TBR News June 11, 2016

Jun 11 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 11, 2016:” The useless media jams all manner of hyped-up stories down the throats of their readers acting on the mistaken impression that people care what they, or their editors, think. As a case in point, we have an incident at Stanford University wherein a drunken party happened and during the course of it a girl, doubtlessly drunk, had a sexual encounter with a male student. This sort of thing happens regularly at many institutes of higher learning, and is endemic at Stanford. a rich man’s school where money talks. Now, the media is squealing about the fact that the student who did the penetrating got a light sentence. Wails of grief from the choruses of professional wailers. They think the evil male ought to have been shot. The judge is attacked in the press as if he were a member of the California Rape Encouragement Club. What will happen is predictable. There will be a subscription taken in the media to erect an 85 foot high alabaster statue of the pathetic victim, clad in a dressing gown and looking soulfully upward, seeking vengeance and forgiveness from God while one of her hands clutches her wounded vulva. Unfortunately, the subscription drive will fail of its effort and instead of an 85 foot statue in alabaster, the few dollars in the pot will buy a two-foot high statue of plaster. But mark this, late every afternoon, the virgin female students of Stanford, both of them, will arrive at the shrine and solemnly play stoop tag with the statute. And next week, the media will turn its eyes to a poor donkey that fell into a sinkhole on a Dallas freeway and was eaten by rats. And at the same time, and in the same vein, the “US-Led Coalition” will send both of its fighters to launch an attack on two camels and a deserted outhouse in the Syrian desert.”


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.

Wednesday, 6 September 1950

Autumn is coming by small steps. It will be very beautiful here then. I am used to four seasons, which we do not have in Washington, but does happen here. Hoover is expanding his FBI to have a total of 5,000 agents. I think he will get the funds for this because everyone on the Hill is afraid of what Hoover has in his files! Truman has asked for this and it ought to go through. Hoover says he can arrest 12,000 of the most important communists here if he gets the money. Of course, this is all nonsense and nothing of the sort will happen but this is pressure against Congress that will certainly work.

Viktor (that is his real name, not the one he uses here) and I had a good laugh over this nonsense. I think it would be entertaining to have V. and P (hilby, ed.) to dinner at the club next week. They both know each other but no one is supposed to be aware of this.

A small tableaux to entertain me.

I have met, albeit briefly, this Burgess fellow P. has been complaining about and I can see why P. hates him. Why such a creature was ever sent to their Embassy here is beyond all of us. He is a fat, dirty, screaming homosexual who does not hide his tastes as he ought to and flounces around like our interior decorator. I would introduce them but Burgess likes truck drivers and sailors so he and Andre would probably scratch each other’s eyes out after a duel with purses. B. was probably getting fellatio, or giving it, to someone in the FO (British Foreign Office, ed.).

I will have to talk to Fergus about this the next time I see him.

Various anti-communist measures are moving about in the legislature; there have been a number of strikes which is labor’s way of warning everyone that they are still powerful. Truman will have to move against them if it gets any worse. He has already alienated some of their more radical leaders who have given up on him as a second Roosevelt. Make them or break them, I say.

The House is in recess from the 1st through the 11th and things are very quiet in the District. I have been in to work twice and am doing much more here. I don’t have to put up with the nonsense and uproar and can accomplish a great deal more.

Sunday, 17 September 1950

MacArthur has made a brilliant move, landing troops at Inchon deep in the rear of the North Korean forces. The Koreans are in a state of shock and are being pushed back everywhere. Good news, but the war mustn’t end too quickly.

I never read the sports page but I now always read the financial pages. I get a copy of the New York Times which has the best coverage and I check the stock prices daily. Also, I am having a ticker put in down here in my study so I can keep up with what is happening.

Thursday, 21 September 1950

Big meeting of communists in New York on Tuesday. About 10,000 of them in all. Speakers going on about our involvement in Korea and very angry about legislation against them in Congress. The press has covered this and it only lends credence to Hoover’s inflated estimates.

The Internal Security Bill, which they were so furious about, was passed yesterday by the House, over Truman’s veto. It should put quite a pinch in their rampant activities. The organizations have to register with the government, their members cannot work in defense plants and all subversive aliens will be taken up and deported. Probably back to Poland or Russia where most of the more dangerous ones came from. All the trash ends up here, after all.

Truman’s stated objections were entirely valid but he was playing to the public and we all know that most citizens want some kind of a new law to uproot the Rooseveltian communists. There is a terrible day of reckoning coming for these misguided and arrogant elitists. I can actually feel sorry for them as the pendulum swings back against them.

What was significant, meaningful and socially important ten years ago is now deadly and dangerous. They are quite incapable of realizing that things are now moving the other way and hope, somehow, to arrest progress.

Also, many of the Hollywood intellectuals are feeling the steel claw these days. I have two views on this. Hitler once said that he forgave artists for their bohemian views because that was the way they were. On the other hand, intellectuals, especially movie scriptwriters, have the opportunity of influencing others. It’s the same with the communist-lovers in the Department of State. They may not make official policy but they can influence those who do. This is where the danger lies.

The British government is taking over the steel industry there. Well, Britain is now dead, what with the far left in power. All it takes to destroy an industrial country is to encourage communism. It will spread and in the end, nationalization and communization of the workers will complete the destruction of a rival.

I recall when our General Staff sent Lenin from Switzerland to Russia on a special train. They thought that a successful revolution in that country would cause Russia to leave the war. They gave money to Lenin who agreed to do just that. He did but the damage went far beyond the short-term goals of the staff officers. Military men have absolutely no business whatsoever running a country.

Monday, 25 September, 1950

The House has passed a $17 billion defense bill! How wonderful! Now my portfolio of defense stocks is gaining in value each and every day this war is going on and from inside information, we will certainly go into North Korea if and when MacArthur succeeds in getting at them. This should put the cat in the aviary! Then we will have to contend with the Chinese. Viktor is certain that Stalin will not get into the mess as long as the Chinese are willing pawns and will fight his battles for him. If they (the Chinese, ed.) do come in, we are assured of a long war and I am assured of much greater profits.

Bunny has now four horses to play with and is really having a wonderful time down here. I bought another Steinway for the music room and we have been doing duets together. I must admit she looks quite attractive seated on a fine horse but I have no interest in bouncing around the countryside. I can’t use my knee as an excuse because all the work is done with the saddle muscles and the ass, but I will plead work.

The gardening changes will have to wait until spring but I have already laid out a new formal garden and even want to put in a maze. There is a walled area that once had a garden (now very dead) that would be perfect. I think we will grow much of our own food here. God knows we can put in a few head of cattle for the meat and milk and we can grow tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, corn and other vegetables. Food isn’t that expensive but there is a great pleasure in feeling one is self-sufficient.

I have read Horace on the subject of gardens and find some renewed sympathy with his views.

All of my life I have been a man who loved his work and worked always. It advanced me in Germany and it has advanced me here. I alone of all the others always have a position paper ready on almost any subject and while the others are out getting drunk at lunch, I am at my desk, writing or dictating. When they stagger back in, filled with strong drink and the truth not in them (truth is a stranger to the halls of the CIA), I am still writing.

Harry told me that he had never met someone who was so devoted to his work and suggested that if it weren’t so dangerous, I ought to work in the White House.

Speaking of danger, Viktor drove down yesterday and we had a nice game of chess before dinner. He said, in a friendly way, that he had heard at the club that I had been the subject of some conversation. One of the speakers thought I might be some kind of a Nazi but he wasn’t sure. He said that one of his friends at the CIA had told him this.

Viktor merely wanted to warn me that there might be trouble. He handed me a slip of paper with two names on it. I thanked him and we had an excellent dinner.

I still beat him in two games but he came very close in the last one.

I will take care of this tomorrow.


Exclusive: Studies find ‘super bacteria’ in Rio’s Olympic venues, top beaches

June 11, 2016

by Brad Brooks


RIO DE JANEIRO-Scientists have found dangerous drug-resistant “super bacteria” off beaches in Rio de Janeiro that will host Olympic swimming events and in a lagoon where rowing and canoe athletes will compete when the Games start on Aug. 5.

The findings from two unpublished academic studies seen by Reuters concern Rio’s most popular spots for tourists and greatly increase the areas known to be infected by the microbes normally found only in hospitals.

They also heighten concerns that Rio’s sewage-infested waterways are unsafe.

A study published in late 2014 had shown the presence of the super bacteria – classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an urgent public health threat – off one of the beaches in Guanabara Bay, where sailing and wind-surfing events will be held during the Games.

The first of the two new studies, reviewed in September by scientists at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego, showed the presence of the microbes at five of Rio’s showcase beaches, including the ocean-front Copacabana, where open-water and triathlon swimming will take place.

The other four were Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo.

The super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, along with meningitis. The CDC says studies show that these bacteria contribute to death in up to half of patients infected.

The second new study, by the Brazilian federal government’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation lab, which will be published next month by the American Society for Microbiology, found the genes of super bacteria in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in the heart of Rio and in a river that empties into Guanabara Bay.

Waste from countless hospitals, in addition to hundreds of thousands of households, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams crisscrossing Rio, allowing the super bacteria to spread outside the city’s hospitals in recent years.

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio’s federal university and lead researcher of the first study, said the contamination of Rio’s famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Cleaning the city’s waterways was meant to be one of the Games’ greatest legacies and a high-profile promise in the official 2009 bid document Rio used to win the right to host South America’s first Olympics.

That goal has instead transformed into an embarrassing failure, with athletes lamenting the stench of sewage and complaining about debris that bangs into and clings to boats in Guanabara Bay, potential hazards for a fair competition.


Picao’s study, which has undergone internal reviews at Rio’s federal university, analyzed water samples taken between September 2013 and September 2014. Using 10 samples taken at five beach locations, the study found super bacteria were most present at Botafogo beach, where all samples were positive.

Flamengo beach, where spectators will gather to watch Olympic sailors vie for medals, had the super bacteria in 90 percent of samples. Ten percent of Copacabana’s samples had the microbes.

Ipanema and Leblon beaches, the most popular with tourists, had samples that tested positive for super bacteria 50 and 60 percent of the time, respectively.

The Oswaldo Cruz study of the Olympic lagoon, which was peer reviewed, is based on water samples taken in 2013. It found that the lake is a potential breeding ground for super bacteria and their spread through the city.

While the studies both use water samples that are from 2013 and 2014, Picao and other experts said they had seen no advances in sewerage infrastructure in Rio to improve the situation.

Valerie Harwood, an expert in recreational water contamination and antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the University of South Florida who was not involved in the studies, said that if anything, things were getting worse, as the super bacteria naturally spread by infecting other microbes.

The contamination has prompted federal police and prosecutors to investigate whether Rio’s water utility Cedae is committing environmental crimes by lying about how much sewage it treats. Investigators are also looking into where billions of dollars in funds went since the early 1990s, money earmarked to improve sewage services and clean Guanabara Bay.

Cedae has denied any wrongdoing. It said in an emailed statement that any super bacteria found at the beaches or the Olympic lagoon must be the result of illegal dumping into storm drains. Cedae said it carries out sewage treatment and collection in the entire “south zone” of Rio, where the bodies of water are located and where the water samples were taken.


Five scientists consulted by Reuters said the immediate risk to people’s health when faced with super bacteria infection depends on the state of their immune systems.

These bacteria are opportunistic microbes that can enter the body, lie dormant, then attack at a later date when a healthy person may fall ill for another reason.

Super bacteria infect not only humans but also otherwise-harmless bacteria present in the waters, turning them into antibiotic-resistant germs.

Harwood said the super bacteria genes discovered in the Olympic lagoon were probably not harmful if swallowed by themselves: they need to be cocooned inside of a bacterium.

“Those genes are like candy. They are organic molecules and they’ll be eaten up by other bacteria, other organisms,” Harwood said. “That’s where the danger is – if a person then ingests that infected organism – because it will make it through their gastrointestinal tract and potentially make someone ill.”

The presence of the super bacteria genes in the lagoon indicates the bacteria themselves had recently died or simply were not detected by testing, Harwood said.

Health experts say Rio’s poor wastewater management has already created endemic illnesses associated with sewage that disproportionately impact the city’s poor, including gastrointestinal and respiratory problems, Hepatitis A and severe heart and brain conditions.

Rio’s Olympic organizing committee referred questions on water quality to state authorities.

Rio state’s Inea environmental agency said in an emailed statement it follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations for testing recreational water safety, and that searching for super bacteria is not included in that. It also said there was a lack of studies about the bacteria in water and health outcomes.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Will Dunham)

Kurdish militant group says it was behind Istanbul bombing

June 10, 2016

by Seyhmus Cakan and Humeyra Pamuk


DIYARBAKIR/ISTANBUL-Kurdish militants said on Friday they carried out a suicide bombing which killed eleven people in Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul this week and warned the country was no longer safe for foreign tourists.

A car bomb ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul during the morning rush hour on Tuesday near the main tourist district, a major university and the mayor’s office, the latest in a series of attacks in the city this year.

In a statement on its website, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), vowed to continue attacks across Turkey and said while it was not targeting tourists, they could be at risk.

“Some may miss peace, but we have just started the war,” the group said in its statement.

Turkey, the world’s sixth-biggest tourist destination, has seen a sharp drop-off in visitors due to concerns about deteriorating security. Arrivals saw the biggest drop in 17 years in April, while average hotel occupancy rates are down nearly 70 percent nationally, according to industry data.

Islamic State has been blamed for two suicide bombings in Istanbul this year, while Kurdish militants have increasingly staged attacks outside the largely Kurdish southeast, where they have been waging an armed insurgency for three decades.

Peace negotiations between the PKK and the state collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence in the southeast since the peak of the unrest in the 1990s. Thousands of militants and hundreds of security officials have since been killed.

The unrest has been fueled by the war in neighboring Syria. Turkey says the PKK – considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States – has deep ties to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia fighting just across the border.

There is little sign of any let-up in hostilities. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said there will be no negotiations to end the violence despite what he said were recent attempts by the PKK to revive the peace talks.

Turkish jets bombed the southeastern region of Daglica in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq, killing between eight and 10 suspected PKK militants, military sources said on Friday. The military also said in a statement it had hit PKK targets elsewhere in Hakkari on Thursday.


In a move that could further fuel tensions with Turkey’s Kurdish minority, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said legal proceedings had been launched which could pave the way for dozens of members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish HDP opposition party to be prosecuted over alleged militant links.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who views the HDP as the political wing of the PKK, signed a bill on Tuesday lifting lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and has made no secret of his desire to see members of the pro-Kurdish party indicted.

Bozdag said 117 dossiers had been sent to the relevant prosecutors and there were pending cases against 152 lawmakers, warning they would be stripped of their parliamentary seats if convicted.

The move could see the HDP’s parliamentary presence wiped out. Its co-leader, Selahattin Demirtas, told Reuters this week his party members would not comply with the prosecutors and would have to be removed by force if necessary.

The government is also preparing a bill that would give members of the security forces a partial exemption from prosecution for their actions in parts of the southeast, a move likely to further raise concern about the heavy force Turkey has deployed in the southeast in recent months.

Yildirim said last week the fighting had destroyed some 11,000 homes in five urban areas alone and the cost of rebuilding could approach 1 billion lira ($340 million) and Western allies have repeatedly urged restraint.

“The bill does not allow them to breach the law,” Bozdag said, but made clear the proposed measures were aimed at reinforcing the fight against the PKK. “The regulation provides a legal shield to the soldiers and is limited to those who serve in the fight against terrorism.”

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ercan Gurses in Ankara; Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Janet Lawrence)



Around 5,000 peace activists protested against the use of the Ramstein facility in southwestern Germany for the US-led drone war. A nine-kilometer (5.5 mile) human chain was later formed to demand limits on its use.

June 11, 2016


Among those taking part in Saturday’s protest was former German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine, who said the US drone program contravenes international law.

He also hit out at the German government’s silence on the use of drones from Ramstein, saying it was “schizophrenic” that Berlin is generous to refugees but then gives its support to wars waged by the US.

Initially, around 1,500 people gathered outside the base in a rural part of Rhineland-Palatinate, to demand that the base no longer be associated with drone operations.

Public anger growing

Later on Saturday, around 5,000 protesters created a human chain around Ramstein, the principal US Air Force facility in Europe, close to the city of Kaiserslautern.

Organizers described their protest as the biggest ever action against the US base, insisting that public support against the drone issue was growing.

Green MP Tabea Rössner warned that US drone attacks were radicalizing people in the Middle East, while peace activist Reiner Braun said, “The chain is not complete but it is a sign! Ramstein needs to be shut down.”

DW Correspondent Greta Hamann, who covered the demo, tweeted images of protesters holding placards, which read “the majority of people want to live in peace,” and “he who sows war, will reap refugees.”

Whistleblower tells all

Former US drone operator Brandon Bryant first made revelations in “Der Spiegel” magazine in 2013, claiming that Ramstein was a major hub for coordinating Washington’s global drone war, which included targets in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

He later told a German parliamentary committee that all data from the plane went through Ramstein. However, the drones were not directly steered from the base, he added.

But the German and US governments have repeatedly downplayed the importance of the facility and have evaded direct questions about its role in the drone program.

The rallies, which began on Friday, are due to end on Sunday.


Report From the Front: ISIS Crumbling in Key City on Turkish Border

It looks like Manbij will fall to Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by U.S. and French special forces in the near future. But their next target remains a question mark.

June 10, 2016

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg

The Beast

KHUSHFIT UM ADASAH, Syria—From this base in a nearby village, we could see an F-16 fighter jet flying above ISIS positions in the city of Manbij. After one week of combat, a U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters has almost completely encircled this ISIS stronghold in Syria next to the Turkish border.

A female commander on the radio told fighters on the front lines to be careful about giving their positions. “Be accurate in giving me locations, otherwise many civilians would be killed, and we don’t want to kill innocent people,” she said, loud enough for the handful of journalists at this position to hear.

The mixed Kurdish and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are backed on the ground by U.S. and French special forces who are advising and coordinating with local fighters and calling in coalition airstrikes. But they are not in a rush to take the city.

“From the north side, we allowed a road to remain open and we have passed the road between Aleppo and Manbij,” said Shervan Kobani, a Kurdish fighter. “We do this in order to avoid destruction of the city, in order for the civilians to escape, and to give the ISIS fighters an option to escape,” he told The Daily Beast.

Kobani said that the so-called Islamic State group is on its last legs in Manbij. “ISIS cannot resist us, and blow themselves up near civilians when we reach them. They are very weak now, and wear women’s clothes to escape.”

Even accounting for battlefield hyperbole, it does appear ISIS is getting weaker, and often ISIS fighters kill themselves before giving up to SDF-fighters.

Hassan Abu Ali, 34, from a Free Syrian Army (FSA) group working with the Kurds says the resistance of ISIS is now broken.

“The first line of ISIS in Halula is broken and in Sheikh Hajji Hussein and Mustafa Hamada. Now it will be easy for us, because initially it was very difficult,” he said.

“Now they realize they are besieged in Manbij and we give them three days to flee and within a few days we will be rid of them,” he said.  “We allow the main road in the Ghandura village to be open, so they can flee. But maybe tomorrow we cut this also.”

The Manbij Military Council set up by SDF forces to capture the city from ISIS said in a statement, “The presence of civilians in the city and our care about the safety of these families forces us to be patient.”

Col. Christopher Gaver, the spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, sounds less optimistic about jihadist retreat. “The SDF has met heavy resistance from Daesh [ISIS] at the onset of the operation and at points along the way. We assess that Daesh will fight hard to retain Manbij as it is the key terrain on the line of communication out of Raqqa,” the de facto ISIS capital in Syria, Garver told reporters on Wednesday.

“Daesh has employed the tactics we have seen before as they defend and then cede territory, including the extensive use of IEDs to slow advancing forces and significantly damage the infrastructure they have lost,” he added.

Villagers seem to be very supportive of the SDF forces.  “May God destroy them, thank God you got rid of them,” Um Farouq, 60, a local woman told local fighters, smiling. Other Arab civilians could be seen dancing victory dances, and hugging the SDF fighters.

“We were waiting for the SDF to come hour by hour and minute by minute. They liberated us from ISIS and we thank them,” said Mustafa Mohammed al-Ahmad. Asked if local civilians might join ISIS because of the “collateral damage” from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, he said no. “The coalition haven’t killed civilians, they are accurate.”

Some civilians say it’s too early to tell if the SDF is going to be a positive presence, even if they are happy to be rid of  ISIS.

Civilians seem to be helping local Kurdish fighters hunting for possible ISIS fighters in villages five to 10 kilometers from the front lines. Not far away, U.S. Special Forces, who covered their faces when in view of reporters, could be seen coordinating with the SDF

French special forces could be seen driving around the area days before the Frency government officially recognized their presence

The U.S.-led coalition forces have been training local Arab fighters for short periods

“We have been trained on demining, light weapons, but not heavy weapons, like the others,” he said. “We have many groups inside the SDF and each group has a specific training and in the case of heavy fighting, those go who were trained,” said Abu Yassir, 39, a local leader within the FSA working with the Kurds.

He said its especially important to learn demining. “They rely on mines and explosives,” he said.

“We received a training for 17 days from the Americans on demining and light weapons and raiding houses,” said Abu Ayham, 29, an Arab fighter. “Manbij is mined with explosives, so we have to be careful when we enter it.”

Nevertheless, the Arab fighters were not too happy, after their leader Abu Layla died from his injuries last Sunday. “We have many martyrs, including our leader Abu Layla. We would be more happy after we free Manbij,” said Abu Yassir.

It’s unclear if the SDF, after capturing Manbij, will return to fighting ISIS in Raqqa, the de-facto ISIS capital, or move towards Jarabulus and al Babab to open up a corridor from the town of Kobani to Efrin, to unite the Kurdish-led administrations. “Yes, we will go towards Azaz and Efrin,” Kurdish fighter Shervan Kobani said, even though some Arab fighters still think they will move towards Raqqah after defeating ISIS in Manbij.

Abu Muthanna, a deputy FSA commander, told me during a funeral in Kobani that so far the Northern Raqqa campaign has stopped.

“We are ready to liberate Raqqa city, but the coalition decided to move towards Manbij,” he added. “Maybe, depending on the circumstances, the international coalition will go to northern Raqqa after Manbij is liberated,” he said

In the meantime, Syrian government forces, another enemy of the fighters here, are moving on Raqqa from the West, as sign that even when ISIS suffers significant defeats, this war and its complications are far from over.

Oil sector job losses ‘to reach 120,000 by end of year’

June 10, 2016

BBC News

The number of jobs lost as a result of the downturn in the UK oil and gas sector could top 120,000 by the end of this year, according to a report.

Oil & Gas UK estimated 84,000 jobs linked to the industry went in 2015, with 40,000 losses expected this year. It said the offshore industry supported 453,000 jobs at its 2014 peak – either directly, in its supply chain or in trades such as hotels and taxis.

The new figures suggest 330,000 jobs would be supported by the end of 2016.

The analysis was carried out by marketing services company Experian.

Last week a Bank of Scotland/Lloyds Banking Group survey suggested that a third of UK oil and gas businesses planned to cut jobs further during this year.

Many companies have been struggling under the weight of a sustained fall in the price of oil.

Brent crude is currently trading at about $50 a barrel, less than half the price it was in 2014 when jobs linked to the sector peaked at over 450,000.

Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said: “The industry has been spending more than it is earning since the oil price slump towards the end of 2014.

“This is not sustainable and companies have been faced with some very difficult decisions.

“To survive, the industry has had no choice but to improve its performance.

“It is looking to find efficiencies to restore competitiveness, to attract investment and stimulate activity in the North Sea.

“With up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas still to recover, this region is still very much open for business.”

Oil & Gas UK is due to hold its annual conference in Aberdeen next week to consider how it manages its way through the current downturn.

Ms Michie added: “The interventions we make now will be critical to shape the industry’s direction and help stem future losses.

“Everyone in the sector can play a part. Effective workforce engagement is vital onshore and offshore, as is greater cooperation – within teams, within companies, across the industry and with the regulators and governments.”

Tommy Campbell, who chairs the offshore coordinating group of trade unions, said a major summit was needed to plot the industry’s future.

He added: “He need the main players around the table, and we have to remember that the cause of all this downturn isn’t just the global economy.

“There are major oil operators in this area dictating the terms to other employers, to the contractors, in order for them to maintain their huge profit margin.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said oil prices had been “recovering from their previous low levels” and there had been “some improvement in investor sentiment”, but acknowledged it was a “challenging time for the industry and the workforce”.

He added: “We are focused on creating a competitive and supportive business environment and promoting innovation throughout the supply chain – however, it is the UK government that retains control of the key taxation levers affecting the sector, and that must take the action needed to incentivise investment to protect jobs.”

Sterling hit after survey puts Brexit camp 10 points ahead

June 11, 2016

by James Davey


LONDON-Betting odds on a British vote to exit the European Union shortened on Saturday after an opinion poll put the “Leave” camp 10 points ahead of “Remain”, hitting the value of the pound.

Sterling weakened by as much as 1.2 percent against the dollar immediately after the poll, by ORB for the Independent newspaper, was published on Friday evening.

The pound fell from $1.4343 to $1.4177, but later recovered about half of the loss.

Britons will vote on June 23 referendum on whether to leave the world’s largest free trading area, a decision with far-reaching implications for politics, the economy, trade, defense and migration in Britain and the rest of the EU.

The ORB poll put support for “Leave” on 55 percent, against 45 percent for “Remain”.

Bookmaker Betfair cut the odds of a vote to stay, giving a probability of 70 percent, down from 78 percent earlier this week.

Financial markets have been paying close attention to bookmakers’ odds, especially as opinion polls failed to predict last year’s outright election victory for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives.

“The ‘Remain’ camp has two weeks to convince those thinking about voting for Brexit that the risk is real,” said ORB pollster Johnny Heald.

However, he did say that recent referendums in Scotland, Ireland and Canada showed that opinion polls had a tendency to underestimate support for the status quo.


Friday’s survey gave the “Brexit” camp their biggest lead since the poll series started a year ago, the Independent said. But the official Vote Leave campaign reacted cautiously, tweeting: “We don’t believe the ORB online poll, our data suggests it’s closer to 50-50.”

Bookmaker Ladbrokes said the ORB poll had caused it to shorten its odds on Brexit to 9/4 from 11/4 previously, implying a rise in the likelihood of a “Leave” vote to 30 percent from 27 percent.

“We thought the Brexit rally was finished, but the ‘Leave’ odds have tumbled again on the back of the eye-catching 10-point poll,” said a Ladbrokes spokesman.

Asked about the contradiction between the betting odds and the poll, he said the former reflected the weight of money in the market.

“Since we first started taking bets on this, 80 percent of the money we’ve taken has been for ‘Remain’. This is like any other market, the money moves the market,” the spokesman said.

“Polling is a snapshot of voter intention at any given point; a betting market is a predictions market.”

The mixed picture has heightened market jitters about the outcome, with sterling repeatedly reacting to poll results.

Nigel Farage, leader of the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview that Cameron, who wants Britain to stay in the EU, should resign even if ‘Remain’ won by a narrow margin.

Separately on Saturday, a group of Britain’s most eminent scientists endorsed the “Remain” campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, saying that leaving could damage research.

On Friday, however, billionaire entrepreneur James Dyson came out in favor of Brexit.

(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Bill Schomberg; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

NSA Looking to Exploit Internet of Things, Including Biomedical Devices, Official Says

June 10 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

The National Security Agency is researching opportunities to collect foreign intelligence — including the possibility of exploiting internet-connected biomedical devices like pacemakers, according to a senior official.

“We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now,” Richard Ledgett, the NSA’s deputy director, said at a conference on military technology at Washington’s Newseum on Friday.

Biomedical devices could be a new source of information for the NSA’s data hoards — “maybe a niche kind of thing … a tool in the toolbox,” he said, though he added that there are easier ways to keep track of overseas terrorists and foreign intelligence agents.

When asked if the entire scope of the Internet of Things — billions of interconnected devices — would be “a security nightmare or a signals intelligence bonanza,” he replied, “Both.”

“As my job is to penetrate other people’s networks, complexity is my friend,” he said. “The first time you update the software, you introduce vulnerabilities, or variables rather. It’s a good place to be in a penetration point of view.”

When the agency is looking to exploit different new devices, the NSA has to prioritize its resources, which are usually focused on the “bad guys’” tech of choice rather than popular gadgets in the U.S., Ledgett explained.

That’s why the NSA wasn’t able to help the FBI crack the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, he said, because the agency hadn’t invested in exploiting that particular model of phone. “We don’t do every phone, every variation of phone,” he said. “If we don’t have a bad guy who’s using it, we don’t do that.”

Ledgett isn’t the only intelligence official to identify the growing Internet of Things as a possibility for global spying. The Director of National Intelligence himself said during a Senate hearing on worldwide threats in February that interconnected devices could be useful “for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials.”

Clapper’s office has since cautioned in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that “information obtained from a refrigerator, a washing machine, or a child’s toy” can’t replace other types of signals intelligence, like the content of terrorists’ communications.

Ledgett also said it wasn’t the agency’s place to mandate security standards for companies when it comes to new devices.

But NSA can’t ignore the potential that biomedical devices might be hacked by outsiders, too. Ledgett said no NSA employee has needed an internet-connected biomedical device yet — but that when it does happen, it will be a concern for an agency that doesn’t allow for cellphones.

“We haven’t figured that out yet,” Ledgett said.

In Britain, anti-Semitism endures

June 10, 2016

by George F. Will

Washington Post

LONDON- Of the fighting faiths that flourished during the ideologically drunk 20th century, anti-Semitism has been uniquely durable. It survives by mutating, even migrating across the political spectrum from the right to the left. Although most frequently found in European semi-fascist parties, anti-Semitism is growing in the fetid Petri dish of American academia and is staining Britain’s Labour Party.

In 2014, before Naseem “Naz” Shah became a Labour member of Parliament, she shared a graphic on her Facebook page suggesting that all Israelis should be “relocated” to the United States. She seemed to endorse the idea that the “transportation cost” would be less than “three years of defense spending.” When this was recently publicized, “Red Ken” Livingstone, former Labour mayor of London, offered on the BBC what he considered a defense of her as not anti-Semitic because “a real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel.” Besides, Livingstone said, Hitler was a Zionist (for supposedly considering sending Europe’s Jews to Palestine) “before he went mad.” As mayor, Livingstone praised as a “progressive voice” an Egyptian cleric who called the Holocaust “divine punishment.”

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, says he wants to cleanse Labour of such thinking. But Corbyn hopes to host at the House of Commons a Palestinian sheikh who calls Jews “bacteria” and “monkeys” and has been accused of repeating the “blood libel” that Jews make matzo using the blood of gentile children.

Leftist anti-Semites invariably say they hate not Jews but Zionism, and hence not a people but a nation. Israel was, however, created as a haven for an endangered people. Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, refutes the canard that “hating Israel is not the same as hating Jews” by saying:

Criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. When Sacks asks his audiences if Britain’s government can be criticized, everyone says yes. But when they are asked, “Do you believe Britain should not exist?,” no one says yes. Then Sacks tells his audiences: “Now you know the difference.”

“It is very easy to hate,” says Sacks. “It is very difficult to justify hate.” Anti-Semitism’s permutations adapt it to changing needs for justification. In the Middle Ages, he says, Jews were hated for their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were hated for their race. Now they are hated for their nation. “The new anti-Semitism can always say it is not the old anti-Semitism.”

But it is. It remains, Sacks says, “essentially eliminationist.” It disguises its genocidal viciousness, insisting that it seeks the destruction not of a people but only of the state formed as a haven for this people that has had a uniquely hazardous history. The international “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, supported by many American academics, aims not to pressure Israel to change policies, as South Africa was pressured to abandon apartheid, but rather to de-legitimize Israel’s existence as a nation.

Sacks says that when bad things happen to a healthy society, it asks: What did we do wrong? A fraying, insecure society asks: Who did this to us? Sacks notes that although Jews were never more than 2 percent of Germany’s population, this did not protect them from becoming the explanation for Germany’s discontents.

In a conversation with a supposedly “moderate” British Muslim leader, Sacks asked, “Does Israel have a right to exist within any borders whatever?” The leader replied: “Your own prophets said that because of your sins you have forfeited your right to your land.” To which Sacks responded mildly: “But that was 2,700 years ago and surely the Jews have served their sentence.”

After World War II, Western nations strove to develop what Sacks calls “a cultural immune system” against anti-Semitism with Holocaust education and other measures. The immune system is not weakening in Britain, other than among Muslim immigrants and leftists eager to meld their radicalism with radical Islam.

Labour’s leader before Corbyn, Edward Miliband, who led the party in the 2015 general election, is Jewish, as was the Conservative Party’s greatest 19th-century leader, Benjamin Disraeli. Former Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan, who was educated at Eton, noted, perhaps regretfully, certainly indelicately, that Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet included more “old Estonians than old Etonians.” This was not anti-Semitism, just a jest too fine to forgo.

Seven decades after the Holocaust, some European nations have, remarkably, anti-Semitism without Jews and Christian anti-Semitism without Christianity. Britain just has a few leftists eager to mend their threadbare socialism with something borrowed from National Socialism.

Obama Prolongs Unwinnable Wars

The peace candidate transformed into a war president.

June 9, 2016

by Steve Chapman


Barack Obama came into office intending to correct his predecessor’s biggest mistakes by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn’t, because he made his own grievous mistake: choosing to prolong failure rather than admit it.

The error is not original with Obama. George W. Bush did the same thing in those wars, persisting in them mainly because he didn’t know what else to do. So did Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam.

LBJ once confided his dilemma: “I can’t get out. I can’t finish it with what I have got. So what the hell can I do?” Nixon ran on a promise to end the war in Vietnam, but some 20,000 Americans died there under him—without changing the dismal outcome.

Even Obama’s fiercest critics would not have imagined he would complete two terms in the White House without extricating the United States from either war. The peace candidate has been a war president.

After withdrawing all forces from Iraq in 2011 and setting forth a plan to end the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Obama let himself be sucked back in. We now have some 5,500 troops in Iraq and nearly 10,000 in Afghanistan—far fewer than under Bush but far more than zero.

The reason for staying was simple: to avert defeat, if only for the time being. After the U.S. vacated Iraq, the Islamic State emerged as a new threat to the Baghdad government and others in the region. As we headed for the exit in Afghanistan, the Taliban came roaring back.

Hawks took these developments as vindication, saying: “See? We should have continued the wars at full strength.” But the outcomes only confirmed the futility of our efforts. The goal of invading Afghanistan and Iraq was not to put them under permanent U.S. occupation. It was to topple the ruling governments and enable their people to flourish on their own.

In that, we obviously came up pitifully short in both countries. They entered years of violent turmoil from which neither shows any sign of emerging. Yet Obama operates as though with more time and more American help, they can attain peace and fulfill our hopes.

What possible reason does he have to believe that? Bush insisted that the 2007 surge in Iraq would not only produce military success but bring about “a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties and answers to its people.” In the ensuing years, Iraq failed to realize his shimmering vision. No surprise there. The question is why anyone ever dreamed it could.

Ditto for Afghanistan, where we have been mired for nearly 15 years. The point of Obama’s surge, announced in 2009, was simple: to “create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.” Yet here we are 6 1/2 years later, still waiting for them to take ownership of their future.

The chief reason Obama made these new military commitments was simple: He treated defeat as intolerable. But the American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not likely to prevent defeat—only to postpone it.

Even if we could eliminate the militants, the conditions that spawned them would not abate. We crushed the insurgency once in Iraq, but the Baghdad regime didn’t take advantage of the success to overcome the country’s lethal divisions. The Kabul government has managed to preserve its hard-earned reputation for corruption and incompetence year after year.

One thing the U.S. government has demonstrated in this century is that we know nothing about nation building. We can’t solve the problems afflicting these countries, and we have aligned ourselves with governments that also lack that capability. Our presence does more to create radicalism than to kill it.

Nor can we outlast homegrown enemies. It’s their country, and their attachment will always exceed ours. They don’t have to beat us on the battlefield. All they have to do is survive until we run out of patience, which will happen sooner or later.

It may be much later, because presidents don’t like to lose wars, even wars that are unwinnable. They would rather prolong them indefinitely, even though it means wasting American lives for nothing.

Early in his presidency, Obama told his advisers, “I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years.” Yet he has. Thanks to him, the next president will also be making those visits.

New era of journalism: People against the gatekeepers

June 11, 2016


What does the post-mainstream era hold for journalism? Can censorship exist in an era of total access to information? Where does freedom of expression begin and where does it end?

These were just three of the important questions addressed at the “New Era of Journalism” conference held in Moscow this week, an event which brought together leading journalists from 32 countries and also featured a video link up with Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Opening the proceedings, Dmitry Kiselev, Director General of the Rossiya Segodnya news organization, said that since 2001 the US had interfered with and destroyed a number of countries around the world with wars and interventions based on lies. These lies, such as the blatantly false claim that Iraq had WMDs which could be launched within 45 minutes, were promoted by US State Department/NATO-friendly news channels and other media as proven facts which they clearly were not.

Actually, the US policy predates the terrorist attacks on New York, as citizens of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who were bombed by NATO for 78 days and nights in 1999, would testify. The most drastic form of censorship was imposed in that conflict too, when Serbian state television (RTS), was bombed and 16 employees killed. But it was the “humanitarian crusaders” of a US-led military alliance doing the killing, so there were no ‘Ja sam Jelica’ or ‘Ja sam Branislav’ marches of solidarity in western capitals. It seems it’s ok to kill media workers if it’s “our side” that does it. Then the victims are “unpeople”.

Frank La Rue, the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Communication and Information, said that the role of the journalist will always be the same but that new technology had been a major game changer. He talked of how technology has enabled the common citizen to participate, describing the “democratization of community”.  Of course, for elite gatekeepers the fact that the “common citizen” can now answer back on forums such as Twitter and challenge Establishment-friendly commentators is not a welcome development. Hence the growing calls for greater censorship of social media.

Speaking from London, Julian Assange said that freedom of expression on Twitter was under threat from both the right on grounds of “anti-terrorism/ anti-extremism” and the “identity politics left” who are attempting to censor views they deem to be offensive. He said he was not as optimistic as others who had spoken at the conference on how new forms of media can help defeat censorship, noting how Internet giant Google was “heavily integrated” with Washington power “at personal level and at business level. As an example he told delegates how the company used its front page to “promote John Kerry’s call for bombing on Syria in 2013” and said that Google was “directly engaged” in Hillary Clinton’s US Presidential campaign.

The media censors the news by simply not reporting it, Assange said. He cited the Nobel Prize acceptance speech given by British playwright Harold Pinter in 2005.

Pinter asked why US wars of aggression in Iraq and elsewhere in history had very little documentation or coverage in the west and were not on anyone’s mind but the atrocities and abuses of Stalinist Russia were easy to recall and known in quite some detail. He said these words in relations to those US wars: “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.”

“Now those are strong words,” said Assange, “but I think they have largely been correct for what the establishment western media has done with the reporting of war. And it’s something which has undoubtedly contributed to the elongation of wars and contributed directly to their commencement. A case in point was of course Iraq where the war was started through mass lies spread through the media.”

Assange noted that the playwright’s speech was not reported by Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, despite the fact that a British playwright had won a Nobel Prize.

It seems that like the US wars it discussed, the speech never happened. Even when it was happening, it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.

Assange also drew attention to the way the UK establishment reacted in February to the UN panel ruling that he had been illegally and “arbitrarily detained”. He showed conference a tweet by UK Minister of State Hugo Swire mocking the ruling. Swire posted a picture of himself pretending to strangle his dog and wrote: “Oh dear, Rocco appears to be #arbitarily detained ”

“Can you imagine if Lavrov (the Russian Foreign Minister) had tweeted a picture of him with his dog with the same message after Pussy Riot were arrested?” asked Assange. NATO-friendly “free speech” crusaders would have churned out “outraged” OpEd pieces. But it was a British Minister ridiculing Assange’s arbitrary detention, so, to use Harold Pinter’s phrase, it never happened.

British/Irish journalist Liam Halligan, a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, told the conference how economic factors are making journalism less socially representative in the UK. Once journalism had been a route to social mobility for talented working-class people. But cutbacks in news organizations have meant that those from wealthier backgrounds now benefit the most as they can afford to take unpaid internships. Journalists from such backgrounds are less likely to shine a torch on what the 1 percent and establishment elites get up to.

Eva Golinger, author and presenter for RT Spanish, talked of the pernicious role played by Venezuelan corporate media in the anti-democratic coup (which was later reversed) against Hugo Chavez in 2002. US Ambassador Shapiro actually went to a privately owned television studio to discuss how news reports should be edited. She told the conference how US “democracy promoting” agencies like USAID and NED had spent millions of dollars in trying to achieve “regime change” in Venezuela and on the role of the media in the recent coup in Brazil.

Many delegates touched on the new information ‘Cold War’ which had developed in the last few years. As in the old ‘Cold War’, McCarthyism has reared its ugly head again in the west with journalists who oppose NATO‘s aggressive policies towards Russia subject to relentless attacks and smear campaigns which are designed to destroy the journalist’s career.

I told the conference how the parameters of “acceptable” debate on foreign policy had become narrower in recent years, citing as an example the career of the award winning anti-war journalist John Pilger.

From the 1960s to the first decade of the 21st century Pilger’s outstanding, thought-provoking work could be found in western mainstream publications and his documentaries could be watched on western mainstream television networks. Pilger had a regular column in the Daily Mirror newspaper and the New Statesman magazine. His films were shown on ITV. But in recent years, Pilger has become an outcast as far as western mainstream media is concerned. In 2016, you’ve got to tune into Russian media to hear this legendary journalist’s views. In fact, if you want to find any really outspoken criticism of NATO, the west’s disastrous foreign policy and its double standards, you have to watch channels like RT.

You won’t see Pilger and people with Pilger’s views on foreign policy on Newsnight or on prime-time ITV. “Democratic” gatekeepers and Imperial Truth Enforcers have seen to that.

Since 2003, the people who called Iraq right have been blackballed while those who helped spread war propaganda are still in position or in some cases have even been promoted.

This New McCarthyism may serve elite interests, but in terms of ratings its been disastrous. The success and growing popularity of channels like RT which urge us to “Question More”, is directly attributable to the narrowing of the parameters of debate on western news channels. Who wants to watch a “debate” on Syria between a hard-right neocon and a Blairite “liberal interventionist” both of whom are desperate for “regime change”? Why are the voices of those who actually support the Syrian government (possibly a majority of Syrians) or who oppose all meddling in the affairs of sovereign states never heard?

I call RT the zeitgeist channel because it responds to the desire of viewers who are sick and tired of the same old Establishment voices preaching to us and want to hear a much wider range of opinions, including those who support governments and leaders demonized by Washington and London-based neocons. The attacks that RT has been subject to by the west’s endless war lobby, who would dearly love to have the station taken off air, clearly shows what an impact it has made. Last December RT on You Tube exceeded 3 billion views – way ahead of its rivals.

“We want a colorful multi-polar world and a media landscape that reflects that”,  Dimitry Kiselev told the conference.  Only Cyril Waugh-Monger type McCarthyites, desperate to regain control of the narrative and destroy media pluralism, could possibly disagree with that sentiment.

Modern technology certainly provides us with great opportunities to build a more democratic media landscape. As Alexei Volin, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media highlighted, you only need around $5000 to set up your own television studios these days. But the threat of censorship and attacks on those who simply want to get the truth out to the public remains, as the plight of Julian Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for almost four years now, illustrates.

On arriving home from the conference, I was greeted with the shocking news that Argentina’s new right-wing US State Department friendly government had suspended RT Spanish and Venezuela’s TeleSUR from free-view transmission.

Will this brazen act of political censorship, described by one Argentinian commentator as an “all-out psychological onslaught on all of Latin America”, be fiercely attacked by western anti-censorship groups who claim to support media pluralism? I fear that Harold Pinter’s “It Never Happened even while it was happening” theory will once again prove to be correct.



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