TBR News March 19, 2011

Mar 19 2011

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 19, 2011: “ I have been out of the country for a week and have been unable to access a computer to do any Internet work. I have, nonetheless, gotten intresting information in my travels. While Obama has been fighting shy of going after the Libyan nut because the boys with the money don’t want to lose the oil there, finally Ghadaffi has gone too far and all of Europe is furious. Obama is being “convinced” that he has to cooperate with their pending actions or look like a fool so he is making martial noises. What’s good for American business is good for America and, conversely, what’s bad for American business, is bad for America. How many dead young men killed in the Business Wars do they have to their account? Iraq was all about oil as is Iran. Libya is all about oil as was Viet Nam. In this country, children, Business Rules and do not ever forget it. If the evil Koch brother have their way, unions will be abolished. The Koch family area all about oil. And Congressmen who are on the hook by large nuclear plant builders are pushing for more nuclear plants, and this in the face of the Japan disaster. A bag of cash speaks louder than anything else in the halls of Congress…and elsewhere. If we voted them all out today, the replacements would be worse later.”

A Quarter of U.S. Nuclear Plants Leaking

27 of 104 Plants Leak Radioactive Tritium, a Carcinogen, Raising Concerns About Nation’s Aging Plants

MONTPELIER, Vt., Feb. 1, 2010 (AP)  Radioactive tritium, a carcinogen discovered in potentially dangerous levels in groundwater at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, now taints at least 27 of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors — raising concerns about how it is escaping from the aging nuclear plants.

The leaks — many from deteriorating underground pipes — come as the nuclear industry is seeking and obtaining federal license renewals, casting itself as a clean-green alternative to power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Tritium, found in nature in tiny amounts and a product of nuclear fusion, has been linked to cancer if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large amounts.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday that new tests at a monitoring well on Vermont Yankee’s site in Vernon registered 70,500 picocuries per liter, more than three times the federal safety standard of 20,000 picocuries per liter.

That is the highest reading yet at the Vermont Yankee plant, where the original discovery last month drew sharp criticism by Gov. Jim Douglas and others. Officials of the New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., which owns the plant in Vernon in Vermont’s southeast corner, have admitted misleading state regulators and lawmakers by saying the plant did not have the kind of underground pipes that could leak tritium into groundwater.

“What has happened at Vermont Yankee is a breach of trust that cannot be tolerated,” said Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, who until now has been a strong supporter of the state’s lone nuclear plant.

Vermont Yankee has said no tritium has been found in area drinking water supplies or in the Connecticut River and that earlier, lesser tritium levels discovered last month were of no health concern. Messages left for a plant spokesman Monday were not immediately returned.

President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address last week, called for “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” His 2011 budget request to Congress on Monday called for $54 billion in additional loan guarantees for nuclear power.

The 104 nuclear reactors operating in 31 states provide only 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. But they are responsible for 70 percent of the power from non-greenhouse gas producing sources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric dams.

Vermont Yankee is just the latest of dozens of U.S. nuclear plants, many built in the 1960s and ’70s, to be found with leaking tritium.

The Braidwood nuclear station in Illinois was found in the 1990s to be leaking millions of gallons of tritium-laced water, some of which contaminated residential water wells. Plant owner Exelon Corp. ended up paying for a new municipal water system.

After Braidwood, the nuclear industry stepped up voluntary checking for tritium in groundwater at plants around the country, testing that revealed the Vermont Yankee problem, plant officials said.

In New Jersey last year, tritium was reported leaking a second time from the Oyster Creek plant in Ocean County, just days after Exelon won NRC approval for a 20-year license extension there. The Pilgrim plant in Plymouth, Mass., like Vermont Yankee, owned by Entergy, reported low levels of tritium on the ground in 2007. The Vermont leak has prompted a Plymouth-area citizens group to demand more test wells at the Massachusetts plant.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says leaks have occurred at least 27 of the nation’s 104 commercial reactors at 65 plant sites. He said the list likely does not include every plant where tritium has leaked.

The leaks have several causes; underground pipes corroding and the leaking of spent fuel storage pools are the most common. The source of the leak or leaks at Vermont Yankee has not been found; at Oyster Creek, corroded underground pipes were implicated.

Many radiological health scientists agree with the Environmental Protection Agency that tritium, like other radioactive isotopes, can cause cancer.

That worries Vermont public officials and lawmakers. Rep. Tony Klein, chairman of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee in the Vermont House, said he fears public officials may be downplaying the risk.

“When you have public officials that the public depends on for their health and welfare making casual statements that a radioactive substance is not harmful to you, I think that’s ludicrous,” Klein said.

There’s disagreement on the severity of the risk.

“Somebody would have to be drinking a lot of water and it would have to be really concentrated in there for it to do any harm at all,” said Jacqueline Williams, a radiation biologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York state.

But in 2005, the National Academy of Sciences concluded after an exhaustive study that even the tiniest amount of ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer.

“The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” Richard R. Monson, associate dean for professional education and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said when the NAS released its study.

Paul Gunter of the Maryland-based anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear, said in many instances, it’s impossible to know how much tritium is getting into the environment.

“These are uncontrolled, unmonitored releases from these plants,” he said.

Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, said the public shouldn’t be unduly worried.

“These are industrial facilities, and any industrial facility from time to time is going to have equipment problems or challenges,” Kerekes said. “Not every operational issue rises to the level of being a safety issue.”

Vermont, with a strong anti-nuclear movement, is the only state in the country where the Legislature decides whether to relicense a nuclear plant. Vermont Yankee’s current 40-year license is up in 2012, and Entergy is asking for 20 more years.

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media

Military’s ‘sock puppet’ software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

March 17, 2011

by Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain


The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”.

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to “address US audiences” with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated Facebook messages, blogposts, tweets, retweets, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom’s contract requires for each controller the provision of one “virtual private server” located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

It also calls for “traffic mixing”, blending the persona controllers’ internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer “excellent cover and powerful deniability”.

The multiple persona contract is thought to have been awarded as part of a programme called Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces. Since then, OEV is reported to have expanded into a $200m programme and is thought to have been used against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

OEV is seen by senior US commanders as a vital counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation programme. In evidence to the US Senate’s armed services committee last year, General David Petraeus, then commander of Centcom, described the operation as an effort to “counter extremist ideology and propaganda and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard”. He said the US military’s objective was to be “first with the truth”.

This month Petraeus’s successor, General James Mattis, told the same committee that OEV “supports all activities associated with degrading the enemy narrative, including web engagement and web-based product distribution capabilities”.

Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. It would not disclose whether the multiple persona project is already in operation or discuss any related contracts.

Nobody was available for comment at Ntrepid.

In his evidence to the Senate committee, Gen Mattis said: “OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda.” He added that Centcom was working with “our coalition partners” to develop new techniques and tactics the US could use “to counter the adversary in the cyber domain”.

According to a report by the inspector general of the US defence department in Iraq, OEV was managed by the multinational forces rather than Centcom.

Asked whether any UK military personnel had been involved in OEV, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said it could find “no evidence”. The MoD refused to say whether it had been involved in the development of persona management programmes, saying: “We don’t comment on cyber capability.”

OEV was discussed last year at a gathering of electronic warfare specialists in Washington DC, where a senior Centcom officer told delegates that its purpose was to “communicate critical messages and to counter the propaganda of our adversaries”.

Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.

Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of “criminal impersonation” and identity theft.

It is unclear whether a persona management programme would contravene UK law. Legal experts say it could fall foul of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which states that “a person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice”. However, this would apply only if a website or social network could be shown to have suffered “prejudice” as a result.

Obama cools to US military intervention in Libya

President Obama signals that, for now, he is wary of committing US military forces to help the Libyan opposition oust Muammar Qaddafi.

March 11, 2011

by Howard LaFranchi,

Christian Science Monitor

Washington -President Obama on Friday signaled he has settled into a cautious approach to Libya that seeks the ouster of Col. Muammar Qaddafi, but which – at this point – does not include the use of US military force.

As outlined at a White House press conference, the president’s Libya policy in many ways reflects the pragmatic approach he has adopted towards the upheaval that has seized the Arab world from Yemen to Morocco.

The US stands with the people of the region and their yearning for greater freedoms, Mr. Obama says. But a variety of factors – from differing US interests to how embattled governments respond to the protests against them – mean the US will not treat each case the same. The one constant, the president suggests, is that the US will look for the predominant force for change to come from within.

At the press conference – called by the White House to address rising gas prices – Obama painted a picture of a slow but sure course on Libya aimed at pressuring the Libyan government as it battles the opposition.

“We are slowly tightening the noose around Qaddafi,” Obama said, citing the international sanctions imposed on the regime, the adoption of an arms embargo, and implementation by NATO of 24-hour overflight surveillance of Libyan military activity.

Obama’s pragmatic approach

As for eventual military action to help bring about Qaddafi’s departure, Obama said he was weighing the options but suggested he is not yet as enthusiastic as some other Western countries, led by France and Great Britain, appear to be.

“You have to balance costs versus benefits” in deciding whether or not to use the military, he said. “I don’t take those decisions lightly.”

Obama stopped short of endorsing the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, but noted that NATO officials will meet on Tuesday to continue discussions that took place this week. In addition, he noted that he is sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the region next week, and she will meet with representatives of the Libyan opposition.

Obama’s pragmatism appears to be largely in sync with American public opinion. A number of recent polls show that while Americans are following the upheaval in the Middle East with considerable interest, they generally do not favor strong US intervention in the region – either to promote democracy or bring about “regime change” in Libya.

In one poll released this week by the Vision Critical/Angus Reid polling firm in New York, only 8 percent of respondents said they would support Iraq-style military action by the US in Libya.

Obama responds to critics

In his Friday press conference, Obama responded to mounting criticism in Washington for what some say has been a halting and at times contradictory approach to the turmoil in the Middle East. He insisted he has emphasized the same key principles across the board, including his conviction that people have the right to express their grievances to their government.

This process of change can be a great opportunity for the Middle East, he added, saying the US “should be on the side of those who want to seize this opportunity.”

The president’s rhetoric did not reassure everyone. On a day when reports out of Saudi Arabia told of security forces using intimidation, tear gas, and even gunfire to discourage a planned “day of rage” protest, some human-rights organizations seized on Obama’s point that the US would respond differently to different countries.

The US should not overlook a crackdown on protesters just because it has “strategic and economic ties” to that country, the organization Human Rights First said.

Insisting the Saudis are “using many of the same crackdown techniques that the Obama administration recently condemned in the wake of uprisings in Egypt and Libya,” Brian Dooley, director of the organization’s human rights defenders program, says, “The United States cannot play favorites and give allies that stifle dissent a pass.”

Researchers Show How a Car’s Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely

March 9, 2011

by John Markoff

New York Times

With a modest amount of expertise, computer hackers could gain remote access to someone’s car — just as they do to people’s personal computers — and take over the vehicle’s basic functions, including control of its engine, according to a report by computer scientists from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington.

Although no such takeovers have been reported in the real world, the scientists were able to do exactly this in an experiment conducted on a car they bought for the purpose of trying to hack it. Their report, delivered last Friday to the National Academy of SciencesTransportation Research Board, described how such unauthorized intrusions could theoretically take place.

Because many of today’s cars contain cellular connections and Bluetooth wireless technology, it is possible for a hacker, working from a remote location, to take control of various features — like the car locks and brakes — as well as to track the vehicle’s location, eavesdrop on its cabin and steal vehicle data, the researchers said. They described a range of potential compromises of car security and safety.

“This report explores how hard it is to compromise a car’s computers without having any direct physical access to the car,” said Stefan Savage of the University of California, San Diego, who is one of the leaders of the research effort.

Given that the researchers were able to do it, they are now trying to pinpoint just how hard it might be for others, he said.

The car security study is one of a growing array of safety concerns that are emerging as the Internet comes in contact with almost every aspect of daily life, be it through financial systems or industrial controls. Computer security researchers have long argued that wholesale computerization and Internet connectivity of complex systems present new risks that are frequently exploited first by vandals with malicious intent.

The new report is a follow-on to similar research these experts conducted last year, which showed that cars were increasingly indistinguishable from Internet-connected computers in terms of vulnerability to outside intrusion and control. That project tried to show that the internal networks used to control systems in today’s cars are not secure in the face of a potential attacker who has physical access to the vehicle.

Their latest study was the first time that independent computer security researchers have tried to show how potential attackers could hack into a car from a remote location.

As in their first experiment, the research teams bought a car they described as a representative example of a moderately priced sedan. (They declined to identify the brand, saying that advanced telematics are rapidly becoming commonplace within the automotive industry.)

“In the case of every major manufacturer, if they do not have this capacity in their mainstream products, they’re about to,” said Tadayoshi Kohno, an assistant professor in the department of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington.

For example, services like General Motors’ OnStar system, Toyota’s Safety Connect, Lexus’s Enform, Ford’s Sync, BMW’s Assist and Mercedes Benz’s Mbrace all use a cellular connection embedded in the vehicle to provide a variety of automated and call center support services to a driver. These subscription services make it possible to track a car’s location, unlock doors remotely and control other functions.

In their remote experiment, the researchers were able to undermine the security protecting the cellular phone in the vehicle they bought and then insert malicious software. This allowed them to send commands to the car’s electronic control unit — the nerve center of a vehicle’s electronics system — which in turn made it possible to override various vehicle controls.

“These cellular channels offer many advantages for attackers,” the report said. “They can be accessed over arbitrary distance (due to the wide coverage of cellular data infrastructure) in a largely anonymous fashion, typically have relatively high bandwidth, are two-way channels (supporting interactive control and data exfiltration), and are individually addressable.”

The researchers declined to speculate about the worse situations, such as interfering with a vehicle’s control system to make it crash. However, they noted that their research showed how a next-generation car thief might operate: instead of using today’s so-called smash and grab tactics, the thief might be able to simply dial up a parked car, unlock its doors and turn on the engine, then arrive on the scene and drive off.

In addition to the cellular telephone vulnerability, the report details similar weaknesses in other systems that allow remote access, including short range wireless networks like Bluetooth, network ports used for car maintenance and even internal CD players.

The researchers noted that their report was about potential vulnerabilities and said there was no evidence that the safety loopholes they discovered had been used by criminals. They also said they believed that the automotive industry was treating the threats responsibly and working to improve the security of modern automobiles.

“Everyone has taken this extremely seriously,” said Dr. Savage.

Amtrak police chief bars Transportation Security Administration from some security operations

March 3, 2011

by Don Phillips


WASHINGTON — In late February, the Transportation Security Administration took over the Amtrak station in Savannah, Ga., and thoroughly searched every person who entered. None of the passengers got into trouble, but the TSA certainly did — big time.

Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor said he first thought a blog posting about the incident was a joke. When he discovered that the TSA’s VIPR team did at least some of what the blog said, he was livid. He ordered the VIPR teams off Amtrak property, at least until a firm agreement can be drawn up to prevent the TSA from taking actions that the chief said were illegal and clearly contrary to Amtrak policy.

“When I saw it, I didn’t believe it was real,” O’Connor said. When it developed that the posting on an anti-TSA blog was not a joke, “I hit the ceiling.”

Video of the screening is available at: www.liveleak.com.

O’Connor said the TSA VIPR teams have no right to do more than what Amtrak police do occasionally, which has produced few if any protests and which O’Connor said is clearly within the law and the Constitution. More than a thousand times, Amtrak teams (sometimes including VIPR) have performed security screenings at Amtrak stations. These screenings are only occasional and random, and inspect the bags of only about one in 10 passengers. There is no wanding of passengers and no sterile area. O’Connor said the TSA violated every one of these rules.

A posting in late February to the Transportation Security Administration’s blog, which serves as a public relations tool of the TSA, tried to explain why TSA agents took over the Amtrak station in Savannah. But O’Connor said the “facts” as posted on the TSA blog were incorrect. He said the blog indicated that Amtrak had approved of the operation, but it had not. He called the TSA’s posting on blog.tsa.gov “inaccurate and insensitive.” As of the time this story was filed, the same posting remained on the blog.

A TSA spokesman said he could not elaborate on the blog posting.

O’Connor said he must take some of the blame because he did not more carefully observe what the VIPR teams were doing. He said the TSA had apologized repeatedly to him, but they must agree to firm restrictions before he will consider allowing them back on Amtrak property.

The search was first revealed on the blog gizmodo.com.

However, that blog got it at least half wrong. The TSA did not, as the blog said, funnel people who arrived by train into the station for a search. Instead, the TSA took over the station and posted notes outside saying that anyone who entered would be “subject to mandatory screening.” Those who know the Savannah station realize that it generally is not necessary for anyone arriving or departing by train to go into the station. It is much easier to park the car or be dropped off near the platform.

Therefore, why was the TSA searching only anyone entering the station? It might even be easier to explain why they might have searched everyone. For instance, such questions as, did they have a tip someone was carrying a small atomic bomb? In the end, it is not even possible to discern a reason for what they actually did. Why search only people unfortunate enough to need to enter the station – people who needed to buy tickets, an elderly person who was dropped off and needed a place to sit while waiting, a mom whose infant badly needed a diaper change?

The group involved is TSA’s VIPR operation, which deals with surface transportation. VIPR is short for “visible intermodal protection and response.” It turns out that VIPR has been far more active than imagined. Teams have searched bus passengers all over the country, have done similar things at train stations, and have even blocked traffic on bridges to search trucks and cars. That even included the busy Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Washington.

The VIPR teams were rolled out on Dec. 12, 2005, then promptly pulled back two days later when it turned out that no one had informed numerous local governments. It was a fiasco. Several local jurisdictions said they had no interest and opted out, including the Washington Metro system. But teams, moving slowly, have apparently re-infiltrated surface transportation facilities. Unlike the TSA at airports, these teams have access to firepower. Although the TSA is not allowed to carry weapons, some armed Federal Air Marshals have been switched to ground duty.

One major unanswered question is: why? What purpose is being served other than to justify employment? You will certainly hear more about this in Trains

Julian Assange police investigator a friend of sex assault accuser

Officer and Miss A met through political party and corresponded over internet months before WikiLeaks chief was accused

March 10, 2011

by Esther Addley


The police investigator who first interviewed two Swedish women about allegations of rape and sexual assault against Julian Assange is a friend and political associate of one of the women, a Swedish newspaper has claimed.

The female officer became friends with the woman referred to in court as Miss A through Sweden‘s Social Democratic party, in which both are involved, according to Expressen. The pair corresponded on the internet 16 months before the allegations were made against Assange.

Miss A commented on a Facebook update on the police officer’s page as recently as 10 February, the paper said, and Miss A links to the officer’s private blog from her personal page.

The paper said the officer had made anti-Assange comments on the internet.

The WikiLeaks founder is appealing against a British magistrate’s decision last month to extradite him to Sweden to answer the accusations, which include an allegation of rape against another woman, Miss B. Miss A alleges Assange had sex with her without a condom, against her wishes. He has not been charged with any offence.

His legal team has argued that the Swedish judicial process is unfair and a number of those involved in the prosecution are politically motivated.

According to Expressen, Miss A and the police interrogator had internet contact in April 2009, when Miss A wrote a blog about white men “who take the right to decide what is not abusive”. The officer commented that the author “puts her finger on the bottom line and speaks out”, to which Miss A replied: “Hello! Thanks for the compliment. And like you say, white men must always defend the right to use abusive words. Then they of course deny that these very words are part of a system that keeps their group at the top of the social ladder.”

The paper said that when another newspaper, Aftonbladet, hosted a recent webchat with Assange, the officer commented “What the heck is this! Judgment zero!” The previous day she had commented on the same page: “Way to go, Claes Borgstrom!” Borgstrom is the lawyer representing the women and a former SDP politician, who Assange’s team has argued is acting from political motives.

The paper says the officer had just started her shift at Klara police station in Stockholm on 20 August when Miss A and Miss B arrived to make a complaint against Assange. It says she did not declare a conflict of interest. The police say that the officer in question did not interview Miss A and she played no further part in the investigation. On the basis of the interrogations, duty prosecutor Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand ordered Assange’s arrest, a decision overturned by a more senior prosecutor. Borgstrom appealed against that decision and the case was reinstated by prosecutor Marianne Ny.Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer, said they had been aware of the relationship, which had informed their arguments in court last month that the Swedish judicial process had been improper.

“There are a whole raft of issues like this which should cause reasonable people a bit of concern,” he said. “I’m delighted that the Swedes, who objected so strongly to our criticisms of the case, have started to acknowledge that there are systemic problems in their judicial process which allow this sort of thing to happen.”

Police superintendent Ulf Göranzon told Expressen he was not aware of any relationship between the two women, and would not comment on rumours.

The Swedish prosecutor’s office also declined to comment, citing the ongoing extradition process in the UK.

Japanese earthquake shocks markets

Stock exchanges wobble, oil prices fall and UK gas and electricity prices rise in aftermath of natural disaster in the Pacific

March 11, 2011

by Jill Traynor and Tim Webb


The effects of the devastating earthquake that hit Japan were felt across global markets on Friday as oil prices fell, stock markets wobbled and the yen rose on the foreign exchange markets.

Japanese companies and investors raced to repatriate their assets, selling dollars and other foreign currencies, and were also expected to sell European and US government bonds to prepare for the cost of rebuilding their domestic economy.

Early estimates of the cost of the quake for major insurers were put at $10bn to $15bn (£6.2bn to £9.3bn), while the leading economist Nouriel Roubini – known as Dr Doom for predicting the credit crunch – warned that the quake could not have hit at a worse time for a Japanese economy struggling with a budget deficit of almost 10% of gross domestic product.

“This is certainly the worst thing that can happen in Japan at the worst time,” Roubini said.

The Japanese economy contracted 1.3% from October to December and there were concerns about the impact the tragedy might have on the global economy.

Analysts at the investment house Brown Brothers Harriman said: “The typical expectation, based on past experience, is for Japanese investors to repatriate funds.”

The Bank of Japan – which has no scope to cut rates, because they are already at 0% to stimulate growth – moved quickly to promise a policy update on Monday, rather than Tuesday.

“The bank will continue to do its utmost, including the provision of liquidity, to ensure the stability in financial markets and to secure the smooth settlement of funds, in the coming week,” the central bank said.

The dollar fell to ¥81.99 by lunchtime in New York while the price of US crude fell to as low as $99 a barrel, although Brent crude was at $113 a barrel. There were concerns that major insurers such as Munich Re and Swiss Re might have to issue profit warnings as their budgets for natural catastrophe claims had already been depleted by the Australian flood and New Zealand earthquake. The FTSE 100 closed at 5828, its lowest level since December.

Work at factories run by major companies such as Toyota and Sony was suspended and oil prices fell because Japan – the third largest oil importer – was expected to need less. The expected reduction in demand took the heat out of oil prices which have been inflated by the instability in the Middle East.

However, there was an impact on wholesale gas prices, which rose by almost 4% in the UK after six of Japan’s reactors were shut down. UK electricity prices also rose by 2%.

Japan generates about a third of its electricity from nuclear and it could be months before all its reactors are back online. Analysts said it was likely Japanese utilities would buy up extra cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power reserve gas plants to make up the shortfall.

Edward Cox, an analyst from consultancy ICIS Heren, said traders would not know until early next week how much extra LNG Japan decides to import and at what price.

Analysts were searching for comparisons with the quake that hit the port of Kobe in January 1995 and had a total economic cost of $100bn, or 2% of GDP. It also caused a 1,000 point fall in the Nikkei that led to the rogue trader Nick Leeson being exposed. Barings Bank, his employer, collapsed as a result of the vast losses Leeson had run up, just a month later.

“When the Kobe earthquake hit, markets reacted by selling Japanese stocks. The Nikkei 225 fell by 7.5% in the days following. By contrast, Nikkei futures show only a 2% fall for Monday. There was little if any discernible effect on the yen during the Kobe disaster. Currently the yen is holding up well, and may even be supported by insurance claims which may require substantial conversion of dollars to yen,” said analysts at Dutch bank ING.

But economists were concerned that the Japanese authorities had fewer options to stimulate the economy than they did in 1995. Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics, said: “At the very least, the scope for fiscal stimulus to mitigate the economic damage is much less than it was in 1995.” He thinks the authorities will repeat their actions and introduce special loan facilities to help those areas most affected.

Joy Ferneyhough, head of insurance research at Banco Espírito Santo, noted that the quake had not hit Tokyo, where the heaviest insurance losses could be expected. Major insurers will now be scrambling teams of loss adjusters to the affected areas. Some of them will be trading at the Lloyd’s of London market, which said it was “far too early” to assess the potential cost.

“Our efforts will be focused on dealing with claims quickly and helping people and businesses recover,” Lloyd’s said.

Japan fears nuclear plant meltdown

Nuclear safety panel says meltdown possible at atomic plant as more than 1,000 are feared killed after ravaging tsunami.

March 12, 2011
Al Jazeera

Japanese nuclear authorities say there is a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at a reactor at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima prefecture may be melting or have melted.

The cooling system of the plant was damaged in the massive earthquake that struck norteastern Japan and triggered a tsunami, killing at least 703 people.

Kyodo News agency said on Saturday that radioactive caesium had been detected near the plant, citing the Japanese nuclear safety commission.

A state of emergency has been declared for five nuclear reactors at two different sites in Fukushima, located about 250 kilometres northeast of greater Tokyo.

Steam containing low-level radiation were released to relieve pressure and tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from surrounding areas.

Radiation 1,000 times above normal was detected in the control room of one plant, although authorities said levels outside the facility’s gates were only eight times above normal, spelling “no immediate health hazard”.

The 8.9 quake and the tsunami cut the supply of off-site power to the plant and diesel generators intended to provide back-up electricity to the cooling system.

“The events that occurred at these plants, which is the loss of both offsite power and onsite power, is one of the rarest events to happen in a nuclear power plant, and all indications are that the Japanese do not have the situation under control,” “Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based nonprofit organisation, said.

‘No Chernobyl possible’

However, Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo, said a major radioactive disaster was unlikely.

“No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction,” he said.

“Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3 km radius.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan said securing the nuclear plants were Japan’s top priority. Early on Saturday morning, he left on a helicopter ride to Fukushima to assess the situation at the plants operated by Tokyo Electric Power, and in other areas in the disaster zone.

When Friday’s massive quake hit, the plants immediately shut down, along with others in quake-hit parts of Japan, as they are designed to do – but cooling systems at some reactors failed, the government said.

When reactors shut down, cooling systems must kick in to bring down the very high temperatures. This is key to prevent a “nuclear meltdown” and radioactive release. Japan’s network of advanced nuclear power plants are designed to shut down as soon as the earth shakes.

Friday’s quake was one of the strongest ever recorded and triggered a devastating tsunami, up to 10-metre-high along parts of the country’s northeastern coastline.

Media reports estimate at least 1,300 people may have been killed, most of whom appeared to have drowned by churning waters.

“The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data,” an official at the national police agency said.

Massive destruction

The towering wall of water, generated by the quake, pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, where police on Friday reportedly said that 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast.

The wave of black water sent shipping containers, cars and debris crashing through the streets of Sendai and across open farmland, while a tidal wave of debris-littered mud destroyed everything in its path.

The northeastern Japanese city of Kesennuma, with a population of 74,000, was hit by widespread fires and one-third of the city was under water, Jiji news agency said.

Al Jazeera’s meteorologist explains Japan’s quake

More than eight million homes lost power, mobile and landline phone systems broke down for many and gas was cut to more than 300,000 homes, meaning many people could not heat their dark homes during terrifying cold nights.

Japan’s military mobilised thousands of troops, 300 planes and 40 ships for the relief effort.

An armada of 20 naval destroyers and other vessels headed for the devastated Pacific coast area of Honshu island, while air force jets flew reconnaissance missions.

The unfolding natural disaster prompted offers of search and rescue help from 50 countries.

Australia pledged to throw “anything and everything” to help Japan.

China said rescuers were ready to help with quake relief, while President Barack Obama mobilised US military might to provide emergency aid after the disaster which he described as “simply heartbreaking.”

The United States, which has nearly 40,000 military personnel in Japan, has ordered a flotilla including two aircraft carriers and support ships to the region to provide aid following the tsunami.

The towering wave set off alerts across the Pacific, sparking evacuations in Hawaii and the US West Coast, and devastating at least one California port.

Chile said it was evacuating coastal areas and Ecuador’s state oil company announced it had suspended crude oil exports due to risks posed by the tsunami.

Unfolding disaster

More than 300 houses were destroyed in the remote city of Ofunato and a dam broke in the northeast prefecture of Fukushima, with homes washed away.

In Tokyo, office workers who were stranded in the city after the quake forced the subway system to close early slept alongside the homeless at one station.

Scores of men in suits lay on newspapers, using their briefcases as pillows. Kyodo said at least 116,000 people in Tokyo had been unable to return home on Friday evening due to transport disruption.

There was major disruption to air travel and bullet train services. A passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for on a line outside Sendai, Kyodo News reported.

The quake, which hit at 05:46 GMT and lasted about two minutes, rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world’s largest urban area and home to about 30 million people. It was felt in Beijing, some 2,500 km away.

The first quake struck just under 400km northeast of Tokyo, the US Geological Survey said. It was followed by more than 70 powerful aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1.

Japan sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and Tokyo is in one of its most dangerous areas, where three continental plates are slowly grinding against each other, building up enormous seismic pressure.

The government has warned of a 70 per cent chance that a magnitude-eight quake will strike within the next 30 years in the Kanto plains, home to Tokyo’s vast urban sprawl.


Mechanical engineers raise concern about over-population

March 9, 2011


A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers finds the world is hurtling towards population overload placing billions at risk of hunger, thirst and slum conditions.

This is the first report of its kind by the engineering profession. Unless the engineering solutions highlighted in the report are urgently implemented then the projected 2.5 billion more people on earth by the end of this Century (currently there is 6.9 billion) will crush the earth’s resources.

Urbanization will soar. ‘Mega-cities’ of more than 10 million people will rise to 29 by 2025 and the urban population will increase from 3.3billion (2007) to 6.4 billion (2050). Food will also become an increasingly precious commodity and developed areas such as the UK will be forced to stamp out its ‘throwaway’ lifestyle. Water consumption will increase by 30% by 2030 and there is projected to be a 50% hike in water extraction for industrial use in Asia. This, the report states, could create civil unrest and land battles for resources as climate change looms.

Lead Author, Dr Tim Fox, said: “Up to 1 billion people could be displaced by climate change over the next 40 years and we are likely to see an increase in unrest as resource shortages become clear. The term Nimbyism will become obsolete. No-one’s back yard will be immune from these effects. “

And here are comments on this subject by Thomas Malthus from his ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’ published in London in 1798. This is a brilliant analysis of the current and future problem of increasing population at one level and the production of food at another, lower, level. Well worth reading! ED

We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population, which is found to act even in the most vicious societies, increases the number of people before the means of subsistence are increased. The food therefore which before supported seven millions must now be divided among seven millions and a half or eight millions. The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of the work in the market, the price of labour must tend toward a decrease, while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. The labourer therefore must work harder to earn the same as he did before. During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage, and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great that population is at a stand. In the mean time the cheapness of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry amongst them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land, to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage, till ultimately the means of subsistence become in the same proportion to the population as at the period from which we set out. The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened, and the same retrograde and progressive movements with respect to happiness are repeated.

By the Numbers: A Revealing Look at the Mortgage Mod Meltdown

In a return to its pre-HAMP practices, the mortgage industry has increasingly been putting homeowners who fall behind into repayment plans instead of modifications.

In a repayment plan, the homeowner catches up on missed payments by paying a portion of the past due amount each month on top of their regular payments. This is typically done over three to six months and is a far more difficult option for struggling homeowners than a modification, because it imposes an additional burden. Modifications actually change the terms of the loan forever and typically lead to a reduction in monthly payments. Government statistics [26] show that homeowners are twice as likely to re-default if the plan they’re offered increases their mortgage payment than if their payments are significantly lowered.

“Repayment plans have always been what the industry has favored,” said Diane Thompson of the National Consumer Law Center, because it’s easiest for the servicer. “Nobody takes a permanent hit, it’s easy, quick, doesn’t require new underwriting, doesn’t require much thought.”

Before HAMP, most solutions offered to homeowners were repayment plans. That changed for most of 2010 due to HAMP’s emphasis on mods as a solution, but now with new applications for HAMP winding down, servicers are returning to their preferred solution.

The Treasury Department set aside more than $37 billion from the TARP for two programs meant to help struggling borrowers, but little more than $1 billion has been spent.

HAMP has used so little of its funds [28] for a couple of reasons. It provides incentives for mortgage servicers, investors and homeowners only for completed modifications, but the program has achieved relatively few. Also, the incentives are paid out over five years for each loan. In a report in December, the Congressional Oversight Panel [29] estimated the Treasury would ultimately spend only about $4 billion.

About $7 billion was set aside for the Hardest Hit Fund [30], which provides subsidies to states for various foreclosure prevention programs. That, too, has been slow to get off the ground. Only $104 million has been spent so far.

You can see all of this data, broken down by state and servicer, in our bailout database [31].

1. http://www.propublica.org/article/loan-mod-program-crippled-by-lax-oversight-and-deference-to-banks/

2. http://www.propublica.org/article/loan-mod-program-left-homeowners-fate-in-hands-of-dysfunctional-industry/

3. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704076804576180884064589622.html?mod=rss_whats_news_us

4. #fraction

5. #small-fraction

6. #largest-servicers

7. #much-difference

8. #one-in-five

9. #one-quarter

10. #chances

11. #improving

12. #affordable

13. #more-repayment

14. #unused

15. http://www.lpsvcs.com/NewsRoom/IndustryData/Pages/default.aspx

16. http://www.hopenow.com/media.php

17. http://www.csbs.org/regulatory/Pages/SFPWG.aspx

18. http://www.propublica.org/article/loan-mod-profiles-runaround/

19. http://www.propublica.org/article/homeowner-questionnaire-shows-banks-violating-govt-program-rules/

20. http://www.propublica.org/article/loan-mod-backlogs-continue-despite-servicers-pledges-to-improve/

21. http://www.propublica.org/article/govt-loan-mod-program-leaves-some-homeowners-worse-off/

22. http://www.propublica.org/article/despite-praise-from-banks-treasury-in-house-loan-mods-provide-less-help/

23. http://www.995hope.org/

24. http://www.documentcloud.org/public/#search/projectid%3A%20931-hope-hotline-reports

25. http://www.ots.treas.gov/?p=Mortgage%20Metrics%20Report&ContentRecord_id=07742484-1e0b-8562-eb23-8f12ac3e896a

26. http://www.ots.treas.gov/?p=Mortgage Metrics Report&ContentRecord_id=2dc3c0f6-af55-c490-3a4d-b911d18bac75

27. http://projects.propublica.org/bailout/main/summary

28. http://projects.propublica.org/bailout/programs/6-making-home-affordable

29. http://cop.senate.gov/documents/cop-121410-report.pdf

30. http://projects.propublica.org/bailout/programs/14-housing-finance-agency-innovation-fund

31. http://projects.propublica.org/bailout/list

The crime behind hope and change

March 12, 2011

by Sam Smith

Progressive Review

By the standards of the US Constitution as well as American and international law, Barack Obama is a criminal – as are many of his recent predecessors.

The fact that most Americans don’t see him as such reflects the degree to which we have come to accept the ad hoc policies of those in power as superior to established principles reached by democratic decision over more than two hundred years.

Here are some of the crimes which our recent presidents have committed

– They have repeatedly gone to war without the formal approval of Congress.

– They have steadily and illegally eroded the human space covered by the Fourth Amendment to the point the TSA was planning to do viral strip searches with scanners not just in airports but on ordinary streets and other public places. And, in the view of the president and the courts, the Fourth Amendment no long protects many private activities including phone calls and internet use.

– The CIA and other government agencies have engaged, with the president’s explicit or implicit approval, in torture and abuse of prisoners,

– This includes U.S. citizens such as Private Manning According to George Bush and Barack Obama, you or any American citizen can, without criminal charges, be placed in an isolation cell, denied sleep (with no clothes, mattress, blanket, sheet, or pillow) and painfully shackled.

– Under two presidents, the unconstitutional Patriot Act has been passed and extended.

– According to Obama, his administration has the right to kill you when you’re overseas

– Obama supports warrantless tracking of US citizens via cellphone location

– His administration does illegal border computer searches

– He approves of illegal secret searches of library and bookstore data files

– He helped convince the Supreme Court to approve of the treatment of corporations as persons – one of the most unconstitutional and dangerous decisions in our history – thus allowing corporations to expand their bribery of politicians – including presidents – under the guise of campaign contributions. The collapse of the American economy owes no small amount to decisions that three presidents – Clinton, Bush, Obama – made to please the corporations that were bribing them.

The contempt that Obama and his predecessors have shown for the law has created what in Latin America is called a culture of impunity. In a culture of impunity, rules serve the internal logic of the controlling system rather than whatever values typically guide a country, such as those of its constitution, church or tradition. A culture of impunity varies from ordinary political corruption in that the latter represents deviance from the culture while the former becomes the culture.

In a culture of impunity, what replaces constitution, precedent, values, tradition, fairness, consensus, debate and all that sort of arcane stuff? Mainly greed. We find ourselves without heroism, without debate over right and wrong, with little but an endless narcissistic struggle by the powerful to get more money, more power, and more press than the next person. In the chase, anything goes and the only standard is whether you win, lose, or get caught.

And when they feel personally threatened, those in power react with paranoia under the false name of national security, stripping away more rights, mistreating more citizens and expressing their fear with still more cruelty.

The government of such a culture is inevitably dictatorial, whether founded on ideology, such as fascism or communism, or upon personal power. And essential to such a culture is the willingness of the populace to give up most of its former values.

The fact that we have accepted so much illegal behavior by our recent presidents – including Obama – has been the surest sign to them that they were safe in continuing to do as they wish. After all, the impunity they enjoy was granted them by our indifference, ignorance and fear.

Conversations with the Crow

When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the sixty-sixth chapter

Conversation No. 66

Date: Wednesday, February 12, 1997

Commenced: 11:15 AM CST

Concluded: 11:45 AM CST

RTC: That has to be you, Gregory. Such timing. Corson was speaking with me a few minutes ago about you. Are your ears still ringing?

GD: No.

RTC: Ah, you are so popular. Bill was warning me that we had both best cut you loose because the wrath of God might descend. Bill has a paper asshole.

GD: Who is it this time? The Pope?

RTC: No, the Kimmel people. He regularly turns his Justice people loose on both of us. I think they need a new record. The current one gets stuck. Is it true you killed Abraham Lincoln, Gregory? I mean it’s pretty well set that you are the illegitimate son of Adolf Hitler, or is it Josef Stalin? I can’t seem to remember, it’s all so mixed up. Anyway, you are pure evil and have to be kept away from. And do let’s keep the Pope out of this. I had enough trouble with that one.

GD: Which Pope?

RTC: John Paul I. We also went after John Paul II but that one didn’t work, and we didn’t want to try it again.

GD: Why, in God’s name, did you want to kill the Pope? And out of curiosity, how did you pull it off?

RFC: The first one was going to put a terrible crimp in our drug business out of Italy and we tried to do the second one to blame the Russians. It was a sort of a game with us. Always try to do a bad bit and make it look like the Russians did it.

GD: The drug business? What did the Pope have to do with drugs?

RTC: He didn’t. It was the bank there that did. He had nothing to do with it but it was the Vatican bank.

GD: The Vatican bank was involved with drugs?

RTC: No, we used it to launder money. Who, I ask you, who would ever question the Vatican bank? It was the Mafia who had the inside bank contacts and, believe me, there was a lot of money moving around. Let’s see, the Pope was elected in, I think, August of ’79. He replaced Montini. Former Vatican Secretary of State….he was Paul VI. Anyway, we had a fine working arrangement with the Italian Mafia about the movement of money as I said.

GD: I met Montini once, I think in ’51.

RTC: The new one had been in Venice….Luciani….

GD: There was another one from Venice….

RTC: I know but not the same one. That was back in the ‘60s. But the new Pope posed quite a problem. He had been told that there were certain irregularities in the IOR…that’s the Vatican bank. And the new Pope was inclined to be honest and was demanding a full review of the books and so on. If this had happened, a good deal would have been uncovered, so the Pope had to go. It was that simple, Gregory. Politics had nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

GD: Couldn’t someone have cooked the books? Was murder necessary?

RTC: You don’t understand the whole picture, Gregory. The Mafia was involved in this up to their eyebrows and if any of it had come out, someone would have talked and pointed to us. We couldn’t have that. We had to get rid of Dag Hammarskjold because he was interfering with the uranium people in the Congo. It was nothing personal at all.

GD: How did you do it?

RTC: Our Station Chief in Rome ran the show. Contacts in the Vatican and especially with Buzonetti, the Pope’s doctor. My God, old Renata cost us plenty. On our payroll since God knows when. And our Political Psychological Division worked on this to put the blame on the KGB. And the P-2 Lodge was also involved and they were ours.

GD: The what?

RTC: The P-2 Lodge was an Italian Masonic group and early in 1970, we got our hands on it. It was designed to attract right wing Italian bankers and businessmen to combat the very active Italian Communist party. No, if the Pope had started something, it would have wrecked years of hard work on our part and ruined some of our more important assets. In the end, it was money, not Renaissance-style politics, that did Luciani in.

GD: Does the Vatican know now?

RTC: Suspects, but would rather not know anything. After the Pope assumed room temperature, we consolidated and revamped the system. There was quite a bit of mopping-up to do. We had to kill off a number of Italian players who had been pushed out of the picture and were longing to get back into the money. One hanged himself from a bridge in England. Obviously killed himself out of remorse.

GD: Stalin said once that it was not difficult to execute a murder, but much more difficult to arrange a suicide.

RTC: Josef was a clever man.

GD: And, he said, “No man, no problem.”

RTC: That one I know. A friend and co-worker had that up over his desk. I am not joking.

GD: Oh, I believe it, Robert. It is lawful to be taught by your enemies.

RTC: I detect a critical attitude here, Gregory. You have to realize that the amount of money we were, and are, making from our drug partnerships is nothing to walk away from. Vast sums of money, Gregory, and enormous political power therefrom.

GD: I can see that, but one day they will go too far.

RTC: The Kennedy business is a classic example why nothing will ever come of this sort of thing. If you publish the ZIPPER material you already have and what I am going to give you, you will only excite the conspiracy buffs, all of whom will gather together and hiss at you and heap coals of fire on your head. Let us say that you write a newspaper article on what I just told you. It would never get published and within minutes of your submitting it to an editor, we would be notified.

GD: And then you’d shoot me?

RTC: No, trash you. Laugh at you. Get our little broken down academics to piss on you. The press would ignore you completely and eventually, you would find something else to do. Now, on the other hand, if you had been one of us and had inside knowledge and worse, proof, you would perish very quickly. The faulty brakes while driving on dangerous mountain roads, an overdose of some kind of popular drug and dead in an overheated apartment. Things like that. But as an outsider, just laughter and silence. Of course, there are those who would believe you and if you wrote about this business with the Pope and mentioned some Italian names, you might get different treatment. The bomb under the front seat of your car or something crude like that. But we wouldn’t have done it and I would recommend against stirring those people up. We would look into your tax records and turn the IRS loose on you or let your wife know you were boffing a nice waitress at a cheap local motel. Or one of your nice children would be introduced to dangerous drugs. That’s more effective than a bomb in the car or someone shooting you dead in a parking garage. The Italians tend to be very emotional, and we do not.

GD: The Italians once said that he who went softly went safely and he who went safely went far.

RTC: It would be less messy if they actually practiced that sentiment.

GD: By the way, Robert, why did you go after the other Pope? I assume that’s the one that got shot by the Arab in front of the Vatican.

RTC: Yes, but not an Arab, a Turk. They do not like to be equated with Arabs. That one? Actually, we thought that if we had him done in right in front of everybody, it would draw a lot of attention and we could really blame it on the KGB. It was a perfect set up. He was a Polack who was agitating the Solidarity people against Russia, so who would be the most logical suspect? And we had been financing the Turkish Grey Wolves for some time. They got the hit man for us. Of course, he didn’t know anything so no one shot him in the courtroom.

GD: Que bono! But for no other reason?

RTC: Isn’t that enough? Turn all the world’s Catholics against the Russians in a hurry.

GD: Let’s see here. One Pope for sure, another shot at, a dead UN chief, a dead American president, assorted deceased South American leaders, a Pakistani or two, at least one high level Indian, and so on. I would hope not all for such trivial motives.

RTC: Turning huge number of people against Russia is not a trivial motive at all.

GD: The wheel does turn, Robert, it does. And what is now at the bottom comes to the top. Out of curiosity, have you killed any Israelis?

RTC: No, they know just how far to go, and we work very closely with them. They do a lot of our dirty work for us. They blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon and, of course, we blamed it on the Arabs. It goes on, Gregory, and if you had sat in my chair and walked in my shoes, you would be a bit more understanding.

GD: This is not aimed at you, of course.

RTC: If it were, I wouldn’t be defending you to the monkeys when they jabber about you. They aren’t worth much. I think your problem is that you never were in a position of command and at a high level. If you had been, you would be less judgmental.

GD: I am just an amateur, Robert, just a dilettante. Thank God.

(Concluded at 11:45 CST)

Dramatis personae:

James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarian and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers

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