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TBR News February 18, 2017

Feb 18 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 18, 2017: “One of the most prolific of the anti-Trump mainline news media is the Washington Post.

At one time, the Post was a powerful national influence on the American political scene but with the advent of the Internet and its presentation of a wide spectrum of genuine news, the Post, and its equal, the New York Times have rapidly lost both influence and paid subscribers.

The Post was bought by Jeff Bezos, a wealthy owner of Amazon and who, after purchasing the Post from the Graham family, got a multi-million dollar contract to work with the CIA.

Between Bezos and Soros, the media has been doing its best to wreck the presidency of Donald Trump.

Why are they interested in so disrupting the American political and social scene?

Trump is a loose cannon in their minds because he is popular with a very large segment of the American public.

The economic oligarchs who basically run the American political institutions do not like Trump because they cannot buy him.

We have gathered together a number of interesting, published, articles concerning some of this and in general, the Post and the Times are only shrill voices crying in the wilderness.

If this obvious deliberate attempt to force the legally elected Trump to resign continues, they are making a very serious error, one that could eventually ruin them.”


Table of Contents

  • Major Washington Post anti-Trump stories in their February 17, 2017 edition
  • Legal action against the Washington Post
  • Jeff Bezos Is Doing Huge Business with the CIA, While Keeping His Washington Post Readers in the Dark
  • Amazon, ‘The Washington Post’ and That $600 MIllion CIA Contract
  • Trump anti-leak drive could prompt prosecutions
  • Why Does Congress Accept Perpetual Wars?
  • Stop foreign cheating: Trump vows penalties for companies that outsource American jobs
  • How many illegal aliens reside in the United States?
  • Kiev Fights for Loyalty in Eastern Ukraine
  • California ‘bombogenesis’, biggest storm in years, kills two

Major Washington Post anti-Trump stories in their February 17, 2017 edition


  • German defense minister hammers Trump’s dismissive attitude toward European allies
  • Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle comes at high cost to taxpayers
  • McCain delivers a pointed takedown of Trump’s worldview
  • Trump’s approval rating matches Obama’s all-time low
  • The price of loyalty to Trump is high and rising
  • Three reasons to worry about Trump’s cable news habit
  • Trump doesn’t seem to understand the rules about making rules
  • Will the president ever release his tax returns?
  • Trump asked what African Americans had to lose. They’re waiting to see the gain.
  • A brief history of Donald Trump addressing questions about racism and anti-Semitism
  • President Trump thinks asking him to condemn anti-Semitism is ‘insulting.’ Why?
  • Gregg Popovich has found the opponent of his life: President Trump
  • Trump won the battle at his news conference, but the war’s not over
  • Trump’s hardline immigration rhetoric runs into obstacles — including Trump
  • The two words Donald Trump can’t bring himself to say
  • Immigration raids spark fear across the Washington area
  • After working for Trump’s campaign, British data firm eyes new U.S. government contracts
  • Trump practices nepotism with members of his own family!
  • Trump’s sister known to be a practicing thespian



Legal action against the Washington Post

Below is the letter from Naked Capitalism‘s attorney, James Moody, to the Washington Post ‘s publisher, executive editor, and Craig Timburg:

James A. Moody

Attorney and Counselor at Law

1101 30th Street, N.W.

Suite 300

Washington, D.C. 20007

Voice: (202) 944-8600

Fax: (202) 944-8611

Email: moodyjim@aol.com

December 4, 2016


Frederick J. Ryan, Jr., Publisher

Martin Baron, Executive Editor

Craig Timberg

The Washington Post

1301 K Street NW

Washington DC 20071

Re: Request for retraction of: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” (November 24, 2016), for public apology, and for opportunity to respond; Document and ESI Preservation Notice.


I write on behalf of my client, Aurora Advisors Incorporated (“Aurora”), which publishes the finance and economics website Naked Capitalism (www.nakedcapitalism .com) to request that the article by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” (“Fake News”) [https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html] published by the Post on Thursday, November 25, be immediately removed from your website and all web-accessible archives. Fake News contains extremely damaging false allegations constituting defamation. Furthermore,

Aurora asks for a prominent public apology for the false and defamatory accusations made in Fake News and for an equally prominent (i.e. not in a “Comments” section) opportunity to respond.

You began Fake News with the sensational claim: “The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy,” and attributed this claim to “independent researchers who tracked the operation.” Naked Capitalism is one of the accused organizations in PropOrNot’s report, which, contrary to Fake News’ claim that the report had not been published, was available on the Internet well before Fake News ran. [http://www.propornot.com/p/the-list.html] This error should be corrected.

You identified and thus denigrated Naked Capitalism, one of the sites targeted in the “study” as one of the “right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and  preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.” You called upon Facebook and Google to “crack down on ‘fake news,’” apparently by censoring Naked Capitalism, because it is supposedly “attack[ing] American democracy.”

Your identification of Naked Capitalism as a “fake news site” and as an agent for Russian propaganda designed to undermine American democracy is defamatory per se. You accuse Naked Capitalism of spreading “Russian-backed  phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience.” These serious allegations have caused and will continue to cause great harm to Naked Capitalism, including but not limited to damage to policy impact and reputation, diversion of scarce reporting and managerial resources to respond to concerned inquires and debunk this smear, loss of readers, and damage to the site’s  profitability. Moreover, writers and editors associated with Naked Capitalism face ridicule, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and risk to future career advancement, including for example, difficulty passing background and security checks.

You did not provide even a single example of “fake news” allegedly distributed or promoted by Naked Capitalism or indeed any of the 200 sites on the PropOrNot blacklist. You provided no discussion or assessment of the credentials or backgrounds of these so-called “researchers” (Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, and J.M. Berger and the “team” at PropOrNot), and no discussion or analysis of the methodology, protocol or algorithms such “researchers” may or may not have followed. Fake News also erred in citing a “monitoring report” already published on propornot.com [https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byj_1ybuSGp_NmYtRF95VTJTeUk/view], inaccurately depicting it as not available to the public: “provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release.” Aurora had not only seen the site and its defamatory blacklist before your story appeared, but despite it being a holiday week, had already had extensive discussions with close contacts about it. Fake News described this PropOrNot “organization” (without evidence or analysis) as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds” and as one of two groups of “independent researchers.” It was this report, NOT directly made available by the Post, but found almost immediately on the PropOrNot website by journalists and other readers of Fake News, not the work of the first team of “researchers” associated with warontherocks.com, which identified Naked Capitalism as one of “more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.” You described a source as the “executive director” of PropOrNot but afforded him/her anonymity allegedly “to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.” These are all the indicia of actual malice, i.e. knowing and/or reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of your allegations against Naked Capitalism.

On a widespread basis, highly regarded reporters and institutions that monitor journalistic standards have criticized Fake News harshly for failing to adhere to the most basic professional standards. A few of the numerous examples:

The New Yorker deemed PropOrNot’s blacklist, which the Post legitimized and promoted, as “propaganda.”¹ In The Hill, Patrick Maines, President of The Media Institute, called Fake News “perhaps the shoddiest piece of feature writing since Rolling Stone published its blatantly false story about a campus rape at the University of Virginia.”² Media watchdog FAIR lamented in its headline on December 1, “Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ “Blacklist?”³ Many of these articles and tweets and specifically cite Naked Capitalism as a clearly reputable site victimized by Fake News.4

The simplest internet search reveals propornot.com to be a recent creation, shadowy at best, and with no credentials or bona fides that are capable of independent verification and assessment for e.g. credibility.

Furthermore, you made no effort to contact Naked Capitalism for a comment, rebuttal, or opportunity to respond even though you had ample time. Indeed, you contacted RT by email and reported its response.

You have made damaging false accusations against Naked Capitalism. Please immediately remove these from the web and provide an equivalent opportunity to respond. Please see the attached concerning your obligation to retain documents and electronically stored information relating to Fake News. I look forward to hearing from you within three business days. Please contact me if I can provide further information.


/s/ James A. Moody

James A. Moody

Counsel to Aurora Advisors Incorporated

Jeff Bezos Is Doing Huge Business with the CIA, While Keeping His Washington Post Readers in the Dark

Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment.

December 18, 2013

by Norman Solomon


News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the Washington Post is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper’s CIA coverage are left in the dark.

The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon — which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.

Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.

And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

As Amazon’s majority owner and the Post’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.

Amazon has a bad history of currying favor with the U.S. government’s “national security” establishment. The media watch group FAIR pointed out what happened after WikiLeaks published State Department cables: “WikiLeaks was booted from Amazon’s webhosting service AWS. So at the height of public interest in what WikiLeaks was publishing, readers were unable to access the WikiLeaks website.”

How’s that for a commitment to the public’s right to know?

Days ago, my colleagues at RootsAction.org launched a petition that says: “The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.” More than 15,000 people have signed the petition so far this week, with many posting comments that underscore widespread belief in journalistic principles.

While the Post functions as a powerhouse media outlet in the Nation’s Capital, it’s also a national and global entity — read every day by millions of people who never hold its newsprint edition in their hands. Hundreds of daily papers reprint the Post’s news articles and opinion pieces, while online readership spans the world.

Propaganda largely depends on patterns of omission and repetition. If, in its coverage of the CIA, the Washington Post were willing to fully disclose the financial ties that bind its owner to the CIA, such candor would shed some light on how top-down power actually works in our society.

“The Post is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media,” journalism scholar Robert W. McChesney points out. “Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the Post itself.”

In a statement just released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, McChesney added: “If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation — say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government — the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine.”

From the Institute, we also contacted other media and intelligence analysts to ask for assessments; their comments are unlikely to ever appear in the Washington Post.

“What emerges now is what, in intelligence parlance, is called an ‘agent of influence’ owning the Post — with a huge financial interest in playing nice with the CIA,” said former CIA official Ray McGovern. “In other words, two main players nourishing the national security state in undisguised collaboration.”

A former reporter for the Washington Post and many other news organizations, John Hanrahan, said: “It’s all so basic. Readers of the Washington Post, which reports frequently on the CIA, are entitled to know — and to be reminded on a regular basis in stories and editorials in the newspaper and online — that the Post’s new owner Jeff Bezos stands to benefit substantially from Amazon’s $600 million contract with the CIA. Even with such disclosure, the public should not feel assured they are getting tough-minded reporting on the CIA. One thing is certain: Post reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA — and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move.”

The rich and powerful blow hard against the flame of truly independent journalism. If we want the lantern carried high, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

Amazon, ‘The Washington Post’ and That $600 Million CIA Contract

It has been a tough few weeks for The Washington Post.

December 19, 2013

by Greg Mitchell

It’s been a rough couple days for The Washington Post. Word emerged that hackers invaded its internal system—for a few days, no less—all of its staffers had to change their passwords as the company tried to figure out how much data had been compromised.

Meanwhile, a petition campaign was launched related to news that Amazon, under the Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, recently secured a $600 million contract from the CIA. That’s at least twice what Bezos paid for the Post this year. Bezos recently disclosed that the company’s Web-services business is building a “private cloud” for the CIA to use for its data needs.

Critics charge that, at a minimum, the Post needs to disclose its CIA link whenever it reports on the agency. Over 15,000 have signed the petition this week hosted by RootsAction.

In a statement released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, media writer/author Robert McChesney observes:

When the main shareholder in one of the very largest corporations in the world benefits from a massive contract with the CIA on the one hand, and that same billionaire owns the Washington Post on the other hand, there are serious problems. The Post is unquestionably the political paper of record in the United States, and how it covers governance sets the agenda for the balance of the news media. Citizens need to know about this conflict of interest in the columns of the Post itself.

If some official enemy of the United States had a comparable situation—say the owner of the dominant newspaper in Caracas was getting $600 million in secretive contracts from the Maduro government—the Post itself would lead the howling chorus impaling that newspaper and that government for making a mockery of a free press. It is time for the Post to take a dose of its own medicine.”

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

Trump anti-leak drive could prompt prosecutions

The legal consequences could be severe for leakers decried by the president.

February 17, 2017

by Josh Gerstein and Bryan Bender


President Donald Trump’s threats of criminal prosecution over the flood of leaks that has plagued the early weeks of his administration may turn out to be far from empty talk.

By far, the most potentially serious disclosures in the view of attorneys who’ve handled such cases are the leaks of details about phone calls the U.S. government intercepted between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and just-fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

“If somebody disclosed the contents of intercepted phone conversations to a reporter, I could see a prosecution, for sure,” said Ed MacMahon, a northern Virginia defense attorney. “That is plainly a felony.”

Leaks of intelligence-related intercepts are typically treated more seriously than disclosures of other classified information, experts say. There’s also a criminal statute directly aimed at that issue, imposing a potential prison term of up to ten years for each violation.

The idea of jailing someone who leaks transcripts of conversations intercepted at foreign embassies is not theoretical. In 2009, a Hebrew contract translator for the FBI, Shamai Leibowitz, was charged with disclosing classified communications intelligence to a blogger.

Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison at a somewhat bizarre proceeding where the Maryland-based federal judge said he was “in the dark” about just what was disclosed and the defendant said he acted because he thought some things he saw were illegal.

The blogger involved, Richard Silverstein, later confirmed that the records he received from Leibowitz were about 200 pages of transcripts of conversations involving Israeli embassy officials. Silverstein told the New York Times he burned the records in his backyard after Leibowitz came under investigation.

Trump was on a tear Thursday over the recent flurry of leaks, using Twitter to denounce “low-life leakers.”

“They will be caught!” Trump vowed. Later, at a press conference, he said he’d asked the Justice Department and other agencies to investigate.

“I’ve gone to all of the folks in charge of the various agencies … I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks,” Trump said, repeatedly calling the leaks illegal and blaming some of them on partisan supporters of former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment on whether any leak investigations were ongoing, but Trump indicated they were.

“We are looking into that very seriously,” he said.

Intelligence officials said little about the leaks, but moved aggressively to knock down reports that distrust of Trump and his team was so intense that analysts and briefers were holding back details from the White House.

“It is CIA’s mission to provide the President with the best intelligence possible and to explain the basis for that intelligence,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a blunt statement Thursday evening calling one prominent report to the contrary “dead wrong.”

“The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the President, period … We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred,” Pompeo added.

Several former officials called the Flynn-related leaks illegal and deplorable, although there were differences about how unusual the current wave of disclosures really is.

Many veterans of Washington and the secret intelligence world doubt that the current trend is abnormal by Washington standards, given the leakage of highly classified information on eavesdropping programs, intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and many other examples.

“I don’t have reason to believe there is a peculiarity here that indicates something exceptional,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who also served as assistant secretary of Homeland Security for information analysis. “The circumstantial timing is suspect. We just had this contentious election and we have a new president trying to get his feet under him, which makes it seem like it may be something different. But in totality this problem has been going on for many, many years in Washington.”

“I deplore it,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander who was vetted as a possible vice presidential running mate by Clinton and interviewed by Trump to be secretary of state. “It is illegal.”

But Stavridis, too, who served six tours in Washington during his military career, said so far nothing in the content of the information shared with the media strikes him as out of the historical norm.

For example, he said when he was the military assistant to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the content of private phone calls was routinely leaked to the press.

“I don’t see an unusual level of leaks,” he said. “I have yet to see anything that really shocks me.”

What would be jarring, in his view, would be leaks that divulged the ways the intelligence was collected. “As far as I can tell no sources and methods, no cryptographic tools have been revealed.”

“Snowden was shocking,” he added, in reference to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who in 2013 leaked hundreds of thousands of documents that included details of how intelligence agencies gathered sensitive information.

A former senior CIA official who served during multiple administrations said the series of leaks “has to be disturbing to everyone.”

The former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, theorized that in the wake of the Snowden disclosures some who have security clearances may be de-sensitized to how serious it is for closely held national security information to be so widely and egregiously shared.

“Maybe it is because of Snowden,” he said.

But the former official also believes it is “too early to say whether it is ahistorical or that this leaking is out of the ordinary.”

Some Democratic lawmakers said Trump appeared to be using the leak issue to divert attention from more serious questions about contacts with the Russians by Flynn and other Trump aides.

It’s very Trump-esque that he loved leaks during the campaign and now he thinks leaks are the problem,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) “Certainly, we don’t want anyone leaking sensitive information. On the other hand, if everyone would have just focused on ‘Deep Throat’ in Watergate, I’m not sure we ever would have gotten to the bottom of Watergate. I think the same analogy would hold here. We need to look at the underlying behavior — not just the fact that we found out about it.”

“Having the [Defense Intelligence Agency] take away [Flynn’s] security clearance is not the result of some media leak. It is frankly remarkable that anyone even would make that claim. We need to see the transcript of that conversation,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) decried the leaks.

“If the intelligence agency employees are leaking classified information, that is a serious issue and it will have to be dealt with,” Rounds said. “There is no reason why anybody in the intelligence agencies should be leaking information … It doesn’t matter what the classified information is. It’s not their responsibility to make a decision that, ‘I will release this.’”

In his epic press conference Thursday, Trump acknowledged that not all leaks are equal. He told reporters Thursday that he was not as troubled by the substance of leaks about his conversations with leaders of Mexico and Australia as by the possibility more sensitive diplomatic talks might be publicly disclosed in the future.

“I said that’s terrible that it was leaked, but it wasn’t that important. But then I said to myself: what happens when I’m dealing with the problem of North Korea?” Trump said. “What happens when I’m dealing with the problems in the Middle East? Are you folks going to be reporting all of that very, very confidential information … I mean at the highest level? Are you going to be reporting about that too?”

Experts said it was not clear that the leaks of details on Trump’s calls with the Mexican president or the Australian prime minister violated federal felony statutes, like the Espionage Act. The main anti-leak provisions in that statute cover not all classified information, but solely that related to the “national defense.”

Disclosure of a broader category of classified information is covered by a misdemeanor statute, but that is rarely invoked except in plea deals where prosecutors believe they could pursue a more serious charge.

“There’ll be no prosecution over any of that stuff,” MacMahon said, referring to the awkward Trump talks with the Mexican and Australian leaders.

Still, any individuals determined to have leaked classified information about Trump’s calls could be fired and stripped of their security clearances.

“They are risking their career, their livelihood and their future employment,” said Steven Aftergood, who studies government secrecy policy for the Federation of American Scientists.”I doubt they’re risking jail, but they are almost certainly putting their own career in jeopardy.”

Even if Trump and others are convinced crimes were committed, there are many potential obstacles to any prosecution, including finding sufficient evidence to finger the leakers.

In that respect, a policy change President Barack Obama ordered just before leaving office could complicate investigators’ work in the Flynn case or other cases.

Transcripts of intercepted calls have historically been “minimized” to remove the identities of U.S. citizens and residents before those transcripts are passed to other agencies. However, Obama’s directive late last year allowed more raw intercepts to be passed to more people at more agencies.

One of the key questions agencies reporting leaks to the Justice Department must answer is; “What is the extent of official circulation of the information?” If information was distributed widely within the government, even if considered “Top Secret,” extended investigations are rare and prosecutions even rarer.

“By saying unminimized records can circulate more broadly, you’re creating a new hurdle for investigators to locate the leaks,” Aftergood said.

Prosecutors also tend to take some account of a leaker’s motivations in considering whether to file charges. Judges have refused to allow defendants to argue that their conduct should be excused because the disclosures were in the public interest.

Former Justice Department lawyer Thomas Tamm appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 2008, confirming that he was a source for the New York Times in its disclosure of President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. Tamm was never charged, although the decision to drop the matter came under the Obama administration, which also viewed Bush’s effort as legally suspect.

In prosecuting leakers, the Trump administration could cite the aggressive treatment of leakers under Obama. Such cases were a rarity in prior years, with only three filed in the course of nearly a century. However, at least eight were brought during Obama’s time in office, leading to criticism from First Amendment and whistleblower advocates.

Still, there is the question of whether a jury — likely in Washington or northern Virginia —would convict someone who appeared to be motivated by genuine concern that Trump aides were too close to Russian government officials.

“You could try a jury nullification defense, but you’re never going to get a judge to formally allow it,” MacMahon said. “Leak prosecutions just depend on whose ox is being gored … The government can destroy somebody’s life in one of these cases. It just comes down to whether the government wants to prosecute the case.”

Austin Wright and Josh Meyer contributed to this report.

Why Does Congress Accept Perpetual Wars?

To exercise real oversight, our representatives must take ownership of unpopular foreign entanglements.

February 17, 2017

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The American Conservative

Nominally, the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with its counterpart in the House of Representatives, provides oversight of U.S. military activities. Yet recently, the committee’s unacknowledged purpose seems to be avoiding the meaningful exercise of this role, especially when it comes to scrutinizing the nation’s commitment to armed conflicts like the ongoing Afghanistan War.

Oversight implies ownership. The Congress of the United States has no desire to own a war that is the longest in U.S. history, grows longer by the day, and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

This congressional irresponsibility was on display earlier this month, when Gen. John W. Nicholson, U.S. Army, traveled from his headquarters in Kabul to provide senators with a progress report on the Afghanistan War. Such briefings have become a fixture on Washington’s official calendar. By my count, Nicholson is the 12th American officer to be charged with running that war since it began in 2001. He will not be the last.

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nicholson came across as brisk and no-nonsense, if also stiff and humorless. Yet the proceedings in which he played a central role had the feel of a ritual that continues to be performed long after participants had lost sight of its original purpose or rationale. Like Labor Day honoring laborers. Or Christmas commemorating the birth of Christ.

General Nicholson’s role was to serve as congressional enabler, allowing members of the committee to sustain the pretense that they were doing their duty. He did this by rendering a report that permitted senators to avert their eyes from anything that might require them to critically assess the war’s conduct and prospects.

Words were exchanged, some few actually conveying information. But all participants agreed to steer clear of anything approximating a conclusion.

As if adhering to a script that had circulated in advance, senators did go through the motions of posing questions. Each in turn thanked Nicholson for his many years of service—to include four tours in Afghanistan—and asked him to pass along their warm regards to the troops. Yet each devoted his or her allotted time to sidestepping core issues.

No one pressed Nicholson as the responsible commander to say when the Afghanistan War might actually end and on what terms. No one dared to suggest that there might be something fundamentally amiss with an armed conflict that drags on inconclusively from one decade to the next. All took care to tiptoe around anything that might imply dissatisfaction with the performance of the U.S. military. On both sides of the witness table, politeness prevailed.

Nicholson’s prepared testimony avoided any reference to “victory” as an expected or even plausible outcome. Characterizing the current situation as stalemated, he assured senators that it was “a stalemate where the equilibrium favors the [Afghan] government.” Yet the balance of Nicholson’s presentation offered little to sustain that vaguely hopeful judgment. Take his own assessment at face value and the equilibrium favors a continuation of the existing stalemate.

The fighting ability of Afghan forces is improving, Nicholson insisted, echoing the judgment of predecessors going back a decade or more. Yet all of the old problems were still there: weak Afghan military leadership, tactical ineptitude, and widespread corruption, to include a persistent problem with “ghost soldiers” who are nominally on the roles but don’t actually exist.

Overall, Nicholson offered a glass half-full/half-empty assessment. Good news: large numbers of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS fighters are being killed, whether in direct combat with Afghan forces or as a result of a U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign. Not so good: Afghan soldiers are also dying in increased numbers and are being replaced only with difficulty. Good news: Afghan troops, supported by U.S. airstrikes, have repeatedly beaten back enemy efforts to seize control of major Afghan cities. Not so good: the percentage of territory controlled by the Taliban is on the rise even as insurgents continue to use neighboring Pakistan as a sanctuary and base of operations.

Ever since Gen. David Petraeus arrived in Baghdad touting the potential of “Clear, Hold, and Build,” it’s become standard practice for commanders to reduce their strategic vision to a sound-bite. Nicholson’s is “hold-fight-disrupt.” Disrupt in no way implies defeat, however. Nicholson’s strategy makes no claim of bringing the war to a successful conclusion. At most, it aims to make the enemy’s life difficult. Committing a “few thousand” additional U.S. troops, which Nicholson is requesting, should do just that.

Yet even if the war’s future course may seem a bit fuzzy, Nicholson left no doubt about its ultimate rationale. Why are U.S. forces still present in this far-off and forlorn nation? “To protect the homeland,” the commanding general stated. Nary a senator ventured a dissenting opinion.

Based on that logic, progress reports on the Afghanistan War will continue for many decades to come.


Stop foreign cheating: Trump vows penalties for companies that outsource American jobs

February 17, 2017


President Donald Trump pledged to fight for American jobs in a speech to Boeing workers in Charleston, South Carolina, at the unveiling of a new 787-10 Dreamliner. He also promised to rebuild the US military and punish companies that move jobs overseas.

“Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports, and more on products made here in the USA,” the president said, vowing to “unleash the power of the American spirit and put our great people back to work.”

“That is one beautiful aeroplane,” Trump said, pointing to the Dreamliner. “What an amazing piece of art, what an amazing piece of work.” He commended the airplane’s name as symbolic of the American spirit.

“That’s what we do in America, we dream of things and we build them.”

In addition to building passenger planes, Boeing is a major supplier of military aircraft. Trump name-dropped the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-15 Strike Eagle and the Apache attack helicopter, telling the crowd that his administration will rebuild the US military so “that none will dare to challenge it.”

“As George Washington said, being prepared for war is the best way to prevent it,” he said.

Saying he campaigned on the promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, Trump said his administration has already begun changing the business climate.

“It has to be much easier to manufacture in our country,” he said, adding that his administration will reduce “job-crushing regulations” and lower taxes on businesses as well as workers, enforce trade rules, and “stop foreign cheating.”

Companies that close down factories in the US, lay off American workers, and expect to sell their products in America will face a “very substantial penalty,” Trump said.

“When American workers win, America as a country wins, big league,” the president concluded, promising to “fight for better paying jobs for the loyal citizens of our country.”

Before his inauguration, Trump blasted Boeing for “out of control” costs of the new Air Force One, saying he would “cancel order” once in office.

Trump appears to have changed his mind on the subject since, complimenting Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on his negotiating skills. He also floated the idea of buying more Super Hornets from Boeing to make up for the delays in getting Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter up and running – before negotiating $700 million in savings from Lockheed.


How many illegal aliens reside in the United States?

February 18, 2017


This section presents an introduction to alternative methodologies to accurately estimate the number of illegal aliens living in the United States. To read the detailed analysis, please see:

How many illegal aliens reside in the United States? A methodology using Border Patrol “got away” statistics, by Fred Elbel.

The mainstream media, whenever it actually mentions the number of illegal aliens living in the United States, categorically quotes the official government figure of 8-12 million. This number originated with the Department of Homeland Security, which in December 2003 estimated 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens resided in the United States and that 700,000 new illegals enter each year and remain in the country.1 Those stale, outdated estimates have not changed for twelve years, even though the official annual increase alone would yield a corrected estimate of 15.7 million to 19.7 million illegal aliens today (not adjusting for Obama’s unconstitutional 2014 executive amnesty).

Even though it is quite clear that huge numbers of illegal aliens sneak into our country and avoid capture at our border, the media as well as government agencies seem quite content to under-report these numbers. The static official estimates are somewhat suspect, as they are produced by the very entity responsible for the tidal wave of illegal aliens entering our nation – the United States Government. Alternative methodologies estimate a range of numbers that is likely more realistic.

Nancy Boulton observes that:

Estimates of the size of the illegal alien population currently living in the U.S. range from about 12 million to over 20 million. The lower number is based on Census Bureau estimates of the foreign-born population in various Census Bureau surveys. The larger number is based on methodology that is not reliant on a respondent’s candor… it is virtually impossible to get an accurate count of populations who are resistant to being identified. Given the problem of porous borders and incentives to avoid detection, the higher estimate is not unreasonable.5

Indeed, U.S. Border Patrol Local 2544 stated in July of 2005:

“There are currently 15 to 20 million illegal aliens in this country by many estimates, but the real numbers could be much higher and the numbers increase every day because our borders are not secure (no matter what the politicians tell you—don’t believe them for a second).

Alternative methodologies

Alternative methodologies conclude that between 20 million and 40 million illegal aliens have evaded apprehension and live in the United States.

The official number was questioned by D.A. King of The Dustin Inman Society in 2004. Subsequently, an in-depth analysis was published by Fred Elbel1,7. In 2007, The Social Contract published an entire issue addressing the numbers of illegal aliens in the US2.

Nancy Boulton pointed out that two researchers at Bear Stearns Asset Management estimated that the number of illegal immigrants in 2005 could be as high as 20 million. Their figures were based on an analysis of the large discrepancy between official census estimates and growth in indicators such as remittances to the countries of origin, school enrollment and building permits.5,8

Bolton also notes that:

If even one person is successful for every apprehension, it implies over 1 million foreigners per year illegally cross our southern border. In addition, there are roughly 30 million foreign nationals admitted to the U.S. each year on temporary visas. There are no data on the percentage of these visitors who overstay their visas, but data from the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs indicate about 8 percent of those admitted to that country on temporary visas overstay their visa and about 86 percent of those overstay by a year or more. If just 1 percent of the 30 million admitted on temporary visas to the U.S. do not leave as they are required to, that adds another 300,000 foreigners illegally in the U.S. each year.

The analysis by James H. Walsh notes that estimates compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB), national surveys, governmental agencies, philanthropic organizations, religious charities, nongovernment statistics-keeping agencies, and immigrant advocates range from 7 million to 20 million illegal aliens. Walsh concludes that the number is closer to 2 times 20 million, or 40 million.4 Walsh notes that in 1992,

…an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General found INS statistics suspect and cited deliberate deception by senior INS officials tampering with immigration statistics… U.S. Border Patrol agents confided that they were told to cap apprehensions and deportations to conform to the desires of various Administrations to create at least a public perception of border control.

Walsh also notes that:

In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau routinely undercounts and then adjusts upward total census numbers of Hispanics and other foreign nationals residing in the United States––counting only, of course, those willing to be counted. For the year 2000, the Census Bureau reported a total U.S. population count of “about 275 million” men, women, and children. When the states and local governments challenged that number as an undercount, the total was corrected upward to 281.4 million, with no clear count of illegal aliens. The Hispanic 2000 census count was 32.8 million, but on re-count the Census Bureau adjusted this number upward to 35.3 million, a 13 percent increase.

Walsh focuses on the ratio of illegal alien apprehensions to those who escaped apprehension, noting that:

The average number of recorded apprehensions of illegal aliens in the United States now hovers at 1.2 millio a year [in 2007]. A DHS report, Border Apprehensions: 2005, documented 1.3 million apprehensions in 2005. For the 10-year period (1996–2005), the highest number of apprehensions, 1.8 million, occurred in 2000, and the lowest, 1 million, in 2003. These DHS statistics contradict persistent statements by other government agencies that only 400,000 to 500,000 illegal aliens enter the country each year.

Journeymen Border Patrol agents (on the job five years or more) estimate that a minimum of five illegal aliens enter the United States for each apprehension, and more likely seven. That informed estimate would raise the total number of illegal aliens entering the United States in 2003 to 8 million men, women, and children.

He concludes that:

My estimate of 38 million illegal aliens residing in the United States is calculated, however, using a conservative annual rate of entry (allowing for deaths and returns to their homelands) of three illegal aliens entering the United States for each one apprehended. My estimate includes apprehensions at the Southern Border (by far, the majority), at the Northern Border, along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico coasts, and at seaports and airports. Taking the DHS average of 1.2 million apprehensions per year and multiplying it by 3 comes to 3.6 million illegal entries per year; then multiplying that number by 10 for the 1996–2005 period, my calculations come to 36 million illegal entries into the United States. Add to this the approximately 2 million visa overstays during the same period, and the total is 38 million illegal aliens currently in the United States.

Elbel also focused on the ratio of border apprehensions to “get-aways”. The methodology used in his analysis was as follows:7

  1. Estimate the gross number of illegals entering the U.S., as well as the number of those that evade apprehension by the Border Patrol. A “get away” ratio is applied to the numbers of illegals entering, resulting in a gross estimate of illegals entering and evading apprehension.
  2. Factor in repeat apprehensions of the same individuals and legalizations out of the overall estimate. Many illegal aliens who are apprehended and are returned home try to enter the U.S. again and are subsequently apprehended. Others are legalized and are allowed to stay in the U.S.
  3. Factor “short term stays” from the overall estimate. Some illegal aliens voluntarily return home in less than year.
  4. Estimate the total number of illegal aliens living in the United States, based upon the estimate of illegals entering and evading apprehension each year.

Elbel’s conclusion was that it is likely that at least 20 million illegal aliens presently reside in the United States, with up to 12,000 additional illegal aliens entering every day.

In the January, 2013 article, “Over the line: Fighting corruption on our border”, Arizona rancher John Ladd stated “I say about a half a million people have been caught on the ranch. And that’s what’s been caught – that’s not what’s got through.”

The promise of amnesty

One of the driving factors that results in unending illegal immigration into the United States is simply the mention of a possible amnesty. Holding out the carrot of amnesty has been sufficient to keep wave of wave of illegal aliens sneaking into the United States. The result is that corporations get thousands upon thousands of new consumers, Republicans get an unending stream of cheap foreign labor, and Democrats get wave after wave of “undocumented Democrats”.


Using the latest conservative Census Bureau data from 2010 and 2011, the Center for Immigration Studies reports that more than 50 million immigrants (legal and illegal) live in the United States, and that “Absent a change in policy, between 12 and 15 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) will likely settle in the United States in the next decade. And perhaps 30 million new immigrants will arrive in the next 20 years.”10

The magnitude of the numbers of illegal aliens in the United States represents a serious crisis and urgent need for a return to the rule of law and secured borders that the United States Constitution demands.


  1. “How many illegal aliens reside in the United States? A methodology using Border Patrol ‘got away’ statistics,” by Fred Elbel. Also published as “Illegal immigration invasion numbers analysis”, Fred Elbel, www.DesertInvasion.us, August, 2004, and in the 2007 Social Contract.7
  2. “How many illegal aliens are in the U.S.?” The Social Contract (Summer 2007). The issue includes the following articles:
  3. “Introduction: How Many Foreign Nationals Actually Live in the U.S. Illegally?”, Diana Hull, Ph.D., Summer 2007
  4. “Illegal Aliens: Counting the Uncountable”, James H. Walsh, Summer 2007
  5. “The Challenge of Accurately Estimating the Population of Illegal Immigrants”, Nancy Bolton, Summer 2007
  6. “Racing Backwards – The Fiscal Impact of Illegal Immigration in California, Revisited”, Philip J. Romero, Summer 2007

For additional references, see citations and endnotes in the above articles.

  1. “How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the U.S.? – An Alternative Methodology for Discovering the Numbers”, Fred Elbel, Summer 2007
  2. “The Underground Labor Force is Rising to the Surface.” Robert Justich and Betty Ng, Bear Stearns Asset Management, Inc. January 2005. Excerpts: “Though we cannot conduct an independent census of the United States population, as investors, we need not accept the accuracy of the official census immigration statistics, which are widely recognized as incomplete. There are many ancillary sources of data that provide evidence that the rate of growth in the immigrant population is much greater than the Census Bureau statistics. School enrollments, foreign remittances, border crossings, and housing permits are some of the statistics that point to a far greater rate of change in the immigrant population than the census numbers. At the risk of appearing dogmatic or taking a leap of faith, we have applied the rate of growth from these other areas and have drawn several conclusions about the current immigration population:
  3. The number of illegal immigrants in the United States may be as high as 20 million people, almost double the official estimates of 11.1 million of the March 2005 Current Population Survey and 11.5 million–12 million by the Pew Hispanic Center (Fact Sheet, April 5, 2006).
  4. The total number of legalized immigrants entering The United States since 1990 has averaged 962,000 per year. Several credible studies indicate that the number of illegal entries has recently crept up to 3 million per year, triple the authorized figure.
  5. Undocumented immigrants are gaining a larger share of the job market, and hold approximately 12 to 15 million jobs in the United States (8 percent of the employed)…”


  1. U.S. Border Patrol Local 2544 (covering most of Arizona) stated on their website at http://www.local2544.org in July of 2005:

There are currently 15 to 20 million illegal aliens in this country by many estimates, but the real numbers could be much higher and the numbers increase every day because our borders are not secure (no matter what the politicians tell you—don’t believe them for a second).”

10.”Immigrants in the United States, 2010: A Profile of America’s Foreign-Born Population”, Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies, August 2012

  1. Update: “Border security faults may be result of poor analysis – Homeland Security ignores data it collects on illegal crossings, critics say”, AZCentral, July 20, 2013:

‘Last year, for example, a panel of leading statisticians, economists and demographers at the National Academy of Sciences conducted a study on illegal immigration at the request of Homeland Security…

That study, which included data from Mexican governmental sources and previous U.S. academic studies, suggested that about three-quarters of those who decide to cross keep trying until they make it. Other outside studies have found 85 or even 90 percent make it…

“Almost everybody who really tries eventually gets in,” said Jeffrey Passel, a member of the panel and a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., that studies the U.S. Hispanic population…

[in 2006-2007] CBP asked the Homeland Security Institute, a federally funded research center, to study border-crossing recidivism and the likelihood of apprehending crossers. The study found that, from 2001 to 2005, when border security and the consequences imposed on crossers were both relatively slight, the likelihood of being apprehended on any crossing attempt was about 35 percent, according to sources familiar with the study. But to this day, that study, completed in 2007, remains classified…’

  1. White House lies about terrorist threat at border, Tom Tancredo, World Net Daily, September 12, 2014.
  2. You Only Think You Know How Many Illegal Immigrants Live in the US, William Campenni, The Daily Signal, December 27, 2015.

…Though now dated, these numbers implied many more illegal immigrants in 2005 than were acknowledged by Pew and the Center for Immigration Studies.

Why, then, has the 11 million figure become so sacrosanct?

Well, professional and institutional reputations are invested heavily in the number, perhaps because with its longevity the public has become comfortable or apathetic. Were it 20 million or more–a larger population than New York state–Americans might be getting really angry.

Imagine the reaction if the media reported daily that this 20 million cohort, supplemented by chain migration and family reunification mandates, would swell to 40 million or 50 million in a decade…

The Heritage Foundation has suggested that if given amnesty, 11 million illegal immigrants would cost taxpayers $6 trillion or more over the immigrants’ lifetimes.

While not exactly linear, those costs would double or more should the real count be in the range of 20 million to 30 million. That money could buy a lot of high schools, highways and health care for Americans…

Let’s question that 11 million. It’s not Scripture. It’s a guess.

  1. Damning report on illegal alien entries – nearly 50% sneak into America undetected, Center for Immigration Studies, December 2, 2016.

Kiev Fights for Loyalty in Eastern Ukraine

The Minsk agreement, designed to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, turned two this week. But it hasn’t stopped the violence — in part because Kiev has done little to promote reconciliation. If that doesn’t change, unifying the country will prove impossible.

February 17, 2017

by Christian Neef


An icy wind blows across Karachun Hill, but the view is amazing. It spreads out for kilometers, almost as far as the cease-fire line between the Ukrainian army and the separatists.

The hilly and almost treeless landscape of the Donetsk region unfurls beneath it, blanketed in a layer of snow. To the south, the first thing you see are the chimneys in the industrial city of Kramatorsk. It’s controlled by the Ukrainian army and is the site of the command that is leading the “Anti-Terror Operation” against the separatists. Further beyond lies the heavily contested Avdiivka, which has been subject to a constant barrage of rocket shelling and where both water and power supplies were cut off in recent days. On the edge of Avdiivka lies the front between government territory and the separatist-held “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic.” Right after that is the city of Donetsk itself.

Karachun is the Tatar word for “black death.” It rises on the outskirts of Slovyansk, a city of 120,000 inhabitants. The war in eastern Ukraine began in Slovyansk in April 2014.

So far, 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting. And the Minsk cease-fire agreement, which had its second anniversary last Sunday, has failed to stop the carnage. In 2016, 225 more Ukrainian soldiers died in addition to many civilian deaths. The number of victims among the rebels is unknown. For a few days on the week before last, fighting grew fiercer than it had been in a long time.

The Minsk deal, negotiated by Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine in February 2015, lays out 13 criteria. Most have never been fulfilled. The heavy weapons that were to be removed outside the lines of demarcation are largely back in place and only some prisoners have been freed. The elections that had been called for in the rebel-held areas still haven’t taken place. And the Ukrainian national border in the east is still controlled by Russia. The Minsk deal has, however, prevented the war from spreading further.

Talks Stalled Since 2015

That, though, is about it. There are two pro-Russian “People’s Republics” within 90 kilometers of Slovyansk — the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia is insisting that these regions be granted a special status inside Ukraine, a demand that has stalled any further negotiations since 2015. Kiev doesn’t want to succumb to the Russian demand because it would shatter the country’s unity. Separatists, meanwhile, see Russian support as carte blanche for fresh adventures.

In January, Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the puppet government in Donetsk, said his republic was a “full-fledged, self-sufficient state.” “The war won’t be over until after our victory — meaning after we have the entire Donetsk region under control,” he threatened. By that, he also meant the retaking of Slovyansk.

Slovyansk was the first city occupied by pro-Russian rebels as a kind of test run. It is here where the first barricades were erected and the Church of the Holy Spirit in Slovyansk was where the first dead were collected. That was back in Easter of 2014.

The mayor of Slovyansk at the time was a sleazy soap factory owner who claimed to have been given the order to take the city “from above,” meaning from Russia. He assembled a militia that also included local fighters and declared war against the “Kiev fascists.” He said he would turn the city into a second Stalingrad.

But in July 2014, the Ukrainian army liberated Slovyansk and the mayor disappeared into Russia.

Since then, the city has had a reputation of being a place within the Donetsk region whose population tends to sympathize with the separatists. Most have relatives in the rebel republic on the other side of the front. If you walk down the streets here today, you quickly sense that although this city may no longer be at war, it isn’t truly at peace, either. It’s a city where the government in Kiev will have to work hard to win the people over. But what has it done so far?

Not much — or, more precisely, nothing at all — claims Vadim Lyakh. “None of the close to 500 destroyed or damaged buildings have been rebuilt — nor the major building complex of the psychiatric hospital, which has lay in ruin since the battles.”

Lyakh is the current mayor of Slovyansk and successor to the Russia-backed soap-maker. There are no longer men carrying Kalashnikovs in front of City Hall; now, a sign hangs there urging that people “Pray for Ukraine.”

‘Kiev Has Never Done Anything for Us’

The mayor says residents didn’t receive any assistance from the government and that such support has only been given to those who have fled from the separatists in Donetsk or Luhansk. “That doesn’t exactly help with the mood here,” says Lyakh. “In the 25 years of Ukrainian independence, since 1991, Kiev has never done anything for us. The government hasn’t built a single building in Slovyansk. Everything here is from the 1970s.”

The water supply is poor, he says, and the streets are in a complete state of disrepair after three years of tank and artillery traffic. There is only one new piece of construction in the city, the mayor says: the radio tower on Karachun Hill. The government in Kiev wants to use it to win over the hearts and minds of the local population.

The small hill southwest of the city was hotly contested during the war. A chapel has been erected on the hilltop and dedicated to six elite fighters who fell here during the fighting. Next to it is a memorial to several generals whose helicopter got shot down by the rebels here. Then there’s a massive scrap heap — the remains of the old radio and television tower, destroyed by artillery shells on July 1, 2014. The new tower was christened in December. It is narrow, painted red and white and stands 183 meters (600 feet) tall. National broadcasters covered the event when it went into operation and even President Petro Poroshenko attended.

The Ukrainian leader wanted to turn the tower into a symbol — but more for the people in the rest of the country than those in Slovyansk. He wanted to present himself as the father of the nation, focused on uniting a contested part of Ukraine. Indeed, it’s not just military battles that are being fought in the eastern part of the country — it’s also a psychological war. After the shelling of the tower in Slovyansk, many in the area could no longer tune into Ukrainian radio.

The separatists in Donetsk, by contrast, control the second-highest radio and TV tower in the entire country along with a major television broadcasting center in Donetsk. They use it to broadcast into the non-rebel parts of Ukraine. The signal quality of their television channel Oplot, or “The Bulwark,” is as good as that of Russian state television, which has been officially blocked in the rest of Ukraine. But Ukrainian officials are hoping to change the situation now with the new tower in Slovyansk.

Radio engineer Serhey Udovishenko, deputy head of the broadcasting facilities on Karachun Hill, has worked here for years. When the separatists seized the tower in April 2014, he acted on orders from Kiev to cut off the power. Now he is restoring broadcasting operations with a team of 18 people. Of the 13 radio programs that used to be broadcast here, eight are back on air, along with most Ukrainian television stations.

But has the tone of the broadcasts changed? Since the start of the war, they have been extremely disparaging of eastern Ukrainians. Only recently, the popular channel 112.ua described them as “degenerate zombies.”

‘We’re Not Even Reaching Donetsk’

Udovishenko doesn’t want to comment on what’s being broadcast. He has relatives on the other side, in the Donetsk separatist republic, and it’s better to keep quiet. But he does say that he believes Poroshenko’s appearance at the tower’s christening had merely been for “show.” Before the president’s visit, he says, he was asked to purchase 15 flat-screen TVs so that Poroshenko could demonstrate live how he turned each TV station on.

More critically, Udovishenko notes that the hill prevents the tower from even broadcasting the signal further than 68 kilometers. “With that, we’re not even reaching Donetsk,” he says. If you drive along the war-ravaged roads in the region, your radio will at times pick up independent Hromadske Radio from Kiev and at times the separatists’ station. They are on the same frequency.

During their broadcasts, the Ukrainian stations explain how people can legally fight for property they had to leave behind in Donetsk or they present stories to listeners in the east of nationalists in Ukrainian history who became martyrs in the battle against Russia. The separatists, meanwhile, tend to focus in broadcasts on the alleged everyday fascism in Ukraine.

The intent is not to spread propaganda, they say at the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting in Kiev. “We just give people the chance to hear alternative opinions.” But is that really the case? Is the government serious about its intent to win back the hearts and minds of people in eastern Ukraine?

The doubts aren’t limited to Karachun. They are also harbored in the studio of Do-TB (“all the way to you”), a television station for the Donetsk region. It’s a kind of Donetsk broadcaster in exile. Because the Donetsk broadcasting center has fallen into separatist hands, this replacement broadcaster has been set up to reach the population of the Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donetsk region. Do-TB broadcasts from a 200-square-meter (2,150-square-foot) book store in Kramatorsk, a city which neighbors Slovyansk. Initially, they didn’t have even a single camera, the teleprompter is homemade and the editing desks were donated by Japan. And most of those who work there aren’t journalists. The broadcaster is only able to fill four hours of airtime a day, making it unsurprising that most people have never heard of it.

The 5 p.m. news is playing on the monitor. One of the Ukrainian army commanders holding positions near Mariupol, south of Donetsk, is on screen. He complains that separatists are constantly using their heavy weaponry to trigger skirmishes.

He doesn’t mention the fact that it was the Ukrainians who recently advanced into the area between the fronts to take back territory they had lost — likely because the operation would represent a violation of the Minsk agreement. The news report also doesn’t mention that men belonging to the volunteer battalions have been blocking the train line into the separatist areas for days, preventing coal deliveries from being made.


The old men sitting in front of their houses in Slovyansk resent the incomplete information. They know that the reality on the front is often different than the reports delivered by the Ukrainian broadcaster and they also don’t understand why Do-TB only broadcasts in Ukrainian, since the people of the region mostly spoke Russian. Of the 120,000 residents, 45,000 of them are retirees and many of them once served in the Soviet military. In their apartments, they often watch channels from Moscow, received via satellite.

They also haven’t forgotten that once the separatists were driven out, the first thing the Ukrainians did was to rename the streets rather than provide jobs for the locals. They still demonstratively use the old name Rosa Luxemburg Street instead of the new name, Post Street, and refer to Karl Marx Street instead of Central Street. The furtive removal of the Lenin statue in front of city hall also remains fresh in their memories. Lenin is now lying in the city depot, next to kennels for stray dogs.

Almost two-thirds of the seats in the Slovyansk city council are occupied by the Opposition Bloc, the political coalition which succeeded the party of toppled pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Mayor Vadim Lyakh is also a member. He says that the mood in the city is no longer as hostile to Kiev as it used to be and that residents are searching for a new direction. For the most part, they are supportive of those who provide them the minimum necessary for survival, which, Lyakh says, represents an opportunity for Kiev leadership.

But 80 percent of the businesses in the city have closed, the mayor adds. “For as long as the war continues, no investors will be coming to Slovyansk, nobody will risk their money here.” When asked if the Ukrainian president made any promises to the city when he came to dedicate the radio tower, the mayor laughs before saying that he hadn’t even been invited to the ceremony himself. Poroshenko, Lyakh says, didn’t want him there.

Locals Resent Arrogance in Kiev

It’s not just the nearby war, the dire living conditions and the lack of money that is making life difficult for the residents of Slovyansk. It is also the arrogance of the government in Kiev, which considers everyone in eastern Ukraine to be disloyal, regardless of which side of the border to the separatist areas they live on. The country’s leadership is uninterested in dialogue and is doing far too little to reconcile the different camps and unite the country. Infrastructure projects would be another way to win back popular support for the new government. But they first must be passed.

Two years after the Minsk agreements, the situation is not an encouraging one. And the future doesn’t look particularly rosy either. Russia is doing nothing to bring the conflict to an end and radicals are on the rise in Kiev.

Heorhiy Tuka is one of the few politicians in the Ukrainian capital who speaks openly about the problems in eastern Ukraine. Following the war, Tuka was governor of the Ukrainian-controlled area of Luhansk. Now, he is “deputy minister for the temporarily occupied territories.”

There is a large number of populists in Kiev, Tuka says, who have never set foot in the eastern part of the country. He says they have no understanding of the problems facing the people there and are currently doing all they can to tighten the blockade of the east. “Relying on emotions rather than expertise, that is dangerous,” he says, adding that not even 1 percent of the population had taken up arms against Kiev.

“Earlier, I was in favor of a strict blockade of separatist areas,” says Tuka. “But now I think the blockade is a mistake. We should have extended our hand to the people there early on. Now they eat Russian sausage, drink Russian water and pay with rubles.” People like those in Slovyansk are also frequently branded as separatists, despite the radio tower, he says.

“We are way behind in working with these people,” Tuka says in closing. “If we refuse to understand that, we will never have a unified Ukrainian nation.”

California ‘bombogenesis’, biggest storm in years, kills two

February 18, 2017

BBC News

One of California’s strongest storms in years – dubbed a “bombogenesis” or “weather bomb” – has hit the state, killing two, and bringing torrential rain and flash floods.

Hundreds of homes have been evacuated amid fears of mud slides near Los Angeles.

More than 250 flights have been disrupted at Los Angeles International Airport, and major roads have closed.

The weather has also brought car-swallowing sinkholes and power cuts.

The rainstorms spread from the south of the state, around Los Angeles, up to San Francisco.

One man was killed after a tree fell and pulled a power line on to his car in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles

A second person died in a vehicle when it was submerged by a flash flood in the town of Victorville.

Another motorist at the same junction was saved after climbing on to the roof of his car.

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, told the Los Angeles Times that 10 trillion gallons of rain would fall on California in the next week, enough to power Niagara Falls for 154 days.

Two cars fell down a sinkhole in LA neighbourhood Studio City, with the drama of the second one, teetering on the edge and then tumbling down, shown on live television.

Firefighters saved one person from the first car, and the driver got out of the second before it fell. No-one was injured.

Erik Scott from the Los Angeles Fire Department said that the sinkhole rescue was “a very unique and dangerous situation”.

He said the frightened driver in the fallen car was forced to stand on top of her vehicle, underground and amid rushing water, until a ladder could be passed down to her, 10ft (3 metres) below the street.

The Los Angeles Times  also spoke of “surreal scenes” with cars trapped by rising waters along freeways 11 and 15.

Evacuation orders were issued in the city of Duarte, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles, and in parts of Camarillo Springs in Ventura County.

It is feared that areas that have been previously hit by forest fires could be more susceptible to mud slides as there is less vegetation to break the flow of running water.

In Duarte, about 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, city authorities said they had been door to door to issue mandatory evacuations.

Those who chose to stay were required to sign notifications.

One local, Alberto Moreno, told Reuters news agency that he was staying put. “The neighbours are here so we’re all basically going to help out each other if it comes down to it,” he said, while barricading his home with sandbags.

Meteorologists describe the “bombogenesis” as an intense extra-tropical cyclonic low-pressure area, or “a weather bomb”.

“The storm looks to be the strongest storm to hit southwest California this season,” the National Weather Service said.

“It is likely the strongest within the last six years and possibly even as far back as December 2004 or January 1995.”

After five years of drought, a series of storms have filled state reservoirs.

California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range is also loaded with snow. Runoff from its snowpack normally supplies about a third of the state’s water.

Gusts of 87mph (140km/h) have been reported on the Big Sur scenic coastal highway.

Earlier in the week, heavy rain and melting snow caused fears of flooding at the tallest dam in the country, Oroville Dam, in northern California. More than 180,000 residents were evacuated.





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