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TBR News August 17, 2018

Aug 17 2018

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

Washington, D.C. August 17, 2018: “Sorcha Faal, of ‘Planet X’ fame turns out to be a nom de plume for one David Booth, a retired computer programmer from New Hampshire who stirred up limited controversy in conspiracy circles with the promotion of his book ‘Code Red: The Coming Destruction of the United States 2004.’ Booth claimed the book originated in a  “consecutive ten day dream he alleged he experienced in 2003 in which he saw a large sized planetary body pass close to Earth causing an explosion.

This was then built up into the story about ‘Planet X’ a heretofore unknown planet in our solar system  on a very long, elliptical orbit. In May 2003, it was alleged by the lunatic fringe that the non-existent “Planet X” would pass close enough to the Earth to affect it in some way, causing it to flip over (what many call a “pole shift”) and spur many other huge disasters.

The end result was solemnly predicted be the deaths of many billions of people. There are a large number of web pages, chat rooms and books about Planet X and its horrible effects on the Earth.

So the question is, does this planet exist, and did it come close enough to Earth in May 2003 and cause great catastrophes?

Did an atomic bomb explode over downtown Houston, Texas, on December 25th, 2004 by orders of Paul Wolfowitz?

Many internet readers were breathlessly informed of this by a Canadian masquerading as the “German Guy,” a purported senior intelligence official in the German BND. Houston still stands, undamaged, and as far as the mythical ‘Planet X’ is concerned, here is a comment from the official NASA website:

From the NASA website:

“There is no known Planet X or 10th planet in our solar system. Scientists have been looking for about a hundred years. It was believed that such a planet was required to explain the orbital characteristics of the outer planets Uranus and Neptune. Many searches have been performed and, to date, no evidence of such a planet has emerged. In addition, better information about the masses of outer planets has also now shown that no other planets are necessary to explain the planetary orbits.

There also is no Sorcha Faal in St. Petersburg, Russia or Florida. None of the Russian scientific bodies listed in the Faal accounts, specifically the Russian Academy of Science, has any record of such a person.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 2
  • Donald Trump Is a Dangerous Demagogue. It’s Time for a Crusading Press to Fight Back.
  • Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
  • US dollar on its way out as world’s lead currency?
  • Japan & China slashing US sovereign debt is Washington’s worst nightmare
  • FBI sought Google location data of many to catch robber
  • The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine
  • The NSA’s Role in a Climate-Changed World: Spying on Nonprofits, Fishing Boats, and the North Pole

 

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 2

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

 

  • Jan 26, 2017

“Here’s another thing with the media. ‘Oh, (companies) would’ve (created jobs) anyway. They weren’t going to do it.’ You see, Jack Ma. He had no intention of doing it until I got elected. And he went down and he said, ‘I’m only going to do this because of Donald Trump.’ And nobody put that in the papers, which is OK.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: It is not exactly clear whether Ma made his proposal to “create one million” U.S. Jobs as a direct result of Trump’s election, but Trump’s claim about media bias is false regardless: upon coming down the elevator at Trump Tower, Ma, the executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, did not actually tell reporters that he had made the proposal “because of Donald Trump.” He said nothing of that sort at all.

“And a wall protects. All you have to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 per cent stoppage.”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: Exact numbers do not exist, but Israel’s barrier with the West Bank stops far fewer than “99.9 per cent” of people who seek to cross. The New York Times reported at length last year on “a thriving smuggling industry that allows untold numbers of people to pass over, under, through or around what Israelis call the security barrier.” A police spokesman said “hundreds” of illegal crossers were detained every week.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“We’ve taken in tens of thousands of people. We know nothing about (the refugees). They can say they vet them. They didn’t vet them. They have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don’t know anything about them and you have no papers?”

Source: Interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: Refugees to the U.S. are rigorously vetted. The process includes multiple kinds of background and security checks and at least two interviews with U.S. representatives. Regardless of their paperwork situation, and regardless of one’s opinion on how good the vetting is, the U.S. knows far more than “nothing” about the refugees it approves.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“Here in Philadelphia, the murder rate has been steady — I mean, just terribly increasing.”

Source: Speech to Republican legislators at retreat in Philadelphia

in fact: The number of Philadelphia homicides in 2016, 277, was actually down from the 280 in 2015. While both years represented an increase from 2013 (246 homicides) and 2014 (248 homicides), the overall trend has been downward: Philadelphia had 391 homicides in 2007 and 331 in 2008. The number of homicides as of Jan. 31, 30, was higher than the 19 at the same time in 2016 but about the same as the 27 in 2015. Regardless, the murder rate is never calculated on a month of data.

Jan 27, 2017

“Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, very very, at least very very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.”

Source: Interview with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody

in fact: There is no basis for the claim that U.S. authorities are treating Christian applicants from Syria worse than they treated Muslims. While a very small percentage of the Syrian refugees accepted by the U.S. in 2016 were Christian — 0.5 per cent, according to FactCheck.org — Christians make up a similarly tiny percentage of the Syrian refugees in nearby countries: 1.5 per cent in Lebanon, 0.2 per cent in Jordan.

“The Cuban-Americans — I got 84 per cent of that vote, and they voted in big numbers.”

Source: Interview with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody

in fact: Trump got nowhere near that percentage of the Cuban-American vote. Writes NBC: “According to exit polls, Trump won 54 per cent of the Cuban American vote in Florida, where two-thirds of people of Cuban descent live. Latino Decisions’ election eve poll showed he got about 48 per cent of the Cuban American vote nationally and 52 per cent in Florida.”

“I happened to be in Scotland at Turnberry cutting a ribbon when Brexit happened and we had a vast amount of press there. And I said Brexit — this was the day before, you probably remember, I said Brexit is going to happen and I was scorned in the press for making that prediction. I was scorned.”

Source: Press conference with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May

in fact: Trump was not in Scotland the day before the Brexit vote. He was there the day after. When he was asked about Brexit the day before the vote, he told Fox Business, “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much.” He did not venture a prediction that day.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

  • Jan 28, 2017

Thr (sic) coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas (sic) been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This claim is false in two ways. First, the Times’ subscriber base is growing, not dwindling: the company says it added more than 300,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2016. Second, the Times never apologized for its Trump coverage; Trump was referring to a post-election letter, a kind of sales pitch, in which Times leaders thanked readers and said they planned to “rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism.”

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

 

Donald Trump Is a Dangerous Demagogue. It’s Time for a Crusading Press to Fight Back.

August 16, 2018

by James Risen

The Intercept

When Adolf Hitler came to power, after the Nazis had shut down all of Germany’s independent newspapers and magazines and ended press freedom in the country, Hermann Ullstein, a member of a highly regarded German publishing family, fled to New York and wrote a penetrating memoir of the rise and fall of his family’s media empire.

His father, Leopold Ullstein, a Jewish newspaper dealer, had founded Ullstein Verlag, the family publishing house, which at its pre-Nazi peak owned some of Germany’s most important publications, including the Vossische Zeitung newspaper. But when Hitler stole their press holdings, Hermann Ullstein and other family members fled, and by World War II, the Ullstein presses were being used to print Das Reich, a newspaper created by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

From his refuge in New York, Hermann Ullstein wrote critically of the failure of the German press to confront Hitler more aggressively when it still had a chance — before he came to power. In his 1943 book, Ullstein chastised the mainstream press in Germany for being too cautious in the pre-Nazi years, especially in comparison to the aggressive right-wing media that was rising during the late 1920s and boosting Hitler’s political fortunes. He lamented the weak response of  “the loyal press,” his phrase for the pre-Nazi mainstream press “whose efforts were devoted to democracy, and whose failure was to a large extent due to mildness of language, to the tired and cautious spirit in which they fought.”

Hermann Ullstein’s criticism of the mainstream press of the pre-Nazi era would sound eerily familiar to anyone following the American media today as it tries to confront Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly castigated the American press as “the enemy of the people” and has brought his political supporters to such a crazed pitch that many of them now consider journalists to be traitors.  Some of Trump’s backers seem to think that physical attacks on reporters are acceptable.

Trump uses his Twitter account to maliciously attack individual reporters, and journalists covering Trump’s dark and fevered rallies are now being forced to hire security personnel to protect themselves from the crowds. Trump seeks to discredit the mainstream press at every turn, while granting preferential access to news organizations that traffic in right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories.

He has pressured the Justice Department to launch a wide range of leak investigations of the press, and has politicized that process to such an extent that at least two of the first leak cases to be prosecuted by his administration have involved stories related to whether Russia has meddled in the American electoral system and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to help Trump win the 2016 election.

Many in the American press today blanche at any comparisons between Trump and Hitler or other autocrats, and warn against overreacting to Trump. They also recoil at the notion that the press should go on a war-footing against Trump and eschew old-style journalistic crusades. They fear that such a confrontational approach will harm their credibility. Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, coined a phrase that succinctly captured this professional ethic — “We’re not at war, we’re at work.”

To be sure, plenty of reporters are doing great work under enormous pressure. Many news organizations continue to engage in aggressive investigative reporting about Trump, and much of what we now know about Trump’s corruption and possible collusion with Moscow has come from the press. But while that investigative digging is underway, Trump’s daily efforts to denigrate and discredit the press continue unabated, and his subversive efforts to undermine the media have had an impact. A recent poll showed that nearly nine out of 10 Republicans disapprove of the way the media has covered Trump.

The press often seems uncertain on how to respond. The White House press corps in particular seems determined to try to cover Trump as it has previous presidents, employing the same American journalistic standards and practices used in the past. Some press critics now believe that approach is too passive in the face of Trump’s malevolent approach.

“When the most powerful person in the world declares war on journalism, you can respond in one of two ways,” writes Dan Gillmor, co-founder of News Co/Lab and professor of practice at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “The first adds up to surrender. I’m sorry to say that some of you appear to have done so, by normalizing what is grossly abnormal and letting your enemies take advantage of the craft of journalism’s inherent weaknesses.”

It’s time to break with those civil traditions, other critics have added. “Journalists charged with covering him should suspend normal relations with the presidency of Donald Trump, which is the most significant threat to an informed public in the United States today,” argues Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University.

Some counter that Trump is only following in the press-bashing pattern set by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who both also used leak investigations to target reporters. (Believe me, I know about that. Both Bush and Obama came after me in a leak investigation that lasted seven years.)

But it is a mistake to see Trump as just another White House occupant following in a long tradition of presidential press-bashing. While the present-day U.S. is not Weimar Germany, Trump is not Hitler, and his incompetent administration has not come close to consolidating power in the way the Nazis did, Trump is nonetheless a dangerous demagogue who deploys some of the same tactics that Hitler did, and he has already gone further to attack the democratic institution of a free press than his predecessors did. He is seeking nothing less than the destruction of the legitimacy of the American press.

As Hermann Ullstein warned, such dangerous threats to press freedom are sometimes only taken seriously in hindsight. In 1964, the New York Times echoed Ullstein, writing that his family had made one critical mistake. “That was to believe that Adolf Hitler’s early statements of anti-Semitism were merely campaign oratory. They failed to turn the power of their papers and magazines against the rising Hitler until it was too late.”

Many in the American media believe that they are fighting back aggressively already. And indeed, in response to Trump’s attacks, hundreds of news organizations are publishing editorials about press freedom today. But that’s not enough. The response to Trump by the American press is still too tepid. Most American editors and reporters today disavow old-fashioned, crusading journalism, in which a news organization or even a group of news outlets throw all of their energy into an all-out assault on one story. They fear that crusades look partisan.

But crusading journalism is what is needed now. And there is a model to follow from recent American history. In 1976, Don Bolles, an investigative reporter with the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix who had become well-known for his coverage of the Mafia, was killed when his car blew up. In response, investigative reporters from all over America poured into Arizona to continue Bolles’s reporting. In 1977, those reporters, working through what became known in journalism as the Arizona Project, produced a 23-part series on corruption in Arizona.

Today, more than 40 years later, American journalists should come together for a Trump Project.

 

 

Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire

The NRA and the Gun Industry in the Global Stratosphere

August 16, 2018

by William D. Hartung

AntiWar

American weapons makers have dominated the global arms trade for decades. In any given year, they’ve accounted for somewhere between one-third and more than one-half the value of all international weapons sales. It’s hard to imagine things getting much worse — or better, if you happen to be an arms trader — but they could, and soon, if a new Trump rule on firearms exports goes through.

But let’s hold off a moment on that and assess just how bad it’s gotten before even worse hits the fan. Until recently, the Trump administration had focused its arms sales policies on the promotion of big-ticket items like fighter planes, tanks, and missile defense systems around the world. Trump himself has loudly touted U.S. weapons systems just about every time he’s had the chance, whether amid insults to allies at the recent NATO summit or at a chummy White House meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose brutal war in Yemen is fueled by U.S.-supplied arms.

A recent presidential export policy directive, in fact, specifically instructs American diplomats to put special effort into promoting arms sales, effectively turning them into agents for the country’s largest weapons makers. As an analysis by the Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy has noted, human rights and even national security concerns have taken a back seat to creating domestic jobs via such arms sales. Evidence of this can be found in, for example, the ending of Obama administration arms sales suspensions to Nigeria, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. The first of those had been imposed because of the way the Nigerian government repressed its own citizens; the second for Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on the democracy movement there; and the last for Saudi Arabia’s commission of acts that one member of Congress has said “look like war crimes” in its Yemeni intervention.

Fueling death and destruction, however, turns out not to be a particularly effective job creator. Such military spending actually generates significantly fewer jobs per dollar than almost any other kind of investment. In addition, many of those jobs will actually be located overseas, thanks to production-sharing deals with weapons-purchasing countries like Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and other U.S. allies. To cite an example, one of the goals of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform plan — unveiled in 2017 — is to ensure that, by 2030, half the value of the kingdom’s arms purchases will be produced in Saudi Arabia. U.S. firms have scrambled to comply, setting up affiliates in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and in the case of Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky unit, agreeing to begin assembling military helicopters there. McClatchy news service summed up the situation in this headline: “Trump’s Historic Arms Deal Is a Likely Jobs Creator — In Saudi Arabia.”

For most Americans, there should be serious questions about the economic benefits of overseas arms sales, but if you’re a weapons maker looking to pump up sales and profits, the Trump approach has already been a smashing success. According to the head of the Pentagon’s arms sales division, known euphemistically as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Department of Defense has brokered agreements for sales of major systems worth $46 billion in the first six months of 2018, more than the $41 billion in deals made during all of 2017.

And that, it seems, is just the beginning.

Slow Motion Weapons of Mass Destruction

Yes, those massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment. Global arms control advocates have termed such small arms and light weaponry — rifles, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and handguns — “slow motion weapons of mass destruction” because they’re the weapons of choice in the majority of the 40 armed conflicts now underway around the world. They and they alone have been responsible for nearly half of the roughly 200,000 violent deaths by weapon that have been occurring annually both in and outside of official war zones.

And the Trump administration is now moving to make it far easier for U.S. gun makers to push such wares around the world. Consider it an irony, if you will, but in doing so, the president who has staked his reputation on rejecting everything that seems to him tainted by Barack Obama is elaborating on a proposal originally developed in the Obama years.

The crucial element in the new plan: to move key decisions on whether or not to export guns and ammunition abroad from the State Department’s jurisdiction, where they would be vetted on both human rights and national security grounds, to the Commerce Department, whose primary mission is promoting national exports.

The Violence Policy Center, a research and advocacy organization that seeks to limit gun deaths, has indicated that such a move would ease the way for more exports of a long list of firearms. Those would include sniper rifles and AR-15s, the now-classic weapon in U.S. mass killings like the school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut. Under the new plan, the careful tracking of whose hands such gun exports could end up in will be yesterday’s news and, as a result, U.S. weapons are likely to become far more accessible to armed gangs, drug cartels, and terrorist operatives.

President Trump’s plan would even eliminate the requirement that Congress be notified in advance of major firearms deals, which would undoubtedly prove to be the arms loophole of all time. According to statistics gathered by the Security Assistance Monitor, which gathers comprehensive information on U.S. military and police aid programs, the State Department approved $662 million worth of firearms exports to 15 countries in 2017. The elimination of Congressional notifications and the other proposed changes will mean that countries like Mexico, the Philippines, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as various Central American nations, will have far easier access to a far wider range of U.S. firearms with far less Congressional oversight. And that, in turn, means that U.S.-supplied weapons will play even more crucial roles in vicious civil wars like the one in Yemen and are far more likely to make their way into the hands of local thugs, death squads, and drug cartels.

And mind you, it isn’t as if U.S. gun export policies were enlightened before the Trump era. They were already wreaking havoc in neighboring countries. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, an astonishing 50,000 U.S. guns were recovered in criminal investigations in 15 Western Hemisphere nations between 2014 and 2016. That report goes on to note that 70% of the guns recovered from crimes in Mexico are of U.S. origin. The comparable figures for Central America are 49% for El Salvador, 46% for Honduras, and 29% for Guatemala.

While Donald Trump rails — falsely — against a flood of criminals washing across the U.S.-Mexico border, he conveniently ignores this country’s export of violence in the other direction thanks to both legal and illegal transfers of guns to Mexico and Central America. The U.S. has, in short, already effectively weaponized both criminal networks and repressive security forces in those countries. In other words, it’s played a key role in the killing of significant numbers of innocent civilians there, ratcheting up the pressure on individuals, families, and tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have then headed for the United States looking for a safer, better life. Trump’s new proposal would potentially make this situation far worse and his “big, fat, beautiful wall” would have to grow larger still.

In the past, congressional awareness of foreign firearm deals has made a difference. In September 2017, under pressure from Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the Trump administration reversed itself and blocked a sale of 1,600 semiautomatic pistols to Turkey because of abuses by the personal security forces of that country’s president, Recep Erdogan. (Those included what the New York Times described as “brutal attacks” on U.S. citizens during Erdogan’s May 2017 trip to Washington, D.C.) Similarly, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) persuaded the Obama administration to halt a deal that would have sent 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines, where security forces and private death squads, egged on by President Rodrigo Duterte, were gunning down thousands of people suspected of (but not charged with or convicted of) drug trafficking. As Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin has noted, under the new Trump rules, it will be nearly impossible for members of Congress to intervene in such a fashion to stop similar deals in the future.

On the implications of the deregulation of firearms exports, Cardin has spoken out strongly. “The United States,” he said, “should never make it easier for foreign despots to slaughter their civilians or for American-made assault weapons to be readily available to paramilitary or terrorist groups… The administration’s proposal makes those scenarios even more possible. The United States is, and should be, better than this.”

The Trump plan is, however, good news for hire-a-gun successors to Blackwater, the defunct private contractor whose personnel killed 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in a notorious 2007 incident. Such firms would be able to train foreign military forces in the use of firearms without seeking licenses from the State Department, allowing them to operate in places like Libya that might otherwise have been off-limits.

Embracing the Gun Lobby

Not surprisingly, Trump’s proposal to make it easier for global gunrunners to operate from U.S. soil has been greeted with jubilation by the National Rifle Association and U.S.-based firearms manufacturers. The NRA has been a staunch opponent of efforts to place any kind of controls on the global trade in guns since at least the mid-1990s. That was when the United Nations first addressed the impact of the global trade in small arms and light weapons, which ultimately led to the passage of an international Arms Trade Treaty in 2014. Though the Obama administration signed it, the Senate refused to ratify it, in large part thanks to an NRA lobbying campaign.

Now, the NRA has an enthusiastic ally in the president. And that organization, which vigorously backed him in the 2016 election campaign, spending over $30 million on ads praising him or trashing Hillary Clinton, is backing his efforts to deregulate gun exports to the hilt. In a June 2018 letter from its Institute for Legislative Affairs, the NRA urged its supporters to weigh in favorably during the public-comment period on the new rules, describing them as “among the most important pro-gun initiatives by the Trump administration to date.” That’s no small claim, given the president’s enthusiastic embrace of virtually every element of the NRA’s anti-gun-control agenda.

The National Sports Shooting Federation (NSSF), the misleadingly named trade association for U.S. gun manufacturers, is also backing Trump’s efforts to boost firearms exports. The federation’s president, Lawrence Keane, has asserted that the administration proposal will be “a significant positive development for the industry that will allow members to reduce costs and compete in the global marketplace more effectively, all while not in any way hindering national security.”

Among the biggest threats posed by Trump’s approach to guns is his administration’s decision to settle a case with Defense Distributed, a Texas-based firm run by gun advocate Cody Wilson, and so usher in “the age of the downloadable gun.” Though a Seattle-based judge intervened to stop him for the time being, the government had green-lighted Wilson’s posting of designs on the Internet that could be used to produce plastic guns on 3-D printers. If it does happen, it will undoubtedly prove to be a global bonanza for anyone in need of a weapon and capable of purchasing such a printer anywhere in the world.

Arms control and human rights groups have joined domestic gun control organizations like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in trying to block the change, which will dramatically undermine efforts to limit the proliferation of guns at home and abroad. If they fail, it will suddenly become much easier to produce untraceable plastic firearms — from handguns to AR-15s. The administration even agreed to pay Cody Wilson’s legal fees in the dispute, a move former congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) has described as “a particularly galling example of Mr. Trump’s obsequiousness to the most extreme fringe of the gun lobby.”

Congress could seek to blunt the most egregious aspects of the Trump administration’s deregulation of firearms exports by, for instance, ensuring that oversight of the most dangerous guns — like sniper rifles and AR-15 semiautomatic weapons — not be shifted away from the State Department. It could also continue to force the administration to notify Congress of any major firearms deals before they happen and pass legislation making it illegal to post instructions for producing untraceable guns via 3-D printing technology.

In a political climate dominated by an erratic president in the pocket of the NRA and a Congress with large numbers of members under the sway of the gun lobby, however, only a strong, persistent public outcry might make a difference.

In the meantime, welcome to the world of American gunrunning and start thinking of Donald Trump as our very own gunrunner-in-chief.

 

US dollar on its way out as world’s lead currency?

Tumbling emerging market currencies, including the Russian ruble, have caused Moscow to publicly wish for the “demise” of the greenback from global finance. Lars Halter examines how realistic such a wish actually is.

August 16, 2018

by Lars Halter (sri)

DW

If the stability of a currency is entirely linked to the confidence in the issuer of the currency, then it does not look good for the US dollar. In Washington, US President Donald Trump appears to be busy fighting against the rest of the world.

His administration has kick-started a fierce trade conflict with China and other countries by slapping tariffs and engaging in protectionist rhetoric.

In recent weeks, Trump has also picked up quarrels with Russia and Turkey. But the two are beating back by hitting Washington where it hurts. Both Moscow and Ankara are questioning the global role of the US dollar.

The beginnings

The global advance of the American currency began on February 14, 1945, on the USS Quincy, which was anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, near the Suez Canal in Egypt. In the belly of the cruiser, armed with anti-aircraft guns, a reception room had been set up: a few hastily arranged armchairs and tables on an oriental rug, in addition to the stars and stripes.

The steel walls of the mighty Navy ship were seen in the background.

Only a handful of people, including then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud, were present. During their talks, Roosevelt promised military protection to his Saudi guest in exchange for secure access to Saudi oil and settling oil sales in dollars.

The deal meant that in just over a decade after the US effectively abandoned the gold standard in 1933, the greenback was once again tied to a commodity: this time it was black gold (oil).

Despite periodic tensions in US-Saudi relations, the pact has survived. And as demand for oil rose rapidly in the subsequent decades, the demand for US dollar also climbed. An increasing number of cross-border transactions began to be settled in the American currency.

That is still the case today. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that around 62 percent of the world’s currency reserves are held in dollars. By comparison, the euro makes up about 20 percent of the currency reserves, followed by the yen and the pound sterling, which account for less than five percent.

The US dollar also plays a crucial role in forex transactions, with the currency accounting for 85 percent of the international currency exchange.

The US Federal Reserve has always supported the dollar’s role as the leader of the world’s currencies and provided sufficient liquidity, which has been a factor in ensuring its dominance.

The dollar’s liquidity makes it appealing for investors, who came to regard it as a safe haven — after all, the currency can be traded quickly.

This can sometimes trigger ugly situations: for instance, when investors sense economic trouble, they rush toward the dollar, even though the biggest threats to the global economy stem from the US.

This was the case for the most part during the 2007-08 financial crisis, or even during regular standoffs in the US Congress over the debt ceiling.

Economist Barry Eichengreen describes it as an “outrageous privilege” for the US. And yet he sees no alternative. That’s because the two main potential rivals to the dollar, the euro and the Chinese renminbi, have problems of their own. Eichengreen said the euro is a currency without a state, and the renminbi is a currency with too much state.

In other words, the expert explained, if push comes to shove, there will not be any national government to back up the euro and ensure monetary and financial stability. The Chinese currency, meanwhile, is controlled by the political leadership in Beijing and not by market forces.

Less dollar dominance not inconceivable

It’s difficult to find any consistency when it comes to Trump’s rhetoric vis-a-vis currencies. He doesn’t shy away from accusing other countries, particularly China, of currency manipulation. But then, with his tweets, he puts pressure on the Fed to follow his recommendations on monetary policy.

Although the US central bank has so far been pursuing a steady course, the White House’s recommendations and demands about interest and exchange rates create uncertainty as to whether one can always rely on the political neutrality of the Fed.

Furthermore, no one wants to bet on Trump’s economic policies. His actions too often contradict his rhetoric: he speaks of large trade agreements, but has so far only withdrawn the US from them. None of his promised new deals has materialized. A trade dispute with China, uncertainty with regard to his dealings with Russia and a dispute now with Turkey, which is causing a plunge in the value of the lira. In the current economic climate, the dollar doesn’t seem to be a safe bet.

Against this backdrop, the question remains: which currency in future could give the dollar a run for its money?

Russia and Turkey have announced that they want to return to national currencies in international trade — they want to avoid the detour via the dollar.

If other countries agree, the dollar could become less dominant in global trade in future, say some observers. Still, the US currency will likely remain the strongest individual national currency as long as the US enjoys greater investor confidence than that enjoyed by other countries.

 

Japan & China slashing US sovereign debt is Washington’s worst nightmare

August 17, 2018

RT

Latest figures from the US Treasury Department show that Russia and Turkey are not the only countries to dump US debt bonds. Washington’s second-biggest creditor, Japan, is doing the same.

Tokyo dumped $82.9 billion, or seven percent of its US Treasuries holdings, over the twelve months ending in June – the latest month for which data is available.

In June alone, the country sold off $18.4 billion worth of the US securities. Japan’s holding as of June totals $1.03 trillion, the lowest since October 2011, though the country still remains the second-biggest holder of US debt.

China, the biggest holder of the US sovereign debt at $1.178 trillion, sold $4.4 billion worth of the US bonds in June. Since October 2011, China’s share of US Treasuries has declined by $138 billion. A fairly insignificant amount, but the escalating trade conflict with Washington could prompt Beijing to start massively dumping its holdings. The move could spell disaster for the US financial system.

Liquidating US Treasuries, one of the world’s safest and most actively-traded financial assets, has recently become a trend among major holders. Russia dumped 84 percent of its holdings this year, with its remaining holdings as of June totaling just $14.9 billion. With relations between Moscow and Washington at their lowest point in decades, the Central Bank of Russia explained the decision was based on financial, economic and geopolitical risks.

At the same time, Turkey fell off the list of major foreign holders of US government securities by slashing its share of US bonds and notes to $28.8 billion in June from $32.6 billion in May. Turkey’s holding of US Treasuries has fallen by 42 percent during the first half of the year.

Ankara and Washington are in a diplomatic standoff over the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. Brunson has been charged with assisting the failed military coup two years ago. He faces 35 years in a Turkish prison.

A treasury bond is a fixed-interest government debt security with a maturity of more than 10 years. Treasury bonds make interest payments two times a year. Financial instruments such as government bonds are vital for countries that are used to living on credit. US Treasuries are critical to the US government’s ability to borrow money to balance the budget.

 

FBI sought Google location data of many to catch robber

August 16, 2018

BBC News

The FBI requested location data from Google covering 100 acres (0.4 sq km) as part of an investigation into a series of robberies in US city Portland, reports Forbes.

The request for data on users in the area amounted to an “indiscriminate search”, said lawyers.

It comes amid news that Google stores geographical data from phones even when location history is turned off.

But the search giant did not comply with the FBI’s request.

During March and April of 2018, the police were investigating a spate of robberies of small businesses in the Portland area.

A suspect was eventually caught and this month pleaded guilty to 11 of the 14 robberies or attempted robberies.

But in the early stage of the investigation, the FBI issued a search warrant asking Google to hand over data that would identify people using its location services on a mobile device near two or more of the locations of the robberies.

It asked for:

  • names and full addresses
  • telephone numbers
  • records of session times and duration
  • date on which account was created
  • length of service
  • IP address used to register the account
  • log-in IP addresses associated with session times
  • email addresses
  • log files
  • means and source of payment, including any credit or bank account number

The document seen by Forbes suggests that the police were interested in only users who had been at at least two locations within specified timeframes.

Despite this, lawyer Marina Medvin told the publication it represented an “indiscriminate search of a large group of people”.

Such general searches, she added, are prohibited under the US Constitution.

“Having such a broad search means that more and more innocent people – people who have not done anything wrong – were going to have their personal data swept up and turned over to the government,” said Zachary Heiden, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine

by Issa Nakhleh  LL.B

The Jews of today are composed of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi Jews. The Sephardi Jews are the Oriental Jews wo are descendants of the Jews who left Palestine during the Christian era and migrated to neighboring Arab countries., North Africa and Spain. Some of the Oriental Jews were also converts to Judaism, such as some Berbers of North Africa who were converted to Judaism. The Tunisian Jews, Albert Memmi, a Professor of Sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris, has expressed doubt as “to whether his own ancestors in the Saraha had any historic connection to Palestine. Perhaps, he suggested, they were just Berbers converted to Judaism, since according to his information, “most North African Jews are simply Berber nomads who have accepted Judaism.”

Arthur Koestler maintains that there were many Jewish converts outside of Palestine with no biblical family roots:

‘Witness to the proselytizing zeal of the Jews of earlier times are the black-skinned Falasha of Abyssinia, the Chinese Jews of Kai-Feng who look like Chinese, the Yemenite Jews with the dark olive complexion, the Jewish Berber tribes of the Sahara who look like Tauregs, and so on, down to our prime example, the Khazars.’

The Ashkenazi Jews who lived in Russian and Central Eastern Europe and later on migrated to Western and Southern Europe, are of Khazar origin and were converted to Judaism in the 9th century A.S. The Khazar Jews have no ethnic or historical connection with Palestine. The Ahakenazi Jews who migrated to Palestine during the British mandate and who committed the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people are descendants of the Khazars. The Jewish Encyclopedia refers to the Khazars and their conversion to Judaism:

“A people of Turkish origin whose life and history are interwoven with the very beginnings of the history of the Jews of Russia. The kingdom of the Khazars was firmly established in most of South Russia long before the foundation of the Russian monarchy by the Varangians(855)…Driven onward by the nomadic tribes of the steppes and by their own desire for plunder and revenge, they made frequent invasions into Armenia…

In the second half of the sixth century the Khazar move westward. They established themselves in the territory bounded by the Sea of Azov, the Don and the lower Volga, the Caspian Sea, and the northern Caucasus…In 679 the Khazars subjugated the Bulgars and extended their sway further west between the Don and the Dnieper, as far as the the head-waters of Donetsk….It was probably about that time that the Khaghan (Bulan) of the Khazars and his grandees, together with a large number of his heathen people, embraced the Jewish religion…

It was one of the successors of Bulan, named Obadiah, who regenerated the kingdom and strengthened the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish scholars to settle in his dominions, and founded synagogues and schools, The people were instructed in the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud…

From the work Kitab al-Buldan written about the ninth century, it appears as if all the Khazars were Jews and that they had been converted to Judaism only a short time before that book was written….It may be assumed that in the ninth century many Khazar heathens became Jews, owing to the religious zeal of King Obadia,. “Such a conversion in great masses says Chwolson (Izvyestia o  Khazaraka, p 58), ” may have been the reason for the embassy of the Christians from the land of the Khazars to the Byzantine emperor Michael…

The Jewish population in the entire domain of the Khazars, in the period between the seenth and tenth centuries, must have been considerable…

The Russians invaded the trans-Caucasian country in 944…This seems to have been the beginning of the downfall of the Khazar kingdom…The Russian prince Sviatoslav made war upon the Khazars (c.974) the Russians conquered all the Khazarian territory east of the Sea of Azov. Only the Crimean territory of the Khazars remained in their possession until 1016, when they were dispossessed by a joint expedition of Russians and Byzanatines…Many were sent as prisoners of was to Kiev, where a Khazar community had long existed…Some went to Hungary, but the great mass of the people remained in their native country. Many members of the Khazrian royal family emigrated to Spain…

Professor Graetz describes the Khazar kingdom as follows:

“The heathen king of a barbarian people, living in the north,m together with all his court, adopted the Jewish religion…Their kings, who bore the title of Khakhan or Khaghan, had led these warlike sons of the steppe from victory to victory…

It is possible that the circumstances under which the Khazars embraced Judaism have been embellished by legend, but the fact itself is too definitely proved on all sides to allow any doubt as to its reality. Besides Bulan, the nobles of his kingdom, numbering nearly four thousand,m adopted the Jewish religion. Little by little it made its way among the people, so that most of the inhabitants of the towns of the H=Khazar kingdom were Jews…At first the Judaism of the Khazars must have been rather superficial, and could have had but a little influence on their mind and manners…

A successor of Bulan, who bore the Hebrew name of Obadiah, was the first to make serious efforts to further the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish sages to settle in his dominions, rewarded them royally, founded synagogues and schools, caused instruction to be given to himself and his people in the Bible and the Talmud, and introduced a divine service modeled on that of the ancient communities…After Obadiah came a along series of Jewish Khaghans, for according to a fundamental law of the state only Jewish rulers were permitted to ascent the throne…”

According to Dr. A.A. Poliak, Professor of Medieval Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, the descendants of the Khazars-“those who stayed where they were, those who emigrated to the United States and to other countries, and those who went ti Israel– constitute now the large majority of world Jewry.”

The physiological differences between the Ashkenazim, who are mainly of Turkic Khazar origin, the the Sephardim, who are mainly of Semitic Palestinian origin, has been confirmed by scientific evidence:

“By, and large, the Sephardim are dolichocephalic (long-headed), the Ashkenazim brachycephalic (broad-headed)…The statistics relating to other physical features also speak against racial unity…The hardest evidence to date come from classification by blood groups.”The thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler pps. 232-233

Thus both historical and physiological evidence negate any historical claims to being of Palestinian origin to the European Jews in Israel and to the majority of Jews in the world.

 

The NSA’s Role in a Climate-Changed World: Spying on Nonprofits, Fishing Boats, and the North Pole

August 15, 2018

by Alleen Brown and Miriam Pensack

The Intercept

In the northernmost place in the United States, Point Barrow, Alaska, a National Security Agency collection site has allowed analysts to observe Russia’s military buildup 24/7, as melting Arctic ice opens a new conflict zone. The NSA has also monitored a dispute between India and Pakistan over access to the Indus River system, which is fed by glaciers high in the Himalayas, now shrinking. And as fisheries are facing increasing pressure from seas whose currents and temperatures have already been altered significantly by climate change, the NSA has listened in on phone conversations and monitored the movement of fishing boats engaged in potentially illegal practices that threaten dwindling stocks.

Previously unreleased documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show how the agency has gathered intelligence meant to support U.S. interests related to environmental disasters, conflicts, and resources. In the coming years, greenhouse gas pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels will increase the frequency of ecological crises and conflicts over natural resources. The documents provide a window into the role the United States’s most sprawling international surveillance agency will play in an altered world.

The documents show that although the NSA’s interest in environmental issues is limited, it’s wide-reaching and has grown over the years. Unsurprisingly, the agency is driven not by an imperative to avoid climate-induced ecological crises, but by a need to respond to such crises as they threaten U.S. political and economic interests or explode into violent clashes.

According to the documents, the NSA targets its surveillance at disputes over natural resources, from the dwindling fisheries of the South China Sea to the newly opened shipping channels of the Arctic. It also plays a role in monitoring natural disasters, including by gathering intelligence after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011. Documents previously reported on show the agency routinely surveils climate talks, giving U.S. negotiators an edge as they avoid committing to the dramatic emissions reductions necessary to avoid the most dire potential effects of climate change. Intelligence is shared not only with diplomats and emergency responders but also with officials from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

The NSA’s eco-spying coincided with repeated findings within the intelligence community that environmental concerns had national security implications. The military has long recognized climate change as a major threat, and over the years, the Defense Department has framed it as a “threat multiplier,” enflaming conflicts by adding to the mix issues like drought, loss of access to drinking water or irrigation, rising sea levels, migration and die-offs of wild game, wildfires, catastrophic storms, and the human displacement that comes with all such issues. A previously published NSA document, dated May 14, 2007, quoted then-Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper at an internal NSA conference saying, “Increasingly, the environment is becoming an adversary for us. And I believe that the capabilities and assets of the Intelligence Community are going to be brought to bear increasingly in assessing the environment as an adversary.”

The U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, released in February 2018, dedicates a section to the issue of climate change. “The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018,” the assessment said.

But under President Donald Trump, security officials have sometimes avoided talking about climate change. Neither the Defense Department’s 2018 defense strategy nor the president’s national security strategy highlight the issue as a security threat. Nonetheless, Trump’s military, intelligence, and border agencies are responding to issues whose links to climate change may not be outwardly apparent — from the war in Syria, which has been linked to an earlier drought; to the hurricanes that ravaged Houston and Puerto Rico; to emigration from Central America, where a prolonged period without rain in recent years made agriculture in the region’s Dry Corridor extremely difficult. The documents hint at, but do not fully capture, the potentially vast role of the surveillance state in a climate-changed world.

The NSA declined to comment.

Monitoring the Movements of Chinese Fishing Vessels

One particularly vexing environmental challenge for the NSA was the tracking of Chinese commercial fishing boats, which routinely became electronic phantoms, believed to be hundreds or thousands of miles from where they actually were. This was due to a combination of strange errors occurring at hemispheric boundaries in addition to an intricate system of intentional misinformation adopted by the Chinese, according to a 2012 article in SIDtoday, the internal news site of the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate. The boats “are often involved in [Exclusive Economic Zone] incursions and illegal fishing activities,” the document stated.

Indeed, in the South China Sea, a fight over fishing has become a proxy for a broader power struggle among the nations located along its banks. China has laid claim to a wide swath of the sea. Waters it claims as its own overlap with maritime territories claimed by other nations under the U.N.’s system of exclusive economic zones, or EEZs. The territorial conflicts are often framed as being about oil, but perhaps just as important is the sea life that represents a key part of several nations’ economies and diets.

The fisheries of the South China Sea are declining — and are on the brink of collapse, according to scientists. Stocks have shrunk by 70 to 90 percent since the 1950s, largely due to overfishing. This has further incentivized nations that surround the sea to go to battle over the disputed territories. Regulating fishing has become impossible, since accepting another nation’s fishing laws would be accepting its jurisdiction over the territory. Fishermen who can no longer access areas dominated by the Chinese, in nations like the Philippines — a U.S. ally — have increasingly turned to illegal fishing methods. And occasionally, disputes over fishing have exploded into military standoffs.

“As maritime resources are stressed by increased fishing pressures, disputes over fishing rights and violations of EEZ are a growing concern and are increasingly becoming flash points for international incidents,” the SIDtoday article, dated June 27, 2012, said. “Monitoring of the locations and activities of foreign fishing fleets is an important mission of the United States Coast Guard, many of our Second Party partners, as well as being an item of concern for the US State Department.”

Most large maritime vessels use what’s known as the automatic identification system, which lets other ships in the area know where and who they are. “Naturally, it wasn’t surprising to hear our customers’ concerns when a large number of Chinese fishing vessels were observed broadcasting their position 1,000 miles from where they actually were,” the article stated. “Not only did this pose a threat to the safety of navigation for ships operating in proximity to these fishing vessels, it also complicated the monitoring of the EEZ for the United States and our Second Party partners. A combined effort between NSA Colorado and Second Party partners surged on this problem.”

One of the problem’s causes seemed to be accidental — the Chinese boats’ coordinates “would appear to ‘bounce or reflect’ off the equator and the international dateline as the ships continued east or south,” the article said.

So, for example, a boat located on the Pacific coast of South America would appear to be in northern India. Alerted to the problem, China corrected it in 2011, according to the document.

A second problem “was not an error but an intentional ‘misuse’ of the AIS messaging protocol to produce a different (home-grown) coordinate system,” the document said. At least 18 Chinese ships were found to be using an alternative definition of the latitude and longitude system, which threw off their coordinates for everyone else using the standard system. The result: While the Chinese knew where their ships were, neighboring boats did not. “The underlying reason for why the PRC has opted to use this alternate coordinate system for some of their fishing vessels is still unknown,” the article said.

Eavesdropping on Phone Calls to Stop a Stateless Fishing Boat

The NSA has also been involved in policing banned fishing practices used by stateless ships. High seas drift-net fishing involves attaching buoys to the top of a miles-long net that descends into the depths of the ocean. The net is sometimes attached to a ship, but other times is left to float, passively collecting any marine life that comes by, including fish or whales that are not of any commercial interest to the fishermen. The net works by entangling the gills of fish in its fine mesh. The nets are often made of nylon and put in place at night, so that they become invisible to sea life.

Another SIDtoday article, written by a technical director at NSA Hawaii and dated October 16, 2012, indicates the NSA works with the U.S. Coast Guard in chasing down fishing boats that use the destructive fishing method. In September 2011, the Coast Guard caught a large fishing vessel using drift nets 2,600 miles south of Kodiak, Alaska, but the boat’s partner vessel escaped. Seven months later, the NSA picked up a signal from a satellite phone associated with the boat. “It was time to take action,” the document stated.

“An NSA Hawaii linguist listened in on the fishing vessel’s communications for any signs that the crew would resist a boarding operation by the Coast Guard,” the article said. A packet of intel related to the chase was provided by Hawaii analysts to the Coast Guard’s Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center twice a week.

Finally, on July 27, 2012, 700 nautical miles east of Yokosuka, Japan, the Coast Guard boarded the fishing vessel. “The vessel’s crew consisted of 26 Chinese and one Taiwanese, and the vessel claimed to be Indonesian flagged, but after contacting Indonesia the vessel was determined to be stateless,” the document said.

It continued, “While on board the Da Cheng, the boarding team discovered 10 NM of driftnet, 500 kilograms of shark fins, over five tons of shark carcasses, and 30 tons of tuna.” The vessel was turned over to the Chinese Bureau of Fisheries for further investigation

During a Dam Dispute in India and Pakistan, the NSA Was Watching

It’s not just oceans and seas that the NSA keeps an eye on for aquatic disputes. One of South Asia’s most important sources of water is the Indus River system, which is fed by glacial water high in the Himalayas. One recent study projected that at least a third of Asia’s mountain glaciers will melt away by the end of the century, potentially destabilizing water sources. Changing monsoon patterns will exacerbate the situation.

Access to water has long been a point of tension between India and Pakistan, and disputes are perennial over access to the tributaries, which were divided between the two nations under the Indus Waters Treaty. In the mid-2000s, India’s Baglihar Dam project was a key point of contention. Pakistan claimed it could deprive the nation of water that should be designated for its agricultural sector, which in some areas of the country relies almost exclusively on the Indus system.

The NSA was listening in.

A SIDtoday article published March 22, 2006, on World Water Day, noted, “NSA reporting has followed the ongoing tensions surrounding the India-Pakistan Indus Water Treaty and construction of Baglihar Dam, providing our customers with unique information as they monitor this volatile region.”

In fact, the agency had its eye on a number of riparian disputes and predicted a future of increasing water scarcity and conflict. “As competition for water grows among the Nile Basin countries in Africa, analysts continue to report on contentious water extraction projects that could potentially lead to conflict in this area,” wrote the author, an NSA liaison on “economics and global issues.”

The document indicates that the NSA spied on an array of both governmental and nongovernmental entities in order to access intel on water conflicts, stating, “NSA’s broad access to government officials, multilateral organizations, and NGOs has yielded unique perspectives on water availability for internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan, flooding in Afghanistan, and contaminated water sources in Baghdad.”

And this “broad access” predicted a future where such collection could be increasingly important. “While the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of water resources has grown six-fold. At this rate, more than 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by the year 2025 and another 2.5 billion will live in areas where it will be difficult to find sufficient fresh water,” the document said. Signals intelligence “has provided critical insight on issues ranging from inter-state water disputes and food security, to economics and technology sharing, health infrastructure, and natural disasters.”

In the Arctic, a 24/7 Watch on the Russians

In response to climate change, the NSA has increased its northernmost surveillance, an internal document indicates. This past winter, ice cover in the Arctic was the second lowest it’s ever been, after the year before. Sea ice in the summers has shrunk by about 40 percent since the 1980s, and what’s left is much thinner. A 2018 study led by researchers with the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that it would be nearly impossible for temperatures in the Arctic to rise as high as they have without the impact of greenhouse gases.

The result is that new shipping lanes have opened up at the top of the globe. Areas once impassible have become accessible for the transport of goods, movement of military vessels, and exploration of fossil fuels. A 2009 assessment indicated that the Arctic potentially contains 13 percent of the undiscovered oil left in the world, and 30 percent of the remaining natural gas. In response, Russia has built up its military presence dramatically.

Ice melt in the Arctic and increasing competition for hydrocarbons and minerals has forced the U.S. to make the Arctic a higher priority, an NSA technical director at the Alaska Mission Operations Center acknowledged in a SIDtoday article dated November 29, 2011.

For the NSA, Russia’s plans for two new Arctic army brigades and new icebreaker boats were of particular concern. “These plans, along with an increasing Chinese presence and expressed interest in the Arctic, pose a significant intelligence challenge to the United States, Canada, and the other Arctic countries,” the document said.

The NSA “maintains a 24/7 watch over Russian military air activity in the Arctic,” the document added. Using various collection techniques, including intercepts of shortwave radio and foreign satellite transmissions, the NSA monitored for Russian bombers and watched for Russian resupply flights to its Barneo ice station, near the North Pole.

The NSA’s Arctic operation was centered at the time at the Alaska Missions Operations Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, but the agency also had a “remote intercept facility” at Point Barrow, Alaska.

The facility, housed at the Air Force’s Long Range Radar Site, included an antenna array, an FRD-13 Pusher — a massive circular antenna, nicknamed an “elephant cage,” used to intercept radio communications — and a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, containing collection equipment. Two personnel were stationed at all times at Point Barrow.

“The facility at Barrow is moving into the future of NSA operations,” the document said, noting that there would soon be upgrades to the Barrow facility, including a wideband radio collection system known as “GLAIVE.”

“The AMOC is uniquely positioned to continue to be a vital part of NSA’s efforts against the emerging Arctic Intelligence problem,” it said.

Climate Change a Growing Priority for the NSA

Previously unreleased documents indicate that climate change increasingly became a topic of interest in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. Climate change is mentioned repeatedly in reports describing the NSA’s priority issues. A secret NSA report describing geopolitical trends for 2011 to 2016, for example, ranked climate change as No. 31 out of 34 priorities (No. 1 was “global energy security”).

To bring analysts up to date on this increasingly urgent issue, the NSA offered various learning opportunities. For example, in advance of the U.N.’s Cancún, Mexico, climate talks in 2010, approximately 50 analysts attended an entire “Climate Change Day,” according to SIDtoday. And in the summer of 2006, the agency held a seminar on the causes and effects of climate change titled “Fire and Ice.” A description says, “Climate change (most likely as a result of global warming) is expected to accelerate at an unprecedented rate over the coming decades and has already been linked to drought and related famine, shifts in precipitation, and the loss of fresh water resources. Extreme weather patterns are a growing threat.” It adds, “Alternative viewpoints will also be addressed.”

More than a decade later, the intelligence community appears less concerned about the validity of alternative viewpoints. The intelligence community’s publicly released 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment notes, “The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and the past few years have been the warmest years on record. Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages. Research has not identified indicators of tipping points in climate-linked earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change.”

It underlines that bad air pollution may drive protests in China, India, and Iran. Water scarcity will drive conflicts related to the construction of dams and will complicate agreements around the use of river water. And accelerating biodiversity loss caused by pollution, warming, unsustainable fishing, and acidifying oceans “will jeopardize vital ecosystems that support critical human systems.”

 

 

 

 

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