TBR News February 27, 2016

Feb 27 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., February 27, 2016: “I have learned from a source in the Chase Manhattan bank that his people are scared literally shitless over the news, gleaned from a very competent German intelligence service, that a group, totally off the screen, not Muslim and probably American-based, have managed to crack the entrance information into the electronic, international banking wire and transfer system. These are:

SWIFT (Bruxelles)

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transaction

CHAPS (London)

Clearing House Automated Payments System

CHIPS (New York) – Private Sector

Clearing House Interbank Payments System

FEDWIRE (New York) – US Government

Fedwire Funds Service

If, as the German reports have rumored, someone or some group successfully sabotages these systems, the world of international banking and the entire country would suffer a terrible blow that would take months, if not years, to recover from. Billions of dollars in bank transfers would vanish instantly and replicating the data, if the attackers know what they are doing, would take eons to try to replace. For instance, the BofA transfers $200.000,000 to a bank in Germany and in a nano second, the transfer vanishes.

No money is sent and none received.

I do not know if this operation is connected with other very disruptive activities that our Brave Defenders of Liberty are trying to track but the Germans seem to feel that the elements involved are not Arabs or Russians but Americans because of the idiomatic English in the messages they have decoded.”

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 118

Conversation No. 37

Date: Tuesday, September 17, 1996

Commenced: 11:35 AM CST

Concluded: 11:55 AM CST

GD: Good afternoon to you, Robert.

RTC: The same, Gregory. How is your son?

GD: Hiding out from his last girlfriend. Apparently, he was careless and now she’s in a family way, as they used to say. This is a constantly recurring theme here.

RTC: Children are either a great pleasure or a great trial.

GD: Yes, I know. My oldest son is the former and my younger one is the latter. Knocked-up brainless females whimpering on the front porch while he hides in the loo or bill collectors sending death threats. I pay  him for his car payment, he spends it and then wants more.

RTC: It’s none of my business, Gregory, but do you give it to him? GD: Usually.

RTC: And the women?

GD: Well, I don’t give it to them. He’s already beaten me to it. He prefers them to be single mothers, desperate, rather ugly and always very stupid. One was deaf, one had an idiot child and another one used drugs. He wouldn’t dare bring them home so I know nothing about the latest one until she turns up on the porch, whining. I do feel sorry for them but I refuse to pay for abortions because I am opposed to abortions. They weep and he whines. I told him that we needed to fix him to stop this but nothing will stop the lies, stories, and spending of my money. He makes plenty of money of his own but always seems to run out of it. The oldest one runs a huge computer service in Germany and always wants to send me money instead of the other way around. Three lovely grandchildren. I would hate to see what the youngest one would produce. Swift would have been in transports of delight and the Yahoos would have been replaced.

RTC: How ever do you deal with pregnant and abandoned girl friends?

GD: With patience, Robert, with patience. I convince them that they would not have been happy with him. I imply he is gay or that he really liked to boff sheep. Things like that. I convince them that they could do better trolling a homeless shelter. I do not let them in the house, ever. Fortunately, all of them are well over twenty-one so I don’t have to worry about a visit from the police and DNA tests. He seems to like single mothers pushing thirty and  very desperate. Oh, yes, and he loves to take them to look at houses and visit furniture stores. Builds up the hopes and then into the sack, unprotected and eager. He hates children and they tell me how much little this or that just loves him. Cruel to both of them.  When my father died, we found a thick stack of high-quality credit cards hidden in his shaving kit. My God, nearly a hundred thousands of dollars on them. His wife was in a nursing home and before that, was very rich. He died before he could get to them but I wasn’t so unfortunate. My God, he went crazy. Of course I had to sign them but off we went to Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and everywhere but Canada. They would arrest me over that counterfeiting business if they caught me in Canada. And clothes. Jesus, he has enough in his closets to clothe the homeless of three states.

RTC: And yourself? Not that I mean to pry….

GD: No, I am aware. I have a huge library, a great collection of classical music and some nice china, silver and other things. He goes for what he can eat, drink or screw but I have other goals.

RTC: Ah, when we get old…

GD: No, it isn’t that. I never was one for whoring around. Long after the memories of that messy night in the phone booth or the drunken dinner at some Mexican bistro, I have some Lully to come back to or perhaps return to Gibbons. Well, some day, he’ll find someone more vicious and desperate than he is and legions of the gulled will have their revenge.

RTC: Any grandchildren by him? GD: No, thank God. He always manages to find money for an abortion. You know, I do get rather tired of the tear jerkers on the porch but I really do feel sorry for them. Frankly, he was the last chance before gravity takes hold of their chubby bodies and the best they can do is to chase after the plumbers or the gardeners. I feel sorry for the children, Robert, I really do, but I dare not get too involved with his messes. I told him once that God would punish him but he only laughed, A good vasectomy can cure a lot of evils but maybe they should start at one ear and run around to the other. Ah well, his mother doesn’t want him back but the dog likes him.

RTC: Why don’t you marry him off to some vicious little Filipino bitch and she’ll make his life hell. A friend of mine was in the Navy and made that error.

GD: The Pubic Bay Beauties? Oh yes. I used to live in San Francisco and saw some of them, purple eye shadow and green nail polish and all, right up close. As angry as I get with him, I don’t think I would wish that fate on him. You know, one of those sluts winds up and you can hear her ten blocks away with the window closed. Wants to move all the family in with you and starts looking like a reject from Mustang Ranch. Well, if I’m lucky, he’ll meet up with one with a well-muscled brother.

RTC: Is he gay? GD: No, I meant a brother that would beat the crap out of him. Of course, he might like that but then I’d have to pay to have his back stitched up. You can’t win, Robert. We all have our crosses to bear but why is mine made of concrete? By the way, do you know what Jesus’ companion at the crucifixion said to him? RTC: No but perhaps you’ll enlighten me.

GD: ‘Hey, Jesus, I can see your house from up here!’ 

RTC: Not nice, Gregory,  But entertaining.  How’s your girl friend? GD: I sent you pictures, didn’t I? Very well. My son hates her. She’s makes his punchboards look like the south end of north bound horses and she’s much smarter than he is. I intend to put her through college and then I suppose she’ll find something better to do but hanging around me won’t do her any good. Of course I told her about some of my little games and she howled with laughter. Someone in town saw us walking along and later told me that my daughter was a real looker. I said it was my granddaughter. Of course that’s closer to the truth. If youth knew, Robert but if age could.

RTC: Very cruel.

GD: Yes, today I am cruel. I’ll put some cayenne pepper is someone’s eye drops and tell them its acid.

RTC: My God.

GD: Well, I had some jerk stealing my really good brandy so I emptied out a bottle of the best, filled it with Old Mr. Boston swill and a good dose of croton oil.

RTC: Pardon? GD: Croton oil. The strongest laxative known to man. One drop will move a man for a week.

RTC: How much did you spike it with?

GD: A tablespoon.

RTC: You could have killed them.

GD: No, but they had to carry around one of those little round life rings for months. They had a prolapsed rectum and other problems but they never touched any of my brandy again. I told the police that I never drank and the mark used to hang around the playground down the street, eyeing the tender tinies. Enough of that. It was a lot better than rat poison.

RTC: Probably.  I take it he did not pass on?

GD: No, he didn’t. He walked with care for a long time, however Looked like Hopalong Cassidy after a very long ride.

(Concluded at 11:55 CST)

Russia suspends all Syria airstrikes on areas & armed groups included in ceasefire – General Staff

February 27, 2016


Russia’s military have stopped all airstrikes on those areas and armed groups which joined the ceasefire in Syria, the General Staff has said at a briefing.

“Russia has fully stopped carrying out airstrikes in “the green zone – those areas and armed units that have sent us requests for a ceasefire,” the chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, Sergey Rudskoy, has told reporter

The Syrian army and 17 armed units have pledged to abide by the ceasefire, he added.

On February 23, the Syrian army declared that they have agreed to stop military action, in accordance with the US-Russia deal. Seventeen armed units addressed the command of the Hmeimim air base, and signed the application sheets, also pledging to respect the ceasefire,” Rudskoy said.

Seventy Russian drones will be monitoring the ceasefire, it’s been announced.

Hotlines’ have been created to ensure the quick exchange of information between the Russian ceasefire coordinating center in Hmeimim, Syria and the US one in Amman, Jordan.

To provide help in ensuring peace in Syria, the ceasefire center was set up at the Hmeimim air base. Sixty-one Russian officers work there, and its main goals are to help seal the special ceasefire deals, and to sustain ceasefire with the armed groups’ leaders, and to deliver humanitarian aid to the population,” Lieutenant-General Sergey Kuralenko, the head of Russia’s ceasefire headquarters in Hmeimim, told the briefing.

Recently, the Hmeimim ceasefire center received 169 phone calls and e-mails.

Fighting has stopped in 34 residential areas, the Defense Ministry confirmed.

The Russian Defense Ministry has also provided the US military with its current situation map in Syria.

To exchange information with US colleagues, we’ve developed a map of the situation on the ground in Syria, and this map has been given to the US side during bilateral consultations on February 26, and also via military and diplomatic channels. On this map, one can see the regions where the peace process is on, and also the areas controlled by IS, Al-Nusra, or other armed groups,” Rudskoy said.

FBI vs. Apple Establishes a New Phase of the Crypto Wars

February 28, 2016

by Dan Froomkin

The Intercept

For over two decades, the battle between privacy-minded technologists and the U.S. government has primarily been over encryption. In the 1990s, in what became known as the Crypto Wars, the U.S. tried to limit powerful encryption — calling it as dangerous to export as sophisticated munitions — and eventually lost.

After the 2013 Snowden revelations, as mainstream technology companies started spreading encryption by putting it in popular consumer products, the wars erupted again. Law enforcement officials, led by FBI Director James Comey, loudly insisted that U.S. companies should build backdoors to break the encryption just for them.

That won’t happen because what these law enforcement officials are asking for isn’t possible (any backdoor can be used by hackers, too) and wouldn’t be effective (because encryption is widely available globally now). They’ve succeeded in slowing the spread of unbreakable encryption by intimidating tech companies that might otherwise be rolling it out faster, but not much else.

Indeed, as almost everyone else acknowledges, unbreakable encryption is here to stay.

Tech privacy advocates continue to remain vigilant about encryption, actively pointing out the inadequacies and impossibilities of the anti-encryption movement, and jumping on any sign of backsliding.

But even as they have stayed focused on defending encryption, the government has been shifting its focus to something else.

The ongoing, very public dispute between Apple and the FBI, in fact, marks a key inflection point — at least as far as the public’s understanding of the issue.

You might say we’re entering the Post-Crypto phase of the Crypto Wars.

Think about it: The more we learn about the FBI’s demand that Apple help it hack into a password-protected iPhone, the more it looks like part of a concerted, long-term effort by the government to find new ways around unbreakable encryption — rather than try to break it.

The Court Order

The court order Apple is fighting would require it to come up with a new way to hack into an iPhone 5c belonging to San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

The fact is that Apple couldn’t break the encryption scrambling the phone’s data if it tried. But the FBI doesn’t have to worry about that if it can just open the phone with the right password.

As Apple CEO Tim Cook put it, in his rebellious public response to the court order: “The ‘key’ to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it.”

And it’s those protections that are now under siege.

This is not a sudden move for the government. As Bloomberg News recently reported, President Obama’s National Security Council last fall shaped a secret “decision memo” requesting government agencies to find both technical and legal ways to skirt encryption instead of break it.

They were instructed to figure out how much each option would cost, whether there were any laws that might need changing — and to report back.

According to a Washington Post story in September, an Obama administration working group spent months coming up with a list of technological methods to defeat encryption. One idea — particularly abhorrent to computer security professionals — was to force companies to send malware to suspects’ phones using automatic software updates.

And despite Comey’s constant complaint that law enforcement is “going dark” because of encryption, the FBI has been developing and purchasing viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malware to help break into digital devices — and in that way get around unbreakable encryption — for years.They don’t like to talk about it. The FBI “routinely identifies, evaluates, and tests potential exploits in the interest of cybersecurity,” FBI spokesperson Christopher Allen wrote in an email to The Intercept in September.

But the public record shows that the FBI has been physically hacking into computers since at least 2001, when it put a keystroke-logger on “Little Nicky” Scarfo’s computer during an investigation of the American Mafia.

These days, the FBI uses its own brand of malware called the Computer and IP Address Verifier (CIPAV). In 2007, agents tricked a high school kid in Washington into downloading it and exposing his identity when he was making bomb threats. The FBI has consulted with outside shops, too, including the Italian firm Hacking Team — whose emails were leaked last summer, exposing its business dealings.

I think that for many within law enforcement, the priority is to access data, point blank. That could mean installing backdoors directly into encryption standards or finding some kind of workaround,” Andrea Castillo, the technology policy program manager for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

The first strategy failed in the court of public opinion, so it appears that they are now attempting more covert methods to get around encryption. Unfortunately, there are major security risks with both approaches,” she said.

National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers seems to already be pivoting away from the idea that we need to get rid of unbreakable encryption. He said in January that encryption is here to stay — and that “spending time arguing” about it is “a waste of time.” When pushed by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff on whether or not encryption is a crippling threat to the intelligence community, he deflected, suggesting that it’s a bigger issue for domestic local law enforcement.

And documents in the Snowden archive show the NSA has spent years actively trying to hack Apple products and mobile devices. Its efforts to hack the iPhone date back to 2006, before it was even unveiled.

A Big Con?

Over the past few months, I’ve been wondering why it is the FBI has been pushing so hard in the public forum to advocate for backdoors when almost everyone, from technologists to the tech industry to civil society to Congress, has been opposed to such an approach,” Ryan Hagemann, technology and civil liberties policy analyst for the Niskanen Center, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

I think what we’re seeing unfold here is part of a multi-pronged strategy by law enforcement, possibly with the tacit approval and support of the intelligence community.”

Hagemann said what the FBI is pursuing is much more dangerous than any legislative route. “I think we should be more fearful of the strategy the FBI is using in the courts to push their ill-advised and Constitutionally dubious agenda.”

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, recently proposed that the government’s strategy all along has been to use the push for backdoors into encryption as “a feint.”

Writing for the national security law blog Just Security, Sanchez speculated that “the threat of a costly fight over legislation, even if unlikely to become law, may be largely geared toward getting Silicon Valley, or at least a critical mass of companies, to adopt a more cooperative posture. ” That means “quietly finding ways to accommodate the government.”

Sanchez concluded that when the government finally admits the obvious — and gives up on fighting unbreakable encryption — it will demand some sort of “compromise” legislation.

Sanchez imagined “privacy groups celebrating a victory” when that happens, “while intel officials snicker into their sleeves at a ‘defeat’ according to plan.”

As Calais ‘Jungle’ is dismantled, concerns mount for refugee children

More than 300 lone children are stranded in Calais as the “Jungle” is demolished around them. Yet a French court ruling may offer some of them a lifeline after all. Caroline Brothers reports from Calais.

February 26. 2016


It is hard at first to distinguish them, but they are there: huddling for hours in the wind in a soup-kitchen line; crowding around a bank of mobile-phone chargers; sleeping in a wind-battered tent after dodging traffic on all night on the roads around the Channel Tunnel.

Some 326 lone children – minors from Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and Eritrea – are living in the jungle of Calais, according to the refugee body France Terre d’Asile. Of that total, 57 are younger than 15, while the youngest child travelling alone is just seven years old, according to Medecins du Monde.

They arrive in the quagmire of Calais for all sorts of reasons, and get stuck there for pretty much the same ones: some have a relative or an acquaintance in Britain; some hope to get there because they speak a little English; some, who’ve lost parents or travelling companions on sometimes epic journeys, have been carried along by compatriots they happened to meet on the road.

But all of them get blocked there, in an environment fraught with danger for minors, caught between the port’s impenetrable fences and the people-smugglers’ skyrocketing fees.

Now the Calais “Jungle” is disappearing around them. The church is gone; the mosque is gone; as have some of the community areas where young people could gather during the day are gone. On Thursday, a French judge ruled that demolition of the rest could go ahead, albeit over a three week period, and in the absence of the police.

‘Disappearances inevitable’

So far, 1,200 of the 4,000 to 6,500 people that volunteer associations say live in the Jungle – an insalubrious collection of tents and huts concentrated on a wind-lashed wasteland – have been moved to a nearby site. There 125 prefabricated shipping containers have been erected behind wire fences as the authorities demolish the shantytown, crate by packing crate.

No provision, however, has been made for the lone foreign kids – young girls as well as boys – that takes account of their multiple vulnerabilities and their particular protection needs. France’s children’s rights defender, Geneviève Avenar, says she is worried both about their current situation and “the absence of visibility concerning their future care.'”

Jean-Marie Dru, president of UNICEF France, said earlier this week that destroying the Jungle exacerbated the risk that these unaccompanied children would disperse and disappear.

“The risk of disappearances and disruption to identifying this vulnerable group is inevitable in the context of a dismantlement,” Dru said.

Doctors of the World said the authorities expected that those minors who found no place in the container settlement, designed for adults or families, would be relocated to children’s homes all around France.

From there, however, if the demolition of the Calais Jungle in 2009 is any measure, they will quickly abscond.

Especially bad for children

Anxiety about the situation of minors in the Calais shantytown is running so high that it has prompted celebrities like Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Mark Rylance to write to British Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to evacuate the kids to Britain or ensure they are taken into care in France.

Some hope he might consider sheltering them as part of the 20,000 refugees he has promised to take in from the refugee camps close to the Syrian border. Lou Einhorn, a Doctors of the World psychologist responsible for the Calais and Dunkirk region, said in an interview that children in Calais had been marked by the situations they have escaped and by their experiences on the road.

“Many of them have lived through traumas, and suffer from nightmares, anxiety attacks, stress or depression,” said Einhorn, who has been conducting a drop-in clinic in which both adult and teenage refugees are encouraged to communicate through drawings, writing and other forms of artwork.

“You see it in what they express in therapy: they’ve been the victims of torture, or they’ve crossed the sea and seen their parents die, or they’ve been pushed onto dangerous boats,” she said. “Then they find that the situation here is shocking, too.”

She denounced what she described as violence by the police and by racist groups in Calais, which affects adults and minors indiscriminately.

“Some are in hospital for weeks because of police violence, and that includes minors,” she said. “Several have been attacked by fascist thugs and ended up in hospital. They’ve received baton blows, they’ve been gassed, humiliated and beaten up, and end up with a broken jaw, with their leg in plaster, with increasingly serious bruises.

“People who flee a country at war should be protected by France, yet they find themselves being clubbed by the police,” she said. “It tips some of them over the edge.”

Minors, less adept at assessing risk, are vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, and exposed to the predations of traffickers for sex and other forms of slavery. That fear was given voice in a devastating assessment by Brian Donald, Europol’s chief of staff, who said in January that 10,000 refugee children had disappeared across Europe over the past two years.

Court ruling offers hope

Yet, despite such bleakness, the situation for unaccompanied refugee children may at last be shifting.

In a ground-breaking case on January 20, an English court ordered that three Syrian minors be granted right of passage to leave Calais for Britain while their asylum case was being considered.

But a second decision, handed down in a French court three weeks later, has far broader implications for unaccompanied refugee kids.

On February 1, lawyers Lou-Salomé Sorlin and Marie-Charlotte Fabié, acting on behalf of five unaccompanied refugee children in Calais, set out a long litany of dangers that affect minors with particular gravity before a tribunal in the northern French city of Lille.

Minors in the Calais Jungle, they said, suffered respiratory illnesses, eye damage from exposure to tear gas, and dental problems owing to poor diet and hygiene conditions. They missed out on vaccinations, suffered from poor sleep and inadequate clothing that included wet shoes and socks, and sometimes had no socks at all. Their ability to concentrate was deteriorating. Trauma provoked anxiety attacks and sometimes bedwetting. They lived under the power of dominant adults they were unrelated to, while the need for money meant they could be preyed on for prostitution.

And they listed the cases of seven teenagers who, in 2015 alone, had been killed on the roads, under trucks and around the Channel Tunnel, trying to reach England from Calais.

Protection for unaccompanied minors

Sorlin and Fabié sought the court’s help in upholding the so-called Dublin II regulation, which determines responsibility among EU countries in asylum affairs. Article 8 of that regulation gives foreign minors the right to join a parent, sibling, or close family member who is legally in Europe, regardless of the country in which the child makes their claim.

On February 11, the court ruled in favor of their petition.

That meant that the five unaccompanied refugee children – two Afghans, a Syrian, and a brother and sister from Iraq, all aged between 11 and 16 – had a legal right to be reunited with their respective family members in Britain.

“This is not an option, it’s a right, and it should be automatic,” said Sorlin in an interview, adding that on the eve of the court’s ruling, France hurried to comply with the law by beginning the steps that would allow the five children to travel.

“It should open a breach,” Sorlin said, arguing that the court’s decision set a legal precedent that would obviate the need for children to put their lives in peril by crossing borders illegally to reach their families.

Unaccompanied minors arriving in Greece, for instance, would be able to join a legally resident family member anywhere in Europe, she added, without having to gamble their lives or put them in the hands of smugglers. Children would not have to languish in the Jungle of Calais at all.

Avenand, the children’s rights defender who visited Calais this week, said that “about 90 minors present in the camp could benefit from the principle of family regroupment in Britain where their close relatives were located.” And she urged the French state services to get that process under way.

Trump wins Christie backing, marches toward Super Tuesday

February 27, 2016

by Emily Stephenson


Fort Worth, Texas-Republican candidate Donald Trump on Friday won the surprise endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the most prominent mainstream Republican to get behind the former reality TV star’s White House campaign.

Christie said the billionaire front-runner has the best chance of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election – although Clinton has yet to secure her party’s nomination.

The endorsement gives Trump a further lift before next week’s Super Tuesday nominating contests. It comes just a day after he took a battering from his two main rivals at a televised Republican debate.

Trump’s unorthodox candidacy has stirred controversy and shaken the Republican Party at its roots, but an increasing number of senior Republicans are becoming resigned to the idea he will be their candidate in November.

Trump is “rewriting the playbook,” said Christie, 53, who until two weeks ago was himself a rival for the Republican nomination. Christie dropped out after failing to muster much support for his candidacy.

Trump, 69, who has never held public office, has campaigned as a political outsider. He is riding a wave of voter anger at the slow economic recovery, illegal immigration and what he says is America’s diminishing role in the world.

“The best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November on that stage last night is undoubtedly Donald Trump,” Christie told a news conference on Friday, a day after the last Republican candidates’ debate before Super Tuesday.

The debate marked a new, more aggressive approach for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, 44, who has emerged as the Republican establishment’s challenger to Trump. The other main challenger at the debate was U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.Trump has unsettled mainstream Republicans by winning three straight nominating contests – in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Polls show he is likely to win big in key primaries on Tuesday.

“Since I started this whole thing I’ve been practically Number 1,” Trump said on Friday at a rally in Texas.

The 11 Republican nominating contests on Tuesday have a total of almost 600 delegates at stake, and could set Trump up to clinch the presidential nomination.

Reuters/Ipsos polling data on Friday showed Trump ahead nationally in the Republican race with support at 44.2 percent, followed by Cruz at 20.7 percent and Rubio in third place at 14 percent.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Clinton is battling U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton and Sanders have been in a dead head over the past week, the Reuters/Ipsos data shows.


Trump has vowed to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to halt illegal immigration, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and promised to take a tough stance on trade against China.

He was combative at a rally on Friday. He mocked Rubio, referred to violent Islamist militants as “these animals” and promised to defend Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.

“We’re going to build up our military, we’re going to knock out ISIS. We’re going to knock out ISIS fast,” he said, referring to the Islamic State militant group.

Wielding a water bottle as a prop, Trump made fun of Rubio for an awkward incident in which the senator grabbed for a drink of water off camera during an important televised speech in 2013.

Rubio and Cruz ganged up on Trump at Thursday’s debate in Houston in a last-ditch bid to keep him from winning in states on Super Tuesday.

Rubio on Friday again took aim at Trump.

“He’s a con man who’s taking advantage of people’s fears and anxieties about the future, portraying himself as some sort of strong guy,” Rubio told reporters in Oklahoma. “He’s not a strong guy. He’s never faced real adversity before.”

PredictWise, a research project that analyzes opinion polls and betting markets, said Trump would comfortably win among Republicans in all but one of the 11 Super Tuesday states that it measured. Cruz, 45, is likely to win in his home state of Texas, PredictWise said.

Rubio’s home state of Florida is not part of the Super Tuesday contests.

PredictIt, based out of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, on Friday gave Trump a 73 percent chance of winning the nomination compared with a peak 75 percent chance two days earlier.

Trump’s swipes at rival candidates and heated exchanges with journalists and others have for months bolstered his standing in nominating contests and opinion polls.

In a post on Twitter, Trump took aim at Rubio, a first-term senator, for his debate performance.

“Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night. The problem is, he is a choker, and once a choker, always a chocker (sic)! Mr. Meltdown.”

Republican strategist Doug Heye said Christie may have opened the door for more mainstream Republican endorsements of a man whose chances of winning the White House were seen as next to nil a year ago.

If you’re the Trump campaign this is obviously very good news and it gives permission for others to endorse. But it also makes it hard (for Trump) to make the outsider argument,” he said.

Glenn Hubbard, who had been an adviser to the campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he planned to keep up steady criticism of Trump on economic issues.

“I think it is time for serious people to stand up and be counted. The next few weeks come very quickly,” said Hubbard, who published a column in the Boston Globe on Friday criticizing Trump.

Hubbard, now dean of the business school at Columbia University, told Reuters he worried Trump’s comments already hurt the country’s image abroad and would hobble his ability to govern if elected.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Clarece Polke, Howard Schneider and Susan Heavey in Washington and Melissa Fares and Chris Kahn in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)

Police: Black U. of Albany students faked hate crime and are now facing assault charges

February 26, 2016

by Sarah Larimer

Washington Post

When Ariel Agudio called 911 in January, she told a dispatcher that she had been the victim of a racially charged crime.

They were calling us [N-word] and all this stuff,” Agudio told a dispatcher, the Albany Times Union reported. “And if someone doesn’t come and take this down or something, I’m going to call the news.”

Agudio, Alexis Briggs and Asha Burwell, all three 20-year-old black students at the State University of New York at Albany, claimed they had been targeted by a group of white men and women on a bus at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 30.

The story made national headlines. There was a rally in the wake of the news, which reportedly drew hundreds. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even tweeted about it.

But the allegations weren’t true, authorities say.

Agudio, Briggs and Burwell now face criminal charges related to the incident, with authorities characterizing the trio as the aggressors in the alleged physical attack. Authorities allege that the three students attacked another woman “despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them,” a university news release said. And police couldn’t find evidence that anyone had shouted slurs at the students, as they had previously claimed.

We took this incident very seriously and did a thorough and careful investigation,” University Police Chief J. Frank Wiley said in a statement. “The evidence shows that, contrary to how the defendants originally portrayed things, these three individuals were not the victims of a crime. Rather, we allege that they are the perpetrators.”

Here’s how the charges break down:

Agudio has been charged with assault, falsely reporting an incident, attempted assault, and attempted criminal mischief

Burwell has been charged with assault and falsely reporting an incident

Briggs has been charged with assault

All three are expected to appear for arraignment Monday.

Ms. Agudio, an exemplary young woman, an excellent student who has never previously been in legal trouble, asks that people not rush to judgment in this matter,” Agudio’s attorney, Mark Mishler, told the Albany Times Union in a statement. ” We appreciate those who have spoken out in support of Ms. Agudio. This case will now play out in the court system. We trust, in the end, that Ms. Agudio will be vindicated.”

Authorities said the actual victim of the incident was a 19-year-old woman from Congers, N.Y., who also was a bus passenger.

Investigators “found no evidence to support the initial allegations that these three women were targeted in any manner due to their race, and no evidence that racial slurs were directed toward them,” the release said.

Police viewed surveillance footage from the bus and shipped audio recordings to the state crime lab, so the sound could be enhanced. Thirty-five passengers who were aboard the bus were interviewed during the three-week investigation, authorities said.

I especially want to point out that what happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime.’ We spent a great deal of time carefully reviewing the audio recordings to determine whether any racial slurs were used,” Wiley said in his statement. “The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants.”

War, What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

And No Kidding, That’s the Literal Truth When It Comes to War, American-Style

by Tom Engelhardt

Tom Dispatch

It may be hard to believe now, but in 1970 the protest song “War,” sung by Edwin Starr, hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. That was at the height of the Vietnam antiwar movement and the song, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, became something of a sensation.  Even so many years later, who could forget its famed chorus?  “War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.”  Not me.  And yet heartfelt as the song was then  — “War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker.  War, it’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker…” — it has little resonance in America today.

But here’s the strange thing: in a way its authors and singer could hardly have imagined, in a way we still can’t quite absorb, that chorus has proven eerily prophetic — in fact, accurate beyond measure in the most literal possible sense.  War, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.  You could think of American war in the twenty-first century as an ongoing experiment in proving just that point.

Looking back on almost 15 years in which the United States has been engaged in something like permanent war in the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, one thing couldn’t be clearer: the planet’s sole superpower with a military funded and armed like none other and a “defense” budget larger than the next seven countries combined (three times as large as number two spender, China) has managed to accomplish — again, quite literally — absolutely nothing, or perhaps (if a slight rewrite of that classic song were allowed) less than nothing.

Unless, of course, you consider an expanding series of failed states, spreading terror movements, wrecked cities, countries hemorrhaging refugees, and the like as accomplishments.  In these years, no goal of Washington — not a single one — has been accomplished by war. This has proven true even when, in the first flush of death and destruction, victory or at least success was hailed, as in Afghanistan in 2001 (“You helped Afghanistan liberate itself — for a second time,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to U.S. special operations forces), Iraq in 2003 (“Mission accomplished”), or Libya in 2011 (“We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton on the death of autocrat Muammar Gaddafi).

Of all forms of American military might in this period, none may have been more destructive or less effective than air power.  U.S. drones, for instance, have killed incessantly in these years, racking up thousands of dead Pakistanis, Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and others, including top terror leaders and their lieutenants as well as significant numbers of civilians and even children, and yet the movements they were sent to destroy from the top down have only proliferated.  In a region in which those on the ground are quite literally helpless against air power, the U.S. Air Force has been repeatedly loosed, from Afghanistan in 2001 to Syria and Iraq today, without challenge and with utter freedom of the skies.  Yet, other than dead civilians and militants and a great deal of rubble, the long-term results have been remarkably pitiful.

From all of this no conclusions ever seem to be drawn.  Only last week, the Obama administration and the Pentagon again widened their air war against Islamic State militants (as they had for weeks been suggesting they would), striking a “suspected Islamic State training camp” in Libya and reportedly killing nearly 50 people, including two kidnapped Serbian embassy staff members and possibly “a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia.”  Again, after almost 15 years of this, we know just where such “successes” lead: to even grimmer, more brutal, more effective terror movements.  And yet, the military approach remains the American approach du jour on any day of the week, any month of the year, in the twenty-first century.

Put another way, for the country that has, like no other on the planet in these years, unleashed its military again and again thousands of miles from its “homeland” in actions ranging from large-scale invasions and occupations to small-scale raids and drone assassination strikes, absolutely nothing has come up roses.  From China’s Central Asian border to north Africa, the region that Washington officials began referring to as an “arc of instability” soon after 9/11 and that they hoped to garrison and dominate forever has only become more unstable, less amenable to American power, and ever more chaotic.

By its very nature, war produces chaos, but in other eras, particularly for great powers, it has also meant influence or dominance and created the basis for reshaping or controlling whole regions.  None of this seems in the cards today.  It would be reasonable to conclude, however provisionally, from America’s grand military experiment of this century that, no matter the military strength at your command, war no longer translates into power.  For Washington, war has somehow been decoupled from its once expected results, no matter what weaponry has been brought to bear or what kind of generalship was exercised.

An Arms Race of One

Given that, sooner or later, the results of any experiment should be taken into account and actions recalibrated accordingly, here’s what’s curious.  Just listen to the fervent pledges of the presidential candidates in the Republican debates to “rebuild” the U.S. military and you’ll sense the immense pressure in Washington not to recalibrate anything.  If you want the definition of a Trumpian bad deal, consider that all of them are eager to pour further staggering sums into preparing for future military endeavors not so different from the present ones.  And don’t just blame the Republicans.  Such behavior is now hardwired into Washington’s entire political class.

The essential failure of air power in these years has yielded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane once expected to cost in the $200 billion range whose price tag is now estimated at a trillion dollars or more over the course of its lifetime.  It will, that is, be the most expensive weapons system in history.  Air power’s powerlessness to achieve Washington’s ends has also yielded the newly unveiled Long-Range Strike Bomber for which the Pentagon has already made a down payment to Northrop Grumman of $55 billion. (Add in the usual future cost overruns and that sum is expected to crest the $100 billion mark long before the plane is actually built.)  Or at the level of planetary destruction, consider the three-decade, trillion-dollar upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal now underway and scheduled to include, among other things, smaller, more accurate “smart” nukes — that is, first-use weaponry that might indeed be brought to future battlefields.

That none of this fits our world of war today should be — but isn’t — obvious, at least in Washington.  In 2016, not only has military action of just about any sort been decoupled from success of just about any sort, but the unbelievably profitable system of weapons production woven into the fabric of the capital, the political process, and the country has also been detached from the results of war; the worse we do militarily, that is, the more frenetically and expensively we build.

For the conspiratorial-minded (and I get letters like this regularly at TomDispatch), it’s easy enough to see the growing chaos and collapse in the Greater Middle East as purposeful, as what the military-industrial complex desires; nothing, in other words, succeeds (for weapons makers) like failure.  The more failed states, the more widespread the terror groups, the greater the need to arm ourselves and, as the planet’s leading arms dealer, others.  This is, however, the thinking of outsiders.  For the weapons makers and the rest of that complex, failure or success may increasingly be beside the point. Count on this: were the U.S. now triumphant in an orderly Greater Middle East, the same Republican candidates would still be calling for a build-up of the U.S. military to maintain our victorious stance globally.  If you want proof of this, you need only step into your time machine and travel back a quarter-century to the moment the Soviet Union collapsed.  Thought of a certain way, that should have been the finale for a long history of arms races among competing great powers.  What seemed like the last arms race of all between the two superpowers of the Cold War, the one that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation, had just ended.

When the Soviet Union imploded and Washington dissolved in a riot of shock and triumphalism, only one imperial force — “the sole superpower” — remained.  And yet, despite a brief flurry of talk about Americans harvesting a “peace dividend” in a world bereft of major enemies, what continued to be harvested were new weapons systems. An arms race of one rolled right along.

And of course, it goes right on today in an almost unimaginably different world.  A quarter century later, militarily speaking, two other nations might be considered great powers.  One of them, China, is indeed building up its military and acting in more provocative ways in nearby seas.  However, not since its disastrous 1979 border war with Vietnam has it used its military outside its own borders in a conflict of any kind.

The Russians are obviously another matter and they alone at this moment seem to be making an imperial success of warfare — translating, that is, war making into power, prestige, and dominance.  In Syria (and possibly also Ukraine), think of that country as experiencing its version of America’s December 2001 Afghanistan or April 2003 Iraq moments, but don’t for a second imagine that it will last.  The Russians in Syria have essentially followed the path Washington pioneered in this century, loosing air power, advisers, and proxy forces on an embattled country.  Their bombing campaign and that of the allied Syrian air force have been doing in spades what air power generally does: blow away stuff on the ground, including hospitals, schools, and the like.

Right now, with the Syrian Army and its Iranian and Lebanese helpers advancing around the city of Aleppo and elsewhere, everything looks relatively sunny for the Russians (as long as your view is an airborne one), but give it a year, or two or three.  Or just ask yourself, what exactly will such “success” translate into, even if a Bashar al-Assad regime regains significant power in a country that, in most senses, has simply ceased to exist?  Its cities, after all, are in varying states of destruction, a startling 11.5% of its people are estimated to have been killed or injured, and a significant portion of the rest transformed into exiles and refugees (with more being produced all the time).

Even if the Islamic State and other rebel and insurgent groups, ranging from those backed by the U.S. to those linked to al-Qaeda, can be “defeated,” what is Russia likely to inherit in the Middle East? What, in far better circumstances, did the U.S. inherit in Afghanistan or Iraq?  What horrendous new movements will be born from such a “victory”?  It’s a nightmare just to think about.

Keep in mind as well that, unlike the United States, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is no superpower.  Despite its superpower-style nuclear arsenal and its great power-ish military, it’s a rickety energy state shaken by bargain-basement oil prices.  Economically, it doesn’t have the luxury of waste that the U.S. has when it comes to military experimentation.

Generally speaking, in these last years, war has meant destruction and nothing but destruction.  It’s true that, from the point of view of movements like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the chaos of great power war is a godsend.  Even if such groups never win a victory in the traditional sense (as the Islamic State has), they can’t lose, no matter how many of their leaders and followers are wiped out.  In the same way, no matter how many immediate successes Washington has in pursuit of its war on terror, it can’t win (and in the end neither, I suspect, can Russia).

Has War Outlived Its Usefulness?

Relatively early in the post-9/11 presidency of George W. Bush, it became apparent that his top officials had confused military power with power itself.  They had come to venerate force and its possible uses in a way that only men who had never been to war possibly could. (Secretary of State Colin Powell was the sole exception to this rule of thumb.)  On the U.S. military, they were fundamentalists and true believers, convinced that unleashing its uniquely destructive capabilities would open the royal road to control of the Greater Middle East and possibly the planet as well.

About this — and themselves — they were supremely confident.  As an unnamed “senior adviser” to the president (later identified as Bush confidant Karl Rove) told journalist Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” 

Ever since then, no small thanks to the military-industrial complex, military power has remained the option of choice even when it became clear that it could not produce a minimalist version of what the Bush crew hoped for.  Consider it something of an irony, then, that the U.S. may still be the lone superpower on the planet.  In a period when military power of the first order doesn’t seem to translate into a thing of value, American economic (and cultural) power still does.  The realm of the dollar, not the F-35, still rules the planet.

So here’s a thought for the songwriters among you: Could it be that war has in the most literal sense outlived its usefulness, at least for the United States?  Could it be that the nature of war — possibly any war, but certainly the highly mechanized, high-tech, top-dollar form that the United States fights — is now all unintended and no intended consequences?  Do we need another Edwin Starr singing a new song about what war isn’t good for, but with the same punch line?

In fact, give it a try yourself.  Say it with me: Absolutely nothing.

One more time and really hit that “nothing”: Absolutely nothing!

Now, could someone in Washington act accordingly?

A gas leak: worst in US history spewed as much pollution as 600,000 cars

Emissions from Aliso Canyon leak, which took 112 days to plug, totalled 97,100 tonnes of methane – equal to annual output of a medium-sized EU country

February 26, 2016

by Oliver Milman

The Guardian

A natural gas leak in the mountains above Los Angeles was one of the worst accidental discharges of greenhouse gases in US history. A new study shows the months-long disaster resulted in 97,100 metric tonnes of methane being dumped into the atmosphere.

The analysis shows that the leak from the Aliso Canyon storage facility spewed out 60 tonnes of natural gas an hour at its peak, creating enough methane each day to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl, the 92,500-capacity stadium in Pasadena. A total of 5bn cubic ft of natural gas was released.

The methane emissions from the leak, caused by a ruptured pipe, effectively doubled the methane emissions of the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area, creating enough pollution to match the annual output of nearly 600,000 cars.

The gas blow-out occurred near the Porter Ranch on 23 October last year, prompting the evacuation of more than 5,700 local families. The leak took 112 days to plug, highlighting concerns over the climate impact of failures in ageing gas infrastructure.

Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, with a warming impact more than 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. The emissions from the Aliso Canyon leak were equivalent to the annual methane output of a medium-sized European Union country, according to the study, published in Science.

Governor Jerry Brown of California took until January to declare a state of emergency over the leak, angering residents, who complained about the eggy smell, nosebleeds and headaches, and climate activists, who claim methane emissions should be taken far more seriously.

Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and the University of California measured the emissions from the leak using data gathered from 13 research flights that provided real-time measurements of methane and ethane, two components of natural gas.

Stephen Conley, co-lead scientist and pilot of the research flights, had to recheck his equipment to confirm the extraordinarily high readings of methane.

It became obvious that there wasn’t anything wrong with the instruments,” he said. “This was just a huge event.”

Tom Ryerson, a Noaa scientist who was co-lead on the study, said: “Our finding means that the Aliso Canyon leak was the largest accidental release of methane in the history of the US.”

An accident in Texas in 2004 released more natural gas, but an explosion meant most of it did not reach the atmosphere.

The study states that the accident will “substantially impact the state of California greenhouse gas emission targets for the year” and the effects of the released methane will linger for many years.

Trial in Firebombing of Refugees Exposes Far-Right Grip in Germany

February 26, 2016

by Alison Smale

New York Times

SALZHEMMENDORF, Germany — As a volunteer firefighter, Sascha D. was among the crew that rushed to the home of an immigrant family after it was firebombed in this small town in central Germany last summer.

But before he arrived, a court was told this month, Mr. D., 25, who is fond of late-night drinking and right-wing metal bands, and a friend, Dennis L., carefully made the Molotov cocktail themselves, using a pen to push wood shavings into the gasoline-filled bottle.

Mr. L., 31, who liked to daub swastikas on village walls, then hurled it through a window of the street-level apartment of a 34-year-old single mother of three from Zimbabwe who remains so traumatized she still has trouble sleeping, the court heard. German law protects the identity of the accused, meaning that unless there are extenuating circumstances, only first names and initials of surnames are made public.

If the Negro burns, I will really celebrate,” Mr. L. said afterward, according to Saskia B., 24, who served as the driver for the two but is now testifying against her friends.

Mr. L. denies he made the remark about an attack that injured no one because the room hit was, by good fortune, empty that night. But little else seems disputed in the trial of the three friends on attempted murder charges, a rare prosecution against one of almost 1,200 attacks on refugee shelters — including some 100 arsons — since January 2015.

In fact, what made the attack in this impoverished town of 9,000, about 25 miles southwest of Hanover, exceptional is that the culprits were quickly caught and confessed — even as assaults on refugee shelters have become routine, averaging more than two a day since the start of last year.

As Germany struggles to absorb more than one million refugees, the attacks present an increasingly pressing challenge for Chancellor Angela Merkel and the local authorities, who face a sudden and sinister rise in right-wing racism, tinged with Nazi ideas.

So far, the record of law enforcement has been spotty, as such cases are left in the hands of the overstretched local authorities under Germany’s diffuse federal system, which does not have a national hate-crime statute.

The deeds are usually committed at night and on the weekend,” Frank Neubacher, a professor at the Institute for Criminology at Cologne University, noted in an email. “Impartial witnesses often do not exist, and the perpetrators leave little trace.”

But more hostility toward refugees since the start of a year that began with sexual assaults linked to migrants in Cologne has also hardly discouraged the arsons, the latest of which occurred early Sunday in the Saxon town of Bautzen. There, a drunken crowd cheered as a hotel that had been converted into a refugee shelter burned, and tried to obstruct firefighters from dousing the flames. No one has been arrested.

The arson attacks have become a German specialty. Just a few such attacks have been recorded in Sweden, and not one in neighboring Austria, despite a similar percentage of new migrants, and a far-right party polling 30 percent or more.

In Germany, the pattern of accelerating violence, experts say, coincides with the emergence of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration group Pegida since late 2014.

Quite new right-wing extremist groups have long been building on the Internet,” said Andreas Zick, a professor at Bielefeld University who heads its Institute for Interdisciplinary Research Into Conflict and Violence. “The readiness to approve and use violence has gotten stronger and stronger in the last two years.”

In Germany, but also in other countries in Europe, “parallel societies are being formed,” and are taking power into their own hands, he said.

Studies by Dr. Zick’s institute suggest that 20 percent of the population is susceptible to what he depicted as a new nationalist populism, with many citizens shifting far to the right as they feel increasingly powerless and lose faith in politicians and the news media.

A vocal minority nationwide is protesting outside shelters, especially in the east, and committing more assaults on the refugee housing — 118 attacks in the first six weeks of this year, the Interior Ministry says.

In addition, the German authorities are noticing a destructive trend: the flooding of refugee homes newly renovated at public expense.

Turning on the taps is unlikely to cause injury or even death, as arson might, but is just as certain to cause hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and to keep migrants from being moved in.

The first arson case to gain attention nationwide occurred in the northern Bavarian village of Vorra in December 2014, when someone set fire to a renovated shelter that was about to receive 40 refugees. Almost a year later, four refugee families moved into the re-renovated property. But no one was ever arrested for the fire.

Tracking anti-immigrant attacks is difficult, in part because of Germany’s splintered federal system. But the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a respected nongovernment source, compiles lists culled from news media and police reports nationwide.

During the week of Jan. 24, for instance, it found 10 suspected racist or right-wing assaults, including an arson on Jan. 25 that damaged two houses intended for 25 asylum seekers in Witten, in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The trial of Mr. L. and his friends, which is taking place in the city of Hanover, has similarly exposed a worrying attraction to far-right ideas.

The men were said in court to have been among the members of an online chat room known as Swastika Garage.

Several witnesses testified that a favorite pastime for the two men was drinking heavily and listening to right-wing rock bands, including at least one, Landser, that was outlawed in 2003 for inciting hatred.

Clemens Pommerening, the mayor of Salzhemmendorf, said he was shocked the night of Aug. 27-28 when he was informed of the attack on the Zimbabwean family. The mother and her three children, the only Africans in town, had arrived here in November 2014.

I wouldn’t imagine anyone doing this,” Mr. Pommerening, 48, said in his tidy office in the town shopping center. “But now, of course, I can’t exclude it. And if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

He takes comfort in the fact that some 2,000 people showed up for a pro-refugee rally the evening after the firebombing and about 120 refugees still live in the town.

Before the trial opened, Roman von Alvensleben, the main defense lawyer for Mr. L., said he hoped that the town would not be stigmatized for what he depicted as one night’s drunken folly by three misguided people.

My client is really a person you can look at and think, he cannot have done it,” he said.

In court, however, Ms. B., the driver, suggested that her two friends had acted consciously, even if they were drunk, though her own credibility was called into question.

Though Ms. B., a single mother of two, said she had no idea what a Molotov cocktail was, it emerged in court that her mother had sent her a message on WhatsApp after the attack asking, “Did you throw a Moli?” with a smiley face attached.

Perhaps the most striking court appearance was by the victim, whom her lawyer, Sebastian Piontek, asked be identified only by her first name, Margaret.

Speaking hesitantly through a translator, she described how she and her children awoke to the bangs and shouts of firefighters, then escaped through a living room window.

To this day, she said, she cannot sleep and is undergoing therapy. Her frightened children always sleep with her now. She wept when shown pictures of her charred former home.

Although Mr. Pommerening said a new apartment had been found for her and her children, the family moved this month to a larger nearby town, Hameln.

During the proceedings, Tanja Brettschneider, a lawyer for Mr. L., said her client wanted to apologize and asked if Margaret would accept.

The victim paused, then said simply, “Must I answer that?”

Laura Fauss contributed reporting from Berlin.

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