier, and on June 6 they carried out a further attack in Sirnak’s Uludere district in yet another raid on a Turkish army outpost.

The Turkish army responded on June 8 by carrying out airstrikes on the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s leadership is based.

‘A low-intensity war’

“The results of this war have been pretty grim for the Kurdish people,” Mehmet Sanri, a veteran Kurdish journalist and analyst from Sirnak, now living in Istanbul, told DW.

“But the Turkish generals have labeled the conflict a ‘low intensity war,’ or at least one of a lower intensity than the previous conflicts, meaning they think they have things more or less under control.”

Sanri points out that some in the region question the logic of the PKK’s strategy of continuing to fight, but that the rules of the game are still fundamentally being set by the Turkish state. “Don’t forget that the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, is still held in prison by Turkey,” he said.

“The presence of Russia in Syria, and the situation in Iraq, is also complicating and deepening the conflict and unfortunately the destruction continues at full speed.”

PKK guerrillas have recently taken credit for a string of attacks on police and army positions across south-eastern Turkey and say they plan to ramp up the attacks. Though they have received little international or domestic attention, attacks in the south-east have been deadlier than more high profile attacks such as Tuesday’s car bombing in Istanbul.

Hostilities spiked after PKK militants shot down a Turkish army helicopter with an anti-aircraft system on May 13. The organization’s guerrillas followed up the attack on May 16 with a raid on an army outpost in Oremar, Hakkari province that the group claimed left more than 30 soldiers dead. The Turkish army reported only two deaths.

On June 4, PKK guerrillas targeted Turkish soldiers in the Semdinli region of Hakkari province in the far south-east, claiming subsequently to have killed 26 soldiers. Then, on June 5, PKK guerrillas attacked a bus carrying Turkish gendarmes on the main road between Trabzon and Gumushane in the country’s north, claiming to have killed six officers.

The same day, in Tunceli province, PKK guerrillas attacked an army outpost killing one soldier, and on June 6 they carried out a further attack in Sirnak’s Uludere district in yet another raid on a Turkish army outpost.

The Turkish army responded on June 8 by carrying out airstrikes on the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s leadership is based.

‘A low-intensity war’

“The results of this war have been pretty grim for the Kurdish people,” Mehmet Sanri, a veteran Kurdish journalist and analyst from Sirnak, now living in Istanbul, told DW.

“But the Turkish generals have labeled the conflict a ‘low intensity war,’ or at least one of a lower intensity than the previous conflicts, meaning they think they have things more or less under control.”

Sanri points out that some in the region question the logic of the PKK’s strategy of continuing to fight, but that the rules of the game are still fundamentally being set by the Turkish state. “Don’t forget that the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, is still held in prison by Turkey,” he said.

“The presence of Russia in Syria, and the situation in Iraq, is also complicating and deepening the conflict and unfortunately the destruction continues at full speed.”


Top ‘1 percent’ in US blooms as income inequality grows, despite Obama’s efforts – report

June 10, 2016


Despite President Obama’s efforts to fight income inequality, the gap is widening. The wealthiest “one percent” take in most of the growth, a new study shows. The last 35 years saw the richest Americans’ income jump 10 times higher than the other 99 percent.

“Market income in 2013 for households in the top 1 percent was 188 percent higher than it was in 1979,” the Congressional Budget Office said in the report released Wednesday. “For households in the bottom four income quintiles, market income was 18 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 1979.”

According the new federal data, a typical American household earned market income of $86,000 in 2013. After adding another $14,000 in government benefits per household, their pretax income reached $100,000. In that scenario, consumers kept $80,000 annually after paying 20 percent in taxes.

In the meantime, in 2013, America’s richest “one percent,” made up of 1.2 million households across the country, earned on average nearly $1.6 million annually per household. The CBO estimates that in the last 35 years, after-tax income of those richest households saw at least 3 percent growth each year. Thus, in 2013, their income after paying federal taxes was 192 percent higher than it was in 1979.

In comparison, over the same period, households “at the bottom” saw their income grow only 1 percent per year on average, bringing their earnings up only 46 percent during those 35 years.

Despite the remaining wide gap between the “one percent” and the rest of the US, income inequality declined during the first five years of Obama’s presidency.

The White House successfully tamped down after-tax inequality by applying changes in the federal tax system in 2012 and 2013, when tax rates for the richest Americans rose more than five percentage points. That was the largest tax increase in 20 years.

In 2013, the “one percent” paid about $70,000 in federal taxes per household compared to $9,000 taken from the middle class and less than $1,000 from lower class families.

“That decrease in income inequality stemmed primarily from the higher rates faced by high-income taxpayers in that year, which made the federal tax system the most progressive it has been since the mid-1990s,” the CBO said.

What took even a bigger bite out of inequality was the Obama administration’s transfer policies, which largely go to low-income households.

In fact, in each year between 1979 and 2013, government transfers reduced income inequality significantly more than the federal tax system did, the CBO estimated.

At the same time, President Obama has also increased benefits, as exemplified by the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid coverage.


Latest threat to online lenders: ‘stacking’ of multiple loans

June 10, 2016

by Heather Somerville, Olivia Oran and Joy Wiltermuth


SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK-Many online lenders have failed to detect the “stacking” of multiple loans by borrowers who slip through their automated underwriting systems, lending company executives and investors told Reuters.

The practice is proliferating in the sector – led by LendingClub, OnDeck and Prosper Marketplace – because of many lenders’ hurried, algorithmic underwriting, use of “soft” credit inquiries, and patchy reporting of the resulting loans to credit bureaus, according to online lending and consumer credit experts.

Such loopholes, they said, can result in multiple lenders making loans to the same borrowers, often within a short period, without the full picture of their rising obligations and deteriorating ability to pay.

Stacking is “causing problems with the whole industry,” said Brian Biglin, chief risk officer of LoanDepot, a five-year-old mortgage lender that last year started making personal loans online.

New revelations of loose lending could make it harder for the beleaguered sector to win back trust from investors who are already concerned about slipshod underwriting and rising default risk. The marketplace lending industry – which last year hit $18 billion in annual loan originations – has seen plummeting share prices and the retreat of some major backers, including BlackRock and Citigroup.

Industry leaders LendingClub and Avant said they are aware of stacking and its dangers, but they downplayed the risks and did not provide examples of specific actions taken to prevent the practice. OnDeck and Prosper said they have launched efforts to detect and guard against stacking.“We have established proprietary algorithms,” said Prosper spokeswoman Sarah Cain.

Some higher-risk lenders allow and promote stacking as debt consolidation, but most lenders consider it a threat, particularly when not disclosed.

Edward Hanson, the owner of Ella’s Wood Fire Pizza, said he started stacking loans about five years ago to sustain his business.

“You take out another one to help you pay for the first,” Hanson said.

Hanson, 55, said he already had loans from a variety of online lenders when he received offers from online business lenders OnDeck and Kabbage, which approved his application, he said.

OnDeck knew Hanson had at least one other loan when he applied in August of 2014, and required that the existing debt be paid off as a condition of the new loan, said company spokesman Jim Larkin. When Hanson came back a year later, OnDeck declined his application because Hanson had stacked loans during the course of repayment, Larkin said.

Kabbage declined to comment on Hanson’s loans and did not respond to questions about its stacking policies.

Hanson now pays nearly 40 percent interest on his latest loan, from yet another lender.

“I pretty much feel trapped,” he said.


Institutional investors have lately grown wary of marketplace lenders after initially hailing them as disruptors of banks and credit card companies. Wall Street money is crucial for most online lenders, who need it to fund their loans.

Citigroup ended its partnership with Prosper earlier this year. The bank had repackaged about $1.5 billion of Prosper’s loans into securities since the partnership began less than a year ago.

Investor sentiment was hammered again last month by a scandal at industry leader LendingClub. The company knowingly sold $22 million in loans that did not meet the agreed specifications of one investment bank, Jefferies, and falsified the applications of $3 million of those loans.

LendingClub is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the company said last month, and a number of its large investors have halted investments in the wake of its chief executive’s resignation. The New York Department of Financial Services also has said it will launch a probe into online lenders.

Now concerns about stacking are adding to the industry’s woes. One investment firm that was considering buying equity in a marketplace lender described stacking as a sector “blind spot.” The firm declined to be named.

Bill Kassul, a partner in Ranger Capital Group – which has about $300 million invested in marketplace lending and business lending – said stacking has become a concern in the last two years and poses a “big risk” to investors.

Blue Elephant Capital Management stopped buying loans from Prosper for several months recently over concerns about weak underwriting and profitability. Marketplace lenders need to slow their lending processes and improve sharing of credit information, said Brian Weinstein, chief investment officer at Blue Elephant.

Stacking was “one of the reasons why we think we saw credit deteriorate last summer when we stopped our marketplace lending program,” Weinstein said.Blue Elephant last month announced plans to resume buying Prosper loans, in part because the company is charging higher interest rates.


In their haste to give applicants quick loan decisions – sometimes within 24 hours – some marketplace lenders do not conduct thorough credit checks, known as “hard inquiries,” according to industry executives.

Such checks create an updated log of credit and loan applications, and they can lower a borrower’s credit score. Soft inquiries don’t require the borrower’s consent and don’t usually show up on credit reports.

OnDeck said it runs only soft checks. LendingClub and Prosper said they initially run soft checks but run hard checks later in the process, just before funding loans.

Running hard checks only at the last minute, however, can also leave other lenders in the dark, said Gilles Gade, president and CEO of Cross River Bank, which invests in many online lending platforms. At that point, the borrower may have already obtained other loans, he said, because hard checks can take about 30 days to show up on a credit report.

Another problem: Loans that never show up on credit reports at all, because of uneven reporting by online lenders.

“Not all lenders in our industry report to bureaus,” said Leslie Payne, a spokeswoman for LendUp, which makes high-interest installment loans. In a February blog post, Experian, the credit bureau, said a “significant number” of marketplace lenders do not report their loans.

Prosper, Avant and LendingClub told Reuters that they report their loans to all three major credit bureaus at least monthly. OnDeck said it reports to several leading commercial credit bureaus, including Experian and PayNet.

Many lenders said they also pull data from other sources, including paystubs, tax documents and accounting software for businesses to size up a borrower’s ability to pay.

LoanDepot said it has taken several steps to mitigate the risks of stacking, including requiring months of bank statements for its borrowers and building custom algorithms to flag potential stacking activity.


Most online lenders focus on either business or consumer lending. Those lending to small businesses may face greater risk from stacking, in part because of a separate class of high-risk, high-interest business lenders that actively promotes the practice.

Merchant cash advance lenders make loans based mainly on a business’s expected revenue rather than its credit record or existing debts. They often scour databases of business loans – such as those by OnDeck or Kabbage – and use them as marketing leads to find new borrowers, online lending executives and investors said.

OnDeck has made efforts to educate customers to stay away from lenders offering stacked loans, said Chief Operating Officer James Hobson. It has also started monitoring borrowers more frequently and joined the Small Business Finance Exchange, an effort to share lending data to guard against stacking.

After OnDeck turned down the second application from Hanson, the pizzeria owner, he turned to World Business Lenders, a small business lender founded in 2011. He now pays 39 percent interest.

Hanson would not detail his balance or his payments, but said he put up his house as collateral. The company said Hanson’s latest loan reduced his payments from 44 percent of his business’s revenue to 12 percent by offering a longer term.

Some small business owners will keep borrowing as long as lenders grant approvals, taking one loan after another, said chief executive Doug Naidus. But at some point, he cautioned, the principal needs to get paid back.

“The fifth stack pays the fourth stack, and the sixth stack pays the fifth stack,” Naidus said. “But when the music stops, everybody’s got to find a chair.”

(Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco and Olivia Oran and Joy Wiltermuth in New York. Additional reporting by Lauren LaCapra and Michael Erman in New York. Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Brian Thevenot)


One Man’s War

Bringing Iraq to America

by Mark Wilkerson


Memorial Day is over.  You had your barbeque.  Now, you can stop thinking about America’s wars and the casualties from them for another year.  As for me, I only wish it were so.

It’s been Memorial Day for me ever since I first met Tomas Young.  And in truth, it should have felt that way from the moment I hunkered down in Somalia in 1993 and the firing began.  After all, we’ve been at war across the Greater Middle East ever since.  But somehow it was Tomas who, in 2013, first brought my own experience in the U.S. military home to me in ways I hadn’t been able to do on my own.

That gravely wounded, living, breathing casualty of our second war in Iraq who wouldn’t let go of life or stop thinking and critiquing America’s never-ending warscape brought me so much closer to myself, so bear with me for a moment while I return to Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, and bring you — and me — closer to him.


In that spring of 1993, I was a 22-year-old Army sergeant, newly married, and had just been dropped into a famine-ridden, war-torn Third World country on the other side of the planet, a place I hadn’t previously given a thought.  I didn’t know what hit me.  I couldn’t begin to take it in.  That first day I remember sitting on my cot with a wet t-shirt draped over my head, chugging a bottle of water to counter the oppressive heat.

I’d trained for this — a real mission — for more than five years.  I was a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief.  Still, I had no idea what I was in for.

So much happened in Somalia in that “Black Hawk Down” year that foreshadowed America’s fruitless wars of the twenty-first century across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, but you wouldn’t have known it by me.  That first day, sitting in a tent on the old Somali Air Force base in Baledogle, a couple of hours inland from the capital city of Mogadishu, I had a face-to-face encounter with a poisonous black mamba snake.  Somehow it didn’t register.  Not really.

This is real, I kept telling myself in the six months I spent there, but in a way it wasn’t or didn’t seem to be.

After about a month, my unit moved to the airport in Mogadishu — away from the snakes, scorpions, and bugs that infested Baledogle, but closer to dangers of a more human sort.  Within a few weeks, I became used to the nightly rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire coming at us from the city.  I watched the tracers streak by as we crouched behind our sandbagged fighting positions.  We would return from missions to find bullet holes in the skin or rotor blades of our Black Hawk helicopters, or in one case a beer-can-sized hole that a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) round punched cleanly through the rear stabilizer without — mercifully — detonating. And yet none of it felt like it was quite happening to me.  I remember lying on my cot late at night, not far from the flight line full of Black Hawks and Cobras, hearing the drone of low-flying American AC-130 gunships firing overhead for hours on end.  The first boom would come from the seaward side of the field as the gunship fired its M102 howitzer.  A few seconds later, another boom would mark the round’s arrival at its target across town, sometimes with secondary explosions as ammunition stores went up.  Lying there, I remember thinking that those weren’t the routine training rounds I’d heard a hundred times as they hit some random target in a desolate training area.  They were landing on real targets, actual people.

Two other memorable booms come to mind — one as we waited in the back of a sun-baked supply truck, heading out on a volunteer mission to give inoculations to kids at a Somali orphanage.  Boom.  The ground shook to the sound of one of our Humvees and the four Army soldiers in it being blown apart by the sort of remote-controlled bomb that would become a commonplace of insurgents in America’s twenty-first century wars.  And a second, the loudest during my six months there, as a generator perhaps 20 feet from our tent exploded into flames from an incoming RPG round that found its target in the middle of the night.

This is real.  I kept saying that to myself, but truthfully the more accurate word would have been surreal.  The care packages I was receiving, the Tootsie Rolls and Cracker Jacks and letters from my wife back home telling me how much she missed me might as well have been from another planet.

Our helicopters flew daily reconnaissance missions (“Eyes over Mog” we called them) above the Somali capital.  We did battle damage assessments, checking out pockmarked buildings the AC-130s had targeted the night before, or the shot-up safe house that Somali warlord Mohamed Aidid — our operation’s target (just as the U.S. would target Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and the leaders of various terror groups) — had reportedly been using as a control center.  Once a beautiful mansion, it was now riddled with thousands of bullet holes and TOW missile craters.

We flew over Mogadishu’s bustling marketplace, sometimes so low that the corrugated metal roofs of the stalls would blow off from our rotor wash.  We were always looking for what we called “technicals” — pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in their beds — to take out.  Viewing that crowded marketplace through the sight of a ready-to-rock M-60 machine gun helped reinforce the message that all of this was beyond surreal.

Lives were ending violently here every day, and my own life, too, could have ended at any moment.  Yet it was just about impossible to believe that all of a sudden I was in the middle of a violent set of incidents in a third-world hellhole, the sort of thing you might read about in the paper, or more likely, would never hear about at all.  You’d never know about our near-nightly scrambles to our fighting positions behind a pile of sandbags, as the AK-47s cracked and the tracers flew overhead.  It wouldn’t even register as a blip in the news back home.  In some bizarre way, I was there and it still wasn’t registering.

A Soldier Just Like Me

Just days after returning home from Somalia, I (like so many others) watched the footage of dead American soldiers — at least one a Black Hawk crew chief — being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by cheering Somalis.  For the first time, I found myself filled with a sense of dread, a profound that-could-have-been-me feeling.  I imagined my mother looking at such a photo of me, of her dead son’s body — as someone’s mother was undoubtedly doing.

If my interior landscape was beginning to shift in unsettling ways, if the war, my war, was finally starting to come home, I remained only minimally aware of it.  My wife and I started a family, I got a civilian job, went to college in the evening using the GI Bill, and wrote a couple of books about music — my refuge.

Still, after Somalia, I found myself drawn to stories about war.  I reread Stephen Ambrose’s blow-by-blow account of the D-Day landings, picked up Ron Kovic’s Vietnam memoir, Born On The Fourth Of July, for the first time, and even read All Quiet On The Western Front. And all of them somehow floored me. But it wasn’t until I watched Body of War, Phil Donahue’s 2008 documentary about Iraq war veteran and antiwar activist Tomas Young, that something seemed truly different, that I simply couldn’t shake the feeling it could have been me.

Tomas was a kid who had limited options — just like me.  He signed up for the military, at least in part, because he wanted to go to college — just like me.  Yes, just like so many other kids, too — but above all, just like me.

He, too, was deployed to one of America’s misbegotten wars in a later hellhole, and that’s where our stories began to differ.  Five days after his unit arrived in Iraq — a place he deployed to grudgingly, never understanding why he was being sent there and not Afghanistan — Tomas was shot, his spinal cord severed, and most of his body paralyzed. When he came home at age 24, he fought the natural urge to suffer in silence and instead spoke out against the war in Iraq.  Body of War chronicled his first full year of very partial recovery and the blossoming of his antiwar activism.

Just a few weeks after the film’s release, however, it all came crashing down. He suffered a pulmonary embolism and sank into a coma, awakening to find that he’d suffered a brain injury and lost much of the use of his hands and his ability to speak clearly.  The ensuing years were filled with pain and debilitating health setbacks.  By early 2013, he was in hospice care, suffering excruciating abdominal pain, without his colon, and on a feeding tube and a pain pump. Gaunt, withered, exhausted, he continued to agitate against America’s never-ending war on terror from his bed, and finally wrote a “last letter” to former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, airing his grievances, which got significant media attention.

When I read it, I felt that he might have been me if I hadn’t lucked out in Mogadishu two decades earlier. Maybe that’s what made me reach out to him that April and tell him I wanted to learn more about what had happened to him in the years between Body of War and his last letter, about what it meant to go from being an antiwar agitator in a manual wheelchair to a bedridden quadriplegic on a feeding tube and under hospice care, planning to soon end his own life.

A Map of the Ravages of War

When I finally met Tomas, I realized how much he and I had in common: the same taste in music and books, the same urge to be a writer.  We were both quick with the smart-ass comment and never made to be model soldiers because we liked to question things. Each moment we spent together only connected us more deeply and brought me closer to the self that war had created in me, the self I had kept at such a distance all these years.  I began writing his story because I felt compelled to show other Americans someone no different from them who had had his life, his reality, upended by one of our military adventures abroad, by deployment to a country so distant that it’s an abstraction to most of us who, in these days of the All-Volunteer Army, don’t have a personal connection either to the U.S. military or to the wars it so regularly fights.

A historically low percentage of our population — less than half a percent — actually serves in the military.  Compare that to around 9% during the Vietnam War, and 12% during World War II.  Remarkably few of us ever see combat, ever even know anyone who was in combat, ever get to hear firsthand stories of what went on or witness what life is like for such a returning veteran.  Not surprisingly, America’s wars now largely go on without us.  There is no personal connection.  Here in “the homeland” — despite the overblown fears of “terrorism” — it remains “peacetime.”  As a consequence, few of us are engaged by veterans’ issues or the prospect — essentially, the guarantee — of more war in the American future.

Tomas understood the importance of sharing the brutal fullness of his story.  For him, there were to be no pulled punches.  When I told him I wanted others to learn of his harrowing tale, of his version of the human cost of war, that I wanted to help him to tell that story, he responded that he had indeed wanted to write his own book.  He’d scrapped the project because he could no longer write, and even Dragon voice-to-text software wouldn’t work because his speech had become so degraded after the embolism struck.

Instead, he shared everything.  Tomas and his wife, Claudia, opened their lives to me.  I slept in their basement.  During my periodic visits, he introduced me to an expansive mind in a shrunken world, a mind that wanted to range widely in a body mostly confined to a hospital bed, surrounded by books, magazines, and an array of tubing that delivered medications and removed bodily wastes in a darkened bedroom.

“I need to be fed,” he said to me one day. “Do you want to see what that’s like?”  Then, he lifted his shirt and showed me the maze of tubing and scars on his body.  It was a map of the ravages of war.

He was unflinchingly honest, sensing the importance of his story in a country where such experiences have become uncommon fare.  Like his comic book heroes Batman and the Punisher, he wanted to make sure that no one would have to endure what he’d gone through.

An All-Too-Real Life and Surreal Wars

Tomas Young’s war ended on the night before Veterans’ Day 2014 when he passed away quietly in his sleep. His pain finally came to an end.

The bullets that hit him in the streets of Baghdad in 2004 brought on more than a decade of agony and hardship, not only for him, but for his mother, his siblings, and his wife.  Their suffering has yet to end.

Stories of the reality of war and its impact on this country are more crucial now than ever as America’s wars seem only to multiply.  Among us are more than 2.5 million veterans of our recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We owe it to them to read their accounts — and an increasing number of them are out there — and do our best to understand what they’ve been through, and what they continue to go through.  Then perhaps we can use that knowledge not only to properly address their needs, but to properly debate and possibly — like Tomas Young — even protest America’s ongoing wars.

It would have been perfectly understandable for Tomas to have faced the pain, frustration, and failing health of his final years privately and in silence, but that wasn’t him. Instead, he made his story part of our American record.

Radical Chic and the US Military: Together At Last

In Syria, Western leftists ally with Washington’s regime changers

June 10, 2016

by Jason Raimondo


The first time as tragedy, the second as farce – that’s what Karl Marx had to say about the woof and warp of history as it repeats sheer folly in different forms. And that certainly describes the attraction of many American leftists to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: it’s the latest lefty fad. A recent article in the Village Voice – where else? – depicts the journey of two “anarcho-communists” as they travel to “Rojava,” the northernmost Syrian enclave where a curious blend of Murray Bookchin-style anarchism and the neo-Marxist blatherings of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdish Workers Party, holds sway.

Hristo and Guy – the former an academic, the latter a working class Irish dude – are in their twenties: their politics are “anarcho-communist,” that is they are living walking contradictions who, on the one hand, advocate the abolition of all government, and on the other hand uphold the economic theories of Karl Marx, who wanted to establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” This duo is traveling to “Rojava,” where the Kurdish Workers Party – in cooperation with the US government – has set up what many American leftists imagine to be a “workers” paradise.” Government is supposedly operative only at the local level, and all decisions are made by an assembly evenly divided between the sexes: private property is outlawed. It’s “Occupy Wall Street” transported to the Middle East.

The Village Voice journalist follows them on their hegira, which has all the earmarks of a cloak-and-dagger drama: they take elaborate security precautions, such as taking the SIM cards out of their phones so US government agents (who probably aren’t watching them) can’t turn their devices into microphones. Indeed, the US government is the least of their problems: Washington is sending millions of dollars in “aid” to the Kurdish commies, and US Marines – who are fighting alongside the Kurdish “peshmerga” – have been photographed wearing the red star patches of the “Kurdish Protection Units” (YPG), much to Turkey’s consternation.

Yet none of this bothers these “leftists,” who liken their adventure to that undertaken by the International Brigades, the pro-Communist militia of Western leftists who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The rationale for this ideological self-hypnotism is Ocalan’s sudden conversion to the doctrines of Bookchin, whose “ecological” variety of “anarcho-communism” enjoyed a brief vogue during the 1960s. The hippie movement took up Bookchin, enamored of his support for radical environmentalism, “sustainability,” and all the rest of the “green” malarkey that has today empowered the bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency and turned much of the western United States into federally occupied territory.

Bookchin was a former Stalinist who went through all the phases of disillusionment with “the god that failed.” As a CIO organizer during the 1930s, he was a Communist Party militant who eventually turned to Trotskyism, but unlike other leftists who later became neoconservatives he didn’t give up his egalitarian ideal: instead, he developed a theory that rejected the working class as the agent of human liberation, and along with it the Marxist emphasis on purely economic exploitation, and developed the idea that hierarchy in all its forms was the real enemy. He became an anarchist, or, rather an “anarcho-communist,” and gathered around him a small following that never amounted to much outside a certain sector of the counterculture.

However, one day Abdullah Ocalan, sitting in jail in Turkey – where he remains at this moment – got his hands on Bookchin’s works, and was (supposedly) converted to anarcho-communism. And he sent out word to his followers in the Kurdish Workers Party, which up until that time had been planting bombs in Turkish cities, killing civilians willy-nilly, and describing itself as a typical Marxist-Leninist sect with vaguely Maoist overtones. The word was this: abandon terrorism, abandon the Leninist model, and learn from Bookchin!

Now this was a very odd situation, because Ocalan was and still is a prisoner of the Turkish authorities, and yet here he was handing down edicts from his prison cell and directing a movement whose ostensible goal was to create an independent Kurdistan – including a very large part of Turkey.

Of course, the new turn in Ocalan’s thinking was and is a boon to the Turks, who had been trying to stamp out Kurdish nationalism with an iron fist, even banning the Kurdish language and arresting every Kurdish activist they could get their hands on. Now, suddenly, Ocalan was calling off the revolution, and telling them that their real enemy wasn’t the Turks, it was ‘hierarchy”!

In tandem with this change in course came US intervention in Syria, where Washington faced two obstacles to its plans for the Middle East: 1) ISIS, which had metastasized out of the Iraqi quagmire, and 2) The regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Ba’athist strongman who was fighting for his life against ISIS but also battling US-supported Islamists and their allies in the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. The Syrian Kurds, who inhabit the northern part of the country, taking their cues from Ocalan in his prison cell, rose up. Forget “liberating” the Kurds of Turkey – it was time to establish Kurdish independence in Syria.

At the same time, the Syrian civil war took a new turn. While Hillary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus, then head of the CIA, wanted to fund and arm the Islamists, the Obama administration was wary: the links of Syria’s “opposition” to al-Qaeda and other radical jihadists was too obvious to ignore. And so they settled on the secular Kurds of “Rojava,” who had by this time carved out an enclave in Syria and set up “communes” vaguely emulating the Bookchinite model: women were given a prominent role in leadership positions, with their own armed force, all decisions were made “collectively,” Occupy Wall Street-style, private property was confiscated, and everybody wore red stars on their uniforms.

However, the touch-feely hippie-ish spirit of Bookchinism lost something in the Kurdish translation. Instead of the nonviolent egalitarianism that is the hallmark of this brand of “anarcho-communism,” the political arm of the Rojava movement, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), ruthlessly suppresses its Kurdish rivals: rival party offices are raided, their members kidnapped and arrested, while the YPG, the “protection units,” forcibly conscript Kurds as young as 16 years old so that they can better “serve the people.”

And the ideology of this movement, far from reflecting the pacific views of Bookchin, was and is necessarily militaristic: they are, after all, engaged in a life-and-death struggle with virtually every other faction in Syria. Not only that, but – like all Kurdish political formations, including those in power in Kurdistan proper – they are committed to the loony idea of creating a “Greater Kurdistan,” which, if you look at the maps, extends all the way north as far as Armenia, to the south including a big chunk of Iraq, to the west absorbing nearly half of Turkey, and to the east gobbling up a huge swathe of Iran.

Toward this goal, the Rojava-ists so beloved by American “anarcho-communists” have systematically uprooted native Syrian Arabs from their villages, leveling whole areas to the ground and driving off the longtime inhabitants, all in the interests of creating an ethnically pure Kurdish enclave. Bookchin must be rolling in his grave.

Looking at the broader picture, this is a very useful development as far as Washington is concerned: here, at last, is a “secular” movement in Syria that can be supported without indirectly aiding the jihadists. And it’s tailor-made for Brooklyn hipsters who might otherwise be harassing Hillary Clinton from the left as militant Bernie Bros. Instead, like Guy and Hristo, they’re shipping off to Syria to fight alongside Ocalan’s commie zombies – and US Special Forces – waging the “war on terrorism.”

Rojava chic has all the elements that make it a natural for the Brooklyn hipster crowd:

  • Feminism – the leadership and the YPG fighting force is supposedly half female, and to appeal to the Bernie Bros there are attractive women toting Kalashnikovs featured in their online propaganda.
  • “Anti-fascism” – they’re trying to overthrow Assad.
  • Radical egalitarianism and economic collectivism – no private property allowed, and they get to wear those cool red stars.
  • And last but not least they get to vaunt their rrrrr-revolutionary pretensions – all in the service of what is, after all, just another regime-change operation conceived in Washington.

If a public relations firm had come up with this scheme to recruit “leftists” into the interventionist coalition, alongside neoconservatives, they couldn’t have come up with a better formula. And, who knows, perhaps that’s precisely what happened.

The fact of the matter is that US intervention in Syria is a recipe for disaster, no matter which faction we’re supporting. Funding and arming the “moderate” Islamist rebels was bad enough, but canoodling with Kurdish ultra-nationalists and empowering them with funding and arms is rapidly creating the conditions for a war of all against all in the region. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as “moderate” Kurdish nationalism: all Kurdish nationalists are ultra-nationalists. It’s the nature of the beast for the simple reason that to achieve “Greater Kurdistan” would necessitate a war against Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Iraq, and all the minority nationalities in the area, including the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Yazidis, etc. etc. In short, it would have to mean a campaign of ethnic cleansing that would make previous examples of this phenomenon look like a Sunday school picnic.

As usual, Washington is placing its bets on short-term solutions to intractable problems, without regard for the mid-to- long-term consequences. The same thing happened in Afghanistan, when we armed and funded the mujahideen against the Soviets, and in Iraq when we supported Ahmed Chalabi and his gang of “heroes in error” against Saddam Hussein. The former led to the genesis of al-Qaeda, and the latter led to the current chaos in what used to be Iraq.

Washington has been meddling in Syria, overtly and covertly, since the Bush administration: the neoconservatives targeted it for regime change early on due to Assad’s support for the Palestinians. This is the real reason for Washington’s interest in getting rid of Assad. The Israelis have been training and funding the pershmergas for years, and ties between Tel Aviv and the Kurdistan regional government (in Iraq) are very close.

Syria is so far removed from a vital interest that the distance can only be measured in light-years. We have no business there, and no legitimate means of affecting the outcome of their vicious civil war. We surely should not be trying to topple the Ba’athist regime, which, for all its brutality, is the only obstacle to a jihadist takeover of most the country.

Let the Kurdish commies fight their own battles: why US Special Forces are helping to impose communism on Syria is a mystery the Obama administration should be forced to reveal. Let the Israelis fund and train the Kurds, with whom they seem to have a natural affinity: that’s their affair. The US should have no part of it. The only proper policy in regard to the whole sorry mess can be summed up in five words: Get out and stay out.

Trump’s corporate targets face tricky task in fending off his attacks

June 10, 2016

by Nick Carey and Emily Stephenson


As the White House race took off last summer, food giant Mondelez International found itself in an unusual position: Republican candidate Donald Trump began delivering broadsides against one of its iconic products, Oreo cookies.

“Nabisco is closing a factory in Chicago, and they’re moving to Mexico. No more Oreos. I don’t like Oreos anymore,” Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire on Aug. 14, reacting to reports that Mondelez was shutting down some production lines at its Nabisco subsidiary in Chicago while boosting output in Mexico.

Trump’s statement that Mondelez was closing a Chicago factory was erroneous, as the company quickly pointed out, but that didn’t stop him from repeating it.

It’s unusual for a top presidential candidate, especially a representative of the business-friendly Republican Party, to attack major U.S. corporations by name.

But over the course of his unconventional campaign, Trump has aimed his fire at a range of companies, mostly for shifting jobs abroad (Ford Motor Co, United Technologies Corp unit Carrier Corp) but also for building products in foreign markets (Apple) and for what he said were violations of antitrust laws (Amazon).

Trump has threatened the companies with boycotts, tariffs, taxes and other punishments. The Trump campaign declined to comment for this story.

Some of the companies saw their share prices dip in the wake of Trump’s criticism while others experienced a small boost.

But all of them were presented with a dilemma that’s familiar to the presumptive nominee’s many vanquished Republican rivals: Should they engage with a possible future president known for holding a grudge, possibly inviting more wrath, or should they lie low and risk allowing Trump to define them and to push policies they deem harmful?

Most have sought to stay out of the fray even as Trump has kept up the drumbeat of criticism.

“I am fighting hard to bring jobs back to the United States Many companies – like Ford, General Motors, Nabisco, Carrier – are moving production to Mexico,” Trump said this week. This was “bad for all Americans,” he said.

It was the first time Trump included GM in his roster of corporate wrongdoers, though the Trump campaign later removed GM from the statement and declined to say why. GM declined comment.


Mondelez, previously known as Kraft Foods, took a different tack.

After Trump vowed to boycott Oreos, Mondelez fielded numerous media inquiries and contacted reporters when the company deemed press coverage of his remarks off base, said Laurie Guzzinati, who oversees governmental affairs in North America for Mondelez.

The company didn’t engage in any Trump-bashing, though Guzzinati said Trump’s comments were “grounded in inaccuracies.”

She said she told reporters that Mondelez would continue to make Oreos in three locations in the United States, countering the impression Trump may have left that Oreos would no longer be made in the United States.

Mondelez’s response tracks closely what crisis management experts recommend for Trump-targeted companies.

Hilary Rosen, a managing director for Washington, D.C., communications firm SKD Knickerbocker, said her firm was representing corporate clients who have been singled out by Trump, though she declined to name them.

Rosen’s advice to clients, she said, is “don’t depend on educating Donald Trump on the truth. People have tried and failed.”

Rosen, a Democrat, recommends instead that companies make their case to the journalists who cover Trump, so “Donald Trump does not define you.”

None of the companies targeted by Trump acknowledged hiring outside consultants to deal with his criticism. Many declined to comment for this story.


“You’re not going to win in a one-on-one confrontation with Donald Trump. You’re just going to get mired in the mud,” said Juda Engelmayer, senior vice president for crisis management at 5W Public Relations in New York.

Those who have been willing to engage, including Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have avoided getting too personal.

Trump has railed against Ford for manufacturing vehicles in Mexico, threatening a tariff of up to 40 percent on “every car, bumper and part” entering the United States from Mexico.

Ford, the great-grandson of the automaker’s founder Henry Ford, called Trump’s critique “distorted” and said the company instead should be “held up as a real success story.”

“We didn’t take the (government) bailout,” during the 2007-2009 recession, Ford told reporters at a conference in Detroit on May 23, contrasting his company with GM and Chrysler. “We paid back our debts. We pulled ourselves up by our boot straps. We are investing in America.”

Crisis management experts said companies targeted by Trump need to be thinking more about the policy implications of his presidency. That means, for example, shoring up support in the U.S. Congress for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has said he wants to renegotiate.

A trade lobbyist who asked not to be named because he has worked with one of the companies Trump has called out said Trump’s attacks do not particularly hurt companies’ reputations in Washington, because policymakers understand presidential campaigns are the “political silly season.”

But, he said, they can impact broader efforts on trade and other policies. “I think what this suggests,” he said, “is that there needs to be a concentrated effort by the business community to talk about the benefits of trade.”

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jessica Toonkel in New York and Joseph White in Detroit; editing by Eric Effron and Ross Colvin)

The kids are alright: US teens drop sex, drugs and smoking new reports shows

June 10, 2016


Sex, drugs and cigarettes aren’t in high demand among US teenagers these days, as fewer young people choose to engage in “risky behavior” compared to youth a decade or two ago, a government survey reveals.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) polled 16,000 American students aged 12 and older at 125 schools across the country as a part of the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) that the agency has conducted every two years since 1991.

It appears that nowadays, teenagers are smoking less, not as many use illegal drugs or drink alcohol and fewer have sexual relations.

According to the survey, 32 percent of polled high school students never tried cigarette smoking. However, more of them – 45 percent – have caught on a newer nicotine trend – vapor.

In general, cigarette use has decreased significantly, from 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015.

The number of teenagers drinking alcohol has also been decreasing steadily, currently standing at nearly 33 percent, compared to 50.8 percent in 1991.

These days, not as many teenagers dare to try alcohol as in times past. Of those polled, 63.2 percent admitted to having “ever” tried an alcoholic drink. In 1991, it was 81.6 percent of students who did.

There are also fewer children who had alcohol before they turned 13 years old. That number plunged from 32.7 percent two decades ago to 17.2 percent in 2015.

Even though the CDC has marked a decrease in drug use among teenagers, more of them smoke marijuana in 2015 than in 1991, when 14.7 admitted to it, compared to last year’s 21.7 percent. Yet, that number is significantly down from the highest of 26.7 percent, registered in 1999.

The situation is similar when it comes to cocaine, which was “ever” used by 5.2 percent of teenagers, down by nearly half as many who had used the drug at least once in 1999, 9.5 percent.

The survey also shows that in 2015, the percentage of high school students who had currently been having sexual relations decreased to 30 percent from 34 percent two years prior.

The survey found that 41 percent said they had “ever” had sex, after it had been about 47 percent in 2007.

The recent study has also marked an all-time low in children under 13 having sex. In 1991, 10.2 percent of pre-teens were sexual at the time, but in 2015, that number dropped more than half to 3.9 percent.

“Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news. However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviors, such as using e-cigarettes,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

Yet, the survey has revealed a worrying trend of teenagers engaged in sexual relations using condoms less often. Over the past decade, nearly 10 percent fewer students used that kind of contraception. In 2003, 63 percent said they used a condom, while in 2015, there were 56.9 percent, over 2 percent less than two years previously.

“While overall trends for the 2015 report are positive, the results highlight the continued need for improvements in reducing risks among teens,” said Laura Kann, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s School-Based

Hillary Clinton Used Leadership PAC as “Slush Fund” in 2008-09

June 10 2016

by Emily Kopp

The Intercept

The Bernie Sanders campaign in April accused Hillary Clinton of “looting” her joint fundraising committee to fund her presidential campaign, effectively circumventing rules that cap donations at $5,400 per person.

Clinton’s joint committee, called the Hillary Victory Fund, can raise $358,500 per person because it’s supposed to share money with the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

The Sanders campaign pointed to news reports that the fund has been covering expenses for the Clinton campaign instead of spending on down-ballot races.

The Clinton campaign called the charges irresponsible.

But if the Sanders campaign is right, it wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened.

Previously unreported details from campaign filings dating to Clinton’s first presidential bid show that, between 2008 and 2009, a similarly-intentioned “leadership PAC” called Hill PAC directly enriched her own campaign and campaign staffers considerably more than it did those of other candidates.

Hill PAC dates back to 2001, but was dormant while Clinton ran for president. She relaunched Hill PAC after suspending her campaign in June 2008 and tossing her support to Barack Obama.

In an October 2008 article headlined “Democrats Have Reason to Celebrate: Hill PAC is Back,” the Washington Post cast it as a big win for down-ballot races.

“We’re throwing everything we’ve got into making sure [Obama] stands before the nation as a president with the political strength to break the gridlock, get things done, and start progress going in America again,” Clinton wrote to supporters in October. “And with a filibuster-proof Senate, we’ll be able to bring the change this country so desperately needs.”

A Hill PAC email sent the day before the election read: “I hope you will take action by joining us in this final push,” just above a button to contribute.

But only 11 percent of the relaunched Hill PAC’s spending ultimately went to candidates, filings show. Between June 2008, when Clinton dropped out of the presidential race, and the PAC’s termination the next summer, Hill PAC raised about $3.9 million but contributed just $421,500 to candidates.

Most top leadership PACs dedicate close to half of what they raise to other candidates in competitive races, according to OpenSecrets.org. In the years after its founding in 2001, Hill PAC spent a larger proportion of its expenditures on contributions to other candidates — but still considerably less than the average leadership PAC. It spent 27 percent on others in 2002, 17 percent in 2004 and 16 percent in 2006, according to FEC filings.

The relaunched Hill PAC spent twice what it gave in contributions to other campaigns on salaries to its own staffers, almost all of whom had worked for Clinton’s campaign or her Senate office. For instance, Clinton campaign treasurer Shelly Moskwa was paid about $11,000 more by Hill PAC in 2009 than the treasurer of Hill PAC itself, Allison Wright. Hill PAC also paid nearly $400,000 in consulting fees to firms founded or closely associated with campaign staffers. The campaign and Hill PAC even shared an Arlington office.

Neither Wright, now executive director at the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, nor former Hill PAC director Capricia Marshall, now ambassador in residence at the Atlantic Council, replied to several emails and calls for comment.

But Clinton press aide Nick Merrill told The Intercept that looking at direct donations alone “is not an accurate reflection of the efforts and the efficacy of the PAC.”

“The 11 percent number is misleading,” he wrote in an email. “HillPAC determined that one of the fastest and most productive ways of using the list to benefit candidates was to email supporters — in many instances urging them to make contributions directly to candidates.”

For instance, Merrill said Hill PAC facilitated $750,000 in direct grassroots donations in the months before November 2008 — twice as much as the PAC gave directly to candidates. Such donations would not have run through PAC coffers, however, and are therefore not verifiable via FEC records.

The Intercept examined over a dozen emails sent by Hill PAC from July to November 2008, each soliciting contributions through hyperlinks that took donors to the PAC’s website. A cached version of the PAC’s site shows both “candidates” pages that link to ActBlue, a clearinghouse for small donations to Democratic candidates, and a “contribute” page that appears to solicit contributions to the PAC.

Merrill also credited Hill PAC with “recruiting thousands of volunteers in a HillPAC grassroots field organizing program called ‘Hillary Sent Me’” who went “door-to-door campaigning across the country in seven targeted states,” and for paying Clinton’s travel costs “as she traveled cross country in support of the Obama ticket, including 70 events for that ticket alone.”

Merrill said she “campaigned and fundraised for over 80 other candidates in nearly 30 states, including 16 Senate and 60 House candidates, and, in the process, raising millions of dollars for Democrats.” Clinton headlined events where “over $10 million dollars was raised for the Obama-Biden ticket,” he said.

But the event schedule he cited to support that figure pointed to fundraisers hosted by the White House Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee unaffiliated with Hill PAC. And at one of the events cited by Merrill, Obama asked donors to contribute to Clinton’s campaign on pledge cards located under their seats, according to a CNN report. “Senator Clinton still has some debt,” Obama told the audience.

What FEC records show is that Hill PAC’s single largest payment went to Clinton’s campaign, which was about $25 million in debt, including $13 million Clinton lent it herself, when Clinton dropped out in June. While Hill PAC couldn’t legally donate more than $5,000 to Clinton’s campaign account, it was allowed to pay for goods or services from the campaign.

Hill PAC paid $822,492 to the Clinton campaign to rent its list of supporters and their contact information. That alone was nearly twice the amount Hill PAC contributed to down-ballot candidates.

The campaign told the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that Hill PAC paid to use the list for the November election. But filings show Hill PAC didn’t actually pay for the list until January 19, 2009.

Two days after Hill PAC’s payment to her cash-strapped campaign, Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Hill PAC did not contribute to any candidates after that, and dissolved in July.

“The evidence does suggest Hill PAC was used primarily as a slush fund to subsidize Clinton’s presidential campaign, using money raised outside of the limits that apply to the campaign itself, rather than as a fund to support other candidates,” said Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that supports campaign finance reform.

Fischer said that, in regards to the list payment, “if there was a functioning FEC,” it “could have followed up and asked for the contract between the Clinton campaign and Hill PAC or any of these other groups to determine whether the delayed payments were pursuant to an agreement. But of course we don’t have a functioning FEC.” (The Federal Election is in a near-perpetual 3-3 deadlock, with Republican commissioners refusing to enforce the laws.)

Merrill insisted that Hill PAC “was always operated with the highest of ethical standards, and implications to the contrary from those with partisan motives is wholly without merit.”

He said the list rental price, at approximately $600 per 1,000 names, represented the “fair market value” for a multiple-use rental. He said “pricing validation from commercial vendors was used, along with the most recent past presidential campaign at the time, which was Kerry ‘04.”

Around the same time, the Clinton Foundation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC Federal Fund, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the American Democracy Institute paid $274,297, which Merrill said was the rate for a one-time rental. Other groups paid less.

The only client that paid the Clinton campaign more for its list of supporters was Friends of Hillary, Clinton’s Senate campaign committee. That transaction, for over $2.5 million, was listed as a “sale of assets” and “purchase of assets” on FEC reports filed by the campaign and Hill PAC, respectively, rather than a list rental.

But records show the campaign accepted payments for its list for years after the sale to Friends of Hillary — earning it millions more. Obama’s reelection campaign, for instance, paid $62,782 to use the Clinton list. The campaign earned $25,000 in “list rental income” as recently as January 2013 — four years after the sale.

Merrill said the campaign had different lists and that the one it sold Friends of Hillary included “its direct mail list and other names.” He wrote: “By selling other portions of its lists to [Friends of Hillary], that allowed [Hillary Clinton for President] to continue to rent its email list.” The Wall Street Journal story, however, indicated they were the same list.

Hill PAC spent about $1.2 million on salaries in 2008 and 2009. A majority of Hill PAC staffers had also been campaign staffers. Longtime aides Huma Abedin, Philippe Reines, Bryan Pagliano and Peter Daou all received Hill PAC paychecks after Clinton’s exit from the presidential race. The Linkedin pages of some staffers indicate that they worked for Hill PAC and the campaign at the same time.

Hill PAC also paid over $350,000 in consulting fees to firms with close associations to campaign staffers. For example, $13,000 went to Eiring Consulting, founded by Clinton fundraiser Nancy Eiring; and $16,700 went to Hudson Media Partners, which served as an offshoot of the consulting firm where, according to the New York Times, campaign communications director Howard Wolfson worked. Mayfield Strategy Group, founded by Josh Ross, a senior digital adviser to the campaign, earned $219,356 in consulting fees.

Fischer, the campaign finance expert, said this kind of commingling isn’t uncommon. “Unfortunately this isn’t an entirely unique way of using a leadership PAC,” he said.

As a leadership PAC, Hill PAC could accept donations of up to $5,000 per year — over and above anything donors had already given directly to the Clinton campaign – on the assumption that the money would be spread around to down-ballot campaigns.

Similarly, in this election cycle, the Hillary Victory Fund calls on donors to “support Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ticket.”

But because the Supreme Court eliminated overall donation limits in the 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the $5,000 limit in 2008 now looks like petty cash. The Hillary Victory Fund, by promising to spread the money to the DNC and state party committees, can accept almost $400,000 per person per election.

In the post-2008 period, Hill PAC received several letters from the FEC asking it to clarify certain expenses apparently made in error. The PAC contributed to some candidates after their races had already been won or lost. For instance, Hill PAC contributed to Tracey Brooks, a candidate for the House representing New York and a former Clinton regional director, nearly two months after she lost her primary race.

Hill PAC was also asked repeatedly by the FEC to clarify whether photography, printing, catering and consulting expenses were to the benefit of a candidate and might constitute an in-kind contribution.

Hill PAC formally terminated in July 2009, but starting in January some PAC staffers transitioned to a nonprofit organization called NoLimits.org, according to press reports at the time. NoLimits.org operated out of the same Arlington office that had housed Hill PAC and earlier served as campaign headquarters.

As a 501(c)(3), NoLimits.org could not legally engage in any political activity, instead functioning as a nonpartisan organization that posted blog posts about a range of policy issues. Its mission was “inspired by Secretary Clinton’s leadership,” according to a cached version of its website, and links to the site passed through HillaryClinton.com, Politico reported. The group received its revenue from undisclosed individuals and corporations, according to another Politico report.

NoLimits.org was run by Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to the 2008 campaign and a longtime ally of the Clintons, and Sarah Nolan, former New Hampshire political director, both of whom had received Hill PAC paychecks.

And in 2009, it paid the campaign — which remained $6 million underwater then — $455,000 to rent its email list.

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