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TBR News August 20, 2018

Aug 20 2018

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

Washington, D.C. August 20, 2018: “Smallpox could be described as the first urban virus. It is thought to have made a trans-species jump into humans in one of the early agricultural river valleys — perhaps in the Nile Valley, or in Mesopotamia, or in the Indus River Valley. In the Cairo Museum, the mummy of the Pharaoh Ramses V, who died as a young man in 1157 B.C., is speckled with yellow blisters from face to scrotum.

Today, smallpox and its protocols could be anywhere in the world. A master seed strain of smallpox could be carried in a person’s pocket. The seed itself could be a freeze-dried lump of virus the size of a jimmy on an ice-cream cone. it is lethal, airborne, and highly contagious, and is now exotic to the human species, and there is not enough vaccine to stop an outbreak. Experts feel that the appearance of a single case of smallpox anywhere on earth would be a global medical emergency.

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 5
  • From Beijing to the Beltway: The Revolt Against the Entitled
  • Clapper vs Brennan: Ex-DNI chief says ex-CIA head’s attacks on Trump becoming ‘an issue’
  • Over 175 ex-US spy officials join Brennan clearance outcry
  • Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests
  • Exclusive: China shifts to Iranian tankers to keep oil flowing amid U.S. sanctions – sources
  • Iran defense minister vows to develop deterrent missile power
  • The Faulty Logic Behind the Attack on BDS
  • Trump Administration Says Deportable Immigrants Can’t Go to the Courts — Even if Their First Amendment Rights Are Violated
  • Summer weather is getting ‘stuck’ due to Arctic warming
  • Ocean Current That Keeps Europe Warm Is Weakening

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 5

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

  • Feb 7, 2017

“The murder rate in our country’s the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? 47 years? I’d say that in a speech and everybody’s surprised. Because the press doesn’t tell it like it is. It wasn’t to their advantage to say that.”

Source: Meeting with the National Sheriffs’ Association

in fact: The homicide rate is not even close to a 47-year high. In fact, it remains near historic lows. There were 10 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1980, eight per 100,000 residents in 1995; in 2015, the latest year for which there is national data, it was five per 100,000 residents. Trump sometimes correctly notes that the increase in the homicide rate between 2014 and 2015 was the largest in more than 40 years. But that is far different than the actual rate being the highest.

“As you know, I approved two pipelines that were stuck in limbo forever. I don’t even think it was controversial. You know, I approved them. I haven’t even heard. I haven’t had had one call from anybody saying oh, that was a terrible thing you did. I haven’t had one call.”

Source: Meeting with the National Sheriffs’ Associatio

in fact: Trump’s administration had indeed granted approval for the Dakota Access pipeline. But he had not approved the other pipeline, Keystone XL from Alberta. The executive order he signed in January merely invited TransCanada Corp. to reapply for approval, and directed his secretary of state to make a decision within 60 days of receiving this new application. So: it would have been accurate for Trump to say he advanced two pipelines, but not that he “approved them.”

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“The EPA — you’re right, I call it — it’s clogged the bloodstream of our country. People can’t do anything. People are looking to get approvals for factories for 15 years, and then after the 15th year they get voted down after having spent a fortune.”

Source: Meeting with the National Sheriffs’ Association

in fact: Environmental law experts say it would be extremely rare for a manufacturer to wait 15 years for an approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, if that even happens at all. “Without any facts to back it up,” said Maxine Lipeles, director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at the law school at Washington University in St. Louis, Trump’s statement is “really kind of hard to believe. It could be that he found one case … It would be very much an outlier.” Lipeles also noted that most permit-approval is done at the state level.

“Years of getting approvals, nobody showed up to fight (the Dakota Access Pipeline), this company spends tremendous — hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars — and then all of a sudden people show up to fight it.”

Source: Meeting with the National Sheriffs’ Association

in fact: While protest against the pipeline greatly intensified in 2016, it is false that “nobody” was fighting it before it was granted approvals. “Bakken pipeline protesters flooded the Iowa Utilities Board headquarters in Des Moines on Thursday morning, delivering 1,000 written grievances about the consequences of building the pipeline in the state,” read a Des Moines Register article in Oct. 2015. Iowa’s WHOTV reported in Nov. 2015 about intense opposition from Iowa farmers.

“It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Trump does not even come close to the record for the longest delay before having a full cabinet in place. We only have to go back one presidency for proof: Barack Obama didn’t have his final cabinet member confirmed until April 28, 2009, 99 days into his presidency. Trump wasn’t even a full 19 days into his presidency when he posted this tweet.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

  •  Feb 8, 2017

“I want you to turn in the bad ones. Call Secretary Kelly’s representatives and we’ll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we’ll do it fast. You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems — you look at Chicago and you look at other places. So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.”

Source: Speech to the Major Cities Chiefs Association

in fact: Trump has not presented any evidence whatsoever that illegal immigrants are responsible for much of Chicago’s crime problem, and academic experts and local officials say Trump is wrong. “I don’t know anyone in Chicago who believes that,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County board, according to CBS Chicago. “Whether we are talking about African-American or Latino neighbourhoods, we are not talking about illegal immigrants. We are talking about our native-born sons and daughters.”

 

  • Feb 9, 2017

“The president claimed that he and (Republican former senator Kelly) Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the ‘thousands’ of people who were ‘brought in on buses’ from neighbouring Massachusetts to ‘illegally’ vote in New Hampshire.”

Source: Private meeting with senators about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

in fact: Such fraud did not happen.

“Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave “service” in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Cuomo, a CNN host, began the interview by asking Blumenthal about this very subject. His first question: “What is your response to the president of the United States saying you should not be believed because you misrepresented your military record in the past?” While Cuomo may not have pressed Blumenthal as hard as Trump would have liked, he certainly did not ignore the matter.

 

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” (Trump added out loud: “His comments were misrepresented.”)

Source: Twitter

in fact: Blumenthal accurately relayed the remarks of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Blumenthal told reporters that Gorsuch had described as “demoralizing and disheartening” Trump’s attack on a judge who ruled against his travel ban. A spokesman for Gorsuch confirmed that Gorsuch used those precise words. The Gorsuch team later added a little bit of wiggle room, insisting he was “not referring to any specific case,” but reiterated the basic point: “He said that he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.”

 

From Beijing to the Beltway: The Revolt Against the Entitled

China’s woes mirror our own

August 20, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

Elites and their privileges are under attack throughout the world, and not just in the West. While here in the US the security clearances of former national security officials are being revoked to the howls of the #TheResistance, in China the Communist Party “nobility” is facing a similar challenge:

“Elite privileges for retired high-level cadres should be eliminated. The system of the present ‘dynasty’ allows for the state to provide inclusive retirement-to-grave care for high-level cadres according to a standard that is far and away above that allowed to the average citizen. These cadres retain the privileges they enjoyed during their careers …

“This system continues the kinds of prerogative given to the Imperial Zhu Family Lineage during the Ming dynasty [founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368CE] and the emoluments permitted to the families of the Eight Banners [exclusive Manchu military and administrative groups that contributed to the founding and rule of the Qing dynasty in 1644; the privileges continued until the end of the dynasty in January 1912].

“This is not merely a betrayal of the self-advertised ‘revolutionary spirit’ [of the Communist Party], it is also in breach of modern standards of civic life. What’s all that talk of ‘the remnants of feudalism’? This is a perfect example of it! People are outraged but powerless to do anything about it; it is one of the main reasons people hold the system itself in utter contempt.”

So writes Xu Zhangrun, a distinguished law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, on the web site of the Unirule Institute of Economics, which the New York Times describes as an independent thinktank operating out of Beijing. The professor emphasizes the material privileges enjoyed by the Party elite, and yet the same principle – and the economic reality – is equally applicable right here in the good ol’ US of A: the political class arrogates special status to itself, and this is routinely monetized. How much does John Brennan get for slandering the President on MSNBC?

The populist eruption that has swept the West has its Far Eastern incarnation: the ousting of South Korean President Park Guen-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, and the peninsula-wide movement toward peace and even reunification, is one aspect of this global upsurge. Over on the eastern shore of the Yellow Sea, the burgeoning rebellion against Chinese President Xi Jingping is gearing up to pose a formidable challenge to the Communist Party’s authority. The insurrectionists have found a finely tuned acerbic voice in Professor Xu, whose rhetorical bomb has scored a direct hit on the puffed up would-be Mao-figure of President Xi “An emergency brake must be applied to the personality cult,” writes Xu:

“The Party media is going to great lengths to create a new idol, and in the process it is offering up to the world an image of China as Modern Totalitarianism. Portraits of the Leader are hoisted on high throughout the Land, as though possessed of some Spiritual Mana. This only adds to all the absurdity. And then, on top of that, the speeches of That Official, formerly things that were merely to be recorded by secretaries in a pro forma bureaucratic manner, are now carefully collected in finely bound editions, printed in vast quantities and handed out free throughout the world. The profligate waste of paper alone is enough to make you shake your head in disbelief.”

The difference between their media and ours blurs into a distinction without a difference as we contemplate the journalistic arm of #TheResistance and its openly coordinated campaign of political propaganda. A key aspect of this propaganda is not only the demonization of the President, but also the glorification of his most prominent enemies. These just so happen to be prominent figures in the “intelligence community” –  i.e. unelected bureaucrats, the American version of the Communist Party nobility.

Brennan, who spied on the Senate, and presided over a regime at the CIA which combined the sinister with the inept, is now a hero and martyr to alleged “liberals.” Fired FBI official Peter Strzok, a key figure in the Russia-gate hoax campaign,  raised $350,000 in a single day on his “go fund me” page. Former FBI chief James Comey, another key figure in the anti-Trump high command, is also sitting pretty: his book sales have him set for the rest of his life. And we are treated to hours upon hours of these losers pontificating on television, protesting the revocation of their perks and privileges, in a seemingly endless loop of spittle-spraying vituperation.

Here, as in China, the media is an instrument in the hands of an entrenched oligarchy, a bludgeon wielded by a very visible hand. Professor Xu’s merciless description of China officialdom’s journalistic camarilla sounds very familiar:

“All of this reflects the low IQ of the Concerned Official and his craving for fame. More importantly, we need to ask how a vast country like China, one that was previously so ruinously served by a Personality Cult, simply has no resistance to this new cult, and this includes those droves of ‘Theoreticians’ and ‘Researchers’. In fact, they are outdoing themselves with their sickeningly slavish behavior.”

That “low IQ” remark is positively Trumpian, don’t you think? And all too true on both sides of the Pacific.

Not to take the comparison too far. The Chinese political landscape is, naturally, a far cry from our own. The liberal intellectuals and urban sophisticates who might be sympathetic to Xu’s assault on the Chinese kakistocracy are hardly the Middle American Radicals of flyover country whose desertion of the Democrats brought us the Age of Trump. Indeed, they are in many ways polar opposites. Yet there is a unifying theme in both camps: built up resentment against the regime of the entitled. Describing the insurrectionary possibilities, Professor Xu writes: “Every iota of this bottled up anger may, at some unexpected moment, explode with thunderous fury.”

That fury has been unleashed in the West, where the forms if not the spirit of democratic rule persist. China is a different story.

To begin with, much of the liberal-reformist critique of President Xi is framed in a semi-pacifist stance, which seeks to avoid conflict with the West, and specifically the United States, at all costs. Such rarified sentiments are limited to the urban intellectuals whose main audience is the New York Times. Whereas in the US, the populist revolt has taken on a nationalist aspect, in China the regime has grasped at nationalist sentiment as a riposte to its critics — albeit cautiously, lest things get out of hand.

Yet this maneuver is wearing thin. While the great masses of Chinese people are more likely to agree with Xi’s relatively hard-line position, they are more concerned with the slow-but-certain collapse of the Chinese bubble. The end of the long boom is in sight, and the lords of Beijing are bracing for a fall. Whether they will be able to get up again is, in my view, an open question.

As I have said repeatedly in this space, Mao had it wrong: China is the paper tiger, not the US. The hold of the Chinese Communist Party over the billion-plus people supposedly under their command is tenuous, at best. The conundrum faced by the Party recalls what Rose Wilder Lane, citing a Russian peasant, said of Soviet rule:

“’It is too big,’ he said. “Too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one-hundred heads together do not make one great head. No. Only God can know Russia.”

Faced with a Muslim insurgency in the far west provinces, and the prospect of an epic economic downturn with the potential to pull down the regime, the Communist Party can only pretend to control the vast repository of discontent that is China today. This is a country with a long history of periodic orgies of instability culminating in violent upheavals. Religious and ideological manias sweep through the teeming cities like an epidemic of madness with some regularity: the last one was the “Cultural Revolution.” The next one is about due.

This is why I have to laugh when I hear the Trumpists, and their fellow travelers, like Tucker Carlson, babbling on about the new “threat” to America’s hegemonic pretensions. It’s not Russia, they cry, it’s China! These people have zero understanding of – and respect for – the laws of economics, which long ago decreed the unraveling of the Chinese Ponzi scheme. Nor have they the slightest interest in Chinese history: all they care about is scoring partisan points against the Russophobic Democrats while still maintaining the requisite belligerence.

Efforts to portray China as a military threat are bound to crash against the rocky shores of reality: Beijing spends a fraction of what we lavish on our military. Furthermore, the Peoples Liberation Army is focused more on internal control of the country than on any expansionist project. The standoff with Taiwan shows no signs of going kinetic, and the vaunted expansion of Chinese bases on man-made islets in the South China Sea is simply a defensive measure comparable to our own control of the Gulf of Mexico.

There is no need to poke at the paper tiger. Left to its own devices, it will go up in flames soon enough. The heat of populist rage will see to that. The one arrow in the regime’s quiver is to play the nationalist card, which has so far trumped demands for radical reform. If our “Asia-lationists” – ostensibly anti-interventionist Trump fans who nevertheless portray China as a dire threat – succeed in ginning up a conflict with Beijing, they may yet save Xi Jingping’s bacon. As in the case of Iran, our hard-liners have a symbiotic relationship with theirs.

 

Clapper vs Brennan: Ex-DNI chief says ex-CIA head’s attacks on Trump becoming ‘an issue’

August 20, 2018

RT

John Brennan and his inflammatory rhetoric aimed at Donald Trump’s “treasonous behavior” are becoming “an issue in and of itself,” James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, has said of the ex-CIA chief.

Speaking with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday, Clapper insisted that like himself, Brennan feels “genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values,” but acknowledged that “we may express that in different ways.”

Asked by Tapper if he thought Brennan’s hyperbolic use of “treasonous” to describe Trump’s dealings with Russia was an issue, Clapper answered in the affirmative.

“Well, I think it is. I think John is subtle like a freight train, and he’s going to say what’s on his mind,” Clapper said. “John and his rhetoric have become, I think, an issue in and of itself,” he added.

Brennan made headlines in the aftermath of Trump’s controversial meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July, insisting that the US president’s actions were “nothing short of treasonous.” Brennan later clarified his comments during an interview on Friday, telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that “I didn’t mean that [Trump] committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous.” He then offered an alternate explanation for his remarks during an interview with NBC on Sunday.

I called his behavior treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and to aid and abet the enemy,” Brennan told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “And I stand very much by that claim.”

Trump revoked Brennan’s top-secret security clearance last week, citing the former CIA head’s “unfounded and outrageous allegations.”

Although hailed by top Democrats as a #Resistance hero being persecuted for his political beliefs, Brennan has a spotty record when it comes to defending – and respecting – American institutions. In 2014, as the Senate Intelligence Committee was preparing a lengthy report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at its secret prisons, chair Dianne Feinstein (D-California) accused Brennan’s agency of secretly monitoring the committee’s computers and removing sensitive documents.

After initially denying any wrongdoing and rejecting Feinstein’s “spurious allegations,” Brennan quietly apologized to lawmakers after an internal review proved the senator right.

 

Over 175 ex-US spy officials join Brennan clearance outcry

August 20, 2018

BBC News

More than 175 former US intelligence leaders have backed ex-CIA chief John Brennan since the president revoked his security clearance.

In the third bi-partisan letter of its kind, the former top security officials noted their opposition to President Donald Trump’s threats and actions.

CIA, State Department and Navy alumni, as well as US ambassadors and US attorneys signed the letter on Monday.

The White House has defended Mr Trump’s decision to revoke security clearances.

“All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorised disclosure,” reads the letter, published online by Axios on Monday.

“But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”

Former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and former Nasa administrator and Navy secretary Sean O’Keefe have signed the letter, along with more than 20 former US attorneys and 10 former ambassadors.

The letter notes that the signatures do not mean these officials necessarily agree with Mr Brennan’s views or actions, but they represent “our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views”.

Mr Brennan, a vocal critic of Mr Trump, has been locked in a war of words with the president after arguing the Russia investigation was “well-founded”.

He had described Mr Trump’s controversial news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “nothing short of treasonous”.

During an interview on Sunday for NBC’s Meet the Press, Mr Brennan said he is considering taking legal action against Mr Trump.

“I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future. And if it means going to court, I will do that.”

Mr Brennan said his reputation was “a small price to pay” to “prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people”.

Mr Trump responded on Monday, tweeting: “I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit.”

Mr Trump added that people were only supporting Mr Brennan because they wanted to keep their own clearances, which are worth “big dollars”.

Mr Trump revoked Mr Brennan’s clearance on 16 August.

The White House has said that Mr Brennan’s access to sensitive government information was revoked due to his “erratic conduct” and “outrageous allegations”.

Last week, more than a dozen former intelligence officials signed a similar statement criticising the removal of Mr Brennan’s security clearance. Sixty former CIA officials later added their names to the statement.

The joint statement called Mr Trump’s actions “an attempt to stifle free speech”.

Former top intelligence officials typically retain their clearances for a time, often advising successors.

Mr Trump told reporters on Friday that he “never respected” Mr Brennan and that he has “had a tremendous response” for revoking his security clearance.

The president has also said he is reviewing security clearances for nine other high-ranking officials.

The nine people currently on a review list have all criticised the president.

Many have also been involved in the investigation into whether anyone on the Trump 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia.

 

Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests

Оценка г-на Трампа как актива для интересов России

Russian intelligence has had an interest in Donald Trump since the year 1977 when we received an alert from a sister unit in Prague.

He was described as impressionable young man with large ambitions and money from his family real estate business.

His marriage to a Czech woman whose father was an element in that countries’ intelligence agency brought him to our attention and we went to some lengths to ascertain his potential value for Russian interests.

The initial impression of Mr. Trump was that he was extremely self-important and egotistical to a remarkable degree.

As our first hand knowledge of him progressed it became evident that Mr. Trump fancied himself as a man to whom beautiful women were attracted.

That they were attracted to his money is more evident.

Although it is true he is a person with whom one could establish good business contacts, Mr. Trump was, and is, an overbearing and intolerant person.

He is subject to mood-swings in that what is acceptable today is not tomorrow.

He is easily led by women to whom he is initially very attentive and once he feels he had their purchased loyalty, proceeds to turn his attentions to other women.

It was our experience with Mr. Trump that by supplying him a number of beautiful Russian women, he became besotted and was willing to agree to almost any proposal presented to him.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump is erratic in the extreme. He owes very large sums of money, for example, to the Deutsche Bank, sums he somehow forgets to pay. He also owes large sums to Russian banks but in this case, he dare not neglect to pay.

Although he and President Putin got on well together, Mr. Trump’s promises ought to be taken very cautiously.

Mr. Trump is so convinced of his superiority to others and so easy to influence that promises to one person could easily be forgotten when making identical promises to another.

His current wife, Melanija Knavs, has produced a son and this boy, quite attractive, is the idol of his mother. She has stated to one of our people that she is not happy with her marriage because of her husband’s constant, and often very obnoxious, persuit of other women and does not want her young son to associate with his father lest he hear Mr. Trump’s constant flow of foul and obscene language or see him grab at some woman’s breasts.

She planned to divorce him and take her son back to Yugoslavia but the scandal would do so much damage to Mr. Trump’s public image that she was dissuaded from divorce by the payment of a large sum of money and promises on the part of Mr. Trump to let his wife rear and be responsible for his son.

Insofar as his use to Russian interests, this is problematical due to Mr.Trump’s disturbed personality. He does recall, however, that we released unpleasant material about Mrs. Clinton and that the same sort of material could very easily be released about him.

On the one hand, he has no problem taking Russian money for his businesses but on the other, he is susceptible to pressure from American power groups such as the Christian religious sector, Jewish groups and the military which have virtual control of current American politics and governance.

 

 

Exclusive: China shifts to Iranian tankers to keep oil flowing amid U.S. sanctions – sources

August 20, 2018

by Chen Aizhu and  Florence Tan

Reuters

BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are starting to shift their cargoes to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of economic sanctions by the United States.

The shift demonstrates that China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, wants to keep buying Iranian crude despite the sanctions, which were put back after the United States withdrew in May from a 2015 agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

The United States is trying to halt Iranian oil exports to force the country to negotiate a new nuclear agreement and to curb its influence in the Middle East. China has said it is opposed to any unilateral sanctions and has defended its commercial ties with Iran.

The first round of sanctions, which included rules cutting off Iran and any businesses that trade with the country from the U.S. financial system, went into effect on Aug. 7. A ban on Iranian oil purchases will start in November. Insurers, which are mainly U.S. or European based, have already begun winding down their Iranian business to comply with the sanctions.

To safeguard their supplies, state oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp and Sinopec Group, Asia’s biggest refiner, have activated a clause in its long-term supply agreements with National Iranian Oil Corp (NIOC) that allows them to use NITC-operated tankers, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not allowed to speak publicly about commercial deals.

The price for the oil under the long-term deals has been changed to a delivered ex-ship basis from the previous free-on-board terms, meaning that Iran will cover all the costs and risks of delivering the crude as well as handling the insurance, the sources said.

“The shift started very recently, and it was almost a simultaneous call from both sides,” said one of the sources, a senior Beijing-based oil executive.

In July, all 17 tankers chartered to carry oil from Iran to China are operated by NITC, according to shipping data on Thomson Reuters Eikon. In June, eight of 19 vessels chartered were Chinese operated.

Last month, those tankers loaded about 23.8 million barrels of crude oil and condensate destined for China, or about 767,000 barrels per day (bpd). In June, the loadings were 19.8 million barrels, or 660,000 bpd.

In 2017, China imported an average of 623,000 bpd, according to customs data.

Sinopec declined to comment on the change in tankers. A spokesperson with Nam Kwong Group, the parent of Zhenrong, declined to comment.

NIOC did not respond to an email seeking comment. An NITC spokesman said it would forward a request from Reuters for a comment to the country’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

Iran used a similar system between 2012 and 2016 to circumvent Western-led sanctions which were effective in curtailing exports because of a lack of insurance for the shipments.

It was not immediately clear how Iran would provide insurance for the Chinese oil purchases, worth some $1.5 billion a month. Insurance usually includes cover for the oil cargoes, third-party liability and pollution.

“This is not the first time companies exercised the option… Whenever there is a need the buyers can use that,” said another of the sources, also a senior Beijing-based oil executive.

Term buyers of Iranian submitted their plans to NIOC earlier this month of how much crude they will lift in September, said two trade sources.

It typically takes about a month for Iranian crude to reach China.

With the new shipping arrangement, Iranian oil cargoes to China are expected to stay at recent levels through October, said the four sources with knowledge of the tanker changes.

Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Beijing and Florence Tan in Singapore; additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Christian Schmollinger

 

Iran defense minister vows to develop deterrent missile power

August 19, 2018

Xinhua

TEHRAN, (Xinhua) — Iran’s defense minister put developing deterrent missile power as the country’s top priority, Press TV reported on Sunday.

The minister Amir Hatami hailed the country’s military achievements, and vowed to continue enhancing missile capabilities.

“Our focus has been on priorities, with the top priority being the missile issue,” Hatami said. “We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it.”

He further touched on the recent unveiling of precision-guided Fateh Mobin missile, stressing that Iranian missiles are good in terms of diversity and thus most attention has been paid to their agility, anti-radar capability, high precision and sustainability in different environmental conditions.

Hatami pointed out that “we have never sought and will never seek weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons due to our religious beliefs.”

Meanwhile, he announced that Iran plans to unveil a new fighter jet on Wednesday on the occasion of Iran’s Defense Industry Day.

“A plane, which has passed several stages, will be presented on the Defense Industry Day and people will see the fighter jet flying from a close distance as well as the equipment used for its manufacture,” he was quoted as saying.

“We will spare no efforts to preserve the defense power and will develop it … We have no other way because they (the enemies) want to disarm us,” he stressed.

Iran has dismissed the western concerns over its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said earlier that the Islamic republic’s missile program is completely conventional and defensive, and Iran, like all independent countries in the world, is entitled to have all conventional defense programs.

Bahram Qasemi added that Iran’s regional policy favors cooperation and dialogue within the region and with its neighbors. “Iran believes none of the crises in the region has a military solution,” he said.

 

The Faulty Logic Behind the Attack on BDS

Defenders of Israel are using flawed logic in trying to tar supporters of the age-old tactic of boycotts as anti-semitic, argues Lawrence Davidson.

August 9, 2018

by Lawrence Davidson

Consortium News

If you search the topic boycotts on Google you immediately realize how historically common they are. There are a lot to choose from, and one of the first listed is the 1769 boycott instituted by the First Continental Congress against Great Britain over the issue of “taxation without representation.” That makes a boycott against a perceived oppressive power an integral part of American heritage.

As you move into the modern era, a reaction against racism also becomes a noticeable motivating factor for many boycotts. The Chinese instituted a boycott against the United States over the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892 and 1904. Then, in 1933, the American Jewish Congress declared a boycott of Nazi Germany in protest to its racially motivated oppression of the German Jewish community. In the 1940s, Ghandi would encourage Indians to boycott imperial Britain. In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans would boycott segregated institutions in the U.S. South. In the 1960s through the 1990s, much of the world would boycott South Africa over the issue of apartheid. And this is but a short list.

In 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including unions, refugee networks, women’s organizations, and political parties, put out a call for a boycott of Israel. This was to be a non-violent effort to pressure the Zionist state to conform to international law and cease its oppression of the Palestinians. The call was also for divestment from Israel and all entities that assisted and profited from its behavior, as well as for eventual sanctions. This is known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS for short.

Redefining Anti-Semitism

Even though Jews had suffered in the Holocaust during World War II and had used boycott as a weapon against their oppressors, the Israelis and their Zionist supporters have taken great umbrage at the call for boycott by the Palestinians. They see it as “anti-Semitic.”

For instance, in the U.S. the Zionist Anti-Defamation League has this to say about the BDS campaign on its website:

“Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination … are anti-Semitic. Many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. … And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.”

This statement expresses the “official” Israeli/Zionist position, and at its core is a purposeful conflation of the Jewish people and the Israeli state. By insisting on this identification of Israel and all Jews, the Zionists are able to redefine anti-Semitism. Indeed, they take a very old and well-understood phenomenon and give it a radically new, and quite suspect, definition.

The traditional definition of anti-Semitism is a dislike of or bias against Jews by virtue of their imagined inherent “Jewishness.” Note that this is very different from objecting to, say, the criminal behavior of someone or some group that just happens to be Jewish. In the first case, it is “Jewishness” that you object to. That is anti-Semitism. In the second case, it is criminal behavior that you object to, regardless of whether the criminal is Jewish. That is not anti-Semitism.

However, by arbitrarily conflating all Jews with the Israeli state, the Zionists tell us that criticism or opposition to Israeli state behavior—even if that behavior is criminal—is anti-Semitic. This is because Israel stands in for all Jews. Thus, they redefine anti-Semitism in a way that allows Israel to sidestep all moral responsibility by turning the argument around and pointing fingers at their critics. For instance, do you object to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Well, for the Zionists the issue is no longer the criminal nature of ethnic cleansing, but the alleged anti-Semitism of those criticizing that behavior.

Let’s consider this Zionist maneuver against the following background:

  • In June, 2018, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), representing 1.5 million Americans, “voted unanimously” to support the BDS campaign.
  • In July, 2018, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA voted to support BDS by screening suspect companies that might be aiding Israel in the violation of Palestinian human rights and divest from them if this proves to be the case. The Episcopal Church USA represents 3 million Americans.
  • There are, in fact, dozens of Jewish organizations worldwide supporting the BDS campaign. These have thousands of members.
  • All together we are talking about millions of people, both Christian and Jewish, a good percentage of whom support, or at least are in sympathy with BDS. Are they all anti-Semitic? According to the Zionist’s novel definition—the one that conflates Jews with the Israeli state—the answer is yes. But clearly this assertion can’t be right.

Logical Fallacies and Erroneous Thinking

The Zionist gambit is actually an act of obfuscation using a logical fallacy called the “straw man.” It is “based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be attacking a straw man.”

Thus, as suggested above, every time someone charges that the state of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is, say, in violation of international law, the issue of the validity of this charge is replaced by “straw man,” which in this case is alleged anti-Semitism of the critic. It is to be noted that in most of these confrontations only one side has any real evidence.

The critic might point to evidence of ethnic cleansing, property destruction and land theft, and various policies that have, according to David Harel, the vice-president of the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, turned Israel into an “apartheid” state. On the other side, however, those using the straw man fallacy often have no objective evidence at all. Their claim of anti-Semitism is based on their own idiosyncratic definition of this prejudice. Making a case in this way also involves “begging the question” or “circular reasoning,” which are also erroneous ways of arguing. This occurs when a person “assumes as evidence for their argument the very conclusion they are attempting to prove.”

The great 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume once remarked (referring to the subject of miracles) that “those with strong religious beliefs are often prepared to give evidence that they know is false, with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause.” We can ascribe this sentiment to the true believer of just about any belief system deemed “holy” in one sense or another. Certainly those with strong Zionist beliefs would qualify—though I am pretty sure theirs are not “the best intentions in the world.”

Hume goes on to say that “people are often too credulous when faced with such witnesses, whose apparent honesty and eloquence … may overcome normal skepticism.” Thus, the faulty logic of the Zionist attack on the BDS campaign has not prevented partial success. This is particularly true in the halls of power where faulty logic is combined with Zionist lobby power that can help or hinder the politician’s reelection. Here Zionist power and influence are being used to actually outlaw BDS. To date some twenty-five U.S. states have tried to do this even though, as an infringement of free speech, their efforts are clearly unconstitutional. In this case lobby power proves more compelling than either the U.S. constitution or logic.

Let’s end by quoting George Orwell. His experiences with the pervasive propaganda used by all sides just before and during World War II gave him “the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” Such efforts have not stopped.

 

Trump Administration Says Deportable Immigrants Can’t Go to the Courts — Even if Their First Amendment Rights Are Violated

August 20, 2018

by Nick Pinto

The Intercept

If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to silence its most vocal critics by singling them out for deportation among the nearly 1 million people in the United States with final orders of removal, is there any check or remedy for that abuse of power? Is there any court, or indeed, any authority at all outside the executive branch, with the power to protect those activists’ First Amendment rights?

No.

That was the position articulated by Justice Department lawyers on Tuesday before a panel of judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. The hearing was meant to determine whether the court should issue a stay preventing ICE from deporting just such a figure, Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, before he has a chance to assert his constitutional claim in federal court.

Tuesday’s hearing in New York was only a small part of an already complex court battle: As The Intercept reported at the time, Ragbir is one of the plaintiffs — along with the New Sanctuary Coalition, four other immigrant rights groups, and some 79 friend-of-the-court supporters at last count — in a First Amendment lawsuit filed in February accusing ICE officials of targeting activists around the country for deportation, effectively prioritizing the expulsion of its political enemies.

The stakes of the argument are high, and not only for undocumented people, said Alina Das, a professor at New York University Law School and one of Ragbir’s attorneys. “Saying there’s a group of people who can be literally banished from this country for any reason, even if it violates their constitutional rights, creates a vulnerable class, and when their rights aren’t respected, it hurts both them and society as a whole,” she said. “If ICE is given free reign to silence their critics, we are creating an agency that is unaccountable and is permitted to disappear those who are in the best position to educate the public about what this agency is actually doing. That should be a scary prospect for anyone living in this country.”

In May, Judge Kevin Castel ruled against Ragbir in a motion seeking preliminary injunction to prevent ICE from deporting him before the First Amendment lawsuit can be resolved. While the rest of the lawsuit is still pending in district court, Ragbir has appealed that ruling. The 2nd Circuit won’t get to the substance of that appeal for another month or more, but Tuesday’s hearing concerned Ragbir’s motion for an order preventing ICE from deporting him while the appeal is in process.

If all that makes it sound like Ragbir’s legal team is particularly preoccupied with getting some sort of guarantee that their client won’t be deported before he even has a chance to argue his case, it’s an anxiety that appears to have some foundation. For one thing, there’s the fact that when he presented himself for a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE officials in January, Ragbir was taken into custody and put on a plane in anticipation of deportation in a matter of hours, despite the fact that he had an open legal challenge still pending at the time. Government lawyers have explained that ICE assessed that Ragbir had a low chance of prevailing in his legal proceedings and cleared the way for him to be deported before they could be resolved.

The government’s own statements in court on Tuesday did nothing to quiet the fears of Ragbir’s lawyers. Early in the day’s arguments, the three-judge panel appeared interested in resolving the issue without having to decide the question of a stay. Ragbir is already protected by a stay of deportation ordered by a district court in New Jersey in a separate legal matter, they noted, and William Perdue, one of Ragbir’s lawyers, conceded that he was seeking this additional stay as a form of further “insurance.”

“You’re worried that if those stays are lifted, the government’s going to swoop in before you have a chance to come back here?” Judge Dennis Jacobs asked.

“Absolutely,” Perdue answered.

Jacobs was skeptical, noting that in a scorching opinion in January, Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that ICE had acted unconstitutionally and been “unnecessarily cruel” in subjecting Ragbir to “treatment we associate with regimes that are unjust.” ICE had raced to deport Ragbir in January, speeding him out of town with a New York Police Department escort and onto a plane bound for Florida in the few hours it took his lawyers to secure a restraining order from Forrest.

ICE “may not be quite so abrupt in view of the Judge Forrest’s ruling already cautioning them about abruptness,” Jacobs said. Perhaps, he suggested, the court needn’t issue a stay if the government simply promised that if the other stay in New Jersey were to be lifted, they’d give Ragbir and the 2nd Circuit a few days’ notice before deporting him, so that a stay could be considered then.

To the judges’ evident surprise, though, the government flatly refused to make such a commitment. Steven Kochevar, the U.S. Attorney’s Office lawyer arguing the motion, informed the judges that the government did not agree with Forrest’s ruling and is in the process of appealing it.

“You don’t accept her ruling that you can’t come in after someone has been here 11 years, you can’t change your mind and instantly remove him?” Jacobs asked, surprised.

“That’s correct,” Kochevar replied.

“I need to know,” Newman asked, “if the New Jersey stay is dissolved, number one, are you going to take him immediately into custody?

“Subject to the applicable regulations, yes, I believe ICE intends to enforce this,” Kochevar answered.

Newman tried again: “I’d be much more sympathetic to your side if you would say to the court, ‘Don’t worry, we’re not going to take him in the dead of night.’” Kochevar again demurred.

“I’ll try one other time,” Newman pressed. “If the New Jersey stay is dissolved … and we for whatever reasons don’t grant one, can the government assure us you will not take him into custody and remove him for at least, let’s say, seven days?”

“We can’t,” Kochevar said.

“Can you even give him one day?”

“I am not in a position to make any representation as to the specific amount of time,” Kochevar said.

“You realize that doesn’t make your opposition to this stay more appealing?”

“Certainly, your honor,” Kochevar said. “But our position is that as a matter of law this court doesn’t have jurisdiction.”

The question of jurisdiction turns on a reading of a section of federal immigration law, Title 8, Section 1252 of the U.S. Code, designed to streamline and clarify when and which federal courts can provide judicial oversight over the deportation process, which is otherwise the purview of the executive branch.

The immigration courts of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, in which people press their claims for asylum or challenge their removal, are part of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch, and immigration judges there answer not to the Supreme Court, but to the attorney general. ICE, which is under the Department of Homeland Security, handles enforcement of those courts’ decisions.

“No court shall have jurisdiction to hear any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action by the Attorney General to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders against any alien under this chapter,” reads Title 8, Section 1252 (g) of the U.S. Code.

As the Trump administration’s escalating war on immigrants generates an increasing number of court challenges, the government is trying to head them off by asserting an expansive reading of executive authority on immigration that is exempted from judicial review. Immigrant advocates contend these cases aren’t so much about final orders of removal as they are about challenging other unlawful actions by ICE — improperly targeting immigrants or blocking their access to courts.

On Thursday, the appeals panel appeared to dodge the question of its authority, issuing an order that did not include a ruling on the stay request, but rather directing the parties to notify it if Ragbir’s existing stay in New Jersey is lifted.

By the time the court receives such a notice, if ICE’s past actions and the Justice Department lawyer’s reluctance to promise otherwise are any indication, Ragbir might already be in handcuffs on a southbound plane, leaving his court case challenging ICE’s alleged practice of political-suppression-by-deportation behind him, unresolved.

 

Summer weather is getting ‘stuck’ due to Arctic warming

Rising arctic temperatures mean we face a future of ‘extreme extremes’ where sunny days become heatwaves and rain becomes floods, study says

August 20, 2018

by Jonathan Watts, Global environment editor

The Guardian

Summer weather patterns are increasingly likely to stall in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, according to a new climate study that explains why Arctic warming is making heatwaves elsewhere more persistent and dangerous.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic have slowed the circulation of the jet stream and other giant planetary winds, says the paper, which means high and low pressure fronts are getting stuck and weather is less able to moderate itself.

The authors of the research, published in Nature Communications on Monday, warn this could lead to “very extreme extremes”, which occur when abnormally high temperatures linger for an unusually prolonged period, turning sunny days into heat waves, tinder-dry conditions into wildfires, and rains into floods.

“This summer was where we saw a very strong intensity of heatwaves. It’ll continue and that’s very worrying, especially in the mid-latitudes: the EU, US, Russia and China,” said one of the coauthors, Dim Coumou from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Short-term heatwaves are quite pleasant, but longer term they will have an impact on society. It’ll have an affect on agricultural production. Harvests are already down this year for many products. Heatwaves can also have a devastating impact on human health.”

Circulation stalling has long been a concern of climate scientists, though most previous studies have looked at winter patterns. The new paper reviews research on summer trends, where it says there is mounting evidence of planetary wind systems – both low-level storm tracks and higher waves in the troposphere – losing their ability to shift the weather.

One cause is a weakening of the temperature gradient between the Arctic and Equator as a result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The far north of the Earth is warming two to four times faster than the global average, says the paper, which means there is a declining temperature gap with the central belt of the planet. As this ramp flattens, winds struggle to build up sufficient energy and speed to push around pressure systems in the area between them.

As a result, there is less relief in the form of mild and wet air from the sea when temperatures accumulate on land, and less relief from the land when storms build up in the ocean. Last year, Hurricane Harvey had a devastating impact on Texas because it was parked an unusually long time on the coast, where it kept drawing up moisture from the sea and dumping it in the form of the greatest deluge ever recorded in the US. Scientists had previously noted that hurricanes are slowing and bringing more rain.

A separate new paper in Scientific Reports indicated that the trapping of planetary airstreams – a phenomenon known as amplified quasi-stationary waves – also contributed to the 2016 wildfires in Alberta, which took two months to extinguish and ended as the costliest disaster in Canadian history with total damages reaching 4.7bn Canadian dollars.

“Clearly, the planetary wave pattern wasn’t the only cause for the fire – yet it was an additional important factor triggering a deplorable disaster,” says lead author Vladimir Petoukhov from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “In fact, our analysis reveals that beyond that single event, actually from the 1980s on, planetary waves were a significant factor for wildfire risks in the region.”

He said wave pattern studies will help forest managers and fire forecasters because changes can be detected ahead of their impacts.

However, scientists are also concerned that slowing circulation could produce “surprises”, by amplifying other climate changes.

“Simple warming is well understood in climate models, but scientists are trying to understand non-linearities, how climate change effects interact with one another and how feedback processes are involved,” said Coumou. “Non-linearities can rapidly change weather conditions in a given region so you get more abrupt changes.”

Scientists unconnected with the paper said it highlighted the risks of disturbing natural weather patterns.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. By upsetting the energy balance of the planet we are changing the temperature gradient between the equator and the pole. This in turn sets in motion major reorganisations of the flow patterns of the atmosphere and ocean,” said Chris Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London. “The consequences are emerging and they are disruptive, and likely to become even more profoundly so. We are on a journey and the destination doesn’t look good.”

Ocean Current That Keeps Europe Warm Is Weakening

Two new studies show the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has decreased 15 to 20 percent over the last 150 years

April 13, 2018

by Jason Daley

smithsonian.com

Great Britain and Ireland can be a little chilly, but they’re surprisingly balmy for their latitude. These regions have an ocean current to thank for that warm(ish) weather. Known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the current works like a conveyor belt, drawing warm water up from the Gulf Stream to North America’s east coast and then shunting it toward Europe.

But, as Victoria Gill at the BBC reports, two new studies suggest that the AMOC is the weakest it’s been in over 1,600 years, with the most drastic changes taking place in the last 150 years.

The first study, published in the journal Nature, addresses the history of the AMOC. Researchers studied the size of the grains in cores of sediment from the ocean floor. As Andrea Thompson at Scientific American reports, the stronger a current is, the larger the grains of sediment it can move, allowing researchers to map changes in current strength by sediment size. The team also looked for tiny fossil critters, known as foraminifera of “forams,” to get a sense of ocean temperatures. Since some species of foram thrive in warm waters while others prefer cooler temps, researchers can use foram species as a rough thermometer for past ocean temperature.

In the second study in Nature, the team used state-of-the-art climate models and a century of ocean sea surface temperatures to study AMOC changes. The results of both studies suggest that the AMOC is weak, but when that change started is up for debate.

As Summer K. Praetorius writes for Nature, the sediment core study suggests that the AMOC began weakening in 1850, the beginning of the industrial era. She also points out that the change corresponds with the end of the Little Ice Age, a climate dip that lasted from the 1300s to 1850s. As the climate warmed up, it’s possible more fresh water flowed into the oceans, which disrupted the AMOC.

The sea temperature model, however, suggests that the AMOC flow has weakened since the mid-twentieth century as a result of human-induced climate warming. As Thompson notes, however, this record did not extend as far back as the sediment study.

Despite the difference in timing, both studies show similar pattern of current decline, weakening about 15 to 20 percent in the last 150 years. “We think it’s quite remarkable that all the evidence is converging,” David Thornalley of University College London tells Thompson.

“What is common to the two periods of AMOC weakening—the end of the Little Ice Age and recent decades—is that they were both times of warming and melting,” Thornalley says in a press release. “Warming and melting are predicted to continue in the future due to continued carbon dioxide emissions.”

Does that mean London will soon come to resemble Nome, Alaska?

“The [current] climate models don’t predict [an AMOC shutdown] is going to happen in the future,” Thornalley tells Damian Carrington at The Guardian, “the problem is how certain are we it is not going to happen? It is one of these tipping points that is relatively low probability, but high impact.”

Murray Roberts, who studies ocean temperatures at the University of Edinburgh tells Gill that even if AMOC changes don’t meddle with overall climate, these changes could wreak havoc on delicate ecosystems in the Atlantic.

“The deep Atlantic contains some of the world’s oldest and most spectacular cold-water coral reef and deep-sea sponge grounds,” he says. “These delicate ecosystems rely on ocean currents to supply their food and disperse their offspring. Ocean currents are like highways spreading larvae throughout the ocean and we know these ecosystems have been really sensitive to past changes in the Earth’s climate.”

Researchers expect future changes in global climate will cause further slowdowns of the Atlantic overturning. But there is still much more to learn about these complex systems. As Alexander Robinson, co-author of the sea temperature, tells Carrington: “We are only beginning to understand the consequences of this unprecedented process – but they might be disruptive.”

 

 

 

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