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TBR News December 29, 2017

Dec 29 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. December 29, 2017:”That there is global climate change is beyond a doubt but no one, not even the lunatic bloggers, knows why. Fake ‘scientists’ are quoted but in the end, what happens is what will happen. Fantasy stories or not. It is interesting to note that the eruption of very cold weather in the north, called ‘polar vortex’ by some, matches, almost perfectly, the boundaries of the glaciers of the last ice age. That period was, like the present one, preceded by a warming period. In northern Siberia, tropical plants and trees were growing when very, very suddenly, everything, including feeding mammoths, froze solid. That this could well happen again is agreed upon by legitimate scientists but neither they or the the bloggers can say when. If this sudden freezing begins, there will be a mass movement of Canadians and Alaskans into the United States and there will be fights over land in the warmer parts of the United States, and also in Europe.”

 

Table of Contents

  • North Korea: South seizes ship amid row over illegal oil transfer
  • Modern life too much for you? Maybe a tiny box in the woods is the cure.
  • Alabama certifies Doug Jones Senate victory as Roy Moore challenge fails
  • Name-drawing in tied Va. House race delayed after Democrat announces court challenge
  • Liberals Getting Back in Touch With Their Authoritarian Roots
  • After St. Petersburg explosion, Putin orders police to ‘liquidate’ terrorists
  • The Company in Bad Company
  • Anti-Semitism in Germany: Jewish life ‘under threat’ says Charlotte Knobloch
  • The beginning of the end for German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
  • Trump targets Amazon in call for postal service to hike prices
  • Is the polar vortex back? Be afraid, frigid friends.

 

 

North Korea: South seizes ship amid row over illegal oil transfer

December 29, 2017

BBC News

South Korea has revealed it seized a Hong Kong-registered ship last month suspected of supplying oil to the North in breach of international sanctions.

Officials said the Lighthouse Winmore had secretly transferred 600 tonnes of refined oil to a North Korean ship.

A UN Security Council resolution bans ship-to-ship transfers of any goods destined for Pyongyang.

The revelations came as China denied claims by President Donald Trump it had allowed oil shipments to the North.

The ship entered Yeosu port in South Korea on 11 October to load up with refined oil and left for Taiwan four days later, Yonhap news agency reported.

But instead of going to Taiwan it transferred the oil to a North Korean ship and three other vessels in international waters on 19 October, South Korean officials were quoted as saying.

This defies a UN Security Council resolution imposed on 11 September.

The New York Times said the transfer was captured in US satellite photos, released by the US Treasury in November, although the Lighthouse Winmore was not named by the Treasury.

The Lighthouse Winmore was seized when it returned to Yeosu in November and remains in South Korea, South Korean officials said.

Was China involved?

There is no evidence for this, as although the Lighthouse Winmore is Hong Kong-flagged, it was leased by a Taiwanese company, Billions Bunker Group Corp.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office said the company that chartered the ship was not incorporated in Taiwan, but did not say whether the firm’s owner or officials are Taiwanese.

The Chinese government said the accusations against it were “not consistent with the facts”.

“China has never allowed Chinese enterprises nor individuals to violate UN Security Council resolutions imposed on the DPRK,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

China handles about 90% of the North’s foreign trade.

Why was Trump riled?

There has been increasing suspicion in Washington that Chinese ships have been secretly transferring petroleum to North Korean vessels at sea.

China has continued to deny this, saying it fully enforces UN resolutions against Pyongyang.

On Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted he was “very disappointed” with China, which he said had been “caught red-handed”.

The tweet followed a report on the issue in South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

Quoting South Korean government officials, the report said the illegal ship-to-ship transfers had been filmed by US spy satellites about 30 times since October.

President Trump told the New York Times he had “been soft” on trade issues with China because he wanted its help on North Korea but was now threatening to end that.

He said: “Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal. If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.”

Is oil part of the sanctions against the North?

Yes. Last week Beijing supported a US-drafted UN resolution that included measures to slash the North’s petrol imports by up to 90%.

The 22 December sanctions also refer specifically to attempts by the North to procure prohibited goods.

The measures address the “illicit imports of petroleum through deceptive maritime practices by requiring Member States to seize, inspect and freeze any vessel in their ports and territorial waters for involvement in prohibited activities”.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council also denied international port access to four more North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned goods, AFP reported. It would bring the total number of ships blocked by the UN to eight.

North Korea is already subject to a raft of sanctions from the US, the UN and the EU.

The latest round was sparked by the 29 November launch of a ballistic missile, which flew higher than any other the North has tested.

In a typically bellicose response, North Korea described the new sanctions as an “act of war”.

Mr Trump has previously threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it launches a nuclear attack. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the US president as “mentally deranged”.

Have previous sanctions worked?

They have been imposed for more than a decade with little success.

In fact, North Korea has said fresh sanctions will only make it accelerate its nuclear programme. It has continued to test nuclear and ballistic missiles despite these recent examples of UN pressure:

  • 30 November 2016: UN targeted North Korea’s valuable coal trade with China, slashing exports by about 60% under a new sales cap. Exports of copper, nickel, silver, zinc and the sale of statues were also banned
  • What happened next? On 14 May 2017, North Korea tested what it said was a “newly developed ballistic rocket” capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead
  •  2 June 2017: UN imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on four entities and 14 officials, including the head of North Korea’s overseas spying operations
  •  What happened next? On 4 July, North Korea claimed it had carried out its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
  •  6 August 2017: UN banned North Korean exports of coal, ore and other raw materials and limited investments in the country, costing Pyongyang an estimated $1bn – about a third of its export economy
  •  What happened next? On 3 September, North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that could be miniaturised and loaded on a long-range missile

 

Modern life too much for you? Maybe a tiny box in the woods is the cure.

December 28, 2017

by Lavanya Ramanathan

Washington Post

Getaway markets its tiny homes in the woods as a way to “rediscover the pleasure of boredom, solitude and unstructured time.” (Getaway)

To commune with ourselves, we must trek two hours to Stanardsville, a town on the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains whose population has stairstepped down over the years to 384 people, a country store and this wooded plot, which, before 20 tiny houses arrived this fall, was an RV campground called Heavenly Acres.

The heavenly part is debatable. On the second official day of winter, the tract is a colorless bog, surrounded by tall, barren trees and covered with a blanket of dead leaves. But this, promises Getaway — a start-up that offers these rental not-cabins and this not-camping not far from major cities — is where we may rejuvenate our very souls.

As our car crunches up the gravel driveway, we pass an ominous charcoal-gray box on wheels. A sign proclaims it “Lenore.” It is a carbon copy of Lillian, Hank, Felix and Shirley, which is the tiny house we have been assigned, we learn in a succinct text from the company that also feeds us an entry code.

But Lenore sends the first ripple of excitement through the car. Tinys have a way of doing that.

In Getaway’s soft, wooded marketing photos, tinys such as Lenore are imbued with symbolism. Inside, couples slice avocados together. A multiethnic gaggle of cool kids in beanies convenes at a fire pit. Young women plant themselves in large picture windows overlooking the forest with hardcover books you can only assume are by Zadie Smith or Audre Lorde. In one image, a woman simply contorts herself in a display of yogic bliss.

The savvy emphasis on escape and disconnectedness and repose has resonated among the millennials Getaway aims to reach. In each of its markets, outside New York, Boston and Washington, Getaway’s houses are booked solid on weekends, and in early 2017, the company, founded by two Harvard graduates, raised $15 million in venture capital funding, which suggests that a tiny house campground may soon be coming to a forest near you.

Despite its name, Getaway does not sell the sort of wild weekend vacation you might experience in Cancun or the food-focused travels you might have in Portugal.

Instead, it presents a dire vision of urban life, and then offers itself as the antidote. It evokes the Japanese practice of forest bathing, and disconnection, and a little curative isolation. It encourages you to use your tiny, at the rate of just over $160 a night, to finish your novel — because you obviously never have time to work on it otherwise — and insists that you remove yourself from a list of stressors conveniently noted in a Getaway pamphlet. These include: work, email, texts and competition.

We punch in the code and crack open Shirley like a safe and begin to poke around. I plop down on the large, soft platform bed. (“Memory foam?” I announce giddily.) I pore over the copious literature, which informs guests, among other things, that the absence of mirrors is intentional. Because only monsters think about their pores when they’re supposed to be out here like Henry David Thoreau. (Need a reminder? There’s a copy of “Walden” on the bookshelf.)

We scan the kitchen, which comes with two plates, two mugs, a pan and not a single wine glass. And we encounter the wooden box where you really, really, really should lock away your cellphone, source of so much pain and FOMO.

But just in case you can’t part with it, they’ve conveniently provided absolutely no WiFi.

“Idiot,” you think. “This is called camping.”

Not exactly. Now, in tiny houses that no one will acknowledge are honestly just what we used to call cabins, it’s called “escaping.”

Just what are we running from?

Sleep is one of the subtle messages in Getway’s marketing materials. (Getaway)

For the suburban families who have made “Tiny House Hunters” an HGTV hit, tiny houses are an alternate reality, an incredible stretch of the imagination.

“How could anyone live with so little?” is the obvious question.

The better one: “What must that be like, to not be so in debt that your skin feels like it’s on fire every moment of every waking day?”

Having only recently moved up from a series of 350-square-foot tiny houses called studio apartments, I know what it’s like to live with no doors. Anxiety is worrying that I might live like this forever, or perhaps one day live with even less.

So I can’t dismiss the popular fascination with tiny houses — little wooden temples to minimalism that on average clock in at just over 200 square feet and can be had for about $50,000 — as a misguided fad. Adorable wooden cottages on wheels have exploded in popularity not because people wanted to downsize, but because they were downsized.

We struggle “our whole lives to work hard enough so we can relax,” says Amy Turnbull, president of the American Tiny House Association, a relatively recent creation (founded in 2015) with 400 members nationwide. “What has changed is that millennials and the housing crisis of 2008 have shown us we ain’t got time for that. Security is a myth. Housing is beyond the reach of many. We have student loan debt. So, what’s the point?”

It’s no wonder that the tiny house, off the grid in fact and in spirit, appeals.

“Initially people were like, that’s so cute, I want one,” Turnbull says. But the tiny-house movement has been mired in municipal wrangling and shunned by communities that won’t abide what ultimately are temporary homes. In many areas, they are illegal, she says.

And so “you can’t live in them full time,” Turnbull says with some exasperation. “That’s the problem.”

But Getaway, and other tiny house rentals, such as Caravan in Portland, Ore., or Austin’s Tiny Homes Hotel, can give you a taste of the tiny-house life.

In an early marketing video, one of Getaway’s founders spoke of tiny houses as yet another millennial reaction to their parents’ whole lives. “The form is wrong, the function is wrong,” chief executive Jon Staff intoned as a camera panned over beige dream homes in some nameless suburbia.

Millennials have been blamed for the death of really important American institutions, like paper napkins and J. Crew and promiscuity.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if it’s the American institutions that are secretly killing millennials, or at least filling them with an existential dread that quietly eats away at their insides like acid reflux?

“You can make a case that millennials are stressed out. They feel stressed out by their phones,” says Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist who studies generational differences and is the author of “Generation Me.”

“Technology just feels so demanding, all the time,” Twenge says. “And as people have spent more time interacting with digital media, they spend less time interacting with each other face-to-face.”

If their parents’ little boxes are another institution that has to go, maybe, Getaway seems to posit, the answer is a littler box. Maybe the answer is in “Walden.”

“The irony here is that what Thoreau did was move to Walden Pond to get away from society. Arguably, life in a village at that time and life at Walden Pond wasn’t that different,” Twenge notes. “Compare that to life with a phone in modern times.”

It’s ridiculous, but I expect to feel some instant woodsiness that never materializes. Even though I play Bon Iver on the Bluetooth radio, and then take the provided torch outside to our fire pit and sprinkle the (provided) firestarter over the (provided) logs, and light our first campfire and make some (provided) s’mores.

Instead, we sit outside and poke at our baby fire, which is as formidable as a burning candle, and drink wine until it begins to rain.

Later, I sleep like the dead.

Alabama certifies Doug Jones Senate victory as Roy Moore challenge fails

  • Republican backed by Trump alleged voter fraud and sought new vote
  • Judge turns down request as state officials confirm Democratic win

December 28, 2017

by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

The Guardian

Doug Jones was formally certified as the winner of Alabama’s US Senate election this month, as the state ignored a last-ditch legal challenge by the Republican Roy Moore.

The announcement came hours after Moore’s lawyers filed a request late on Wednesday for a restraining order to stop Alabama’s canvassing board from certifying Jones’ victory. In a statement accompanying that filing, Moore’s team called for a new special election and claimed Alabama “will suffer irreparable harm if the election results are certified without preserving and investigating all the evidence of potential fraud”.

But even before Montgomery circuit judge Johnny Hardwick denied Moore’s request in a Thursday ruling, state officials rejected Moore’s claims. The certification paved the way for Jones to be sworn in as Alabama’s junior senator when the Senate reconvenes in January.

After that was done, at the state capitol on Thursday afternoon, Jones said in a statement: “I am looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama in the new year.“As I said on election night, our victory marks a new chapter for our state and the nation. I will be an independent voice and work to find common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get Washington back on track and fight to make our country a better place for all.”

Moore, who was accused of assaulting teenage girls while in his 30s, lost to Jones in the 12 December race by around 20,000 votes, a margin of 1.5%. It was the first time Alabama had elected a Democrat to the US Senate in 25 years.

Moore refused to concede, citing unsubstantiated rumors of election fraud and claiming high Democratic turnout was improbable. The Republican remained undeterred after state officials certified Jones’s win, issuing a statement that continued to suggest foul play despite there being no evidence to support his claims.

“I have stood for the truth about God and the constitution for the people of Alabama,” Moore said. “I have no regrets. To God be the glory.”

A spokesman for Jones called Moore’s late-stage legal challenge “a desperate attempt … to subvert the will of the people” and said: “The election is over. It’s time to move on.”

State officials also disputed any claim of inconsistencies in the voting process. John H Merrill, the Alabama secretary of state, told CNN: “Will this affect anything? The short answer to that is no.”

Merrill met Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, and attorney general, Steve Marshall, on Thursday to certify the election result. Jones will be sworn in by vice-president Mike Pence on 3 January.

With respect to Moore’s allegations of voter fraud, Merrill said that while more than 100 such cases had been reported, the state had “adjudicated more than 60 of those”. “We will continue to do that,” he said.

Moore’s court filing, which spanned dozens of pages, pointed to turnout exceeding expectations in Jefferson County, where Jones won more than 68% of the vote and was buoyed in part by high turnout among black voters.

The filing cited “experts” including Richard Charnin, who has a blog dedicated to John F Kennedy conspiracy theories and has also floated conspiracies over the 2016 death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer. Another cited authority, James Condit Jr, has espoused antisemitic views and promoted conspiracies about a supposed Jewish takeover of the Vatican.

Moore has separately sent fundraising emails which solicited donations to investigate alleged voter fraud.

The Alabama Senate seat was left vacant by Jeff Sessions, who was chosen by Donald Trump to serve as attorney general.

Moore, who had the backing of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, secured the Republican nomination in September. The former judge was already a controversial figure, having declared among other beliefs that homosexuality should be illegal and that Muslims should not serve in Congress, and having twice been removed from the state supreme court for unconstitutional actions.

In the months leading up to the election, Moore was accused of sexual misconduct towards a number of women. Some of the women, who came forward after decades amid a watershed moment around sexual harassment, said Moore molested them when they were teenagers.

Moore denied the accusations and attempted to discredit the women but has failed to turn up evidence to contradict their claims. In his legal challenge to the election result, his team said he had taken a polygraph test in an attempt to disprove the allegations.

Shortly after the election, Trump, who backed Moore’s opponent in the primary, called on the beaten man to concede.

“I would certainly say he should,” the president told reporters on 15 December.

Trump endorsed Moore against Jones, pointing to his denials of the allegations against him and insisting any candidate would be preferable to a “liberal Democrat” like Jones. Trump has himself been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. He denies all such allegations.

Jones’s victory has narrowed the Republican Senate majority to 51-49, although he was not seated in time to vote on the GOP tax reform bill.

Name-drawing in tied Va. House race delayed after Democrat announces court challenge

December 26, 2017

by Laura Vozzella

The Washington Post

The Virginia State Board of Elections has postponed plans for a name-drawing on Wednesday to decide the winner of a deadlocked House of Delegates race — and possibly which party controls the chamber — after one of the candidates announced plans for a court challenge over whether the election was really a tie.

The rare spectacle of filling a legislative seat by drawing one of two candidates’ names out of a pitcher has drawn widespread interest, in no small part because a Democratic victory would mean that the House, where Republicans had a 16-seat majority before the Nov. 7 elections, would be split 50-50 when the legislature convenes Jan. 10.

Democratic challenger Shelly Simonds said Tuesday that she would file a motion in Newport News Circuit Court on Wednesday, asking judges to reconsider their decision to count a disputed ballot as a vote for Republican incumbent David Yancey and declare the race a tie.

Simonds’s lawyers said they could not file the motion Tuesday because the court was closed. They also said they had written to the Board of Elections asking it to postpone the name-drawing until the court decides whether to act in response to the motion.

Hours later, the Board of Elections announced that it had canceled plans for the 11 a.m. drawing.

“Drawing names is an action of last resort,” the board said in written statement. “Any substantive concerns regarding the election or recount should be resolved before a random drawing is conducted.”

The board, which must give 24 hours’ notice before calling an emergency meeting, will not hold a drawing Wednesday even if the court rules that day. “We want to act in a transparent manner as there is no need for any more surprises with this election,” the board said.

On Election Day, Yancey appeared to beat Simonds in the 94th legislative district race by 10 votes. But a Dec. 19 recount left Simonds ahead by a single vote.

The next day, a three-judge panel decided that a ballot that was declared ineligible during the recount should count for Yancey, tying the race at 11,608 votes apiece. The ballot in question contained a mark for Simonds as well as a mark for Yancey, and an extra mark by Simonds’s name that the court ruled was an effort to strike out the mark in her favor. Republicans said the unknown voter had selected every other Republican on the ballot and intended to vote for Yancey. The panel of judges agreed.

If Simonds wins the seat, the House chamber will be split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, forcing the parties into a rare power-sharing arrangement. If Yancey wins, the Republicans will retain their majority by the slimmest possible margin.

In her motion, Simonds asserts that the panel made a “clear legal error . . . [that] ran contrary to Virginia law” by counting the disputed ballot. “This is really about the integrity of elections in Virginia,” she told reporters. She accused Yancey, a six-year incumbent, of trying to do “an end run” around proper election procedures.

Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for House Republicans, said in a statement that “the Court acted appropriately and . . . the integrity of the process is without question.” The statement also noted that a recount in a separate House race involved a Democrat challenging a disputed ballot, which the court agreed to review and then counted for the Democratic candidate.

In their letter to the Board of Elections, Simonds’s lawyers wrote that if the judges reconsider their finding that the contest was tied, there would be no need for a drawing. It also states that neither candidate would be harmed by a “brief delay” in naming a winner, so long as the process is completed by the time the General Assembly is gaveled into session on Jan. 10.

If the race is still in limbo by that date, neither candidate would be seated — giving Republicans control of the chamber with 50 seats to the Democrats’ 49.

Clara Belle Wheeler, the lone Republican on the election board, said the matter should be settled before the legislature convenes. “I am of the very strong opinion that the people of Newport News need to have a representative in the House of Delegates,” she said.

The last — and perhaps only other — time the state settled a tied election by “lot” was in 1971, when candidates for a House seat in Fairfax — Republican William H. Moss and Democrat Jim Burch — each received 16,410 votes.

Virginia uses the same procedure several times a year to decide ballot order for candidates.

If there is a lot-drawing in the 94th District race, the loser could seek a second recount.

Democrats are also seeking a new election in a different House race that Republican Bob Thomas won by 73 votes, in which an apparent voter-registrar error led to 147 voters casting ballots in the wrong districts.

Katie Baker, a spokeswoman for the House Democrats, said Tuesday that the Democratic candidate in that race, Joshua Cole, will not contest the results with the state legislature — a last-ditch, rarely used measure.

But Cole is still asking a federal judge to order a new election. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 5. His decision not to contest the election with the legislature was first reported by WTOP.

Before the Nov. 7 elections, Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the House 66-34. The GOP has a smaller, 21-to-19, edge in the state Senate, where tied votes can be broken by the incoming lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax.

Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.

 

Liberals Getting Back in Touch With Their Authoritarian Roots

The left and the art of political witch-hunting

December 29, 2017

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

“One of the unfortunate ironies of the manufactured ‘Russiagate’ controversy,” my colleague Sheldon Richman writes in his most recent column, is the perception of the FBI as a friend of liberty and justice.” He’s dead right about that, but just whom is he addressing?

He can’t mean conservatives, who, these days, are sounding like the ACLU in their increasingly radical critique of the “Deep State,” a phrase that has migrated from inside baseball accounts of the national security Establishment to the Sean Hannity Show.

I don’t know many libertarians who are fans of the feds, unless we’re talking about the “liberal-tarians” over at the Niskanen Center, who recently tweeted their determination to take it to the streets if anyone looks cross-eyed at Robert Mueller. (This may have something to do with it.) Richman may not have noticed that, but surely he’s noticed that the liberals the Niskanenites are sucking up to have become the biggest cheering squad for the FBI since the anti-Communists of the 1950s made J. Edgar Hoover their patron saint.

Richman isn’t alone in noting this trend, and registering his profound discomfort and surprise, if not shock: the small but intrepid band of left-wing commentators who remain sane in the midst of the Trump Derangement Syndrome epidemic have written (and tweeted) about the new left-wing Russophobia and their severe disappointment that it appears to be taking over the Democratic party base. Glenn Greenwald, Michael Tracey, Doug Henwood, Aaron Mate (of The Real News), Robert Parry of Consortium News have all reported, refuted, and regretted this ominous development, while managing to give the impression that this something new and unique. After all, who ever heard of a left-wing McCarthyite?!

Well, I have, for one – and so has anyone familiar with the subject of political witch-hunting in America.

To begin with, it’s more than a bit unfair to call them McCarthyites – Tail-Gunner Joe at least had some real evidence for his often extravagant accusations about Communist infiltration of the federal government. On the other hand, the “Trump is a Russian agent” crowd has not one iota of credible evidence that the elected President of the United States “colluded” with the Russians to somehow hypnotize American voters into casting their votes for him: none, nada, zero, zilch.

That doesn’t matter to the Washington Post, the New York Times, or Louise Mensch, three of the most prominent disseminators of the collusion conspiracy theory: they simply report it as fact. Nary a day goes by when the latest iteration of this continuing hoax doesn’t morph into a new variation. Paul Manafort is spilling the beans. Mike Flynn is singing like a bird. Yes, they write like that, in trite, tired phrases worn down by overuse: their imaginative powers are confined to emitting evidence-free conclusions, like that time the Post reported the Russians had hacked into Vermont’s power grid (false – they never even called the power company), or when Mensch swears half the White House staff is about to be perp-walked. All is always about to be revealed – just keep reading the Post, checking the Times, and following Mensch’s tweets!

From a seemingly successful political scam the new Russophobia is fast turning into a growing industry, with several rival conspiracy theorists and “expose the Russians” outfits peddling their wares. The politics of this is reflected in the reunion of the “centrist” liberals with the neoconservatives, like David Frum, Bill Kristol, and Max Boot, all of whom are fanatic NeverTrumpers and have joined the anti-Trump “Popular Front” advocated by liberal warhorse Michael Tomasky.

History is here repeating itself in an oddly inverted way: the neocons trace their ideological ancestry back to the “Scoop Jackson” faction of the Democratic Party. They were driven out by opposition within the party to one of their all-time favorite projects: the Vietnam war. Now they’re returning to the party of their youth on account of another war – the one against Trump, and Putin.

The neocons are no strangers to the art of the witch-hunt, but those few liberals bewildered by the takeover of their movement by swivel-eyed Menscheviks don’t know the history. Thanks to liberal Hollywood, we hear endless tales about the “persecution” suffered by Stalin’s henchmen at the hands of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). When HUAC held hearings investigating Communist groups at San Francisco’s City Hall, the proceedings were mobbed by left-wing protesters and there was considerable sympathy for the accused. What hardly anyone remembers is that the initial push for establishing “subversion control,” and HUAC specifically, was the so-called Brown Scare, a campaign carried out by the far left, with the Communists in the  vanguard, asserting that an extensive pro-Nazi underground existed in America and had to be rooted out by government action.

HUAC was established in 1934  at the behest of Rep. Sam Dickstein (D-NY), who later became a New York state Supreme Court judge. He died in 1954, When the Soviet Union fell, and the KGB files were opened, documents proving Dickstein had been on the Soviet payroll for years were discovered. Dickstein used HUAC to smear Franklin Roosevelt’s enemies as fascists, and after Hitler invaded Russia he tried every means to link antiwar sentiment to Nazism. His Communist handlers code-named him “Crook” due to his unusual greed: he insisted on being paid the equivalent of over $20,000 per month for his services to “Uncle Joe” Stalin.

The Communist Party and its “anti-fascist” front groups were in the vanguard of the movement to suppress “subversion” during the Roosevelt years, and when the war came the legal tools to do so were in hand. As for the President, he continually pushed his Attorney General, Francis Biddle, to “do something” about “the isolationists.” The “sedition trial” of 1944 was a total farce, during which the Justice Department tried to prove that the 30 defendants – ranging from the New Republic writer Lawrence Dennis to one Elmer J. Garner, an 80-year-old populist farmer and anti-Roosevelt activist who was too deaf to have heard a word of the trial and who died a few weeks after the circus began with 32 cents in his pocket –   had engaged in a conspiracy to provoke mutiny in the armed forces, even though most had not even met each other.

The first indictment was issued in 1942, naming a number of Congressmen, and the 900,000-member America First Committee, as well as known pro-German groups like the German-American Bund. It ended at the tail end of 1944 in a mistrial: when the New Deal judge died, the government declined to pursue the case.

This was just the most visible of the repressive measures that originated during the Brown Scare and bled over into the Red Scare: all that was required was a change in US foreign policy and a subsequent shift in American public opinion. Whereas the FBI infiltrated and reported on groups like the America First Committee, which opposed US entry into World War II, and tapped the phones of conservative leaders, such as publisher Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune, when the winds shifted they used the same methods on their leftist targets. But just remember: the left started it, and revealed the repression while they held the whip.

So you’re surprised that our “liberals” are baring their teeth and hailing the endless investigations of Russian “subversion” by a very politicized FBI? Don’t be – they’re just reverting to their historical roots.

 

After St. Petersburg explosion, Putin orders police to ‘liquidate’ terrorists

December 28, 2017

by Andrew E. Kramer

New York Times

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin of Russia, speaking a day after an explosion in St. Petersburg, said Thursday that he had ordered security agents to “take no prisoners” during terrorist attacks, and authorized police to “liquidate the bandits on the spot.”

Putin has long burnished his image as tough on terrorism, and the comments were noteworthy not so much for signifying a change in policy — Russian counterterrorism forces have shot and killed dozens of terrorism suspects over the years — as for displaying the anti-terrorism swagger he was known for early in his tenure.

He is now running for a fourth term as president, and analysts expected the campaign to focus on his decision to annex Crimea from Ukraine, a move that has been popular in Russia. The election is scheduled for March 18, the fourth anniversary of the annexation.

But a series of attacks and thwarted plots have recently brought terrorism back into the limelight. Putin’s comments came a day after a bomb exploded in a grocery store in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, wounding about a dozen people. And earlier this month, Putin thanked President Trump after the CIA passed to Russian security services information about an Islamic State plot to detonate bombs in a cathedral and other sites, also in St. Petersburg.

At first, police did not refer to the grocery store explosion as terrorism, but Putin said Thursday that it was, in fact, a terrorist attack.

The explosive device had a power equivalent to about 200 grams, or 7 ounces, of TNT, Russian authorities said, and it was laced with bolts to act as shrapnel. A man authorities described as having a non-Slavic appearance had placed a backpack containing the bomb in a locker at the supermarket, then fled.

Speaking at an awards ceremony for Russian soldiers returning from Syria, Putin called the military intervention there a success but warned of the risks of Islamic militants from the former Soviet Union returning to Russia after fighting.

“Yesterday I ordered the director of the Federal Security Service, while arresting these bandits, to act, obviously, only within the limits of the law,” Putin said, referring to returning Islamic fighters. “But if the lives or health of our employees and our officers are threatened — to act decisively, to take no prisoners, to liquidate the bandits on the spot.”

The comment echoed Putin’s taunt to Chechen terrorists that he would “rub them out in the outhouse,” which catapulted him to new heights of popularity before his first run for president, in 2000.

There is little doubt of the leader’s chances of victory in March, as he has approval ratings of about 80 percent. The only credible opposition candidate, Alexei Navalny, has been barred from running.

On Thursday, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that authorities intended to investigate Navalny for illegally calling for street protests and a boycott of the vote.

In another sign of a crackdown on the opposition — despite Putin’s popularity — a video Navalny had posted on YouTube was blocked for people in Russia on Thursday. Separately, police detained Ilya Yashin, another activist who had called on supporters to protest the election, on Thursday.

 

The Company in Bad Company

The CIA’s Israeli spies revealed

December 29, 2017

by Christian Jürs

A 2016 FBI investigation into Israeli espionage agents in the Central Intelligence Agency is part of a major struggle between prominent Likudists in the CIA and the US security apparatus.

Ever since the Trump regime came to power there has been a fierce political and organizational war between the CIA Likudists and their militant American collaborators, on the one hand, and the professional military and intelligence apparatus, on the other.

This conflict has manifested itself in a series of major issues including the war in the Middle East, the rational for war, the relationship between Israel and the US, the strategy for empire, as well as tactical issues like the size of military force needed for colonial wars and the nature of colonial occupation.

From 9/11/2001 to the invasion of Iraq, the CIA Likudists and the civilian Neocons had the upper hand: they marginalized the CIA and established their own intelligence services to “cook the data”, they pushed through the doctrine of sequential wars, beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq and projecting wars with Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.

The CIA Zionists increased Israel’s power in the Middle East and promoted its expansionist colonization of Palestine, at the expense of US soldiers, budget busting expenditures and Pentagon objections.

The US military and security apparatus has retaliated. First by debunking Zionist lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, followed by a two-year investigation ofCIA Likudists passing documents to Israeli military intelligence and the secret police, the Mossad.

Israel has for decades subverted US foreign policy to serve its interests through the organized power of major Jewish organizations in the US.

What is new in the current CIA spy case is that rather than pressuring from the outside to secure favorable policies for Israel, the Israel loyalists are in top positions within the government making strategic decisions about US global policy and providing their Israeli handlers with secret documents pertaining to top level discussions in the White House on questions of war and peace.

Today the politics of CIA and AIPAC espionage is especially dangerous – because what is at stake is a new US and/or Israeli war on Iran which will ignite the entire Middle East.

Given the high level of structural collaboration and integration of US CIA Likudist agents and US Jewish organizations with the Israeli state, the boundaries of what are United States policies and interests and what are Israeli prerogatives and interests are blurred.

From the perspective of the CIA Zionists and their organized Jewish supporters, it is “natural” that the US spends billions to finance Israeli military power and territorial expansion. It is “natural” to transfer strategic documents from the CIA to the Israeli State.

As Haaretz states, “Why would Israel have to steal documents when they can find out whatever they want through official meetings?” The routinization of espionage via official consultations between Israeli and US Zionist officials became public knowledge throughout the executive branch.

Only it wasn’t called espionage, it was referred to as ‘exchanging intelligence’, only the Israelis sent ‘disinformation’ to the CIA Zionists to serve their interests while the latter passed on the real policies, positions and strategies of the US government.

 

Anti-Semitism in Germany: Jewish life ‘under threat’ says Charlotte Knobloch

The former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany says Jewish life is only possible with police protection. She claims the threat comes from the center of German society and says the government needs to act.

December 29, 2017

by Jon Shelton

DW

In an interview with the German newspaper Heilbronner Stimme the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, voiced grave concern Friday over growing anti-Semitic sentiment in the country. She said that public Jewish life is under threat and can only be lived out “in public with police protection and under the most serious security precautions.”Knobloch pointed out the fact that Hanukah celebrations in Berlin and Munich, as well as the large menorahs installed in both cities, were, by necessity, accompanied by massive, around-the-clock police protection. A large menorah installed in the city of Heilbronn, for instance, was attacked and damaged by vandals.

‘Anti-Semitism in the heart of German society’

Knobloch also called for Germany’s federal government to create a new authority to monitor and defend against growing anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism, has grown on the right and the left, in the Muslim community and also in the heart of German society.” Knobloch, who is currently the president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, says that an efficient approach to fighting public and covert anti-Semitism is long overdue.

In April, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, recevied an expert report it had commissioned on the problem. The report found that Jews in Germany were facing increasing anti-Semitism in their everyday lives, leading them to fear for their safety.

More recently, a video documenting a 60-year-old German man berating and insulting a Jewish restaurant owner in Berlin highlighted the issue in extremely vivid terms. A friend of restaurant owner Yaori Feinberg filmed the ugly encounter and it subsequently went viral after she put it online. Feinberg, who was later visited by Israeli Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff and praised for his courage as well as for keeping his cool during the confrontation, said that the run-in was “the tip of the iceberg,” adding that he regularly receives anti-Semitic hate mail.

‘Disgusting but not unusual’

Commenting on the video, Charlotte Knobloch said: “The hostility and threats that can be seen in the video are disgusting but not unusual. Many overt and covert forms of anti-Semitism are on the rise in every area of society.” She underlined the fact that the video did not represent an isolated incident but rather the “everyday experience of Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is widespread online and on social media but also in the analog world. Jewish students, for instance, suffer greatly from this phenomenon—’Jew’ has once again become an insult in German schoolyards.”

 

The beginning of the end for German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Pressure is growing on Chancellor Angela Merkel as a new poll shows that half of Germans would prefer her not to complete a fourth term. But who else could lead her party — let alone Germany?

Decenber 28, 2017

by Ben Knight

DW

A majority of Germans seem to have come round to the idea that Angela Merkel’s time is drawing to a close. A new YouGov poll released on Wednesday found that 47 percent of Germans would prefer the chancellor not to complete a fourth term in office, while only 36 percent said they would like to see her go another round.

Though it depends of course on whether she does manage to form a government this time round. It may take a while: Preliminary talks on forming a new grand coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are due to begin on January 7, with actual negotiations not expected before the end of the month, which would mean a new government might not form until Easter.

But it is by no means a given that this is how things will pan out. The last coalition talks — which were meant to form a so-called Jamaica alliance between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) — ended in failure in November, with the other parties roundly accusing the pro-business FDP of scuppering the negotiations by moving their policy goal-posts.’The personnel question’

This week the FDP retaliated against this narrative, with leader Christian Lindner and deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki both suggesting that the party could not join a coalition with Merkel as chancellor if there were new elections, and questioning whether the CDU could go forward with her at the steering wheel.

“Of course after 12 years in office, Mrs Merkel doesn’t want to descend into contradicting her own actions,” Lindner told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung at the weekend. “But we want to be a part of a renewal project.”

His words were soon echoed by Kubicki in the Funke Media Group on Wednesday, when the irascible veteran politician blamed Merkel for the failure of the Jamaica talks and then offered coyly, “It’s up to the CDU itself how it wants it wants to get out of its 30-percent vale of tears.” (The CDU has this week been polling at around 33 percent, about the same percentage it won in September’s election, which was its lowest result since the first post-war vote in 1949.)

Kubicki may have had a point when he blamed the chancellor for scuppering the coalition talks. Her governing style, and the reason for her longevity, requires calm, almost passive, compromise within a centrist coalition that holds a comfortable parliamentary majority. A minority government, the only other option currently on the table short of new elections, would leave her having to woo one parliamentary group after another trying to pass new laws.

But who else is there?

But even if everyone — including, maybe secretly, the chancellor herself — senses that Merkel’s prime has passed, no one is exactly sure who can replace her at the head of what is still Germany’s biggest and most important party.

Kubicki, for his part, had some suggestions about who might represent the next generation of Christian Democrats: the 37-year-old Jens Spahn, a state secretary in the Finance Ministry, has drawn much media attention in the past few months — not least for the occasional provocative statement calculated to get a populist reaction — and looks likely to figure in any future CDU leadership battle.

Then there is 44-year-old Daniel Günther, the new state premier in Schleswig-Holstein, where he is presiding over a Jamaica coalition that was supposed to be the blueprint for its federal counterpart.

The two men even brought the issue up themselves in a dual interview for the Rheinische Post in the summer, when they speculated openly about the future of the party. “We’re seeing — which is historically unusual — that during a CDU chancellorship a new rank of state premiers is being built, who, along with many more young people with government duties, are guaranteeing a fullness of potential for a post-Merkel era,” said Günther.

Another name occasionally batted around in the CDU is that of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the 55-year-old who led Merkel’s party to victory in the small western state of Saarland earlier this year — though her position in the relative left of the conservative party would see her represent more of a continuation of the Merkel method, rather than a new beginning.

As for Merkel herself, she is currently on holiday with her husband Joachim Sauer, a professor of physics and theoretical chemistry who retired in October. Merkel hesitated for a long time over whether she would run again, or join her husband in retirement — in the end it was obvious that she still had some fight in her.

 

Trump targets Amazon in call for postal service to hike prices

December 29, 2017

by Makini Brice

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Amazon(AMZN.O) on Friday in a call for the country’s postal service to raise prices of shipments in order to recoup costs, picking another fight with the online retail giant he has criticized in the past.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The U.S. Postal Service, which runs at a big loss, is an independent agency within the federal government and does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses, according to its website. The organization makes up a significant portion of the $1.4 trillion U.S. delivery industry. Other players include United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) and Fedex Corp(FDX.N).

Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos, who remains the chief executive officer of the retail company. Bezos also owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that Trump has repeatedly railed against in his criticisms of the news media.

In tweets over the past year, Trump has said the “Amazon Washington Post” fabricated stories. He has said Amazon does not pay fair taxes and so hurts other retailers, part of a pattern by the former businessman of periodically turning his ire on big American companies since taking office in January.

Representatives for the White House, the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon were not immediately available for comment.

According to the U.S. Postal Service’s annual report, the agency lost $2.74 billion this year, and its deficit, from when it was spun off into an independent agency in 1971, has ballooned to $61.86 billion. In 2016, the USPS lost $5.59 billion and had a total deficit of $55.98 billion.

The organization had projected to lose $4.2 billion and said in its annual report that the loss this year was lower than expected primarily because of a “$2.2 billion reduction in workers’ compensation liability.”

While the postal service’s revenue for first class mail, marketing mail and periodicals is flat or declining, the revenue from package delivery is up 44 percent since 2014 to $19.5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, the postal service said.

Amazon has shown interest in the past in shifting into its own delivery service. In 2015, the company spent $11.5 billion on shipping, 46 percent of its total operating expenses that year.

In October, Bloomberg reported that Amazon was testing its own delivery service to move products more quickly out of its overcrowded warehouses and make more of them available for free two-day delivery.

However, Amazon said at the time that it was using the same carrier partners to offer the program as it has used for years, including the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx.

Shares of Amazon were last down 0.62 percent to $1,178.66.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Damon Darlin and Frances Kerry

 

Is the polar vortex back? Be afraid, frigid friends.

December 28, 2017

by Steve Hendrix and Tara Bahrampour

Washington Post

It was too cold to, among other things, ice skate Thursday morning. Washington woke to its coldest December morning in almost a decade, and the frigid and the frightened braced for what promises to be the chilliest stretch of winter in two years.

Much of the country was locked in the record-breaking freeze as relentless waves of cold air swept down from the high latitudes. The north-central parts of the United States could see temperatures fall 40 to 50 degrees below their normal year-end marks in coming days. Forecasters say the nation’s average low will be a feeble 10 degrees when 2018 begins Monday, with a third of the country seeing averages below zero.

In our region, polar protocols kicked in at preschools, zoos, utility stations and even ice rinks. At the National Gallery of Art’s outdoor ice rink on the Mall, the morning thermometer was in the teens when officials invoked the below-20 rule. Any colder is deemed too risky for the skin of little skaters and the ice guards who swoosh around them.

“We’ll be open at noon,” staffer Tay Hummons said to skater after skater who walked — or wobbled, depending on their number of layers — up to buy tickets. He himself was taking advantage of the empty ice to work on his hockey stops, even though colder ice is less forgiving and needs more treatment from the Zamboni. “This is like skating on concrete,” he said, spinning away.

Is this deep chill the return of that villain from the top of the world that spread a brittle, icy blitz over the region in 2015? We go now to the Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow:

“I’m kind of picky about when I invoke the Polar Vortex; I reserve it for the creme de la creme of cold,” said Samenow, who is predicting even frostier air from the far north in coming days. “I might bring it out next week.”

Whatever you call it, the plunge in temperature was more than enough to trip crisis measures across the region.

President Trump, vacationing in Palm Beach, Fla., where temperatures are in the 70s, took the opportunity to mock those who accept climate science. “In the East,” he said in a message on Twitter, “it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.”

The District government declared a “cold emergency,” mobilizing additional resources for the homeless. Almost 1,500 filled city shelters Wednesday night, officials said. With overnight lows in the single digits forecast overnight Thursday, surrounding counties also announced plans to expand shelters and open additional ­hypothermia stations.

“People living on the street are at risk all year round, but the cold exacerbates that risk,” said Lindsay Curtin, director of outreach at Miriam’s Kitchen. Her group has begun distributing hats, gloves, socks and sleeping bags to people in need.

Animal-welfare groups focused on the frozen furry. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked residents to put out water for the local birds and break open the ice twice a day. (But not in a metal bowl, PETA warned: Little bird tongues can stick too.)

There was an uptick in tiny coats and sweater sales at Big Bad Woof, a pet store in the District’s Takoma neighborhood, according to owner Julie Paez.

But at the National Zoo, the animals braved the cold without clothing. (Yes, yes. The lions and tigers were bare. Oh my.) The big cats were out and about, including the cheetah that paced behind Olena Rymsha, a recent transplant from Ukraine to Arlington. It wasn’t too cold for her either. “We like nature; we like to walk,” she said.

The panda was out, and the bison. The sea lions cavorted. In all, the real animals endured better than the fake ones. The popular carousel lined with carved elephants and ostriches was frozen in place, its oil too viscous to operate when the temperature dips below 35 degrees.

The last week of the year was already at a lower metabolism as most students and many workers took a holiday vacation, but the deep freeze threatened to slow it to a reptilian standstill. Metro trains on the Orange and Blue lines were forced to single-track around a cracked rail near the Potomac Avenue station, a defect that often occurs in hard freezes.

At the Central Wood Car Wash in Largo, Md., owner Paul Earp turned on the big conveyor belt only to discover a cold-fractured sprocket. But there is no temperature too low for some drivers to get their cars scrubbed, so he fixed the part, remixed his soapy spray to account for the frigid temperatures and laid on extra heaters for his staff.

“The front of the car tends to freeze, and so do the rims,” manager Michael Allen said from beneath his scarf, ski cap, hoodie, jumpsuit, gloves and long underwear. “We try to apply the tire shine before it freezes.”

School systems were quiet Thursday but preparing for students to return during the continuing cold wave. In Montgomery County, Md., emergency “cold starting teams” will arrive at the bus depots by 4 a.m. plying the balky diesel engines with ether or starting them with portable generators.

In Loudoun County, Va., officials plan to run the furnaces up to 71 degrees Monday, preheating the classrooms for students to arrive Tuesday.

The year is ending at a far different Fahrenheit than 2016 did. It was nearly 70 degrees on Dec. 27 last year, and people noticed.

“What happened?” said Stacie Nelson, 48, from Flint, Mich., as she nursed a warming cup of mulled wine at the sculpture garden cafe outside the National Gallery.

Nelson was making a repeat holiday visit to the nation’s capital with her friend Tom Ginter, 56, a salesman at Michigan Saw and Tool. Both remember the T-shirt weather of their last trip, which they preferred. For this, they could have stayed in the Upper Midwest, which is getting its own cold blast, including snow.

“We still love it,” she said, as they headed out to visit the U.S. Navy museum.

It wasn’t clear whether Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) would have taken a 1.5-mile walk through Annapolis on Thursday if not for his role in the Military Bowl parade before the Navy-Virginia matchup (game-time temp: 24, final score: 49-7 Navy).

“It’s not that cold out here,” Hogan maintained, wearing gloves and a blue-and-yellow Navy cap on his head.

This is the season of the die-hard, of course. The guy on K Street NW walking to lunch in his shirt sleeves. The Arlington police officer in the Kevlar vest but with bare arms and no hat. Coats can be dangerous, asserted the cop who declined to give his name. “It gets in the way,” he said. “And it’s easier for someone to grab.”

Tim Hershner, 31, was sockless as he walked his goldendoodle, Junebug, outside an Arlington apartment building. But that was more expediency than endurance: Junebug really had to go.“This is nooooooot fun,” he said, scooping her up and turning for home.

Ovetta Wiggins, Ian Shapira, Rachel Chason, Debbie Truong, Martine Powers, John Woodrow Cox, Lynh Bui, Patricia Sullivan, Terrence McCoy, Arelis Hernández, Ellie Silverman, Sarah Larimer, Rachel Siegel and Dino Grandoni also contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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