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TBR News August 27, 2018

Aug 27 2018

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

Washington, D.C. August 27, 2018: “”Over the past few years, the American media has been breathlessly informing the public about “probable attacks” on Iran because, it is stated, that country is developing atomic weapons to use on Israel. Of course whatever happens to Israel is of vital importance to the United States and is mostly non-Israeli citizens.

The U.S. has been placing economic sanctions on Iran and this is damaging their economy. Their response? They have threatened to close the international waterway, the Straits of Hormuz! Since almost all Iranian oil, on which they depend for a significant part of their national income, comes from selling, and shipping, oil, this is mere sound and fury, signifying nothing. This false bravado is also designed to build public morale in Iran with national elections looming.

This threat, and the subsequent threat to attack an American Navy aircraft carrier carry with them the danger that a rigged Gulf of Tonkin incident can be arraigned to supply a legitimate motive for the U.S. Navy to take “retaliatory measures” against Iran. In the mountains on Iran’s western border on the Gulf are numerous missile bases, constructed with aid of the Russians.

In the event of a “hostile act” on the part of Iran, perhaps a small military type MTB wearing an Iranian flag, would lunch relatively small surface-to-surface at some large American ship. There would be explosions and, out of necessity, American deaths. Shocked headlines in the CIA-controlled New York Times and Washington Post and a stunned Congress would demand revenge.  Then our Naval units would attack the missile bases and turn them into large, rubble-filled holes and our next target would be far to the north in Tehran.

Our military is stretched too thin to become involved in yet another political war but the Navy and Air Force have been unscathed and would do the attacking. Naturally, the Israeli units would be unable to assist this effort to save them from possible attack because they were too busy protecting the Sacred Motherland to get killed elsewhere and, even worse, to lose expensive aircraft to air defense missiles.

What is causing a deliberate escalation of this project is multifaceted in nature. China does a good deal of oil business with Iran. China has reached a trade volume of 53 billion dollars with Iran and also has a treaty to manage an aslect of the South Pars oil fields.

China has been threatening our allies lately, hacking into sensitive governmental computers sites and threatening us with dire fiscal problems because they own so much of our Treasury notes and intercepted messaging indicates China is trying to forge more important ties with Tehran, just short of an open military or other alliance that would upset the balance of power.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 8
  • How heartening to see a still robust US constitution as the net closes on Trump
  • Donald Trump Tweet-Directs Attorney General To Investigate Political Foes
  • Omarosa Claims Melania Trump Can’t Wait to Divorce the President: She’s ‘Counting Every Minute’
  • Roger Stone says he may soon be indicted in Trump-Russia investigation
  • Iran says it has full control of Gulf, U.S. Navy does not belong there
  • The American theft of German gold (translated from the German)
  • EU security must no longer depend on US – Macron
  • Trump takes aim at Venezuela lifeline, which could raise prices at the pump
  • Homelessness in England triples under austerity
  • No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 8

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

 

  • Mar 20, 2017

“Last year, our country lost almost $800 billion in trade.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

in fact: This is false even aside from his dubious characterization of trade deficits as “losing.” The 2016 trade deficit was $502 billion. Trump would have been correct enough if he had specified he was talking specifically about the deficit in trade of manufactured goods — $750 billion in 2016 — but he did not.

Trump has repeated this claim 30 times

 

“With just one negotiation on one set of airplanes, I saved the taxpayers of our country over $700 million.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

in fact: Trump was not responsible for these savings: Lockheed Martin had been moving to cut the price well before Trump was elected, multiple aviation and defence experts say. Just a week after Trump’s election, the head of the F-35 program announced a reduction of 6 to 7 per cent — in the $600 million to $700 million range. “Trump’s claimed $600 million cut is right in the ballpark of what the price reduction was going to be all along,” wrote Popular Mechanics. “Bottom line: Trump appears to be taking credit for years of work by the Pentagon and Lockheed,” Aviation Week reported, per the Washington Post.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

 

“You know, I’ve only been there for, what, 52 days, right? Somebody said to me, when are you starting on NAFTA? I said, wait a minute, I did this, this, this. I knocked out unbelievable numbers of regulations. We’re negotiating much better deals — these terrible deals that were made. I’ve been here like 51 days.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

in fact: Trump had been in office 60 days.

 

“We’ve also cleared the way for the Keystone and the Dakota Access pipelines. And as I was signing it, I said, where are they getting the steel? Where? And I said, you know what, if people want to build pipelines in the United States, they should use American steel, and they should build it and create it right here. That pipe is going to be manufactured right here.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

in fact: This is misleading at best, for two reasons. First: Trump’s executive order is significantly more ambiguous, saying merely that the government should develop a plan to make pipelines use American steel “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.” Second: though Trump created the impression that he is forcing the Keystone pipeline to use American steel, that pipeline has already been granted an exemption, Politico reports, because it is not a “new” pipeline.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

“You see them coming back. You see car companies who were going to build elsewhere, and now they’re saying that because of Trump we’re going to build in Michigan, we’re going to build in Ohio, we’re going to build in Kentucky. They’re saying it loud and clear.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

In fact: The auto companies that have announced U.S. investments since Trump’s victory have not, in fact, said they were doing so because of Trump — and independent analysts said it was unlikely Trump was a major factor. GM, for example, did not offer any indication that it made its new investment of $1 billion because of Trump, and automotive experts said it was unlikely Trump was a significant reason. The parent company of Chrysler said Trump had no influence on its newly announced $1 billion investment in Michigan and Ohio, telling ThinkProgress, “This plan was in the works back in 2015.”

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

 

“Many of our best and brightest are leaving the medical profession entirely because of Obamacare.”

Source: Campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky

in fact: There is no evidence of this. “We see no significant number exiting related to the Affordable Care Act,” the executive vice president of the U.S. Association of Medical Colleges told The Associated Press.

 

“The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The leaders of the NSA and FBI did not say this to Congress. Trump was fact-checked in real time by FBI Director James Comey; asked about this tweet, Comey said, “We’ve offered no opinion.”

 

“Just heard Fake News CNN is doing polls again despite the fact that their election polls were a WAY OFF disaster. ”

Source: Twitter

in fact: CNN’s election polls were not “way off.” Its final national poll had Hillary Clinton winning the national popular vote by five percentage points; she ended up winning it by two percentage points, within the margin of error, though she lost in the Electoral College.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

 

  • Mar 18, 2017

“Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is not how it works — Germany doesn’t owe money to NATO or to the United States. The alliance has asked members to spend 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence by 2024. Germany is spending closer to 1 per cent. But it does not have military debt to NATO, and extra money it spends in the future would not go to NATO.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

 

 

How heartening to see a still robust US constitution as the net closes on Trump

It’s become commonplace to mourn the decline of American checks and balances. But watching Robert Mueller at work restores one’s faith

August 26, 2018

by Michael Goldfarb

The Guardian

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” America today is proof of TS Eliot’s assertion. The US is riven by competing media-created realities and led by a reality TV star. Result: the society seems to be coming apart.

But on Tuesday a reality that is based in fact and evidence asserted itself – with the simultaneous, split-screen announcements of guilt of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in a Virginia courtroom, and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in New York. This demonstrated that, for all the fear that the US is on some irreversible glidepath to authoritarian autocracy, the reality is that enough of its legal institutions still function. We are not there yet.

There has been a sea change. Last August, anti-Trump forces – in other words, the majority of Americans – mistook wishful thinking for reality. It seemed the president was on the rocks. After the Charlottesville outrage, he wouldn’t condemn the white supremacists who caused murder and mayhem. The outcry was enormous. He had to fire Steve Bannon. He was openly feuding with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. It seemed Trump couldn’t last another month.

But he not only survived, he brought the Republican party completely under his thumb.

This August is different. A white supremacist rally in Washington to mark the Charlottesville anniversary mustered only around two dozen participants. Sessions is still being attacked by Trump, but he is much more aggressively asserting his independence and that of the justice department.

And despite persistent rumours that Trump will fire Robert Mueller from the investigation into links between Trump’s election campaign and Russia, the special counsel is still at work and the legal process is far from finished. Mueller is building his case in the classic fashion that Trump’s current consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, used in the 1980s when he made his reputation as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. That’s the same office that investigated Cohen – Mueller cleverly handed off that portion of the investigation – and got him to plead guilty to breaking campaign finance laws when paying hush money, at Trump’s request, to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Mueller is prosecuting the small fish and getting them to flip on those further along the Trump regime food chain by offering reduced jail time.

The president understands what is going on. He was on the make in 1980s New York, vying for celebrity coverage in the city’s tabloids with Giuliani as the latter took down, first, the mafia and then Wall St insider-trading legend Ivan Boesky. Giuliani, too, cast his net wide and worked his way to the main man. Trump knows he’s in trouble. That’s why he went on Fox News on Thursday, bleating: “I have seen it many times. I have had many friends involved in this stuff. It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”

But it isn’t. From the founding of America, checks have been put in place on presidential power. The legislative branch of government – the Congress – is set up in the constitution to be the equal of the executive, for example. This doesn’t always work: today’s legislative branch, with Republican majorities in both houses seemingly in thrall to Trump, has ceded its authority. But, over the centuries, other checks have been created, such as the statutes establishing independent special prosecutors such as Robert Mueller.

There is also the power of the individual, patriotic citizen. The Watergate scandal might not have reached its conclusion if Judge John Sirica, a conservative Republican, hadn’t forced the handover of the tapes that provided the evidence to convict all the president’s men and force Richard Nixon’s resignation.

In the unfolding story of the Trump presidency, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein is playing that role. After his boss, Sessions, recused himself, he appointed Mueller and gave him a brief to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election “and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”. (Sessions, who worked on Trump’s campaign, twice met the Russian ambassador while it was going on.)

The events of the past week make it easier to see the new reality facing Trump. Mueller, via Manafort, is moving inexorably towards the meeting between representatives of Trump’s campaign and the Russians at Trump Tower on 9 June 2016. Manafort was there. So were the president’s son Donald Jr and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Don Jr has already been caught in a lie about the meeting. Trump himself has tweeted acknowledgement that the meeting was about finding dirt to use on Hillary Clinton.

So far, Mueller has not interviewed the young Don. But how long can that last? And, since his brief empowers him to look at “any matters”, how long will it be before he focuses on the president’s finances and how many connections to Russia they reveal and whether his tax returns contain false statements.

You can’t fast-forward reality and Mueller may well end up getting fired before he uncovers all the facts. Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special counsel investigating Watergate, in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. But, in the end, Nixon still had to resign and it seems clear, after last week, that the game is also up for Trump, not right away but in a future that is coming into focus more clearly.

Not that Trump’s departure will make the US whole. He is the end product of 40 years of social and civic disintegration. The Republicans are no longer a modern political party but a faction. James Madison, a primary author of the US constitution, defined faction in The Federalist Papers as, “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”.

The Republican majority in Congress and those in control of most state governments govern only on behalf of themselves, not the whole community.

But there is a real event on 6 November that may shake them: the midterm elections. The polls are beginning to indicate that the results will be a reality they will find absolutely too much to bear. And that’s when the countdown for Trump will begin.

 

Donald Trump Tweet-Directs Attorney General To Investigate Political Foes

August 24, 2018

by Lisa de Moraes

deadline

The President of the United States this morning directed the U.S. Attorney General to investigate his political rivals.

One day after telling Fox & Friends he only gave Jeff Sessions the job because he thought he was loyal (during the same interview, he questioned Sessions’ manhood), Trump mocked Sessions’ rare response.

“‘Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,’ Jeff, this is GREAT,” Trump tweeted snidely, then directed Sessions to investigate those Trump believes to be his political rivals. Many of the names also are on Trump’s Enemies List of current and former government folks whose security clearances Trump says he plans to pull.

Sessions who had previously stayed mum when Trump has publicly throttled him over his recusal in the Russia election-tamper probe, punched back after Trump’s Fox & Friends interview, saying, “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations. I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

On Twitter, Trump detailed who he wanted investigated.

“[L]ook into the other side, including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & hi phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems – and so much more.”

“Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!”

Referencing the sentencing of Reality Winner, Trump added, “Ex-NSA contractor to spend 63 months in jail over ‘classified’ information. Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did! So unfair Jeff, Double Standard.”

Trump also tweeted this week in service of the impeach-me-and-you-will-become-poor” argument he had unveiled on Fox & Friends one day earlier.

“Target CEO raves about the Economy. ‘This is the best consumer environment I’ve seen in my career.’ A big statement from a top executive. But virtually everybody is saying this, & when our Trade Deals are made, & cost cutting done, you haven’t seen anything yet!” Trump tweeted.

“Economy is setting records on virtually every front – Probably the best our country has ever done,” he added. “Tremendous value created since the Election. The World is respecting us again! Companies are moving back to the U.S.A.”

 

Omarosa Claims Melania Trump Can’t Wait to Divorce the President: She’s ‘Counting Every Minute’

August 15, 2018

People

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman‘s new book has dominated headlines for days, and it has as much dirt on President Donald Trump’s personal relationships as it does his administration. In Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, which came out Tuesday, Manigault Newman writes that Trump’s relationship with wife Melania is so strained that, “in [her] opinion,” the first lady is “counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce him.”

In the book, the 44-year-old former reality star writes that “Trumpworld intimates” often talked about the possibility that Trump had helped his wife, a former model, secure an Einstein (EB-1) visa. They questioned if Mrs. Trump had the “extraordinary ability” required to obtain such a visa and suggested that her husband used his wide network of connections to “secure or expedite it,” according to the book. Manigault Newman does not name any of these “Trumpworld intimates.”

In her book, Manigault Newman suggests that one of the reasons why Mrs. Trump stays in her marriage is for fear that Trump might find a way to “invalidate” the visa if she left him.

“Since Donald is fully aware of however she acquired her permanent citizenship, he could, if there were anything fishy around it, expose the methods and somehow invalidate it,” Manigault Newman writes. “He is a vindictive man, and I would not put anything past him.”

She continues, “If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave him while he’s in office, he would find a way to punish her. This is a man who has said he could pardon himself from the Mueller investigation. Why not pardon himself over an alleged visa payoff?”

“In my opinion,” Manigault Newman adds, “Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce him.”

Immigration lawyers told The New York Times in March 2018 that Mrs. Trump probably did qualify for such a visa on her own.

Mrs. Trump’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, “Mrs. Trump rarely, if ever, interacted with Omarosa.  It’s disappointing to her that she is lashing out and retaliating in such a self-serving way, especially after all the opportunities given to her by the President.”

In Unhinged, Manigault Newman also writes that when Trump was at functions without his wife he “behaved like a dog off the leash.” She also addresses Trump’s alleged affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal (which he has denied).

“It would be safe to assume that there were many others,” Manigault Newman writes, although she  presents no proof of other relationships.

In the book, she paints Trump as a bully in his marriage. But she says she believes that Mrs. Trump is asserting her power in small ways. In Manigault Newman’s opinion, the first lady makes certain fashion statements (like wearing the “I really don’t care” jacket) to “punish” her husband.

Manigault Newman also says she suspects that Mrs. Trump intentionally embarrasses the president with “small gestures.” Multiple instances have been caught on film in which the first lady appears resistant to holding her husband’s hand. This happened in April 2018, as the first couple welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House for the Trump administration’s first state visit.

In footage captured by MSNBC and later dissected by Twitter users, Trump appeared to make a subtle effort to hold his wife’s hand, first extending his pinky finger and then gently giving her hand a little shake before she finally placed her hand his. People on Twitter took note.

“Unlike the past, when [Melania] had no recourse or influence, she no longer had to accept her powerlessness,” Manigault Newman writes. “I believe that by avoiding Donald’s clasp in public, Melania was grasping the full extent of her power.”

The author continues, “At any time, if [Melania] so desired, she could humiliate [Donald] in public with small, ambiguous gestures, just as he’d openly humiliated her with his affairs and lascivious behavior for years. And there was nothing anyone could do to stop her.”

In response to the publication of Unhinged, President Trump has taken to Twitter in a rage. He recently tweeted that Manigault Newman is a “dog” and has “zero credibility.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has also issued a statement saying that Newman’s book “is riddled with lies and false accusations,” adding that “it’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration.”

And on Tuesday, the president’s campaign announced it has filed for arbitration against Manigault Newman for allegedly breaching a 2016 nondisclosure agreement, according to CNN. (Manigault Newman’s attorney, John Phillips, told PEOPLE in a statement Tuesday: “At this time, we haven’t seen any legal action and don’t have a comment on it.”)

Since Manigault Newman appeared on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice, she has been a loyal supporter. That changed in December 2017, when she was fired from her White House position. Since then, she’s been increasingly critical of Trump. Beyond releasing her book, she claims to have heard a tape in which he uses the “N-word,” and released a recording that allegedly shows that Chief of Staff John Kelly not only fired her, but threatened her while doing so.

Her book is just as permeated with controversy. Not only does Manigault Newman claim that Trump is a man in “mental decline,” she also suspects he “covets” his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and is verbally abusive to his son, Donald Trump Jr. The allegations of mistreatment extend to wife Melania, and according to Manigault Newman, explain why she’d want to leave her husband.

 

Roger Stone says he may soon be indicted in Trump-Russia investigation

  • ‘Robert Mueller is coming for me’
  • Trump adviser sends email to raise funds for legal defense

August 27, 2018

by Jon Swaine in New York

The Guardian

Roger Stone, the longtime associate of Donald Trump, has predicted that he may soon be indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In an email urging supporters to donate to his legal defence fund, the veteran Republican operative said he expected imminent action against him from the special counsel, who has secured a conviction and guilty pleas from other Trump allies.

“Robert Mueller is coming for me,” Stone wrote, before asserting that his name was next on what he called Mueller’s “hit list” of targets. Stone denied wrongdoing and said he faced legal peril simply because he had advised Trump for several decades.

Asked on Monday whether he expected criminal charges, Stone said in a text message that he believed Mueller “may frame me for some bogus charge in order to silence me or induce me to testify against the president”.

Stone, 66, has been known for his controversial campaign tactics since working on Richard Nixon’s notorious committee to re-elect the president in 1972. His former business partner and fellow Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, was last week convicted in Virginia of financial crimes and faces another trial in Washington next month.

Stone has confirmed that he exchanged messages during the 2016 campaign with “Guccifer 2.0”, who publicly purported to be an independent hacker. Mueller alleges that Guccifer was in fact a front for Russian intelligence operatives who stole and leaked emails from senior Democrats, throwing the party into turmoil at the height of the 2016 campaign.

Several times during July 2016, Stone said that he thought Russia was behind the email hacking, before abruptly denying that this was the case. Stone also claimed to have communicated with Julian Assange, who published the Democratic emails through his site WikiLeaks, but later claimed to have been joking.

Mueller’s team has spent months looking into Stone’s circle of friends and aides. Several of them have testified to a grand jury, including Stone’s protege Sam Nunberg, his former social media adviser Jason Sullivan, and his housemate Kristin Davis. Prosecutors appear to be reviewing Stone’s actions during the 2016 campaign as well as his finances more generally.

Davis, known as the “Manhattan madam” since once running a high-end prostitution service, has said she was asked about a tweet Stone posted in August 2016 predicting “it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel”. Emails stolen from the account of John Podesta, campaign chairman for Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, were subsequently published.

Nunberg told MSNBC earlier this month that he expects Stone to be indicted on “some broad charge that he was part of a conspiracy to defraud America” and that this would be combined with “a bunch of financial charges”.

Another Stone associate, Andrew Miller, has been held in contempt of court after refusing to comply with a subpoena from Mueller’s team. Miller, who ran political action committees for Stone and initially cooperated with Mueller’s inquiry, is appealing against the ruling and may take his case to the Supreme Court. He claims Mueller’s appointment is unconstitutional.

 

Iran says it has full control of Gulf, U.S. Navy does not belong there

August 27, 2018

Reuters

(Reuters) – Iran has full control of the Gulf and the U.S. Navy does not belong there, the head of the navy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Alireza Tangsiri, was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying on Monday.

Tehran has suggested it could take military action in the Gulf to block other countries’ oil exports in retaliation for U.S. sanctions intended to halt its sales of crude.

Washington maintains a fleet in the Gulf that protects oil shipping routes.

Tangsiri said Iran had full control of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz that leads into it. Closing the strait would be the most direct way of blocking shipping.

“We can ensure the security of the Persian Gulf and there is no need for the presence of aliens like the U.S. and the countries whose home is not in here,” he said in the quote, which appeared in English translation on Tasnim.

He added, “All the carriers and military and non-military ships will be controlled and there is full supervision over the Persian Gulf. Our presence in the region is physical and constant and night and day.”

Separately, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Iran’s enemies would not prevail in a conflict.

“The enemies are strictly avoiding any conflict with Iran because they know that it will not be beneficial for them,” Jafari said, according to Tasnim.

Tension between Iran and the United States has escalated since President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and reimposed sanctions.

Senior U.S. officials have said they aim to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most senior authority in the Islamic Republic, said last month that he supports the idea that if Iran is not allowed to export oil then no country should export oil from the Gulf.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Dale Hudson and Peter Graff

 

 

The American theft of German gold (translated from the German)

August 26, 2018

by Christian Jürs

 

Since before World War II, Fort Knox, America’s delegated repository for gold, served as the safe haven for much of the gold legally belonging to foreign nations.

In the 1930s, fears that Europe would be overrun by Hitler’s Wehrmacht sent the gold from Eastern Europe, France, and Great Britain to Fort Knox for safekeeping.

Those same fears mounted during the Cold War era.

There was exactly the same scenario with the German, French, Dutch, British or Belgian gold during the created threat of Soviet military units overrunning Europe.

This gold was sent across the Atlantic for safekeeping by the US Treasury.

However, instead of storing it in Fort Knox secure vaults, the American Treasury gave it instead to the Federal Reserve as collateral for the loans (currently $19.5 trillion) which the private Federal Reserve Corporation made to the US Treasury, in exchange for which the Treasury issued IOUs in the form of T-Bills to be held by the Federal Reserve.

As a result of increasing concerns expressed by a number of German politicians and Germany’s financial policeman, its National Audit Office, the Bundesbank is to check up on Germany’s gold reserves, an estimated two-thirds of which are stored outside Germany. The Bundesbank has also revealed that a physical check of Germany’s gold has never been carried out.

A large proportion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored abroad in vaults in the US, Britain and France. The gold bars have not been inspected by German officials for decades, prompting German federal auditors to call for a long overdue stock-take.

As the European single currency zone crisis rumbles on from one summit to the next with no resolution in sight, Germany’s National Audit Office and some of the country’s politicians have become increasingly edgy about the country’s gold serves, nearly three quarters of which are held outwith Germany.

There are historical reasons for Germany not having its own Fort Knox. The quid pro quo for (West) Germany was allied troops being stationed in West Germany long after the Second World War had ended.

With only about 30% of Germany’s gold reserves being held in German custody and the remainder far away from Frankfurt, Germany’s National Audit Office – the organisation independent of government that keeps an eye on Germany’s finances – has queried whether the German central bank, the Bundesbank, has been regularly keeping tabs on German gold bullion.

The National Audit Office is concerned that no physical checks have been carried out.

The Bundesbank reacted to the National Audit Office’s demands emphasising it does not doubt ‘the integrity, reputation and safety’ of foreign storage sites, relying on documentation and procedures in place to provide proof and traceability of German gold reserves stored abroad over past decades.

Nonetheless, to allay audit office concerns, the Bundesbank made arrangements to repatriate some of Germany’s gold reserves and test the gold for purity. The Bundesbank had agreed to ship 150 tons of gold currently stored at the New York Federal Reserve to Germany.

German concerns mounted after a delegation of German federal politicians requested an inspection of German gold reserves stored at the Banque de France, France’s central bank, in Paris. The group were turned away by officials who said there were no visiting facilities at their vaults.

Now, the official view in Germany is that the Bundesbank has no reason to doubt that all German gold reserves stored in foreign countries can be properly accounted for.

On January 16, 2013 Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, said it would ship back home all 374 tons it had stored with the Banque de France in Paris, as well as 300 tons held in Manhattan by the US Federal Reserve, by 2020.

That having been said, the Federal Bank of Germany has only managed to bring home a paltry 37 tons of gold.

And only 5 tons of that came from the US, the rest coming from Paris. The US Fed holds 45% or roughly $635 billion of the total 3,396 tons of gold Germany has in reserve, the world’s second largest hoard.

Needless to say this prompted renewed questions as to whether Germany’s gold still exists in those Manhattan vaults or if it has been sold to others.

Ending talk of repatriating the world’s second-biggest gold reserves removes a potential irritant in U.S.-German relations.

It’s also a political rebuff to critics including the anti-euro ‘Alternative for Germany’ party, which says all the gold should be returned to Frankfurt so it can’t be impounded to blackmail Germany into keeping the currency union together.

As an enforced NATO partner of the U.S. during the Cold War, many German institutions were heavily infiltrated by American agents, such as CIA personnel, and the current German government does not wish to create serious problems by antagonizing the United States.

In sum, the Merkel government is willing to cover up the theft of their gold by the Amereicans for political reasons.

German gold is also held at The Bank of England which stores 13% in London, while the Bank of France in Paris has 11% in total and the remainder is held at the Bundesbank’s headquarters in Frankfurt.

The gold that was claimed to have been returned to Germany at Frankfurt was never shown to the public but was said to have been melted down immediately to  “bring the bullion to the current bar standard.” Germany holds more than 3,000 tons of gold bullion, which represents more than 75 percent of its foreign currency reserves.

It is well-known in the American banking community that the U.S. Treasury will never be able to repay $19.5 trillion which is owes to the Federal Reserve banks for loans, based on the gold the Federal Reserve has held as security for their loans to the U.S. government. Because the U.S. Treasury was unable to repay these loans the Federal Reserve sold all the gold to the Chinese government and they regard the the promissory notes from the Treasury (the T-Bills) as so much worthless paper.

The US Government will most certainly never have the money to redeem $19.5 trillion out of the taxes it collects, so the only way to repay the Federal Reserve is to borrow more money from the Federal Reserve to repay the older loans, with, of course the interest.

Thus, the Federal Reserve will never have to give back the gold to the Treasury, and has paid the U.S. Treasury debt and has kept some of the gold to cover itself.

When the foreign depositors, such as Germany, come to the US Government Treasury and ask for their gold back, the US Government does not have it, and has not had it in its possession in Fort Knox since soon after the end of WWII.

The final conclusion is that the U.S. Government has converted hundreds of trillions of other nations’ gold to act as collateral for its own borrowing and profligate spending, on endless wars, political corruption, bribery, and baldfaced theft.

 

EU security must no longer depend on US – Macron

August 27, 2018

RT

The security of the European Union must no longer depend on the US, French President Emmanuel Macron said. He also called for a review of the security approach towards Europe’s partners, including Russia.

Europe can “no longer” entrust its security to the US alone, the French president said, speaking at the annual French ambassadors’ conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

“It is up to us today to take responsibility and guarantee [the EU’s] security and, therefore, EU sovereignty,” he added.

Speaking about Brexit, he stressed that France wants to maintain “strong relationship” with London but “not at the price of the dissolution” of the EU. It is necessary to build “a strategic partnership” with the UK, he said, adding that he has “the same thought” about EU neighbors Russia and Turkey.

Speaking about Syria, the president recalled the bombardments which France and its allies – the US and the UK – unleashed on the war-stricken country in April this year. “We will continue to do this [airstrikes] in cases” where it is proven that the government of Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Syrian people, the centrist politician added. The April airstrikes were carried out in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Assad’s government.

The US-UK-French operation started hours before a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach the city to inspect the site of the alleged incident.

Relations between the US and its NATO partners haven’t been smooth in recent months. During a NATO summit in July, Donald Trump demanded that the bloc’s nations spend 4% of their GDP on defense, doubling the current spending commitment that many member states are already struggling to meet. Back then French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke against the antagonistic conduct of the US president, accusing him of trying to destabilize European unity with his antics. “He is taking initiatives with respect to Europe, in particular in the field of trade, which are aimed at destabilization,” Le Drian added.

It is not the first harsh remark made by France towards its long-standing ally, the US. On the heels of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement in May this year, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urged Europe to stop acting like “US vassals” and continue trading with Tehran in defiance of what “the global economic policeman” has in store.

Tensions between Versaille and the White House rose again shortly after when Trump slapped the EU with tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as part of a trade war. Macron called the measures “illegal” and warned that “economic nationalism leads to war,” adding that this is exactly “what happened in the 1930s.”

 

Trump takes aim at Venezuela lifeline, which could raise prices at the pump

August 24, 2018

by Franco Ordoñez

McClatchy

Washington — The White House is once again considering sanctions that could choke Venezuela’s oil production as the Trump administration weighs its next “strong and swift” action to take against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, two senior administration officials told McClatchy..

While a full embargo on purchasing Venezuelan oil — the so-called “nuclear option” —is being actively discussed, the administration is zeroing in on more surgical sanctions that block the sale of oil and oil processing products by U.S. companies to Venezuela and hinder Caracas’s oil industry without directly impacting the Venezuelan people.

“It’s very real,” a senior administration official told McClatchy. “It’s a matter of considering when doing the next sanction or the next round of sanctions will maximize the pressure.”

Specifically,the government is looking at prohibiting the sale by U.S. companies of about 3.5 million barrels of oil and other refined oil products to Venezuela, such as the diluent naphtha, which is used to thin the tar-like heavy oil so that it can flow through more than 60 miles of pipelines from the Orinoco oil belt to the nation’s coast, where it can be either upgraded or exported..

It’s been months since the United States imposed its last significant set of sanctions against the Caracas government leading to concerns among Venezuelans in Miami and elsewhere in the United States that the Trump administration has eased up on the Maduro government. But administration officials say the Maduro government continues to find excuses to abuse and consolidate its power, such as the arrests of opposition leaders without real evidence for a foiled drone attack against the president.

A full oil embargo would likely starve the desperate Maduro government of much needed capital during a massive economic crisis that is struggling with hyperinflation expected to grow 1 million percent by years end. But the Trump administration has been resistant to take more drastic measures because of the impacts on the suffering Venezuelan public, potential harm to the U.S. oil industry and the American consumer who is already seeing increasing gas prices.

But the senior administration officials saud they’re working on a new package of sanctions that would be released in the next three months. Oil industry analysts said they have been brought in by the White House and State Department over the last several weeks to discuss the potential impacts of both a full embargo or, the second, more targeted approach involving oil sales to Venezuela.

“I said the second one is better,” said Russ Dallen, a managing partner at the U.S. investment bank Caracas Capital Markets, which tracks Venezuelan oil shipments, who advised U.S. officials on this issue. “I said, ‘Look, they’re killing themselves anyway. If we get involved right now, they’re going to try to blame us. They already are, but when your opponent is shooting themselves in the foot, don’t stop them.”

One third of Venezuelan oil is processed in U.S. refineries. An embargo on oil from Venezuela, the fourth biggest supplier to the U.S., could force a slowdown in production at Gulf Coast refineries and a temporary spike in gasoline prices.

Large U.S. refineries like Valero Energy Corp. and Marathon Petroleum Corp. have already shifted away from processing heavy crude in order to lessen the potential impact from sanctions on their businesses as well as consumers.

Blocking sales to Venezuela of products like naphtha would affect the industry less, but could still hurt refiners who are increasing their sales of refined products to Latin America, said Michael Leger, chief executive officer at refining consultancy Turner, Mason & Co.

“If you reduce that market, that means somebody has to cut back and that could have an impact on the profitability of U.S. refiners and ultimately what U.S. consumers have to pay,” Leger said, noting it could also impact gas prices.

In the short term, blocking U.S. oil sales could choke the Caracas regime’s production capabilities. In the long term, Venezuela would still be able to produce oil by getting the commodities elsewhere, like Russia or China, but Dallen said it would cost the state-run company, PDVSA, more because they’d have to find and buy those products for more elsewhere. Venezuela could also get around the sanctions by, for example, buying the U.S. products from a third country.

Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world and PDVSA is the country’s primary source of income. Sixty percent of Venezuela’s revenue comes from oil. Yet record high inflation, food shortages and deadly protests have gripped the once-mighty oil nation and millions have fled.

PDVSA has been plagued by mismanagement and corruption that has led to historically low production levels. As of July, Venezuela’s oil production was 1.3 million barrels per day, according to OPEC.

Upheaval in the global oil markets – and its potential impacts on the U.S. consumer – is serious enough that the Trump administration has begun to tap U.S. oil reserves in the United States, which is now 700 million barrels, to help soften the possible impact

On Monday, the Department of Energy announced it would sell 11 million barrels of the heavy crude oil similar to that produced by Venezuela.

Venezuela could still count on $28 billion in oil revenues if it received full value, or about $60 a barrel, for its 1.3 million barrels a day. Dallen’s analysis shows it is really only making about $11 billion a year because half of the oil produced is delivered at a loss or as a loan repayment to China and Russia, several hundred thousand more barrels are delivered to Cuba at no cost and some also is donated domestically for cheap gas programs. U.S. refiners are among the few customers that actually pay the Venezuelans cash for their oil.

“The U.S. is pretty much the only country keeping the lights on in Venezuela,” Dallen said.

Trump has periodically taken steps from an “escalatory road map” aides have drawn up that outlines the available economic and individual sanctions meant to pressure Maduro restore Democratic institutions.

Another senior administration official told McClatchy that oil sanctions are one of the few remaining options the administration has that meet Trump’s “strong and swift” parameter outlined when Maduro last year took major steps to consolidate his power. The U.S. government has already sanctioned 70 officials, including Maduro, and restricted U.S. investment and financial transactions, including those involving Venezuela’s new digital currency.

Last month, Maduro was also named as a suspect in a U.S. investigation into the embezzlement of more than $1 billion from PDVSA.

On a recent week-long trip through South America, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Maduro has only himself to blame.

“This is not some act of God,” Mattis said. “It’s not something that just had to happen because it was a natural disaster. In fact, they sit on enormous oil reserves. They’ve got tremendous opportunity for their people,” Mattis told reporters. “And we abhor the wholly misguided Maduro regime.”

Some administration officials are worried that Venezuela’s problems are becoming the new normal. People inside, who want change, whether it’s the opposition, military or private sector need to take more aggressive steps, another administration official said.

“We need the people to stand up,” the official said. “it’s not going to be an external force that creates change.”

While the the United States, Canada, the European Union, Switzerland and Panama have all imposed sanctions, the United States still wants other countries in the region to issue sanctions, visa revocations or take other measures to isolate the Venezuela.

“At some point, the region has to take a step back from its standard line of we will not interfere in another country’s politics,” the senior administration official said. “They’re really going to have to take an active role.”

Staff reporter Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.

 

 

Homelessness in England triples under austerity

It is estimated that some 300,000 people in England are homeless. The number has tripled since the Conservative government’s tough austerity policy began. But a new law is aiming to prevent the problem before it arises.

August 27, 2018

by Erik Albrecht (Sheffield)

DW

“Sticky situation, and I got kicked out. So, I came here and started the hostel life,” says Brogan. She is sitting on a fluffy sofa. The sun is shining through the typical English bay windows into the lounge of the hostel for homeless young people. The organization that runs it, Roundabout, offers a home to 27 of them in Sheffield.

The charity Shelter estimates that there are 300,000 homeless people in England. Since the Conservative government’s tough austerity policy began in 2010, the number has risen sharply. Now the government is also focusing on the problem.

The government is counting on more prevention

In mid-August, James Brokenshire, Minister of Municipalities and Housing, presented a legislative initiative. The goal is that by 2027, no one should have to sleep on the street.

Since April, municipalities have been required to offer assistance the day a lease is terminated. Hospitals, prisons and job centers are obliged to refer people directly to social services if there is a risk of them becoming homeless.

With the “Homelessness Reduction Act,” the government is aiming to keep people housed by means of timely intervention.

Homelessness has risen sharply

The Conservatives have been under pressure on this issue for some time. Homelessness is no longer limited to London with its chronically inflated property market. Last year, Labour politician Andy Burnham won the election as mayor of Greater Manchester with the promise to take up the fight against homelessness.

Since then, he has, among other things, donated 15 percent of his salary for this purpose. Across England, 60 percent more people are living in emergency shelters than in 2011, and the number of people sleeping on the streets has more than doubled.

“MPs went home to their constituencies and found that people across the country were talking about homelessness. So, it’s one of these problems that people are talking about everywhere, both in the cities and towns, but also in the shires and the small towns,” says Jon Dean, who is researching the subject at Sheffield University.

Hardly any money for the fight against homelessness

“It was really by using austerity as a way of trying to solve the economic crisis that this problem got exacerbated,” says Dean. “But the new law is not very radical.” He admits that it does offer help to more people, whereas only the weakest used to receive support. “But we don’t always know what quality that advice from local authorities is going to have.”

Dean is particularly sceptical about the funding. The government has allocated £72 million (€79.5 million; $92.5 million) for the next three years, spread over several hundred municipalities. “The amount of money behind it is a tremendously small amount of money. When you start doing the maths on that, that is a tiny amount of money.”

Dean fears that in some cases, the already financially strained municipalities will have to contribute money from their own budgets to meet obligations under the new law. In addition, he says, it was the Conservative government itself that created the problem in the first place through its austerity policy.

Austerity policy has exacerbated the problem

Dean sees the reasons behind the current situation primarily in the cuts to social welfare and housing benefits. “So, the very hard sanctions that were brought in as part of austerity in order to get the welfare budget down to reduce the deficit did have a huge impact on rising levels of homelessness.”

Anyone who misses an appointment at the social security office or job center loses part of his or her social assistance. In addition, charities complain that in many regions of England, rents have risen more sharply than state housing subsidies.

Standard rental contracts in England expire after one year. This has become the main reason why many people end up homeless. Since 2011, the number of people losing their homes has tripled.

Not enough social workers

In Roundabout’s Sheffield hostel, few of the 27 young people have rented an apartment before. But they, too, are feeling the effects of the Conservatives’ austerity policy. Many come from socio-economically deprived areas of the city.

“All the youth workers have gone out of those areas, and the kids have done what they wanted,” says Rose Parchment, the hostel’s director. The few social workers who did not fall victim to the austerity policy were mainly dealing with cases of abuse, she says.

“These guys don’t come under that; they are children in need, but actually someone has to take some time with them and let people grow up in a safe environment. And that is a bit gone really.” Parchment tries to do just that: provide an environment where young people are allowed to make mistakes while trying to find out what they want to do with their lives.

Lack of social housing

Thanks to Roundabout, Brogan is now educating her peers in schools about homelessness. She hopes that this will help her get an apprenticeship training position. The 18-year-old would prefer to work in nursing care, she says. “But that’s difficult.”

But even if her plan works out, finding an apartment will remain a challenge, Rose Parchment fears. “We want people to get council housing because it’s a longer-term place to live, but there is not enough stock available.” The only alternative would be the private housing market with all its uncertainties. “I think everybody deserves somewhere to live,” says Parchment. “But it is getting increasingly harder.”

 

No alcohol safe to drink, global study confirms

August 24, 2018

by Laurel Ives

BBC Health

Bad news for those who enjoy what they think is a healthy glass of wine a day.

A large new global study published in the Lancet has confirmed previous research which has shown that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

The researchers admit moderate drinking may protect against heart disease but found that the risk of cancer and other diseases outweighs these protections.

A study author said its findings were the most significant to date because of the range of factors considered.

How risky is moderate drinking?

The Global Burden of Disease study looked at levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries, including the UK, between 1990 and 2016.

Analysing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day.

They found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer or suffer an injury.

But an extra four people would be affected if they drank one alcoholic drink a day.

For people who had two alcoholic drinks a day, 63 more developed a condition within a year and for those who consumed five drinks every day, there was an increase of 338 people, who developed a health problem.

One of the study authors, Prof Sonia Saxena, a researcher at Imperial College London and a practising GP, said: “One drink a day does represent a small increased risk, but adjust that to the UK population as a whole and it represents a far bigger number, and most people are not drinking just one drink a day.”

The lead author of the study Dr Max Griswold, at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington, said: “Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increases with any amount of alcohol.

“The strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for heart disease in our study.

“Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more.”

In 2016, the government cut the levels of alcohol it recommends for men and women to no more than 14 units a week – equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

At the time, England’s chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, noted that any amount of alcohol could increase the risk of cancer.

‘Informed risk’

Prof Saxena said the study was the most important study ever conducted on the subject.

She explained: “This study goes further than others by considering a number of factors including alcohol sales, self-reported data on the amount of alcohol drunk, abstinence, tourism data and the levels of illicit trade and home brewing.”

The study shows that British women drink an average of three drinks a day, and rank eighth in the world of highest drinkers.

British men by contrast, ranked 62nd out of the 195 countries surveyed, even though they also drink on average three alcoholic drinks a day. This is because the drinking levels were far higher generally among men, with Romanian men drinking more than eight drinks daily.

A drink was defined as 10g of alcohol, which equates to a small glass of wine, a can or bottle of beer, or a shot of spirits. In the UK one unit is 8g of alcohol. Around the world, one in three people are thought to drink alcohol and it is linked to nearly a tenth of all deaths in those aged 15 to 49.

Prof Saxena said: “Most of us in the UK drink well in excess of safe limits, and as this study shows there is no safe limit. The recommendations need to come down further and the government needs to rethink its policy. If you are going to drink, educate yourself about the risks, and take an informed risk.”

How many units of alcohol are in each drink?

  • Large glass of wine – 3 units
  • Pint of higher-strength lager or beer – 3 units
  • Standard glass of wine – 2 units
  • Pint of lower-strength lager or beer – 2 units
  • Bottle of lager or beer – 1.7 units
  • Single shot of spirits – 1 unit

Source: NHS Choices

Yet Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, sounded a note of caution about the findings.

“Given the pleasure presumably associated with moderate drinking, claiming there is no ‘safe’ level does not seem an argument for abstention,” he said.

“There is no safe level of driving, but the government does not recommend that people avoid driving.

“Come to think of it, there is no safe level of living, but nobody would recommend abstention.”

 

 

 

 

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