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TBR News November 19, 2018

Nov 19 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. November 19,- 2018:” I have among my friends, several professional psychologists and one psychiatrist. I have discussed the obviously erratic behavior of President Trump with them at various times and all of them, without exception, have identical opinions as to the reasons of this strange, and annoying, behavior. Herewith is a professional discussion of their professional beliefs:

‘10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Association

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. If you notice any of them, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

1 Memory loss that disrupts daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2 Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3 Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4 Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5 Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Vision changes related to cataracts.

6 New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7 Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

8 Decreased or poor judgment

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Making a bad decision once in a while.

9 Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They also may avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10 Changes in mood and personality

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone

What’s a typical age-related change?

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.’”


The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 85
  • Germany fully halts arms exports to Riyadh & hits 18 Saudis with travel bans over Khashoggi
  • Make America Rake Again: Finland baffled by Trump’s forest fire raking claim
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Space: how far have we gone – and where are we going?


Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 85

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jun 27, 2018

“And then they said — some great people. They said, ‘Any time Trump gets a poll, add 12 to it.'”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Nobody of any stature has recommended adding 12 points to Trump’s poll numbers to get the true number.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“And by the way, our people, they call it the base, they used to say it’s 35. Then they said it’s 40. Then they said it’s 42. Then they have these polls go — we’re driving them crazy. Now they say it’s over 50 percent.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Nobody credible is saying that Trump’s “base” is composed of more than 50 per cent of the population. Trump’s total approval rating, which includes both his ardent base supporters and people who support him more haltingly, was 43 per cent at the time, according to RealClearPolitics’s polling average.

“We’re also restoring American security by rebuilding our military. We’ve secured a historic $700 billion. Just got it approved. Seven hundred billion. We’re rebuilding our military.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Trump’s $700 billion defence budget is not historic. As the New York Times noted, Obama signed a $725 billion version of the same bill in 2011.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“Two hundred and seventy-five percent (Canadian dairy tariff). And I actually hear that’s an old number. They raised it a number of months ago to 300 per cent. How horrible is that?”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Canada has not raised its dairy tariffs in recent months.

“We…saved our family farms and our small businesses by eliminating the estate tax in almost all cases. It’s known as the death tax. And now, when you leave your small business or your farm, you leave it to your children.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Almost all farms and small businesses were not paying the estate tax even before Trump’s tax law was passed. According to the Tax Policy Center, a mere 80 farms and small businesses were among the 5,460 estates likely to pay the estate tax in 2017, before Trump’s tax law. The Center wrote on its website: “The Tax Policy Center estimates that small farms and businesses will pay $30 million in estate tax in 2017, fifteen hundredths of 1 percent of the total estate tax revenue.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“A number of polls that, ‘He’s the most powerful, most popular, Republican in the history of the party.’ And a little while ago I was an interloper. They came out ‘more popular than’ a man I like, Ronald Reagan.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Polls show that Trump is more popular with Republican voters at this point in his presidency than almost all previous Republican presidents, but not all of them. The conservative Washington Examiner ran an article quoting pollster John Zogby, who noted that Trump had an 87 per cent approval rating among Republicans — second to George W. Bush’s 95 per cent at this point in his presidency.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“We went to places that haven’t been done. I think Wisconsin was 1952. Dwight Eisenhower. And we won Wisconsin.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: The last Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin was Ronald Reagan in 1984, not Eisenhower in 1952. Republicans also won Wisconsin in 1956 (Eisenhower), 1960, 1968 and 1972 (Richard Nixon), and 1980 (Reagan).

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“And now, for the first time in 22 years, wages are rising again.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakot

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. In May, the month before Trump spoke, average hourly earnings rose by 2.7 per cent, the same as in Obama’s last month in office, December 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

“The Heritage Foundation came out with a report, and this was as of two months ago: we’ve already implemented 64 per cent of our top agenda items. And that’s at a much faster pace than even Ronald Reagan. That’s pretty good, right? And you don’t hear this from the fake news.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Heritage first made this announcement in late January, five months prior, not “two months ago.” And Trump was at least slightly wrong about what Heritage actually said. Thomas Binion, Heritage’s director of congressional and executive branch relations, told the Washington Examiner in February that Trump had implemented 64 per cent of Heritage’s policy recommendations, not 64 per cent of Trump’s own top agenda items. There is significant overlap between the two, but they are not the same thing.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“So, we have jobs, we have a vibrant industry, in a short — the head of United States Steel called me the other day. And he said, ‘Mr. President, I’d like to thank you. I have never seen anything like it. We haven’t opened up a new plant in 32 years. And now we’re opening up seven of them. Six of them extensions. We’re going to build a new one.’ And that’s just one company.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: At the time Trump spoke, U.S. Steel had only announced a major development at one facility since Trump introduced his steel tariffs: it said it was restarting two shuttered blast furnaces at its plant in Granite City, Illinois. Chuck Bradford, an industry analyst who follows U.S. Steel, said he was “not aware” of the company opening any other facilities. U.S. Steel told the Washington Post: “To answer your question, we post all of our major operational announcements to our website and report them on earnings calls. Our most recent one pertained to our Granite City ‘A’ blast furnace restart.” The company refused to say if this alleged phone call happened at all.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“Washing machines. Big business. They were dumping, different countries — I don’t even want to tell you this country because I actually like this country, but, you know, they all — sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies, right? But they were dumping washing machines. We put a big tariff on, 30 per cent.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Trump’s new tariff on washing machines is 20 per cent on the first 1.2 million imports, then 50 per cent after that; there is no tariff of 30 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“We put tariffs on solar panels because China was flooding the market and it wasn’t good stuff. We had 32 plants. Two were open and they were barely breathing. They were mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. We put a 30 per cent tax on solar panels coming into the United States. Now, those two plants are doing great. And they’re talking about opening at least 10, 11, or 12, and they’ll probably have them all open very soon. And they’re going to make high quality panels. And a lot of jobs.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: In referring to “those two,” Trump appears to mean the two solar companies that brought a trade complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. It is not true that they were the only two solar manufacturers remaining in the U.S. at the time, but it is not exactly clear what Trump is saying. Regardless, Trump’s claim that these companies are “doing great’ and “looking at 10, 11 and even 12 re-openings” is false. Suniva announced in June that it is emerging from bankruptcy and will restart operations, but there is no indication it will open multiple plants. SolarWorld, meanwhile, sold its Oregon plant, but that plant continues to operate at only 50 per cent capacity, the Oregonian reported in June. When Trump claimed in April, two months prior to this remark, that “seven or eight” solar plants would reopen, Factcheck.org asked the White House for details; it did not receive a response.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

“But they just announced the day I get there (to South Carolina), they have a steel company called Georgetown. It’s been closed for four years. They announced the day before I got to South Carolina that Georgetown Steel is reopening and hiring 600 people. Not so complicated.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Almost everything about this claim is inaccurate. The company reopening the steel mill in Georgetown, South Carolina is Liberty Steel, a division of Britain’s GFG Alliance. The mill shut down less than three years ago, in August 2015. The mill is now employing 125 people, with plans to eventually go up to 320, not 600 people. (And the opening was originally announced in Dec. 2017, more than two months before Trump announced his steel tariffs. Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper reported: “James Sanderson, the local steelworkers’ union president, said he was sure the purchase was spurred by Donald Trump’s move to impose tariffs on a bevy of foreign goods, but Gordon Spelich, the manager of the mill, said the plan was in place long before Trump announced the tariffs.”)

Trump has repeated this claim 1 times

“United States Steel is opening up six plants through expansion and new.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: At the time Trump spoke, U.S. Steel had only announced a major development at one facility since Trump introduced his steel tariffs: it said it was restarting two shuttered blast furnaces at its plant in Granite City, Illinois. Chuck Bradford, an industry analyst who follows U.S. Steel, said he was “not aware” of the company opening any other facilities. U.S. Steel told the Washington Post: “To answer your question, we post all of our major operational announcements to our website and report them on earnings calls. Our most recent one pertained to our Granite City ‘A’ blast furnace restart.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“If we send them (the European Union) a car which they don’t want, and they practically don’t take, but on the assumption it got through, they charge us many, many times what we charge them.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: While American cars are generally not very popular in Europe, it is not true that the EU “practically doesn’t take” U.S. cars. According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical agency, auto imports from the U.S. to the European Union peaked at €7 billion in 2016 (about $10.7 billion Canadian at current exchange rates) and were approximately €6 billion in 2017 (about $9.2 billion Canadian at current exchange rates). According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association:

“The U.S. is the third biggest exporter of cars to the EU in terms of value, representing a 15.4% share of EU imports in 2017.”

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“‘How many people are here?’ They said, ‘Six thousand in the arena, but we’re going to be — have to, unfortunately, walk (sic) 15,000 or 18,000 people that couldn’t get in.'”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: There were not 15,000 or 18,000 people prevented from entering Trump’s rally in Fargo. While no precise numbers are available, photos from the scene suggest the number of people turned away was, at most, in the low thousands.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“Last year, with the European Union, we lost $151 billion on trade.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: The U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017. The $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and excludes trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was excluding services.

Trump has repeated this claim 29 times

“And I’ll tell you what, they may not want to talk about it in California, but those people in San Diego are very happy with Donald Trump. I’m building that wall, and they are so happy.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Trump’s border wall is not currently being constructed in San Diego; prototypes of possible wall designs were built there, but no construction of a permanent, extended wall has begun. Second, there is no evidence that the people of San Diego are supportive of the wall at all. San Diego city council voted 5-3 in September to express opposition, and even the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has stated that he is opposed: “Mayor Faulconer has been clear in his opposition to a border wall across the entirety of the U.S. southern border,” a spokesperson said in September. (The board of supervisors of San Diego County has voted to endorse a lawsuit against California “sanctuary” laws protecting unauthorized immigrants, but “this county has taken no action with regard to the wall,” county spokesperson Michael Workman told local news outlet KPBS.)

       Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“We’re going to get that wall built. We’ve already started it — $1.6 billion. We’re getting the wall built. It’s already begun, and it’s beautiful.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Construction on Trump’s border wall has not started. When he has made this claim in the past, Trump has appeared to be referring to a project in which a 2.25-mile stretch of existing wall in California is being replaced by a taller wall. That project was proposed in 2009, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Border Patrol spokesperson Jonathan Pacheco told reporters in March: “First and foremost, this isn’t Trump’s wall. This isn’t the infrastructure that Trump is trying to bring in. … This new wall replacement has absolutely nothing to do with the prototypes that were shown over in the San Diego area.” The $1.6 billion Congress allocated to border projects in 2018 is not for the type of giant concrete wall Trump has proposed: spending on that kind of wall is expressly prohibited in the legislation, and much of the congressional allocation is for replacement and reinforcement projects rather than new construction.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“And we’re sending MS-13 out by the thousands. By the thousands.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: “By the thousands” is an exaggeration; it is more like “by the hundreds,” or “by the dozens.” The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, said in December that “a renewed focus on ID’ing & dismantling the ultra-violent MS-13 gang led to nearly 800 arrests in (fiscal year) 2017, for an 83 per cent increase over last year.” That figure is disputed, as some of the people arrested may not be actual members of the gang. Even if they are, though, that is far from “thousands.” In November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed the U.S. had “worked with our partners in Central America to arrest and charge some 4,000 MS-13 members.” But those additional arrests were made abroad, so the people arrested were not “removed.”

Trump has repeated this claim 15 times

“The Democrats want to let the country be overrun. Just take a look at what’s going on. Everybody comes in, including the vile gang, MS-13, which Nancy Pelosi has gone out and wants to protect, OK? We don’t want to protect them.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Pelosi has never expressed any desire to protect MS-13; she simply objected to Trump’s use of the word “animals” in describing members of the gang. Pelosi, like some others, believed he was referring more broadly to unauthorized immigrants, and she argued that “we’re all God’s children, there’s a spark of divinity in every person on Earth.” We give Trump some leeway to use normal political exaggeration in attacking this opponent, but this one goes too far.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“Maxine (Waters). She’s a beauty. I mean, she practically was telling people the other day to assault.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Waters, a Democratic member of Congress, did not tell people to assault anyone. In comments at a June 23 rally in Los Angeles, Waters urged Trump opponents to verbally confront Trump’s Cabinet officials in public places: “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Later in the day, on MSNBC, she repeated similar remarks, and she said people would “absolutely turn on” Trump Cabinet members: “They’re going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they’re going to tell the President, ‘No, I can’t hang with you.'” Though she used the phrase “absolutely harass,” nowhere did she call for physical contact, let alone assault.

“And Obamacare is essentially dead.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Trump has weakened Obamacare in several ways, most notably by eliminating the “individual mandate” that required people to obtain health insurance, but the law is far from dead. Trump did not eliminate Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces that allow other uninsured people to buy insurance, or the subsidies that help many of them make the purchases. Nor did he touch various Obamacare rules for the insurance market, like its prohibition on insurers.

Trump has repeated this claim 33 times

“So, we have, though our Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, we just came out with the association plan, which is phenomenal. Millions and millions of people are signing up.”

Source: Campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota

in fact: Nobody is signing up for Trump’s new association health plans yet: they are not being offered until September.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“And we’re working with China now, and I think hopefully that’ll get straightened out. But that was anywhere from $375 [billion] — depending on the way you want to count it — $375 [billion] to $500 billion-a-year loss.”

Source: Speech at the Face-to-Face With Our Future event

in fact: There is no counting method in which the U.S. has a $500 billion trade deficit with China. In fact, the U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017; it was $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

Trump has repeated this claim 51 times

“European Union — we love the European Union. They make $151 billion a year — $151 billion.”

Source: Speech at the Face-to-Face With Our Future event

in fact: The U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017. The $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and excludes trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was excluding services.

Trump has repeated this claim 29 times

“You understand that for a nation to be successful, it must have a strong military and it must have strong borders and security inside our country. And we’ve just had $700 billion approved — the largest ever for our military.”

Source: Speech at the Face-to-Face With Our Future event

in fact: Trump’s $700 billion defence budget is not the “largest ever for our military.” As the New York Times noted, Obama signed a $725 billion version of the same bill in 2011.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“And thanks, also, to the interns here from NASA. We have — how about raising your hands? Let me see NASA. Yeah. That’s a good future because of President Trump. We opened that up again. We opened it up. NASA was heading in, I was going to say the wrong direction. It was heading in no direction. There was nothing happening, and now it’s happening.”

Source: Speech at the Face-to-Face With Our Future event

in fact: NASA was never closed, and it is false that nothing was happening at NASA before Trump took office. In 2016, the last year of Obama’s presidency, NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s orbit; NASA astronaut Scott Kelly completed his International Space Station mission; NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams went to the International Space Station; NASA launched OSIRIS-REx, the first American sample-return mission to an asteroid; NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission verified 1,284 new planets; and NASA did a variety of other significant things.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times


Germany fully halts arms exports to Riyadh & hits 18 Saudis with travel bans over Khashoggi

November 19, 2018


Germany has imposed travel bans on 18 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month, after its economic ministry confirmed all the arms deals with Riyadh have been fully canceled.

The country’s foreign ministry announced that the sanctions were imposed in coordination with France and Britain. The 18 individuals will be banned from entering all 26 Schengen Area countries.

None have been named due to German privacy law, but the list more than likely includes some of the same individuals sanctioned by the US government last week. Among those sanctioned by the US are Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, who Turkish authorities believe led a 15-man ‘kill team’ to Istanbul to murder Khashoggi, Saudi Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi, and Mustafa al-Madani, a middle-aged man who was seen leaving the Saudi consulate after Khashoggi’s death, wearing the deceased journalist’s clothes.

The news came almost one month after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her country would stop supplying weapons to Riyadh “under current circumstances” – referring to the investigation into Khashoggi’s death.

Before the halt, Germany had approved arms exports worth €416.4 million ($475.7) to Saudi Arabia this year. That number makes Saudi Arabia its second-best arms customer, after Algeria, according to Deutsche Welle.

Now it’s been confirmed that “there are currently no exports from Germany to Saudi Arabia,” a Ministry of Economics spokesman said on Monday. Even those arms shipments approved before Merkel’s announcement last month have now been halted.

In October, Merkel called on Germany’s European allies to follow suit and cut off arms sales to the Kingdom. While Norway and Spain have canceled weapons sales as well, French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to take a leaf out of Merkel’s book. Saudi Arabia is the second-biggest purchaser of French arms, with ongoing deals for tanks, munitions, artillery and armored vehicles worth over 11 billion euros ($12bn).

In the US, President Trump has said it would be “foolish” to scrap his country’s ongoing $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi government, despite mounting calls from either side of the political spectrum to do so.

Trump has condemned the killing but has not endorsed claims that it was ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself. Trump called the media reports – saying the CIA has concluded “with high confidence” that MbS ordered Khashoggi’s assassination –  “very premature,” and said that the US government will release its own report in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Trump seemed to also confirm the existence of a tape revealing Khashoggi’s final moments, before he was said to be brutally murdered and dismembered. Calling it “very violent, very vicious and terrible,” he told Fox News: “We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape.”


Make America Rake Again: Finland baffled by Trump’s forest fire raking claim

Social media users mock US president’s insistence on Finnish forest defence method

November 19, 2018

by Martin Belam and agencies

The Guardian

The people of Finland have reacted with bemusement on social media at Donald Trump’s assertions that the country rakes its forests to help prevent forest fires.

Speaking on Saturday in Paradise, California, about the role of forest management in stemming wildfires, Trump said: “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”

Finnish social media users immediately posted a range of jokes about Trump’s comments, which do not reflect the reality of how forests are managed in the country.

There were also people on hand to point out that the factors affecting whether there are forest fires are very different in California and Finland.

For his part, Sauli Niinistö appears to recall the conversation somewhat differently. He said although he told Trump that the Finns took care of their forests, he did not specifically recall mentioning raking as part of the planning.

In an interview reported by Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, Niinisto said he met Trump briefly in Paris earlier in November, and on the topic of the California wildfires told him: “Finland is a country covered by forests,” and that to avoid forest fires “we have a good surveillance system and network”.

The rake theme, though, provided a handy pun on Trump’s campaign slogan:’Make American Rake Again.’

Some people couldn’t resist reusing an internet meme to drag Trump further about the raking, twisting the popular image of the US president with a small child mowing the White House lawn.

Trump’s comments about Finland’s forest management come after a summer where forest fires did rage in the Arctic Circle, with Finland’s neighbour Sweden most affected.

Despite the humour on display on social media, the California forest fires have been one of the most serious natural disasters to hit the US state – with the death toll at 79, and almost 1,300 people still unaccounted for.

Trump continues to primarily blame forest management – having tweeted: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests.”


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 19, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.


Conversation No. 55

Date: Monday, December 30, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:21 AM CST

RTC: Hello, Gregory. Have a nice Christmas?

GD: Wonderful. I got a sled, some bunny slippers, a silencer for my shotgun, a pornographic Bible, three pair of socks that were too small and a dead turtle. Yourself?

RTC: Somehow, I don’t believe you. Christmas was fine here. I take it you did not have an extensive Christmas.

GD: The rabbit died and we were in deep mourning. But then we ate it and felt much better.

RTC: I could send a sympathy card.

GD: Just flush it down the loo. It might meet up with what’s left of the rabbit. Robert, to be serious, you said that Corson did not like Mark Lane. He represented Carto in a lawsuit and I was wondering what was the reason for the bad feeling?

RTC: My God, Gregory, this is like an old auntie’s sewing circle. Everyone here hates everyone else, tells lies, sticks out their tongues at each other and acts like small children. There was a lawsuit of the Keystone Cops type. Victor Marchetti, who used to be one of ours but got booted out, wrote an article for the Spotlight paper saying that Hunt had been in Dallas on the day Kennedy was shot. He was. Hunt sued the paper and got a judgment. The paper fought back and got Mark Lane to defend them.

GD: The Oswald lawyer?

RTC: The same. So they went back and forth. Marchetti is a fat slob who thinks he is very important when we who really know him consider him to be a chattering nut. Hunt is grossly incompetent but the reason why Corson hates Lane and everyone else, is that Marchetti claimed he got this information about Hunt in Dallas on November 22nd from Corson. Corson got dragged over the coals by Lane and clearly was proved to be a liar. However, there was a third person there when Corson told his little story to Marchetti and that’s what nailed him. Poor Bill. He always has to put his oar in, needed or not.

GD: Well, he told Kimmel that he knew some secret British soldier who told Corson about the Roosevelt/Churchill conversation. Corson claimed he backed it up. Kimmel went for this like a duck after a June bug, but I can’t believe it. Who was this mysterious witness? Corson said his lips were sealed.

RTC: Too bad that isn’t true.

GD: Back and forth. I know Corson has lectured me on a subject that I knew far better that he did but I just kept quiet and acted impressed. Didn’t he get court-martialed?

RTC: My God, Gregory, don’t ever go into that one. Look, these people like Bill and Trento, Marchetti and the rest of them, are like squirrels in the park running around begging nuts from the public. This is the Beltway, Gregory. It’s a hot house. Someone sees the President from about two hundred feet away, driving past in his armored limousine and then tells his friends that he had a chance to talk to the President that afternoon and the President told him….and that’s how it goes. Trento thinks he is a brilliant writer, Bill thinks he’s a mover and shaker, Marchetti sees himself as a secret agent and Hunt has just enough sense to put on his pants before going outside to get the paper. These are the hangers-on, Gregory, the wannabes as the current generation calls them.

GD: Ah, Robert, but you were actually there, you knew from doing it. The sun versus the moon. The moon reflects the glory of another. Does that role make you happy?

RTC: It makes me sad sometimes. And they run around acting like old women. Chatter, chatter, boast, back-stab, strut and eventually die. We all die, Gregory, but some take a long time to do it. I’m pleasant with them because perhaps they can help me but I am giving up with most of them. I thought Costello would be a good outlet but I gave up on him long before he died last year. Trento thinks he’s a great intelligence writer but he reminds me of a wino rooting around in old dumpsters for chicken bones. Bill hints at great secrets that only he knows and Hunt is a bumbling idiot and we should have done him instead of his wife. Marchetti is a little bit of all of them. If you listen to them, Gregory, they will convince you that big black cars drive up in front of their homes, every evening, and give them briefcases full of very secret papers. You know the types.

GD: I do, Robert, I really do. I love it when one of your pinheads starts telling me about German intelligence. Oh yes, and what about Nosenko?

RTC: A Russian double agent that Angleton mismanaged.

GD: Was Angleton Italian?

RTC: No, half Mexican. He spoke wop from his father, having lived there and sold cash registers but he was a Mexican. He was well-connected with the mob, though.

GD: Mueller told me about Boris Pash…

RTC: That asshole. A gym teacher with more dreams of glory.

GD: Heini said that Pash tried to kill the Italian Communist leader.

RTC: Togliatti. Yes, but he missed. They always miss, Gregory.

GD: I have an Irish friend who never does. He prefers a knife but bombs will do very well.

RTC: I think you mentioned him. Mountbatten?

GD: The same. Now that’s a professional. And he doesn’t talk like the rest of them.

RTC: Real professionals never do.

GD: So if we both agree on what constitutes a professional agent, how do you analyze Corson, Kimmel, Marchetti, Trento and the others? Are they agents? Kimmel works for the FBI, Marchetti used to work for your people and the others?

RTC: What we have there is the wannabe club, Gregory. All of them think they are important people and, because they have, or have had, connections with the intelligence community, they begin to feel, somehow, that they are possessors of the secrets that others do not have. This elevates them from boredom and real obscurity and makes them believe that they are privy to those who really do walk in the corridors of power. I am the one, pardon the vanity, with the secrets and I am the one who walked once in the corridors of power so they gather around me, snapping up any little bit of information I choose to drop. There are many things I would like people I know, such as my family, to know about. I would like not to leave a legacy of mystery and negativity behind me. I know Corson and the others would like to have a private club type of inner knowledge, to sit around the fire solemnly talking about great secrets they have known. Never happen. When I go, they go. It’s that basic. I had thought once to cultivate Costello and let him speak for me but I gave up on him after his visit with you. The man was brittle, opinionated and as blind as a bat. Kimmel is an establishment man with no creative juices, Corson runs around barking like one of those obnoxious little Mexican dogs that were once raised for food, Marchetti reminds me of a drunken little rat running around in a barn, trying to get out. And when he does get out, he runs around outside trying to get back in. Trento and his wife are delusional and self important and love to mix it up with losers and never-could-have-beens.

GD: Basking, like the moon, in reflected glory.

RTC: Absolutely. And these are at the top of the rank amateur clubs. Down below them, we find the “experts” and the “researchers” who represent the bottom of the pyramid. They are the ones who scribble, jabber and strut. They look upwards to the top for the voices of the masters. They all feed on each other, Gregory. Their little worlds are all they have and if someone like you, especially someone like you, comes along, they loathe, fear and despise you. You see, you are the real thing and they are just wearing Halloween costumes and they know it. After Costello returned from his visit with you and spent hours telling me how terrible and unpleasant you were, I put this down to simple jealousy and thought that perhaps I might look into you myself. And that’s why we’re talking right this very moment.

GD: Thank you for your approval, Robert. I agree with you, but they are wearing the gold-braided clown suits and go to clubs and meetings and, like old peacocks, preen endlessly. What you tell me I already know, Robert, but short of grabbing them by their throats and banging their heads against the wall, there isn’t much I can do…

RTC: Except to out-produce them, Gregory. And they know you can do it and they hate you for it. A week does not go by without my getting some kind of a phone call about what a terrible, evil person you are and warning me never to talk with you. Notice how impressed I have been with these dire warnings. But please make my life a little easier in my old age by not quoting me to any of these cheap hustlers. If they really get it into their heads that I am being informative to you, they will call me every other day, warn Greg and Emily to protect me from you and then do everything in their shabby little power to trash you. Do not, and I repeat, do not trust any of them, ever. I think we understand this all, don’t we?

GD: Oh, yes. I never trusted these sort anyway. They remind me of old aunties or, even worse, academics. Both of them gossip, chatter, denigrate everyone not present and can’t sleep well at night unless they feel they have damaged someone else that day. They see themselves as giants and, in fact, they are small, chattering mice. But, and I am sure you know all about this, we have to put up with them in order to get along with the really important matters. Don’t worry about making myself vulnerable to these types. It ends up that they make themselves vulnerable to me in the end. What is the saying? Out of nothing, nothing is made.


(Concluded at 9:21 AM CST)


Space: how far have we gone – and where are we going?

Billionaire entrepreneurs are trying to create rockets fit for human travel, while government agencies spend billions furthering their explorations. But we are still a long way off from making our way to the red planet

November 19, 2018

by Oliver Holmes

The Guardian

Who has travelled to space?

Space flight is now a venerable industry. Humanity’s first space explorer, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, orbited around the globe on 12 April 1961, more than half a century ago, when Britain remained a colonial power and people were still using halfpennies to buy their fish and chips.

Since then, more than 550 people have blasted themselves into the deep black abyss, although not all agree on how far up you need to go until you hit space, so there is no internationally accepted figure. Only a 10th of those have been women, in big part due to sexist policies by Nasa and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

Where have we been in space?

The Soviet Union pulled ahead with the first space walks, but US president John F Kennedy’s announcement that America would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s focused the space race squarely on that goal. Apollo 11 touched down on our dusty grey neighbour on 20 July 1969.

A total of 12 men walked on the moon over the next few years, all Americans, but no one has been back there since 1972. In fact, no one has left the outskirts of the Earth since then.

We imagine astronauts floating in free space or bouncing in moon craters, yet the majority of those lucky enough have instead spun around in low Earth’s orbit – between 99 and a few hundred miles high. That’s where the vast array of communications and navigation satellites live, speeding at thousands of miles an hour to avoid plummeting back to earth.

What do we do there?

Even though we did not go back to deep space, humans have begun to live and work outside the Earth’s atmosphere, often conducting experiments on themselves to determine the effects of weightlessness, or microgravity, on the human body.

By 1986, the Soviet Union had launched the Mir space station. When it eventually fell to Earth (thankfully unoccupied) and burned up, our current space outpost, the International Space Station (ISS), was launched. Since 2000, humans have been living in space constantly. There are three up there at the moment, speeding around the globe once every 90 minutes.

What happens to the body in space?

A lot, and until we properly understand how weightlessness affects humans, we won’t be able to send this era’s pioneers further afield to places such as Mars or wandering asteroids. Scott Kelly, a US former fighter pilot and long-time Nasa astronaut, spent a year bouncing around the cramped capsules of the ISS in an attempt to understand the long-term impact of space flight. He doesn’t hold the record for the most extended foray into the void – that is claimed by Gennady Padalka, who spent two and half years of his life up there on several missions – but the Kelly experiment had a natural advantage over others: he has a twin.

Comparing their bodies throughout, scientists were able to assess how bones, muscles and other parts of the body deteriorate in space. There is even a gym on the ISS where astronauts can keep their muscles – no longer needed to prop them up – from slowly wasting away. But they need to wear a harness to keep them from floating off the treadmill. One big issue is that eye problems develop, but Kelly found his body recovered fast on return. He and his twin seemed in similar shape – good news for future deep space missions.

Which countries have human space programmes?

Only three countries, China, Russia and the US, have human space programmes as it remains prohibitively expensive. However, they have provided lifts for space travellers from 40 countries, including a member of the Saudi royal family and even paying customers, such as South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth, aged just 28.

How much does it cost to send them up?

Astronomical. The ISS is the most expensive machine ever constructed with a price tag at around $150bn (£115bn). Nasa’s space shuttle programme, which kicked off in the early 1970s by promising safe and affordable access to space, hoped to cost just a few tens of million dollars per launch. But as the shuttle was thrown in the scrapyard in 2011, the agency estimated the total cost at $209bn — nearly $1.6bn per flight.

Following the big fight over the shuttle, which looked fantastic but also restricted space adventuring to Earth’s orbit as well as costing a fortune, the US took a side seat in launches. Most astronauts are now sent by the Russian space agency, which sells round-trip rides on its Soyuz spacecraft for between $21m and $82m.

Is human space flight worth the cost?

Anyone involved in space travel will scoff at this, but it’s a good question, and space agencies often don’t communicate their achievements enough. Almost every sector of human progress has benefited from sending people into space. Just the act of attempting the feat forced scientists to invent new systems. The Apollo guidance computer was a predecessor to the microcomputer, now found in all smartphones.

Clothes are more fire-resistant because of research on space fires. Remotely monitoring the health of astronauts has led to revolutionary systems for helping patients on Earth. Diseases behave and develop differently in microgravity, which assists scientists in finding cures.

Others say paying for human space flight pumps money into the economy, arguing that spin-off companies from space research and a growing commercial space industry generates seven to 14 times the cost of missions. And Nasa, the most significant global player, is not spending nearly as much as it used to. About $19bn is spent by the US government on its budget, roughly half a percent of all federal spending. During the early Apollo programme, that was between 4% and 5%.

How strong is space cooperation between countries?

The first space race was part of the chest-beating of the cold war, but since then human space exploration has been more about countries working together than against each other. The ISS is a massive collaboration between five space agencies (Nasa, Roscosmos, Japan’s Jaxa, the pan-European agency ESA and the Canadian Space Agency) and was assembled over a period of 13 years from 1998, slowly adding capsules like Lego.

A big exception to this is China, which has gone it alone with its space ambitions, never sending an astronaut to the ISS. In 2006, Beijing reportedly tested lasers against US imaging satellites in what appeared to be an attempt to blind or damage them, and US lawmakers later banned cooperation between Nasa and China’s state agency.

However, the future of any effective human space flight is certainly likely to be cooperative rather than antagonistic. Since 2011, national spaces agencies in 14 countries have attempted to coordinate their dreams into a single vision. The most recent plan, published in January this year, said they had agreed to “expand human presence into the solar system, with the surface of Mars as a common driving goal”.

We’re off to the red planet? Hurray!

Don’t start the countdown just yet. To get to Mars, most people in the human space flight community feel we need to first go back to the moon. “It’s the only logical step,” says Ian Crawford, professor of planetary science and astrobiology at Birkbeck, University of London. “I’m all in favour of sending people to Mars, but the technology, competence, the experience – I think it’s still out of reach”.

The moon has several advantages. It’s only three days away, rather than a several-month round trip to Mars, and has been touted as a location for a research station similar to the one in Antarctica. From their celestial laboratory, scientists could study the impact of radiation exposure and near-weightlessness on the body at a closer distance to Earth, but still within deep space, all while preparing for trips further afield.

So to the moon then?

Well. Not quite either. The Global Exploration Roadmap suggests first building a space station as an orbital base from which to send astronauts back and forth to the moon. This will look similar to the ISS except, instead of rushing around the Earth, it will orbit the moon.

Will we ever get to Mars?

It is a mammoth feat and it would be wise to expect serious delays. “Where we go in space is decided by a combination of what people would like to do and the reality of time and budgets,” says Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Washington DC, and a former policy analyst at Nasa. “The idea of putting people on Mars has been around for a long time. If you read the policies, it is clearly a long-term vision without a date. But we probably are still lacking the technology to keep people for a long time in deep space.”

Who are the new contenders in human space flight?

The US and Russia have been giving way to new players. In 2003, China became the third country to put a person into orbit and India plans to follow in 2022. But the sector-changing impact is undoubtedly coming from the private space.

In what is being coined the “billionaire’s space race”, Elon Musk, founder of Telsa electric cars, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Virgin boss Richard Branson all want to send private citizens to space. Their companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, are set on making human space travel cheaper.

They join a handful of commercial space flight companies that already work as contractors for national space agencies. Aerospace industry titans Boeing and Lockheed Martin send heavy launchers into space, but that costs at least $350m per launch – several times more expensive than SpaceX’s new $90m Falcon Heavy system.

SpaceX has around $10bn worth of launches already booked and saves costs through reusable spacecraft, where even the rocket boosters land themselves back on the ground and can be dusted off for reuse.

And while it is looking increasingly likely that the ISS will be defunded in the next decade, several private ventures are considering either taking over or rebuilding their own space stations.

What’s next?

As government agencies prioritise the moon, others are looking straight at Mars. Musk has said his life goal is to create a thriving Mars colony as a fail-safe for humanity in case of a catastrophic event on Earth, such as a nuclear war or Terminator-style artificial intelligence coup. For this, SpaceX is developing the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which he claims could send crewed flights to the red planet by mid-2020.

Musk says the BFR is partly inspired by Tintin’s rocket and will be the biggest ever made at close to 40 storeys high and capable of ferrying as many as 100 passengers per trip, depending on how much luggage they want to put in the hold.

As well as a healthy satellite launch business, SpaceX is raising money by selling tickets on the BFR for a trip, some would say a jolly, around the moon. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion billionaire and art collector, is funding such a mission slated for 2023 and says he is going to invite artists with him for the week-long trip to re-engage the public in the wonder of our universe.

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