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TBR News September 20, 2018

Sep 20 2018

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

Washington, D.C. September 20, 2018 : “’The Crow’ was the CIA code name for Robert Trumbull Crowley, once Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations for that agency. Because of his position with the CIA, Crowley was privy to many of the agencies most closely-kept secrets and his files are legendary. Crowley’s people were known inside the CIA as the Dirty Tricks Boys and they more than lived up to their name.

When Crowley retired from the agency, he took the cream of his papers with him, including the files of Jim Angleton, an old friend, who was fired from the CIA for his domestic spying. Angleton was snooping on American’s mail long before the NSA began its all-inclusive spying on American telephone conversations and emails, so recently exposed by Edward Snowden.

In 1996, Crowley gave the most important of his files to author Gregory Douglas.

Douglas had published three books dealing with the Gestapo Chief, Heinrich Müller, who worked for Jim Critchfield’s Gehilen Org after 1948. There was fury inside Washington when these were published because if it became known that Müller had not only worked for the CIA but also became resident in Washington as he rose higher in the agency, there would be serious public relations problems.

And after 1996, Crowley and Douglas spoke with each other once or twice a week, exchanging comments and views that were highly cynical and, if known to the public, devastating to the CIA’s image.

Douglas taped most of these conversations, not to implicate Crowley or his agency in serious breaches of the law (which they were certainly guilty of) but to keep a record of events, too prolix to remember.

After Crowley’s  death in October of 2000, various official U.S. agencies, to include the FBI and the CIA, attempted to get these files back into official cover but they have proven to be completely unsuccessful. Some of their exertions proved to be extremely entertaining, if clumsy and devoid of imagination.

‘Conversations with the Crow’ will publish all of the Douglas/Crowley conversations for the benefit of the scholar and historian and the unhappiness of untold others.

Another work being prepared,  taken from the private Crowley papers, concerns his efforts, successful as it proved, to remove President Kennedy from his high office and replace him with the completely complaisant and coperative Lyndon Johnson.

For a quarter of a century the CIA has been repeatedly wrong about every major political and economic question entrusted to its analysis.’

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The New York Times, 1991

They still are.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 27
  • The Trump Algorithm
  • Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?
  • Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades
  • EU gives Facebook, Twitter ultimatum on consumer protection laws
  • The Turkish  Heroin Trail to Europe
  • Hurricane raises questions about rebuilding along North Carolina’s coast
  • ‘Deep creep’ discovery near California’s deadliest faults could explain mystery earthquakes

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 27

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

 

  • Sep 19, 2017

“Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time.”

Source: Speech to the United Nations

in fact: The U.S. has seen such job growth quite recently: growth was actually stronger under Obama. As FactCheck.org reported: “The nation has now experienced positive job growth for 83 straight months, with 76 of those under Trump’s predecessor. Indeed, the job gains under Trump, although similar to those during Obama’s last few years in office, have been slightly lower. The economy added 1,189,000 net new jobs since Trump took office in January. That’s slightly fewer than the 1,375,000 jobs added in the preceding seven months. It’s also fewer jobs than were added during the same time period of 2016 (1,422,000), 2015 (1,547,000), 2014 (1,734,000) and 2013 (1,384,000).”

“I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night – the worst ever.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The Emmys — actually held two nights prior to this tweet, not the previous night — had the second-worst ratings ever, not the worst. This year’s show drew 11.4 million viewers, last year’s 11.3 million. (As CNN noted, this year’s ratings may have been hurt by the exclusion of major television markets in Florida that were affected by Hurricane Irma.)

  • Sep 21, 2017

“Senator Luther Strange has gone up a lot in the polls since I endorsed him a month ago. Now a close runoff. He will be great in D.C.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Strange has not gained significantly in the polls since Trump endorsed him on Aug. 8. In polls just before that, when there were five significant candidates in the race, Strange trailed Roy Moore by eight and six points. In polls the week Trump issued this tweet, Strange still trailed Moore by eight and six points (now in a two-candidate runoff election.)

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“Puerto Rico got hit with winds — they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere. It got hit as a 5 — Category 5 storm — which just literally never happens.”

Source: Remarks before meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

in fact: Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“People don’t realize you had 20 terrorist groups in Afghanistan…you had 20 groups — more than anyplace else.”

Source: Remarks before meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

in fact: The Washington Post researched this claim and found it was an exaggeration even when applied to Afghanistan and Pakistan together. The State Department, the U.S. “gold standard” in terror designations, has designated 13 entities in Afghanistan and Pakistan as terrorist organizations, not 20. Trump appeared to be adding in other entities that other parts of the U.S. government says has provided financial support to terrorist organizations, but these are not terrorist organizations themselves.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

  • Sep 22, 2017

“The RAISE Act…would keep new immigrants from going on welfare for five years. Isn’t that nice? They don’t walk over and say ‘I’m going on welfare.’ Isn’t that nice?”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: As the Washington Post reported, the provision in the Trump-backed RAISE Act would only apply to immigrants entering on visas granted through a new merit-points system. People entering under other categories — refugees, for instance — would still be eligible for welfare, and so the provision “would not apply to the vast majority of legal immigrants,” the Post reported. Further, Trump is misleading about current law, which already bans many categories of immigrants from obtaining welfare benefits for their five years in the U.S.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“Here’s one that nobody had the guts to do. And I did it in my first very few days in office. I authorized the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Trump did not approve either pipeline in his first few days in office. His first-week executive orders advanced the two pipelines, but they did not grant final approval. Trump actually approved Keystone XL two months into his presidency; the government announced the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline three weeks into his presidency

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“If there’s an empty seat they’ll show that empty seat. Two people, they got up, they went to the bathroom. They coming back in five minutes — they show those empty seats every single time. Fake news.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: This is simply fictional. Television networks do not zoom in on seats that temporarily become empty during Trump speeches.

“CNN has a red light on. And then I start saying it’s fake news, you see that light go off so fast.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: This is one of Trump’s regular rally lies. CNN has never turned off its camera when Trump has criticized the network.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“That includes challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan — which by the way did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Trump had not actually eliminated Obama’s Clean Power Plan yet. In March, he signed an executive order that ordered a review of the plan. A final decision had not been made at the time he spoke

“I would rather have the popular vote count because for me it would be easier than winning the Electoral College. Which they said a Republican could not win.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Analysts did not say a Republican “could not win” the presidency in 2016, of course. Six of the last nine presidents, all of whom except for unelected Gerald Ford had to win an Electoral College election, have been Republicans.

Trump has repeated this claim 17 times

“Did people call you ‘Big Luther before you met Trump? You know, I brand people…Nobody ever called you ‘Big Luther’? I think it’s a great name.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Trump did not actually coin the nickname “Big Luther” for Strange, who is 6-foot-9. As local publication AL.com noted: “Strange used ‘Big Luther’ early on in his political career, including his first run for Alabama attorney general in 2010.”

“By the way, outside there are thousands of people that can’t in…thousands, yeah, thousands.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: As usual, this claim was fictional. “I was there, and no there weren’t. Maybe 200 if I’m being generous,” Huntsville Times reporter Anna Claire Vollers, who was outside the venue, said on Twitter.

“We’ve been dealing with ICE, we’ve been dealing with the Border Patrol. They both endorsed me. First time they’ve ever endorsed a candidate for president.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Both Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol are federal entities that cannot and did not endorse Trump. Unions of their employees endorsed him.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 time

“Nobody really understood — for years they’ve said ‘America First,’ although I’m the one that really means it, there’s a big difference.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Trump is incorrect to suggest “America First” was a common-but-insincere political slogan before he came along. Until his campaign, it was commonly associated with Nazi sympathizers and isolationists who opposed U.S. entry into World War II, and it had not been in common usage since the 1940s.

“Look at the crowd. I’d love to have them show the crowd. But they don’t show the crowd.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Television stations do indeed show the size of Trump’s crowds. CNN showed a crowd shot as Trump made this claim.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

“So he started off here, he was in third or fourth, he went to third, second, and now it’s like almost pretty even.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Trump is exaggerating the impact of his endorsement on Strange’s standing in the race. Strange was never in “third or fourth”; he has been in second place in every poll except for those that have showed him in first.

“He(Luther Strange) doesn’t know Mitch McConnell at all.” And: “He doesn’t know those people. He’s never met them.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: Strange, a Republican senator, certainly has a relationship with McConnell, the Republican Senate leader. “They’ve been regularly chatting on the Senate floor together,” Politico reporter Burgess Everett said on Twitter. Further, McConnell is backing Strange in the race; a Super PAC aligned with him is spending hundreds of thousands on pro-Strange ads, $630,000 in a late-September closing blitz alone.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“And then of course John McCain came in and he went thumbs down at 3 o’ clock in the morning.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: McCain cast the decisive vote against Obamacare repeal just before 1:30 a.m. on July 28.

 

“By the way, Rocket Man should have been handled a long time ago. He should’ve been handled a long time ago by Clinton — I won’t mention the Republicans — by Obama.”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: The claim that Bill Clinton, or previous Republican presidents, should have dealt with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whom Trump calls “Rocket Man,” is simply nonsensical. Kim is believed to be 33 years old; when Clinton was in office from 1993 to the beginning of 2001, Kim was a pre-pubescent child and then a teenager. While Trump can fairly argue Clinton should have done better handling North Korea in general, the claim that he should have done better on Kim himself is unfair.

“I spoke to your governor, I said ‘How are you doing?’ She said, ‘Well we have about 17 million people that just entered Alabama for shelter.’ And you took such great care of those people, you really did. I said, ‘You know governor, you’re the fastest-growing state anywhere in the world this week.'”

Source: Rally in support of Republican candidate Luther Strange

in fact: It is not clear what Alabama’s governor told Trump — her press secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment — but “17 million” is clearly a gross exaggeration. The state, which has a population around 5 million, took in 250,000 people displaced by Hurricane Irma, her press secretary told local media two weeks prior, citing estimates from the federal government. And Hurricane Harvey was estimated to have displaced 1 million people a week after the storm.

“Will be in Alabama tonight. Luther Strange has gained mightily since my endorsement, but will be very close. He loves Alabama, and so do I!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Strange has not gained significantly in the polls since Trump endorsed him on Aug. 8. In polls just before that, when there were five significant candidates in the race, Strange trailed Roy Moore by eight and six points. In polls the week Trump issued this tweet, Strange still trailed Moore by eight and six points (now in a two-candidate runoff election.)

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

 

The Trump Algorithm

The President operates off of a very clear algorithm.

September 16, 2018

by Gregg Henriques Ph.D.

Psychology Today

There is a fairly common pattern at our house these days. My wife, a liberal, will arrive home at work and offer a comment that starts with, “Can you believe that Trump did X today?” My response is often the same. Not only can I believe it, I would have had a hard time believing the opposite.

The reason is because Trump operates from a very simple and very basic human algorithm. An algorithm is a specific recipe or procedure that takes in input and produces an output. The Trump algorithm is the self-serving (or myside) bias algorithm that legitimizes his power and greatness.

For good examples of the self-serving algorithm in action, watch competitive 11-year-old boys play Fortnite. “That was so unfair!” and “I got so unlucky” and “Even though he has more kills and wins, I am really way better than that guy” are the justifications that fly.

The algorithm that their young minds are processing are as follows: Any positive data about one’s skills is interpreted as evidence that one is an excellent player. In contrast, any data to the contrary are erased and readjusted and other explanations, such as bad luck or the stupidity of the game are generated to maintain the outcome that one is a great player. Psychologists call this motivated reasoning, where the goals of what one wants to conclude results in how the data are interpreted. People in general are very motivated reasoners and have to be taught how to be objective reasoners, where the actual data genuinely inform the conclusions.

Trump has embraced this algorithm and fused it with his conscious adult identity. He is fully committed to the idea that he deserves power and greatness and all data that support this view are good data and all data that challenge it are bad data. That is the algorithm.

For Trump, if you love him and think he is great, then you are great. If there is any good news or positive data reported, it is valid and is due to him. Thus, according to him, he gets an A+ on his presidency so far. If, on the other hand, you criticize Trump, then you are a bad person. If negative data come in on his performance, it is false or fake news.

Once you see the algorithm, it becomes hard to be surprised by it. Plug 2 x 2 into your calculator and the algorithms give you 4. Every time.

Give Trump feedback that indicates he is doing a good job, it is great and true. Give Trump feedback that indicates the reverse, it is horrible and false. Every time.

 

Is Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

It is best not to diagnose the president from afar, which is why the federal government needs a system to evaluate him up close.

January 3, 2018 revised September 19, 2018

by James Hamblin

The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s decision to brag in a tweet about the size of his “nuclear button” compared with North Korea’s was widely condemned as bellicose and reckless. The comments are also part of a larger pattern of odd and often alarming behavior for a person in the nation’s highest office.

Trump’s grandiosity and impulsivity has made him a constant subject of speculation among those concerned with his mental health. But after more than a year of talking to doctors and researchers about whether and how the cognitive sciences could offer a lens to explain Trump’s behavior, I’ve come to believe there should be a role for professional evaluation beyond speculating from afar.

I’m not alone. Viewers of Trump’s recent speeches have begun noticing minor abnormalities in his movements. In November, he used his free hand to steady a small Fiji bottle as he brought it to his mouth. Onlookers described the movement as “awkward” and made jokes about hand size. Some called out Trump for doing the exact thing he had mocked Senator Marco Rubio for during the presidential primary—conspicuously drinking water during a speech.

By comparison, Rubio’s movement was smooth, effortless. The Senator noticed that Trump had stared at the Fiji bottle as he slowly brought it to his lips, jokingly chiding that Trump “needs work on his form. Has to be done in one single motion, and eyes should never leave the camera.”

Then in December, speaking about his national-security plan in Washington, D.C., Trump reached under his podium and grabbed a glass with both hands. This time he kept them on the glass the entire time he drank, and as he put the glass down. This drew even more attention. The gesture was like that of an extremely cold person cradling a mug of cocoa. Some viewers likened him to a child just learning to handle a cup.

Then there was an incident of slurred speech. Announcing the relocation of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a dramatic foreign-policy move—Trump became difficult to understand at a phonetic level, which did little to reassure many observers of the soundness of his decision.

Experts compelled to offer opinions on the nature of the episode were vague: The neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta described it as “clearly some abnormalities of his speech.” This sort of slurring could result from anything from a dry mouth to a displaced denture to an acute stroke.

Though these moments could be inconsequential, they call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials’ fitness for office—to reassure concerned citizens that the “leader of the free world” is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline.

Proposals for such a system have been made in the past, but never implemented. The job of the presidency is not what it used to be. For most of America’s history, it was not possible for the commander in chief to unilaterally destroy a continent, or the entire planet, with one quick decision. Today, even the country’s missileers—whose job is to sit in bunkers and await a signal—are tested three times per month on their ability to execute protocols. They are required to score at least 90 percent. Testing is not required for their commander in chief to be able to execute a protocol, much less testing to execute the sort of high-level decision that would set this process in motion.

The lack of a system to evaluate presidential fitness only stands to become more consequential as the average age of leaders increases. The Constitution sets finite lower limits on age but gives no hint of an upper limit. At the time of its writing, septuagenarians were relatively rare, and having survived so long was a sign of hardiness and cautiousness. Now it is the norm. In 2016 the top three presidential candidates turned 69, 70, and 75. By the time of the 2021 inauguration, a President Joe Biden would be 78.

After age 40, the brain decreases in volume by about 5 percent every decade. The most noticeable loss is in the frontal lobes. These control motor functioning of the sort that would direct a hand to a cup and a cup to the mouth in one fluid motion—in most cases without even looking at the cup.

These lobes also control much more important processes, from language to judgment to impulsivity. Everyone experiences at least some degree of cognitive and motor decline over time, and some 8.8 percent of Americans over 65 now have dementia. An annual presidential physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is customary, and Trump’s is set for January 12. But the utility of a standard physical exam—knowing a president’s blood pressure and weight and the like—is meager compared with the value of comprehensive neurologic, psychological, and psychiatric evaluation. These are not part of a standard physical.

Even if they were voluntarily undertaken, there would be no requirement to disclose the results. A president could be actively hallucinating, threatening to launch a nuclear attack based on intelligence he had just obtained from David Bowie, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.

Even if the country’s psychiatrists were to make a unanimous statement regarding the president’s mental health, their words may be written off as partisan in today’s political environment. With declining support for fact-based discourse and trust in expert assessments, would there be any way of convincing Americans that these doctors weren’t simply lying, treasonous “liberals”—globalist snowflakes who got triggered?

The downplaying of a president’s compromised neurologic status would not be without precedent. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously disguised his paralysis from polio to avoid appearing “weak or helpless.” He staged public appearances to give the impression that he could walk, leaning on aides and concealing a crutch. Instead of a traditional wheelchair, he used an inconspicuous dining chair with wheels attached. According to the FDR Presidential Library, “The Secret Service was assigned to purposely interfere with anyone who tried to snap a photo of FDR in a ‘disabled or weak’ state.”

Documenting the reality of Roosevelt’s health status fell to journalists, who had been reporting on his polio before his first term. A 1931 analysis in Liberty magazine asked “Is Franklin D. Roosevelt Physically Fit to Be President?” and reported on his paralysis: “It is an amazing possibility that the next president of the United States may be a cripple.” Once he was elected, Time described the preparation of the White House: “Because of the president-elect’s lameness, short ramps will replace steps at the side door of the executive offices leading to the White House.”

Today much more can be known about a person’s neurological status, though little of it is as observable as paraplegia. Unfortunately, the public medical record available to assuage global concerns about the current president’s neurologic status is the attestation of Harold Bornstein, America’s most famous Upper Manhattan gastroenterologist, whose initial doctor’s note described the 71-year-old Trump as “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time.”

The phrasing was so peculiar for a medical record that some suggested that Trump had written or dictated the letter himself. Indeed, as a key indicator of neurologic status, Trump’s distinctive diction has not gone without scrutiny. Trump was once a more articulate person who sometimes told stories that had beginnings, middles, and ends, whereas he now leaps from thought to thought. He has come to rely on a small stable of adjectives, often involving superlatives. An improbably high proportion of what he describes is either the greatest or the worst he’s ever seen; absolutely terrible or the best; tiny or huge.

The frontal lobes also control speech, and over the years, Donald Trump’s fluency has regressed and his vocabulary contracted. In May of last year, the journalist Sharon Begley at Stat analyzed changes in his speech patterns during interviews over the years. She noted that in the 1980s and 1990s, Trump used phrases like “a certain innate intelligence” and “These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated.” I would add, “I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud.”

He also more frequently finished sentences and thoughts. Here he is with Larry King on CNN in 1987:

King: Should the mayor of the city be someone who knows business?

Trump: Well, what we need is competence. We don’t have that. We have a one-line artist. That’s all he is …

Or on Oprah in 1988:

Winfrey: What do you think of this year’s presidential race, the way it’s shaping up?

Trump: Well, I think it’s going to be very interesting. I think that probably George Bush has an advantage, in terms of the election. I think that probably people would say he’s got, like, that little edge in terms of the incumbency, etcetera, etcetera. But I think Jesse Jackson has done himself very proud. I think Michael Dukakis has done a hell of a job. And George Bush has done a hell of a job. They all went in there sort of as semi-underdogs—including George Bush—and they’ve all come out. I think people that are around all three of those candidates can be very proud of the jobs they’ve done.

Compare that with the meandering, staccato bursts of today. From an interview with the Associated Press:

”People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it—you’ve been to many of the rallies. Okay, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”

Ben Michaelis, a psychologist who analyzes speech as part of cognitive assessments in court cases, told Begley that although some decline in cognitive functioning would be expected, Trump has exhibited a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time” with “simpler word choices and sentence structure.”

This is evident even off camera, as in last week’s post-golf sit-down with The New York Times at his resort in Florida:

“The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something … Piece of equipment … You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That’ll be one of the big … People don’t even talk about expensing, what’s the word “expensing.” [Inaudible.] One-year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it’ll be more money than people anticipate. But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected. Now here’s the good news. We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing …”

The paper said that the transcript was “lightly edited for content and clarity.”

If Trump’s limited and hyperbolic speech were simply a calculated political move—he repeated the phrase “no collusion” 16 times in the Times interview, which some pundits deemed an advertising technique—then we would also expect an occasional glimpse behind the curtain. In addition to repeating simplistic phrases to inundate the collective subconscious with narratives like “no collusion,” Trump would give at least a few interviews in which he strung together complex sentences, for example to make a case for why Americans should rest assured that there was no collusion.

Though it is not possible to diagnose a person with dementia based on speech patterns alone, these are the sorts of changes that appear in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Trump has likened himself to Ronald Reagan, and the changes in Trump’s speech evoke those seen in the late president. Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, but there was evidence of linguistic change over the course of his presidency that experts have argued was indicative of early decline. His grammar worsened, and his sentences were more often incomplete. He came to rely ever more on vague and simple words: indefinite nouns and “low imageability” verbs like have, go, and get.

After Reagan’s diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter sounded an alarm over the lack of a system to detect this sort of cognitive impairment earlier on. “Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness,” Carter wrote in 1994 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The great weakness of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is its provision for determining disability in the event that the president is unable or unwilling to certify to impairment or disability.”

Indeed, the 1967 amendment laid out a process for transferring power to the vice president in the event that the president is unable to carry out the duties of the office due to illness. But it generally assumed that the president would be willing to undergo diagnostic testing and be forthcoming about any limitations.

This may not happen with a person who has come to be known for denying any hint of weakness or inability. Nor would it happen if a president had a psychiatric disorder that impaired judgment—especially if it was one defined by grandiosity, obsession with status, and intense aversion to being perceived as weak.

Nor would it happen if the only person to examine the president was someone like Harold Bornstein—whose sense of objective reality is one in which Donald Trump is healthier than the 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt (who took office after commanding a volunteer cavalry division called the Rough Riders, and who invited people to the White House for sparring sessions, and who after his presidency would sometimes spend months traversing the Brazilian wilderness).

It was for these reasons that in 1994, Carter called for a system that could independently evaluate a president’s health and capacity to serve. At many companies, even where no missiles are involved, entry-level jobs require a physical exam. A president, it would follow, should be more rigorously cleared. Carter called on “the medical community” to take leadership in creating an objective, minimally biased process—to “awaken the public and political leaders of our nation to the importance of this problem.”

To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

More than two decades later, that has not happened. But questions and concern around Trump’s psychiatric status have spurred proposals anew. In December, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, mental-health professionals proposed a seven-member expert panel “to evaluate presidential fitness.” Last April, representative Jamie Raskin introduced a bill that would create an 11-member “presidential capacity” commission.

The real-world application of one of these systems is complicated by the fact that the frontal lobes also control things like judgment, problem-solving, and impulse control. These metrics, which fall under the purview of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, can be dismissed as opinion. In a hospital or doctor’s office, a neurologist may describe a patient with Parkinson’s disease as having “impaired impulse control.” The National Institute on Aging lists among the symptoms of Alzheimer’s “poor judgment leading to bad decisions.”

These are phrases that can and do appear in a person’s medical record. In the public sphere, however, they’re easily dismissed as value judgments motivated by politics. The Harvard law professor Noah Feldman recently accused mental-health professionals who attempt to comment on Trump’s cognition of “leveraging their professional knowledge and status to ‘assess’ his mental health for purposes of political criticism.”

Indeed thousands of mental-health professionals have mobilized and signed petitions attesting to Trump’s unfitness to hold office. Some believe Trump should carry a label of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or both. The largest such petition has more than 68,000 signatures—though there is no vetting of the signatories’ credentials. Its author, psychologist John Gartner, told me last year that in his 35 years of practicing and teaching, “This is absolutely the worst case of malignant narcissism I’ve ever seen.”

Many other mental-health professionals are insistent that Trump not be diagnosed from afar by anyone, ever—that the goal of mental-health care is to help people who are suffering themselves from disabling and debilitating illnesses. A personality disorder is “only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment,” argues Allen Frances, the Duke University psychiatrist who was a leading author of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which was the first to include personality disorders.

This is consistent with the long-standing, widely misunderstood rule in the profession that no one should ever be diagnosed outside of the confines of a one-on-one patient-doctor relationship. The mandate is based on a legal dispute that gave rise to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) “Goldwater Rule,” which was implemented after the politician Barry Goldwater sued Fact magazine for libel because a group of mental-health professionals speculated about Goldwater’s thought processes in its pages.

The rule has protected psychiatrists both from lawsuits and from claims of subjectivity that threaten trust in the entire enterprise.

After more than a year of considering Trump’s behavior through the lens of the cognitive sciences, I don’t think that labeling him with a mental illness from afar is wise. A diagnosis like narcissistic personality disorder is too easily played off as a value judgment by an administration that is pushing the narrative that scientists are enemies of the state. Labeling is also counterproductive to the field in that it presents risks to all the people who deal with the stigma of psychiatric diagnoses. To attribute Trump’s behavior to mental illness risks devaluing mental illness.

Judiciousness in public statements is only more necessary as the Trump administration plays up the idea of partisan bias in its campaign against “the media.” The consistent message is that if someone is saying something about the president that depicts or reflects upon him unfavorably, the statement must be motivated by an allegiance to a party. It must be, in a word, “fake”—coming from a place of spite, or vengeance, or allegiance to some team, creed, or party. Expertise is simply a guise to further a hidden political cause. Senator Lindsey Graham recently told CNN that the media’s portrayal of President Donald Trump is “an endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president.”

Bias will color any assessment to some degree, but it needn’t render science useless.

(Of course, Graham himself has called Trump a “kook” who is “not fit to be president.” That was in 2016, though, during the Republican presidential primary, when the two were not yet allies.)

That sort of breathless indictment—followed by a reversal and condemnation of others for making the same statement—may not be rare among politicians, but it is a leap to assume that doctors and scientists would similarly lie and abandon their professional ethics out of allegiance to a political party. When judgment is compromised with bias, it tends to be more subtle, often unconscious. Bias will color any assessment to some degree, but it needn’t render science useless in assessing presidential capacity.

The idea that the president should not be diagnosed from afar only underscores the point that the president needs to be evaluated up close.

A presidential-fitness committee—of the sort that Carter and others propose, consisting of nonpartisan medical and psychological experts—could exist in a capacity similar to the Congressional Budget Office. It could regularly assess the president’s neurologic status and give a battery of cognitive tests to assess judgment, recall, decision-making, attention—the sorts of tests that might help a school system assess whether a child is suited to a particular grade level or classroom—and make the results available.

Such a panel need not have the power to unseat a president, to undo a democratic election, no matter the severity of illness. Even if every member deemed a president so impaired as to be unfit to execute the duties of the office, the role of the committee would end with the issuing of that statement. Acting on that information—or ignoring or disparaging it—would be up to the people and their elected officials.

Of course, the calculations of the Congressional Budget Office can be politicized and ignored—and they recently have been. Almost every Republican legislator voted for health-care bills this year that would have increased the number of uninsured Americans by 20-some million, and they passed a tax bill that will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit. A majority of Americans did not support the bill—in part because a nonpartisan source of information like the CBO exists to conduct such analyses.

That math and polling can be ignored or disputed, or the CBO can be attacked as a secretly subversive entity, but at least some attempt at a transparent analysis is made. The same cannot be said of the president’s cognitive processes. We are left only with the shouts of experts from the sidelines, demeaning the profession and the presidency.

 

Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades

Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history.”

September 12, 2018

by Sean Illing

VOX

On November 9, 2016, just a few minutes after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, a man named Vyacheslav Nikonov approached a microphone in the Russian State Duma (their equivalent of the US House of Representatives) and made a very unusual statement.

“Dear friends, respected colleagues!” Nikonov said. “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections, and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America, and I congratulate you on this.”

Nikonov is a leader in the pro-Putin United Russia Party and, incidentally, the grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov — after whom the “Molotov cocktail” was named. His announcement that day was a clear signal that Trump’s victory was, in fact, a victory for Putin’s Russia.

Longtime journalist Craig Unger opens his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin, with this anecdote. The book is an impressive attempt to gather up all the evidence we have of Trump’s numerous connections to the Russian mafia and government and lay it all out in a clear, comprehensive narrative.

The book claims to unpack an “untold story,” but it’s not entirely clear how much of it is new. One of the hardest things to accept about the Trump-Russia saga is how transparent it is. So much of the evidence is hiding in plain sight, and somehow that has made it harder to accept.

But make no mistake: Trump’s ties to shady Russian figures stretch back decades, and Unger diligently pieces them together in one place. Although Unger doesn’t provide any evidence that Trump gave the Russians anything concrete in return for their help, the case he makes for how much potential leverage the Russians had over Trump is pretty damning.

I spoke to Unger recently about what he learned, how he learned it, and why he thinks Russia’s use of Trump constitutes “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history,” as he puts it in the book.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

I’ll ask you straightforwardly: Do you believe the Russian government successfully targeted and compromised Trump?

Craig Unger

Yes, absolutely. But let’s go back in time, because I think all of this began as a money-laundering operation with the Russian mafia. It’s well known that Trump likes doing business with gangsters, in part because they pay top dollar and loan money when traditional banks won’t, so it was a win-win for both sides.

The key point I want to get across in the book is that the Russian mafia is different than the American mafia, and I think a lot of Americans don’t understand this. In Russia, the mafia is essentially a state actor. When I interviewed Gen. Oleg Kalugin, who is a former head of counterintelligence in the KGB and had been Vladimir Putin’s boss at one point, I asked him about the mafia. He said, “Oh, it’s part of the KGB. It’s part of the Russian government.”

And that’s essential to the whole premise of the book. Trump was working with the Russian mafia for more than 30 years. He was profiting from them. They rescued him. They bailed him out. They took him from being $4 billion in debt to becoming a multibillionaire again, and they fueled his political ambitions, starting more than 30 years ago. This means Trump was in bed with the Kremlin as well, whether he knew it or not.

Sean Illing

Let’s dig into this a bit. You claimed just now, as you do in the book, that the Russian mafia has been using Trump-branded real estate to launder money for over three decades. What evidence do you have to back this up?

Craig Unger

You really have to go back 20 or 30 years to understand who the key Russians were, what role they played in the Russian mafia, and how they related to Trump.

The very first episode that’s been documented, to my knowledge, was in 1984 when David Bogatin — who is a Russian mobster, convicted gasoline bootlegger, and close ally of Semion Mogilevich, a major Russian mob boss — met with Trump in Trump Tower right after it opened. Bogatin came to that meeting prepared to spend $6 million, which is equivalent to about $15 million today.

Bogatin bought five condos from Trump at that meeting. Those condos were later seized by the government, which claimed they were used to launder money for the Russian mob

Sean Illing

Okay, to play devil’s advocate, can we say definitively that Trump knew who he was dealing with or what he was getting into? Or did he just naively have his hands out?

Craig Unger

Look, I can’t prove what was in Trump’s head, or what he knew or when he knew it. But I document something like 1,300 transactions of this kind with Russian mobsters. By that, I mean real estate transactions that were all cash purchases made by anonymous shell companies that were quite obviously fronts for criminal money-laundering operations. And this represents a huge chunk of Trump’s real estate activity in the United States, so it’s quite hard to argue that he had no idea what was going on.

Sean Illing

How did Trump first become a “person of interest” to the Russians? Why would they target this fringe celebrity character 30 years ago, long before his ascent to the presidency was even fathomable?

Craig Unger

First of all, the Russians have always wanted to align with certain powerful businessmen, and they have a history going back to the American businessman Armand Hammer in the 1970s and ’80s, whom the Russians allegedly turned into an asset. But it’s not as though they zeroed in on Trump 30 years ago, and only Trump.

Russia had hundreds of agents and assets in the US, and Gen. Kalugin, the former head of KGB operations in Russia, told me that America was a paradise for Russian spies and that they had recruited roughly 300 assets and agents in the United States, and Trump was one of them.

But it’s not just the money laundering. There was a parallel effort to seduce Trump. Sometime in 1986, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Yuri Dubinin, visited Trump in Trump Tower and told him that his building was “fabulous” and that he should build one in Moscow, and they arranged for a trip to Moscow.

According to Gen. Kalugin, that was likely the first step in the process to recruit and compromise Trump. Kalugin told me he would not be surprised in the least if the Russians have compromising materials on Trump’s activities in Moscow, something they were quite good at acquiring.

Sean Illing

But we still don’t have any evidence that such compromising material exists, right? Did you talk to anyone who has seen it or is sure of its existence?

Craig Unger

No, and I won’t say that I’m 100 percent certain that it exists. I spoke to several people who assured me that it exists, but I could not corroborate those accounts. I have no idea if they’re right or if any tapes will ever emerge. But in a way, all of that is beside the point. The real evidence of compromise is already out there, and we’re talking about it now.

Sean Illing

Speaking of which, tell me about Bayrock Group, a real estate company that operated in Trump Tower.

Craig Unger

Bayrock was a real estate development company located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower. The founder was a guy named Tevfik Arif and the managing director was Felix Sater, a man with numerous ties to Russian oligarchs and Russian intelligence. Bayrock proceeded to partner with Trump in 2005 and helped him develop a new business model, which he desperately needed.

Recall that Trump was $4 billion in debt after his Atlantic City casinos went bankrupt. He couldn’t get a bank loan from anywhere in the West, and Bayrock comes in and Trump partners with other people as well, but Bayrock essentially has a new model that says, “You don’t have to raise any money. You don’t have to do any of the real estate development. We just want to franchise your name, we’ll give you 18 to 25 percent royalties, and we’ll effectively do all the work. And if the Trump Organization gets involved in the management of these buildings, they’ll get extra fees for that.”

It was a fabulously lucrative deal for Trump, and the Bayrock associates — Sater in particular — were operating out of Trump Tower and constantly flying back and forth to Russia. And in the book, I detail several channels through which various people at Bayrock have close ties to the Kremlin, and I talk about Sater flying back and forth to Moscow even as late as 2016, hoping to build the Trump Tower there.

Sean Illing

I don’t think you say this explicitly in the book, so I’ll ask you now: Is there any evidence at all that Trump actively sought out Russian money by making clear that his businesses could be used to hide ill-gotten gains?

Craig Unger

That’s a difficult question. I’m not sure he made this crystal clear, and I don’t know that he had to. I mean, just look at how these transactions take place. Trump doesn’t have to say anything. Trump’s organization was desperate for money, they knew the caliber of people they were dealing with, and they were either okay with this or deliberately chose not to do their due diligence.

You might say this is something other real estate developers do as well, and maybe that’s true, but those developers don’t become president of the United States.

Sean Illing

A few minutes ago you referred to Trump as a Russian “asset,” and this circles back to the question of whether Trump was actively working with the Russians or whether he may have just been a useful idiot who didn’t know he’d been potentially compromised.

Craig Unger

In the book, I use this term “asset,” and the difference between an “asset” and an “agent” to me is whether or not the person is knowledgeable. And from my point of view, it’s impossible to prove what was in Trump’s mind. I can’t prove that he was actually knowledgeable. At the same time, if he did this kind of money laundering 1,300 times, it’s reasonable to surmise that he was aware of what was happening.

Sean Illing

Part of what’s so puzzling to me is trying to figure out how money and ideology intersect in all this, if they intersect at all. In other words, Trump seems much more motivated by money than political ideology, but I keep wondering if his drift into politics was in any way influenced by his financial entanglements.

Craig Unger

It’s an important question, and it’s not clear what the answer is. One weird anecdote that jumped out to me was this story about Ivana Trump, whom Donald married in 1977. It turns out the Czech secret police were following her and her family, and there’s a fascinating file I quote in the book that says they started tracking her in the late 1980s, and one of the Czech secret police files says that Trump was being pressured to run for president.

But what does that mean? Who was pressuring him? How were they applying the pressure, and why? And did it have anything to do with potentially compromising materials the Russians had on Trump from his 1987 trip to Russia?

What we do know is that Trump returns from that first trip to Moscow and he takes out full-page ads in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Boston Globe — and it’s fascinating because the ads essentially pushed the same foreign policies that he’s pushing today. They were anti-European, anti-NATO — basically they were aligned with the Soviet plan to destroy the Western alliance. And Trump takes out full-page ads in major American newspapers affirming this view. Maybe that’s just what he always believed. In any case, it’s worth noting.

Sean Illing

I’m curious about how you collected all of this evidence. Did you go to Russia? Did you interview most — or any — of the people directly involved in these transactions? Did you compile this information yourself or rely on other sources?

Craig Unger

It’s stunning what you can find out through public sources. I did not go to Russia. I had a source who tipped me off to the name Semion Mogilevich, one of the highest-ranking bosses in the Russian mob, whom I had never heard of before, and that led me to a database online that revealed ownership of homes in the state of New York — purchases and sales.

And so I went to Trump properties, and every time I found a Russian name, I would research it, and it was stunning. I’d often take their name, put in Mogilevich in Google, and it was like hitting the jackpot on a slot machine, time after time after time.

There were countless people who were indicted for money laundering, or they were gunned down on Sixth Avenue, and there was just a huge percentage who seemed to have criminal histories, and that sort of got me started. I also had a wonderful research assistant who speaks Russian and she grew up in Brooklyn, and she was a terrific asset and helped break the language barrier for me.

Sean Illing

The subtitle of your book is “The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia,” but it’s not clear to me which part of the story is new. What did you uncover here that wasn’t previously known?

Craig Unger

The insights I gained from Gen. Kalugin are completely new, but honestly, a lot of what I did was simply compile all this disparate stuff that was out there but had never been pieced together neatly in one place.

For example, a lot of the Russian-connected stories were published in the crime pages of the New York Post or the New York Daily News, but they were always just straight-ahead crime stories you could see in a tabloid. There was no sense that this had any geopolitical implications or forces behind it.

So part of what I tried to do was assemble all of this in a coherent narrative that laid it all out in a comprehensive way. We have all these seemingly random crime episodes that appeared in tabloids again and again, but it turns out that much of it was connected to a much larger operation, one that ended up ensnaring Trump and the people around him.

Sean Illing

Trump is obviously the focus here, but as you mentioned earlier, he’s not the only asset targeted by the Russians. What do we know about Russian efforts to compromise other prominent American figures?

Craig Unger

One of the things I hope this book shows is that there’s a new kind of war going on. It’s a global war without bombs or bullets or boots on the ground, and the weapons are information and data and social media and financial institutions. The Russian mafia is one weapon in this global conflict, and they’ve been fighting it smartly since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Russians start businesses and front companies and commodities firms that appear legitimate but essentially work to advance the interests of the Russian state. They’re very good at getting people entangled financially and then using that as leverage to get what they want. This appears to be what they’ve done with Trump, and now he’s president of the United States.

Sean Illing

Maybe the most troubling part of all this is that the Russians simply exploited our own corrupt system. They studied America’s pay-for-play culture, found its weak spots, and very carefully manipulated it. As long as our system remains unchanged, we should expect this kind of exploitation.

Craig Unger

Absolutely. There’s an old saying that sometimes the worst part of the scandal is what’s legal, and the Russians, to their credit, studied our system and campaign finance laws and they exploited it masterfully. They’ve used pharmaceutical companies and energy companies and financial institutions to pour money into our politics, and we really have no idea the extent of their influence.

One thing Vladimir Putin got right was his insistence that American democracy is also corrupt, and I think he’s showing us exactly how corrupt it is. Trump is just the most glaring example, but surely there are others, most of which we know nothing about.

Sean Illing

The case you lay out is pretty damning, but I’m left wondering if any of it really matters. As you said, most of this stuff is hiding in plain sight, and although the special counsel investigation is underway, there’s a subset of the country for whom no amount of evidence is enough to persuade them that something wrong has occurred, and Congress has demonstrated its uselessness pretty clearly. So how do you see all this playing out?

Craig Unger

It’s hard to say. I think we’re on a collision course that will either end in impeachment or with Trump reverting to unconstitutional measures to stay in office. That is simply my opinion. However this plays out, it’s clear that we’re in uncharted territory here, and it’s hard to see how this ends well for anyone.

 

 

EU gives Facebook, Twitter ultimatum on consumer protection laws

The European Commission said it “cannot negotiate forever” and plans fine social media companies that do not comply with stricter consumer laws. Facebook and Twitter have until the end of 2018 before sanctions kick in.

September 20, 2018

DW

The EU demanded on Thursday that social networks Facebook and Twitter update their “misleading” consumer terms in accordance with the bloc’s rules by the end of the year. Failure to do so would result in financial penalties for the social media giant, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said.

“My patience has reached its limit,” Jourova added. “While Facebook assured me that they would finally adapt any remaining misleading terms of services by December, this has been ongoing for too long.”

She said the EU “cannot negotiate forever, we need to see the results.”

“It is now time for action and no more promises,” Jourova said. She said she planned to call on all consumer protection authorities across the 28-member block to act fast and apply sanctions to Facebook and Twitter, if they failed to comply.

“We want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money,” Jourova said, adding that she will be expecting the company’s proposed changes by mid-October so they can go into effect by December.

Airbnb the exception

In March 2017, Facebook and other social media giants told EU authorities that they would change their terms and conditions, which the bloc had requested seven months ago. But the European Commission said that progress on the matter with Facebook had been “very limited.”

On the other hand, the Commission highlighted the recent compliance of shared-housing application Airbnb. Jourvoa said the property rental website had agreed to changes she demanded, such as providing consumers with the full price of bookings on all its EU language sites, including extra fees such as service and cleaning charges.

Airbnb also committed to distinguishing offers from private hosts and professionals, a difference that affects the level of consumer protection available.

Facebook says it already complies

The Commission said it wants Facebook to give its 380 million EU users more information about how their data is used and how it works with third-party makers of apps, games and quizzes. But currently, the social network’s new terms of services “contain a misleading presentation of the main characteristics of Facebook’s services,” the Commission said.

In particular, new terms introduced in April only tell consumers that Facebook uses their data and content to improve their overall experience, omitting that the data can also be used for commercial purposes.

The US social media giant defended itself by arguing that the new terms are “much clearer on what is and what isn’t allowed on Facebook and on the options people have.”

“We updated Facebook’s terms of service in May and included the vast majority of changes the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network and the European Commission had proposed at that point,” the company said in a statement.

The European Commission has been taking action on what it sees as risks for European consumers using the services of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Uber and others. The bloc’s has been at the forefront of a regulatory crackdown on US tech giants, having also slapped huge anti-trust fines on Google this year

 

The Turkish  Heroin Trail to Europe

September 20, 2018

by Christian Jürs

A planned new route into Europe for Turkish heroin has been discovered as the result of investigations by European law enforcement agencies, to include Interpol and Europol and the American FBI. An Albanian-based group of professional drug smugglers, operating out of two Albanian ports on the Adriatic and are now planning to off-load the heroin at the small Italian seaports of Marano Lagunare or Ausa Como and move it into the mountains of southern Austria.

This group is part of the so-called “Balkan connection,” the Istanbul-to-Belgrade heroin route. The heroin originates as opium, grown in Afghanistan. As a result of a weak American military presence there, opium growing is now exceeding its pre-American occupation levels.

The new state of Kosovo is considered by European enforcement agencies as the crossroads of global drug smuggling routes. Kosovo is primarily a state of ethnic Albanians and for hundreds of years, Kosovar Albanian smugglers have been among the world’s most accomplished dealers in contraband, aided by a propitious geography of isolated ports and mountainous villages. Virtually every stage of the Balkan heroin business, from refining to end-point distribution, is directed by a loosely knit hierarchy known as “The 15 Families,” who answer to the regional clans that run every aspect of Albanian life.

The Kosovar Albanian traffickers are so successful, says a senior U.S. State Department official, “because Albanians are organized in very close-knit groups, linked by their ethnicity and extended family connections.”

The Italilan ROS agency has been conducting an intense investigation of Albanian drug smuggling and one of their official reports reads: “Albanians from Kosovo …are among the most dangerous traffickers in drugs and in arms. They are determined men, violent and prepared to go to any lengths. They are capable of coming up with men and arms in a matter of hours. They have deep roots in civil society.”

Italian investigators have reported that Italy is the most important base for these organizations and it is precisely in Milan that negotiations between the Kosovar bosses and those of the Tirana – based Albanian gangs take place. And Milan, again, is the theater in which exchanges with our own domestic crime bosses take place.

According to detectives, the “Ndrangheta receives and parcels out some 50 kilograms of heroin every day. And it is precisely by following this drug trail that the detectives have succeeded in discovering a fully fledged organization with ramifications throughout Europe: Groups have been identified that operate in France, in Switzerland, in Spain, in Germany, and in Norway. But the Albanians have a particularly aggressive attitude. On the basis of phone calls that we have intercepted, we have discovered that the drugs are not only a source of wealth but also a tool in the struggle to weaken Christendom.”

The new route, which has been uncovered by a joint international investigative effort, is from Albanian Adriatic ports, up the Adriatic to the Italian ports of Marano Lagunare or Ausa Como through Italy via the A 23, over the Nassfeld Pass into Austria and from there, through Hermagor, to the scenic lake, Weissensee in Carinthia. This lake, which has a number of small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, is perfect for a drug distribution point because it is very private and had only one road, Number 87, which leads from Highway E66 and a direct route to Italy.

The Kosovo smugglers have recently established a connection with elements of Scientology now in the Austrian province of Kärnten. The Scientology group is reported to be FLEXIM Austria GmbH, which through its head, Christian Halper, a German citizen, have targeted the scenic lake as a headquarters. These people have been secretly purchasing property in the Weissensee area and this includes:

  • Hotel Alpenhof, Obernaggl (total about 70 hectares) – about 35 rooms – Hans Zoehrer – 5.5 M Euros:
  • Hotel Fergius, Neusach (only a few square meters of land) – 38 rooms – no price available: http://www.hotelweissensee.at/
  • Hotel Sonnenstrahl, Oberdorf, holiday apartment house (no land) – about 15 apartments – no price available:
  • Private house, Gatschach, near the post office (with over 2,000m² of land) – 1.5 M Euros:
  • Private house, Neusach (with over 2,000m² of land) – 1,8 M Euros:

The Weissensee area is very secluded and peaceful. There is only one road into the lake to the western end and no exit to the east. The lake is the summer destination of more afflunent visitors and in winter, the frozen lake is used for winter sports and the southern slopes, for skiing. The new plan is to buy up as much property as possible so as to be able to fill up the area with German Scientologists who can vote their members into local offices for better control.

Also, the large Alpenhof Hotel has been gutted and is going to be torn down. Its replacement, according to investigative reports, will have large, concealed cellars where the Albanians can repackage the Turkish heroin for transhipment to Vienna and Munich. Other smaller hotels and apartment houses have been selected to house personnel and a computer system designed to break into computers of drug enforcement agencies worldwide and have also been shut down in order to install bunks, armoured doors, electronic surveillance equipment and other unobtrusive security materials. It is interesting to note that the Scientologists hate both the Germans and the Russians who, like the Germans, have basically booted them out of their countries. While one smuggler’s route leads northeast towards Vienna, the other goes north to Munich.

From an already established distribution point located on the Hohenzollern Strasse, the heroin moves north to the German Baltic Sea port of Sassnitz. Once there, it is put onto the MV Translubeca, owned by Finnlines-Deutschland GmbH of Lübeck. Two Scientologists are crew members on this large cargo-passenger vessel, which leaves Sassnitz, DE on Sundays at 8 AM and docks at St. Petersburg, Russia, on the following Tuesday at 8 AM, where the cargo is offloaded and channeled into Russian mob hands.

Hotel Alpenhof

An Overview of Halper-controlled business:

FLEXIM Austria GmbH, is a German-based firm and  part of a an organization consisting of  FLEXIM Instrumentation BV in Holland, formed in 2000 and FLEXIM Instrumentation SARL in France , formed in 2003

FLEXIM Austria is designed to handle Austrian, Slovenian and Hungarian “business”

FLEXIM was created from Medon Measuring Systems. The managing director, Christian Halper is supported by Mr. T. Sommer  a sales engineer and Mrs. W. Neubauer for order processing. Their headquarters are located at Olbenau, in Burgenland, between Vienna and Graz.

These organizations are under the fiscal and legal umbrella of Monaco-based Quadriga Asset Management, a so-called hedge fund controlled by a former Austrian policeman named Baha

Baha claims to manage assets totaling $1.3 billion from 40,000 clients and is attempting  to expand this hedge fund which is alleged to be worth  $5 billion and is claimed to have 100,000 investors to a world-wide presence. Quadriga now has nine offices from Hong Kong to New York, run by 12 directors.

Arpad Deak is  the managing director for Quadriga in the United States and deals mainly in financial futures: currency, bonds, and stock indexes as well as commodities such as livestock, metals and grains.

In the U.S., Quadriga claims it has $50 million under management. Baha says he has to educate the market in order to get wider acceptance. Baha intends to open an investment center in New York.

List of European Scientology-Identified Connections

* AllGrund Immobilien ,Heusenstamm, Germany

* AG zur Entlastung von Führungskräft Arni, Switzerland

* Business Success Verkaufs- und Managementtraining GmbH Munich,. Austria,Slovakia and Hungary

* H. Benneck & Partner GmbH Düsseldorf, Germany

* FLEXIM Austria GmbH, Olbenau, in Burgenland, between Vienna and Graz. Hungary, Slowenia

* Kempe Immobilien Börse GmbH and KEMPE Grundbesitz & Anlagen AG Düsseldorf

* Knusperstube Bäckerei GmbH St. Gertraud (Kärnten), Austria

* Krebs Immobilien Fichtenwalde, Germany

* Lidl Dachbewirtschaftung,Gelting, Germany

* Marvan Installateur Vienna, Austria

* Perfect Nails Klagenfurt, Austria

* Gerhard Spannbauer Erfolgsvorträge Planegg, Germany

* Tock Autoscheibenservice Vienna, Austria

 

Hurricane raises questions about rebuilding along North Carolina’s coast

September 20, 2018

by Anna Mehler Paperny

Reuters

RODANTHE, N.C. (Reuters) – When Florence was raging last Friday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the hurricane tore a 40-foot (12-meter) chunk from a fishing pier that juts into the ocean at the state’s most popular tourist destination.

The privately owned Rodanthe pier has already undergone half a million dollars in renovation in seven years and the owners started a new round of repairs this week.

“The maintenance and upkeep on a wooden fishing pier is tremendous,” said co-owner Terry Plumblee. “We get the brunt of the rough water here.”

Scientists have warned such rebuilding efforts are futile as sea levels rise and storms chew away the coast line but protests from developers and the tourism industry have led North Carolina to pass laws that disregard the predictions.

The Outer Banks, a string of narrow barrier islands where Rodanthe is situated, may have been spared the worst of Florence, which flooded roads, smashed homes and killed at least 36 people across the eastern seaboard.

Still, the storm showed North Carolinians on this long spindly finger of land that ignoring the forces of nature to cling to their homes and the coast’s $2.4 billion economy may not be sustainable.

Some have called for halting oceanside development altogether.

“We need to actually begin an organized retreat from the rising seas,” said Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey.

In a government study published in 2010, scientists warned that sea levels could rise 39 inches by 2100.

Higher sea level will cause more flooding and render some communities uninhabitable, as well as affect the ocean vegetation, jeopardize the dune systems that help stabilize the barrier islands, and cause more intense erosion when storms like Florence make landfall, scientists said.

Developers said the study was too theoretical to dictate policy.

Some argue policymakers do not need a 90-year projection to know something needs to change.

“When we have a hurricane, that shows everybody where their vulnerabilities are today, forget 100 years from now, but right now,” said Rob Young, a geologist at Western Carolina University who co-authored the study by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC).

Young said he would like to see development move back from the ocean’s edge and laments that homeowners and developers rebuild almost any structure damaged or destroyed by a bad storm.

But the idea of retreating is a tough sell for the people who live there and have invested in property.

“You’re asking us to say, ‘Hey, 4,000 or 5,000 people on little Hatteras Island, it’s time for you to pack up and move,’ and that’s not a reasonable expectation,” said Bobby Outten, manager for Dare County on the Outer Banks.

Opponents of using the CRC study to set policy said that most Outer Bank homeowners recognize the risks.

“If you’re buying on the coast, anyone that buys in an area surrounded by water, you’re always taking a risk that you’re going to have storm damage,” said Willo Kelly, who has worked in real estate for more than a decade.

Even though she acknowledges that sea levels are rising, Kelly is also among those who opposed making state policy decisions, including anything affecting home insurance or property values, based on the study’s dire 90-year forecast of sea-level rise.

Kelly supported a 2012 state law that banned North Carolina from using the 90-year prediction on rising sea levels to influence coastal development policy.

The CRC released a second report in 2015 predicting sea level rise over a 30-year period, instead of 90 years. The new report was praised by developers as being more realistic and said sea levels would rise 1.9 to 10.6 inches.

The 2012 law was welcomed by the development community and panned by scientists whose warnings, they felt, were going unheeded. Members of the legislature who sponsored the bill did not return requests for comment.

After this year’s storm demolished the sandy protective berms that stand between the water and the main coastal road, the state sent backhoes to rebuild them and officials to assess damage to bridges and roads.

“There’s also a sense of denial,” said Gavin Smith, director of the University of North Carolina’s Coastal Resilience Center, adding that with rising seas and more intense storms it will be more costly and more difficult to replace infrastructure.

Rodanthe Pier was lucky this time, sustaining only moderate damage, said Clive Thompson, 58, who works at the pier. In the past, nor’easters have ripped its end from the ground and tore pilings from sand.

The beach was not so lucky. The ocean ate away about 50 meters of what used to be dry sand above the high-tide line, he said.

“It’s a waste of man hours, time and money, having to do this over and over,” he said. “One day I hope people understand the power of water. … It don’t play.”

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker

 

‘Deep creep’ discovery near California’s deadliest faults could explain mystery earthquakes

September 20, 2018

RT

The discovery of unusual behavior deep beneath the surface near California’s deadliest faults has shed new light on seismic activity in the area and could explain nearby enigmatic earthquakes.

New research published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the strange deformation of some very small earthquakes in California’s San Bernardino basin near the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults may be due to a “deep creep” 10km below the Earth’s surface

Geoscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst analyzed thousands of small earthquakes, noting that many exhibited surprising deformation patterns such as showing vertical movement far below the surface.

The usual type of fault in the region is called a strike-slip fault, where the motion is one of blocks sliding past each other. However, in this small area scientists observed an extending fault, where the motion between blocks is like a wave pulling away from the beach.

The team used modelling to help explain the data. “I noticed that this basin was an extension in those models unlike the surrounding regions of strike-slip,” study author Michele Cooke said.

Scientists typically use GPS stations to look for creep in faults but this did not work in this case, as the San Andreas and the San Jacinto faults lie so close together.

“Findings of this study demonstrate that small earthquakes that occur adjacent to and between faults can have very different style of deformation than the large ground rupturing earthquakes produced along active faults,” the research concludes.

Until now, seismologists assumed that no creep is taking place and so used data from all the little earthquakes to infer loading on the primary faults. However, this new research indicates that such a prediction model was not accurate, and shouldn’t be relied on to predict loading on San Andreas and San Jacinto.

The odd behavior was observed in about a third of tiny quakes recorded during the lull between big damaging quakes, according to the study. The team admits that the model may not be perfect but hope it will enhance general understanding of the earthquake process.

“We don’t want to wait around for the faults to move in a damaging earthquake. If we can understand how they are being loaded maybe we can understand better when these faults may be going to rupture,” Cooke concluded.

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