TBR News October 26, 2017

Oct 26 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 26, 2017: “Whenever a sensational event, like the Las Vegas shootings, happens, trust me, the lunatic fringe emerges from under damp rocks everywhere to cry to the world the Real Truth behind the happening. The Las Vegas event was a Hollywood venture; various hurricanes are created by mysterious death rays; wild fires in California are part of a man-made plot; various common drugs are believed to cause cancer, ear-wax problems and pregnancy in cats and on and on. Also, if a genuine catastrophe is pending, trust me again, the same dim-bulbs will deny it will ever happen. We see this in the rapid melting of both the Greenland icecap and the enormous glaciers of Antarctica. Again, we see many stories by pompous gas bags that state that not only are these enormous masses of ice not melting at all, they are actually growing! When, not if, this trend of melting continues, the rising sea levels will drown coastal cities, disrupt commerce and cause massive population displacement. We can not stop any of this but because government can do nothing about it, they prefer to ignore it and actually encourage stories that refute facts. ‘Not on my watch!’ is the watchword as the sea levels creep higher, little by little.”


Table of Contents


  • The Larsen C Ice Shelf Collapse Is Just the Beginning—Antarctica Is Melting
  • Catalan leader to call election as Madrid readies take over of independence-seeking region
  • Mutual Assured Destruction
  • ‘How Much Will the Germans Have to Pay?’
  • Disaster Capitalists Take Big Step Toward Privatizing Puerto Rico’s Electric Grid
  • Who killed JFK? The various theories behind the Kennedy assassination
  • Trump to declare opioids a public health emergency: officials


The Larsen C Ice Shelf Collapse Is Just the Beginning—Antarctica Is Melting

The massive iceberg that broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf may be a harbinger of a continent-wide collapse that would swamp coastal cities around the world.

July 2017

by Douglas Fox

National Geographic

Seen from above, the Pine Island Ice Shelf is a slow-motion train wreck. Its buckled surface is scarred by thousands of large crevasses. Its edges are shredded by rifts a quarter mile across. In 2015 and 2016 a 225-square-mile chunk of it broke off the end and drifted away on the Amundsen Sea. The water there has warmed by more than a degree Fahrenheit over the past few decades, and the rate at which ice is melting and calving has quadrupled.

On the Antarctic Peninsula, the warming has been far greater—nearly five degrees on average. That’s why a Delaware-size iceberg just broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf and why smaller ice shelves on the peninsula have long since disintegrated entirely into the waters of the Weddell Sea. But around the Amundsen Sea, a thousand miles to the southwest on the Pacific coast of Antarctica, the glaciers are far larger and the stakes far higher. They affect the entire planet.

The Pine Island Ice Shelf is the floating terminus of the Pine Island Glacier, one of several large glaciers that empty into the Amundsen Sea. Together they drain a much larger dome of ice called the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is up to two and a half miles thick and covers an area twice the size of Texas. The ice sheet is draped over a series of islands, but most of it rests on the floor of a basin that dips more than 5,000 feet below sea level. That makes it especially vulnerable to the warming ocean. If all that vulnerable ice were to become unmoored, break into pieces, and float away, as researchers increasingly believe it might, it would raise sea level by roughly 10 feet, drowning coasts around the world.

The ice sheet is held back only by its fringing ice shelves—and those floating dams, braced against isolated mountains and ridges of rock around the edges of the basin, are starting to fail. They themselves don’t add much to sea level, because they’re already floating in the water. But as they weaken, the glaciers behind them flow faster to the sea, and their edges retreat. That’s happening now all around the Amundsen Sea. The Pine Island Ice Shelf, about 1,300 feet thick over most of its area, is a dramatic case: It thinned by an average of 150 feet from 1994 to 2012. But even more worrisome is the neighboring Thwaites Glacier, which could destabilize most of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet if it collapsed.

“These are the fastest retreating glaciers on the face of the Earth,” says Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Rignot has studied the region for more than two decades, using radar from aircraft and satellites, and he believes the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is only a matter of time. The question is whether it will take 500 years or fewer than a hundred—and whether humanity will have time to prepare.

“We have to get these numbers right,” Rignot says. “But we have to be careful not to waste too much time doing that.”

Getting the predictions right requires measurements that can be made only by going to the ice. In December 2012 a red-and-white Twin Otter plane skimmed low over the Pine Island Ice Shelf. The pilot dragged the plane’s skis through the snow, then lifted off and circled back to make sure he hadn’t uncovered any crevasses. After the plane landed, a single person disembarked. Tethered to the plane by a rope and harness, he probed the snow with an eight-foot rod.

Finally the scout was satisfied: There were no buried crevasses that might swallow a landing party. More scientists got out of the plane. The team, led by glaciologist Martin Truffer of the University of Alaska, proceeded to set up camp. Their plan was to spend two months on the ice shelf; they would be the first humans to spend even a single night. The ice had long been considered too dangerous to visit. But Truffer’s team wanted to bore holes all the way through the ice shelf, so they could measure the heat eating at it from the seawater below.

As the researchers lay in their tents at night, in the middle of a 4,000-mile arc of coastline that lacked a single permanent outpost, they heard loud pops and bangs coming from the ice. Each morning they saw new cracks, an inch wide and seemingly bottomless, cutting across its surface. During their five weeks of studying it, the ice under their boots thinned by another seven feet.

It took scientists a long time to realize just how quickly West Antarctica’s ice could melt. In part that’s because the most vulnerable glaciers are so well guarded. In front of the Pine Island Ice Shelf—the floating end of the glacier—the sea surface itself freezes each winter. In summer this fractured sea ice joins icebergs calved from the ice shelves to form a shifting palisade that historically kept ships at least a hundred miles from the ice shelf.

In March 1994 the U.S. icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer became perhaps only the second vessel ever to reach it. For a few days powerful winds parted the ice floes, creating a narrow, ephemeral passage for the Palmer to thread. With no accurate maps to guide them, the crew on the ship’s bridge eyed the sonar monitor nervously. It showed a chaotic seafloor of canyons and sharp ridges, including one that rose within 20 feet of the ship’s keel.

The Palmer would spend just 12 hours at the front of the ice shelf before encroaching sea ice forced it to retreat north. But that gave the crew enough time to lower scientific instruments through the water column. They made a disturbing discovery. Near the surface, a current was streaming out from under the ice shelf that was slightly less salty than the sea around it, because it was freshened by melted ice. (The ice is fresh because it originated as snow falling on West Antarctica.) And at depths of 2,000 to 3,000 feet, along a seafloor canyon that ran straight under the ice, warmer seawater was streaming in.

Stan Jacobs, an oceanographer from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, quickly understood what was going on. The warm water was coming from the South Pacific, more than 200 miles north. It was so heavy with salt that it was following the floor of a submarine canyon, which sloped down toward the glacier. The glacier itself had carved that canyon, thousands of years ago during the Ice Age, when it and the other glaciers in West Antarctica advanced hundreds of miles out from their present-day positions.

Now that same canyon was channeling warm ocean water under the Pine Island Ice Shelf. Somewhere tens of miles inland, the warm water was finding the “grounding line”: the place where the glacier lifts off the seafloor and becomes a floating ice shelf. Hitting that wall of ice, the warm water was eroding it, producing a steady stream of melt-laden seawater. Because it was cooler and fresher, it was less dense, and so it was rising above the warmer, incoming water and flowing back out to sea just under the shelf.

By measuring the amount of this freshwater, the researchers could estimate how much ice was being lost. The melt rates “were just crazy,” says Adrian Jenkins, a glaciologist from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. According to his calculations, the ice shelf was losing 13 cubic miles of ice per year from its underside; back near the grounding line, the ice was probably thinning up to 300 feet per year.

“It was just beyond our concept that a glacier would melt that fast,” Jenkins says.

Over the next 13 years he and Jacobs tried three times to return to Pine Island. Sea ice blocked them each time. When they finally got back there on the Palmer in January 2009, they found that the melt rate had increased by about 50 percent. This time they came equipped with a new tool: a yellow robotic submarine called Autosub3. Shaped like a torpedo and as long as a delivery truck, it could navigate autonomously under the ice shelf, out of contact with the ship, for up to 30 hours at a time.

On its first three dives, Autosub3 discovered that the ice shelf had thinned enough to lift off a submarine ridge that, running across its width, had once supported and stabilized the ice shelf. That had opened a gap that was allowing warm water to flow in and melt the underside of the ice even faster. On its fourth dive the yellow robot nearly died. When the crew winched it out of the water, they found its nose cone smashed and some of its delicate internal equipment damaged.

Technicians reconstructed what had happened from the sub’s navigation data. Thirty miles back, under the ice shelf, Autosub3 had strayed into a chasm on the underside of the ice. Searching for a way forward, it had smashed and scraped against the walls of the chasm—ultimately rising 500 feet up into the labyrinthine bowels of the ice shelf. Finally it had dropped back out and escaped into open water.

The sub’s sonar data, meanwhile, revealed the breathtaking landscape it had navigated. The bottom of the ice shelf was corrugated with not just one but many channels, which cut as far as 600 feet up into it. The walls of these inverted ice canyons were sculpted into terraces, ledges, and sharp corners, and along the ceiling of each ran a gaping crack that penetrated even farther into the ice.

“What the hell is going on?” Jenkins recalls thinking when he first saw the sonar maps.

What he and Jacobs came to realize was that the upside-down canyons had been carved, like rock canyons on land, by flowing water. Apparently the meltwater rising off the grounding line was still warm enough to melt more ice. And as it flowed for tens of miles along the underside of the ice shelf, back out to the open sea, it was melting a lot of it.

Large swaths of West Antarctica are hemorrhaging ice these days. The warming has been the most dramatic on the Antarctic Peninsula, a spine of ice-cloaked mountains that reaches 700 miles up toward the tip of South America. Catching the powerful winds and ocean currents that swirl endlessly around Antarctica, the peninsula gets slammed with warm air and water from farther north. Average annual temperatures on its west side have risen nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950—several times faster than the rest of the planet—and the winters have warmed an astonishing 9 degrees. Sea ice now forms only four months a year instead of seven.

Since 1988, four ice shelves on the east side of the peninsula have disintegrated into armadas of icebergs. (The Larsen C Ice Shelf may one day do the same, judging from that Delaware-size ice chunk that’s about to break off it.) Warmer air helped trigger these collapses by forming meltwater ponds on the surface of ice shelves; the ponds drained into crevasses, wedging them deeper into the ice. As the shelves have vanished, the glaciers they once stabilized have stampeded into the ocean, accelerating to two, five, even nine times their original speed. They’re relatively small glaciers and won’t raise sea level much—but their acceleration has reinforced concerns that the same thing might happen to the much larger glaciers along the Amundsen Sea.

The Amundsen Sea is farther south than the peninsula, and the air there is not as warm. The biggest threat to its glaciers is the mechanism Jacobs and Jenkins helped uncover: deep submarine canyons that channel warm water from the north under the ice shelves, and deep inverted canyons that focus the warmth on the underside of the ice.

A satellite survey last year of many Antarctic ice shelves—led by glaciologists Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, and Helen Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego—revealed that such melt canyons are common. They tend to fan out and steer warm water toward the edges of the shelves. The ice there is crucial: It rubs against the stationary banks and slows the flow of the shelf and the glacier behind it. But that edge ice is also thinner than the rest. This “is something that bears watching,” Scambos said in early 2016.

Ian Howat, of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, is another glaciologist who’s watching Pine Island closely. Last November he reported two ominous new rifts spreading across the ice shelf that threaten to prune it to its shortest length in recorded history. As Howat looked back through monthly satellite photos, he realized that the rifts had been triggered by a singular event that had happened, unnoticed, three years before. The strip of torn-up ice anchoring the ice shelf to its northern bank had suddenly fallen apart, suggesting it had been undermined by melting from below. It blew out “just in a matter of days,” Howat says, “like a zipper, unzipping the side of the glacier.”

It’s unclear when the entire ice shelf might disintegrate. The “warm” water flowing underneath it from offshore is only 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit above freezing. But roughly 3,000 cubic miles of it arrives every year, which means the ice shelf is receiving an amount of heat that exceeds the output of a hundred nuclear power plants, operating 24/7.

When Truffer and his team camped on the shelf in December 2012, they could sense how it had already weakened. As the meltwater cuts deep into the ice from below, the unsupported ice sags, causing the entire shelf to bend and warp. Crevasses erupt along the lines of stress, on both the top and the bottom of the ice. The pops and bangs the researchers heard and the daily opening of new cracks bore witness to the ice’s gradual failure as it thinned and broke down beneath them.

As the Pine Island Ice Shelf has weakened and the glacier behind it has accelerated, the ice has stretched and thinned for 150 miles inland from the coast. The destabilizing effects spread farther into West Antarctica every year. “A little nudge can get you to several decades of retreating behavior that’s hard to reverse,” Truffer says.

In fact, research by Rignot and others over the past few years indicates that the collapse of several major glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea is now unstoppable. Between 2002 and 2009 alone, the ice shelf in front of the Smith Glacier thinned by 1,500 feet in some places, the one in front of the Pope Glacier by up to 800 feet. The grounding lines of the Amundsen glaciers have retreated so far—tens of miles in some cases—that they now rest on seafloor that slopes down toward the center of the ice sheet. Each increment of retreat exposes a greater ice surface to warm ocean water. It’s a runaway process—and scientists are urgently trying to figure out how fast it will run.

The ice shelves, Fricker says, “are the canary in the coal mine.” Because they’re already floating, they don’t raise sea level themselves when they melt—but they signal that a rise is imminent, as the glaciers behind them accelerate. Fricker and her team have found that from 1994 to 2012, the amount of ice disappearing from all Antarctic ice shelves, not just the ones in the Amundsen Sea, increased 12-fold, from six cubic miles to 74 cubic miles per year. “I think it’s time for us scientists to stop being so cautious” about communicating the risks, she says.

The retreat and hemorrhage of these glaciers “will accelerate over time,” agrees Rignot. “Maybe you don’t care much about that for the next 30 to 40 years, but from 2050 to 2100 things could get really bad, and at that point listening to scientists is irrelevant.” Yet after things get really bad, they could still get worse.

Most of the heat trapped by our fossil fuel emissions since the industrial revolution began in the 19th century has gone into the ocean. Most of the heat now hitting the Antarctic ice shelves, however, comes from another effect of climate change: Intensified circumpolar winds and currents have driven warmer water from offshore onto the continental shelf and under the floating ice. Much more ocean warming is yet to come, even if we begin to cut emissions. A lot more heat is on the way to Antarctica.

Scientists are especially concerned about the Thwaites Glacier, which by itself could raise global sea level four feet; last fall the British and American science foundations announced a coordinated $20 million to $25 million field campaign that will deploy ships, planes, satellites, and underwater robots to assess the glacier’s status starting in 2018. For now, the best estimates suggest that Antarctica will sweat off enough ice to raise global sea levels by 1.5 to 3.5 feet by 2100, depending on how quickly humans continue to pump out greenhouse gases. Throw in Greenland and other rapidly melting glaciers around the world, and sea level could plausibly rise three to seven feet by 2100.

But that’s not the worst case: Sea level won’t stop rising in 2100. Earth’s past offers worrisome clues to what the more distant future might bring. Geologists studying ancient shorelines have concluded that 125,000 years ago, when the Earth was only slightly warmer than today, sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher. Some three million years ago, the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide was as high as it is today, and the temperature was about what it’s expected to be in 2050, sea levels were up to 70 feet higher than today. Yet a collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets would raise sea level only about 35 feet.

To consider the worst case, then, scientists must turn their eyes toward East Antarctica, home to more than three-fourths of all the ice on Earth.

This past January a twin-propeller DC-3 made a series of flights from Australia’s Casey Station along the East Antarctic coast. Built in 1944, the plane was packed with modern scientific equipment. As it flew over the Totten Glacier, a radar recorded the thickness of the ice. Another instrument recorded tiny changes in Earth’s gravitational field—clues to the topography of the seafloor under the glacier’s floating ice shelf. Now and then a crew member opened the plane’s rear door, knelt in the windy opening, and tossed out a torpedo-shaped object. As the device splashed into the water, it split in two: One part floated, sending radio signals back to the plane, while the other part reeled down 2,600 feet of wire, measuring the water temperature all the way down.

Until recently the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was considered secure; unlike West Antarctica, it sits on high ground. But mapping with ice-penetrating radar has revealed a low-lying region cut by glacially carved channels that drop as far as 8,500 feet below sea level—perfect for guiding warm ocean water deep into the heart of the ice sheet. The Totten Glacier is the largest coastal outlet in this region. If it collapsed, global sea level could rise 13 feet—“roughly as much as all of West Antarctica,” Rignot points out. “One glacier alone.”

In January 2015, the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis became the first ship to reach the front of Totten. Like the Palmer at Pine Island in 1994, it found deep, warm water flowing under the ice shelf, at a rate of 4.5 cubic miles a day. The glacier is already losing a couple of cubic miles of ice per year—small potatoes, in Antarctic terms. But Donald Blankenship, a University of Texas glaciologist who oversees the aerial survey, fears it could blow up.

In 2016 his team reported evidence from the bedrock that Totten repeatedly has retreated 100 to 200 miles inland from its current position—meaning it might help explain why sea level was so much higher three million years ago. Blankenship’s surveys have also identified two seafloor grooves deep enough to let warm water under Totten’s ice shelf. Last January the team was refining those seafloor maps.

Totten will lose its ice more slowly than West Antarctica. The worst case coming out of Antarctica still seems to be centuries away. But it would mean abandoning many of the world’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Shanghai, and dozens of others—and it’s looking less crazy all the time. “The fuse is lit,” says Blankenship. “We’re just running around mapping where all the bombs are.”


Catalan leader to call election as Madrid readies take over of independence-seeking region

October 26, 2017

by Paul Day, Sam Edwards


MADRID/BARCELONA (Reuters) – Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont was set on Thursday to call a snap regional election, reacting to pressure from the Spanish government as it prepared to take direct control of the autonomous region to block its drive for independence.

An election might not be enough to delay the imposition of direct rule, which Spain’s Senate was expected to approve on Friday.

But even before it was announced, the vote was sowing division and anger in the secessionist movement, many of whose members want Puigdemont to go further and make a unilateral declaration of independence.

Puigdemont, who is president of the regional government, had been due to make a statement early on Thursday afternoon but it was postponed.

Several members of his pro-independence coalition, however, said he would dissolve the regional parliament and call the election. Catalan broadcasters said he would deliver a speech later in the afternoon.

The developments add to the confusion and turmoil in one of Spain’s gravest political crises since its return to democracy four decades ago.

The battle of wills follows an independence referendum in Catalonia on Oct. 1 which Madrid declared illegal and the Catalan government said endorsed its claim to statehood.

The independence drive has caused deep resentment elsewhere in Spain, prompted a flight of business from the wealthy region, and worried other European leaders who see it as fanning separatist sentiment elsewhere on the continent.

It was not yet clear whether Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would still impose direct rule as planned or simply seek the Senate’s authorization to do so on Friday but without making it effective on the ground.

Rajoy’s government said on Monday that calling a snap election would not be enough and Puigdemont would also have to withdraw an ambiguous declaration of independence he made on Oct. 10.

“The calling of elections is important but it is not the only objective,” José Manuel Barreiro, Senate spokesman for the ruling People’s Party, said on Thursday.

The opposition Socialist Party has said it should be sufficient to forestall direct rule.

La Vanguardia newspaper, citing sources in Rajoy’s party, said the premier was ready to suspend the application of direct rule if elections were called.

A regional election could either strengthen Puigdemont’s mandate if pro-independence parties won, allow him a graceful exit if they did not, or heighten divisions within the secessionist camp and bring the current campaign to a halt.


In central Barcelona, several hundred independence supporters gathered outside the regional government headquarters, waving Catalan flags and chanting “Puigdemont traitor” in the Catalan language.

Gabriel Rufian, a member of Spain’s parliament for the pro-independence party ERC, tweeted “155 silver coins” as rumors of Puigdemont’s plans to call an election emerged — a reference to betrayal.

And Catalonia’s pro-independence party ERC would leave the regional government if regional president Carles Puigdemont calls a snap election, a party source said.

Some pro-secession lawmakers and mayors also announced they would step down. “I don’t share the decision to call an election. I am resigning as a lawmaker and a member of PdeCat (Puigdemont‘sCatalan Democratic Party),” said Jordi Cuminal on Twitter.

Far-left party CUP, which supports Puigdemont’s minority government, said it would oppose a vote. An opinion poll published by the El Periodico newspaper on Sunday showed a snap election would probably have results similar to the last ballot in 2015, when a coalition of pro-independence parties formed a minority government.

Mutual Assured Destruction

Missile defense might be a lie

October 24, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review

Sometimes it is possible to read or view something that completely changes the way one looks at things. I had that experience last week when I read an article at Lobelog entitled “A Plea for Common Sense on Missile Defense,” written by Joe Cirincione, a former staffer on the House Armed Services Committee who now heads the Ploughshares Fund, which is a Washington DC based global foundation that seeks to stop the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The article debunks much of the narrative being put out by the White House and Pentagon regarding missile defense. To be sure, it is perfectly reasonable to mistrust anything that comes out of the federal government justifying war given its track record going back to the War of 1812. And the belligerent posture of the United States towards Iran and North Korea can well be condemned based on its own merits, threatening war where there are either no real interests at stake or where a diplomatic solution has for various reasons been eschewed.

But the real reason why the White House gets away with saber rattling is historical, that the continental United States has not experienced the consequences of war since Pancho Villa invaded in 1916. This is a reality that administration after administration has exploited to do what they want when dealing with foreign nations: whatever happens “over there” will stay “over there.”

Americans consequently do not know war except as something that happens elsewhere and to foreigners, requiring only that the U.S. step in on occasion and bail things out, or screw things up depending on one’s point of view. This is why hawks like John McCain, while receiving a “Liberty” award from Joe Biden, can, with a straight face, get away with denouncing those Americans who have become tired of playing at being the world’s policeman. He describes them as fearful of “the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, [abandoning] the ideals we have advanced around the globe, [refusing] the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism.”

McCain’s completely fatuous account of recent world history befits a Navy pilot who was adept at crashing his planes and almost sank his own aircraft carrier. He also made propaganda radio broadcasts for the North Vietnamese after he was captured. The McCain globalist-American Exceptionalism narrative is also, unfortunately, echoed by the media. The steady ingestion of lies and half-truths is why the public puts up with unending demands for increased defense spending, accepting that the world outside is a dangerous place that must be kept in line by force majeure. Yes, we are the good guys.

But underlying the citizenry’s willingness to accept that the military establishment should encircle the globe with foreign bases to keep the world “safe” is the assumption that the 48 States are invulnerable, isolated by broad oceans and friendly nations to the north and south. And protected from far distant threats by technology, interceptor systems developed and maintained at enormous expense to intercept and shoot down incoming ballistic missiles launched by enemies overseas.

In a recent speech, relating to the North Korean threat, President Donald Trump boasted that the United States anti-missile defenses are 97% effective, meaning that they can intercept and destroy incoming projectiles 97 times out of a 100. Trump was seeking to assure the public that whatever happens over in Korea, it cannot have an undesirable outcome over here in the continental United States nor, apparently, in Hawaii, Alaska and overseas possessions like Guam, all of which are shielded under the anti-missile defense umbrella. Trump was undoubtedly referring to, even if he was ignorant of many of the specifics, the Ground Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) installations in Alaska and Hawaii, which are part of the existing $330 billion missile defense system.

It is certainly comforting to learn that the United States cannot be physically attacked with either nuclear or conventional weapons no matter what our government does overseas, but is it true? What if the countermeasures were somewhat closer to 0% effective? Would that change the thinking about going to war in Korea? Or about confronting Russia in Eastern Europe? And for those who think that a nuclear exchange is unthinkable it would be wise to consider the recent comments by Jack Keane of the aptly named Institute for the Study of War, a leading neoconservative former general who reportedly has the ear of the White House and reflects its thinking on the matter. Keane is not hesitant to employ the military option against Pyongyang and he describes a likely trigger for a U.S. attack to take out its nuclear facilities or remove “leadership targets” as the setting up of a ballistic missile in North Korea with a nuclear warhead mounted on top “aimed at America.” Some observers believe that North Korea is close to having the ability to reduce the size of its nukes to make that possible and, if Keane is to be believed, it would be considered an “act of war” which would trigger an immediate attack by Washington. And a counter attack by Pyongyang.

The claim of 97% reliability for the U.S.’s anti-missile defenses is being challenged by Cirincione and others, who argue that the United States can only “shoot down some…missiles some of the time.” They make a number of arguments that are quite convincing, even to a layman who has no understanding of the physics involved. I will try to keep it simple. First of all, an anti-missile interceptor must hit its target head on or nearly so and it must either actually strike the target or explode its own warhead at a close enough distance to be effective. Both objectives are difficult to achieve. An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) travels at 5,000 meters per second. By way of comparison a bullet fired from a rifle travels at about one fifth that speed. Imagine two men with rifles standing a mile apart and firing their weapons in an attempt to have the bullets meet head on. Multiply the speed by five if one is referring to missiles, not bullets. Even using the finest radars and sensors as well as the most advanced guidance technologies, the variables involved make it much more likely that there will be a miss than a hit. Cirincione observes that “…the only way to hit a bullet is if the bullet cooperates.”

Second, the tests carried out by the Pentagon to determine reliability are essentially fraudulent. Contrary to the Donald Trump comment, the 97% accuracy is an extrapolation based on firing four anti-missile missiles at a target to make up for the fact that in the rigged tests a single interceptor has proven to be closer to only 56% accurate, and that under ideal conditions. This statistic is based on the actual tests performed since 1999 in which interceptors were able to shoot down 10 of 18 targets. The conclusion that four would result in 97% derives from the assumption that multiple interceptors increases the accuracy but most engineers would argue that if one missile cannot hit the target for any number of technical shortcomings it is equally likely that all four will miss for the same reason.

The tests themselves are carefully scripted to guarantee success. They take place in daylight, preferably at dusk to ensure maximum visibility, under good weather conditions, and without any attempt made by the approaching missile to confuse the interceptor through the use of electronic countermeasures or through the ejection of chaff or jammers, which would certainly be deployed. The targets in tests have sometimes been heated to make them easier to find and some have had transponders attached to make them almost impossible to miss. As a result, the missile interceptor system has never been tested under realistic battlefield conditions.

Even the federal government watchdog agencies have concluded that the missile interception system seldom performs. The Government Accountability Office concluded that flaws in the technology, which it describes as “failure modes,” mean that America has an “interceptor fleet that may not work as intended, prompting one Californian congressman John Garamendi to observe that “I think the answer is absolutely clear. It will not work. Nevertheless, the momentum of the fear…of the investments…[of] the momentum of the industry, it carries forward.”

The Operational Test and Evaluation Office of the Department of Defense has also been skeptical, reporting that the GMD in Alaska and Hawaii has only “…a limited capability to defend the U.S. Homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate range or intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea…the reliability and availability of the operational [interceptors] are low.”

The dangerous overconfidence being demonstrated by the White House over the ability to intercept a North Korean missile attack might indeed be in some part a bluff, designed to convince Pyongyang that it if initiates a shooting war it will be destroyed while the U.S. remains untouched. But somehow, with a president who doesn’t do subtle very well, I would doubt that to be the case. And the North Koreans, able to build a nuclear weapon and an ICBM, would surely understand the flaws in missile defense as well as anyone.

But the real danger is that it is the American people that is being fooled by the Administration. War is thinkable, even nuclear war, if one cannot be touched by it, a truism that has enabled the sixteen-year- long and counting “global war on terror.” If that is the message being sent by the White House, it would encourage further reckless adventurism on the part of the national security state. Far better to take the North Korean threat seriously and admit that a west coast city like Seattle could well become the target of a successful nuclear weapon attack. That would demonstrate that war has real life consequences and the unfamiliardose of honesty would perhaps result in a public demand to seriously negotiate with Pyongyang instead of hurling threats in speeches at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill.


‘How Much Will the Germans Have to Pay?

Emmanuel Macron represents an opportunity for Europe, one the Germans would be wise to take advantage of. It is doubtful, though, whether Angela Merkel will be able to act on the French president’s bold vision.

October 26, 2017

by Jürgen Habermas


For Walter Benjamin, Paris was the capital of Europe. For Robert Menasse, the Austrian author with a penchant for both irony and defiance, it’s Brussels’ task to prove itself worthy of replacing it. That, though, is a fragile hope and Menasse – recently awarded the Deutscher Buchpreis, Germany’s most prestigious literary award – tempered expectations in an interview with Berlin-based daily Die Tageszeitung by relating a telling anecdote about an evening with a German correspondent in a smoky café in Brussels frequented by journalists. He was sitting there when the journalist received his latest Brussels dispatch back from his Frankfurt-based editor with the injunction: “Your writing is too convoluted. Just write how much the Germans will again have to pay.”

It would be hard to find a more succinct enunciation of the limited interest shown by German politicians, business leaders and journalists when it comes to shaping a politically effective Europe. A timid and compliant press has spent years abetting our political class in doing everything possible to avoid discomfiting the public at large with the issue of Europe. This disenfranchisement of the public could hardly have been better demonstrated than with the carefully abridged list of issues up for discussion in the single so-called debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger, Martin Schulz, ahead of recent parliamentary elections. During the decade of the still smoldering financial crisis, the chancellor and her finance minister were likewise allowed to pose as true “Europeans” – in direct contradiction to the facts.

But now, Emmanuel Macron has appeared onstage and could – despite his flattering and considerate efforts at cooperating with a weakened chancellor currently under duress from her own party – lift the veil that has been draped over this smug self-deception. The “realistic” voices at Germany’s most influential newspapers seem to be concerned that the words of the French president might open the German public’s eyes to the emperor’s new clothes: that people may begin realizing that the government in Berlin, with its vigorous economic nationalism, is actually wearing nothing at all.

In the first chapter of his recently published book, subtitled “How Germany Risks Losing a Friend,” Georg Blume collects doleful examples from both politicians and journalists of the patronizing approach Germany has adopted in the meantime with regard to France and the French. From the very beginning, some commentaries on Macron have fluctuated between indifference, arrogance and anticipatory defensiveness. And aside from one cover story in DER SPIEGEL, the reaction in the German media to the French president’s carefully crafted Europe speech ranged from weak to nonexistent.

It is the kind of material that would be perfect for a comedy, but the incoming coalition government in Berlin, which will likely include Merkel’s conservatives, the business-friendly Free Democrats and the Greens, could transform it into a tragedy – if, for example, Christian Lindner of the FDP takes over the Finance Ministry and seeks to carry on in the vein of Wolfgang Schäuble. In a “non-paper” for the Eurogroup of finance ministers from the common currency zone, the erstwhile finance minister drafted a plan designed to block every compromise with the forward-looking initiatives put forth by the French president. In the paper, Schäuble links the establishment of a European Monetary Fund, as proposed by Macron, to the favorite ordoliberal dream of precluding democratic participation for those affected by withdrawing financial and economic policy from the realm of politics and placing it under the control of a technocratic administration.

Historically Unrivaled Opportunity

This is roughly the frustrated tone I am tempted to continue with. But the situation is far too serious for that, because the next German government (insofar as anyone still wants to play) must now take possession of the ball kicked into their half of the field by the French president. Even just pursuing a policy of delay or forbearance would be enough to gamble away a historically unrivaled opportunity.

Seldom have the contingencies of history emerged so prominently than with the unexpected rise of this fascinating – perhaps blindingly so, in any case extraordinary – person. Nobody could have predicted that an independent minister from the government of the previous French president, François Hollande, would be able to, in a kind of self-centered solo run, create a new political movement out of nowhere and upend an entire party system.

It was contrary to everything the pollsters thought they knew that a single person with no party attachment could succeed within the brief period of a political campaign in winning over a majority of voters with a confrontational platform of deeper European cooperation in opposition to a growing right-wing populism that every third French voter supported. The fact that someone like Macron would get elected in a country whose population has always been more skeptical of the European Union than Luxembourg and Belgium, more skeptical than Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, was simply not likely.

When looked at dispassionately, though, it is just as unlikely that the next German government will have sufficient far-sightedness to find a productive, a forward-looking answer when addressing the question Macron has posed. I would find some measure of relief were they even able to identify the significance of the question.

It’s unlikely enough that a coalition government wracked by internal tension will be able to pull itself together to the degree necessary to modify the two parameters Angela Merkel established in the early days of the financial crisis: both the intergovernmentalism that granted Germany a leadership role in the European Council and the austerity policies that she, thanks to this role, imposed on the EU’s southern countries to the self-serving, outsized advantage of Germany. And it is even more unlikely that this chancellor, domestically weakened as she is, will refrain from step forward to make clear to her charming French partner that she will unfortunately be unable to apply herself to the reform vision he has put forth. Vision, after all, has never been her strong suit.

On the other hand, and this is the question that I find most intriguing: Can Merkel, a strikingly intelligent, conscientious and contemplative politician, a product of a Protestant pastor’s household who has thus far been spoiled by success, can this chancellor really have an interest in ending what will be a 16-year tenure in the Chancellery by playing such an inglorious role? Will she simply step down after four more years of muddling through and crumbling power? Or will she defy all those who are already whispering about her downfall, show true stature and jump over her own shadow?

Blinded to a Destructive Tendency

She too is fully aware that the European currency union, which is in Germany’s most fundamental interest, cannot be stabilized in the long term if the current situation – characterized by years of deepening divergence between the economies of Europe’s north and south when it comes to national income, unemployment and sovereign debt – is allowed to persist. The specter of the “transfer union” blinds us to this destructive tendency. It can only be stopped if truly fair competition across national borders is established and political policies are implemented to slow down the ongoing erosion of solidarity between national populations and within individual countries. A mention of youth unemployment should serve as example enough.

Macron hasn’t just drafted a vision, he specifically demands that the eurozone make progress on corporate tax rate convergence, he demands an effective financial transaction tax, the step-by-step convergence of the different social policy regimes, the establishment of a European trade prosecutor to ensure that the rules of international trade are adhered to, and much, much more.

On the other hand, it is not these individual proposals, some of which have been around for years, that distinguish this politician’s demeanor, initiative and speech from that which we have become used to. Three characteristics stand out:

  • the courage to shape policy;
  • the commitment to restructuring the European elite project to subject it to the democratic control of its citizens;
  • and the convincing manner of a person who believes in the power of words to articulate thoughts.

In his September 26 speech, Macron addressed not just the students of Sorbonne University but also the German political class when he repeatedly invoked the very French term “sovereignty,” which only Europe – and not each single nation state alone – can safeguard for its citizens. Only under the protection and only with the strength of a united Europe, he said, can its citizens uphold their common interests and values in these tumultuous times. Macron played “genuine” sovereignty off against the chimeric sovereignty purported by the French “sovereigntists.” He called out the undignified spectacle of national politicians who complain at home about laws they themselves pass in Brussels and he demanded nothing less than the founding of a new Europe, one capable of wielding political influence both at home and abroad.

Changing the Status Quo?

It is this self-empowerment of European citizens that he means when speaking of “sovereignty.” When it comes to identifying steps toward institutionalizing this newfound clout, Macron points to closer cooperation in the eurozone on the basis of a joint budget. The central and controversial proposal reads as follows: “A budget must be placed under the strong political guidance of a common minister and be subject to strict parliamentary control at (the) European level. Only the eurozone with a strong and international currency can provide Europe with the framework of a major economic power.”

By demonstrating the pretense of applying political solutions to the problems facing our globalized society, Macron distinguishes himself like few others from the standard fare of chronically overwhelmed, opportunistic and conformist politicians that govern day after day with little in the way of inspiration. It’s enough to make you rub your eyes: Is there really somebody out there who wants to change the status quo? Is there really someone with sufficient irrational courage to rebel against the fatalism of vassals who unthinkingly kowtow to the putatively coercive systemic imperatives of a global economic order embodied by remote international organizations?

If I understand him correctly, Macron is articulating an interest that has not been spelled out, and is thus not represented, in our political party system between the day-to-day neo-liberalism of the “center,” the self-satisfied anti-capitalism of the left-wing nationalists and the stale identitarian ideology of the right-wing populists. Among the failures of social democracy is the fact that a brand of politics that is fundamentally pro-globalization, one which pushes Europe forward yet nevertheless keeps an eye on the social destruction caused by untamed capitalism and thus pushes for the necessary transnational regulation of important markets – that such a political impetus, despite a modest push by Sigmar Gabriel, never managed to gain any kind of discernible traction. Gabriel would likely only have had the elbow room necessary for pushing such an approach forward if his party would have remained in a grand coalition with Merkel’s conservatives, and if he, himself, would have become finance minister in such a scenario.

The second factor separating Macron from other political figures is his break with a silent consensus. There has long been an unspoken assumption in the political classes that the concept of a Europe for Citizens is much too complex – and the final goal of European unity is vastly too complicated – to allow the citizens themselves to become involved. And that the day-to-day business of Brussels politics is only for experts and for the rather well-informed lobbyists, while the heads of state and government resolve the more serious conflicts that arise out of conflicting national interests among themselves, usually through deferral or preclusion.

Breaking Taboos

More than anything, though, political parties agree that European issues are to be carefully avoided in national elections, unless, of course, domestic problems can be blamed on Brussels bureaucrats. But now, Macron wants to do away with this mauvaise foi. He already broke one taboo by placing the reform of the European Union at the heart of his election campaign and rode that message, only one year after Brexit – against “the sad passions of Europe,” as he said – to victory.

That fact lends credibility to the oft-uttered trope about democracy being the essence of the European project, at least when Macron says it. I am not in a position to evaluate the implementation of the political reforms he has planned for France. We will have to wait and see if he is able to fulfill the “social-liberal” promise, that difficult balance between social justice and economic productivity. As a leftist, I’m no “Macronist,” if there is such a thing. But the way he speaks about Europe makes a difference. He calls for understanding for the founding fathers, who established Europe without citizen input because, he says, they belonged to an enlightened avantgarde. But he now wants to transform the elite project into a citizens’ project and is proposing reasonable steps toward democratic self-empowerment of European citizens against the national governments who stand in each other’s way in the European Council.

As such, he isn’t just demanding the introduction of a universal electoral law for the EU, but also the creation of trans-national party lists. That, after all, would fuel the growth of a European party system, without which the European Parliament will never become a place where societal interests, reaching across national borders, are collectively identified and addressed.

A Shift in the Public’s Perception

Should one hope to accurately assess the significance of Emmanuel Macron, a third aspect must be examined, a personal characteristic: He can speak. His is not merely a case of a politician who, through his rhetorical ability and sensitivity for the written word, is able to secure attention, standing and influence. Rather, the precise choice of inspiring sentences and the power of his articulation lends analytical clarity and sweeping significance to the political thought itself. The quality of one’s work as a politician, of course, isn’t measured by rhetorical talent. But speech can change the public’s perception of politics; it can raise the level of discourse and broaden the horizons of public debate. As such, it can improve the quality not just of political opinion and the formation of political will, but of political action itself.

In an era where the nebulousness of talk shows has become the benchmark for the complexity of publicly acceptable political thought, Macron is conspicuous for the style of his speech. We apparently lack the ability to appreciate such qualities, or even fathom the timing and location of his speeches. Indeed, the speech that Macron recently delivered in Paris city hall on the occasion of the anniversary of the Reformation wasn’t just interesting for what he said. It wasn’t just a clever attempt to use the confessional wars in France to urge the adaptation of a state doctrine – the strict French laicism – to the demands of a pluralistic society. The occasion and subject of the speech were also a gesture to the Protestant formation of the culture of France’s neighbor to the east – and to his Protestant counterpart in Berlin.

The aspiration and style of the symbolic representation of state power is, of course, something we have lost sight of, at least since Carl Schmitt’s nostalgic view during the French counter-enlightenment of the 19th century. We may not have a sense for the gravitas that comes with living in the Élysée Palace, as described by Macron in his recent interview with DER SPIEGEL. Nevertheless, the rather intimate knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy of history he displayed when answering a question about Napoleon being “the weltgeist on horseback” is again rather impressive.


 Disaster Capitalists Take Big Step Toward Privatizing Puerto Rico’s Electric Grid

October 26, 2017

by Kate Aronoff

The Intercept

The board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances has taken its most conspicuous step toward privatizing the island’s power grid, a long-sought prize that has been put on a plate by Hurricane Maria.

The federally appointed control board announced that it intends to put the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA)—the island’s sole, beleaguered power utility—under the direction of an emergency manager.

That manager will be Noel Zamot, who will become PREPA’s “Chief Transformation Officer.” Zamot, who is Puerto Rican, is a known entity to the control board. It appointed him this summer to serve on its Executive Committee as the Revitalization Coordinator. His role mainly involved attracting private investment under Title V of PROMESA, a provision allowing for an expedited social and environmental review of major infrastructure projects. Since that time he’s been in charge of something called the Critical Projects Process, soliciting proposals from a slew of private actors. As of mid-September, Zamot had fielded 12 proposals according to his Twitter, many of which have to do with energy infrastructure.

His first job will be helping return electricity to the around 80 percent of Puerto Ricans still without power following the storm. His second could be turning that power over to private hands, a pattern described by The Intercept’s Naomi Klein as the “shock doctrine.”

Months before either Hurricanes Maria or Irma struck, the board had been enthusiastic about the prospect of privatizing PREPA, which is $9 billion in debt. Oversight board chair Jose B. Carrion III was explicit about one of Zamot’s main goals shortly after he was brought on: to “privatize the Electric Power Authority as soon as possible,” as he told the Puerto Rican newspaper Metro at the end of August.

In June, four of his seven colleagues on that control board wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling openly to privatize PREPA, and in July they contracted with the consultancy firm McKinsey to—among other things—draw up “[d]etailed privatization/corporatization plans supported by financial models and market engagement.”

Now Zamot will get the chance to carry out that job directly, and may want to put a green spin on it.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Roselló has been friendly to privatization as well, and shortly after coming into office this year installed new leadership at the utility. PREPA’s new top brass has been roundly criticized by UTIER, the island’s utility workers’ union, which has alleged that they have intentionally stalled recovery efforts to prime the pump for privatization, and make the utility appear more dysfunctional than it is.

Yet the board has also gone to battle with hedge fund creditors on behalf of Puerto Rico. PREPA and the utility’s creditors had struck a draconian debt restructuring agreement before the board stepped in and rejected it, kicking the negotiations over to bankruptcy-style proceedings outlined in Title III of PROMESA, a law passed by Congress last summer that installed the board in the name of getting the island’s fiscal house in order. Hedge funds have less power in a bankruptcy setting and aren’t likely to get anywhere near as good a deal as the one they’d locked down earlier.

The same goes for the broader debt. Puerto Rico currently sits in at least $74 billion in municipal debt, much of which is held by hedge and mutual funds. The board, in turn, serves as a kind of mediator between the Puerto Rican government and its creditors, who are eager to extract as much cash from the island as quickly as possible. Insulated from bondholder lawsuits, the fate of Puerto Rico’s debt—including PREPA’s—now rests with federal judge Laura Taylor Swain, in New York.

In a press statement, oversight board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko said, “The appointment of Noel is an essential step in achieving the goals of reliable, competitively priced electricity and attracting the private capital we need to revitalize the economy of Puerto Rico.” She also asserted that it “it is common practice in reorganization cases for a debtor in possession to name a chief restructuring officer to effectively manage the entity while it is in bankruptcy.”

Zamot’s professional background has been varied, and doesn’t appear to have much to do with either electric utilities or debt restructuring. He has a degree in engineering and served in the Air Force, and has spent stints working at the United States Space Command, NATO and the Wyle Aerospace Group’s Acquisition Management Division. Before being brought on by the fiscal oversight board, he was serving as the head of Corvus Analytics, a cyber-security firm he founded in the Boston area.

Now charged with getting PREPA’s fiscal house in order by any means necessary, Zamot appears perhaps most excited about a more eco-friendly privatization push. On October 11, he penned a post on LinkedIn, later added to Medium, praising Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent interest in helping to support post-Maria rebuilding efforts, as well as the friendly exchange between the space, tunnel and energy mogul and Gov. Roselló.

“The mere fact that Gov. Roselló has enthusiastically supported Musk’s offer is in itself a very positive development,” Zamot wrote. “It clearly signals to private investors that the island is seriously considering innovative solutions to its energy challenge. Investors are correct in interpreting this as a signal that everything is on the table, and that those with truly innovative solutions (backed by smart capital) will be warmly considered by the government.”

He goes on to note that “Tesla’s solutions will be necessary, but insufficient on their own to truly transform PR’s energy sector,” suggesting instead that Puerto Rico has to “reset mental models regarding energy strategy,” and that private investors looking to get involved with PREPA will now have to contend with ratepayers who are now excited about switching to renewable energy. “Public entities now know that everything is on the table. And the government has uncorked the energy genie’s bottle and set expectations for the future quite high,” he adds (his emphasis).

“It is safe to say that Elon Musk will not be the only private stakeholder in this promising future,” Zamot concludes. “But he just may be the catalyst that started it all.”

Earlier this week, the company returned power to a children’s hospital in Puerto Rico with a solar panel and battery array, which they promised would be the “first of many solar+storage projects to come.” Details on future projects have yet to emerge; Tesla’s island power projects to date have been orders of magnitude smaller than the job they would face in Puerto Rico.

Zamot’s excitement about a privatized green energy future in Puerto Rico stands at odds with the restoration contracts that the utility and the federal agencies involved in repair efforts have handed out thus far. Cobra Acquisitions LLC, for instance—contracted by PREPA for up to $200 million to provide transmission and distribution line repair—is the wholly-owned subsidiary of a company that’s main business is providing support for fracking and tar sands extraction, Mammoth Energy.

Most controversial has been the $300 million contract awarded to Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana-based company founded in 2015 and with little experience carrying out large-scale grid repair. Earlier Wednesday, Whitefish sparred with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Twitter. Other contracts announced so far include Weston Solutions, brought on by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has been placed in charge of emergency rebuilding efforts.

All signs point to current PREPA leadership and contractors wanting to rebuild the utility as it was: corrupt, overly dependent on costly, imported oil and perilously fragile. Zamot, at the direction of the fiscal oversight board, could turn it into a playground for Silicon Valley. It is eminently possible to rebuild a more resilient energy system in Puerto Rico that doesn’t either run on fossil fuels or put the needs of corporate shareholders ahead of the island’s residents. Hurricane Maria could be the perfect opening to put just such a system in place, and Puerto Rico’s own history offers some guidance as to what an effort on that scale–a broad economic reconstruction–might look like. Crisis, in other words, isn’t only an opportunity for society’s worst actors.

Neither Mr. Zamot, the fiscal oversight board, Tesla or PREPA officials could be reached for comment in time for publication


Who killed JFK? The various theories behind the Kennedy assassination

October 26, 2017


Just hours ahead of the disclosure of classified documents on one of the defining moments of 20th-century US history – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – RT takes a look at some of the main theories regarding what really happened.

Ever since John F. Kennedy was gunned down by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963 while visiting Dallas, Texas, there has been endless speculation around the circumstances of the 46-year-old’s death.

Here, we take a look at what different people say happened on that tragic day.

Lone wolf – the official version

Following the tragic event, the Warren Commission was set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson to shed light on Kennedy’s murder. In 1964, the commission concluded that Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin – former US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald.

The shooter fired three shots from a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository and two bullets reached his target – President Kennedy – and wounded Texas Governor John Connally, who was travelling in the car with Kennedy.

Although the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was not part of any conspiracy, the findings were criticized for allegedly ignoring some witness accounts and for the fact that the CIA and FBI, who assisted the investigation, withheld some information.

A second shooter?

Over a decade later, Kennedy’s death was once again investigated – this time by the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Established in 1976, the committee issued its final report in 1979, which agreed with the Warren Commission’s findings, though it added there was a “high probability” that two gunmen fired at Kennedy.

The HSCA also found that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy,” although it did not go into details.

Communist conspiracies

It’s no secret that Oswald visited the Soviet Union and attempted to obtain citizenship due to his Marxist beliefs. After being denied, however, he grew disillusioned with the USSR, which seems to have provided the grounds for alleged Soviet involvement in Kennedy’s assassination.

Several months before the assassination, Oswald reportedly visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico to re-apply for a Soviet visa, but failed.

Amid speculation of a US plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro, this added fuel to the theory that Oswald colluded with the Cuban government to kill Kennedy.

This was dismissed by the Warren Commission, however, with the report stating that neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba were “involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.”

CIA conspiracy

As tensions with communist Cuba continued to grow, the CIA attempted to oust Castro, which included their ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation.

Despite Oswald having no connections with the CIA, according to the Warren Commission and the HSCA, some theories emerged claiming that the agency wanted revenge for the failed operation, which it blamed on Kennedy, and for the president’s alleged plan to cut its budget.

Often presented as “proof” is the fact that CIA agent E. Howard Hunt and US soldier Frank Anthony Sturgis were among three men, also known as the “three tramps,” spotted in photographs being escorted by police near the Texas School Book Depository.

Hunt was involved in the Bay of Pigs operation, while Sturgis was an anti-Castro activist

Others says that Oswald himself was a CIA agent, although this, and the involvement of Hunt and Sturgis, was also dismissed by the Warren Commission.

Umbrella man

Witnesses spotted what they said was a “suspicious” man holding an umbrella as Kennedy’s motorcade was driving by, despite it being a clear, sunny day. One theory is that ‘umbrella man’ fired a tranquilizer at the president, signaling to the shooter to fire the kill shot.

The man was later identified as Louie Steven Witt, who explained that the umbrella was a form of protest aimed at Kennedy’s father Joseph, and his support for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

Chamberlain, who was known for carrying an umbrella, was seen as “appeasing Hitler” in the lead-up to World War II, and Joseph Kennedy supported Chamberlain.



From: Military Magazine & History Channel

by Gregory Douglas (Monte Sano Media, 2002; 224 pgs.; $19.95 — ISBN 1591482976).

Your first reaction may be the same as mine — an addition to the several dozen books already written, struggling with the obvious fiction of the Warren Report! This is not the case, however. You should notice the word “Official” in the sub-title. While working on his book “Gestapo Chief,” the biography of Heinrich Muller, Gregory Douglas became acquainted, and then good friends, with Robert T. Crowley, former Assistant Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations of the CIA. Crowley, or “Crow” as he was known within the CIA, had been a close associate and supervisor of Muller when he was brought into the CIA following WWII.

After his retirement and increasing age with an approaching chest operation where cancer was suspected, Crowley turned over his files to the author, Gregory Douglas, with the understanding that they were not to be opened, or used until after his death. On Tuesday, 10 October 2000, on page 6, the Washington Post reported the death of “Robert Trumbull Crowley, 76, a senior CIA official…”

Douglas was now free to use the Crowley papers. This astounding book is the result: “The Official Assassination of John F. Kennedy”! To a major extent it is the reproduction of much of Robert T. Crowley’s files in the typewritten print of those files, with Crowley’s underscoring and emphasis on them, along with the explanations by Gregory Douglas. The book is so astounding that many may find themselves questioning the authenticity of even this original file material as I did. Therefore I refer you to two other sources:

1) The New York Times of 3 October 1963 editorial page (50 days previous to the assassination of JFK) carried a column by the well-known journalist Arthur Krock, “The Intra-Administration War in Vietnam” in which he described the CIA in Viet-Nam refusing to carry out orders from the President delivered to them by Ambassador Lodge. In closing this column Krock says, “If the United States ever experiences an attempt at a coup to overthrow the Government it will come from the CIA and not the Pentagon.”

2) In 1973 Col L. Fletcher Prouty, USAF (Ret), after retirement from nine years as the liaison officer for the Pentagon with the CIA, wrote a book, “The Secret Team — The CIA and its Allies in control of the United States and the World.”

These two items by independent authors overlap and support what you will find in this book. It was the compatibility of what Arthur Krock and Fletcher Prouty, independent authors, had written that gave me assurance that I was reading authentic documents.

In the review of CIA “Operation Zipper” in this book you will see CIA agents James J. Angleton and Robert T. Crowley planning the assassination of the president, beginning in early March of 1963. Before the end of March, according to the documents, J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President, and General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been brought into the plan along with the Chicago Mafia and Israeli Mossad. The Chicago Mafia’s recruitment of the Corsican Mafia assassins in Marseille, France, alerted French Intelligence that a political assassination was planned in the U.S. and they alerted the U.S. Embassy, who apparently alerted no one. LBJ was concerned that he was also targeted and had to be assured by J. Edgar Hoover that he was not a target. It seems clear Lee Harvey Oswald was strictly the “patsy” he claimed to be.

Why and how did the CIA persuade so many high government officials to join them in a coup to overthrow the elected U.S. government? It is all here! Crowley was convinced the “Zipper” project was in the best interest of the country! You will find it helpful to review your history of the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis, which brought about a fatal fracture of trust between the President and his intelligence agency! Also the CIA had discovered that via his brother, Robert Kennedy, and the senior KGB agent in the Washington USSR Embassy, the President had established a private line of communication with Nikita Khrushchev which the CIA considered treasonous.

Where JFK had planned to reduce our commitments and involvement in Viet-Nam, LBJ engineered the Gulf of Tonkin incident and expanded them. JFK was strongly opposing the Israeli development of nuclear weapons — LBJ was complacent and ignored these developments.


Regicide: The Official Assassination of John F. Kennedy

by Gregory Douglas


The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, continues to generate an enormous amount of popular controversy, more so than any other historical happening in recorded memory. The killing took place in a major American city in full view of hundreds of people and in broad daylight, yet years after the event, a dispassionate overview of the incident is impossible to achieve. The act and its consequences are as cluttered as the dense Indian jungle that so thoroughly hides the gaudy tiger from the sight of its prey.

The initial stunned confusion in Dallas has continued, with much official connivance, into succeeding decades, with an immense proliferation of books, magazine articles, motion picture productions, and television dramas, which are equally divided between assaults on previous productions and the presentation of even more confusion, theory, and supposition.

One camp consists entirely of what can best be termed the “official version” and in the other camp are the “revisionist versions.” There is only one of the former and a multitude of the others There is no question in the minds of anyone that John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas, in November of 1963. The real issue is who shot him and why.

Is the report of the official Warren Commission correct?  Was the President killed by a disaffected man who acted entirely alone? Was his subsequent murder perpetrated by another disaffected man who also acted entirely alone?

Are the legions of revisionists correct? Was the Kennedy assassination the result of a plot? And if there was a plot, who were the plotters and what were their motives?

The overwhelming majority of the public, who are the final arbiters of whatever may pass for historical truth, has, in the intervening years, come to believe less in the determined certainty of officialdom and more in the questions raised by those who cannot accept official dictums.

In a very strong sense, the Kennedy assassination marked an important watershed in the relationship between the American public and its elected and appointed officials. Before that event, what the government said was almost universally accepted as the truth. There was unquestioning and simplistic belief, and more, there was trust in the pronouncements from the Beltway and its numerous and often very slavish servants in academia and the American media. It is true, people would say, because it is printed in my newspaper and supported by important and knowledgeable savants.

That the media and academia might be influenced by, if not actually commanded by, the government rarely occurred to anyone outside of a small handful of chronic malcontents.

The questions that were raised by the Warren Commission’s lengthy and thoroughly disorganized report were certainly in many cases very important. That there were many errors in this hasty attempt to allay national anxieties is clearly evident, but in retrospect, and in view of recently disclosed evidence, these are more errors of commission than omission.

The Warren Report was prepared and released to the public not to encourage questioning but to silence it as quickly as possible. There are many cogent reasons for this desire for silence and acceptance, not the least of which was the urgent desire for self-preservation and the maintenance of the integrity of the governmental system.

In actuality, the American currency is not backed by gold or silver holdings but by the blind faith of the public. If the concept of unquestioning belief in governmental currency stability is questioned, economic chaos can be the result and this applies equally to government probity.

To quote from the title of the first and very important revisionist work on the Kennedy assassination, there was a great “rush to judgment” and a frantic desire on the part of the official establishment to completely bury not only the murdered President, but also any questions his killing might have engendered with him.

Was the primary reason for this desire for closure merely a desire to placate public opinion or were there other, and far more sinister, reasons for this rush to judgment?

Those who question the official chronicle have been severely hampered by the fact that all the records, documents, interviews, and other evidentiary material are securely under governmental custody and control. It is beyond the belief of any reasonable person to think that an official agency would release to the public any material that would bring the official judgment into question. This is not only institutional maintenance but also, all things in evidence now considered, a frantic effort at self-preservation.

Not all documents, however, lie under government control, and there exist reports that do not only question the Warren Report’s findings but are also of such a nature as to both thoroughly discredit it and, in the final analysis, bring it to ruin.

Such a historical land mine lay for years in the personal files of Robert Trumbull Crowley, once Deputy Director for Operations for the Central Intelligence Agency. Crowley, who had authored books on Soviet intelligence, died in October of 2000 after a long illness.

When Crowley retired from the CIA in the 1980s, he took a significant quantity of important historical documents with him and, prior to his death, gave a number of these to various historians with whom he occasionally cooperated.

Among these documents was a lengthy paper prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1978 as a commentary on Soviet intelligence evaluations of the Kennedy assassination.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, a branch of the Department of Defense, specializes in the analysis of foreign military technical intelligence.

This document was considered highly sensitive, for reasons that shall shortly become very evident, and its distribution was limited to a handful of copies with severely restricted circulation.

Crowley had a copy of this explosive document because he had personal knowledge of the factors and personalities behind the assassination and had, in fact, prior professional knowledge of the information contained in the DIA secret paper.

The second and certainly even more important document is a 98 pages long paper entitled “OPERATION ZIPPER Conference Record.” This document is a long list of decisions and activities of various U.S. authorities in a project with the code name “Operation ZIPPER.”

The distribution of this document was restricted to five persons, one of them being R. T. Crowley, in whose papers a copy of it was found.

This book uses the official DIA Report and the “Operation ZIPPER” document as its framework. In addition to that, the author uses the notes he made during endless hours of conversation he had with R. T. Crowley in the years between 1993 and 1996, and has dug deeply into the great body of literature on the assassination of J. F. Kennedy to flesh out what has proven to be a very ugly skeleton. In sum, it puts sinews and flesh on the bones of a monster.

The loss of faith is a terrible matter and one can say after reading these papers and with bitter truth: “Who then will guard the guardians?”



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 75

October 26, 2017


President Trump will declare the escalating number of drug deaths from opioids as a “public health emergency” — but not a “national emergency” — in an announcement scheduled for today.

The Congressional Research Service has issued a new report on aspects of the problem, including an overview of opioid abuse, a review of opioid supply, and a survey of federal programs that deal with the issue. See The Opioid Epidemic and Federal Efforts to Address It: Frequently Asked Questions, October 18, 2017.

On the origins of the crisis see “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, October 30, 2017.

Other new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Poverty in the United States in 2016: In Brief, October 25, 2017

EPA Proposes to Repeal the Clean Power Plan, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 25, 2017

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal, updated October 23, 2017

Gun Control: Silencers under the Hearing Protection Act (H.R. 3668), CRS Insight, October 16, 2017

Tracking Federal Funds: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources, updated October 24, 2017

Human Trafficking: New Global Estimates of Forced Labor and Modern Slavery, CRS Insight, October 18, 2017

U.S. Withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), CRS Insight, October 17, 2017

Overview of “Travel Ban” Litigation and Recent Developments, CRS Legal Sidebar, October 23, 2017

Iran Policy and the European Union, CRS Insight, updated October 18, 2017

States’ Obligations Under Additional Protocols to IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, CRS memorandum, October 23, 2017


Trump to declare opioids a public health emergency: officials

October 26, 2017

by James Oliphant and Susan Heavey


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will declare the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday in a bid to redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat widespread abuse, senior administration officials said.

Trump’s planned announcement comes in response to an epidemic that has worsened in recent years and especially wreaked havoc in rural areas. But the move stops short of declaring a national emergency, which would have freed up additional federal funds to combat the epidemic.

Officials said the declaration would help fight abuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl by expanding access to treatment, and curb delays in staffing the Department of Health and Human Services to help states grapple with the crisis.

“The declaration … will really reorient all of the federal government and the executive branch’s resources towards focusing on providing relief for this urgent need,” one official told reporters on a conference call ahead of a speech by Trump on the issue at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

The United States is battling a surge in opioid-related deaths, including 33,000 in 2015, more than any year on record, according to federal data.

Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl – a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine – are fueling the drug overdoses. About 100 Americans die each day from related overdoses, Centers for Disease Control data shows.

The reach of the crisis has pressured Trump to act, but Thursday’s move may still frustrate public health officials and others who had urged a quicker and more forceful response.

“We must instill a heightened sense of urgency in the White House,” Democratic U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings wrote in an op-ed on Wednesday ahead of the announcement.

In July, members of a White House commission on the drug crisis had recommended that Trump declare a national emergency. One month later, the president said he would make an announcement on the opioid crisis, but later said more time was needed to coordinate the response.

That effort was further complicated earlier this month when Trump’s choice for White House adviser on drug policy, former congressman Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration.

On Wednesday, the president told Fox Business Network he would be declaring the crisis a national emergency, which would have opened up additional federal funds.

But officials told reporters on the conference call Thursday that those funds under the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been nearly exhausted after recent storms struck Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida.

The administration would have to work with Congress to help provide additional funding to address drug abuse, they added.

Thursday’s declaration also allows the Department of Labor to issue grants to help dislocated workers affected by the crisis. HIV/AIDS health funding would also be prioritized for those who need substance abuse treatment, officials said.

Additional actions under the move would be announced in coming weeks by various agencies, they said.

Additional reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bernadette Baum




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