TBR News November 14, 2016

Nov 14 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  November 14, 2016: :”European politicians were initially moderately negative about a Trump candidacy but with his election, reasonably firm with both the popular vote and that of the Electoral College, they are now trimming their sails and speaking of hopeful cooperation. President-elect Trump has two faces. One is that of a skilled public speaker who has been outstandingly effective in motivating and resonating with the huge and very influential middle class and lower middle class voter. In public, Trump can be emotional and bombastic but in private, he is a very level headed, shrewd and successful businessman. The liberal establishment in America has been shoving its feel-good agenda on the public for some time but with growing unhappiness. The uni-sex public lavatories are an excellent example of this type of social do-good. The great bulk of the American public are not in favor of such things but the elitist groups that so influence the lawmakers pay no attention to the public. The public is only good for paying taxes and voting the way they should. Times change and we must change with them.”

Trump’s election – a scream from the swamp of alienation created by liberal America

November 14, 2016

by John Wright


The protests that have erupted across the US in response to Donald Trump becoming the country’s 45th president are unprecedented and could well be a harbinger of a society irretrievably split and polarized as a result of his election.The label ‘fascist’ was firmly attached to Donald Trump by his detractors throughout a campaign for the White House during which nativism, bigotry and xenophobia was unleashed. His pledge to place a moratorium on Muslims coming into the United States, to deport millions of illegal Mexican immigrants, and to build a giant wall on the US border with its southern neighbor in order to control immigration was the equivalent of a political hand grenade being let off in a society proud of its respect for freedom of religion, tolerance, and its racial and ethnic diversity.

In less than a year of his participating in the country’s political process, Trump has, his critics believe, succeeded in rolling back the progress made by previous generations in a hard-fought struggle against racial, gender, and religious discrimination. He has legitimized white supremacy and succeeded in sowing the kind of social divisions that are consonant with a society teetering on the edge of implosion.

But surely then the question needs to be asked: if one candidate in one election year is capable of ripping up cultural values considered so entrenched and universal, that Washington decided the rest of the world should also live by those values, up to the point of forcing the issue with cruise missiles, F-15s, and Apache helicopter gunships, how strongly entrenched were they in America in the first place?

Trump represents a backlash against a liberal establishment that had become so fixated with identity politics it refused to tackle a growing ocean of alienation and poverty across large swathes of the country. The likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton presented themselves as leaders in touch with the needs and struggles of the common man, while in truth worshiping at the altar of the free market, cozying up to Wall Street and corporate America in service to the hegemony of neoliberal economics – that extreme variant of capitalism under which the market is accorded a mystical, almost divine-like status.

It is an economic system that acts as a tyrant over the lives of the mass of people rather than one that serves their needs, producing a race to the bottom involving workers around the world competing for the crumbs from the table of an multinational corporate dictatorship that in its ability to destroy or raise living standards arrogated to itself more power than most governments.

The result in the US was manufacturing jobs that once provided a decent income and a sense of dignity and worth in working class communities being exported abroad to China, Mexico, Vietnam, and elsewhere in the Global South. They were replaced by low paid jobs in the new service economy, forcing people to take two even three jobs just in order to survive. And they were the fortunate ones. For far too many Americans joblessness and under-employment became the new normal, leading to the creation of a vast underclass of people across the country’s rust belt seething with hatred for a liberal elite in Washington and on either coast.

With such obscene levels of inequality, alienation, and poverty being the fate of a growing section of the population, exacerbated by the worst economic recession since the 1930s, caused by the ineffable greed of those at the top of this grotesque income scale, something had to give. That something was the election of Donald J. Trump as president, a billionaire with no prior political experience but a disdain for the political correctness and identity politics associated with Washington.

However here a note of caution needs to be struck, one that comes to us from history. For just as the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1930s under similar conditions of economic depression and dislocation gave way to fascism, so the collapse of the liberal order in our time has given way not to international brotherhood and solidarity as the dominant narrative of a denuded and disaffected working class across national, religious, ethnic, or cultural differences, but to nationalism, white supremacy, xenophobia, and the rise and spread of racism.

All across Europe we are witnessing the rise of the far right – in Ukraine, Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere the ideology of ‘we ourselves’ has filled the space opened up by the collapse of the liberal center ground. Brexit in the UK is merely its British manifestation, while in the US Donald Trump’s election leaves no doubt that not since the 1930s has right wing populism managed to gain such traction and support in the West.

It was Bertolt Brecht who in the 1940s warned of the danger of complacency with regard to the prospect of fascism ever rising again after the Second World War. In words that resonate today, he said, “The womb from which this monster emerged remains fertile.” This is not to suggest that Donald Trump is a fascist, however, or that everyone who voted for him did so motivated by racism or xenophobia. Not at all. It is on the contrary to understand that Trump’s campaign opened up space for the elevation of both to the mainstream, motivated by inchoate anger and rage at the aforementioned liberal establishment.

This is why no one should mourn the demise of the Western liberal order either in the US or across Europe. It has failed, and failed utterly, destroying communities and decimating the lives of millions at home, while creating chaos and instability across the world.

While Donald Trump’s election may not be the solution to all the damage and chaos wrought, it resounds as a rejection of cultural values that amount to lecturing a man on his lack of political correctness and manners while he is drowning in a swamp with no way out.

Dear President Trump: An open letter

November 14, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


The recent presidential campaign saw a plethora of open letters directed at Donald Trump, at least two of which were authored and signed by neoconservative foreign policy “experts” denouncing him for challenging their most cherished notions.

Now it’s my turn to write an open letter, albeit coming from the opposite direction.

Dear President Trump:

Unlike what you might expect from a writer for a web site like Antiwar.com, I’ve given you a pretty fair shake. I have to admit that, at first, I just didn’t get it, but I’m honest enough to admit when I’m wrong. As you began to lay out your platform, I took notice – and, in the face of a lot of skepticism from my readers and even from some of my colleagues, I started to cheer you on. Not that I cheered every pronouncement – but when you started criticizing the conduct of American foreign policy under the Bush administration, and not just the Obama regime, I was quite impressed.

The turning point, for me, was when you got up at that South Carolina GOP presidential debate and said:

“I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”

You stood there amidst a storm of booing and said “Go ahead and boo” because you knew you were speaking truth to power – and you knew the American people were listening and nodding in agreement. As for me, I wasn’t just nodding – I was cheering. After all, I spent the entire run up to the war saying precisely that, and for the first time a major political figure – and a Republican at that! — was saying it too. For the GOP frontrunner to defy decorum, take a big risk, and tell the Republican donor class and the Bush-bots the brutal unadorned truth to their faces – that took courage. It took independence of mind. In that moment, you won my respect – and my undying gratitude.

Your willingness to swim against the tide, to question what “everybody knows,” was demonstrated once again when, in response to the widespread allegations that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee, you said “We have no idea who did it” – even as the Obama administration joined in the chorus. Because the truth is that we don’t’ know – and the “intelligence” cited by Washington is always politically self-serving.

Now I’m hoping you’ll exercise the same independent judgment in resisting the siren calls in the media to let your worst critics into your administration. Many of those in the GOP national security Establishment who were saying before the election that you are “unfit” to be President are now singing “Kumbaya” and trying to slither into the councils of state. Please reject them! These snakes in the grass will rear up and bite you in the ass at the first opportunity – don’t give them that chance.

Here’s what you said in your foreign policy speech:

“I will also look for talented experts with new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect résumés but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.”

The neoconservatives who lied us into war and who are the very globalists you’ve been attacking all along have no place in your administration – and I mean by that John Bolton, Stephen Hadley, Zalmay Khalilzad, Kelly Ayotte (who viciously insulted you), Mike Rogers, Frances Townsend (who called you “fundamentally dishonest”), and any number of others trying to crawl in through the cracks. Some of these people openly denounced you: others advocate policies that are the exact opposite of your “America First” less-interventionist approach. None of them should be given the time of day.

The American people didn’t vote for a globalist – they voted for you. Kick these internationalists to the curb, and to heck with “can’t we all just get along”!

During the campaign, you pledged to make NATO members start ponying up their fair share of the costs – and said that this alliance, forged in the midst of the cold war, was “obsolete.” You even said you would consider withdrawing the US from NATO if the other members didn’t shape up. Now the head of NATO is warning you not to do it – yes, that’s what the headlines say, he warning you! Isn’t it time to warn him that he and his fellow deadbeats are mooching ingrates whose time is pretty much up?

Why in the heck are tens of thousands of American troops still protecting these European moochers from a nonexistent threat while our own country is falling to pieces and we’re $20 trillion in debt?

Never mind making these deadbeats pay up – let’s just get the hell out of NATO, which is truly obsolete as you rightly said.

You also told us that rich nations like Japan and South Korea – which are eating our lunch in the realm of international trade – are perfectly capable of defending themselves, and that it’s time they did so. Yet we hear that you’ve already contacted the leaders of these countries and assured them that the gravy train is still running. What’s up with that?

Oh yes, we’re watching your every move very closely. The widespread myth that your supporters will let you get away with anything is – like most memes spread by the mainstream media – totally false. And we care about foreign policy – because, contrary to the myth that voters don’t care about this subject, we realize that it’s very closely aligned with domestic policy. Because when you’re a global empire, the distinction between foreign policy and domestic policy breaks down – as you well understand.

But, hey, I’m not just watch-dogging you – I’m heartened by your apparent decision to stop funding and supporting the Syrian Islamist terrorists Hillary told us are really “moderates.” We have no business trying to bring about “regime change” in Syria, or anywhere else, and the farther we stay away from that hellhole the better.

I’m also very much encouraged by reports that you have no intention of ripping up the Iran deal. That’s exactly what you said during the campaign, but the media – particularly Fox News – wasn’t listening apparently. We don’t need another war in the Middle East: indeed, it’s the last thing we need.

In closing, I just want to thank you for doing what I’ve long wanted someone to do, and that is revive and renew that good old slogan of “America First.” When you made this your campaign theme, the elite media had a conniption: that’s because they’re committed internationalists who understand neither the history of that phrase nor its continued relevance to the situation we face today.

Your election to the presidency is a watershed moment, a sea change that many of us have been hoping for, and working for, lo these many years. And while I didn’t and don’t agree with each and every one of your policy proposals, it’s in the realm of foreign policy that I believe your platform merits support. Now my hope is that you’ll stick to it, in spite of the tremendous opposition you’ll face from the leadership of both parties. And again, I want to urge you – because policy is personnel – to keep the neoconservatives, who are your worst enemies, out of your government.

The success of your administration – and your place in history – depends on it.

One-Hundred Years of Fear

America Has Abdicated Its Leadership of the West

For 100 years, the United States was the leader of the free world. With the election of Donald Trump, America has now abdicated that role. It is time for Europe, and Angela Merkel, to step into the void.

November 14, 2016

by Dirk Kurbjuweit


Even history sometimes leans toward pathos. In January 2017, when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, the American Age will celebrate its 100th birthday — and its funeral.

The West was constituted in its modern form in January 1917. World War I was raging in Europe at the time and in Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson told his country that it was time for Americans to take responsibility for “peace and justice.” In April he said: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” He declared war on Germany and sent soldiers to Europe to secure victory for the Western democracies — and the United States assumed the leadership of the Western world. It was an early phase of political globalization.

One hundred years later: Trump.

Trump, who wants nothing to do with globalization; Trump, who preaches American nationalism, isolation, partial withdrawal from world trade and zero responsibility for a global problem like climate change. And all of this after a perverse election campaign marked by resentment, racism and incitement.

Human dignity is the centerpiece of the Western project. Following the revolutions in France and the United States in the late 18th century, states began guaranteeing human rights for the first time. Human rights have a normative character, as Heinrich August Winkler argued in his monumental work “History of the West.” And a racist cannot embody this normative project. Trump has no sense of dignity — neither for himself nor others. He does not qualify as the leader of the Western world, because he is both unwilling and incapable of assuming that role.

We now face emptiness — the fear of the void. What will happen to the West, to Europe, to Germany without the United States as its leading power? Germany is a child of the West, particularly of the United States, brought to life with American generosity, long spoon-fed and now in a deep state of shock. The American president was always simultaneously our president, at least a little, and Barack Obama was a worthy president of the West. Now, though, we must come to terms with a lack of Western leadership.

What were those 100 years like? The history of the modern West can be told in many ways: as a heroic tale, as a story of greed, as a mission or as a tale of fear. This article is about 100 years of fear, in particular the fear for our freedom, a quintessentially American paranoia that spread to the rest of the West. The word is not being used negatively here; we are talking about fear as a bulwark protecting us against danger. There are good fears and bad fears.

The Glue that Held Societies Together

Under American leadership, the united democracies were quite successful in dispensing with competing systems. They defeated the conservative German Empire and Austria-Hungary in World War I. In World War II, they eradicated the fascist regimes in the German Reich and Italy. In the Cold War, they pressed the air out of the communist Soviet Union and its minions until they collapsed.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the winner of history was clear: The West.

What made it so strong? On the one hand, it was freedom itself. The market economy was clearly superior to economic forms that were more directly controlled by the state. In the free play of forces, the West developed better products and greater affluence, along with the strength to win wars and arms races.

And the fear of losing freedom was a strong glue that held societies together. Of course there were debates, demonstrations and sulking, and there were some who preferred to be red than dead, but it was always possible to establish a majority for the fundamental Western consensus: We will preserve our freedoms at home and abroad, and we may even expand them. This idea also held the countries together. Under American leadership, and under the American nuclear shield, they were strong and relatively united as “the West.”

The 1990s were the happiest time for the West. The democratic world had grown, and the fear for our freedom seemed to have been dispelled once and for all. There was no longer a major power challenging freedom.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, that is, when it all started again. Belligerent Islamists attacked the capital of freedom, New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The terror has continued unabated since then.

Fear now reigns more than ever, but it is not just the fear of terror. And it is also not as much the fear of losing freedom, as it was in the past, but the fear of freedom itself. This is the paradigm shift that paved Donald Trump’s way to the White House. The two fears always exist simultaneously in Western societies. Freedom is enjoyed and feared, freedom is defended and fought, and freedom is expanded and limited. It is merely a question of which fear dominates in a society, and of which current is in power.

Alone with Their Fears

The fear of freedom can take many shapes. There is also a fear of one’s own freedom, but it is usually a fear of the freedom of others. French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said: Hell is other people. If they are free, one might add.

If they are free enough to cross borders and look for new places to settle. If they are free enough to export their goods and therefore compete with goods from other countries. If they are free enough to fight for their equal rights, as women, as homosexuals, as non-whites. White men, especially older white men, are viewed as Trump’s kingmakers. His support among this group was especially high in the election.

It was undoubtedly a mistake to leave these men, and the women who think like them, alone with their fears — to not take them seriously enough. Long-smoldering fears generate rage, especially against those who are accused of doing nothing to allay those fears, in other words, the establishment, both in politics and the media. For the first time, the Internet has provided this rage with an echo chamber, allowing it to reach a broader public and to magnify the voices of the fearful and the angry. When Donald Trump placed himself at the head of this movement of fury, he found the support he needed to become president. He is now expected to limit freedoms, including free trade and immigration. Many Americans, especially members of minorities, once again fear for their freedom, but this time the threat comes from within. They fear that they will face greater discrimination against their cultures and ways of life under a Trump presidency.

The entire drama can be encapsulated in this sentence: That which is unique about the West — freedom — is perceived as a threat. A crisis couldn’t be more fundamental than that. It has also reached European democracies, where fear and rage are spreading, and for the same reasons as in the United States: immigration, globalization and free trade, in particular. But when it comes to the trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement TTIP, Americans, who the Europeans fear, are apparently even more fearful than the Europeans. But neither Europeans nor Americans need to worry anymore: Trump will likely put an end to TTIP.

In Western Europe, the fearful and the angry haven’t yet managed to push one of their representatives into the office of prime minister or president, although that could happen in Austria’s presidential election in early December.

America was long the benchmark for the West. But if Trump governs as he promised he would during the campaign, the land of the free will abdicate its role as leader of the free world. Then, it will be Europe’s turn. The continent must resist populism, with a smart mixture of taking fears seriously and confronting the rage, but without curbing freedoms.

Drifting Apart

And it is high time Europe places a stronger emphasis on the European Union. This has been said and written thousands of times already, but perhaps the Trump shock will help to ensure that it finally happens.

Unfortunately, Europe is in the worst shape in decades. The British are leaving the European Union, partly out of fear of the freedom of others, the freedom to settle in Great Britain. Many governments are stressing divisive rather than unifying issues. European countries are drifting apart.

In a certain sense, they could long afford to do so. In the 100 years during which the United States was the protective and leading power of the West, its allies have led a relatively comfortable existence. They had the luxury of only half-heartedly pursuing the European idea, because the Americans were there. Each country maintained its own special relationship with the United States, and everyone depended on its weapons and resolve in the event of an emergency. Now, Europe will likely have to provide for its own security — and this in times of a Vladimir Putin, a Recep Tayyip Erdogan and an Islamic State that exists in Europe’s neighborhood.

The leaders of the West, minus America, face monumental tasks ahead. They are tasks for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She represents a strong country and she has a strong moral foundation, as she demonstrated in the refugee crisis. She doesn’t have to be a Woodrow Wilson, but she should become a decisive leader of Europe. If she doesn’t, it will mean that she has not recognized the signs of the times.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

 Hillary Clinton probe will ‘absolutely’ continue – House Oversight Committee chair

November 14, 2016


Hillary Clinton will still face investigations into both her use of a private email server and the “pay-to-play” nature of the Clinton Foundation, according to chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz.

Chaffetz told Maria Bartiromo on Fox’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ the investigation “absolutely” continues.

“This is the largest breach of security, perhaps, in the history of the State Department,” he said. “There are dozens of people in that inner circle that we are looking at.”

We have perjury issues that we still want the Department of Justice to look at. We have allegations of a quid-pro-quo, we don’t know where they’re [FBI] at in terms of their investigation into the Clinton Foundation, and the FBI director, we still have some questions.”

“It’s this huge, massive mess that has to be cleaned up. So we would be remiss if we just dismissed it and moved on,” Chaffetz said. “We have a lot of things that we have to fix, so it never ever happens again

However, both president-elect Donald Trump and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy have said a Clinton investigation is not a priority.

“Look, I’m the majority leader, I set the agenda,” McCarthy told Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday. “The agenda is going to be about job creation, it’s going to be about reforming and repealing Obamacare. It’s going to be on infrastructure. That’s the focus that this election was about.”

“I leave that portion to law enforcement,” he said in response to Wallace’s question about what would happen to the investigation. “That’s just the way I do it. Keep politics out of it. Let’s create jobs in this country. That’s our agenda.”

Trump, who said he would get a special prosecutor to go after Clinton should he become president, has since walked that statement back, telling CBS, “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve healthcare, jobs, border control, tax reform.”

“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to think about it,” Trump said, adding, “I don’t want to hurt them [the Clintons]. They’re good people.”

Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and part of Trump’s transition team, has said a Trump-chosen attorney general could decide whether to investigate.

“On the one hand, you don’t want to disrupt the nation with what might look like a vindictive prosecution, even though it might not be. On the other hand, you want equal justice under the law and if she has violated the law,” he told ABC News.

“You know, the FBI never completed the Foundation investigation. As far as I know, that’s still an ongoing investigation. They completed the email investigation, but not the Foundation investigation.”

Giuliani added that the decision of appointing a special prosecutor could also end up being the decision of “an independent counsel.”

 New Zealand earthquake leaves costly destruction in its wake

A powerful earthquake in New Zealand has killed at least two people and destroyed infrastructure and property. The premier indicated that the damage was likely to amount to billions of dollars.

November 14, 2016


New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Monday indicated that damage caused by a 7.8 magnitude that struck the South Pacific nation on Sunday could cost the country around 2 billion New Zealand dollars ($1.43 billion, 1.33 billion euros), local news reported.

“It’s hard to believe that the bill is going to be less than a couple of billion,” Key told Radio New Zealand.

The US Geological Survey placed the epicenter in the South Island’s North Canterbury region, saying it occurred at a depth of 23 kilometers (14.3 miles).

In the hours after seismic event, a 6.3 magnitude aftershock caused severe shaking in Christchurch, where a similar sized earthquake killed 185 people in 2011.

Sunday’s quake killed at least two. Authorities said infrastructure and property have been significantly damaged in some areas.

“I think had there been serious injury or suspected further loss of life then we would have heard about it by now,” said Civil Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee.

“It looks as though it’s the infrastructure that’s the biggest problem, although I don’t want to take away from the suffering … and terrible fright so many people have had,” he told Radio New Zealand.

Prime Minister Key and Brown flew over affected areas in a military helicopter to assess the damage. Outside of Kaikoura, a popular tourist destination in the worst-hit region, aerial footage showed train tracks ripped up and tossed some 10 meters (32.8) away.

Key said it may take days to assemble a full picture of the damage. “As we have daylight we can use the military assets that we have to make sure we get a stock-take of the overall damage, but I suspect that will take quite some time to fully understand,” the premier said.

The government is expected to appoint a senior official to oversee reconstruction in the aftermath of the quake.

Assange legal drama enters new phase

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to be questioned by a Swedish lawyer in his London asylum. This means the grounds for the existing warrant against him will no longer apply, but he still won’t be safe from arrest.

November 13, 2016


The email affair that dogged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the recent US election played a large part in the triumph of her Republican opponent Donald Trump. The scandal can be traced to a six-story apartment building in the exclusive London district of Knightsbridge, the raised ground floor of which houses the Ecuadorian embassy.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has spent the past four years here in asylum. For months the disclosure website put pressure on Hillary Clinton by feeding a constant flow of information into the public domain. In mid-October the Ecuadorian embassy cut its guest’s access to the Internet, presumably at the United States’ request.

However, WikiLeaks does not consist of Julian Assange alone. The revelations continued. On the day of the election, Julian Assange declared that neither he nor WikiLeaks had any interest in influencing the result in any way, especially as both Trump and Clinton were extremely hostile to whistleblowers. But he said WikiLeaks’ job was to publish material if it was authentic and of news value. This, he said, was undoubtedly the case with the documents from the Clinton camp. The 45-year-old Australian claimed that WikiLeaks would have loved to have published documents about Trump and his team as well, had they been sent any.

Six-year investigation

Right now, though, Julian Assange’s agenda is dominated by something else entirely. On Monday, Stockholm’s chief prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, accompanied by a Swedish police officer, will walk down Basil Street, past the solidarity vigil being organized by Assange’s supporters and into the Ecuadorian embassy. There she will question Julian Assange about the rape accusation that has dogged him for the past six years, despite the fact that no charges have been brought.

This interrogation, a step forward after years of standoff, is part of an investigation that began in 2010. The case was in fact closed by a state prosecutor in Stockholm in August 2010, on the grounds that it was not possible to establish that a crime had been committed. However, Marianne Ny, a state prosecutor from Göteborg, took the case up again.

What needs to be understood is that Swedish law governing sexual offenses is unusually broad. The woman whose statements form the basis of the preliminary investigation at no time felt threatened by Assange: There was never any talk of violence. It was enough for her to say that on a night in which they had already had sex, he penetrated her again while she was half-asleep – without using a condom. When the woman visited a Stockholm police station in August 2010, she was seeking information on how she could make Assange take an AIDS test.

Fears of extradition to the US

The European arrest warrant under which Assange was detained in England, more than 2,160 days ago, is intended only to make it possible for representatives of the Swedish justice system to question him. Once he has been questioned, the grounds for this arrest warrant would automatically cease to apply.

However, Assange still won’t feel safe. His lawyer, Melinda Taylor, emphasized in an interview with DW that the Swedish proceedings were not the reason why Assange had sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy: “He’s in the embassy because neither Sweden nor Great Britain were prepared to guarantee that they would not extradite him to the US. This risk still exists, independent of the questioning or the European arrest warrant.” Taylor believes it is possible that, in the weeks remaining to it, the outgoing US government will step up its efforts to have Assange arrested.

Julian Assange has still not officially been charged in the United States with any crime. However, numerous documents attest to the fact that the US justice ministry has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks for the past six years. In the interim, the alleged informer Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in jail for passing classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning is believed to have leaked the so-called “Afghan War Diary,” the “Iraq War Diary,” and the “Embassy Cables,” internal US administration documents published by WikiLeaks in 2010.

Taylor’s concerns about the long arm of the USA are apparently justified. Nikolaos Gazeas, a Cologne-based expert in international law, told DW that not only was there an extensive extradition request, a so-called request for arrest was also a possibility. This, he explained, could be implemented very quickly and without much bureaucracy. Gazeas said he could well imagine “that the Americans have such a request in a drawer, ready to put in the fax machine at any time.”

Placing hope in Trump

Social media is now buzzing with appeals to US president-elect Donald Trump to pardon Assange. Melinda Taylor said it would certainly be helpful if the new US administration were to change current policy regarding whistleblowers. She commented that not only her client, Assange, but others like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, too, had played a valuable role in disseminating important information – in the public interest. “Whistleblowers must be protected,” the lawyer insisted

The journalist Charles Glass, who specializes in the Middle East, told DW that Obama’s record in this regard was grim. “The Obama administration has prosecuted more journalists than all previous administrations combined. It has been using the espionage act of 1917, which was a wartime measure by another ostensibly liberal president, Woodrow Wilson, not to prosecute spies, but to prosecute journalists who have been exposing what the Obama administration has been doing in terms of torture, murder, rendering suspects around the world. Obviously Obama does not want these things exposed, and it is the duty of a free press to expose them.”

Glass is an activist in support of whistleblowers: In the summer of 2015 he initiated a tour of European cities where bronze statues of Assange, Snowden and Manning were displayed, reminding people of their fates.

Teslas in the Trailer Park: A California City Faces Its Housing Squeeze

November 13, 2016

by Conor Dougherty

New York Times

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — If there is anything that just about every Californian agrees with, it is that it costs too much to live in the state. Over the last few years, the price of buying a home or renting an apartment has become so burdensome that it pervades almost every issue, from the state’s elevated poverty rate to the debate about multimillion-dollar tear-downs to the lines of recreational vehicles parked on Silicon Valley side streets.

The town of Mountain View, Google’s home, wants to do something about that. Given new marching orders from a reform-minded City Council that was swept into office here two years ago, Mountain View is looking to increase its housing stock by as much as 50 percent — including as many as 10,000 units in the area around Google’s main campus.

“We need to provide housing because there’s a housing shortage,” said Lenny Siegel, a Mountain View councilman. That may seem an obvious tautology, but it turns out to be highly contentious in a state where most cities and suburbs are still dominated by anti-growth politics that seek to maximize the construction of tax-generating offices while minimizing the number of budget-depleting residents.

Mountain View’s political evolution, combined with some limited cases elsewhere, suggests that as rent and home prices have reached the point where even highly paid tech workers are struggling — the median home here costs $1.4 million, according to Zillow — the tide is slowly shifting away from resisting growth at all costs and instead trying to channel it.

This Silicon Valley city of about 80,000 people is also a reminder that, despite the outsize attention given to big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, any solution to California’s housing crisis is going to rely heavily on suburbs as well.

This was underscored by the results of last week’s election, when voters across California passed various affordable housing measures along with new transit funding, and, in some cases, rejected efforts to restrict or cap development. In Palo Alto, several pro-housing candidates were elected to the City Council. Residents in Mountain View approved rent control.

“Housing used to be about ‘them’ — like poverty or unemployment,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “But it has become so expensive in the Bay Area that housing now touches enough people to win elections.”

For all its imagination about the future, Silicon Valley’s geography looks a lot like the past. Today’s college-educated millennials might be crowding into city centers, but each day employees at companies like Google and Facebook endure hours in cars or on buses commuting to squat office complexes that have all the charm of a Walmart.

Many employees say they would prefer to live closer to work. But these companies reside in small cities that consider themselves suburbs, and the local politics are usually aligned against building dense urban apartments to house them.

Take Palo Alto, the Silicon Valley city that has become emblematic of the state’s reputation for rampant not-in-my-backyard politics. Palo Alto has one of the state’s worst housing shortages. With about three jobs for every housing unit, it has among the most out-of-balance mixes anywhere in Silicon Valley.

But instead of dealing with this issue by building the few thousand or so apartments it would take to make a dent in the problem, the city has mostly looked to restraining a pace of job growth that the mayor described as “unhealthy.”

Farther up the peninsula near San Francisco, the small city of Brisbane told a developer that its proposal for a mixed-use development with offices and 4,000 housing units should have offices for about 15,000 workers, but no new housing.

Play that out a thousand times over and the crux of the state’s housing crisis is clear: Everyone knows housing costs are unsustainable and unfair, and that they pose a threat to the state’s economy. Yet every city seems to be counting on its neighbors to step up and fix it.

The results are strange compromises like the one made by Rebecca and Steven Callister, a couple in their late 20s who live in a double-wide trailer in a Mountain View mobile home park whose residents are retirees and young tech workers.

Mr. Callister is an engineer at LinkedIn, the sort of worker who, in most places, would own a home. But given the cost of housing in Mountain View and the brutal commute times from anywhere they could afford, a trailer makes the most sense and lets him spend more time with the couple’s two young children.

“We joke that it’s the only mobile home park with Mercedeses and Teslas in the driveway,” Mrs. Callister said. “It’s like the new middle class in California.”

In contrast to Palo Alto, Mountain View is trying to wedge new apartments into its office parks. Much of the action centers on the North Bayshore area, a neighborhood of low-slung office buildings surrounded by asphalt parking lots.

Each weekday morning, North Bayshore fills up with cars and young Google employees. They pack the narrow sidewalks and zip around on multicolored bikes. But then the day ends, everyone goes home and there is not much left besides sounds from the nearby freeway and overachievers working late.

Mr. Siegel, the city councilman, wants to turn this prototypical example of sprawl into a bustling urban neighborhood. The city has plans for nearly 10,000 new apartments and hopes that businesses like a grocery store, bars and retail shops will follow them.

Here in Mountain View, as in many places, residents are mostly aligned against putting too many apartments near the city’s core single-family-home neighborhoods. The city is looking to create new neighborhoods by pushing growth to areas like North Bayshore, where there are already a lot of jobs and few neighbors to complain.

Versions of that strategy are taking hold across the Bay Area.

Sunnyvale, where Yahoo is based, is looking to transform an older industrial area near one of its rail stations into a new development that would include offices and housing. Menlo Park is studying how to allow for up to 4,500 housing units to be built on industrial land near Facebook’s headquarters.

Chris Meany, a partner at Wilson Meany, a real estate development firm in San Francisco, recently headed up a project in San Mateo, about a half-hour south of San Francisco. There, a defunct horse-racing track is being redeveloped into a mixed-use project that sits along a train stop and will eventually comprise five office buildings and 1,000 houses, apartments and condos.

Given the political resistance to new housing and the cascade of lawsuits that are a good bet to follow any new proposal, Mr. Meany said he and other developers were more likely to focus on mega-projects with a bigger payoff.

“A planner would go out and say, ‘We should do things regionally and scatter housing throughout the area,’” he said. “But if you’re the developer who has to actually get it done, it is better to go off and find large areas of problematic land than trying to choose the smartest location.”

North Bayshore was historically farmland and the site of the city dump, but in the 1970s, when tech first started booming, Mountain View looked to develop it into a low-density office park.

The area has since become a symbol of Silicon Valley’s booms and busts. Early tenants included faded giants like Silicon Graphics. Then came the 1990s and the dot-com boom and bust.

In 1999, just before the bust hit, a little start-up named Google moved from Palo Alto to North Bayshore when it had only a few dozen employees. Today, Google has about 20,000 workers here, and the crush of daily commuters leads to long backups at the three freeway exits into the area.

Four years ago — as Google was swelling, rents were exploding and eviction stories were becoming commonplace — Mountain View started looking to redevelop North Bayshore. The acrimonious debate over whether to add housing included both predictions that the neighborhood would fill up with the tech equivalent of Chinese factory dorms and worries that residents would disturb a habitat for local burrowing owls.

One city councilman even suggested that if the city built housing in North Bayshore, it could create a Google voting bloc that would turn Mountain View into a factory town. But after the City Council decided against adding new housing, voters responded by electing three pro-housing candidates, including Mr. Siegel. One of the new Council’s first acts was to instruct the city’s planning department to study ways to add housing to North Bayshore. That decision was unanimous.

Since then the Council has approved about 2,000 new units elsewhere in town. In all, Mountain View is studying how to add a total of 17,000 units. Mr. Siegel said developers submitted more proposals for housing than the city could process, so the town was looking to hire more planners.

There are plenty of desks and a budget to pay them, but few want to take the job.

“They can’t afford to live here,” Mr. Siegel said.

Adult Friend Finder and Penthouse hacked in massive personal data breach

Over 412m accounts from pornography sites and sex hookup service reportedly leaked as Friend Finder Networks suffers second hack in just over a year

November 14, 2016

by Samuel Gibbs

The Guardian

Adult dating and pornography site company Friend Finder Networks has been hacked, exposing the private details of more than 412m accounts and making it one of the largest data breaches ever recorded, according to monitoring firm Leaked Source.

The attack, which took place in October, resulted in email addresses, passwords, dates of last visits, browser information, IP addresses and site membership status across sites run by Friend Finder Networks being exposed.

The breach is bigger in terms of number of users affected than the 2013 leak of 359 million MySpace users’ details and is the biggest known breach of personal data in 2016. It dwarfs the 33m user accounts compromised in the hack of adultery site Ashley Madison and only the Yahoo attack of 2014 was larger with at least 500m accounts compromised.

Friend Finder Networks operates “one of the world’s largest sex hookup” sites Adult Friend Finder, which has “over 40 million members” that log in at least once every two years, and over 339m accounts. It also runs live sex camera site Cams.com, which has over 62m accounts, adult site Penthouse.com, which has over 7m accounts, and Stripshow.com, iCams.com and an unknown domain with more than 2.5m accounts between them.

Friend Finder Networks vice president and senior counsel, Diana Ballou, told ZDnet: “FriendFinder has received a number of reports regarding potential security vulnerabilities from a variety of sources. While a number of these claims proved to be false extortion attempts, we did identify and fix a vulnerability that was related to the ability to access source code through an injection vulnerability.”

Ballou also said that Friend Finder Networks brought in outside help to investigate the hack and would update customers as the investigation continued, but would not confirm the data breach.

Penthouse.com’s chief executive, Kelly Holland, told ZDnet: “We are aware of the data hack and we are waiting on FriendFinder to give us a detailed account of the scope of the breach and their remedial actions in regard to our data.”

Leaked Source, a data breach monitoring service, said of the Friend Finder Networks hack: “Passwords were stored by Friend Finder Networks either in plain visible format or SHA1 hashed (peppered). Neither method is considered secure by any stretch of the imagination.”

The hashed passwords seem to have been altered to be all in lowercase, rather than case specific as entered by the users originally, which makes them easier to break, but possibly less useful for malicious hackers, according to Leaked Source.

Among the leaked account details were 78,301 US military email addresses, 5,650 US government email addresses and over 96m Hotmail accounts. The leaked database also included the details of what appear to be almost 16m deleted accounts, according to Leaked Source.

To complicate things further, Penthouse.com was sold to Penthouse Global Media in February. It is unclear why Friend Finder Networks still had the database containing Penthouse.com user details after the sale, and as a consequence exposed their details with the rest of its sites despite no longer operating the property.

It is also unclear who perpetrated the hack. A security researcher known as Revolver claimed to find a flaw in Friend Finder Networks’ security in October, posting the information to a now-suspended Twitter account and threatening to “leak everything” should the company call the flaw report a hoax.

This is not the first time Adult Friend Network has been hacked. In May 2015 the personal details of almost four million users were leaked by hackers, including their login details, emails, dates of birth, post codes, sexual preferences and whether they were seeking extramarital affairs.

David Kennerley, director of threat research at Webroot said: “This is attack on AdultFriendFinder is extremely similar to the breach it suffered last year. It appears to not only have been discovered once the stolen details were leaked online, but even details of users who believed they deleted their accounts have been stolen again. It’s clear that the organisation has failed to learn from its past mistakes and the result is 412 million victims that will be prime targets for blackmail, phishing attacks and other cyber fraud.”

Over 99% of all the passwords, including those hashed with SHA-1, were cracked by Leaked Source meaning that any protection applied to them by Friend Finder Networks was wholly ineffective.

Leaked Source said: “At this time we also can’t explain why many recently registered users still have their passwords stored in clear-text especially considering they were hacked once before.”

Peter Martin, managing director at security firm RelianceACSN said: “It’s clear the company has majorly flawed security postures, and given the sensitivity of the data the company holds this cannot be tolerated.”

Friend Finder Networks has not replied to a request for comment.

Loan forgiveness was meant to help me get out of debt. It did the opposite

November 14, 2016

by Andrea Moore

The Guardian

Debt: $120,000+

Source: Student loans

Estimated Years Until Debt-free: Unknown

I graduated from grad school in 2008, the year of the global financial crisis. Known for punctuality, Sallie Mae, congratulated me on my graduation and recent engagement with a letter informing me that my monthly payment of nearly $900 would be due just in time for the holidays.

I grieved over the thought of making these payments. Then I acknowledged the immensity of my debt, wiped my tears and sent our wedding guests the equivalent of a breakup text: wedding cancelled. No explanation, no sign of change, no happily ever after. Just cancelled.

Wanting desperately to relieve myself of debt as quickly as possible, I scheduled automatic loan payments. I diligently paid my monthly student loan payments for six consecutive years without ever placing my student loans on deferment or forbearance.

I operated under the pretense that if I did what I was “supposed to do” – go to college, obtain a career, pay my debts – the universe would reward me for my valiant efforts by extending a concession. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) was the answered prayer I thought would help lift the burden of student loan debt. Or at least lessen the load.

I’ve spent most of my career working for non-profit organizations earning an annual income that is incontestably low, considering that my total student loan debt is equal to the cost of a modest starter home in certain parts of the United States.

The problem with loan debt is that, unlike a starter home, it doesn’t offer equity or shelter. Instead, it is often the exploitative product of families and students’ desperation and the government’s willingness to protect for-profit industries at the expense of the millions of students who are beholden to exorbitant interest rates, hidden fees and inescapable private loans.

Working in the “helping profession” does not automatically make me eligible for help, but deceptive marketing and my own despair made me buy into that idea. I believed that PSLF was a reward for taking the advice of guidance counselors, teachers and family, who navigated me towards this career.

With the help of a PSLF representative who reviewed my loan information, confirmed my eligibility and helped consolidate the majority of my loans into one monthly payment that resulted into a substantial reduction, I was officially enrolled in the program.

Making my initial payment under the loan forgiveness program was gratifying. Never had I been so excited to pay a bill. After six years of two monthly automatic payments of $496 and $392 respectively, with no end in sight, making one payment of half that amount for only four more years until all was forgiven was a blessing …until it wasn’t.

After my initial payment under the PSLF program I received an email informing me that my payment had been increased by over $200, despite having a meagre income. The “good news” was that the payment increase was less glaring than what it would have been if my recent two-income household hadn’t been reduced to one after my husband’s recent layoff.

What started in 2008 as a United States financial crisis had morphed into a 2014 personal financial crisis that offered fewer life preservers than before. I had become my family’s primary breadwinner. I had a child I had to clothe and feed, an almost inoperable car I couldn’t afford to replace and the unwavering audacity to want a quality of life.

Knowing that for over six years I had paid a cumulative amount of over $50,000 in student loan interest and that a program designed to help public servants was instead confining me to indefinite servitude, resuscitated the tears I had wiped away in 2008.

This time I didn’t attempt to wipe them away; I called the PSLF program, placed my loan on forbearance for the first time since my grace period ended in 2008 and resigned to the fact that perhaps my teenage college dreams would have served me better had they been deferred.

Department of Defense on Domestic Rebellions

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

NUMBER 2905.17

June 13, 2013 USD(I)

SUBJECT: DoD Domestic Military Order-Counterinsurgency Overview : See Enclosure 1

Domestic Military Order – Counterinsurgency Overview

Understanding Insurgency

Domestic insurgencies date to the earliest forms of government and will continue to exist as long as the governed harbor grievances against authority that they believe cannot be resolved by peaceful means.

What is a domestic  insurgency? The Department of Defense (DOD) defines domestic insurgency as “an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.” Simply put, a domestic  insurgency is a struggle between a non-ruling group and their ruling authority. Domestic insurgents use political resources, to include the increased use of the media and international opinion, as well as violence to destroy the political legitimacy of the ruling authority and build their  own political legitimacy and power. Examples of this type of warfare range from the American Revolution to the previous situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conflict itself can range from acts of terrorism to the more conventional use of the media to sway public opinion. Whatever form the insurgency takes, it serves an ideology or political goal.

Some of the motivating factors in the current politico/sociological situation are:

Massive and continuing unemployment in all levels of American business and industry. Only those who are technically proficient, i.e. in fields of computer science, are employable. Another point of contention is the huge influx of illegal foreign immigrants and the perception that these prevent Americans from obtaining work and also are perceived as draining the national welfare rolls. Also, a growing functional illiteracy in the American public, which has sharply diminished the reading of newspapers and increased the popularity of the Internet with its brief “sound bites.”A growing public perception of both disinterest and corruption on the part of National and State legislators has caused massive disillusionment on the part of the people. The recent revelations that the American (and foreign) public is closely watched and spied upon by governmental organs at the behest of the President has created a very volatile and very negative attitude towards any and all official programs.

An insurgency is defined as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict It is a protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken government control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control. Political power is the central issue in an insurgency.

Each insurgency has its own unique characteristics based on its strategic objectives, its operational environment, available resources, operational method, and tactics For example, an insurgency may be based on mass mobilization through political action or the FOCO theory. Insurgencies frequently seek to overthrow the existing social order and reallocate power within the country.

The goal of an insurgency is to mobilize human and material resources in order to form an alternative to the state. This alternative is called the counterstate. The counterstate may have much of the infrastructure possessed by the state itself, but this must normally be hidden, since it is illegal. Thus the counterstate is often referred to by the term “clandestine infrastructure.” As the insurgents gain confidence and power, the clandestine infrastructure may become more open, as observed historically in communist regions during the Chinese Revolution, in South Vietnam after the North Vietnamese 1972 Easter Offensive, and in Colombia in the summer of 1998.

Successful mobilization provides active and passive support for the insurgency’s programs, operations, and goals. At the national level, mobilization grows out of dissatisfaction by some elite members with existing political, economic, or social conditions. At the regional level, members of an elite have become marginalized (that is, they have become psychologically alienated from the system), and have established links with followers by bringing them into the counterstate. At the local, district and province-levels, local movement representatives called the cadre address local grievances and do recruiting. The cadre gives credit to the insurgent movement for all local solutions. Loyalty to the insurgent movement is normally won through deeds but may occur through appeal to abstract principles. Promises to end hunger or eliminate poverty may appeal to a segment of the population, while appeals to eliminate a foreign presence or establish a government based on religious or political ideology may appeal to others. Nonetheless, these promises and appeals are associated with tangible solutions and deeds.

What are the root causes of a domestic  insurgency? For a domestic  insurgency to flourish, a majority of the population must either support or remain indifferent to insurgent ideals and practices. There must be a powerful reason that drives a portion of the populace to armed opposition against the existing government. Grievances may have a number of causes, such the lack of economic opportunity, restrictions on basic liberties, government corruption, ethnic or religious tensions, excessivly large number of illegal immigrants, especially those from  Central America who clog national welfare rolls and are perceived to take jobs from entry-level Americans,or an unassimilitable religious and ethnic minority such as the Muslims who are seen to harbor domestic terrorists. It is through this line of thought or ideal that insurgents attempt to mobilize the population.

Poland re-examines remains of president killed in 2010 plane crash

November 14, 2016

by Wojciech Zurawski


KRAKOW, Poland-Polish prosecutors on Monday began the exhumation of President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in Russia in 2010, to examine his remains as part of an investigation into the tragedy likely to deepen political divisions in Poland.

The crash near Smolensk in western Russia, which killed 96 people including Kaczynski’s wife, top army brass and the central bank governor, has become one of the most fraught public issues in Poland, with some claiming foul play.

An inquiry by Poland’s previous, centrist government ruled pilot error caused the government’s Soviet-made TU-154 to crash into the ground in heavy fog during an attempt to land.

But Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, whose nationalist-minded Law and Justice party (PiS) unseated the centrists in an election last year, has said an onboard explosion could have caused the crash.

Prosecutors want to determine whether there was no mix-up of remains during burial, as well as whether damage to the bodies had been described correctly in previous inquiries, arguing that Russia’s refusal to return the plane’s wreckage was a critical obstacle.

“The crucial evidence remains in Russia and I don’t expect to have access to it any time soon,” Marek Pasionek, a deputy prosecutor general, was quoted saying by Rzeczpospolita daily last week.

“We need to have the wreckage in order to reconstruct the flight. And however brutal this may sound, the bodies are practically the only piece of evidence which we can have access to, through exhumations.”

Russia has said the wreckage cannot be returned until its own criminal inquiry is concluded.


The remains of Kaczynski and his wife Maria will be removed from their crypt in the Wawel cathedral in Krakow in southern Poland after it closed for tourists at 6 p.m. local time (12 p.m ET). Other exhumations will follow in coming months.

Critics say the new investigation amounts to a politically-motivated effort to discredit the centrist opposition and rally a conservative electorate deeply distrustful of Russia.

Kaczynski has long accused Donald Tusk, who was the prime minister in 2010 and now heads the European Council of heads of EU states, of being indirectly responsible for the crash – caused, in his view, at least partially by government negligence.

“The Smolensk crash continues to fan heated public tensions,” said Izabella Sariusz-Skąpska, daughter of a Polish activist who died in the crash.

“We don’t know how long (the investigation) will last … Maybe the calculation is to have fireworks ready for the next election campaign,” she told Reuters.

Sariusz-Skapska’s father was flying with Kaczynski and his entourage to a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when Soviet secret police killed thousands of Polish officers in a forest in western Russia. Her father headed an association of the Katyn victims’ families.

(Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak and Justyna Pawlak; editing by Mark Heinrich)












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